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Tabatha’s April Challenge 2014 – Days 10 – 20

April 21, 2014

Hey there!  I’m back again to report on my April Challenge progress since 9th April.  I must have lost count towards the end of my last blog post, which means today there’s 11 days of sewing to blog, but I’ll try to keep it succinct!  In any case, I don’t have a lot to actually show you yet, as the main thing I sewed during these days was my next Minerva make, and that won’t be going live until tomorrow.

Thursday 10th April

Today I sewed for two hours.  I traced the pattern I’m using for April’s Minerva make, made the toile and inserted the zip.  I measured myself very carefully but still found that the toile was too big and decided I’d need to go down a size.  Nice news, but what a waste of two hours!

Friday 11th April

Today’s two hours was much the same as yesterday: I retraced the pattern in a smaller size and toiled it.  Much better fit this time, and luckily no FBA to do!  Thanks, running!

Saturday 12th April

I only sewed for half an hour today as we went to Sheffield for a friend’s birthday party, and by the time we had got back and put the kids in bed I was knackered!  My new dress got an outing today (actually I wore it for the first time yesterday); here I am wearing it on two consecutive days with different footwear, and holding the cake I made for my friend’s 30th: a fully edible princess castle cake.

Dress with pink cowboy boots and cake/Dress with pink shoes and no cake

Dress with pink cowboy boots and cake/Dress with pink shoes and no cake

You want a closer look at that cake, right?

Princess Castle Cake made by me

Princess Castle Cake made by me

I also got to give her the house-warming present I made for her and her partner – these Matilda cushions!  So that’s some of the secret sewing that I did last week.

Matilda cushions!

Matilda cushions!

Sunday 13th April

Today I managed three hours of sewing which mainly made up for yesterday’s lack.  I got as far as finishing the bodice of the dress which was pretty good going really.

Monday 14th April

In today’s two hours I finished my Minerva make, tidied and prepared for my next project – a pair of corduroy dungarees with pattern and fabric from Little Dress Kits.  The dungarees are a gift for my friend’s 6 month old baby – the two of them had planned to visit on Thursday.

Tuesday 15th April

I sewed for two and a half hours today, working on the dungarees.  All pretty straightforward!

Wednesday 16th April

Today I only managed one and a half hours of sewing, but that was enough time to finish the dungarees for my friend’s baby.  They are so cute and I’m pleased with how they turned out.  Like many other bloggers who have made these, I kept the crotch seam open, finished the raw edges and sewed on popper tape (from Boyes) to allow for easy nappy changing.  It really is essential to have this option, otherwise it’s just impractical!

Little Dress Kits Car Dungarees

Little Dress Kits Car Dungarees

I also traced the sleeve pattern for my next make, which is going to be a Pride and Prejudice dress for Little Tweedie.  Every year my friend and I get together to watch the BBC Pride and Prejudice and in 2011 I made us both dresses and a little one for my daughter.  I managed to get her into the dress the next two years, but I have now passed it on to my friend so her daughter can wear it and Little Tweedie gets a new version!

Her previous dress was sleeveless but this time I wanted puffed sleeves like the ones on our dresses, and luckily my current go-to child’s dress pattern, New Look 6309, has options for puffed sleeves.

Thursday 17th April

Today my friend came to visit with her baby and I was able to give them the dungarees hot off the sewing machine!  I didn’t find any time to squeeze sewing in today – in the evening I went for a run and the time just slipped away and I was too tired.  Oh well!

Friday 18th April

Today I spent two hours working on Little Tweedie’s Pride and Prejudice dress.  I drafted a different neckline so it has a bit more of a scoop to match our dresses a bit more, and I lengthened the skirt to floor length on her: impractical but I’m hoping that I can squeeze her into it for another couple of years and that she’ll mainly be growing lengthwise and not width wise!

Saturday 19th April

This morning was spent running and then our friends arrived mid-morning for the Easter weekend, so no sewing was done, again.  Eek!

