Thursday, 6 September 2012

I promise I won't mention the wedding again (after this!)

Since we got back from honeymoon, I've been busy reacquainting myself with my sewing machine, plus heading off on the kid's holiday (I call it that because a week in Devon with three mischievous little folk was not in the least bit relaxing!)..  but before I start blogging about sewing again, I just wanted to show you all the other creative stuff that went on at our wedding :)  I can't claim credit for all of the following, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who can turn my half-baked ideas into reality!

Firstly, the flowers...  I found a fab local florist (Bobo, in St. Leonards-on-sea) who turned a few words of mine (I think I waffled on about bright colours, no white, quirky, unusual, relaxed) into the most amazing bouquets for all of us, plus headdresses for the younger girls.  Here's Kaitlyn proving that she can look angelic.

She even did flowers for Felix sticking out of a brown paper bag, but the little madam lost them somewhere along the line and I don't seem to have any pictures!

For the table decorations and the mantlepieces, we came up with the idea of using mismatched vintage items, and somewhere along the line, I decided that artificial grass might look pretty cool.  Bless her (thanks Marcie, for accommodating me!)  Marcie the florist actually did a happy dance at the idea and even suggested that she wire the odd flower directly through the grass - for the crazy meadow effect!  Anyway, I couldn't have been happier with the result, and since I sourced all the containers from charity shops and IKEA, I could give them all away :)

On to the menus and the table plan - another charity shop idea. We went out looking for any small vintage picture frames, and I printed out the menus in cool fonts on Photoshop and then put a different frame on each table.

For the table plan, we mocked up a wall using chipboard and vintage wallpaper (that I cheekily stole out of someones recycling box!) and then hung the frames randomly on it, with a table list in each frame.  I designed the scribbled sketches on photoshop at about 3am a couple of days before the wedding!

Talking of walls.... the idea above came to me because we already had "a wall".  I'd asked my dad to make me one that people could stand behind to have comedy pictures done (having been inspired by Jo, plus others!), and he came up trumps!   There's an ornate picture frame, skirting board and coving, plus that fab vintage paper, and we left a box of disguises around to help people "unwind" :)

  I think the wall is currently serving another wedding in Cornwall - go wall!

For the table favours and place settings, we ordered sticks of rock that had guest names on them and Ceri (heart) James through the centre (corny eh?!) and we also handed out gift wrapped Stroopwafel (those circular waffles with caramel in the centre that you can warm on top of your coffee) - just because I love them.. oh and popcorn in cinema boxes for the kids, which I bought from a wholesaler in huge bags that I just wanted to dive into!

I owe a huge thank you to a number of my friends and family who helped me make paper decorations to hang in the ballroom we used.  I found excellent tutorials online for the tissue paper pom-poms, and in total I think we made 25 in various sizes and colours.  Very easy to do, and if you go large, they are stunning too.  I added three cheap as chips red illuminated hearts from IKEA and there you have it!

And lastly, but not at all leastly, there was the CAKE.  Made by my brilliant Mum, who only had one instruction - not traditional!  And this is what she came up with...a marvellous surprise!

A Mad Hatters tea party with all the main players (Felix is in the teapot).  There's a rainbow at the back with pots of gold, George is the Mad Hatter and Kaitlyn is the Queen of Hearts.  Even my dress and James' cravat are featured, and there were cupcakes for all the kids too. It was blooming brilliant, and went down a storm...
Thanks Mum!

Right, I really do promise the next post will be sewing related - thanks for reading :)


PS Huge thanks to Sarah, our photographer, who took some of the fabulous images in the last two blog posts :)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The wedding Part I - the dress!

Mrs Stokoe is formally entering the bloggy building!  I'm sorry for the extended blog-vacation, but life has been...well..just too darned exciting!

