Jam A History

a sewing, knitting, eating, reading blog


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Life Got In The Way!

So it’s been a reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaly long time since I wrote a post here – well over a month, which is the longest I’ve gone without updating, I think, since I started this blog 2 years ago! As the titles of this post suggests, life got in the way so I decided to take a little break from my blog as it was starting to feel a bit too much like work and I didn’t have the time to dedicate to doing it well.

Lots has happened since I last updated! That post was at the beginning of a week off work, and I did make a couple of things during that week and another couple of things since then, so I do have some sewing to share once I get around to taking pictures – that’s the other thing I didn’t really have time for. During our week off, it was really nice weather (thankfully not quite as hot as it is in London at the moment!) so rather than stay in a sew/ blog/ watch films, we decided to get out and about and explore some of this amazing city we live in. I think it’s easy when you live in London to just go to work, come home, go to work, come home ad nauseum without seeing what else London has to offer!

We discovered a walk which runs where there used to be a railway line from Finsbury Park to Highgate (which is my new dream place to live), then you can go a bit further and go to Kenwood House and Hamstead Heath. The route I found online also told you how to go even further, through Primrose Hill and onto Regent’s Park. We didn’t quite get that far as we kept not leaving the house early enough!

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It doesn’t look like you’re in London!

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You can still see the old platforms

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This is the view just as you get towards Kenwood House

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And the house itself:

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Since I last posted, I have also given blood for the first time! My dad gave about 75 times, until they told him he’s not allowed any more and he always used to encourage all of us to donate, but I never really considered it before. The I just suddenly decided to do it. I was worried I would pass out and it would be really embarrassing, but I was okay. It feels a bit weird but it’s not as bad as I feared. I feel like I’ve

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I also had to go to court to be a witness for an assault I witness last year – it was almost exactly a year later, so I couldn’t really remember much, but it was an interesting experience….which involved a lot of sitting around and waiting – the justice system is not fast! The court I had to go to was Snaresbrook Court, which is apparently the biggest in the country and it looks like this:
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I’ve also signed up to walk a marathon for the PSP association. They’re a charity that help people suffering from PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) and CBD (Cortico Basal Degeneration) and their families. My day was diagnosed with CBD last year, after having it for probably a decade – it’s very rare and therefore difficult to diagnose. Having taken up jogging a couple of months ago, I didn’t think I was quite up to a running challenge, so I’m walking 26 miles around London. My plan is to instagram pictures on the way, so you can follow me there if you’re interested. Oh yeah, I’ve set up an instagram – link with my other social media links on the right menu. You can also sponsor me if you like – every pound helps – by going to my JustGiving page (link also on the right).

Also linked to my dad is that fact that I recently started researching his family tree. He doesn’t really know that much about his family and the only members I have met are his half brother and his family – some relatives died before I was born, some live in New Zealand and others weren’t in contact any more. It’s really fascinating – and totally addictive! I’ve already gone back a few generations and have found census records and birth records and marriages and things. They seem to be mostly from London, too, which is quite cool. So all the time I’ve been spending on my laptop, instead of updating my blog, I’ve been searching for long-lost relatives!

The other major thing that has happened since I last posted is I’ve got a new job! I was working for Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road, organising all of their over 250 events per year, but we have known our days were numbered for many months as the rent was so high and we couldn’t make enough money to cover it. From a business point of view it makes total sense to move to a new shop, but that new shop is a lot smaller so there have been quite a few redundancies. I opted to take redundancy as my job doesn’t exist in the new shop and I was ready to move on, and have been for probably a year. But I love all my colleagues and have definitely made some life-long friends, so the motivation to really job-hunt wasn’t there until this move was imminent. So during my week off, I applied for several things and got an interview to run the shop at The School of Life. And I got the job in the nick of time! So I didn’t have to worry about opting for redundancy and not having a new job. My last day at Blackwell’s was yesterday, and we ceased trading on Wednesday so spent the last couple of days packing up everything that was left, so it felt a bit less sad to leave after 5 years, because the shop I was leaving wasn’t really still the shop worked in.

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I start at the School of Life on Monday and I’m excited and nervous in equal measure! It’s a really cool organisation and I am looking forward to working there. I also get to go to their classes for free, which is pretty cool. They do classes on all sorts of things, including creativity and things like that, so I’m hoping they will be useful for inspiring me to carry on with and improve this blog! I am committed to still writing it and I hope to get back to regular posts now, but I might be a bit frazzled after learning a new job, so my posts might be a little infrequent for a while. I had tried to set up a schedule of posting a recipe on Mondays, and book review on Wednesdays and a sewing/ knitting project on Fridays, but I’m not going to be that rigid, at least for a while, as I think that’s when I made it feel like too much hard work – I think I’m more likely to be able to post twice a week than 3 times, so I’m going to be a bit more fluid about it and not beat myself up if I ‘miss’ a post – it’s meant to be fun after all!

