Tuesday 31 January 2012


Sewing Blogger of the Year

In case you missed your chance to win friends and influece people, it's the last couple of hours to vote for the Sewing Blogger of the Year competition being run by The Sewing Directory and Backstitch.

Personally I'm rooting for Sew Scrumptious to win for all her hard work on the Dress A Girl Around the World campaign. She truly has harnessed her sewing powers for good and not evil. Not that I use mine for evil... Although this was pretty close:

Technically, not perpetrated in 2011 so it shouldn't influence this year's vote. You can head over to the voting by clicking the image at the top. I don't advise clicking on the image at the bottom.

Saturday 28 January 2012


If this was my handbag I'd fill it with All the Things

When we visited my folks last summer and I forgot to pack my handbag, my mum let borrow her all-time-favourite bag. She didn't use it anymore because she thought it was passed its best; I have lower standards so have been using it ever since. In exchange for borrowing her bag (and taking it back to Scotland with me), I agreed to make her an even better one.


I belong to the school of thought that you can measure the relative awesomeness of a bag by the number of pockets / compartments, with bonus points for extra zippers. This bag?

back pocket

One deep zippered back pocket that goes all the way down to the base.......

front zipper

One deep zippered front pocket that goes all the way down to the base.......

pouch pocket

A front pouch pocket with a boxy three-dimensional base and magnetic closure*. Inside this pocket is a two-section patch pocket with two pen holders.

side pocket

Elasticated pockets inserted into each of the side seams for phones and keys...

recessed zip

A recessed zipper to the top. Speaking of which, here's some advice from me: do not decide to figure out how to insert a recessed zipper when the bag is 90% finished. It's too late by then. I ended up chopping around the whole bag, sandwiched the zipper panel in between, and then sewed it back together. I was a nervous wreck.


And to the inside a cavernous section and four side pockets. Bringing us up to a grand total of 14 separate compartments in which to stash your stuff.


And here my mum is holding it**. See how the adjustable strap allows her to carry it on her shoulder (as she likes to do)? It also allows you to carry it cross-body (as I like to do). Which will be handy when I steal it back next summer.

*The original bag had a flap with velcro. How dumb is that? The answer is heaps. It alternated between laddering my tights and snagging on my sweater sleeves and gloves.
** And a Spongebob inflatable. I can't explain this.

Friday 27 January 2012


What is it they say about working with animals and children?

Ever so slightly blurry. Immensely irritating as a result.

I've had a bajillion photoshoots in the last month involving fast-moving, opinionated and variably-cooperative subjects. Photographers, I doff my cap to you: photographing kids is some tricky business. Remember the Calvin? Here's how it goes getting a usable shot...

Can I take your picture, Calvin?


Maybe less running? Here, have a seat in this chair.

no eyes

Great, now can I see your eyes?


Okay. Normal eyes.


That's really good! Less baleful now?


Less judgemental?


Nope, you're running again. Red light!


Okay, my bad. Too much detritus in the background.



Tuesday 24 January 2012


Pimp your blog: Blogger introduces threaded comments

If you didn't comment on yesterday's post, you missed out more than normal. Hard to fathom, right? But look, Blogger has finally installed threaded comments:

Thirteen years is not long to wait, Blogger, I know you've been busy.

In the past, I've either answered to comments by email (if one was find-able) or in the dreaded @response. The down-side to the former is that other readers might want the answer too but didn't ask (or thought I was ignoring the commenter and was an ignorant bad person); the down-side to the latter is that the original commenter might not know I replied unless they subscribed to comments. Although I nixed the idea of installing Disqus or some such external workaround, it seems foolhardy* not to take advantage of the new Blogger functionality.

If you want to install threaded comments, it's super easy to do.

EDITED TO ADD: After looking into the comment left by Becky, it appears that there are still some bugs with threaded comments. It *can* change the look of your blog to readers using some versions of Internet Explorer and Chrome. Some people report that they're also not able to leave comments (again, depending on which browser they are using). And finally, click-throughs to your posts now bring readers to the end of the post where the comments are rather than to the top as before. Personally, this is majorly irritating and if not fixed quickly I might switch back for this reason alone. So maybe it was foolhardy to install! Further reading here and here, including how to remove threaded comments if you change your mind. All information found by Googling 'problems with threaded comments blogger'.

Monday 23 January 2012


Crafter's Ceilidh: The Debrief


I took my anxiety disorder on a field trip on Saturday to meet twenty five other sewing / knitting / crafting enthusiasts for the Crafter's Ceilidh in the city centre. Now, meeting new people and meeting new people on masse is right at the top of my Likely-To-Cause-Hives list, but I'm happy to report that everyone was very nice and friendly and I only blushed to my roots and / or wanted to bite my hand a couple of times. Which is less than in the school playground for pick-up so I'm filing this under 'result'. Can you spy me in this group shot?

Crafters' Ceilidh Group Photo, From L to R: Kerry, Karen, Winnie, Rachel L., Kari, Roo, Carolyn, Amanda, So-Ha, Kiran, Rachel, Debi B., Kristen, Franca, Alana, me, Hannah, Katie and Melizza. Not pictured: Clare, Anneleen, Tom and Cat.
Photo and blog links courtesy of Debi.