Sunday 20th April

I sewed in the evening today for two and a half hours, during which time I made and attached the sleeves and the skirt to Little Tweedie’s Pride and Prejudice dress.  All that’s left to do is insert the zip, slip stitch the lining in place, hem it and add the lace trim.

So there you have it!  I’m on the home straight now, just ten days left!

Oh and by the way, although my last blog post on the April Challenge contained various links to various things, it wasn’t a sponsored post, and neither is this one.  Just so you know!

Minerva Crafts Meet Up – Who’s going?

April 14, 2014

I am attending the Minerva Crafts Meet-Up

Have you heard that Minerva Crafts recently won Best Online Retailer, Best Sewing Blog, Best Sewing Resources and Best Independent Shop in the North of England, all in the 2013 British Sewing Awards?!  How amazing is that?! To celebrate, they are planning on a HUUUGGE meet-up at the Minerva Craft Centre in Darwen, Lancashire on Saturday June 14th 2014, and guess what?  You are cordially invited to come along! If you do come, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the Minerva team, me, and also…

…and I’m sure many, many other fabulous people, and even some mystery guests from the Great British Sewing Bee!  It’s going to be EPIC.

Minerva Crafts Meet Up Image for Blog Post

If you’d like more information, go to Minerva’s Meet Up page.  They have also very thoughtfully put together a list of things that partners/family/friends might want to do in and around Darwen, in case you’re bringing someone along for the road trip but they’re not particularly interested in craft – you can find all that information here.

I am really excited about this event, it’s going to be a brilliant opportunity to me lots of excellent people!  Hope to see you there!

Tabatha’s April Challenge 2014 – Days 1-10

April 9, 2014

Bonjour, how’s it going?  I’m here to report what I’ve been up to on the first ten days of this year’s April Challenge.  To recap, my April Challenge is trying to sew for two hours each day during the month of April.  Without further ado…

Tuesday 1st April

I got two hours of sewing time during the childrens’ nap times today. The first hour was spent finishing off a secret project which will be a gift for someone, so unfortunately I cannot reveal any details!

The second hour was spent preparing for my next project – a sewing machine dust cover.  I took the measurements I needed, cut the fabric, cut the fleece underlining and joined the two together around the edges.

Preparing the fabric and red fleece lining

Preparing the fabric and red fleece lining

Wednesday 2nd April

Today I sewed during naptime again.  It took me 1hr 15mins to finish off my sewing machine dust cover.  I love it!  The fabric was the last metre on the roll at Sewing for Pleasure from the Abakhan stall, and I loved it so much that I had to have it even though I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  It’s very Cath Kidston, isn’t it?  But according to the selvedge it is made by Hill Berg fabrics.

It looks just right next to my Cath Kidston sewing box

It looks just right next to my Cath Kidston sewing box

Whilst I was flicking through ‘Half Yard Heaven’ by Debbie Shore I saw this project idea and thought it would be the perfect way to continually admire this beautiful print!  I used up some buttons which I bought a long time ago that turned out to be beads, but as they are merely for decoration here, it doesn’t matter.

Buttons or beads...who cares?!

Buttons or beads…who cares?!

My remaining 45 minutes of sewing today was spent beginning an alteration of a blouse for my mother-in-law.  She wanted an extra buttonhole making on the button placket, and the front needed taking in at the side seams.

Thursday 3rd April

I only got one hour of sewing done today during naptime, which was enough to finish the blouse for my mother-in-law.  After that I had zero sewing mojo so I didn’t sew any more.  Oops, failed already!

Alteration: complete!

Alteration: complete!

