Sunday, 15 April 2018

More Frocking Holiday Snaps

Hello lovelies! I have been MIA for a bit as I have been up in Glasgow taking a few days R'n'R before I snapped and went postal. That's not entirely said in jest.

The weather was truly terrible except for the last day and I came down with a lurgy (which I still have) but I was actually glad to have some down-time as things have been a bit full on recently. Because it was too cold and we literally had horizontal snow we decided to do indoor stuff. 

Here are some photos from the Riverside Museum. It was the first time that I have been inside and I was really impressed, both with the building itself and with the displays. It houses the collection from the old Transport Museum and the Tall Ship is moored outside. 

Definitely something for the better weather. If you are in Glasgow I can really recommend it if you have a couple of hours to kill especially with kids (or big kids like me). 

There was a lot of different kinds of transport and some really witty displays that made good use of the space. These cars and bikes are up at the roof.

The highlight for me though was a selection of vintage dresses including one worn by Audrey Hepburn (the silver discs one by Paco Rabanne from "Two for the Road", also starring that red mini above!). These dresses were in revolving glass cases so please forgive the blurry photos. I think that a couple were Horrockses. 

Wouldn't this car just go so well with those dresses?

They had a little Edwardian street mocked up with shops that you could go inside. One was a dressmakers and there was this gorgeous dress in the window. Such beautiful detail. Beats Primani anyday.

There was one display that I just had to photograph especially for Vix, from the fabulous, "Vintage Vixen" blog. Isn't this bus just the absolute bizz? Beats the boring "corporation" bus livery any day. Hope you like it, Vix.

Well, I am off to take some more photos of my sewing, yes sewing, that I managed to utterly destroy. I shouldn't be allowed to adult. I am just not capable.

Did you take advantage of the Easter holidays to get out and about? Did you visit anything interesting? Stuck in work or just relaxing at home? Hope that you have had a nice time anyway.

Have a great week!


Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Skint Garden: March. A Natural Disaster.

Last year I moved into a rented Victorian house as I am working away from home and am dividing my time between here and home as best I can. The garden looked okay in the photos, it is a typical long strip the width of the house, but was a bit of an eyesore in real-life. A few half-hearted pots of annuals went in and they really cheered the place up but apart from that, with my horrendous workload and a slipped disc nothing has been done to it since last October and it is looking a bit sorry for itself. I can't even cut the grass as there is so much surface water on it at the moment due to it lying on clay. The garden is really long. The photo below doesn't show it all.

So, I am going to create a new series of monthly posts on reinventing the natural disaster out back and (hopefully) turning it into an oasis of cottage garden loveliness. I know that the place isn't mine but I love gardening, it takes me out of myself, cheers me up and lets me relax. Not being a very talented gardener I feel so utterly happy when anything grows. Plus, all the spare plants can go in my other garden or get swapped for stuff that I haven't raised myself. The garden is mostly grass. It is not smooth at all and is full of hidden dips which makes it dangerous to mow or to walk on unless you know which bits are okay. There is also a large area which is laid to gravel but was laid without proper weed protection material underneath making it a pain to keep up.

There is a tiny budget allocation (£100) to cover everything for the whole year, or until I move out, to be spent in chunks. There is more info on my "rules" here. I don't really want to throw money away on someone else's garden plus I am really cheap I want this to be a challenge and to encourage recycling, swapping and reuse of found things. As it was so lovely last summer outside it would be really nice to have somewhere to sit and read or knit in when the better weather finally arrives.


The weather this year has turned the garden in places into a recreation of the Somme. Soil in the garden is appallingly bad, mostly clay and terrible sub-soil filled with stones. A lot of it was dug out and riddled last year but is now covered in weeds. The soil is pretty loose still thankfully which has made weeding quite easy. It will need some grit and sharp sand dug in at least a couple of the beds as I plan to grow lavender, rosemary and thyme and it will all need some organic matter and a good feed with slow release fertiliser before it gets planted up properly.

I am a cheeky mare. One of my neighbours is renovating the empty house next door and I asked him if I could have the bricks that were skipped. Heavy work, I can only lift 4 at a time, but I have been using them to divide and edge each section of the border along the fence to the bottom of the garden. It is slow going as I am finding the heavy lifting and digging tough. Worth the effort though I think in the end. They are currently sat in a pile on the "patio area" which looks like the place that old slabs go to die and is in a shaded corner of the garden making it a bit useless for sitting out on. I will have to lift the slabs and re-lay them but it is far too muddy for me to even think about that just now.

