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…

Spending Spree

For the past few months, I’ve been very disciplined about not buying any new fabric and working solely from my stash. I’ve been very good at reusing fabric leftover from old projects, but also in finally using up ones I just never got around to using after purchase. While this may seem rather angelic of me, it all hid a dark secret – I went on a veritable fabric buying orgy while in America on holiday. As much as I love Walthamstow Market, nothing in the UK compares to the price, quantity, and breadth of fabric available in America.

To give you an idea, here’s most of it laid out:

Yikes! Stripes!

I wanted to make a few gifts to give to my niece and nephew while I was visiting in America, and a friend gave me the idea of making sock monkies out of really long knee socks. So when I was at Glastonbury I had a look around and picked up two striped pairs for the monkies, then stitched and stuffed them by hand over the course of two evenings (one spent in the A&E waiting room!). I added some button eyes and packed these guys in my suitcase…

In the swing of things

A day after I landed in America for the start of my holiday, I got an email from the New York Times asking if they could interview and photograph me for an article on Ikea Hacks. I gave a phone interview whilst in Pennsylvania, but the photographer didn’t catch up to me until today.

A Jalie sport swimsuit

I’ve made a handful of swimsuits in my time – most recently the Seamwork bikini in 2015, which I wear pretty much every time I go to a spa or holiday pool/seaside. But I certainly wouldn’t consider that a suit that’s, err, suitable for Serious Swimming, and recently I’ve decided to take up swimming lessons with my running coach (who’s actually a triathlon coach so it’s not totally weird!).

I had swimming lessons when I was a kid at the local municipal pool, so it’s not like I’m going to drown or anything, but my strokes are seriously sloppy, and it’s been embarrassing me recently. I’m certainly not efficient at getting from A to B, and I hate the front crawl, and I tire quickly. And now that I’ve done London Marathon (four times!) and Ride London 100 this year, I’m eligible for the enormous London Classics medal if I also complete the 2 mile Swim Serpentine. So I’m starting lessons with the goal to do this open water swim next September, which seems like good motivation (signups are in February if you want to join me – I’m assembling a girl gang!).

Happy 2018! (My Year in Review)

Happy fresh and new baby year, everyone! I always like to celebrate the first of the year with a look back at the year that’s just completed – this gives me a chance to reflect at the things I’ve accomplished, the garments I’ve made, and challenges conquered. As is traditional, I find myself starting 2018 with lots of great stuff on the horizon but unable to talk about it (this time last year my two big secrets were my Threads article and my book deal, so you’d better believe 2018’s secret project is a good’un!) so you’ll just have to trust me that the outlook for 2018 is rosy indeed!

I made socks

With the book writing and marathon training in full swing over the past few months, I needed a bit of a diversion in my spare time. Because, even though I love them both dearly, when you’re thinking about sewing and activewear and running all day long, sometimes you want to just sit down and not think about either for a bit!

I’ve never knitted before in my life, nor have I frankly had any desire to. I have enough hobbies, and I don’t get excited by yarn in the slightest. I’ve never had any desire to knit a scarf or hat, which seems to be the basic beginner projects you must suffer through in order to learn the craft (a bit like making PJ bottoms in sewing I guess?). But socks are different – yes, I could definitely see the appeal in making socks, but they seemed really complicated to knit, and again, I have zero desire to go through months of learning how to do the basics in order to get to the thing I actually wanted to make.

A fuss-free red shirt for James

While my own wardrobe may be 99% own-sewn, I’m only one woman and I like to concentrate my sewing for James into items he can’t regularly find in shops. Often this means loud and garish shirts in unusual prints (just wait til 4th of July…), but occasionally it’s for practical reasons. In this case, he has two Dakine shirts that are made from some sort of thin, technical woven that dries really quickly and resists wrinkling. So he got just a wee bit excited when he saw was stocking something that looked really similar. They called it “workwear fabric” (it’s no longer available) – a thin, 100% polyester woven that resists wrinkling and dries quickly – perfect for him to wear to cycle into work without looking like a sweaty mess all day.

La Maison Victor magazine – Sept/Oct 2015

I’ve got a big stack of magazines from Argentina to scan and show you, but I wanted to get this one up first while it’s still current in case any one wants to order it for themselves (yeah, it’s quite good!). If you recall from last year when I bought my first issue, La Maison Victor is a Belgian sewing and knitting pattern magazine that publishes bi-monthly (up from quarterly!) in French, Dutch and German and features fully illustrated instructions for each step, too.

I was really impressed with my first issue so I was keen to try and buy another while we were in France for a wedding a few weeks ago – I was pleased to see that it was fairly easy to find. If you’ve got friends or relatives travelling back to the UK through Eurotunnel (where you drive onto the train which takes you under the English Channel), the WH Smith at the Eurotunel Calais Terminal has stocked it every time I’ve looked, and so is a good bet for directing others to buy for you.

La Maison Victor offer patterns for children as well as adults, and they seem to have a good balance of patterns for both boys and girls. Here we see a boys cardigan with buttons and a nice shawl collar, made from sweatshirting instead of the usual sweater knit. This issue also includes a button-down long sleeved shirt for boys as well as a girl’s sweatshirt that could easily work for either gender.

How much do I freaking love this Top “Dusty” with its asymmetric shoulder pleating! This design is SO me that I’ve already traced and cut out fabric for it… but because I don’t fancy the sleeveless bit or the facings, I’ve just traced out the Front and frankenpatterned my basic teeshirt block to it so I can give it long sleeves and a neckband. Also because someone on instagram made it and said the neckline and armholes are really low, and by making it match my teeshirt block, I’m avoiding any potentials there while still keeping the shoulder pleating.

The dresses for this issue are fairly boring, if you ask me, but then again, I’m bored by 90% of the dress patterns I see available anyway, so maybe I’m not the best judge of what women actually want to sew… Classic, or boring? It’s a fine line I suppose.

A week in New York City

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!

Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.