I am now married (it was a totally fabulous day, thanks to all our much loved guests!), the honeymoon is over and most (but not all) of the thank you letters have been written.  I have to say I am pleased to get some time at my sewing machine and am keen to catch up on everything I've missed in blog-world (how are the swaps going, folks?!) and whilst I have a number of new stitchy things on the go, I am totally aware that I owe some of you a bit of detail on wedding craftiness, and in particular THE dress - especially since you have been so supportive through the process!.  

It started with these vintage patterns and a whole pile of fabric from Goldhawk Road.

and with the help of a very cool lady (thank you Anna Winston!), turned into this shabby, but very important, bed sheet garment..

which in turn, evolved (over about 3 months) into this!

If you have no interest in dressmaking, please don't bother to read any further! However, for those of you hankering for the details, here is a little run-down of the process!

March: This dress is loosely based on the two patterns above.  However, I wanted a boat neck bodice without sleeves and a different waistline, so we ended up making a toile from a king-size bed sheet and adapting the patterns.  Because we wanted a "wedding dress" quality of finish, the construction also ended up being more complicated than the original pattern instructions. 

April: The dress pattern itself was a simple enough design.  The bodice is made up of four pieces - centre front (with darts) and back, plus two side panels.  .  Anna helped design a facing pattern for the lining, so the bodice is partly lined in the print, and partly in a jade green lining cotton. We added small amounts of sew-in boning to the front of the bodice. 
(photo below is a view of the facing inside the bodice)
May: Attaching the lining to the bodice was probably the most challenging part of this make.  Both the neckline and the armholes needed to be perfect, and I spent a number of hours pinning and stitching at snail speed.  We managed to devise a way of attaching the two pieces together with minimal hand sewing, so I only had to slip-stitch the very top section of each shoulder strap.

June: The skirt is made from over 8 metres of cotton, french seamed in four sections, and is heavily gathered at the waist.  Pinning the gathered skirt evenly to the bodice was another mammoth task that probably took up an entire 2 hour lesson!

July week 1: There is an invisible zip on my left side, and the skirt has a lining cut from the same pattern (this means the whole dress has over 16 metres of fabric in it, and is somewhat heavy!).  Cleverly, Anna suggested we pleat the skirt lining, rather than gather it, to reduce bulk at the waist, and that really worked.

July week 2: I had previously bought two petticoats from Beyond Retro (just off Brick Lane) - despite the sales assistant telling me that wearing two together would look ridiculous! Anna bravely hacked them to pieces and sewed them to a new lining so that we could increase the length of the petticoat to fit the dress, tier the net to give the right silhouette AND enable me to flash both red and orange at passers by :)
(note, the only way to get a photo of this petticoat was to put it on and look ridiculous - I promise that it's only by chance that my top matches!)
So, onto the hem...I spent at least an hour standing in "less than comfy" wedding shoes whilst Anna sat at my feet, pinning it inch by inch.  The volume of fabric and petticoats meant that the hemline was not a straightforward measuring job.  We had to cater for the hang of the skirt and therefore we had over 3" in variation in the hem length to deal with.  Having used all of the pins in Anna's studio, I carefully cut off the surplus and we then deliberated the pros and cons of various stiffeners, before opting for a bias binding finished hem.
(bias binding hem with invisible slip-stitching)

This involved making 8.5m of bias binding (I guess as a quilter, I should be used to this!), machine stitching it to the trimmed hemline, and then laborious slip-stitching of the binding to the inside of the dress.  I've learnt that this gives a much smoother line than your average double folded hem and there is no puckering.  In addition, the binding adds a little bit of weight to the skirt bottom, giving it a luxury feel.   This is one of my favourite parts of the whole dress :)

July week 3 - thursday: Final fitting week!  Slight panic as the dress wasn't feeling quite as figure hugging as in previous weeks.  We worked out that by adding the skirt lining we had increased the weight of the dress so much that it was pulling the bodice straight down, rather than fitting in at the waist.  Anna to the rescue again.  She made me a Waspie from an old elastic belt, a scrap of cotton, ribbon and a bunch of eyelets.  I ended up wearing this between the lining and the dress, to prevent that lining dragging the whole thing down (The dressmakers amongst you may realise that this means I couldn't finish the zip on the inside as then I wouldn't have been able to thread the belt between the two layers, but no matter). 