Existing Plants/Seeds

There were some orphan seed packets lurking in a drawer in the kitchen so there is the following:
  • HERBS: Basil, Dill (x2); Thyme (x2); Chives (x2).
  • VEG: Swiss Chard (x2); Spinach; Courgettes; Globe Courgettes.
  • FLOWERS: Heliotrope; Dwarf Scented Lupins; Nasturtiums (x2 - one "Empress of India" and one trailing mix) plus a packet of blue Lupin seeds that I found in a drawer upstairs.. 
There's was also a packet of 2 tiny rooted Aquilegias (that were actually 3 -  complete bonus!), 2 small rosemary plants, the stragglers of my herbs from last year and a climbing red rose bush in my stash. All of the above don't count as they were bought before I had this idea (see I am cheating already). The garden was also infested last year with Lemon Balm (Melissa) which is lovely and there is some which has been overwintered in a pot. I also have a rhubarb in a pot but I am not sure if it is still alive.

I already have a spade, some hand tools, some tree loppers, a riddle, a saw, secateurs and garden twine. It is not a lot. Buying seed trays is out the window so they are going to be recycled from some plastic ready meal containers and fizzy juice bottles.

The Plan

I have also ordered Aquilegia "Nora Barlow", Thyme, Bee Balm and Garlic Chives from eBay. (£3.96); Vervain, Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, Feverfew and Lemon Catnip (£5.25); and bought a rake, seed and cutting compost, plant labels and some blood, fish and bone meal (for the rose bush) from Asda (£9.26). I also bought three packets of seeds from Lidl for 29p each, bless 'em. (Cornflowers, Cosmos and Californian Poppies) and also bought some seeds from Wilko (Linaria, Borage, Echinacea, Swan River Daisies and Achillea) which came to a total of £3.50. On the whole the colours scheme will be whites, reds, pinks, blues and purples with the odd dash of pale yellow flung in places. Most of the plants that I have chosen are the "beneficial for pollinators" kind as I love butterflies and bees. I am also going to try to grow some of the seeds in the waste ground at the back of the fence which is really another part of the garden. It belongs to the house but is just full of rubble, nettles and brambles. It gets lots of butterflies.

No idea what will come up or indeed if anything will. The border is well over 60ft long and about 3ft deep sloping down to about 2ft. That is a whole lot of plants. When I moved in there were a few stumps in the borders which are growing back in as Laurels. Not my favourite plant but at least they will provide some structure and greenery. The place is a complete mess right now but I am really looking forward to seeing what I can do with it. Gardens always look a bit forlorn at this time of year. I will tell myself that anyway. I am actually looking forward to all the hard work ahead and have been binge watching Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh on Netflix. Don't mind not having their budgets but I really do wish that I had someone to help me with the hard landscaping parts. Still no pain, no gain!

March Total Spend: £22.84
Total Remaining: £77.16

So do you have a garden? Like to grow things? Have any tips for creating the perfect cottage garden or have you got a different planting style? Do you find gardening difficult or think that napalm or mono-block is the answer to everything? Do tell.


Monday, 5 February 2018

Out With the Old. In with the New (Look 6471).

Okay, so maybe it's a wee bit late for the end of November deadline for the Sewcialists' TNT Month  (only 3 months but hey, who's counting?) but I was almost finished at the time and considering my recent sewing output that was a major achievement. November I was up to my eyeballs in work as we were winding down towards year-end and it has not let up since, maybe even got worse, not ideal for sewing or for taking photos. This top has been finished since the start of December but unblogged as I never managed to get any dodgy phone pics until now so thanks to a grumbly Sprogzilla.

So this is my second version of the NL6471. This time with long sleeves and in some sort of crinkly poly fabric that I bought from Fenwick's in Newcastle a few years ago. They weren't obvious at the time but there are a few printing faults in this fabric so I am not best pleased. This is one of those rare occasions when I actually paid full-price for a fabric as it has a lovely vintage feel to the print. It is busy though, a bit like wearing your Nan's curtains. 

Currently, my wardrobe is desperately short of things that feel comfy and look smart-ish for work. This year I am going to try to live up to the "dress for the job you want" mantra. Being a bit of a bag lady most of the time I could do with scrubbing up a bit now that I am supposed to be a responsible adult. Still not really sure that the top lives up to its legend. After seeing photos of me in it, it is probably the least flattering thing that I own. The fabric hangs weirdly off my not inconsiderable bust and it just makes me look HUGE (not mentioning the 10lbs of Christmas-related chub at all). If I didn't love the sleeves and the fact that it goes so well with my necklace I might have consigned this to the charity shop pile but it has a reprieve for now.

