Progress and results

Because some sewing does still get done around here from time to time:


Patchwork-in-progress: Tasia’s recent quilting post reminded me to dig these out and at least think about finishing them off…

…but for something more decisive, the results of my Sew Grateful giveaway are in!

Giveaway Feb 13


The Socks book goes to Nessa, who said:

“I’d love to try socks – it’s something I’ve always avoided – I think it’s the heel turns!”

Hope you enjoy it, Nessa!


Restyled dress to peplum top

This dress came from last summer’s House of Fraser sale for £11 – I bought it for the zingy blue and the nice thick knit fabric.  But I didn’t like:Restyled dressSo restyle choice number 1: to stick with the dress and lengthen it with a contrasting panel of fabric; or go even shorter and turn it into a top?  Meandering across this pin speeded up the decision-making:

Source: via Amy on Pinterest


A peplum!  Perfect: once I’d removed the skirt and unpicked the original pleats, I had loads of fabric to play with.  I shortened it (keeping the hem intact), improvised some new pleats, and ended up with this:

Peplum top

The neckline created restyle question number 2 – I had that cake/frosting dilemma kicking around at the back of my mind.  Should I keep it blue and basic for easy co-ordinating?  Or frost it up a little with some stripes… yeah! 

Peplum top neckline

For a moment, I was worried I’d gone a bit too Dr Seuss with it, but I think I’ve got in in perspective now.  You can’t beat mixing bright blue with a little red, can you?  Outfit-wise, I’ve played it safe with jeans so far, but I’d like to have a go with a pencil skirt a la that pinspiration outfit…

Peplums: love em or hate em?  How do you wear yours?

Sew Grateful Week 2013

I’ve enjoyed following Debi’s fabulous Sew Grateful week again this year – while being constantly thwarted in finding time to blog about it. So at last, on the tail-end of Sunday evening: a giveaway and a project!  (And I know it should be something Sew Grateful, but I hope you’ll forgive a rather woolly contribution?)

As usual here at Diana & Me, I’m giving away a book:

You’d think the title is pretty self-explanatory, but there are also quite a few slipper patterns and a big section on baby booties: 30 different projects altogether plus a techniques section.  This was a thoughtful gift from my mother-in-law last year, with one problem – I don’t knit.  My grandmothers taught me as a joint effort (competition?) and I can still basically stocking-stitch, but… nah.  (On the other hand, if this book was about crocheting socks, I’d have been all over it by now.)  Any knitters out there interested?  Leave a comment and I’ll announce the winner on Monday 18th February.

As for the project, well I’m still firmly in crochet mode:

Crochet hat 1 Crochet hat 2

I followed two free tutorials, one from Family Bugs Blogging for the basic hat and one for the bow-like detail at Vallieskids.  Doesn’t the sparkly hairclip just finish it off? I’m thinking of trying a chunky black version with a dramatic brooch for a more grown-up look…

Happy Sew Grateful week!  And thanks Debi!

Quick(ish) crochet

I really am working on sewing projects at the moment, but on the slowest possible setting short of ‘stop’.  I started a miniskirt before Christmas made from one single piece of fabric (plus pockets and a waistband), which is progressing at roughly the rate of one seam/dart a fortnight.  I’m not sure what’s happened overall, but recently a rather migraneous week has put paid to a pounding sewing machine or the intense concentration of pattern drafting and cutting.

Somehow crochet still works, with the dual advantages that: this granny square sunburst pattern is now autopilot for my fingers; and I can do it while watching E4 re-runs of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother from the sofa.

I started the above blanket about 15 months ago, and haven’t touched it in the last 9.  To be honest, the only reason I’m working on it at all is that I saw this beauty on Pinterest:

Source: via Amy on Pinterest


No way am I allowing myself to have two unfinished crochet blankets on the go, so the old must be finished before I may even contemplate yarn for the new.  Is it a bit odd that I can only complete old projects by dangling the reward of… yet another project?

Still, it’s going together quite nicely, I think.  My rigid assembly rules have turned it into a sort of sudoku puzzle (no horizontally or vertically touching squares can have the same colour in the same position, i.e. two green centres or two yellow outer circles.)  Though actually – I think I can admit it here – that makes it really rather fun.