The Waspie worked a treat and I had that 1950's hourglass feeling that I was after :)

July week 3 - Sunday: Wedding!  Some of my family members have commented that finishing this dress three days before my wedding was cutting it retrospect they may have been right, but fortunately I got lucky and it all came together at the 11th hour!

If you've made it this far, thanks for coming on that journey with me....I love my dress and am so pleased I made the decision to make my own...however, it wasn't all plain sailing, there were a few doubts, a few late nights and more than a few unpicked stitches along the way. My next dressmaking project will definitely be simpler!


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The next Ronny Corbett..or is it Harry Hill?

Hello everybody,   I'm just quickly dropping in to apologise for having somewhat dropped off the bloggy radar recently. 

It is only temporary - the thing I have discovered about organising a reasonably large wedding within five months (especially when you want it to be handmade and a little quirky) is that quite a lot of things need to be done in a compressed space of time (durr!)

I hope to do lots of crafty and dress related posts in a few weeks time, but now the count-down is on so I shall thank you for sticking with me and apologise again for not commenting on blogs, and finally hopefully amuse you with a picture of Felix sporting one of the "wedding disguises"  (don't worry, prospective guests, there is only a teeny element of dressing up involved!)


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Meet Terri!

I know, it's unheard of for me to blog two nights on the trot...but this one is a little different.  One of our Brit Bees, Terri, who is attending the Quilting Retreat this weekend is a Flickr person, but not a blog person.  Therefore, I said I would do her a little intro so fellow retreaters will know who to look for (however, rest assured that you will hear Terri before you see her anyway!)

Fat Quarterly

This is what the lovely lady looks like...

A New Zealander, who spent most of her life living in Australia, and then somehow managed to end up in Sevenoaks, Kent, with an Australian husband and two gorgeous girls.  In previous lives she's been a pharmacist's assistant, a teacher and a potter (which drove her potty)...

Terri is a creative genius who loves Japanese fabrics, embroidery, fonts and calligraphy...oh and did I mention that she bakes...?  Check out this banana bread - yes those are my teeth marks :)

At the retreat you will find her either at one of these classes (in this order)

1) Portholes
2) English paper piecing
3) Freezer paper piecing
4) Frame purses

or talking the hind legs off a donkey somewhere....

She's also doing the Iron man challenge but wonders how she's going to fit that in amongst all the talking... Did I mention that Terri talks a lot?  and that you have to have a super-fast brain to keep up with her stories?  I'm not exaggerating  - her husband says she could carry on talking underwater with a mouthful of marbles.   Apparently, as a child she had to compete for airtime with 8 other siblings hence the development of this skill :)   She thinks it's a weakness, but I think it's wonderful...

and so will you :)


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Quilting Retreat - pre-event party!

Did you know that I am escaping onto a quilting retreat this coming weekend?.   I am terribly looking forward to this and can't wait to meet in person many of the bloggy friends I have made over the last year.  James, on the other hand, can't help sniggering when I put the words "Quilt" and "Retreat" into the same sentence.  I'm afraid to say I think he thinks I'm a geek!!

Fat Quarterly

Anyway, I thought I'd join in with the pre-event party (linking up on the Fat Quarterly website) and introduce myself to fellow retreaters :)

I look like this. Kind'a.
( I got James to take a picture of me for this blog, and didn't like any of them, except that cutie in the middle, so the only option was to put them all very small boxes.  Not sure what dropped down my top in that last one)

No idea what I'll be wearing but by a twist of fate I'll be carrying this, one of my early bag makes (the only one that didn't sell is also my favourite!)

I'm 38 and I used to be an IT Director for an insurance company, officially until about a year ago when my maternity leave ended and I gave my notice, in order to be a full-time Mum to my daughter Felix, who will be 2 next month.   I am also lucky enough to get to hang out with James' two children, to whom I will officially become stepmum in July when we get married.