Definitely something more drapey for version 3 (that is already cut out in something suitable that I have had in my deep stash for about 15 years!!). I have had this necklace for about a decade and think it was from Monsoon but can't remember exactly. It's only been worn it once since I bought it but it's quite a good match for the fabric and the style.

So to round up this top is a very simple sew although this fabric was a challenge. It was quite shifty when I was cutting out and I hand-basted everything before sewing it on the machine.  The neckline was a bit of a struggle this time around. I ended up ripping it out 3 times and finally lowered the neckline by about 1.5 inches on this version but this was the only additional change that I made (see this post for the others). Looking at the pics I could do with a slight sway-back adjustment but that would be easy with the centre back seam. It isn't rippled in real life.

If you are wondering why all the photos have my head cut off then behold the horror that is me after a 10-hour shift in the office. Half a head but that is all you are getting since I was a make-up free zone and looked like I was going to cry. It was bloody cold today so I layered it up with a black silk cami and a velvet swing jacket from Biba. Swing jackets and big boobs are not best friends I think but this jacket is nice and has a big bow detail on the back collar.

Anyway, to recap I really enjoyed taking part in the TNT Month Challenge and have something on the cards to use up some more stash for the current "Sew Stripes" one. Challenges are great as they make me do stuff. I might not be sewing fast but I have got my mojo back, which is fabulous. I am now even contemplating the Sticher's Guild SWAP 2018 after seeing the rules on a post by The Demented Fairy and have started embellishing my RTW item. Thanks to everyone at the Sewcialists for the MoR reboot!

So are you sewing any challenges or making anything? Or completely side-tracked by life or work? 
Do tell!
Take care until next time.
K xx

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Book Review: Draping: The Complete Course

Hello Lovelies! I was packing up some stuff to bring from home when I came across this book. I thought that I had reviewed it but can't find the post anywhere. I must have been having a senior moment. Doh!

The book in question is "Draping: The Complete Course" by Karolyn Kiisel, published by Laurence King Publishing. The book itself is  a pretty weighty tome, standing in at a very informative 320 pages plus a DVD with 32 video tutorials.  

I don't know how many of you have tried your hand at draping or even want to give it a go but are a bit clueless where to start. If so then this might just be the book for you. The main body of the text is preceded by an introduction outlining all the tools that you need, followed by three sections covering Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Draping. 

Each of the main sections is broken down into several subsections all covering draping theory along with some projects as examples for each technique. Each section is illustrated with a mixture of full-colour photographs and diagrams.

The Beginning Draping Section covers:
  • Draping the Woven Panel

  • Dresses (Like this copy of Audrey Hepburn's iconic Givenchy dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's)
  • Corsets (my favourite section and a garment that I have draped many times. This one is Lacroix, Darlings).

Intermediate Draping covers:
  • Skirts
  • Blouses 
  • Trousers
  • Knits
All of the above in every variant you can think of including bodice variations, seaming, darts and dart positioning and sleeves all all kinds. It is really, really comprehensive. I love the two blouses below, especially the Gibson Girl style.

Look at these bonkers Harem Pants as worn by the glorious Nijinsky in the Ballet Russes

Advanced Draping Covers:
  • Coats and Jackets
  • The Grand Gown
  • Draping on the Bias
  • Improvisational Draping
My favourite are the grand gowns and there are some great ones as inspiration, everything from Lady Gaga, Glinda from the Wizard of Oz to Vivienne Westwood frocks.

I am going to caveat this review by stating that I have't had a chance to do many of the exercises in the book (except the corset ones) but am hoping to give at least a couple of the others a go this year. 

So to round up, this book has pretty much everything. Even if you will never give draping a go then the information on darts, grain lines, seaming and a wealth of other topics contained within would provide you with a better understanding of how garments are constructed and how patterns are made. There is also good information on fashion history. This along with the colour illustrations makes for a lovely book and a really interesting read. I think that this book would be invaluable if you want to design and make garments to your own designs or where no commercial patterns exist, like historical costuming or cosplay, and would allow you to create or copy just about anything. If draping is something that you fancy giving a bash then I can't recommend this book enough.

Have you ever tried draping or designing your own garments? Do you make your own patterns or think that it is all too much of a faff when they are so readily (and cheaply) available?

