Bestival Fashion and Highlights 2014

Well my friends, have I been having fun or what? I have just returned from the awesome Bestival, on the Isle of Wight, for a 4 day knee’s up in sunshine. In this post I’m going to talk to you a little bit about fashion and some garments I made especially for the festival, but also mention some of the areas of the festival I really enjoyed and performances I rated. I usually keep my blog strictly about sewing, but in this case it seems right, not only to set the scene, but also to pay respect to all the amazing creativity I witnessed over the weekend. If you’ve been to a festival before, you’ll already know that each festival feels unique, and creates an atmosphere unlike anything else. If you’ve not been to a festival before, I urge you to read on and if you like what you see consider going to one next year (Invite me!). They have so much to offer, and are magical places where you get the chance to relax, connect with people, have a good time and often have your own little epiphany.

A spoon sized party

A spoon sized party – not quite, Bestival this year was attended by 55,000 people

After the August we had in the UK I was planning on filling my festival backpack with fleeces, hoodie tops and waterproof jackets. That was until I saw this:
3 days of September Isle of Wight sunshine. What a gift. The race was on to create a handmade festival wardrobe I could proudly strut my stuff in. I already had a couple of jackets prepared, including my tape cassette jacket, and African print blazer, but I wanted a few other pieces to go alongside them.

I had a shopping trip planned to Leeds markets with some other sewing bloggers from the local area, so I used this opportunity to pick up some fabrics/items I could use to make some garments to loosely fit within Bestivals ‘Desert Island Disco’ theme. I had wanted to find some nice fruity prints, and go as a pineapple or something, but I couldn’t find what I was after. Instead I just picked out a couple of bold colourful prints that caught my eye, and some translucent water like fabric that shimmered under the light. I also had a reason to purchase some plastic flower garlands, birds on a sprig, and a couple of critter magnets.

Make 1: Tilly and the Buttons Clemence Skirt

Unfortunately no shots of me wearing this at Bestival were taken

Unfortunately no shots of me wearing this at Bestival were taken

I had recently received ‘Love at First Stitch‘ by Tilly Walnes as part of a subscription offer to Love Sewing Magazine, and the book really came in handy when making my festival garments. Most of the patterns in the book are simple enough to complete in a day, and as I needed something quick I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for me to give it a test drive. I only had just over a meter of the digitally printed colourful embroidery print, and worked out that I could just about make a Clemence skirt from what I purchased. Cutting out the skirt was simple, and consisted of cutting out 3 rectangles for the skirt, and then 4 narrower strips for the waistband. I just drew direct on to my fabric. No pattern needed! I won’t go in to much detail as it’s a lengthy post, but it’s a simple gathered skirt, with an interfaced waistband, and zip fastening. I used French seams which were perfect for the floaty, lightweight fabric. The final skirt ended up a little big, but it’s comfy to wear and great to dance in.

Make 2: Tilly and the Buttons Lilou Dress

I loved the geometric print on the bright poly-cotton I purchased from the market. I knew I wanted to turn it in to a dress and Tilly’s Lilou dress seemed a fun and informal pattern that would look great in my fabric choice. The book provides ideas on how to make it your own, and one suggestion is to add a scalloped neck line which I spent ages labouring over to get it as neat as possible. I’m really pleased with the result, mainly because I managed to get this dress done in a day. Given the toddler watched a lot of cartoons that day but I did manage to feed him so it’s not all bad. The best thing about this dress is how comfy it is to dance in. So comfy I even fell asleep in it at 5am after having an entertaining evening listening to Beck, Toddla T, The Tune-yards and a Prince themed set from Bestivals curator Rob Da Bank.

Make 3: Simple fairy skirt

This was just a really quickly thrown together item to brighten up an outfit I had. I’d worn it twice before taking this photo so it’s a bit raggedy now, but I wanted to show you anyway. I started with a big square of the shiny blue fabric, and cut a large circle in the middle for the waist to go. I then turned the fabric over and sewed a tube so that I could thread some ribbon through to tie and gather as the waistband. I then cut and attached some strips of cotton to add in some more colours. I knocked this up in about an hour, and it’s a really great one to do for kids.

Make 4: Anchor print leggings

Now I haven’t attempted to make leggings before but how hard could it be? I pulled apart an old pair which had seen better days, and used it as a basis for my pattern, adding a little extra as seam allowance. I sewed up the seams, overlocked to finish, and added the old elastic to the waistband of the new leggings. I hemmed each leg with 2 rows of stitching, which I think I’ll try a double needle on next time round for a more professional finish. I completed this during an episode of the great British bake off, so an hour pretty well spent. I earned my sea legs!