If you’re still reading, thanks for reading this long rambley post and for sticking with me when I haven’t updated in so long!


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Cooking – Ham Pie

After the triumph of my Lemon Meringue Pie, I decided to make another pie – this time savoury. Since I cut out gluten, the thing I miss the most (and therefore eat the most when I know I shouldn’t) is pastry. For this ham pie I used a pastry recipe from Gluten-Free Baking and the filling was from Good Food 101 Cheap Eats. I made it first waaay back in January and I’ve made it a few times since – it’s big enough to be 2 dinners for me and the Boyfriend. I try to make it on a weekend/ day off as it does take a while.

For the pastry:
225g/ 8 oz g-f plain flour
25g/ 1 oz Parmesan cheese1/2 tsp xanthan gum
pinch of salt
125g/ 4 1/2 oz butter
1 egg, beaten

Place the flour, Parmesan cheese, xanthan gum and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the egg and a little water. Using your hands, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead well. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for half an hour.

As with the Lemon Meringue Pie pastry recipe, this one says to knead well, but that can make it difficult to roll out. The last time I made this, which was the weekend just gone, I didn’t mix it enough or add enough water, so it was equally difficult to roll out. I added some water after I’d chilled it then rolled it out on my chopping board so I could flip it onto the pie!

For the filling:
A little oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour (g-f)
cooked ham, cut into chunks – I use 2 gammon steaks for the 4 meals’ worth
142 ml double cream
3/4 pint vegetable stock
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
potatoes, to have with the pie

Put the oil in the pan and heat the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the carrots and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the celery, sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute, mixing thoroughly.

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Add the ham and pour on the cream and stock. Stir in the mustard. Season. Simmer for 5 minutes until slightly thickened, then spoon into your pie tin, allowing to cool slightly.

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Roll out your pastry (hopefully) and put it on the top of the pie tin with the mixture on it, then brush it with a little milk to help it brown. Put it in the oven at 180 C for 30-40 minutes. Serve with potatoes/ other veg you might like.

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Ease: 6/10 The pastry is not super easy to get right – I’ve made it a few times and it has never been amazing. The filling is quite simple to run up and would probably make a nice stew, without the pastry.

Taste: 8/10 It tastes really nice, but it’s a bit on the dry side – it could do with more sauce. The cream sauce basically all boils off. I have yet to figure out a kind of gravy that would go with this.

Price: 7/10 The gammon I use isn’t super cheap, but you could use a cheaper cut, or left-overs from a joint. Apart from the cream, the other ingredients are cheap and ones I have in all the time.


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How To Make a Tote Bag

I’ve been planning this post for ages – since I made some totes for my friends 2 years ago. I failed to take decent photos at the time, though, so when I decided to make a bag for one of my friends at work, I made sure to take plenty of step-by-step photos.

What you will need to make a tote bag:

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The dimensions of calico/ muslin that you need to cut are:

2     42cm x 42cm (for the sides)
1      42cm x 10cm (for the bottom)2      84cm x 10cm (for the straps)

I have decorated each of the bags I’ve made with things the person would like, such as a strawberry for my friend who loves…..well….strawberries:

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or a car for my car-mad friend:

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The bag I photographed was for one of my many, many friends who are obsessed with BBCs Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The templates I used here are the same as the ones I used for the Sherlock-themed Kindle case I made for my aunt.

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The theory for making these silhouettes is the same for whatever decoration you decide to add. I’ve always used felt, so that it doesn’t fray.

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Pin your felt pieces to one of the sides. I don’t usually measure where the middle is, I just guess and make sure they look like they’re vaguely in the middle. If you do want to measure the middle, though, you can fold your fabric in half and in half again, then mark the point.

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You then need to sew all around the edges of your shapes. This can be quite fiddly so I turn the needle by hand a lot and go very slowly when using the peddle. For going around any corners (of which there are loads for these silhouettes!), keep the needle down in the fabric, lift the foot and swivel the fabric, putting the foot back down before you carry on.

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Make sure you take your pins out as you go around, so the needle doesn’t hit any and jam your machine. It’s especially important for a complicated shape like Sherlock, as you might hit the head of a pin on the other side of the shape if you don’t take them out.

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It’s not vital to be super, super accurate (as long as your thread is a good match for your felt), as you can’t really see the stitching too well unless you’re really looking for it.

