Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A Year in Five!

Well it's that time of year again! Gillian over at "Crafting A Rainbow" is hosting the "Top 5" 2015 roundup.  Doesn't seem 5 minutes since it was last year's!  I really enjoyed the process of writing this post as it's given me a chance to reflect on what's been achieved over the last year and plan what I would like to do next year. Plus, I can read other people's, nosey old baggage that I am! 

As I have had very little time for sewing the last couple of years then this will be another composite post of all my hits, misses, highlights, reflections and goals. PSA: It might be a bit long.

#sewingtop5 - The Top 5 of 2015!


When I first sat down to write this I really couldn't think of much that was a hit for me this year but then I realised that I have made some items that I have actually worn, have had a fair bit of success with FBAs and done way more blogging than last year. All wins in my book. I love the Colette "Mabel" pattern and have fabric to make some more. I also wear my "Gertie" pencil skirt although the sizing is miles off. 

Mabel, I will make you again. What an awesome pattern.

Sprogzilla's quilt was cut out and sewn together. I had been collecting the fabric for about 10 years. Just to back, quilt and bind it now. I might have it finished before she starts Uni.

I also managed to sew my three garments for my "Vintage Pattern Pledge", although didn't quite manage the additional three that I added on. They're cut out and one is almost finished. Does that count? Plus, I got to dress up like Frida Kahlo and take silly selfies in my bathroom for the Simplicity Blogger Challenge. That was a lot of fun, way out of my comfort zone, and I love the top that I made. When I wore it to work it got loads of compliments. 

Off topic but I have been very lucky travel-wise this year. Work commitments have taken me to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and, closer to home, London (with a quick trolley dash round Goldhawk Road). I been very lucky to visit some fantastic places and work with some fabulous people. Of course this meant that I have had the chance to pick up the odd sewing mag on location and even a bit of fabric or two- it would have been rude not to. This will be all change as 2016 means a new job and potentially very little travel. Hopefully, I will still be able to do some in my summer hols (or actually have some proper hols for a change).


Moving was both a hit (yay, being home!) and a huge miss - I gave up the Studio. I will miss it until the end of time. The people were great, lots and lots of talent floating about and I really blossomed working there with everyone's support. I cried when I left. I am an old soppy really.

The GBSB3 Silk Tee top an almost but not quite. I need a bigger FBA but what's new?

Another miss was my machine giving up on sewing buttonholes. All my others are vintage and don't do much bar a straight stitch or a zig-zag, although they do this beautifully. I have a pile of things that need finished. Going to have to bite the bullet and get a new machine in 2016. I did buy a vintage Singer buttonhole attachment but have been too scared to try it. Have any of you used one before? Is it easy?


Actually getting some sewing done was a huge highlight. Plus, my work colleagues, my studio colleagues and blogging. Being able to interact with fellow sewing/vintage lovers is great. It can be pretty lonely as the only seamstress in the village. 


Loving the lights on the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow City Centre

Do you know that writing this blog has really helped me make the decision to move back to Scotland. Having no time to sew was also a big "con" for me and the realisation that I was too tired at the weekend to be much use to Sprogzilla.

An oldie from NFW back when I had the time to draft my own patterns AND sew. Really hoping to be able to get my creative mojo workin'  again this year. This is one of my faves.

I have had plenty time to think about sewing though and I have realised that instead of making stuff from patterns that I am happiest creating my own. I love just pootering about doing random things with fabric. I am going to try to do this more and see where inspiration takes me.


Goals in my book are good to have but have been, for 2015 anyway, mostly unobtainable. Just to recap my goals for the last year were:

  • Sew with knits.
  • Teach a corsetry workshop.
  • Have one day a week sewing time.
  • Sew a few things from my vintage pattern stash.

To be fair I did achieve about 2.5/4. Pretty good going I think but it's impressing no one.  I didn't get round to teaching the workshop so maybe I should do some tutorial posts instead? Do you think that anyone would be interested? I might just do them anyway, rebel that I am. It has been a while and will be a good refresher as I am well out of practise.