I am the teacup human in the red coat. PhD anthropology students, submit your dissertation proposals now: Are crafters taller than your average bear? This sample set suggests so.


After group shots, we trouped over to the treasure-trove that is Armstrongs, a vintage emporium in the Grassmarket. I took a selection of terrible photos, including this petticoat hanging from the ceiling. And then the fabric shopping commenced, hitting Edinburgh Fabrics, Mandors, and The Cloth Shop. Although I am sure many of you (correctly) doubted my restraint after the weekend's stash shot, I only bought £12 worth of fabric:

new fabric 002

Do not adjust your monitors, they really are that lurid. There wasn't fabric composition noted on the bolt, but my guess is 100% lycra. Speaking of fabric content, there were a couple of fabrics at The Cloth Shop that were labelled 100% various! Trust me, non-sewers, that's hilarious. I'm not sure what to do with these slinky, stretchy prints but could not resist them as they were reduced from £7.99/m to £2/m. Maybe a wrap dress? As always, feel free to tell me what to do.


Fabric-lust sated, we then headed over to a soon-to-be-open sewing cafe on Leith Walk to swap patterns and fabrics. At the bottom of the above picture, you will see the herringbone wool and polkadot velvet that I lugged around all day in a black plastic Gap bag. Did you know that if you eschew the treacherous cord handles of a Gap bag and instead bunch the plastic in your hand while you carry it around, your hand will turn black? It is scientifically proven. By me.

new fabric 001

In exchange for the two fabrics I contributed, I scored this piece of pure silk. Again, I have no idea what I am going to do with it but if nothing else it was much easier to carry around.

crafter ceilidh
Picture courtesy of So-Ha

Do not be fooled by that look of extreme concentration on my face while looking at patterns, I knew it in my heart of hearts that I was probably one of the least likely people to sew for myself from a pattern and so abstained. Although I was sorely tempted just to take one for the LOL-factor. Such as:

Picture courtesy of scruffybadgertime

Version two, please, with the fake fur sleeves.

Photo courtesy of Debi.

And then, finally, to the Voodoo Rooms for a dinner of delicious but bijou chicken. It was funny doing so many things as a large group; being a hen party destination I don't think Edinburgh was used to such a well-behaved and impeccably (and sensibly) dressed group of women out on a Saturday night.

Saturday 21 January 2012


Largesse, thy name is Amanda

Guess who has finally finished re-folding and organising all her fabric? Hint: It is not a person with any restraint, at all.

Thursday 19 January 2012


The Joy to the World Dress

mushroom dress 3

Even though it is almost closer to next Christmas than the Christmas past, I hope I'm forgiven for the late sharing of Maia's Christmas dress? Rather than go all fancy or frocky or frou frou like Christmas dresses of yester-year, I decided to make her a dress that would hopefully get a lot of wear all year round. And if Christmas is supposed to be about joy, you don't get much more joyful that smiley mushroom people cavorting amidst rainbows....

mushroom dress 5

Wearing your new Hello Kitty slippers (thereby rendering your mum's attempted photo shoot null and void). Wait. You want more joy?


Beading: The Most Thrilling Fifteen Minutes Ever.

beading 2

She was genuinely demented with excitement.

Tuesday 17 January 2012


The Itinerant Gamer

DS holder front
Can I just state for the record that within four hours of Laura saying 'OMG how do you keep you nails so long?!' three quarters of them broke and the rest needed to be cut to match? She is clearly a voodoo practitioner.

Rather than drag a stack of near-empty cases back and forth to the States with us, I made Jamie an early Christmas present of a nifty DS carrier. The red fabric contains a thick rigid board inside of it with a pocket to each side using a French terry with a huge amount of Lycra (and therefore good stretch recovery). One pocket for slipping the DS inside, the other pocket...

DS holder insert

Has a hard-back book with slots for individual games, with a ribbon tab for ease of pulling it out of the pocket. If I was to do it again (and I will at some point as Maia got a DS for Christmas too), I'm going to attempt to figure out how to add a zipper around the book for extra security lest a game fall out when the carrier is knocking about every-which-way in their backpacks.

In other news, Long-term Top Secretness is being revealed within the week. I'm very nervous.

Sunday 15 January 2012


If this was my journal I would use it to chart the incidence of the word 'Pardon'


Despite the fact that being in the company of my children for prolonged periods of time is a gift in-and-of-itself, I also made a couple of small gifts for their various caregivers. For Jamie's teacher I made this fabric covered notebook in Alexander Henry's pretty tulip print. I didn't make a gift for his teacher last year, but I've had quite a bit of contact with his teacher this year due to the re-emergence of his hearing problem. I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog, but he's struggling to hear well again and we are back in the system to get it sorted. By 'get it sorted' I mean wait two months, find out the referral was never actioned, wait another two months, have an appointment that deems his hearing acceptable, and then get discharged.

makeup bag 2
Pictured: a gift for Maia's childminder. Not pictured: segues between topics

Armed with a letter from said teacher confirming that there is definitely a problem (thereby making me appear at least 65% less neurotic / fantasist / Munchausen's by proxy), and a very painful yet comical discussion with the GP where Jamie said 'Pardon?' sixteen times in a row, we're back in the system for a second time this year. I absolutely don't know what to do if they say his hearing is fine again.