I am making my own wedding dress and as a result have been a bit of a sporadic blogger of late, as dates loom.

I'll be travelling up to London on the train on sturday morning, accompanied by this quilt for Siblings together
(sewn by Terri and I, who will be hand stitching the binding on the train, at this rate!)

plus an enormous wheelie suitcase, plus fellow Brit Bee and fabric mule, Terri (aka Mish Mash Mama) and Liz (new bloggy friend aka Dandelion Daydreams) and am staying at the Radisson Edwardian Vandebilt on Saturday night.

I'm hoping I'll mostly be:

A) Marvelling at the talent/ superb time management skills/ stash/ quilty finishes of everyone else!
B) Talking to new and old friends
C) Attending these classes (in this order):
  • Portholes
  • Frame purses
  • Freezer paper piecing
  • Designer challenge
D) Living it up with my fellow Brit Bees (a marvellous bunch)
E) Propping up the bar at any opportunity :)

See you there?


Monday, 21 May 2012

Double act!

On Thursday, Terri (aka Mish Mish Mama aka fabulous human being) and I got together to do some sewing.  We'd decided to sew a quilt for the Siblings Together Charity which is rocking the online quilting world at the moment, and a jolly good cause it is too.   Click here to read about it on Lynne's blog, Lily's quilts, if you haven't already.

The vague plan was to sew a quilt in a day - which didn't really happen!  Here's the rough timeline of events:

9.00 Lovely Felix goes to the childminder
9.30 Terri arrives - hot drinks and chat and Internet fabric shopping
9.32  James spots delicious homemade cookies that Terri has brought
10.30 Decide we need a plan, look at available fabrics
10.32 James caves and asks for a cookie
11.00 Settle on using Terri's Pips charm pack as basis for a log cabin quilt, rummage in fabric stashes for coordinates
11.15 Hot drinks, chat, James (working from home!) appears and eats another cookie
11.30 Start cutting and sew a test block (that looks like this), chat

(or was it this one??)

12.00 Terri sewing inner parts of blocks, chain-piecing styley, Ceri slicing strips of fabric for outer logs, chat
13.30 Lunch, chat, James eats a cookie
14.00 Back to it!  Stitch Stitch Stitch - look, we're hard at work, honest!

16.00 Politely request that James goes and retrieves Felix, which he does, in exchange for a cookie - (yes, that's four!)  Fifteen blocks down, 5 to go

17.00 Look, twenty blocks! Terri has to leave for her brood, so we call it a day.

Yep, they need sewing together, quilting and binding, but hopefully we have a plan to achieve that before the Quilting Retreat in two weeks time..

A very satisfying day, in many ways....and we'll have to have another one to get this finished, darn it :)


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Going to a wedding..

I mentioned wedding invites in my last post and since they've arrived with recipients, I can officially share another Inspiredby Felix project that's been taking up a bit of mental space recently!

As you may know, I was a little hooked after doing a days screen printing with Sue.  Well I got this idea of printing wedding invites onto tea-towels.... so I did a drawing (got to love those Sharpie pens!) with most of the information on (dates and address have been fuzzed to protect the innocent!), and with Sue's help got it transferred to a screen.

We printed 50 tea-towels over two sessions lasting about four hours each.  All the invites (plus spares) were hand screen-printed in the first session, in a two-person routine that became second nature after an hour.  These were spread out over Sue's house in order to dry!

And in the second session, a few days later, we added the colours using hand-cut templates.

I ended up folding these with an information leaflet, wrapped in a printed cardboard loop, packaged in smart white envelopes with sketched labels.  Special thanks go out to my Mum who ironed and folded the vast majority! 

I'm pleased to say the response has been fab, and I even got a fabric reply from my cousin, and a wonderful handmade card from my Aunty....craftiness breeds craftiness!