Friday 4th April

Today both children were at nursery all day, so I sewed for six hours.  This was partly desire and partly a need to get ahead for the weekend.  I started a new project – the Simplicity 1800 Amazing Fit dress.  I must have really been on a go-slow though, because it took me three hours to trace the pattern pieces to pattern tissue and to cut the fabric! I spent another three hours actually sewing the dress, but didn’t get as far with it as I’d have liked.  I’m making view A:

Simplicity 1800

Simplicity 1800

Saturday 5th April – Sunday 6th April

No sewing today as the husband and I spent the weekend in London, leaving the in-laws to look after the children.  We met up with lots of friends – there were fourteen of us in total!  Julia met us early on and the two of us snuck off for a spot of fabric shopping at Walthamstow market after hearing good things from the likes of Karen and Vicki Kate.  It didn’t disappoint – we both came away with several dress lengths and a multitude of zips, thread and ribbon!  By the time we had found the fabled ‘man outside Sainsbury’s’ and handed over not-very-much-money-for-rather-a-lot-of-fabric, we collapsed in a café that was about 2 metres away and made a plan to return to ‘Zip Man’ for even more zips before heading off for afternoon tea.  In total, I came away with 10 zips for the princely sum of £3.70!

Our afternoon tea was at Hotel Indigo in Earls’ Court, in their bar called Mansion Bar and Parlour, and it was totally lush.  The waitress very kindly took a photo of us:

Afternoon tea. With cocktails too!

Afternoon tea. With cocktails too!

After our afternoon tea we headed over to Holborn to meet the others and a good night was had by all.  The next morning after breakfast with our friends we just had time to squeeze in a trip to the Tate Modern and then go for a Champagne Brunch date, just the two of us!  A rarity indeed these days, to be child free and together and out of the home!  We went to a place called Karpo on Euston Road, just opposite Kings Cross station.  It was really lovely, I would highly recommend it!

Champagne brunch at Karpo. Eggs Florentine Benedict for me, banana and salted caramel buttermilk pancakes for him.

Champagne brunch at Karpo. Eggs Florentine Benedict for me, banana and salted caramel buttermilk pancakes for him.

Monday 7th April

Back to normality today!  Little Tweedie went with her grandma to stay with her for the week as it is now the Easter holidays, leaving me with Baba Tweedie for the week.  I spent two hours of his naptime sewing, and a further hour after he was in bed.  I seemed to spend a lot of this time unpicking – this dress seems to be doomed!  But I did get the sleeves assembled and the lining done, so I’m getting there.

Tuesday 8th April

I spent 1hr 45 mins sewing during Baba Tweedie’s naptime today, during which time I was able to finish the sleeves.  I don’t know why it took so long, but there you go.  There is a cuff thing and the sleeves are two piece so I guess it isn’t exactly your average sleeve but I’m still being frustratingly slow with it.  Still, it’s looking good and shaping up to be a pretty dress, if I can ever finish it!

My friend Amy came over in the evening to watch the final of The Great British Sewing Bee, which was fun.  I made us Mai Tai cocktails, totally not knowing that the first task of the final was to make a tie!

Mai Tais

Mai Tais

Here’s the recipe, if you’re interested:

Ingredients for 1 glass:

  • 3-4 ice cubes, crushed
  • 3/4 measure amber Jamaican rum
  • 1/2 measure white rum
  • 1/3 measure fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 measure orgeat syrup
  • 1 tsp orange curacao
  • 1/8 unwaxed lime
  • 1 small sprig fresh mint


Place the crushed ice, both kinds of rum, the lime juice, orgeat syrup and curacao in the lower part of the shaker.  Fit the upper part of the shaker and shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds.  Pour the shaker contents into a rocks glass.  Make a slit in the lime segment and fix it to the rim of the glass.  Add the mint sprig and serve immediately.

After the Bee I sewed for another half hour, attaching the neck facings to the dress.  (This is dress is lined and it has facings too due to the sleeve construction).

Wednesday 9th April

Today I experimented by putting Baba Tweedie in his playpen in the sewing room whilst I sewed, and I got an hour of sewing done like that.  Even better, that was all the time I needed to insert the concealed zip, try the dress on and adjust the length, press the pleats properly and hem it.  Finished at last!  The lighting is not great in these photos but it was the best I could do for now.