Make 5: Shell hair clip

I just threw this together to make something exciting yet easy to put in my hair. It’s a spray painted shell I glued some fabric and a hair clip to.
My favourite part is obviously the crab, whose legs wobble as you move about, and I wasn’t the butt of any crab related jokes. Win.

My handmade Bestival wardrobe

I can proudly say that I had something handmade to wear each day. Considering I churned most of these garments out in a couple of days, I was mighty proud of my efforts, and I proved to myself what is achievable in a few hours. Still, it was nothing compared to the effort some people went to!

Fun n footloose festival fashion

Festivals give you the opportunity to really go for it when it comes to fashion. Anything goes, nobody worries about looking stupid and that is a liberating feeling for someone in to making clothes. I really enjoyed witnessing this freedom of expression at Bestival, and how people choose to dress themselves when there are no rules. In the real world, women can usually get away with a lot more variation in terms of colour and style in their wardrobe, but men seem a more constrained within conventional combinations and rarely do we get to see themselves let loose with their clothing. At Bestival the men were as colourful and extravagant as the women, and it was exciting to see them embrace the opportunity to wear what ever they wanted without judgement. Sequined crop tops, shiny leggings, dresses, I wish I had more photos to show you just how good everyone looked, and how happy it made them.

no mate, breastivals that way

no mate, breastivals that way

Bestival 2014 photos

Some visual delights I managed to capture before the power went on my camera.

Bestival is hosted in the beautiful Robin Hill Country Park

Bestival is hosted in the beautiful Robin Hill Country Park

This lion decorated the entrance to the I Knit London tent

This lion decorated the entrance to the I Knit London tent

The night sky

The sky at night

Chuck out your lawn mower and build your own DIY dj booth

Chuck out your lawn mower and build your own DIY dj booth

Batala Portsmouth playing Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae

Batala Portsmouth playing Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae

HMS Bestival, a state of the art function one sound system featuring lasers, pyrotechnics, aerial performance artists hung from a crane and ridiculously good vibes

HMS Bestival, a state of the art function one sound system featuring lasers, pyrotechnics, aerial performance artists hung from a crane and ridiculously good vibes

The entrance to the Bollywood stage

The entrance to the Bollywood stage

Cycle powered phone charging. An awesome idea. Party on and power up.

Cycle powered phone charging. An awesome idea. Party on and power up.

Rob da Bank broke a Guinness world record by creating the worlds largest mirror ball

Rob da Bank broke a Guinness world record by creating the worlds largest mirror ball

A bar honouring the receptacle of 2014

a bar honouring the receptacle of 2014

Circus antics in the Caravansai area

Circus antics in the Caravansai area

Toy story plastic solider

Toy story plastic solider



Awesome outfit, love everything about it


This totally looks like the fabric I used on my fairy skirt – good choice!



These giants are amazing, and they walk about on bouncy stilts occasionally roaring at people


Gorgeous colours on a smiley happy lady


Some lovely ladies. I like how they coordinated Hawaiian shirts and the headresses are awesome!

Some lovely ladies. I like how they coordinated Hawaiian shirts and the headresses are awesome!

Bestival – My top musical moments


Was delighted to see Bonobo (who played with a full live band) after being a fan for so long, and he didn’t disappoint. Stunning atmospheric electronic music which does everything when it should, beautiful and unpredictable to listen to.

Basement Jaxx

Basement Jaxx make excellent dance music. Bouncy, happy, fun and energetic. Given most of their hits (there are many of them!) are almost 10 years old, but their set was one of the freshest I heard all weekend. Hearing them play ‘Where’s your head at’ whilst thousands of revelers sang along was definitely my highlight.

Jenova Collective

A small group I stumbled across on the first day, who were the perfect introduction to the festival. They expertly spliced reggae, drum n nass, dubstep, jazz, house disco and funk into a delightful menagerie of upbeat sounds that made everyone there get loose. At the end of the set they announced they were from Leeds and it was a proud moment. I’ll definitely be seeing them again.

Fake Bush

No I didn’t get tickets to see Kate. Yes I am regretting it now. But seeing Fake Bush has softened the blow. A fantastic tribute act whose informative interludes between songs were as entertaining as she was. Fake Bush didn’t just try to emulate Kate, by respectively paid homage in her own quirky style. Almost cried when she played Wuthering Heights cause I’m a massive softie. Kate was only 18 when she penned this timeless classic.

