29 Nov 2016

experiments in dressmaking: the tartan dress

Over the last three months I imposed, upon myself, a spending ban on fabric. This is because I've got a big old stash, full of lovely stuff, that wants using (or losing). I started my crusade against the over-flowing stash box with my chambray dress, and this tartan beauty is the follow up...

Like the chambray dress, it's from Tanya Wheelan's Ultimate Dressmaking Guide - basic bodice and gathered skirt but with the addition of capped sleeves and a little white collar. Given my history with zips (and the fact that the last two were disastrous), I opted for a side one and I'm rather pleased with it! It's not invisible (let's not run before we can walk) but it's neat! (Gotta take the little victories.)

The skew-whiff bodice is rather annoying but I can honestly tell you I didn't notice until I'd finished adding the collar (which I redid three times!) and by that point I'd had enough (and that's why I'd never make an good dressmaker). The collar too, is a bone of contention. It really should go all the way round to the back but it was driving me nuts and I just wanted to stop. And that's the mature and measured reason why it's only collared at the front. At least she's one of kind, eh? :)

All criticism aside, I am very pleased with it, she's had four outings already and a few compliments to boot. I've already started on another dress (all in aid of using up my fabric stash of course), here's a sneak peek...!


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18 Nov 2016

a weekend in the peaks


Autumn really is the best time of year and never is that more apparent then when you're hiking through beautiful countryside, the peak district did not disappoint.









At the beginning of the month, 11 of us stayed a couple of nights in a cute little village in the Hope Valley. The weather on the Saturday was perfect for our 9 mile walk on and around Stanage Edge, insanely windy yes, but also gloriously sunny. I took a lot of photos. The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent in the pub(s) drinking local ales, eating hearty grub, playing games back at the hostel and, as it was bonfire night, watching the fireworks and playing with sparklers. Sunday was a bit of a wash out but we did manage a quick wander around picturesque Castleton before driving back to the big smoke.

As I always say, I'm super lucky to have an excellent bunch of friends to escape from the city with. The peaks was our last adventure this year, but rest assured there'll be lots more to come in 2017 :)

14 Nov 2016

Reading & Seeing 30

The Year of Living Danishly
One woman's experience of living in 'sticksville on sea' (a town not far from Legoland headquarters) in Denmark after her husband gets a job with the tiny brick giants. It's an insightful and amusing account as she navigates the Danish way of doing things (work, the school system, childbirth, numerous traditions, pastries and flag poles). The book really made me want to live in Denmark or at the very least, made me think that I could manage somewhere other than London and even the UK!

Homegoing
An incredible look back through history told through the bloodlines of two Ghanaian sisters, torn from their families and forced into the slave trade, in one way or another. The story starts in the 18th Century and spans two hundred years, each chapter focusing on the next generation. Every character faces prejudice and adversity even in the decades after slavery is abolished. Despite only having a chapter with some of the characters, I was very invested in them, which made it harder to have to leave them behind and move further forward in time. I can honestly say this is one of (if not the)  best book I've read this year so far.

All the light we cannot see
Work book club's choice and a good one too. Set during the second world war it follows the experiences of two children: an orphan boy from Germany with a talent for radios; a blind French girl with a very special item in her possession. It's beautifully written and terribly sad, a strong reminder that nobody wins in war.

Acceptance
The third and final book in the Southern Reach Trilogy and I had hoped that it would answer all my (millions of) questions. Some fascinating stuff happens - my tiny mind nearly exploded - but I can't say I'm completely clued up on what actually happened... My sister tells me that a film is the pipe works which I'd be keen to see, perhaps it'll shed some light on things!


I've seen some great films in the last couple of months, starting with Bridget Jones' Baby. My expectations were pretty low but it was very funny. It's a tried and tested formula but it works and Renee Zellwegger is on form! Next, probably my favourite movie of the year so far, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I don't want to give too much away, but it involves a boy and his foster father being hunted through the New Zealand bush. I really like the humour (see also, What We Do in The Shadows) and the scenery is stunning. In Swiss Army Man, Paul Dano is marooned on an island and is about to kill himself when he finds Daniel Radcliffe (a v.flatulent corpse with other various hidden talents) who inadvertently saves him and brings him back to society. It's weird, very weird, like nothing I've ever seen before. I'm glad I've seen it but I don't need to see it again. Lastly, Doctor Strange. Another Marvel romp and a surprisingly good one! Dr Strange is a highly successful neurosurgeon until a car accident damages the nerves in his hands beyond repair. Reaching the limits of western medicine, he takes a trip to Kathmandu to seek the help of The Ancient One (the fabulous Tilda Swinton). The cast is great, particularly Cumberbatch (arrogant, grumpy, comical - definitely a little sherlock-esque), the story is well-paced and the special effects are rather spectacular. The clip in the end credits reminds you that it's a Marvel production but Doctor Strange is a welcome change to the 'hero' movies of late.


Around the middle of October we saw Aurora perform at the Shepherds Bush Empire. It was great to go to a live gig again and she was awesome, both her voice and her candid chatter between songs. I've never been to a music gig where the artist talked so much! Highlight was probably Conqueror.


Also last month, I saw an interview with Tim Peake (and Tim Kopra) at The Royal Albert Hall. It was a fascinating insight into what it's like to be an astronaut and live on the ISS. All the astronauts seem to be really into photography, spending much of their free time down at the Cupola observation module on the station. The pictures of the earth are breathtaking. Tim Peake comes across as such a lovely, down to earth (excuse the pun) man, which makes a lot of sense, as Tim Kopra said, you have to be smart to be an astronaut but at the end of the day what you really need to be is someone people don't mind spending lots of time with :)

20 Oct 2016

getting back into crochet - making blankets!

