A jumper that’s not really a jumper

I’ve never really been inspired to make a jumper. To be honest I’m not a big jumper wearer, I generally just get hot and bothered in them, but recently I had my over-locker serviced so the cutting blade actually works and I fancied spending a bit more time practicing with stretch fabrics.

For my birthday I was given a voucher for The Sewing Cafe in Hinckley and this black splash cotton lycra caught my eye and I spent my pennies on that without knowing what I’d do with it. (as an aside, it’s worth knowing that their vouchers are only valid in the shop. Unfortunately I live too far away to make a trip, but I called and they very kindly converted it into an online code).

At a work meeting in October a colleague had a very nice top, a long smock length jumper with a zip all the way down the back, which inspired me to use my fabric for something like that. When the fabric arrived it wasn’t quite what I was expecting ,it was more smock fabric than jumper fabric, but I decided to give it a go anyway.

Helpfully I’d recently treated myself to a sewing magazine and had the free McCalls  sweatshirt pattern from that. I did alter the pattern a fair bit. As my fabric wasn’t very stretchy I cut the pattern out as a size 16 to compensate. I also extended the body to try and make it into a long smock jumper and as was using my over-locker I didn’t take in the seam allowance.

The longer body didn’t really work. I had forgotten to take into account body shape and it was too tight around my hips so that got cut back down. I also forgot that the pattern called for a pleat on both of the shoulders when I was putting the neckline in, so to make the two fit together I put them on the front. Different, but I quite like the end result.

I’m definitely enjoying sewing with various stretch fabrics and plan on keeping going, although I don’t have any firm plans at the moment. I’ve been checking out girl charlee for inspiration, does anyone have any suggestions of good patterns or different stretch fabrics you’ve enjoyed?




Christmas shopping bags

In my family we have a tradition of a ladies Christmas shopping outing. It is definitely is a gender biased event, my aunt’s father-in-law is the only man who has ever been allowed to join us, and that purely was because he took us all out for afternoon tea on the Royal Yacht Britannia! It’s also an invite only, age biased event. I wasn’t allowed to come until I was 19, and The Monkey is definitely too young to join the guest list yet.

Last year we had a fabulous trip to Bath, including buying fabric for the flower girl dress, but we did have a problem with bags. My Aunt’s bag was a great design (sturdy with an internal drawstring) but was falling apart. The rest of us ended up with numerous little bags which made life rather tricky on the long, crowded train journey home. I decided then that I was going to make everyone a new bag for our outing this year.

It has been one of those stop-start projects that has taken me about six months to complete. I didn’t use a pattern, but worked from the measurements of my Aunt’s good bag as a guide which has meant all the bags are different in some elements of design as well as fabric.


I made my sister-in-laws bag first. She loves dogs and her parents have two beautiful blonde dogs (I’m useless at breeds so haven’t a clue), and since making it my brother has fulfilled a lifetime ambition and they’ve got one too. I spotted her feature fabric on the excellent haberdashery stall on Loughborough market and knew it was the one for her! For her design I cut the feature fabric into four and added in four extra panels to get it to the size I wanted. To make it fit with the base I had to add in a couple of tucks in a few of the solid colour panels, but I actually think they look okay. The bag is lined with the same fabric and blocking and I added an extra layer of interfacing to the base.


One of the key features I wanted all my bags to have was an inner fabric piece that could be closed to keep our purchases from falling out. For this one I had a complementary  length of ribbon which I used for the drawstring. I also sewed the handles into the seams so they weren’t a feature on the outside of the bag.


Next I made my aunt’s. She’s very active and I thought would like this cute woodland fabric (Also from the fabulous button boutique stall on Loughborough market). For hers I thought the fabric looked better in a bigger block so only but in two side panels. I also sewed the handles on the front of the bag rather than inside. For the inner protector I used elastic to make a stretchy opening which springs back of its own accord.


My Mum’s was somewhere between the two, with two big feature fabric blocks, handles on the outside and a drawstring. I did this drawstring a little differently though. I had a lot of fabric, so doubled over the whole inner price rather than making a narrow channel for the cord. I also left a big gap at one side of the bag. I quite like this design, and don’t think it will present a risk of things falling out as once the drawstring is pulled tight it will all be quite compact. I might have gone a little overkill on the cord though, which I made from the same fabric. I think it ended up about double the length it needs to be!