Chic – Feat Nile Rodgers

True. I once went to a festival with disco inferno written across my face, so it is of no surprise I whole heartedly enjoyed seeing disco legends Chic live. The big surprise to me was how many songs the legendary Nile Rodgers had written for other popular artists, and alongside their well loved hits we were treated to his versions of ‘Get Lucky’(best known by Daft Punk), ‘Lets Dance’(more commonly known by David Bowie) and ‘Like a Virgin’ (Madonna)

Kate Tempest

The first time I saw Kate Tempest was in 2009 at The Secret Garden Party, and she completely blew my socks off. She performed in a tree house, and all the lights had stopped working, so I had to shine a torch on her whilst she delivered her poetry. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, and since that point I’ve told everyone about her who’ll listen. Over the years kate has grown as an artist, and at Bestival she performed her new album, Everybody Down, which is a concept album of twelve ‘chapters’ telling one long, inspired story. She has also just been nominated for A Mercury music prize, well done Kate, we love you!

Phew, that was a really long post!

Hope you enjoyed looking at the photos, which really only portray tiny snippets of 4 days of fantastic entertainment. I felt inspired. Everywhere around you were gorgeous clothes in unusual styles, and I’ve got a list as long as the queue for the showers for garments I want to make. Festivals make you want to live more colourfully, and I’d like to bring some of these elements and added wackiness in to my future makes, and create some really bold statement pieces. What a fantastic end to the summer, Maybe see some of you there next year?
Amy x

Bestival Cassette Tape Cropped Zip Jacket

This fabric says one thing to me. Child of the 80′s. I’d had vague thoughts of making something fun and funky to wear to Bestival, a garment that reflects my love of music and will keep the September chill off. When I found this remnant on Frumble, Boom! I had found my perfect print! It’s probably a bit loud for me to wear routinely but the tape cassette imagery set me off on such a massive nostalgia trip, I couldn’t resist it. I have so many fond memories of the joy these little plastic cases played in my childhood/teenage years.

Cue series of photos posing with huge boom boxes

Cue series of photos posing with huge boom boxes

I love technology, but MP3′s just bare no comparison to the tactile wonder of tapes, vinyls and to a lesser degree, CD’s. My son is 3, and I wanted to find a way of playing him bedtime stories at night, like I used to on my Fisher Price tape player. Nowadays, the only options are CD’s (which would get scratched) or to buy some kind of digital mp3 player and docking station. I’m sure there are a few 3 year olds that can operate an i-pod but I don’t want mine to be one of them. I want him to be able to gaze at cover illustrations, give him the chance to select one from a collection and get the pleasure of pushing down a big clunky button and hearing it click as the music begins to play. Am I living in the past? Am I mad? I don’t know, I just haven’t found a modern replacement for these simple pleasures. Luckily I managed to find a collection of children’s tapes from charity shop for 10p each and I’m going to hunt ebay for an old fisher price tape player for him to listen to them on.

Channeling my inner hip-hop rude girl

Channeling my inner hip-hop rude girl

I tested my new tape collection on an old boom box we had lying around. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but it did manage to chew my tape up and I had to carefully dislodge the magnetic tape and wind it back in to the tape using my fingertip to spin the small plastic dial. This made me insanely happy. I hadn’t wound a tape up in over 10 years and it took me right back to my childhood.

Things I loved about cassette tapes

  • Recording the top 40 chart and eagerly awaiting to find out what was at number one
  • Making our own radio shows with my friends, which often involved lots of giggling and bad singing
  • They were relatively robust (compared to CDs) and could easily handle being carted about in a school bag
  • Making Mix-tapes – A carefully thought out and crafted gift reserved for the most special people in your life. They meant so much to me. A sign of friendship, a secret confession of love, or a way of showing off your most excellent taste in music?
  • Receiving Mix-tapes – Even better to get one in return. To discover new music, personally curated for you, and perhaps yes, your hearts desire might like you back to!
  • Designing covers for mix-tapes. A chance to personalise and add your own artistic touch to the collection. My favourites always had beautiful handwriting, messages and doodles on the inside
  • The anticipation in waiting to rewind / fast forward to your favourite song
  • and lets not forget, the joy of finding and re-listening to a mix tape from many moons ago. A guaranteed trip down memory lane

So yes, a fabric perfect for Bestival, dancing, being colourful and with significant cultural meaning. I’m on to a winner.

The photos don't get any less silly readers

The photos don’t get any less silly people

Cassette tape jacket stats

Fabric: Riley Blake Geekly Chic Cassettes Grey purchased from Frumble, A pink poly-cotton for the lining from Leeds market
Cost: £14.50 for cassette fabric, £4.50 for lining, £3.25 Cotton elastane ribbing from Plush Addict, £2.80 zip – All in about £25.
Pattern: Self drafted
Time: Half a day
Difficulty: Easy


The pattern

This is a self drafted pattern that I based loosely around a RTW jacket in my wardrobe and then used the sleeves from the Salme jacket pattern in my previous post, which I modified to add length.