Another self-drafted oldie. It's squint on the mannequin who is called Kylie as she was bought from the Kylie exhibition when it closed at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery (which was great BTW).

So  for whats it's worth my 2016 goals are:

  • Spend more time with Sprogzilla. She has discovered the joys of Cosplay so there will be sewing for me us. We have conventions/costumes planned already (apparently). There could be armour. 
  • Blog more, it's fun.
  • Sew a work wardrobe - this will include scary trousers.
  • Kick over the traces and sew what is in my head. Life is too short to be boring (except when you need to be - see above).
  • Sew more knits. I will conquer the perfect knit pencil skirt pattern.
  • Tackle tailoring - I would love a new coat. 
  • No stress, no deadlines, no commitments - sewing should be fun.
  • Tackle my garden.
  • Decorate the whole house, including new curtains which I will sew.
  • Do some non-work related travelling.

Anyway, cheers for reading this far. Huge thanks to everyone that has read or commented on the blog this year. I really appreciate it and hope that you will stick with my ramblings in 2016.

Here's wishing ye aw' the best an' lang may yer lum reek!

Kelly Xx

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Up-Cycled Cushions, Cat Photobombs and an Overload of Cheese

Hello! I haven't been doing any sewing this week but I have got some unblogged things I have found to show you, starting off today with three cushions. Very boring I know but one is made from a vintage curtain that I bought for 50p in a junk shop in Newcastle. 

It was only a single one, was really dirty and smelt strongly of smoke. Such a terrible smell. Mum's house was very badly damage in a fire about 20 years ago and the memories invoked by that smell are horrible, plus it is so hard to get out of textiles. As it was a whole 50p I took a punt and after a good soak, followed by a good old-fashioned hand scrubbing and an air on the line, it came up like new.

I think that this fabric is from the 1960's. There is nothing on the selvedge to say where it is from or the date but the style is pretty typical. The single curtain was made from 2 widths of this fabric. It is not very wide or long, I maybe have a couple of metres of it in total. It is backed with a remnant from John Lewis. Always have a good rummage in the curtain department when I am passing. They sometimes have small bits perfect for backing cushions. This one is a fine hopsack in a sort of brick red colour. It's not a perfect match but the best I had at the time.

I also bought the fabric for my next cushion back from John Lewis but I bought it off the roll and at full price too. I don't know what came over me. It is a nice, deep chocolate brown hopsack in an upholstery weight.  

The front of this cushion was salvaged from a sample book of home dec fabrics that I was gifted from a friend of a friend's interior design shop in Newcastle. They gave me so many books, most of which had been stored in a lock-up, some for years, and were a bit damp and slightly musty. Getting all the fabric into useable condition was a lot of hard work. The covers of the books were removed and the paper labels torn off the fabric pieces. These were then soaked to get the stuck on paper bits off, scrubbed & rinsed by hand in super-hot water to freshen them up, followed finally by a wash in the machine. It worked well, although some of the pieces shrank a bit. Better than going in the bin though. I have those bags that I found when I was moving still to do. It is a hard, manky job but I hate the thought of all fabric going to waste *cough, fabric hoarder, cough, cough*, especially posh fabric.

This fabric is Designers Guild cut velvet. I love the design, it is a bit dark and gothic but the pattern is highlighted with gilt and gold paint offset from the velvet. I only had a piece the size of the cushion front.

The final backing fabric was squeezed out of some black cotton velvet remnants that I had from making a skirt. They had been lurking for about 10 years and were just enough to make this small cushion. The front is a small piece of Nina Campbell fabric. 

I think that this looks quite cute. Talking of cute our rescued kitty, Mittens decided to photobomb my pics this morning. I think she was thinking her owners were mad for using the rug as a seamless backdrop. See I have been paying attention to my "Better Pictures Project" homework. I tried to use natural light for these pics but it is quite harsh and washed out a lot of the colour. I played about with the saturation on Photoshop to try and get the colours as close as possible to reality.