Hope that you are having a great week!
K xx

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money. All opinions are most definitely mine.

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Top Five for 2017

Well, 2017 is officially over and I have woken up to the perfect blank canvas that is 2018. New Year's Day is historically a little flat here at MOR Towers, usually due to an excess of wine Hogmanay cheer. However, this year has started in a bright-eyed and clear-headed fashion so it's as good a time as any for gathering reflections upon days past. 

I love reading everyones posts so I am joining in with Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow's Top 5 roundups. With no further ado here's my five. 

MISSES - In some respects last year was a bit of a roller-coaster although looking back it feels like a lot of positive stuff happened, even if it didn't always seem like it at the time. I thought that I would start with the misses as they definitely inform the hits.

I was made redundant from the day job at the start of the year - for the fourth time! This did not come as a shock, science is always a precarious industry at the best of times, but it never fails to fill me with a little self-doubt and anxiety of what's to come and how I will support myself and my family. I was lucky to find another job straight away but it is still a bit of a knock, especially having to move again. Also my dodgy bad back has mean that my mobility and ability to sit comfortably to sew have been somewhat limited. This is annoying but I am trying to ignore it. I am also trying to do without any painkillers. They knock me flat and make me feel like I am on the downward-side of a serious bender. When things get unbearable I try a bit of mindfulness and it sometimes works too.

HITS - For shame! I don't think that I have blogged, or even sewn five things this year. My biggest hit was actually getting back into sewing at all, mainly through the Sewcialist's TNT Challenge. My new TNT is New Look 6471. I have made two already, one unblogged awaiting photos, and I have another cut out and started to sew up. A very useful pattern for workwear, an easy sew and comes highly recommended.

HIGHLIGHTS - Strangely enough I would probably put being made redundant as a highlight as well as a miss for last year. I didn't like where I was or what I was doing and my new job is fab-u-lous. I love the team and I love my role. The move was also a surprise bonus. The small town where I am staying has a very relaxed vibe and is a nice change of pace. It has some great charity shops and I never fail to find stuff that I like. The major upside though is that Sprogzilla has moved down with me. This has made me incredibly happy. Working away from your family is hard and I had to do it for too long.

Another massive highlight was getting to meet Veronica from Vronni's Style Meanderings and Vix (and Jon) from Vintage Vixen.  All gorgeous, funny and incredibly stylish. I am so happy to have met them in real life and to have met some amazing people through blogging that I wouldn't have otherwise met. Thank you all for your support last year.

REFLECTIONS - From a pretty grim start, 2017 certainly surprised me. One thing that stands out is that I would like to have a little more "life" in my work-life balance. Not easy when you are a serial offender when it comes to being a bit of a workaholic.

GOALS - I am hoping to take full advantage of being much closer to London and other big cities to indulge in more art/theatre/phototgraphy/fabric shopping with Sprogzilla, keep up with my sewing and getting out and about. Also to sell my house and to find another one to do up. The hunt is on.

Well if you have read this far thank you for sticking with my stream of consciousness rant. Have you made a Top 5? Any goals for 2018 or will you just take life as it comes? Here's hoping that this year brings you magic and joy and that 2018 is filled with fun and adventures.

All the very best!
K xx

Sunday, 19 November 2017

(New) Look of Love - K6471. A TNT in the Making.

Hello lovelies, The last few weeks have seen a bit of a transformation in the way in which I am feeling. Gone is the bad case of the blue meanies that has been hanging round for months only to be replaced with a reawakening urge to create. The fact that Sprogzilla has moved in with me for Sixth Form college is no coincidence, methinks (although you would think that since she is doing photography she would have jumped at the chance of taking some photos for the blog, but no. There was grumbling and a big huff. She did it though). 

The only downside recently has been that my back has been playing up again and I am really struggling with sitting or walking, making sewing very difficult. This top has been cut out and partly sewn for an age but it took me a few attempts to get the hem finally stitched (and even longer to get photos).

One of the things that I have realised is that I desperately need some new clothes that could work in my day job. Normally I would gravitate to the sort of sad 80's goth rock chick/boho-vibe garments that I love but needs must and a posh new(ish) job means that I have to up my office game. 

Whilst browsing in WHSmith to see if I could find a copy of Burda Style (not locally - boo) I chanced upon Sew magazine with New Look K6471 stuck to the front in a US 10-22. Normally I avoid these kind of magazines like the plague - the attached patterns are always in the smaller size ranges and they are just chock full of adverts and very little content that appeals to me. I don't think that this one is any better than the others but I did want the pattern as all four views fitted in with my work wear plans.