More pin-up than hip but I was running out of poses that didn't involve pointy hand gestures

More pin-up than hip-hop but I was running out of poses that didn’t involve pointy hand gestures

Garment Assembly

I used 2 really simple panels to create the front/back of the jacket, and then added the sleeves. One thing that I was questioning was whether to include darts in the front panel bust area or not. I decided to omit them, and then put them in a later version if I thought it looked to wrinkly.
I sewed together at the side seams and shoulders for both the bodice and the lining, and then attached the sleeves to each piece.

Oozing cool

The essence of cool

Cuff / Ribbing:

I added some ribbing around the neckline, the jacket hem and the sleeve cuffs.
The cuffing came as a loop of material, which was strange, and I just cut the pieces I needed slightly shorter than the length of where I wanted them to go, to provide a gathered look. I hadn’t worked with this fabric before and I expected it to have more elasticity to it than it did, so I had to add some elastic to the sleeves and the hem to give the look I wanted.
I added the ribbing in this order: neckline, hem, and finally cuffs. The neck and hemline were pretty straightforward, sandwiching between the lining/main fabric, but for the cuffs I had to make make sure the sleeves were inside out, so right sides together, sandwich the cuff in-between, and sew around the seam. Then separate the lining from the main fabric and turn the sleeve the right way out. It felt a bit like fabric origami, but I got there. Hard to explain, I should really have taken some progress photos!


To start off with I purchased a close ended zip, attached it, and realised my mistake when I couldn’t open the jacket. Doh! I won’t do that again. After another trip to the market for an open ended zip, and a few quid lighter (They have a new looseleaf tea stall don’t you know) I was ready to sew the zip on to the jacket. Sometimes zips just go in don’t they? but I faffed with this quite a lot, and although I’m happy it could be a little neater.

I look pretty pleased with my new jacket. All ready for festival fun times.

I look pretty pleased with my new jacket. All ready for festival fun times.

General happiness rating

:smile: :smile: :smile:
The jacket turned out a little small, which is ok, because I had no extra fabric to make it any bigger! Next time round though I’ll be adding some breathing space. For a basic, quickly thrown together item, I’ve got a really fun addition to my wardrobe, which I know I’m going to enjoy wearing. It’s also satisfying when you’ve drafted your own pattern, and had no instructions to follow other than make it up as you go along.

One last boom box photo. I could spend all day photoshopping myself with my imaginary boom box collection.

One last boom box photo. I could spend all day photoshopping myself with my imaginary boom box collection.

Look out for my white tree bloggers make, because it will be very similar to this jacket, but hopefully with a few improvements, better fit, and exciting twists!
Btw – if any of you are going to Bestival, get in touch! Hopefully my next post will feature some other exciting garments I’ve made especially for the festival. Neon colours, fun prints and clothes ready for a right rollicking rave.
Happy stitching :)

The Sunny Salme Cropped Blazer in African Wax Print


Blazers. Just the mention of that word takes me back to my school days with a time traveling shudder. On the whole part I enjoyed school, but I hated wearing a uniform. Our mandatory uniform was a below the knee, box pleated grey skirt, a standard white shirt, a tie, a polyester blue or grey jumper depending on what year you were in, or if you preferred a blazer. No I didn’t prefer thank you very much. Most of the girls went without blazers, and there was a shared dislike of the coarse black jacket that hid every ounce of femininity with it’s sack like quality.
At school I remember doing everything I could to express some kind of individuality weather it was rolling up my skirt so it sat above the knee, shortening my tie (we all thought this was mega cool), pulling thread from my tie to give it an unconventional weave, donning the highest platform shoes we could get away with, wearing nail varnish, or dying my hair. Most of these attempts ended with me sitting in the head of years office, and I was often refused nail varnish remover and told to pick the varnish off by hand as a punishment!

Now I’m not really against uniform per se, it serves a purpose within formal settings, but on the whole part I find them bland and boring. Wearing the same pallet of navy/grey/black/white colours for the first 16 years of my life has definitely affected my choice in clothes today, and was a part of school I was happy to shake off in an instant.

Glorius was our school leavers day, when it was customary to sign / deface each others uniform. I have kept mine after all those years, not only as a memory of my school days, but also to mark the liberation and excitement I felt about being able to wear what ever the hell I wanted. I vowed never to wear grey again, or anything that reminded me of my school uniform.