Mittens gets into everything but absolutely hates posing for the camera (phone).

In other news I was in the office for my last official day this week, still got 2 weeks to do at home and a shedload of stuff to finish. While I was down I went to "The House of the Trembling Madness", which is a mediaeval pub above a very good beer shop in the city centre. It is so cute and really tiny. I had the most amazing cheeseboard, so many different kinds. They also have lots of craft beers and very quirky decor. I heartily recommend a visit if you find yourself in the area. They seem to be very fond of taxidermy. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Wall of Death".

Anyway, enough of the cheese *aha*, just look at that wee face. No wonder he looks worried!

Hope that you are all having a great week. 
Have you been sewing? Or just avoiding the wet/sun? Been out anywhere noteworthy?
I have found some stuff I made Sprogzilla when she was wee so will post that soon.
Take care.
K xx

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Between a Rock and a Dear, Green Place!

I have been MIA for a while now as you all know I was moving house. However, it has ended up not in the direction that was planned! I had to make the very tough decision that Birmingham was just too far/way too expensive to commute home to Scotland every week. So rather than see Sprogzilla grow up over Skype I packed up the Studio and bits and bobs and headed back to my house in Glasgow. I moved at the weekend and  am now buried under a sea of bags and boxes and have no idea where anything is. Normally things are a bit more organised than this but moving was very last minute and rushed. Plus, I had pretty much a whole van full of fabric and machines and sewing stuff.  How is that even possible? I did find a couple of big black bags full of posh home dec fabric samples I didn't know I had so it was not all bad. My sewing room to be is about 1/6th the size of the Studio, eek!

Black bag, anyone?

To be really honest, the last couple of years of commuting have been corroding my soul. I was leaving the house just after 6am and not getting back until 9-10pm each night, if the trains were running on time *hahaha*. Although this move was a bit painful I am really looking forward to getting my life back, spending quality time with Sprogzilla and getting back on track with my sewing. I have only had at most one afternoon a week spare if I was lucky (and not travelling further afield).

What my sewing room currently looks like. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall.  The hall, dining room and downstairs bathroom are also full of my sewing stuff. It's rammed in there. Did I mention the garage? Oops!

It's great be back in my own house on a permanent basis and I am planning a raft of redecoration and changes so in warning there might be some home-dec projects on the go. I know that some people hate them, hence the warning, but I love making things for the house and up-cycling crap furniture. Every room is needing completely redone so watch this space. I have been stockpiling kitsch junk for the last 4 years (who am I kidding, forever).  :)

I will be back sewing as soon as I can excavate a machine!

Hoping that you are all surviving the wet, wintry weather (or the baking Summer heat0!

Later Lovelies,


Sunday, 15 November 2015

1940's Couture Wedding Dress from Greensmith Downes, Edinburgh.

Bloody Hell! Talk about best laid plans! I have been the living embodiment of "gang aft agley" the past few weeks.  Sorry not for posting for a bit. I am mid-move so everything is up in the air (or in a box). So with all my machines out of action I would like to show you a bridal set that is probably the jewel of my vintage stash. I think that it really is museum worthy. It is an original late 1940's couture wedding dress, designed and made at the top Edinburgh department store, Greensmith Downes.

Dress tied at the back. Such a beautiful shape!

Please forgive the crinkles on this dress. It has been in the box a long time and I am too scared of damaging it to give it an iron. It is made of ivory heavy silk satin and the fabric is so fresh it could have been made yesterday. Whoever made this really knew what they were doing as the hip pleats add some volume to balance the busty shape. The sleeves are shaped at the bottom into peaks and have high sleeve caps and shoulder pads. Actually I don't know the actual date of the wedding this was made for but the dress looks more mid-1930's to me in shape and style details. The lady who wore this was in her late 90's when I got this and that was about 5 years ago so any help dating it from all you vintage experts would be very welcome. This dress was sewn bespoke for the original owner. It was too small for my dress form which is about a modern size 8. You would really need period style undergarments to wear this one.

