Saturday, 22 September 2018

A Baby's Quilt


I've been digging around in the loft (attic) for ages to find the quilts I made for my children when they were babies. I've had one success - this quilt that I made for my daughter, Helen 34 years ago.  Now she has a baby, born last week and called Flora. I'll be making a quilt for Flora as soon as I come up with a suitable design.  Helen wants flowers for Flora's name and I think it could have other things as well such as butterflies and even a garden gate. I've looked on Pinterest and Etsy and I've found a few quilts to inspire me, but I want it to be an original so I must let the ideas develop and then I will get started. Sometimes it's best to  play around with the design and then begin.  I have lots of pieces of Liberty tana lawn for the flowers, but I don't know what to use for the background yet.

I made Helen's quilt using a ditsy print for the background and then picked out the colours from that. The sheep are fleece (what else?) and the clouds are broiderie anglaise. The heads and legs of the sheep are small floral prints too, but in darker tones than the background. I was very  brave and did a bit of hand embroidery for the hills and Helen's name. I'm hoping I can still do that. I haven't done any embroidery for years. I wanted to keep it soft, so it is tie quilted. It was never on a bed or a cot, but used as a wall hanging in the nursery and it has never been washed which is why it has retained its shape. I'm afraid to wash it so I may take it to my dry cleaners and see if they can freshen it up without flattening it. Today I hung it up temporarily so I could photograph it and I am enjoyihg looking at it. I'm amazed that I managed to make it with two very small children to look after. What I remember it that it was a glorious escape. Many sewists say that sewing is their happy place and it was certainly mine, even though I remember their childhoods with pleasure.

I will have to brave the loft (not fun) to find the other one. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

A Simple Pattern Hack - Adjusting a Neckline

The original pattern.
I've been sewing up a storm. I've made three dresses this month! Having left my sewing machine in its box for nearly a year, this is amazing.
Three things have motivated me: One is that I have been watching The Sewing Quarter on freeview in England on channel 73. It's brilliant. So many tips for sewing. Hubby laughs whenever he come in the room as it is on again. Two is that I am feeling very guilty about the enormous stash of fabrics I have been hoarding. Three is probably the very hot weather in London. I have been able to hide in the sitting room - the coolest room in the house and sew. Also, I have been able to produce things to wear in the heat.
This dress is an example. It is very easy to make. It has a back zip and just a few darts for shaping. The blogger 'Handmade Jane' (www.handmadejane.co.uk) showcased this dress some time ago.   Having made tops from another , very similar New Look pattern two or three years ago, I decided that although I liked the dress shape, the neckline would be too sloppy on me.  The necklines on the tops don't stay in place. They move from side to side when I move. Wearing a crossover bag is a disaster as it pulls the neckline right out of shape. Although they are cool, I just feel untidy. The simple solution was to make the neckline narrower on the dress.  I didn't make a toile this time; I just cut the pattern carefully, raising the waist and allowing for my less than hour glass figure.
The New Look Top which drifts around when I wear it.


As for the neckline I made it smaller by one inch on each side, front and back  (See photo.) and then just traced around it for make the facings. I knew I could make the neckline larger if I didn't like it. However,  the result was a very pretty and flattering neckline - one that would not slip around.

I made the pattern adjustment by adding one inch to the front and back necklines and then using a French curve to blend in the cutting line. The dark lines are the neckline on the original pattern.



I used this Japanese fabric  which has been in my stash for two years. I'm very pleased with the result as the neckline is flattering and it stays in place. It's amusing how much the dress reflects the 1960's.  It would look great with 60's accessories, like pointy shoes and a Biba hat.

The new neckline. Note the Japanese fabric. 

The finished dress. Just add a hat and a large straw bag, perhaps the one in the pattern.

N.B. Most of my friends will not wear sleeveless dresses any more, but to quote Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats, 'I'm fearless that way'.


Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Yummy Spinach and Bacon Salad





Saturday lunch in our house is usually something like hamburgers, sausages and beans, full English breakfast and such like. Supper is a light meal in front of the TV if we are not going out.
Last Saturday we were invited to an early evening barbecue, so I made a light and healthy meal for lunch - Spinach and Bacon Salad.
It was delicious and I will make it again. I served it Jamie Oliver style on a platter to show off its loveliness.

This recipe makes two generous servings. Simply spread spinach leaves on the platter.  Add chopped fruit (in this case, a nectarine and some white grapes but you could use any seasonal fruit, such as apples or even oranges or satsumas). Add chopped pecans. Chop up the bacon and fry it. Remove it from the pan and make the dressing using the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan, about 1/3 cup olive oil, a couple of Tablespoons of runny honey, a teaspoon of mustard and a Tablespoon of red wine vinegar.Drizzle thjs over the salad.  For a vegetarian option you can omit the bacon and add cheese, such as goats cheese or feta which you place on top so as not to mash it up.  Make the dressing in a jar or a bowl instead of the frying pan.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Retro Sewing

The original pattern, circa mid 80s.
Liberty tana lawn.
Going through my stash of patterns, I found this one from the 1980s.  As you can see by the price, it is the original.  I made it for myself when my children were tiny but I received some comments about whether I was expecting again. I wasn't and decided I didn't like this dress all that much. However it was very comfortable and just the thing for hot holidays in the Dordogne in August.

