In America…

Having an international relationship (even when the expat half is as firmly ensconced as I am) makes weddings a bit tricky. We’re lucky that we didn’t have to take immigration laws into account, but even so, we needed to have wedding celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic to include as many people as possible. So a few days after the wedding, we flew over to Pennsylvania, spent a few days at my parents’ house in Perry County, then had our celebration dinner in Lancaster, taking the train down to Philly to catch up with my Man of Honour, then the Acela train up to NYC for a week of a proper honeymoon before flying back home to London.

So to start, I decided that I wanted to give my Granny a nice memento of her gown, since she had given it all to me, and I ended up with some medium-sized scraps of the really nice silk satin after finishing my gown. So before I left I made up four sachets filled with lavender buds I’d grown on deck, and during the flight I embroidered a silk square for each of these with the initials of her four grandchildren and their spouses, plus the year they were married. It just worked out nicely that my cousin Charlie was the last of us to wed, having their wedding two weeks after ours!

I then finished up the sachet construction at my parents’ house and presented these to Granny before the Lancaster reception dinner.

There was also a nice surprise of a massive box of vintage haberdashery she’d found in a charity shop. I only picked a few things out of it, but I just couldn’t resist some of this glorious packaging!

Then my mom insisted on driving me out to this Amish fabric shop she knows in Perry County – it was only a little ways past my old high school, but I was just blown away by the prices!! I went NUTS in the zippers – tons of really long invisible zips for 75 cents or a dollar (when I’d pay at least £3-4 each for these in London), buttons for as low as 2 cents each (when’s the last time you saw anything for 2 cents??), tons of ricrac and trims, embroidery floss for 30 cents, and (of course!!) they had the bobbins for my hand crank vintage Singer. For 15 cents each!

An American flag shirt for 4th of July

I can’t explain why, but my husband James really likes to dress over the top for the 4th of July each year. I mean, I’m the one who’s American, yet he’s the one wearing stars & stripes sneakers, jeans, and now a shirt, too.

We visited a Mennonite fabric store when we were visiting friends in Pennsylvania in April, and they had a staggering array of quilting cottons (as you’d expect, really). James had lots of patriotic designs to choose from, but settled on this one with repeated American flags with an off-white, almost textured look to it.

The Sewing Weekender 2017

Sewing retreats are fairly common in America from what I can tell, but up until last year’s inaugural Sewing Weekender, there’d never really been a large scale sewing retreat here in the UK. I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for myself last year, and I had SUCH a great time as a punter that I knew I wanted to go again should Rachel, Kate, and Charlotte plan another one.

Luckily, out of the writing of my book I realised that a lot of the points I made about sewing activewear were also heavily applicable to anyone with a body who moves (so, err, everyone except possibly the comatose) so I approached the organisers months ago saying I’d love to talk about Sewing For Movement at the next event if they were planning one. I’m glad I got in touch early, because as it turns out, this year’s Weekender sold out in under 20 minutes!!

The Sewing Weekender

It’s taken the better part of a week for me to calm down and recover after the stimulation overload that was the first-ever Sewing Weekender, held this past weekend up in Cambridge. It was organised by the ladies behind The Fold Line along with English Girl at Home after being really jealous of all the great sewing getaways and camps run over in America, and it seems they were right to want to replicate over here. Tickets went on sale (for a very reasonable £45) and sold out in literally under an hour. I credit my being able to buy a ticket mostly down to following these ladies on social media and jumping as soon as they became available (Pro-tip if you want to attend the next one when it’s announced!).

The event itself was held in one of the Cambridge colleges, with the option to stay overnight in one of the residence halls (dorm rooms), which I took advantage of after seeing it was cheaper than other hotels in town and less hassle than another set of late night and early morning trains between Cambridge and London!

Surf to Summit Top – Winter Merino version

Wow, thank you all so so much for your enthusiasm on the launch of my latest patterns! More than one person went and bought all seven of my patterns in one go, too, which is just crazy wonderful! Can you imagine the fun weekends of sewing them all up?? I’ve been totally bowled over by your comments, encouragement, and enthusiasm, and I haven’t even shown you all the great versions I’ve been busily sewing over the past few months yet, either.

I’m going to start with one of the more basic versions, but one that should particularly appeal to those of you experiencing a North American winter right now, as it’s perfect for winter base layers. I sewed this one up in a freaking fantastic merino jersey which has a wicking backing fused onto it. It came from Mill Yardage in America, and I also bought the mustard colourway, too, which I actually love even more than the teal! I highly recommend grabbing 2yds of this if you’d like your own version (I have no affiliation whatsoever!).

Let me first take a minute to introduce Emily, my athlete-model for the ladies’ version of the pattern. Emily runs with me every week at Run Dem Crew, but we also ran the Copenhagen marathon together a few years ago, too. But Emily is a truly talented, multisport athlete – she’s not just a runner, but an avid Cornish surfer, snowboarder, and skateboarder, too. She also cycles just about everywhere in London, so she was the perfect choice to show the versatility of the Surf to Summit Top pattern!

