Blog

My vintage-inspired BIRTHDAY merino cycling jersey

Happy “over a week late but still my” birthday to me!! If you aren’t following me on social media (I mean, why not??) then you may have missed the absolute frenzy of renovation/building work that’s been taking place over the last few months. In November and December, the builders made us a new kitchen, bathroom, and utility room, and then after a short break, have spent all of February and May creating our Saloon (bright living/dining area, where these photos were taken!) and Snug (dark living room) and corridor. Considering these didn’t even have finished walls or subfloors (or lighting!) when they started, the transformation has been incredible.

But it does mean that for infection control reasons, I couldn’t be anywhere near them while they’re here working (we have a very small but self-contained back cabin we stay in). We’re grateful to be in this position, but it severely limits my sewing time before you even consider the sheer amount of dust, lack of cutting table, fact that large sheets of plywood and doors would randomly block access to my sewing room and omg did I mention the dust?!? So my planned birthday make was not finished for my actual birthday this year, which just happens some years! And it doesn’t diminish it in the slightest.

Mustard wool pleated shorts

Now that I’m staying at home all the time (and will continue to do so until there’s a vaccine, to be honest) I’m finding a need for shorts in my wardrobe that didn’t really exist when I spent the majority of my week in a climate-controlled office. I absolutely l-o-v-e the denim Pietra shorts I made at the start of the summer but I thought I’d branch out and try a different pattern for some stretch wool suiting that I bought at the same time as the linen denim I used in the Pietras.

I bought this lightweight, mustard wool blend suiting from New Craft House (now long gone, as nearly all their fabrics are fashion industry deadstock) and it’s absolutely perfect for these shorts! Some people think wool is only for winter, but it’s a great year-round fabric if you get the weight right, and this isn’t itchy in the slightest, either. I overlocked all the edges of my pieces as soon as I cut them to prevent fraying, but I constructed this on the sewing machine.

A reflective wool jacket

Buckle up, because the story of this jacket starts four years when I received a remnant of Dashing Tweeds “Urban Shadow” tartan coating from a friend for Christmas. Now, if you’re not familiar with Dashing Tweeds, they’re a really cool company who’ve revived old tartan and twill patterns and modernised them with great colours and even some reflective threads woven in. The remnant I received was one of these “Lumatwill” designs, and has reflective threads running along all the horizontal yellow lines in the design.

Two winter trousers

I made two pairs of trousers last winter and never quite got around to taking proper photos of them, let alone blogging about them, what with the frenzy of book launch posts, then getting sick. So for completeness’ sake, and because they’re both great makes, I wanted to be sure I documented them properly.

My merino jersey Winter Base Layer top

Yesterday I talked all about the version of the Winter Base Layer top that appears in my “Sew Your Own Activewear” book, and you can tell I really liked it because I ended up making myself one that’s almost identical!! As much as I love my athlete models (and you know I do!) it was tough gathering up such gorgeous activewear fabrics and then making all the book designs to the measurements of my models, not for me! So once I had a bit of breathing time and the weather cooled down a bit, I knew I’d need a few more versions of this top to add to my own running wardrobe.

The “Sew Your Own Activewear” Winter Base Layer

The UK release date for “Sew Your Own Activewear” is less than a week away – it’s out on Friday you guys!! I’ll be shipping out all the signed pre-orders later this week (as soon as I receive the books myself!) regardless of where you live, so some of you may be getting it a few weeks before everyone else in your country, you lucky darlings, you!

I’m also throwing a bit of a launch party here in London on Friday night, so if you’re local and would like to attend, please leave a comment and I’ll send you the details – there’ll be complimentary punch plus the opportunity to buy signed copies on the night plus meet me and the athlete models from the book, too. And of course the dress code is activewear!!

So with it being launch week, I wanted to choose one of my favourite designs to focus on this week – the Winter Base Layer top!

Yellow merino turtleneck sweater with thumb cuffs

After my success with the test version of that Burda turtleneck (polo neck) pattern in the black and white scribble fabric, I figured I’d just use the same pattern for some of my precious merino jersey. Because seriously, what’s better that a super warm, snugly turtleneck in a cheery colour when it’s cold and dark outside, eh?

I bought a bunch of merino jersey from The Fabric Store last year, because, frankly, no one has a better choice of colours, and finding a source more local than New Zealand was next to impossible (unless you want beige or black). The bright and cheery “Citrus” colourway spoke to me first, and I love it!

Fabric Shopping in Dublin and Battersea

As I mentioned earlier this week, we visited Dublin on a flying visit last week as James was speaking at a conference, and I decided to tag along to visit some of his family over there. I first visited Dublin back in 2000 when I was a student and did the very American thing of visiting for St Patrick’s Day (hint: it’s absolutely rammed with Americans and Aussies!). We went back again in 2008 to see some family and also buy an engagement ring, and then I had to fly over a bunch for work around 2011-2013 but those trips were mostly in-and-out on the same day, dealing with a difficult client. But it’s been long enough now that I’m mostly over the pain of those awful work trips, and since I had a spare day to wander around the city centre, I thought I’d revisit a few of the fabric shops I reviewed back in 2008.

While I’ve got mixed feelings that the Woolen Mills is no longer a source for haberdashery (mixed because I’m sad it’s closed down, but happy because it’s now a sister restaurant to our favourite restaurant in Dublin, The Winding Stair), I’m pleased to report that Hickeys on Henry Street is still going strong!

A teal wool cape

After a few weeks, a head cold, and a lot of hand stitching through two seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, my cape is finally finished! I’ve made an awful lot of coats over the years but this is my first cape. I thought perhaps it was a cloak, having mistakenly thought the difference was that cloaks have hoods, but in fact it’s a hem length distinction, so this is indeed a cape!

I covered a lot of the details of the making of this cape last week, so you’ll already know that it’s entirely underlined in cotton flannel to cut the wind, and that it uses this Burda magazine pattern from 2011 (still available to buy as a pdf). Funnily enough, there’s actually a fairly similar hooded cape pattern in the current December 2016 issue, too, which I’ll cover in my review post soon…