My defaced school uniform from 1999

My defaced school uniform from 1999

So yeah, this is why I don’t really wear formal jackets. School uniform is bad blazar pr. This make is the anti-blazer. I’m moving on from my fashion fears and giving a two fingered salute to all the boring clothes I had to wear as a child. Go shove it.

Say hello to the anti-blazar!

Say hello to the anti-blazer!

Isn't it wonderful!

Isn’t it wonderful!

Salme Blazer Project Stats

Fabric: African wax print cotton
Cost: £3 for fabric
Pattern: Salme Cropped Blazer
Time: Half a day
Difficulty:Pretty easy, but check how to do mitred corners if you aren’t sure

The pattern

This is the Salme Cropped Blazer pattern available as a PDF download for just over £4. Bargain. Salme offer simple, modern sewing patterns for all sewing levels.



The pattern took 1.5 meters of fabric, which I had just the right thing for in my stash. The pattern suggests a mid-weight suiting fabric, but I wanted a more lightweight casual effect for my blazer, for covering up on warm summer evenings, so the wax print cotton was ideal for this. The pattern is for an unlined blazer, but I think it would be even nicer lined, so take this in to account if you are going to give it a go.

The muslin


I made the muslin a size 14, in a cotton/linen mix I had in my stash. Despite being a bit roomy, the completed muslin is good enough to wear. It was useful to practice the mitered corners before moving on to the final garment and also indicated that I could probably size down.

Sizing / modifications

I sewed up a UK size 12 and didn’t make any modifications to the pattern. If I was to make it again I would like to add some cuffs to the sleeves and also add a lining. I think some kind of fastening at the front might be nice also.

Garment Assembly

I followed the instructions as printed and they were easy to follow, but did lack detail in places. You need to add seam allowance for this pattern, so I added a 0.5 inch once I had laid my pattern pieces on the fabric and drew them on with tailors chalk. The repeating pattern called for an attempt to pattern match, which I was mostly concerned about for the back. I must say, I was pretty chuffed with my attempt. Can you tell?

Yeah, badass pattern matching

Yeah, badass pattern matching

Mitered corners

Mitered corners are used to create the angled hemline down the centre line of the front panels. I knew these were going to be tricky because I had read about it in a few posts (linked at the bottom of this post). The instructions omit some vital information, and where they talk about folding and pressing the hemline they should say that the second fold is folded backwards, so the hem is facing outwards. Seriously, this part got me stumbled for an evening, but after watching a helpful mitered corner video on youtube, and mulling it over before bedtime, I had worked out what needed to be done by morning and got straight to it at 5.25am before going to work! It’s definitely a technique to practice to get perfect.


The facings are a nice feature, and fold backwards to give the lapel detail. I used interfacing and tried to get them symmetrical on both sides.

Finishing touches

I bound the side seams with a hong kong finish in some green ribbon. It added structure to the side seams, but felt a little heavy for the other seams, so the rest is overlocked. I am considering some kind of fastening, because I think it would be nice to have the option of doing it up.

General happiness rating

:smile: :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile:

I love everything about this make and it makes me over the moon when I wear it. I think the sleeve length is fab, the cropped jacket length is perfect, the sizing is spot on, and well, the fabric just exudes cool. I’ve worn it twice already, and I’m kind of wishing I’d lined it so I could have more wear from it in the cooler months. So all in high fives all round, I couldn’t be happier with my £3 jacket, and I’d love to sew it up again sometime.


Other bloggers who’ve made this pattern


That’s all for this week lovelies, I hope you’ve liked my jacket. Would love to read your comments :)

Happy sewing x

The Barmy Beetroot Blog Hop

Welcome to the blog hop!

Now before you start to swing your pants, it’s not a retro dance but a virtual tour of the creative blogosphere. Swinging pants does sound like fun though.

Like the nicest chain letter I’ve received, I get to answer some questions and then continue the hop by nominating two of my favourite bloggers to do the same next week, thus growing the network between bloggers and their readers.

I was nominated by Louise, from the most excellent Sew Sensational. I found Louise from the Minerva Crafts Network and said hello after discovering she was also nutty about sewing, and lived in Leeds. We are hoping to meet in person soon, and have a grand shopping trip around the fabulous Leeds market. Louise has a really cute style and warm friendly tone to her writing. Her garments are top stuff and she looks awesome in them. Louise is also soon to be a bride and I can’t wait to see her crafty wedding creations! Thanks for nominating me Louise. It was a fun challenge thinking about and answering the hop questions.

My workstation

My workstation – I think I was looking at Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe when I took this, very yummy!