This summer our daughter is pregnant with her first child. What better pattern than this one to accommodate the bump. I made it out of some beautiful Liberty Tana Lawn and she wore it for her baby shower when she was seven months. To my delight, she looks beautiful in it and there is plenty of room to grow for the next month.
In fact, I was tempted to make it again for myself during this exceptionally hot summer in London, but I have found some other old favourites which I will be blogging soon.



Cornflower blue buttons add back interest.



The inspiration - a photo in a magazine.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Six Vegetable Soup

It's a cold, wet, windy day in London and perfect for staying in and eating hot soup and crusty bread for lunch. That,  plus all the admonishments to eat healthily in January after the excesses of the holidays, makes this a virtuous meal.
The trick is to make it thick by using lots of vegetables and tasty by adding enough seasoning to give it a bit of zing when you dip your bread in and slurp it up.
This soup is a variation of many soups that I make, but it's probably the simplest and it requires only what I already have in the fridge and  cupboard.
So, begin by assembling the vegetables you might have in the fridge. Get out the olive oil,  butter, salt and pepper and fresh thyme (if you have it), plus some chicken or vegetable stock, or a stock cube.  I sometimes have fresh stock, but more often I use a stock cube.  If you do not have fresh thyme, use dried oregano for a similar taste.
If, like many people you are going Vegan for January, omit the butter and use a vegetable stock cube.
If you require meat, top the soup with a little crispy bacon.

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon buter (for flavour)
1 nice fat leek
2 medium onions
2 or 3 sticks of celery
2 or 3 carrots
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 medium courgette or a few florets of broccoli
water to cover
1 stock cube
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper (Be generous with the pepper.)

Method:
Chop all the vegetables.
Put the olive oil and butter into a large saucepan and soften the leeks, onions and celery over low heat covered, for about five minutes.
Add the carrots and potatoes and cover and cook for another five minutes.
Add the courgettes, followed by enough water to cover, the stock cube and salt and pepper.
Throw in the sprigs of thyme, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and cook for about 30 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
Remove from the heat and take out the thyme stalks. (The leaves will have fallen off.)
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Using a potato masher or a stick blender, lightly crush some of the vegetables, leaving some texture in the soup.

Serve warm with crusty bread and butter.
Makes a satisfying meal for four or five people.



Sunday, 21 January 2018

Starting a Quilt in my own messy way...


It's nearly a year since I last posted. I have had no desire to sew, even though I gave a few friends lessons in sewing. Now, however, I am fired up to make a new quilt.  I have had the fabric for a few years and I even did a post on them (a long time ago). I cut out the strips last spring and then couldn't decide how to put them together.
Yesterday I lay them out on a piece of wadding on the floor and played with them until I felt they were in the right order. It's a bit like putting together a puzzle. I roped in Hubby to help and his input was good.  I don't always give him credit for his colour sense, (Well, sometimes it is non-existent.) but this time he came up trumps
The rectangles are actually long strips and will form four patches each.  I plan to stitch them together from left to right and then cut them up to make the whole process quicker.
The pattern is loosely based on "Wisteria" from Quilt Me by Jane Brocket.  I love this book because all the patterns are modern and not too fiddly. (I don't do fiddly.) My original plan was to do another pattern based on a whole collection by Lotta Jansdotter. (I have some of her fabrics already sewn into strips and will make another design with them.)
The fabrics for this quilt are mostly Japanese,  made by Moda, and I love the subtle colours and simple prints.  The others have been added, thanks to a lovely woman at Creative Quilting in Hampton Court.  She gave me an inordinate amount of her time to enrich the fabrics I already had and to bulk out the quilt.
Right.  Time to get the sewing machine out. Can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Make a Double-sided Blanket in an Hour







Finished dog blanket in beautiful colours. 
My friend Rita, who has a beautiful English cocker spaniel, is making dog blankets to sell. She was inspired by a blanket belonging to a friend and much loved by her dog who plays with it, sleeps on it and drags it around the house like a comfort blanket.
The blankets are two pieces of fleece sewn together and stitched around the edges to give a nice finish. Simple and effective, these would also  make great cot, crib and push-chair blankets.















Here's how she does it:

Before you cut the fabric, ensure that the edges are square. This is not always the case when meterage is hand cut.

Carefully measure the fleece (this blanket is  approximately 70cm by 55 cm but it could be larger, depending on the size of the dog).

Using a straight edge as a guide, mark and cut one piece of fleece to the correct size.  Then lay this piece on top of the other piece, right sides together and cut the second piece.

Pin and stitch around the outer edges leaving a space for turning.

Clip the corners.

Turn to right side and hand stitch the gap closed.

Smooth the fabric out and top stitch about 1.5 cm from the edge.
No pressing required. Your blanket is finished.

I plan to make some for all the new babies friends' and relatives' children are having.

Cutting the second piece of fleece by laying the first one on top of it.

Carefully trimming the edges.


Clipping the corners

Clipping the corners

Rita's Stash of Fabrics for the Next Blankets