I've taken a bit of a break from yarn (see my last post for my weird habit of 'sewing in summer, wool in winter'), my last foray into crochet being many moons ago in April. To get back into the groove, I thought I'd try something easy - blankets!

Firstly, my boss volunteers at an animal sanctuary and they currently need hats for baby birds (to sit in rather than wear) and blankets for hedgehogs. So, I decided to crochet a little blanket for a recuperating hedgehog. Ta da! As you can see it's just a glorified granny square but it was the perfect thing to get back into crochet.

Secondly, my very good friend Lauren had another baby (boy) this summer so I decided to make him a blanket. Again, it's a lovely simple pattern (granny rows??) but I really like the colours. Best of all, I got to deliver it in person, which of course meant baby cuddles!!!! :D ♥ Oscar is SUCH a cutie.

Next, I need to pick up my knitting needles again...pattern/idea suggestions most welcome :)

9 Oct 2016

summer sewing


It's that time of year again, this week I packed away my summer clothes and brought my knitwear out of hibernation. As I de-hangered my tees, skirts and sundresses I noticed that about a quarter of them were made by me, and a fair few of them being recent makes too! *smug feels* This summer, for reasons unknown, inspired a surge of sewing activity, and in particular dressmaking. I've already blogged about some of my apparel but here are three more...

Yup, another zippy tee, that's a total of five now, it really is an awesome pattern. It was originally a shapeless (rather unflattering) dress bought on sale from ASOS. Joyously there was enough fabric to give it a new life!

The Fen Dress from Fancy Tiger Crafts, fabric from John Lewis. Overall I like the pattern (a dress with pockets is always a winner) but the bodice is a little on the baggy side and the sleeves are rather odd. This one is wearable (I wore it quite a bit thoughout the summer) but I think I'll drop down a size for my second attempt.

Lastly my chambray dress. It's the basic bodice and gathered skirt (the 'sleeves' are my own addition) from Tanya Wheelan's Ultimate Dressmaking Guide. Of all the things I made over the summer, I'm most proud of this dress. Sure, the zip is wonky (oops) and the 'sleeves' don't sit as well as they could, but it's super comfortable, I'm pleased with the fit and I love the silhouette as well as the trim I added.

Looking back over my creative exploits sewing is definitely something I focus on in the warmer months - summer dresses and tees for the most part - whilst the autumn and winter is given over to crochet and knitting. I'd like to try some colder weather dressmaking items this year, perhaps a jersey sweatshirt...we shall see.




30 Sep 2016

S I C I L Y


Earlier this month I got back from one of the most relaxing holidays I've ever had -  a week in beautiful Sicily. Seven days of sun, beaches, the Mediterranean Sea and, most importantly, A LOT of delicious food.


Home for the week was a lovely villa on the outskirts of Palermo. Most days we drove to different (stunning) beaches - Magaggiari, Mondello, San Vito Lo Capo - along the north west coast. We drank (giant) aperol spritzs and ate brioche gelato (yep, that's two scoops of a-mazing icecream in a brioche bun); I swam in the sea six days out of seven! We went to an outdoor club and danced under the stars; we had a 1am walking tour of Palermo city; I tried every type of sicilian pastry and snack (savoury + sweet) - arancini, panelle, crocche, cannoli.

One of our friends is Sicilian and his parents, very kindly, cooked for us twice - once in our villa and once in their top floor apartment in Palermo (the views from the terrace were incredible). I don't need to tell you how awesome it was to have home cooked italian food. A quick note on the food: 5 - 7 courses long, the trick is NOT to fill up on the antipasti, which, might I add, is actually impossible because it's all so delicious. On our last night we went to a seafood restaurant, the starters alone consisted of: oysters, prawns, tuna steak, caponata, swordfish, squid, mussels, the sicilian equivalent of whitebait, sardines and a calamari salad. There was no menu at the restaurant, the staff just brought out what had been caught the day before, we even met the fishermen who caught it all!

To get as much holiday as possible out of our seven days away, we spent a few hours in Rome on a long stopover back to Heathrow. It was boiling hot in Rome, the same temperature as Sicily (which is pretty unpleasant when you can't go for a swim in the sea to cool down), and insanely crowded. A few of the friends we were with hadn't been to Rome before so we did a whistle-stop tour of some of the sights (colosseum, trevi fountain, roman forum). It was FULL to bursting with tourists, way too crowded for me. I'd been before in February (10 years ago) and that was much more bearable. Still, I glad blue stopped by Rome, if only for the colosseum and a walk around.

And now for some favourites...
Favourite food: a v.tough choice between cannoli and our friends' mum's homemade caponata...so I'll go with both!

Favourite day: Sunday. We drove to Trapani to catch a ferry to the island of Favignana, hired bikes and spent the day cycling around the island in search of wild beaches. The first place we stopped, Cala Rossa, had the most spectacular sea I've ever seen, impossibly clear and blue! After a couple of hours of swimming and basking in the sun we cycled to the town for icecream (naturally), before stopping off at another beautiful beach for more, you guessed it, sea swimming.




Favourite beach: Faraglioni di Scopello. It's not technically a beach as there's no sand but the water there was beautiful. The affectionately named, Dolce & Gabana beach (due to the fact it looks similar to where they film their TV adverts, though no actual tiny-white-underwear sporting adonises were actually seen), was the last beach we went to. It boats lots of shade and v.friendly stray cats, but what made it my favourite was the sea and little caves in between and underneath the rocks which you could swim through, it felt like another world.

Writing this now, in my chilly office at work opposite a window view of grey building under grey sky, it almost feels like I dreamt the whole thing up...

But I didn't! It's real and I can't reccommend Sicily enough, you should see it for yourselves :)

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