I did the usual pattern adjustments, adding 4" to the bodice length and a monster FBA. This top was originally dartless but I added in a bust dart. It had quite a lot of ease so I didn't add in as much of a FBA as normal, meaning that I didn't have to split the dart (I just altered another top pattern and rotated the darts into three as one was just way too big).

I picked up this fabric years ago when I moved back to Newcastle for work. It was on a roll outside one of the Asian fabric shops close to where I was living and was about £4 a metre. No idea of the fabric content maybe a viscose mix, but it has a lovely drape and doesn't crush. Absolutely no thought of pattern matching by me, plus I only had about 2m, but it has worked out really well and it is hard to see the join over the sleeves or at the back seam. I used the long hem from View D for the back and just pinned it up in the mirror to the most flattering length at the front. I used my french curves (another eBay purchase as I couldn't find my old ones) to draw a nice curve from front to back. The pic above has made me think that I might want to try a peplum.

Anyway I do love this top. I love the skimming fit and it feels very comfortable although looking at these photos I can see that it would probably look a bit better with a belt, that there is far too much fabric above my cartoon boobs and that the excess below gives me that "is she or isn't she?" maternity top vibe. The joy of having ridiculous fitting challenges. The length is great though and it hides my bingo-wings. Win-win.

If you follow the Sewcialists' blog then you will know that November is tried "n" true (TNT) sewing month. I didn't have a TNT pattern but think that this top fits the bill. I will definitely make this again, addressing the fitting challenges as I go. In fact I have another one cut out to make View A with the tie neckline but in the spirit of TNT's I have changed this to be a longer pussy-bow style because I like them. I have fabric for number 3 looked out and washed too.

So do you have a favourite sewing or knitting pattern that you keep going back to? Or a favourite style of garment? Are you taking part in the Sewcialists' TNT month? 

Have a lovely week. 
K xx

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Gay Cats Rock!

Hello, Lovelies! I  can't believe it has been a whole month since I last posted. Lots has been happening though. I have been out and about with some friends from work. We went down to London to see the last day of the the Grayson Perry Exhibition, "The  Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!" at the Serpentine Gallery.

Sketch from one of Grayson Perry's Notebooks
More about that later. Most excitingly I met  the gorgeous Vix and Jon who were trading at the Classic Car Boot Sale in King's Cross. Such style! I was gutted that it was only a flying visit on my part but I had split off from the rest. I still made it to the gallery before they did though.

Before we all met up, the advance guard were persuaded to go for quick detour to Walthamstow Market. Stupidly, I didn't take any photos while I was there but I did make a pilgrimage to the legendary "Man Outside Sainsbury's" (#TMOS). He had some great fabrics but I went for a wander and ended up not going back to the Tube the same way so never bought anything from his stall. I did buy 3 fabrics though. One from one of the shops on the left (didn't catch the name) and two from The Textile Centre.

The leopard chiffon and the camera fabric are from The Textile Centre. I bought 4 m of each. It wasn't even a tenner. Walthamstow may be my new happy place.

This gorgeous African wax fabric was £6 for 6 yards. There were so many there but funnily enough not too many designs that I liked. I was looking for yellow colours to go with some that my friend brought me back from Senegal but didn't find anything suitable..... this time. :)

I did take a few photos at the Serpentine. Speaking to the people at wok, Grayson Perry is a bit of a "Marmite" artist but I really like him and his work.

Detail from "Animal Spirit". I loved the crows.
He has a very perceptive view of life and a great sense of wry humour. as well as such technical skill in a wide range of media. Look at this ace quilted wall hanging.

I really enjoyed the Exhibition and was taken with the abundant cheeky squirrel population in Hyde Park and the flocks of parakeets. Quite surreal. It was a beautiful day.

Marriage Shrine - A beautiful homage to the Grayson' Perry's wife. I thought that this was so touching.
I have been sewing, ACTUAL sewing and have been spending any free time (haha!) between juggling work with trying to catch up with some creative things. I have bought my own body weight in vintage buttons and crafty stuff. Going to post more on that soon as I have BIG plans to update my work wardrobe with new me-made things. I have a pile cut out and ready to go so watch this space.

So have you got any sewing plans? Been out to any good exhibitions?Or have a favourite artist you would like to share? 

Later,  Lovelies. I am getting back to my sewing while I am on a roll!