Hooray for the Vogue 1280 DKNY sheath dress pattern!

Even though I live in London, I grew up in America, and my family all still live there. A week or two ago, my mom saw there was a pattern sale coming up and very kindly offered to buy me a few if I wanted! There were two Vogue patterns on my Wish List – one was a Michael Kors knit dress that’s now OOP (and her Hancock’s didn’t still have it), but she was able to buy me one of the new DKNY Vogue patterns I was after, plus ship it to me, all for less than half the price we pay for Vogues in the UK on sale!

(Ever wonder what sad souls pay the full list price printed on envelope patterns? Yeah, that’s us. Little wonder I mostly sew with pattern magazines!)

So Vogue 1280 arrived in the post yesterday, and I immediately set about devouring the instructions and construction details of this.

It’s a really interesting, asymmetrical knit sheath dress with a characteristic (for DKNY) lack of side seams, so there’s a lot going on here!

Here’s a better shot of the tech drawing from the envelope. On Vogue’s site, the tech drawing is really too small to see that nearly all the seams are lapped, with a raw-edged piece of trim inserted, and then double-stitched (hello, coverstitch!) on top.

Christmas Present – Dr Who waistcoat

I didn’t get much of a chance to sew many Christmas presents this year, but James and I have been plotting and planning to sew a Dr Who waistcoat (“vest” in America) for his nephew for about three months now. It was all triggered by seeing this Tardamask fabric on Spoonflower, which is the exact same print as a Threadless tee James owns that little Rory went mental for when he saw James wearing it!

So we ordered the fabric months ago, then got his mum to take some measurements for us, and with that, I sifted through my patterns archive and found I’ve only got one waistcoat pattern for boys, from an old Knippie (KnipMode’s kids pattern magazine):

As you can tell by the line drawing, though, I did quite a bit of manipulation before I started sewing. I wanted to minimise the seamlines and thus, disruption to the print, so I taped the pieces together and eliminated the front pockets so the only seams are at the shoulders and sides. I wanted to make the entire thing from the Tardamask print, but I ran out of length inside, necessitating a horizontal seam in the lower front.

But ah-ha! I turned that seam into a feature by putting in some inseam pockets, just perfect for storing action figures or treasures or whatever it is little boys put in their pockets these day.

In any case, Rory loved his waistcoat! He’s 7, and the biggest Dr Who fan ever, so we were excited to see his reaction on Christmas. Little did we know that he’d turn up in a full suit and hat (it was under the tree for him earlier that day), which complimented the waistcoat perfectly!

Red twill shirtdress

We always set out to make two dresses for my mom this summer – one knit and one woven, and for the woven one she ended up also picking a KnipMode pattern from my archives, this time #6a from the special June 2009 “40 Years, 40 Dresses” issue.

It may look like a shirtwaister at first glance, but the buttons in front are purely decorative – there’s an invisible zipper in the left side seam and it all just goes over the head for a really easy to wear, casual style.

She bought the bright red twill in America and prewashed it before she came over, and then picked out the buttons on a shopping excursion to MacCulloch and Wallis here in London.

Pleated lavender knit dress

OK it seems I’ve got a brief respite from my fever right now (although not the headache) so I’m going to take advantage of it to finally show you the lavender knit dress I made my mom while she was staying with us this summer.

She bought the lavender interlock when she was still in America, and then had a leisurely stroll through my huge archive of pattern magazines for a style she liked and I thought would flatter her nicely. So together we decided on KnipMode Aug 2009 #20, which has a surplice top with shawl collar and pleated skirt in both back and front. We were originally going to shorten the sleeves to elbow length, but after trying on the dress, she decided she liked them long and could easily push them up if she needed to.

Once or twice a year, KnipMode produce a few patterns that come in Petite, Average, and Tall patterns, with a few of the pattern pieces changing shape, though as Arielle pointed out, Knip don’t publish their Petite or Tall body measurement charts anywhere! Any Dutch speakers care to volunteer to sort out this mystery for us? They don’t seem to understand it when we email… In any case, I just made the average height for my mom here, as she’s about 5 foot 6 with fairly normal length proportions.

With belt:

KnipMode wrap blouse

Even though I prepared this to sew in hospital, I was in and out so fast I ended up sewing #20b from the May 09 KnipMode as my first project back in my own sewing room since it was all cut, interfaced, and ready to go!

I chose to make the 20b variation since I liked the full (rather than band) collar, the roll-up sleeves, and the breast pocket, which made it look a bit more like a camp shirt than an Asian-styled top. It also means I’ve finally used the last of the enourmous stash of fabric I bought in America in August 2007, as this cotton/lycra poplin was originally intended for that Hot Patterns blouse disaster…