Saturday 14 January 2012


Pull Up a Chair

Heartfelt apologies to those of you who thought the combination of moving furniture aimlessly around the house and Top Secretness meant there was a tenant in my uterus. Not so. I'm actually just shifting all of my business-related activities into my own room. For years I've been sewing in the living room after grabbing fabric and supplies from the spare room; unfortunately my desire to make things far outweigh my desire to tidy things away so there has been a more-or-less one way stream of sewing detritus into our family space. Expediency requires that I rectify this situation and contain the business to it's own room. I've been working on The Room for eons now, and after I get a few more items and do quite a bit more organising I'll share it. But before that, I need some help!

During living room operations, I sat on the couch and sewed with my machine on a small end table. Not so good for my (hunch) back, and when I switched between machines I had to switch them on the table. Beyond irritating. In New Room operations, I have a long table to accommodate several machines at a time. Which probably rules out this chair for lack of wheels:

But it's a pretty colour, and probably lightweight. Lack of cushioning might be a problem?

Height adjustable, wheeled and cushioned. But white and a bit boring.

All of the good points from the last chair, plus bonus orange points.

Top-runner for being patterned but requires more money than I'd like to spend and a physical trip to IKEA. Possibly a behemoth.

Please regale me with tales (the good, the bad and the ugly) of what you sit on when you sew. Debate the relative merits of arm-rests. Link to articles on web-MD that show that bedsores are the inevitable result of a lack of bum-cushioning. Keep it civil, people. I will delete comments if there are personal attacks about other people's stances on the neccesity of wheels.

Friday 13 January 2012


Myopia Cornucopia

glasses cases stacked

It required the full gamut of my leather stash (grey, maroon, blue, cherry red, and olive green) to make eyeglasses cases for my bespectacled friends and family.

glasses cases all

Leather is interesting* to sew with because the texture, thickness and stiffness varies so much between hides.

glasses case filled

The grey, for example, is very sueded and supple. The blue, however, is very thick and not very pliable.

glasses cases detail

By the way, if that post title doesn't entitle me to automatic band membership to Artic Monkeys, I don't know what will*.

*Interesting to me.
**Spectacle receptacle? Optical synoptical?

Thursday 12 January 2012


The Introspective Retrospective Blogger returns

Why, hello there, ill-treated readers. Many apologies for my abrupt and unannounced departure from the blog. In true sneaky-alligator form, we snuck all around the world and back without you even noticing. I have so much to catch-up on now, including Handmade Presents For One and All, but I've enjoyed reading other bloggers end of year round-ups so here goes...

2011 was slightly slower than other years as far as tutes on the blog, with only eight. In my defence, the pin-up bathing suit series was mammoth. There are now a total of 35 tutorials hosted here, but I'm planning many, many more for 2012.

My creation

A much larger portion of this year was making things in the accessories category, be it for ourselves, friends or customers. This was truly the year of the gadget, not just for us personally with our new Kindles and iPad, but for orders. In the two weeks before Christmas, I sold fifteen Kindle covers alone! It was a bit of a departure for me to move away from kids clothes (as reflected by the very few new patterns released this year), but interesting to see in which ways the business naturally takes itself when I let it.

My creation

There was still, however, ample opportunity for making children's clothes for others. This was the first year that I didn't offer a lot of pre-made stock to order and as a result customers chose their own fabrics and styles. Party frocks and hoodies almost exclusively.

My creation

I wasn't quite so prolific this year in making clothes for the family, with almost everything made because of necessity (costumes, occasion-wear, summer holiday clothes). Poor Jamie got the short-shrift.

My creation

Due largely to the necessity of finding a dress for the big wedding, I spent a lot more time and effort this year on sewing for me. Six dresses and a top comprised The Never-ending Dress Quest, which started with a Sisboom Dress, became increasingly fraught, but culminated in being a finalist in Made by Rae's Spring Top Week. Failing in a way only I know how, I never claimed my prizes. Burnt out on tailoring, I then made some fairly mundane stuff.

My creation

So there we go then, the year that was. Personally, it was a hard year with epic internet woes,Maia's patching, and my mother-in-law's accident. There was still time for some fun and games, though, what with becoming reviewer extraordinaire, committing my war with Branson to MSPaint, baking fails, and International Day of Delurking*. Our final year on Earth (according to the Mayans anyway) has started with a bang and the Top Secret News I've been irritating about for ages is ready to be revealed**.

*Incidentally, International Day of Delurking and International Day of Navel-Gazing were two of my favourite days last year. In typical renegade fashion, I did them in April, but today is the official International Day of De-lurking. How coincidental is that? Heaps, I tell you.

**Once I stop moving furniture back and forth around the house in a futile effort to make it bigger.