Simplicity 1800

Simplicity 1800

The fabric was from my pattern cutting tutor Debbie who also runs a vintage clothes shop.  It’s a 70s special and I’m pretty sure it’s 100% polyester.  It’s the strangest fabric I’ve ever worked with – it drapes, but it is kind of springy/boingy/bouncy…for want of better terms!  It’s kind of heavy and slides around.  Luckily it at least responds to pressing and withstands heat very well, so I was able to get it under control.  It feels cold when it first touches the skin, which is why I wanted to line it.  I lined with plain black polycotton.

Simplicity 1800 - closer view

Simplicity 1800 – closer view

I’m so pleased with the dress – it’s really beautiful and the fit is great.  I cut a size smaller than I have been doing recently but stuck with the D Cup and I couldn’t be happier with the fit.  Unfortunately Delilah isn’t the ideal model for it but I won’t be able to get a proper photo of me wearing the dress until the end of the week.

Simplicity 1800 - back view

Simplicity 1800 – back view

During Baba Tweedie’s naptime I started, and finished, my next project, which took 1hr 30 mins.  However, it is another gift and I won’t be able to show you until the gift has been given! :-)

That’s it for now – ten days of sewing!  Here’s to the next ten!

A self-drafted pencil skirt!

March 31, 2014

About four weeks ago, my friend Natalie from my pattern cutting class brought in some fabric she had no use for to see if anyone wanted any of it.  How kind!  I spied some lovely green wool and in my head I instantly made it into a pencil skirt.  I gratefully seized the fabric and then thought how nice it would be to actually make the pencil skirt and then wear it to class the next week for Natalie to see.

I have ‘Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing’ and I thought that the pencil skirt pattern in that would be pretty much perfect, but then I got to thinking… a pencil skirt is pretty damn simple…I should put my pattern cutting knowledge to the test and make my own pattern, that way it would be a learning experience and more of an achievement if I got it right.

I wanted my pencil skirt to come below the knee, but, unlike Gertie’s skirt, I wanted mine to be fully lined, to have a kick pleat, and to sit on the waist rather than above it.

I used my bodice block from my course as a starting point to get the waist and the hips the right size and the right shape.  I then extended downwards from the hipline to my desired skirt length, and I figured out what depth I wanted my waistband to be and drew it onto the pattern.

Starting from the front and back bodice block...

Starting from the front and back bodice block…

Once I’d cut out the pattern, I cut off the waistbands and closed the darts on them.



I started experimenting with tapering the side seam from the hip down to the hemline for a proper pencil skirt rather than a straight skirt.  I then added my seam allowance and cut my first toile!

Tapering to the hem...and adding seam allowance before cutting!

Tapering to the hem…and adding seam allowance before cutting!

The first toile wasn’t quite right – I had to fiddle around with this curve quite a bit and ended up making three toiles!  I used up fabric I got from a swap which I decided was too pale and muted for my usual tastes, and I basted in my zipper each time in order to properly check the fit.  The final toile is much shorter than the first two, simply because I was running out of fabric!

The three toiles

The three toiles

I was finally happy with my pattern, so I added a kick pleat on, referring to my New Look 6000 pattern for help with drafting.  When it came to affixing the lining to the kick pleat, not a single one of my sewing books had instructions on how to go about it.  I was really very surprised!  Luckily, the internet was very useful in helping me to find this tutorial, and I ended up with this:

Kick pleat - fully lined

Kick pleat – fully lined

My plum coloured lining is anti-static so perfect for wearing with tights, which is of course what you need with a wintery woollen skirt.

Fully lined with a plummy purply poly

Fully lined with a plummy purply poly

I was able to finish the skirt and wear it to college the very next week, and Natalie was really pleased to see that the fabric that had been sitting in her stash for a year or two had finally been made into a garment!  Plus, my pattern cutting tutor Debbie was impressed that I’d done the pattern by myself.  I thought she might be slightly scornful that it took me three toiles to get it right, but when I told her she said that was brilliant.