Why do I write?

Having a blog has been a long time aspiration of mine. My background is working with computers, graduating with a degree in Electronic Imaging and Media Communications, and then finding my feet working at Suma Wholefoods, where I set off on a one girl mission to establish an online presence for my favourite vegetarian food cooperative. Initially on my own, and now with 2 people I’ve trained to join the team, we develop and maintain Suma’s ecommerce site and blog site, as well as organise the online marketing and social media strategy. I’ve learned on the job as the years have gone by, and I suppose I’m fairly web savvy, ok a geek, so the techie side of designing with css/html, sourcing a domain, setting up a wordpress blog, server management, online marketing and SEO are all subjects I feel at home with.

At work I enjoyed using Google analytics, watching posts I had written gain in popularity, achieve high viewing figures, and rank highly on Google. It was a buzz. (lol, I obviously don’t get out enough). I wanted my own space online, but I could never really settle on a subject to write about. Discarded ideas were gardening, raising a vegetarian child, and even drinking tea, but none of them seemed to have enough longevity to hold my interest. I needed a subject I could wax lyrical about, remain dedicated to and have plenty of ideas for interesting and useful posts. It was only after having my own stall at local craft fairs that I realised I could blog about my craftiness. I’m always making things when I get the chance, and have done my whole life. Making items by hand has always bought me a lot of happiness and satisfaction. I was finally set and excited about my subject!

One of my craft stalls in Dec 2013, I was also selling vintage style handmade aprons

One of my craft stalls in Dec 2013, I was also selling vintage style handmade aprons

I can’t say I’m a seasoned writer. At university I loved writing essays, researching, forming an argument and to be given the space to think about things creatively, form an opinion, and collect your own thoughts. I actually felt academic! That was almost 10 years ago now, and scarily, despite the odd article I pen for Suma which are mostly recipes I hardly write at all. I felt like I was in danger of losing a skill-set that was incredibly valuable. So for me, blogging is about having a space not only to reflect my personality and creativity, but also to provide a reason to write. When I write my blog posts, I feel like I am exercising a part of my brain that doesn’t get the chance to shine much in regular old life, so you heard it here first, blogging is officially a great workout! – For the brain anyway :)

In addition to writing, blogging is also a great way to employ other creative skills, and in particular photography. A few years back I purchased my first digital SLR, and after much perseverance I finally understand the basic functions of my camera, and the relationship between white balance, aperture, shutter speed, and principles behind photography. I’m no expert, but again blogging provides many subjects and reasons to get out and experiment with photography. I love my camera, and I hope blogging is an ally to me taking better photos.

I love my camera!

I love my camera!

Oh there are so many reasons to write! I adore the grassroots nature of blogging, hearing unbiased, real voices talk about things I am interested in. It’s journalism from the ground up. Bloggers invest in each other, and in their readership. Blogs are an amazing resource of ideas, inspiration and tutorials, offering up free information that benefits the online community. How much of what you have learned or made has been a result of something you have seen on a blog? I wanted to give something back and be part of such a positive online force.

Lastly, writing is also precious time on my own. Lovely peace and quiet. It’s like a cig break only good for you. 90% of the time I’m a busy mother and a model (ha!) employee, but I’m also an individual and this is a reflection of the person who can sometimes feel lost within the frenzy of life.

What am I working on?

Simplicity 1800 - this beauty I'm making for a friend

Simplicity 1800 – this beauty I’m making for a friend

I’ve got 10 WIPS on the go at the moment. Plus a long list of other things on the back burner. I used to be a one project at a time kind of person, but actually find I get a lot more done If I have a number of projects on the go at once. I can always find one to suit my mood and situation.

