Sunday 21 April 2013

Sewing liberation!

Last week, it was with some relief that the second lot of five bags with matching coin purses that I've been working on were delivered to their destination. Of course I forgot to get pictures, doh.  

Anyway, as happy chance would have it, their destination is 5 minutes away from Brit Bee buddy Terri's house, so Felix and I popped in there for a spot of tea and for me to pick up a rather lurrvely fabric haul.

Of course I hadn't been able to resist when Terri had previously told me she was planning on heading up to Superbuzzy on her recent trip to California....I've been quite abstemious since before Christmas and planned to spend some of the bag payment on a fabric top-up. 

This is what she had for me!

(L-R, a Japanese print, plus three chunks of Echino)

Recipes, cheeky monkeys, a seedy thing, and a gorgeous linen map print
Various others - The houses on the right are a flannel, not sure on the plan for them yet!
 That's not to mention the red fabrics for a swap, and two delicious bags of proper caramel popcorn, bless her luminous pink socks!

I feel a little liberated now the bags are done and I have no other specific commissions on the go. Whilst I've got shops to make for, I can choose what I make and with the fabrics above to inspire me, I'm feeling rather spoilt! 

I started with a test pair of baby shoes, with suede bases - fiddly but quick to make:

Then cut into my new fabric yumminess and made a pencil case

And then I turned this panel I'd made a while back

 Into a giant 24" floor cushion

And my brain is still buzzing with stitchy things, yippee!


Tuesday 26 March 2013

Bag factory..

I took a large order for bags just after Christmas, well large by my standards anyway, and a couple of weeks ago I delivered the first half of the order: Five over the shoulder bags with zip closures and matching coin purses. 

The second lot are well on the way too, filling up every available surface in the sewing room.  Doing these has been a lot of fun, but has also put a bit of a dampener on all other it was a relief to get a break today with some fun and slightly messy preparation for my month in Brit Bee..  more about this in the next post but here's a little taster snap.

Back soon, once I've cut all of these up and got them in the post!


Thursday 7 March 2013

Hello! blog hiatus officially over!

Hello everybody, after a fabulous weekend with some VERY dear sewing buddies and then, yesterday, the first ice cream of the season, I suddenly feel compelled to blog again! 

Felix with buddy Matthew

I'm so sorry it's been so long.  I kind of got out of the habit, and then struggled to get back into it.  And now, I'm very much hoping that I'll pop up on the Readers or in the inbox of some of my followers and they'll have a vague memory of who I am!

Hopefully, you'll be pleased to hear that I haven't stopped sewing..and although the following isn't too exciting or new, here's a few snaps of what's currently "in progress" at the sewing machine..

Cushion commission 1 of 2 for my Aunty Jane (see, I haven't forgotten, Jane!)

And a bag order for local shop - there are bag pieces everywhere and the addition of zip closures has made this a bit of a mammoth task...

and just to show that practice does NOT make perfect in this house, look what I managed to do this evening...somehow get the bag handle completely entwined in my machine whilst top stitching bag outer to lining.

 I couldn't stop halfway without ruining the stitching so I just kept going and got more and more tangled!

Once these are out of the way, I have a pressing engagement with my foody Brit Bee Blocks from last April :) These need to be turned into a giant menu, and I am VERY looking forward to the challenge!

Hopefully back soon!


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 :)