Skirt - front view

Skirt – front view

Skirt - back view

Skirt – back view

I am super, super happy with the fit.  It really is made to measure and fits exactly how I want.  I’m really pleased with my little self for using my brain rather than just reaching for a pattern, and I want to keep trying to draft my own patterns, or parts of patterns, whenever possible.  Obviously I’m not giving up commercial patterns – that would be ridiculous – but I’ll just keep doing the simple stuff for now!

Inside - back zipper, lining and label

Inside – back zipper, lining and label

Anyway – tomorrow it’s the first of April, so I’ll be embarking on my ‘April Challenge’ for the fourth year running!  Basically this means I set myself a goal of a certain time spent sewing each day during the month of April.  It always gives my productivity a huge boost and I like having a reason to prioritise my hobby on a daily basis.  In the past Leah and Julia have both joined in with the challenge, setting their own daily time slots – I think Leah committed to 30 minutes per day and Julia to one hour per day.  I’m going to stick to my usual two hours per day, and if there are some days I miss it I’ll try to catch up.  If you fancy joining in with the challenge, let me know in the comments below!

Finally – on Saturday 5th April, Julia and I will be in London and we are meeting up with Vanessa of Sew Smitten at 10:30am at Walthamstow Central tube station.  After reading the lovely Vicki Kate’s post about Walthamstow market I was pretty keen to go there myself!  If you fancy joining us, let me know in the comments below!

My March Minerva Make – Cocktail Dress!

March 25, 2014

I am so pleased to be able to tell you all that I am one of the bloggers for the Minerva Blogger Network!  It’s a huge privilege to work with Minerva Crafts, especially amongst such other talented sewing bloggers whom I admire greatly.

Now I’ve got my geeky gushing out of the way, let me tell you about my first Minerva make!  It’s a cocktail dress – or rather, a dress with cocktails on it!  I saw this print and fell IN LOVE.  As most of our readers will know (and certainly anyone who follows me on Twitter!) – I am partial to the odd cocktail and I have rather a well-stocked cocktail cabinet.  I can often be seen sporting some sort of cocktail in my ‘outfit shots’, and I even blogged about all the different cocktails I made during my April Challenge last year (I even blogged the recipes!).  Now, I realise this may make me sound like some sort of alcoholic, so I must  just point out that I don’t actually drink that much – just the odd cocktail some evenings after a day of looking a baby and a pre-schooler.  That’s reasonable, right?!

Timeless Treasures Cocktail Print Quilting Fabric

Timeless Treasures Cocktail Print Quilting Fabric

So, back to the dress… This fabric is by Timeless Treasures, and although it is described as ‘metallic’, don’t be put off by that, as all it means is that it has a tiny bit of glitter on the rims of some of the martini glasses to give a ‘frosted’ effect.  It’s very subtle, and it also washed really well on its pre-wash.  Win!

Having already made the fabulous By Hand London Anna dress (like five times!), I decided to use that pattern again as it meant that a) I wouldn’t mess up my first Minerva make and look like a big doofus and b) it’s quick and easy to sew and c) it looks pretty good with a plain bodice and contrast skirt.

I didn’t want any seams on the skirt front, as I wanted to showcase the print of the fabric and I didn’t want to pattern match as the print has a pretty epic repeat.  The Anna skirt just wasn’t right for this project, so I made my own skirt pattern using the half-circle skirt pattern I drafted when I made my Anna Map dress.  (If you want to see my Anna Map dress, and/or how I drafted the full-circle skirt and half-circle skirt pattern, click here).  However, that pattern still wasn’t going to fit my 1.5m of fabric, so I folded out some of the excess at the hem, and shortened it by a few inches, and, hey presto!  New skirt pattern!  I cut the skirt front on the fold and the back is two pieces to allow for a centre back zip.

Half-circle skirt pattern, adapted to fit the fabric!

Half-circle skirt pattern, adapted to fit the fabric!

Once I’d got my skirt pattern sorted, the construction of this dress was as simple as always.  I overlocked the raw edges and the bottom of the facings, inserted a classic centred dress zip, and machine hemmed it, and added a metallic sparkly ribbon at the waist.  Job done!

Back view - centred zip and sparkly ribbon!