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Another way you can decorate your tote bag is with some of the decorative stitches on your machine.

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I decided to sew ovals around each of my silhouettes – they look a bit bare without anything. It seems fitting since they’re Victorian-style silhouettes. I traced an oval shape onto some greaseproof paper and then put it pencil side down over each silhouette, then drew around the oval with pencil, marking the fabric. You could probably do this with a tracing wheel and something more fabric appropriate than a normal pencil, but since I knew I’d be sewing over these lines, I just used a normal drawing pencil.

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Then you just need to follow your line with your chosen stitch. I put the line so it goes down the centre of my standard foot.

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I overlap the stitches a little bit at the bottom – it looks a tiny bit messy, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for the stitches not unraveling!

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Now we can move onto actually constructing the bag! I used all french seams as I like the inside of the bag to look all neat, and to give the seams a bit of extra strength, as they’re all sewn twice.

Pin the wrong sides together of one side (42cm x 42cm) and the bottom piece (42cm x 10cm).

P1020278-PS-mediumSew them together with a 1cm seam allowance.

P1020281-PS-mediumPin the wrong side of the second side (42cm x 42cm) to the other long edge of the wrong side of the bottom piece (42cm x 10cm).

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Sew these together also with a 1cm seam allowance. To make the french seams, trim the seam allowances by about half.

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Iron the seams open.

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Now turn the sides so that they’re right sides together with the bottom and pin each seam, enclosing the seam and seam allowance you’ve just sewn/ trimmed.

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Sew these seams with a 0.5

cm seam allowance.

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Your bag will now look like this on the wrong side:

P1020295-PS-mediumNext, pin your sides together, wrong sides together. Include the bottom piece in this seam, folding it in half.

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To reduce bulk, make one french seam go up and one down when you pin the bottom seams together.

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Trim the seam allowances then sew the seams again, right sides together, as with the bottom seams, to make the side seams french seams.

To make the bottom of the bag square at the side seams, instead of flat as they are now, with the bag inside out open up the bottom piece and spread the side pieces at the side seam. Pin across the bottom triangle, where the 2 lines of stitching are from the bottom seams.

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To make the straps, fold them in half lengthways and pin.

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Sew with a 1cm seam allowance.

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Turn them the right side out.

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Iron the straps flat, with the seam in the middle of one edge (so it’s underneath when you sew them onto the bag).

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With the bag inside out, turn the top down 1.5cm twice, to make a hem of 3cm in total. Place the straps under the hem, 5cm in from the edge, facing down (towards the bottom of the bag). Place the straps hem down, like below. Each strap is sewn onto one side of the bag – they don’t go across the top of the back, they go along each side. Sew the hem, passing through each of the strap ends.

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Fold the straps up by 4cm, towards the top of the bag. The 4cm is the same as the width of the strap, so the overlap is a square.

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Sew each strap end, sewing first in a square, then in a cross, twice – this is to make sure the straps are really securely sewn on.

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Now all that’s left to do is stand back and admire your handiwork!

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If you use this tutorial, let me know – I’d love to see your makes! Also, let me know if I’ve missed anything off or anything is unclear.


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Baking – Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

A couple of months ago we had a mammoth staff training thing at work that all of us had to attend at once. It was super fun, as I’m sure you can imagine! So to help us all through it, I decided to make some cakes (and some Date slices, which I’ll write up in the near future). A couple of other people made things too, so we had plenty of sugary treats to enthuse us! Obviously I am gluten-free (which should be obvious if you’ve read my blog before), and one of my friends at work is allergic to dairy (she can have eggs, but it seemed easier to avoid everything and go vegan), so I did some research and settled on an Intolerant Gourmet recipe. You may remember me mentioning her book when I tried – and failed – to make white bread. But I felt I was on safer ground with cake, so I decided to give this recipe a go.

The recipe is easy to follow, but it does make a really wet batter – this might have been made worse in my case because I couldn’t find any flax seeds to left them out. This might also explain the odd texture – though I imagine vegan cake is never going to be exactly like ‘normal’ cake!

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I doubled the recipe to make lots of cakes – there are almost 40 people at my work and while there still weren’t enough for everyone to have one, there were more than the 8 that the recipe says it will make. Though that is muffins, and I made regular cupcakes, to get more out of the mixture.

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As I mentioned, the texture was a little odd. They were quite dense and rubbery. I guess that’s from not having the regular things that go into a cake – butter, eggs – and with the flour gluten free too, the texture is always going to be a bit odd. But they tasted amazing! Apple and cinnamon is a classic combination so you can’t really go wrong.