Quick jumper restyle

I’m all for lounging around the house in chunky hoodies left over from my uni days, but this one is a fine cotton knit – a little too classy for my sofa hibernations, and worthy of upcycling to a smart-casual wardrobe.  With that aim in mind, I lopped off the hood (and then remembered to take the ‘before’ photo):

I also unpicked the kangaroo pocket, because my hands prefer their own individual pockets and don’t get on well when forced to share.  Plus I’ve always been nervous about it being mistaken for a baby bump…

I just traced the existing neckline to make a collar pattern piece, and finished it off with a contrasting band (a la Renfrew):

(Here’s a better view of the jumper, but not, unfortunately, of my face.)

And the back neckline is shaped too:

About an hour’s work to turn a neglected garment into something I’ve already worn 5 times (actually outside, it’s not for sofa days!)  And, as the other knit fabrics came from my stash, it was free.  Feels appropriately new-start and frugal, catching my January mood perfectly.

Babushka II

Here’s Australian Babushka: a present for my English brother-in-law and his girlfriend who live in Melbourne. I know, she looks British, right?  After all, that’s a pretty big embroidered Union Jack on her apron.  But see those little Australian stars around the edge…?

(As close as I could get to fitting a rectangular flag on a big round skirt).

Like her Indian sister, she’s got super-cool blue hair… but this time it’s satin-stitch smooth instead of felt applique.  And with a cute flower, she’s all ready for her trip home in a few days’ time.

Four simple goals and a sewlution

4 Simple Goals (by A Beautiful Mess)

Inspired by A Beautiful Mess (picture above used with permission), here are mine for 2013, with a photo of the beautiful day I woke up to this morning:

  1. Draw more:  I recently came across all my old sketchbooks from school, and remembered how absorbing it used to be.  Plus, my arty friend bought me Contemporary Fashion Illustration Techniques for Christmas, and I can’t wait to have a try.
  2. Plan well to eat well:  I actually enjoy eating and cooking healthily, but too often end up with pre-fab supermarket meals… because I haven’t got the right ingredients, or I can’t be bothered to cook from scratch.  Whenever I have managed to plan ahead, it’s been easier, cheaper, and healthier all round.
  3. Sew for my home:  Living in a rented apartment means I can’t do much to the walls, but there’s so much that could be added with textiles.  I’ve made plenty of cushions, napkins and such for other people, but never for myself -why?  The other day, I was contemplating buying some table runners until I worked out that’s surely one of the easiest things to sew of all time.  So in 2013 I’ll be making cushions, table runners, and maybe turning my hand to a bit of upholstery…
  4. Streamline my possessions:  Oh I have so much stuff.  Too much stuff.  I feel laden down with it all.  Our spare room is still box city.  And my fabric stash is currently taking up a third of our available storage space. Oops. So I will be thoroughly picking through, sorting out, and moving things on. 

Finally, I’m throwing something specific into Karen’s 2013 Jar Of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is with my plan to create The Ultimate Bag… 

(Current unsatisfactory bag situation.)

I’m tired of bags which almost but not quite manage the job of containing my various day-to-day stuff.  I have to tote a lot of things around for work (used a suitcase at one point).  And then I use the same handbag at the weekend, leaving out my work keys / memory sticks / stationery, and only remember when I can’t get in to the office on Monday morning.  So! The Ultimate Bag (I think of it with capitals) will be carefully designed to meet these needs, while looking professional AND stylish.  And I have to do it, or Karen might name and shame me next December.

Are you looking forward to getting stuck into 2013?

Last make of 2012

I feel like I’ve just got back to sewing and blogging after my moving break, so a What-I-made-this-year round-up doesn’t seem to fit right now.  Instead, here’s what I made a few weeks ago for Mr B’s Christmas party:

Yes, basically t-shirt and shorts!  The top is mostly black jersey, apart from that centre panel (lined in pale-gold, don’t worry) and the peplum.  I used best-friend-pattern Simplicity 2588, omitting the zip. 

The lace came from Goldhawk Road – a rather accidental buy.  I was just admiring it in one of the shops, no project in mind, and with a massive bag of fabric already… but I got sort of sucked in to the sales patter:

  • Goldhawk Rd guy: “Hey lovely lady!  You want some of the lace?”
  • Me: (Shouldn’t really.) “Um, how much is it?”
  • GR guy: “£23/m”
  • Me: (!!!) “Oh… that’s a bit more than I wanted to pay…”
  • GR guy: “How much you thinking?”
  • Me: (About a fiver?) “Like, £15?”
  • GR guy: “Nah… but could do £18?”
  • Me: (Walk away now, you don’t even really want it.) “OK!”
  • GR guy: How many metres d’you want?
  • Me: (firmly) “One”.
  • GR guy: “One? What you gonna make with one metre?”
  • Me: (Don’t know, but there’s no way I’m putting down more than £18.) “A top?”