Monday, 7 May 2012

Winter Stitching list round-up

Way back in October I created a winter stitching list and linked up to Sarah over at Fairyface designs - the aim being to tide me through until the warmer climes (ha-de-ha).  I had a little mid-point review in January and now is the time to do a final update on progress.  
FairyFace Designs
The good news first:

1) Bee blocks..The final few have been delivered For the European Bee I have been part of.  I was so late that I'm sure all the lovely ladies in that Bee have been (legitimately) cursing me, so can't inflict my lateness on them any longer and won't be carrying on for a further year.  (lesson to self, do not take on too much!)

2) Brit Bee is still going strong with these blocks being delivered.

I also had my month in March and asked for paper pieced foody blocks...and look what I got!!!!! 
1. Time for Tea?, 2. Needles and Lemons - Eggs!, 3. Brit Bee block, 4. raspberry ripple, 5. Miss March Brit Bee Block, 6. a March Bee Block, 7. Drink up, 8. Pizza!, 9. Brit Bee March Pineapple Block, 10. Foody block from Jo, 11. apple block from Jennie, 12. Brit Bee Block for Ceri

There is also a sooper-dooper mad hatters cake on it's way from Terri (I've had a sneak preview!) and then I need to do a couple of blocks - this is going to be one amazing wall-hanging!!

3) Learning to screen print.  I did this, it was fab, and I'm addicted!  

4) Free-motion a large quilt - I did this with the Bonkers quilt, and my shoulders ached...but, I've had some brilliant tips re making the process a little bit easier on myself (sticky gloves, large table space etc) and would definitely to it again.

5) Approach another shop.  I finally did this a couple of weeks ago.  Feedback was positive so I'm just waiting to see what, if any, stock they'd like.

And the progress that wasn't..

6) The sliced coins quilt has not moved from the pile it was in in January, nor have the blocks for my Bee Europa quilt - I must get to it soon, there's wonderful blocks in there that need showing off

7) The Stained quilt along - I'm so sorry Sarah, this is all still sitting in a reusable Tesco's bag!.  I've seen some amazing Stained quilts, so I will come back to this.

The unplanned...

8) Had a fab time in the Mouthy Stitches swap.  I sent this to IsisJem:
 and got this faberoony pouch from Indianna Dreams!

9) Guest posted at Fairyface designs with a little girls skirt tutorial

10) Mini-quilt made and submitted in the Modern Mini challenge... I didn't win, but had so many lovely comments and people pinning my image, that I felt like I'd won!

11) Made lots of gifts, and more things to sell.

Oh heck, yeah, and decided to get married this summer!  (and here lies my excuse for anything not completed in the above list!!)

A quick summary of the latest on that:

THE DRESS - toile finished, adjustments made and pieces cut from the final fabric.  Facings designed and cut.  Bodice is half stitched together.

THE BRIDESMAIDS - Successful trip to Oxford Street on Saturday resulting in three bridesmaids dresses for the older bridesmaids and three ridunculously high pairs of shoes

(not unlike these - their choice, honest!)
Office Minted court Bri red nubuck

THE INVITES - invites designed, printed and sent by me - watch this space - I hope this one deserves a post of it's very own :)

If you've got to the bottom, thanks so much for reading..shorter post next time, I promise!


Monday, 23 April 2012

"Diary of a wedding dress" by a beginner dressmaker - Part 1

Some of you will know that I crazily bravely decided to make my own wedding dress this year. Some of you have also been kindly asking about progress, and, as of yesterday, I had exactly 3 months to get it done so I thought an update was in order!

Don't panic, I don't think I'll be giving any secrets away...James has seen the fabric and the pattern (I felt this was necessary to prevent any nasty shocks as I enter the room!), but he swears that being a bloke means he has no capability to visualise the finished article :)

You may breathe a sigh of relief when I tell you we're not talking about a traditional wedding gown here.  I have an aspiration to get married in a brightly coloured 1950's style big skirted frock.  In pursuit of this aim I found a wonderful designer/dressmaker by the name of Anna who lives locally (you can check out her gorgeous studio here and her blog here).  She has kindly agreed to help me achieve my aim, and, by gum, I'm glad she did.