Back view – centred zip and sparkly ribbon!

Here I am wearing the dress!

The Cocktail Anna Dress

The Cocktail Anna Dress

The Cocktail Anna Dress - side view

The Cocktail Anna Dress – side view

Did you notice I chose a cocktail to match the new dress?!  The cocktail I’m drinking is called ‘Queen Cocktail’.  Here’s the recipe:

For 1 glass:

  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • 3/4 measure gin
  • 1/4 measure dry vermouth
  • 1/4 measure red vermouth
  • 1/4 measure fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 measure pure pineapple juice
  • 1 slice orange as garnish (optional)


Place the ice and all ingredients in the lower part of the shaker.  Fit the upper part of the shaker and shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds.  Strain into a martini glass using a cocktail strainer.  Garnish with a slice of orange and serve immediately.



If you feel inspired to make your own cocktail-print dress or skirt, then you could start with my ‘kit‘ from Minerva.  It contains 1.5m of the cocktail print fabric and a 22″ black dress zip.  This would be enough fabric to make a simple skirt.  If you wanted to make a dress, you need 1m of a black cotton such as this for the Anna bodice.  The sparkly ribbon is, I think, identical to this one, and I used just under 2m of that.

Hope you like my first Minerva make, I’m really pleased with it!

We have a winner!

March 18, 2014

To choose the winner of the Simplicity ‘Simply the Best’ sewing book, I numbered your entries in order of appearance and then used a random number generator to choose the number.

Here’s the list (I’m sorry I didn’t include you, Amanda, but I did say UK entries only due to the price of postage!):

The list

The list

And here’s the random generator number:

Number 12!

Number 12!

Which means the winner is rachsews!  Congratulations – please email us your postal address:

Thanks everyone else for your entries, and better luck next time :-)

Thanks also to Hannah at Conker Communications and to the Simplicity people for providing the books in the first place.

How to make a Bow Back Cardigan

March 17, 2014


Today I’ve just got a quick and easy customisation to show you which you could make to a cardigan, jumper or even a tshirt.  It was inspired by a Topshop cardigan one of my friends was wearing one time.  You know when you look at something and think ‘I could make that!’?  Well this time, I actually did!

Here’s the original inspiration…

Lace bow cardigan - back view - from Topshop

Lace bow cardigan – back view – from Topshop

Here’s how I made my own version:

Step 1 - Pin and sew lace strip in a dipped curve across shoulders

Step 1 – Pin and baste lace strip in a dipped curve across shoulders.

Step 2 - Pin and sew lace strip for right-hand side of bow, flipping over at the lower corner

Step 2 – Pin and baste lace strip for right-hand side of bow, flipping over at the lower corner.

Step 3 - Pin and sew the left-hand side of the bow as symmetrically as possible to the right-hand side

Step 3 – Pin and baste the left-hand side of the bow as symmetrically as possible to the right-hand side.

Step 4 - Pin and sew the two 'tails' of the bow

Step 4 – Pin and baste the two ‘tails’ of the bow.

Step 5 - Using an applique zig zag stitch (I used width 2.5 length 0.5), sew around the edges of the lace strips on the right side, with stabilising tissue paper on the underside to help it glide through more easily

Step 5 – Using an applique zig zag stitch (I used stitch width 2.5 length 0.5), sew around the edges of the lace strips on the right side, with stabilising tissue paper on the underside to help it glide through more easily.  Reducing the tension on your machine will also help with this stitch.  I reduced from 5 to 0.

Step 6 - Remove stabilising paper from the wrong side of the garment.  It should now look something like this on the wrong side

Step 6 – Remove stabilising paper from the wrong side of the garment. It should now look something like this on the wrong side.  You can still see my basting stitches here as I didn’t remove them.

Step 7 - Admire your work on the right side!

Step 7 – Admire your work on the right side!



I love this unexpected detailing on an otherwise really plain cardigan.  I used up some vintage lace that was with my grandma’s sewing stuff and it took around an hour to do.  Simple, but effective!

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