The going away outfit was also purchased from Greensmith Downes and comprises a "Peggy Allen by Jean Allen" ivory jewel-trimmed shift dress and jacket. I have no idea what kind of fabric this outfit is made from. It looks like a kind of gauze but has a stiff hand. It is almost see through and is lined in a similar but more lightweight material. There is a close-up below. Any ideas? The Jean Allen brand is most famous from the 1950's but I have found 1940's examples with the "Peggy Allen" label.

 The outfit is finished off with a matching  "Jane Shilton"handbag. There are a couple of bits of the trim inside and I don't know if they are for repairs or instead of dress clips for another dress. The bag is immaculate inside and out. Actually the "Jane Shilton" moniker is a bit of a 1940's clue as they were "Alexander Shilton" until he returned from WWII and married his secretary, Jane.

The whole set comes in its original box in which it was stored directly after the wedding and was never worn again. The box stayed unopened until I was gifted this by the son and daughter-in-law of the lady this was made for. It was a wonderful and exceptional gift.

They were also very kind and gave me some of their great-grandmothers tapestries and embroideries including a finished but not made up bag from the Victorian era but I will post about them another day.

I couldn't find a huge amount of information online but Greensmith Downes was at one time THE best department store in Edinburgh, even posher than Jenner's. I asked my Mum, who is in her mid 80's, and she remembers it but wasn't ever in it as she said that it was too posh for people like her and that her family would have never have been able to afford to shop there. It was located at 133-143 George Street, a glorious Georgian street that runs parallel to Princes Street in Edinburgh. I think that it closed down in the 1960's.

Anyway I hope that you enjoyed my rubbish phone pics, bit of Scottish fashion history and crumpled clothing.  I will be finished moving in 2 directions at once in the next week or so, dividing my time between Birmingham and Glasgow from about the end of the month (le sigh). The saddest thing is that I will be packing up my studio in Newcastle. I have had such a good time there and met so many wonderful, talented people. There will be tears.

Bye for now. The packing fairies and I are sending you all best wishes!


Sunday, 18 October 2015

My "New" Vintage Coat and Jumble Sale Finds

Life is definitely getting in the way of blogging at the moment. However, not all of it is work-related. Two weekends ago I went to a jumble sale in Morpeth. I had spotted the poster for it on my first visit and was really excited to go, especially as it co-incided with the Morpeth Food and Drink Festival that I didn't even know was on until we got there. Result!

I found vintage fabric. Yippee!  It is brown and blue. I seem to be following the trend. Plus some crocheted dollies for my massive  carefully curated collection and lots of vintage cutlery. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton, semi-transparent but it has a stiff hand. I am not sure if it is a voile. I think that the pattern looks very Liberty-esque although it is not (I think).

I also found a a nice 1960's modernist necklace. It is by the Danish jewellery designer Jorgen Jensen, not to be confused by the son of jeweller Georg Jensen although they had the same name and at one time they worked at the same silversmiths. Jorgen Jensen designed mainly in pewter and produced some lovely modernist pieces. You can see the difference between the two designers in this Pinterest board. Mine is in pewter with turquoise-coloured stones or maybe glass. It is lovely and was a very good buy at 50p!

 I also bought a little metal bag, an Anna Sui one. I don't now if this came in a gift set  or was a freebie with perfume but I love the colours and the design.  I am not normally a fan of anything logo'd but I will make an exception for this. I like little cocktail-style bags so am very glad to welcome this one to the pile.


So now to my vintage coat. It is a Aquascutum blue boucle wooden top coat. Is it a swing coat? I don't know. It has a slight A-line shape, probably would have been shin-length (both not on me though) and has the traditional bracelet sleeves you would associate with this style and age of coat. It is really warm and cosy. I am in love with this colour, it is such a departure from my usual black.