Anna runs vintage dressmaking classes and has a huge array of patterns to choose from. After an hour of browsing, we settled on a hybrid of the dresses below, teaming the voluminous skirt from the pattern on the left (using 6m of fabric!) with the boat neck bodice from the pattern on the right, but minus the sleeves and the pointy bit at the bottom of the bodice.

Next, I went in search of a fabric that would be in keeping with the style of the dress, but would be wowzers enough for a wedding.  I headed off to London, armed with a fantastic list of shops to visit, thanks to bloggy friends who did a great job of providing me with recommendations.   Soho, Edgeware Road, South Kensington - we did the lot. On the second trip, Mum and I ended up at the fabulous Goldhawk Road, where we purchased THE perfect fabric. 

Despite having looked at lots of wonderful expensive silks, I found myself immediately drawn to this more modest cotton which has a rich print with sumptuous colours and slightly satinised feel to it.

...and, there's so much potential in the colours (the background is actually a dark jade green, I just couldn't get it to photograph!) for coordinating bridesmaids and flowers etc

Back in the studio, and with much help from Anna over the last few weeks, I have learnt to trace a pattern and adjust it for my measurements.  I have learnt to properly mark and cut out pattern pieces for the toile (practice version, in my case, made from an old king size bedsheet) and to stitch the skirt together.  I have also learnt to gather, tailors-tack and insert darts.  And then, last Friday, I stitched the gathered skirt to the bodice pieces and tried on my toile.

The dress was a good fit, but at first we were both a bit "MEH" about the look.  The skirt didn't appear to be that special, and the bodice looked boxy with a lack of waist definition.

(NB. this next bit is where the professional works magic!)

Anna got a spare voluminous petticoat out (which transformed the skirt) and jumped into action with her pins.  We lifted the waistline an inch and a half (I think I must be high-waisted), dropped the bust darts an inch (there was a hint of comedy Madonna pointy bra going on!)...and no, Helen, this does not mean I'm tucking my boobs into my waistband (I had to giggle at that comment!)

We also took the waist darts in an inch at the front and back...and hey presto, a dress with some serious potential emerges!  I was too pinned up to think to get my camera out so no pictures I'm afraid, but here is the bodice with all the alterations marked on.
(check out my newly acquired gathering skills!)

The next step is to unpick this, make the pencil adjustments, and then use these pieces to cut from the final fabric.....eek!  In the real thing, I am going to need to master facings, linings and a hidden zip plus other techniques I'm sure I don't know about yet - so it's by no means plain sailing!


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bloggy backlog...or is that bloggers block?

Sounds painful?!  I think I might be suffering from this!    I'm not talking about reading blogs because although I LOVE reading blogs I seem to be continually behind on catching up with other people's happenings...  nope, this is about my inability to get a blog post out!

I've got so much stuff to talk about....For starters there's the Liebster awards and bloggy "tag" (totally missed the boat on this one), then there's wedding dress progress - I have THE fabric (!) and the invites, handmade by me too.  And then there's a few final blocks that I stitched for Bee Europa, plus a string cushion that I'm just finishing...and I really really need to show you all the wonderful foody blocks I've got from the fabby Brit Bee ladies.....oh, and did I mention that Felix has finally got a few words (so cute), James stepped on a rusty nail (serious ouch moment) , and I've joined the Wonky WI?! 

It dawned on me that my new years resolution was to blog more frequently, but shorter posts...a task that I have so far spectacularly failed on.

It's never too late to start here goes with the first of my shorter, speedier bloggy witterings..

I give you three blocks for three months in Bee Europa.  It's been great but I'm ducking out now, due to my inability to keep up.

Particularly loving this spiders web and learning that you don't need seam allowances on the outer edge of selvedges (I wondered how people using selvedges didn't lose the text in the seam allowance!)  I am now inspired to start saving my selvedges properly (in long lengths and with an inch of print above the selvedge) so I can make something like this for meeeeee :)

Back soon, I promise!