That metre of lace sat in the stash for about 9 months.  I didn’t even look at it too often, feeling the twinges of spending regret.  And then I came across this outfit:


I like everything about it, from the collar to (Jessica’s) shoes.  And finally my guilty lace clicked into place.  See, Goldhawk Rd guy, I did make a top!

I’m thinking of shortening the peplum a little bit more, and I do want to try a white collar, but otherwise it works – so comfy in jersey, and still classy enough for a smart-casual dress code.

(And the shorts?  Oh… the shorts are a self-drafted wearable muslin, barely finished – in fact, I left the waistline raw (can’t see it under the peplum), and the hem is just turned under once and stitched in place – shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Hopefully something more presentable will emerge shortly.)

Happy new year everyone!  Here’s to excitement and achievement in 2013!

Return to Sender

Earlier this year, two of my best friends went to India, and brought back some gorgeous fabric for my birthday in February.  (I’ve enthusiastically started at least two projects using this stash: no finished items so far…)  Having lugged it back across contintents in their suitcases, I wanted to make something this month that would be both a Christmas present and a little memento of their trip.

First up, a book tote for my friend in the middle of her masters degree in neuropsychology, using the red/gold woven fabric she gave me.  (I used this tutorial, which was very quick and straighforward to follow.)

The cream section actually comes from an old skirt:

…after my mother-in-law cleared out her wardrobes recently, she handed me a big sack of clothes to adapt to my heart’s content.  And though this is not a colour I’m usually drawn to, I jumped at all the beautiful floral embroidery:

And then for my business-woman-by-day/artist-by-night friend Nella, a babushka!  No obvious connection, except that I’m a little obsessed by babushkas right now, and wanted an excuse to make one.

She’s a traditional babushka with her big apron and sweeping fringe, but with an Indian fabric headscarf and henna-style embroidery.  And blue hair, cos she’s a tiny bit of a rebel. 

There’s a proper stitch-fest going on, with blanket-, stem-, chain-, running-, back-stitch and some french knots thrown in.  So fun just to make up as I went along!

Onwards and upwards – these cats aren’t going to crochet themselves.  Hope your last few days of Advent are settling down for some Christmas peace – I’m looking forward to a carol service this evening to kickstart the festive mood.

Cotton Jersey Girl

I really feel the sentimental pull of old clothes.  Folded in an old box somewhere, I still have the top I was wearing on the night I first met Mr B. There are ballgowns I’ll never wear again hanging up in my parents’ spare room.  And there are the t-shirts.

There’s nothing quite like a printed t-shirt for anchoring you straight in to a particular time and place.  The last day of school (“Class of 04!”); my friend’s hen night (“It’s not a good night out unless you almost get run over!”); that dinner with my family (“Hard Rock Cafe!”) where we met my brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, for the first time.  And I hardly wear any of them, because they make my neck look really weird:

This is my t-shirt from the last day of sixth-form in 2004, and these are the photos that brought it home to me that t-shirts do not suit me.  I know they’re bad photos anyway, but I really do look like this – that high round neckline can somehow remove my neck altogether (a la left photo) or, conversely, make it look stretched and stiff (a la right photo).  And so, for the last few years, I have avoided them as much as possible.  Without, of course, getting rid of a single item of my personal-history collection.

But over the summer, I was finally liberated by the Sewaholic Renfrew:

…and I’ve been almost exclusively sewing t-shirts ever since.  I even made one for Mr B’s Christmas party this week (reserve judgement til you see it.)  In fact, consider this a warning that an onslaught of cotton jersey is coming up on this blog.

But before I get into that, I better announce the winner of the Twinkle Sews giveaway (thanks for your welcoming comments and your patience, lovely commenters).  The book goes to:

The 4th comment was from Carly, who said “Ooh I was just thinking I hadn’t seen a post from you in aaaages! Nice to see you back.  Please enter me in the giveaway – I’m about to give birth so some slouchy knits and tunic tops sounds right up my street!”

Carly, I honestly didn’t fix the numbers, but you sound very deserving of a book full of slouchy tops – it’s all yours!