  1. Simplicity 1800 which I am making for a friend. She approached me to make a dress for her, and I thought it would be a fun experience sewing for someone else, and easier to focus on getting a good fitting. I like making for other people, because you make to their tastes and not you own. She has picked an awesome African wax print which I am totally falling for
  2. The next three makes are all festival related. I’m off to Bestival in a few weeks and wanted to take some handmade items to wear with me. You can be so much more out there when it comes to festival clobber. My first make is a light-weight cropped jacket in a fun cassette tape design (a child of the 80′s) which is from a self drafted pattern.
  3. Next up is a similar version to the above jacket but with a few twists. It’s also my first White Tree Bloggers Network make, and will incorporate some beautiful guipure lace. It’s going to be fun and feminine.
  4. Now, I’m not one of those girls that goes to a festival dressed as a fairy, but that’s kind of what I have planned for the Deer & Doe Centuaree dress. The long version will make a great floaty fairy style outfit, and provides options to mix up different textures and types of fabric. I’m not sure if this will work, but oh my I have a vision! I’m not wearing wings though.
  5. Away from festival plans, I’m also putting the finishing touches on a cowboy style denim shirt for Evan. This is the demo piece I have used in my forthcoming pattern release. I was one week away from launching it before my computer broke down, but as soon as I’m up and running I’ll release it, so please watch this space.
  6. A couple of friends have had baby girls, so I’ve self drafted a simple dress pattern. I really need to hurry up with this one though before the babes grow too big for my pattern!
  7. A peg bag from the delightful Little sew & sew book by Christine Leech. I found the book in my local Oxfam and it’s full of really cute embroidered makes and there are a few things I want to sew from it. The bag will be a housewarming present for a friend who has purchased her first home.
  8. My mega WIP is an Escher inspired knitted fish blanket which I have been knitting since January 2012. It consists of 144 separately knitted fish of which I’ve knitted 73, so over half way. Hooray for me. I can’t wait to finish, because whilst I have this project on the go I’m not knitting anything else, and I really miss knitting quick, simple makes.
  9. A completed hexagon from the knitted blanket, I have 12 hexagons sewn up, 73 fishes done in total, 71 fish to go!

    A completed hexagon from the knitted blanket, I have 12 hexagons sewn up, 73 fishes done in total, 71 fish to go!

  10. Not strictly sewing related but I’m also up-cycling an old sideboard I have in my lounge. I use it for my record decks, and to store all my vinyl in, so I want it to be really fun and bright.
  11. I also love making underwear. I have a pair of Jane Knickers cut from Measure Twice Cut Once that is waiting for me to whip up. I’ve cut into some silk from an old dress, and I’m going to have one happy booty.

Phew.. Good to get all that out of my head and on to paper!

How does it differ from others of its genre?

A bit of Evans handmade wardrobe, he calls them his lion trousers, his Frank Side-bottom shirt, and his pirate waistcoat

A bit of Evans handmade wardrobe, he calls them his lion trousers, his Frank Side-bottom shirt, and his pirate waistcoat

My blog is only 6 months old, and so much of what I want to set out to achieve I haven’t really accomplished yet. My main plan is to focus on offering sewing patterns for boys, as I’ve personally found there is a lot more choice when it comes to making clothes for girls than boys and it seemed to be a real gap I could step in to. By the end of the year I’d like to have four free downloadable patterns for boys, and increase this to 10 by the end of next year. I’ve got a cowboy shirt pattern out in a few weeks, and my waistcoat sewing pattern is also available for download now. In between I’d love to stand out and be different, but mostly this blog is about something I love doing, and I try not to get hung up on being unique, just myself.

How does my writing process work?

Part of my sewing library

Part of my sewing library

It’s really just a matter of grabbing spare time when I get it, and making the most of every minute. I am sometimes lucky enough to get a four hour chunk of time to dedicate to my blog, but mostly it’s 30 minutes here, 50 minutes there, so a lot of my writing is done in small intense bursts. I’m an interval blogger. I usually have a few ideas for posts floating around my head, and I keep track of them on a spreadsheet content planner which I *try to* use to be more organised. However, I should update it more often, I’m quite lazy about it in reality.

When it comes to writing a post, I start out by setting out some headings of the areas I want to cover. I use a lot of bullet points to note down in each section what I want to say and things I want to mention. I find this method works for me, as I can add to it if I remember something at a later date. I also have a think about images before I begin, and these can inform the writing, but are mostly used to illustrate key points within the text. I make a list of these too so I know what to shoot when it comes to photography time.

Once I have a rough outline, I write the body text in a draft version. My previous written cues help to jog my memory and I turn them in to prose. Quite often this can take me a few days. Once I’ve got a 1st draft I add in the pictures, check I’ve included all the links, make sure it reads ok, and move text around a little. I’ll quite often re-write sections to make them read better, and then finally run a spelling / grammar check.

I’m usually really impatient by this time and just want to get my post published, but I try to tell myself there is no point putting in all that effort if you skip the stuff that makes your blog look polished and professional. I spend a little bit of time making sure my SEO data is filled in and images are exactly how I want them (I often try and optimise an image for Pinterest if needed). Then it’s time to hit that publish button. Hooray! Done for another week. I do a little bit of promotion on Twitter and Pinterest, but really don’t tweet a post more than once or twice because I think it’s spammy. Unless it’s a free pattern in which case I’ll put a little more time in to sharing my work.

This process can take me awhile, and I envy people who can blog really quickly, but at the moment this is what works for me, and fits around my full time job and life with a toddler. Full on fun!