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Me Made May 2014 Week 4

It’s now June, so here is my last chunk of Me Made May photos. Out of the last 10 days, there were only 2 on which I didn’t wear anything me-made. So one main thing I’ve learned is that I have more me-made clothes that I thought, as I’ve managed to out-do my target every week – I’ve worn 5 things instead of 4 as I thought. There were some things I didn’t wear – I knew I wouldn’t wear either of my Elisalex dresses (1 and 2). I’ve got some time off work coming up and I might try to alter them in a way that would mean I would wear them. I’m thinking adding some pockets, letting out the bodices, maybe removing the sleeves and possibly taking up the hems. I’ll see if I get around to it! I also didn’t wear my bright yellow Butterick skirt. It was kind of warm for a weekend, but over all in May it wasn’t super warm here and I don’t like the way this skirt looks with tights, so I can only wear it when it’s warm enough to get out my pasty legs. I have also worn my yellow and pink cardigans A LOT! I do have other clothes, but they’re bright so I’m more drawn to them than my black/ navy/ beige ones! My main feeling is excitement that I don’t have to take any more outfit photos – I think if I do it again next year, I’ll take pictures of the clothes before I put them on, as some people do.

Day 22: Parrot Shirt refashion and Black Simplicity 2451
with pink H & M cardigan.

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Day 23: Black Banksia
with black skinny trousers from New Look and yellow cardigan from H & M

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Day 24: Grainline Scout tee with Collar
with navy New Look skninnies, yellow cardigan H & M

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Day 25: Pink Banksia
with black New Look skinnies and pink H & M cardigan (again!)

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Day 27: Navy Simplicity 2451
with grey striped Primark vest and navy loose top and grey peplum cardigan, both from M & S for Christmas. (Quite a frumpy, shapeless outfit looking at it!)

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Day 28: GBSB Boyfriend Shirt
with skinny Primark jeans and pink H & M cardigan (again!)

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Day 29: Blue Spotty Grainline Scout Tee
with navy skinny New Look trousers and beige H & M cardigan

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Day 30: Refashioned (and free) H & M dress
with old black H & M cardigan

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GBSB Baby Dungarees

As I mentioned in my review of the second Great British Sewing Bee book, I’ve made the baby dungarees for my nephew using the pattern in the book. I used some cute spotty cotton in suitably non-girly colours (my nephew is so cute he frequently gets mistaken for a girl!).

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Because he wears cloth nappies, my nephew has a larger bum than babies that wear disposable nappies do, so I made a practice pair to check that the dungarees would be big enough to go around him. I made the biggest size, 12-18 months as I made them for his first birthday and he’s quite big for his age. I stuffed them with pillows to see the full size and they were luckily plenty big enough – I feared I would have to work out how to do a FBA – Full Bum Adjustment! Don’t they look creepy?

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The dungarees came together relatively quickly, because they’re so small and there aren’t too many pieces. I think like the patterns in the old book, this one could have been drafted better. The straps are sewn into the hem a the back so they look like this:

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So I decided to sew them again, so they they didn’t fold back the hem.

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The other part that wasn’t clearly explained or well written was the button tabs on the sides. The way it was written, there would have been some raw edges and I’m a bit too anal about things being neat on the inside and outside, so I fudged it a bit. You have to cut the seam allowance at the top of the side seams here:

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Then the instructions tell you to just fold the tabs back twice to hem them, which would leave a raw edge at the bottom of the tabs on the outside:

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So I turned the bottom edge over before sewing it:

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I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. When my sister unwrapped them, quite a few people at the party assumed I’d bought them, which is possibly the highest compliment you can get for homemade garments! I sewed one of my name tags in the back, but forgot to take a picture.

I also added a little pocket on the front in a matching shade of orange, which was just some polycotton I had left over from when I made my sister’s apron. I used the pattern for the pocket from the first Sewing Bee book’s Boyfriend Shirt.

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The only other change I made was to sew on normal poppers instead of the stronger snap things that the pattern suggests, the ones you put on with that clamp thing.

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This seemed like a fine idea until I realised they all undid as soon as my nephew moved around in them! Oops. He did look cute though.

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First one leg undid….

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Then he was basically wearing a weird dress…..

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They didn’t restrict his movement, though – he still managed to make a bid for freedom!

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I’m tempted to make more kiddies’ clothes as they’re small and therefore quick to sew up and they’re so cute!


