Wednesday 30 September 2009


Are you there, God? It's me, Amanda

Back when I used to work for The Man, my (cooler) colleagues and I used to cope with the relentless tedium by putting in outlandish 'Request for Change' forms. But before you start lamenting the fact we've never worked together and therefore can never be amused by my antics, I still do the very same things. But over on Twitter:

I made this diagram for @that_kat, who questioned my use of 'perpendicularly' in yesterday's post. As it turns out, she was merely challenging it grammatically rather than seeking clarification. But for those of you who don't follow me on Twitter *waves at Mom*, I thought I'd post it.

Tuesday 29 September 2009


Woodland kimono dress

This is the final item designed for that lucky little girl down in Brighton, along with the tulip skirt and the metro dress.

And this is the fourth (and final) version of my kimono dress pattern. It is a major design flaw of the human anatomy that arms don't just stick perpendicularly out of the torso.

Monday 28 September 2009


Metro dress

Say what you want about me, but I buy some awesome fabric. This metro dress is going to the same little girl as the tulip skirt.

I took a bit of creative license by using the dotty binding, but I think it makes it even cooler (is that even possible?).

The only thing I don't like about it is that it's not my size.

Sunday 27 September 2009


I heart tulips

Remember my bubble skirt prototype? The reason I was trying it out was for this skirt, which is going to a little girl in Brighton. A little girl whose mum wrote that article on Babygadget that made me famous for a bit, so she's officially one of my favourite people.

Isn't this fabric gorgeous? I bought both this colourway and the red one, and mistakenly thought I liked the red one more. Nope, this is my favourite now. Green and turquoise are lush together, especially on an oatmeal background.

Just like people, this bubble skirt is equally pretty on the inside.

Saturday 26 September 2009


Moving on up

The wonderful Maxine from Tiny White Daisies tested my size 5/6 year and 7/8 year asymmetrical jacket patterns this week:

This is her almost eight year old sporting a red corduroy number. I've never used a wide wale corduroy but I've heard it's tricky so I'm even more impressed with the beautiful finish!

And this is her middle daughter modelling the 5/6 yr size in a luscious green corduroy. As well as having a fabulous gene pool (all of her children are stunning), amazing baking skillz, and some of the best photos around, she gave me incredibly good feedback. So after a couple of small changes to the pattern they'll be off to the printers and then the larger coat patterns should hit my shop next week!

As a reward for all of her testing brilliance, I've been sending her good karma by the bucketload so it's no coincidence that her husband is whisking her away to Paris on Sunday, sans children, for a relaxing break. Although I'm ridiculously jealous, Maxine takes awesome photographs so I'm looking forward to seeing them on her blog!

Friday 25 September 2009


There's lots of disappointed people

If, like me, you have the procrastination gene and believe that there is no such thing as 'too much information', I suggest you get Google Analytics. It'll tell you everything you want to know about your site traffic (who came, from where, why, and how often), and some things you don't want to know (what do you mean they only spent 2 seconds here?!?). But it's also a great source of WTF humour, courtesy of the page that tells you what people used as a search term before landing on your site. Thank you, Pickled Weasel, for sharing yours first.

So I give you the ten Most Disappointed People in the World, who landed on my blog using the following search terms:

10. Life in the eyes of a Viking
9. How to join a cult polygamy
8. What do you do when you hit a deer in Luxembourg?
7. Buy Vagi-guard in Canada
6. What do you think is interesting about a bank manager?
5. Maybe I'm just too short
4. Japan father-in-law porn
3. How to get people to stop staring at you on an airplane
2. Exhibitionist grandpa

and, *drumroll*, the most Disappointed Person in the World is....

1. I want to be a winner, tell me the way

Thursday 24 September 2009


How to make things reversible: Sleeves

I've been a bit remiss with these reversible posts, but I thought I'd share the one I had the hardest time figuring out. There is, of course, an easy way which is basically leaving both edges unfinished and then folding them both to the inside and topstitching:

Which works fine for most sleeves. But over the summer when I was making a bunch of hoodies, I literally stared at my sleeve edges as a full time job because I couldn't figure how to get the ribbing in there. I tried a million different ways, but one night I had a light bulb moment after hand stitching them in and then pulling them through various openings and it's not that hard. Honest. You have to trust me, it probably won't make sense until you do it.
  • After you have attached your two sides together, turn your garment right side out through the hole you have left open. This might be at the hem or the side seam of you lining, depending on which pattern / tutorial your following.
  • When your garment is right sides out, pull both your shell and lining sleeves on one side through your open hole. You will be seeing the wrong sides of the sleeves. I find it easier to pull them all the way out to the armpit seam, so you can make sure than neither has been twisted around. There is nothing more frustrating than sewing the sleeves together and then finding that one has been twisted, including local government red tape and international call centres.
  • Fold each edge of your sleeve down approximately an inch. At the side seams of both your sleeves, pinch together the bits you've folded.
  • While still pinching together, unfold one sleeve onto the top of the other sleeve. The raw edges of both sleeves will match up.
  • Pin both layers together around the whole sleeve edge. This is how it will look before stitching, with both sleeves separate but aligned and pinned at the raw edge.
  • Carefully stitch around the sleeve edge. This is tricky because you will have to constantly move extra fabric out of the way and the sleeves will do a full revolution twist by the time you finish. This would be a good time to pour yourself a stiff drink.
  • Examine both sides to make sure nothing extra has been caught. It will look like this:
  • Push them back into the hole and then pull out through the right side of the jacket through the armhole:
  • Pat yourself on the back for your lovely neat edges:
Note: this shows how to make a traditional sleeve edge, but the premise is exactly the same if your lining sleeve is shorter than your shell sleeve (check inside the sleeves of most jackets if you want to see what I mean). And if you're doing a hoodie sleeve with a ribbing cuff, baste the cuff to your shell raw edge first and then follow the steps above. Your cuff will be concealed inside out of the way and will be revealed when you pull it out!

Wednesday 23 September 2009


Let them eat cake. And by them, I mean me.

Way back in early July, I saw that delectation on Amy Lane's blog. Think it's just a cupcake? Oh, no, no, no... It actually a giant cake, made to look like a cupcake by skill and witchcraft. And, it's chocolate mint flavour. If I was to go to sleep, and dream of cupcakes, they would be chocolate mint flavour. I haven't been able to get these cupcakes out of my mind for months. So what's a girl to do? Well, I started stalking following her on Twitter. And then I started pestering her. But as she lives in Southampton and me in Edinburgh, I couldn't get my mitts on her cupcakes. I cried myself to sleep nightly. But then something alarming happened. People started taunting me:

I couldn't take it anymore:

Lucky for me, she's a multi-talented lady and sews too so I suggested I swap a pattern for cupcakes. Guess who was the winner in that swap? Me!

Now these cupcakes are so yummy that Amy deserves national (if not international) fame and celebration but she's struggling to find a courier that doesn't abuse them. Anyone got any recommendations for her? I'm thinking that if I can pass on all your helpful comments, she'll send me some more.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


Feeling perverse

Firstly, thank you all for your advice, comments and votes as to whether I should do the Country Living show. I really appreciate you all taking the time to help! I really, really want to do it in my heart but I've been looking at it objectively over the weekend and have some interesting conclusions. Well, interesting-to-me conclusions:
  • In the month since coming back from the States, I've sold more than seventy patterns, but less than ten garments. By that rationale, I am more in demand as a designer than a maker. I have patterns up to 7Y/8Y in testing, and a bunch of new designs that I haven't had a chance to put on paper yet. Given that I only have to do the work on patterns once and then they take care of themselves, the best use of my time is to be developing more patterns.

  • I was caught out big time this summer when I used up almost all of my fabric making things in specific styles / sizes that didn't sell at the terrible fairs. No more fabric, too much inventory, loss of flexibility to make things to order. For example, I have enough of a specific fabric for two coats and, under pressure for inventory, use it to make a jacket in 18m/2T and 3T/4T. What if someone wants a bigger size or different style? Not only can I not do that, but if those coats don't sell I have neither the flexibility nor the sale. This will be a problem for me until I start buying fewer designs of fabric, but in greater quantities.