This is possibly the worst crappy phone photo of me ever, it was just after 6.30am on my way to work. I have no make-up on, look ridiculously tired and the lighting is awful. Definitely channeling my inner Penfold. Still you work with what you have and I needed to post. With all the crazy going on here I have had no time at all to take photos. I am definitely moving though by the end of the month so hopefully I will have a lot more time for sewing, blogging and taking lots of pictures after that.

So have you been lucky finding things? Are you sewing with the Winter in mind? Or even taking photos at ridiculous hours of the morning?

Sending you all some warm and wooly best wishes from the frozen soggy North!


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Postcards from the Edge

I have been away again, this time in France. La Rochelle to be precise and a couple of places past there into the countryside, Velluire and Vix. No leisure trip for me though, just work and to be honest although it was scenic I wasn't feeling the love 100% being a bit wiped out. Been really pushing it the last few weeks. 

La Rochelle is quite a pretty place. It has a nice harbour and has the biggest marina in Europe apparently.

It definitely has a chequered past though, having been a stopover for slaves bound for the US and furs back from Canada.

I found a lot to like about the place. The locals were very helpful and didn't laugh at my schoolgirl French but the place was a bit of a tourist trap. 

There  was some fun art about the city from eco-whales to peturbed horses...

..... to beautiful mosaics in the train station and a rock lobster (couldn't resist)....

... and even phantom windows.

Velluire was nice but there was no one in it and lots of empty houses. No shops, no bars and only the hotel, which was shut when I got there. The hotel was on the banks of the Vendee and was in a nice spot. It would have been a lot better without the two bloody massive spiders in my room. Their bodies were the size of a small conker! Needless to say that night I got no sleep. I am still as jumpy as a cat.

 I did manage to pick up the Burda Plus and the Ottobre Woman Autumn/Winter 2015 sewing mags while I was away. There are some great t-shirt/hoodie patterns in the Ottobre for Sprogzilla. I am off now until the middle of next week so will try to get some sewing done and prepping some fabric. I have some dinosaur print knit fabric that I have been hoarding that I will use for the T.


Anyway in other news, this morning I was looking online for fabric for a winter coat. We then decided to take a mystery run out and ended up in Morpeth, a little market town in Northumberland. There were so many charity shops, although to be honest there wasn't that much in them bar George and Primani. They were very expensive, especially the Salvation Army "boutique" and the Relate shop. The latter was so dear for some things that it was seriously in line with some of the more OTT vintage shops, however I did find a 1950's/60's Aquascutum bouclé A-line coat in a nice dark blue. It is in immaculate condition and was quite a bargain even if i did cost me £40. I normally balk at paying that much for anything in a charity shop but I couldn't have bought a jacket from Tesco's for that. It does me no favours but it is very warm and I love the colour. Photos to come as I it was dark by the time we were home and I still feel a state.

So what have you been sewing? Found any gems on your travels? What's your ceiling for buying vintage?

Happy Weekend!


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Made Up Initiative Pledge - The Fómhar Cowl

Hello! This will be a super-quick post today as I am working. I was working till late last night too so I have not had a chance to sew up the second Simplicity 7308 skirt that I have cut out and was planning to make yesterday. Buggeration!  I am using fabric that has been in my stash for about 12 years.

Do you read the 'Did You Make That" blog? If so then you will be following the lovely Karen Ball's brilliant fund raising online event for the National Literacy Trust, the Made Up Initiative. The idea was to donate to her Just Giving page and pledge to make up an item by the 10th September. I pledged to knit up a scarf using my hand dyed wool and I did!

I used a free pattern that I found on Ravelry. It is the Emerald Isle cowl pattern from Linda Dawkins and can be found on the Natural Suburbia website.  This is a quick easy pattern but boy did I mess it up. I had to rip it down twice as I got completely lost and kept knitting the wrong rows. Always happens when you are in a hurry. Tsk. 