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Book – Great British Sewing Bee 2

So I know I’m way behind the times, since the series has been over for weeks now, but I’m sharing the second Great British Sewing Bee Book with you today. I got a copy free from work (one of the perks of working in a bookshop is not only cheap, but sometimes free books!). I think I enjoyed the second series of the Sewing Bee a bit less than the first, partly because I felt like some of the challenges were hard for the sake of being hard – but maybe they had to do that as they can’t make the same things in every series. And although I enjoyed the no pattern week, it kind of irritated me that it was a bit Project Runway and that I would imagine the majority of home-sewers do use patterns always.

Anyway, these were small niggles, and the patterns that come with the book are pretty good – and you get printed pattern sheets with this book instead of having to print and stick the downloadable ones like with the first book.

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I think the first book had a pencil skirt in, but I prefer the one in this book. Maybe I’m just drawn to the pink and the spots!?

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I really love the 1930s blouse that they made and have it traced already to make!

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I also thought the baby dungarees they made were really sweet, and I was so glad the pattern was included in the book. I have already made these for my nephew (who turned 1 the weekend before last!). I’ll be posting the full details later in the week.

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I also love this bowling shirt – it seems quite rare to be able to find a bowling shirt pattern. I think it could also double up as a Hawaiian shirt pattern – I have some gorgeous, genuine Hawaiian fabric that I desperately wanted to make into this shirt, but there’s only about a metre and event with contrasting collar and cuffs, I can’t get the pattern pieces to fit, boo :(

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I’m also thrilled that they included the pattern for Tamara’s 1960s coat! I would definitely not use the same fabric as her as that stuff looked like a bitch to sew with, but I really love the 60s and this coat is a really nice shape. I’m determined to make a coat at some point, so maybe this will be the pattern?

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Sewing – 2 Simplicity 2451s

As you may have seen in my Me Made May posts, I made 2 Simplicity 2451 skirts recently. I finished them near the end of April and have worn them both quite a bit. One is black corduroy and the other is navy blue drill, both were a gift from my sister who was clearing out her stash. I cut out a straight size 8, based on my waist measurement  and the finished garment measurements – there’s at least 3 inches of ease built into it, which seems like a lot for a skirt that’s meant to sit almost on your waist. I wanted them to sit actually on my waist and the blue one does but the black on is quite a bit looser – does anyone know why that might be? Has the corduroy stretched? Is that something it’s prone to do?

Anyhoos, here are my pictures – I don’t really have much to say about construction. They came together really easily and I didn’t make any fit adjustments – which I probably should have. I love the pleats and the pockets are big enough to fit my (stupidly big) phone in without it falling out when I sit down, so it’s a winner of a pattern in my book!

Black corduroy version:

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The blue version: (I didn’t realise I had a ladder in my tights btw!)

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I hand-stitched both hems and I think after these and my second Emery, this is my new favourite method of hemming – I used to do them on the machine for speed, but it does look nice if you can’t see the stitches!


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Me Made May 2014 Week 3

This week of Me Made May has been pretty good – I managed 6 me made outfits! My pledge was to wear me made things on at least 4 days, so I’m pretty pleased with 6! None of the outfits it especially exciting or different from things you’ve seen in weeks one and two.

Day 15: Parrot shirt refashion
with New Look skinny trousers and a trusty H & M cardi. (and a slightly stoned-looking photo!)

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Day 16: Refashioned high-necked t-shirt
with Primark jeans and H & M cardigan.

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Day 17: Emery Dress 2
with yellow H & M cardigan and mustard yellow tights.
I forgot to take a photo of this outfit, because it was the day of my nephew’s first birthday party so taking a picture of my dress wasn’t top on my list of things to do. It was an identical outfit to how I wore the dress in week one, so you can check it out there :)

Day 18: Gertie bow-tied blouse
with really old refashioned denim skirt (made from a pair of jeans).
This is the first time I’ve worn this basically since I finished it – I think this may have proved that this style and fit is not for me, so I think this may be on it’s way out of my wardrobe..

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Day 20: Grainline scout tee
with New Look skinny trousers and a falling apart H & M cardigan. I intend to knit a cardi to replace this one as I love the colour, but I’m such a slow knitter, this will probably be string by the time I’m done!

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Day 22: My first grainline scout tee and Blue Simplicity 2451 skirt.
It wasn’t really warm enough for bare legs yesterday, but I was clinging to the hope that Summer was here already! Sorry for all the pasty white flesh, though.

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Only a week and a bit to go! I have a couple of things I haven’t worn yet, but only a couple of those are normally in my regular rotation of clothes. Things like my 2 Elisalex dresses never get worn and I don’t wear my bright yellow skirt much because I don’t like how it looks with tights – I guess it’s a Summer skirt, so in England that should give me a couple of weeks’ wear each year!

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