Finally I got round to making mine. I found this fabric in the sale at John Lewis Nottingham where I got pretty excited and bought about four different strips of fabric. This one was a little thicker than the fabric I used for the other bags so because of that (and because I couldn’t really be bothered) I decided not to make a lining for this one.  Because the fabric was cut differently and I wasn’t making a lining I had enough to make the whole bag side and inner protector as one piece so it has ended up more as a sack bag. To give the seams a bit more stability I zig-zag stitched the seam allowance to the bag and went for the more classic drawstring design, again using the fabric to make the cord.


So, there you are, four bags, all ready for a Christmas shopping expedition in Cardiff and Black Friday in Indianapolis!

Xuli costume

One of the joys (?) of having a toddler is your immersion in cbeebies. I’m now an expert in all kinds of pre-school tv, but one of the Monkey’s favorites is Go Jetters about four young explorers who are taken round the world by a disco dancing unicorn, finding out about geography and dealing with an incompetent baddie. As you do!  She loves it, whenever the music comes on she makes us all dance with her and comes and finds us.

When she asked for a Xuli costume (one of the characters) I decided it was doable and a fun project. The outfit is basically a purple all in one with yellow detail. To make the all in one I used the same teddy pram suit pattern as I have made twice before. Teddy pram suit for a friend and Yogi Bear fancy dress for the monkey. I extended the pattern at the bodice and put a zip in the front, but otherwise kept the pattern the same. I had thought about putting elastic at the ankles and cuffs, but turned out not to be necessary.

We had a trial fitting before I put on the arms and detail, which turned into a trip to the park. I thought she actually looked pretty good in it.


The final job of putting the yellow detail on was pretty quick as I did it in felt. The only thing that didn’t quite match up was the hood detail at the back, but it was only a small miss. It’s still missing the Go Jetters badge on the front, but my husband is going to make that in the next few days, and the monkey didn’t seem to notice.

Overall I’m happy with the end result, and so was the monkey. She wore it for a walk in the wood yesterday. A suitable global adventure for an explorer!


40 before 40 #7 take my daughter camping

August bank holiday weekend in the UK. Traditionally a weekend of rain, festivals and being surprised that it is raining. This year, despite about four months of pretty continuous glorious weather (I met a baby in July who’d never seen rain!) the bank holiday weekend managed to stay true to form and rain.  Granted, the Saturday was nice, but the Sunday was wet across most of the country and we joined the throngs of soggy campers up and down the land.

We, however, had our own private campsite and the rain didn’t stop us having a marvelous time. The monkey has a little play tent in our lounge and had started to ask to go camping.  The husband isn’t one for camping so I roped my aunt into coming with us.  Not that she took much persuading, she’s always up for an adventure. We have family links to a Peak District farmer who very kindly invited us to camp on his farm, which enabled us to combine toddler obsessions with camping and tractors into one trip.

The whole thing was a huge success, we got a ride on a tractor and to borrow a quad bike. Cue huge toddler grins and repeat asks for another go. We also visited the cows (two of whom have now been named moo and clip clop) a number of times. Along with big toys and no noisy neighbours the other benefit of our campsite was fantastic hospitality. We were invited into the farm kitchen for 18th birthday cake, which enabled us to have a warm up and some very tasty cake  along with the monkey’s first taste of orange juice. We also had excellent camping facilities of the farmhouse bathroom for toddler bath time. Result!

The rain didn’t limit us apart from one thing, once the monkey was in bed we couldn’t go outside to drink our wine as it was too wet, so had to join the early night. And how did she sleep? Well she spent two hours going ‘I can’t do it’ and then once I moved her into the middle spot she was out like a light and slept through to normal wake up time.

We had a fantastic time and are so grateful for being invited over and looked after so well.

As an aside, in preparation for the trip I got her a camping based story from the library which she is now obsessed with, and insists on reading to me every time we get it out!


(I’m back at work next week, so my blogging is going to slow right down again!)

Creating my own dress

As you may have noticed, this summer has been pretty hot here in the UK.  Summer dresses that I haven’t worn for a few years have come out, and I was beginning to get bored of the wearing the same ones every week. So i decided to make myself a new dress.