  • In my desperation to 'make enough stuff' for the fair, after finishing something I've actually caught myself thinking, 'I hope no one wants to buy this' because it would take away from my inventory. That's perverse thinking. Likewise, I'm getting emails everyday from people wanting me to make things for them, but I've been thinking I shouldn't because I need to make things for the fair. Again, perverse thinking... turning away actual business now for the prospect of business later.
I know that I'm turning down a chance to be uber-successful but as Emma asked, am I ready to be more busy than I am now? Things will be a lot clearer next year, Jamie will be at school and Maia at nursery and I'll have a full year of planning behind me. And the decision not to do the fair has nothing to do with this:

Monday 21 September 2009


The Night Terror Coat

Remember the 'nightmare' coat? I'd like to revise that. In hindsight, it was not the 'nightmare' coat, it was the 'vaguely unsettling dream' coat where you kiss your boss or something. Because this is the nightmare coat:

Hmm, why are the arms so sticky-outey? Because I decided to make this coat with The Thickest Wadding In the World:

That's what it looked like while it was still inside out. Do you like how much it stands up by itself? Not pictured: broken pins, broken needles, broken dreams.

I know I said the other day that wadding was 'not that bad' to work with. I bare-faced lied. What I should have said was my lovely khaki fabric had wadding fused to it with another layer of lining fabric fused on the other side and this fabric / wadding sandwich was not too bad to work with. This magic fabric should have come with a warning: May cause delusions of grandeur because I totally thought proper wadding wouldn't be too much bother after that.

And it should have a second warning: Better buy all of the roll because we're never making anymore of this fabric ever. True story, I called the fabric shop and they have never seen this fabric / wadding sandwich before or since.

Despite the time and effort involved, I have to say that it's gorgeous. To compensate me for the fact that wadding is just plain creepy and I do not like it when it snags on my fingernails at all, it costs £2419.

Sunday 20 September 2009


This aching...

Jamie went to his first non-family, non-close-friend birthday party today. I wasn't sure what was meant to happen as this was uncharted waters... was I meant to leave him and run or stick around and help out in some undisclosed manner? We arrived at a big gymnasium with a bouncy castle and lots of kids running around. Jamie was fixated on the birthday boy only, there were three other kids that he knew from nursery there (of which two girls) but not well I think so it was all birthday boy for him. Obviously, the man of the day knew everyone (well, he would, it was his party) so Jamie's wasn't given the undivided attention he'd hoped for. 'Come play with me, come play with me!' was often unheard and it hurt me deep inside. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was the birthday boy's fault at all but, oh god, it hurt. I ended up leaving for a half an hour to have a coffee because I couldn't deal, and when I came back Jamie was lying down on his own on a matt with a torn face and pouting. When he saw me his face lit up like a beacon and he ran over, 'Can we go home now?' he asked. I'm used to this misfit-ism for myself, but for the boy? Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Saturday 19 September 2009


Rock on Jacketfest

Another two jackets completed! The first is a beautiful big blossomed affair in tan, greens, browns and blues. I wasn't sure when I received the fabric that the size of the flowers would work for children's clothes because they're huge, but I love this coat.

It's single breasted with three buttons and....

It has a hood!

The other side is olive nylon / cotton blend. It's the first time I've used wadding (as opposed to the goretex microfleece I usually use for the interlining), and it sewed up so much easier than I thought.

Although it's a 3T/4T it's actually workable on Maia, although she did have a sweater on underneath) and I really like the look of the sleeves rolled up quite large.

The second jacket is a purple deer printed fabric, single breasted and with a peter pan collar. It's a very sweet print with light purple, turquoise and lilac deer, soft green trees and purple flowers on an aubergine background.

The other side is a deep purple twill with aubergine buttons. And just because I'm a show off you've been pestering me...

This little beauty won Britain Next Top Buttonhole this week.

Friday 18 September 2009


Tears of a clown

Let me tell you about how two-faced I am. Before you get alarmed, I don't mean that I'm duplicitous or sneaky, I mean that I literally have two faces: 'no make-up' and 'too much make-up'. To my great shame and discomfort, I just never learned how to apply makeup in a normal fashion. 'But wait', I hear you say, 'Didn't you watch your mom?' Nope, she doesn't wear make-up. 'All right then,' you say, 'just what exactly were you doing with your teenage years?' Well, mostly kicking a ball about with the other tomboys. And now I'm all grown up, and I can't do it myself. Normally? Not a big deal, as my typical uniform of jeans, t-shirts and hoodies would look a bit incongruous with a face full of slap. But if I'm going out into town with other grown up ladies, it'd be nice. Here's what typically happens: I stand in front of the mirror putting a little bit on. I can't see it, so I put a bit more on, I can't see it so I put a bit more on, and repeat until I look like this:

Which brings us neatly to the movie IT. For some inexplicable reason, both Jamie and Maia are obsessed with the box. No matter where I stash it, they manage to find it. It looks like this:

And then Jamie and I had this conversation:

Jamie: Look, it's Mummy!
Me: What, the clown?!
Jamie: Yeah! It's what Mummy looks like, at night time!
Me: I look like a clown at night time?
Jamie: Yeah, when I'm in my bed!
Me (thinking to myself): Is this why he can't sleep at night?
Jamie: First, you do this... (rubs his cheeks) Then you do this... (strokes eyelids) Then you do this... (blots lips). And then you go out with your friends!
Me: Oh, I see what you mean...

Thursday 17 September 2009


The post where you decide my future

As you might know, I had a disastrous fair season over the summer. I did a quite a few smaller markets and quite a few medium fairs, but the combination of terrible weather and general poor sales has made me question my face-to-face selling strategy. So I've nixed any small fairs, they're just not worth my time and effort. The jury is still out on medium fairs because although there is always the potential to do well, I've had such a hard time getting my stock levels right. Which leaves me with large fairs. And by large I mean Large, like a pitch hire is the equivalent of some nation's GDP and I would have to make so much stock that the thought of it makes my eyelids twitch. But the potential to do well (and by well I mean Well) is so much greater than anything I've done before and it could be the making of my fledgling business.

So I applied to do the Country Living Fair Scotland at the end of November. I hadn't heard anything for weeks, I was assuming that I'd missed the boat with a late application or didn't get through the jury process. But then came the letter, I've been accepted. Ironically, (and I'm using the Alanis Morrisette definition of irony) I had but two hours earlier bought all eight True Blood books because without the big fair to prepare for, I might actually have some time to read.

See that date? Nine weeks from today. Sixty three days to make a tremendous amount of stock, to get my drivers license, to maybe hire someone to work with me for four days, to procure suitable shopfittings to accommodate my tremendous amount of stock within four square metres. It's going to cost so much money I could weep. But I want to be Debutante Barbie.

So here's your chance to be the master of my destiny. What would you do if you were me? And before you say, 'Go get my eyebrows waxed, buy some new clothes and have a nap', I'm narrowing it down to two options. I'd love to hear what you say in comments but I've put a poll in my side bar too if you're more a voting type of person.

To Country Living Show, what say you?

a.) Freeze! Put down the crackpipe. Now back away. Slowly, slowly. It's sixty three days away! I know you, you're the Master of Procrastination and you'll never be able to get ready in time!

b) You can do it! Sure, you'll toil away until the wee small hours until your eyes bleed, you might lose a finger to the dangerous cocktail of fatigue and rotary cutters, but you can do it! I know you, you're the Master of Working Under Extreme Pressure and you'll totally step up!

I have to decide, like, yesterday so my poll is only open for a week!

Wednesday 16 September 2009


Jacketfest: Day two

Here's the results of day two of Jacketfest, a lovely little single-breasted number in more earthy tones. I liked the fabrics but I wasn't sure I loved them until I finished. But now I love them and I'm totally convinced it's worth taking a bus trip to get more. In fact, I'm more than a little desperate to make this coat for me.

One side has branches and berries in white, black and mustard on a deep grey background and three black buttons.

The other side picks up the black, white and mustard in a geometric leaf print and also has black buttons.

If I wasn't already married and there was legislation to allow it I'd totally marry these buttonholes.

And I'm happy to report that the 'awkward hand' phase seems to have run it's course, although she is showing her reluctance in other ways.

Tuesday 15 September 2009


Olive and fuchsia flowers

I finally got my scissors into some of my new fabrics yesterday and I'm pleased to introduce my first coat of the season! One side is olive cotton sateen with pink and white flowers and lighter green stems and butterflies. It's one of my favourites of my new crop of fabrics.

It has two big fuchsia buttons to the side. I had planned on having loop closures for the buttons but (please note anyone else who uses this pattern!) as I found out at 2AM last night loops don't work on the asymmetrical coat. They are way too far over, almost onto the shoulder!

The other side is bright fuchsia needlecord velvet with olive buttons. The needlecord velvet is beautiful and soft and because it's cotton it's machine washable too!

If it looks absolutely massive on Maia, it should... It's a 3T/4T!