I made a couple of alterations to the pattern, I cast on 200 stitches to make it a bit longer. Good thing I did as I can barely loop this it is so not stretchy and I used 150g of yarn rather than the recommended 100g - I like my scarfs chunky. The bamboo yarn I used was not at all springy and stretchy like wool is so I think that I would use a different yarn type next time I knit it. It is a lovely pattern and one that you would be able to see better in a less variegated colour way. Haven't had time to wash and block this yet so I think that the pattern may stand out more after that.

In keeping with the Irish theme I have called this scarf "Fómhar", which translates as "Autumn", as the colours remind me of fallen leaves. It is a bit less red in real life.

Anyway, thanks to Karen for the kick up the **** and for organising such a great fundraiser. Books are my friends, teachers and constant companions. I just can't imagine how poor life would be without being able to read.

On that note I had better go look busy. Have a fabulous week, lovelies!


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Vintage Pattern Pledge Garment No. 3 - 70's Crimplene Maxi Skirt

Hello! Have you had a good week? I hope so. I have been doing a lot of travelling, a little sewing and a fair bit of knitting in the sunshine (thank you 3-hour rail delays).

Remember back in the Summer 2014 I picked up some crimplene? Well I have finally found a good use for it. This stuff is crazy. I have no idea what the pattern is, maybe some Martian forest? Anyway, the colours are great so I decided to make myself a skirt from Simplicity 7308,  a pattern from 1975. The fabric is actually patterned in reds and purple/pinks but the lighting above has made it turn brown. Apologies for the crappy photos but I have not had a chance to get out and about to take any others.

The pattern is for two skirts, a 4-gore and a 6-gore, both in an A-line shape and with two length options which makes it very versatile. I know that I will use this one lots and have bought some new fabric for the 6-gore version. I made the Size 42 , View 2 and I have to say it is a bit roomy. Crimplene is a bit stretchy though so I will reserve my final judgement until I have made it up again in a woven.

Behold, the skirt in all it's static glory! This was a breeze to make. Only three pattern pieces and a centred back zipper. I had a fairly good match lurking in my stash so didn't have to buy anything extra. The pattern was a couple of quid on eBay and the fabric was not much more. I used a press cloth to flatten the seams before overlocking them as I didn't want to melt the fabric onto my iron.



This pattern is long. I haven't taken a hem up yet but it is almost down to the floor on me. I am almost 6-foot, plus I am wearing heels, so they liked their hems big and their skirts long in '75. I was toying with the idea of taking it up an inch and adding some lace. Maybe in version number 2. Yep, I love this pattern so much that I can see a few more on the horizon. My favourite skirt is an almost identical St Michael one in flowery velvet and since I have expanded too much to wear it I will have to make some proxies instead.

Birmingham University Campus

The Massive Uni Clock Tower

Campus Art

We went to Birmingham last week. The move looks inevitable now so my colleague and I took a little time to investigate the surroundings and a lot of time to investigate the restaurants. I may have bought some fabric from Fancy Silk Stores. As it was a Wednesday the Rag Market was shut. We were gutted as we were looking forward to a good explore. Shoddy planning on my part and it won't happen again I can tell you. I think that this beauty is destined to be a pair of trousers. It is probably 100% petrochemicals but it has a beautiful weight and drape.

I have been a bit naughty and bought a load of new and vintage patterns off eBay. I am only buying ones now that will fit me so that there is a good chance that they will make their way into useable garments later this year. This skirt sees me having sewn my quota for the Vintage Pattern Pledge but as I like the patterns so much I can definitely see a few more on the horizon so i am planning to double it to six garments by the end of the year.

Anyway, apologies for the rushed post. I will take better pics of the skirt when I have sewn version 2. This week and last have been stupidly busy and there is no sign of it abating in the near future. Hopefully I will be able to fit in some sewing round it all! Stress!!

Hope that life is good!