I had some leftover fabric from making my Three hour slouchy cardigan mark 2 but no pattern that worked so decided to have my first go at making a my own pattern.  It ended up being a combination of Another stretchy dress (Simplicity 1360), A sixties dress (Newlook K6145) and copying the top of a colleagues dress.

As the first pattern is a maternity dress I had to do a lot of reducing of fabric to make me not look pregnant. I also rediscovered that the back has far too much fabric so had to do a lot of slimming down once I had cut it all out. For the top I kept the v-neck front but rather than including the gathered waste used an extra panel to make a looped front. I managed to pattern match the seams too.

As a first attempt at creating my own pattern I think it went okay.  It isn’t the neatest creation ever, but is wearable if we ever get another baking summer, typically I finished it just as the hot weather ended, so have only worn it once.


40 before 40 #6 Go into space!

This one wasn’t actually on the list before I headed off, but my list still doesn’t have 40 things on it and if I’d known this existed earlier it would have definitely been on, so it’s allowed to count.

Space Expo is a museum linked to the European Space Agency just outside Noordwijk aan Zee in The Netherlands.  It’s not a huge exhibition but includes lots of things  I found very interesting.  It’s pretty hands on so there were activities to learn about gravity and making hydrogen to fuel rockets among other things.  There was also a life sized rocket base which blasts off into space every hour with accompanying lights and smoke alongside a 4.3 billion year old meteorite you got to touch!

I also got to geek out on geography a bit too.  There was a section dedicated to different satellite images of The Netherlands showing sea currents, land movement, areas of dense population and sea controls and plenty of other things.

But actually going into space, well there were two exhibits where we did that.  The first was a simulation of the cockpit of a shuttle.  All three of us crammed into the little seats and went through take off, docking with the space station, re-entry and landing.  Lots of juddering with accompanying sound effects and views from the window (including re-entry flames).

The second was a model of the interior of a space station (I’m assuming model, I guess they never actually come back to earth). It felt so real going in there, like you should be floating and pulling yourself around rather than clumpily walking round.  There was something about it that made me stop (doesn’t happen very often), that other worldliness about it, the bright, clean lines and feeling that you were somewhere you never thought you would be. At the end was a viewing hatch, where we sat for ages watching the world go by underneath us.

The whole place is a great morning out. If you ever find yourself in this corner of The Netherlands I’d recommend it.

The space station


Inside the space station


The rocket


One shopping trip, three fabrics, two dresses (so far)

Last year I made the monkey a dress (and a matching one for me!) Now the UK’s summer sun has arrived I realised that she’s grown faster than I was expecting over the last year, and her dress is now better utilised as a top.


This meant I got to make her a new one, and I love a good excuse to do some sewing.  I didn’t have any fabric that would work, so took the monkey shopping.  She was very excited about making herself a dress, and as soon as we got into the shop she made a beeline to some very red fabric and gave it a big hug.  She wasn’t to be swayed by offers of red leaf patterns or any other red fabric, that was the one! We then had more of a look round and between us found some great fabric with airplanes on and another one with fire engines, racing cars, police cars and helicopters.

The monkey is a big fan of vehicles.  We live under a flight path and she has great fun waving at the airplanes that fly over the garden and telling me they are going home (they’re coming in to land).  She is also a fan of all the things on the other fabric too, so having gone in for fabric for one dress we left with enough for three!


The pattern I used is really simple, the same as I used last year. The challenge this year was sewing with a toddler on my knee.  I’m really pleased that she has started to take an interest in sewing over the last few months and is enjoying helping me sew.  She is now very good at taking the pins out of the fabric as I sew, and putting them in the pin cushion.  She also tries to help guide the fabric through with me, but hasn’t quite got that one down yet.

So the results, two dresses so far.  That’s all she really needs for this year, so I’m holding on to the airplane fabric until next year as I bought slightly more of that.

(I forgot to photograph the red dress when she was wearing it properly yesterday, it wouldn’t normally need a t-shirt underneath it. The swimming badge does seem to be pretty compulsory mind).

The red fabric was slightly thicker so doesn’t ruffle up with the elastic as well as the thinner ones.  It still works as a dress, but is a bit looser.