Not really relevant, I  just wanted to show off this gorgeous pair of vintage pinking shears I found at a car boot sale

Not really relevant, I just wanted to show off this gorgeous pair of vintage pinking shears I found at a car boot sale!

My nominations


1. Simona from Sewing Adventures in the Attick.

I chose Simona because she was one of my first sewing friends, and it has been a pleasure getting to know her. Simona lives relatively local to me, and is an amazing seamstress who bowled me over with her sewing enthusiasm and talent :) Her handmade wardrobe is adventurous, bright, and full of bold floral prints (despite Simona insisting she doesn’t like floral prints). Most of all it’s fabulous.


2. Louise from Thread Carefully
Louise also lives fairly close to me, (I’m keeping it Yorkshire!) and is one of the lovely people I have met since starting my blog. She has children like me, but gets much more sewing done. Louise started up sewing 6 years ago, and is living proof of how good you can get in a relatively short space of time. I like her commitment to making the inside of her garments as pretty as the outside.

Check out Simona and Louise’s blogs, and look out for their blog hop posts next Monday. I’m really looking forward to an insight in to their sewing worlds.

Thank you for hopping by!

Happy sewing everyone!

Happy sewing everyone!

Getting to know my overlocker at the Yorkshire School of Sewing

Hello friends,

I’m actually writing this via a real pen and paper! So far all of my blog posts have been written direct on to wordpress, I suppose it just makes sense to write it digitally, edit drafts, and have Google at my fingertips and images to hand.

Now, there is a reason for this change to my normal process, and it’s not a romantic nod to the art of letter writing. It’s bad news. My computer is broken! :( I have a whole orchestra of tiny violins playing right now. Dramatic I know, but it’s my iMac, and I am very attached to its sleek silvery loveliness and depend on it for everything. Family aside, it’s the first thing I’d save in a fire. For sure.

The good news is, I think it’s fixable, and it’s now having its chips resoldered at the aptly named computer repair shop, Return of the Mac. They had me at the name alone. Here is a little flashback for you. Mark Morrison’s Return of the Mack was number 1 in the UK charts in 1996, but only reached number 2 in Americas Billboard chart being held off by Hanson’s, MMMbop. I never quite worked out where Mr Morrison was actually returning from?

So with this technical setback, I’ve had to delay my pattern release, and it’s been difficult to blog, but strangely enough it’s been a nice break. Kind of like a holiday from work when you get time to relax and catch up on all those odd jobs you wanted to do. I’ve read more books, completed more sewing projects and seen more friends. Like when a partner goes away, I’m enjoying the space, but I’m sure when it returns in a Mark Morrison style I’ll have a new deeper understanding of what it means to me and I won’t take it for granted. I’ll definitely be backing up my data more often and powering down more. So for now, you are all my penpals, and who knows? I may get used to writing more often on paper. How many of you blog on paper first? Or perhaps you have other methods of getting your thoughts down? I would love to hear about your creative process.

So, moving on to the main event. I do actually have something to say apart from weeping over broken hardware. I want to tell you all about a recent course I went on at the Yorkshire School of Sewing, run by the lovely Gillian Hargreaves.

Day at the Yorkshire School of Sewing

I attended a course called ‘know your overlocking machine‘. I’ve only owned my overlocker since December. It’s a Toyota SL 4 thread overlocker and I picked it up second hand but hardly used for £80. I’d already used it on a few projects, and painstakingly worked out how to thread it through trial and error. I’ve only really used it for finishing seams though, and on cotton, so I felt this course would have a lot to offer me and help build my confidence with my new machine. It does look a lot scarier than a sewing machine that’s for sure! Here is what we covered:

Getting to know your overlocker

Me and my overlocker are now good pals

Me and my overlocker are now good pals

We looked at all the switches/dials/levers/knobs and mechanics of the machine and identified stitch width, stitch length, differential feed, the upper and lower loopers, tension dials, the knives and rolled hem setting. There were three of us in the group. Myself with my Toyota and 2 other ladies who had a Jenome. It was interesting to see the different set ups of the different branded machines, and Gillian made sure we each understood our own overlocker. My machine was easier to thread than the Jenomes because it opened up at both sides to give easier access to the mechanics, however my machine didn’t have a differential feed setting or a rolled hem function (I’ll come back to this later). We got pretty hands on with our machines, and just as well because Gillian had us removing knives, feet, changing needles and replacing needle plates. Gillian encouraged us to mark our machine with post it notes to help jog our memory.
I marked each dial and noted down my standard settings which really helps to save time

I marked each dial and noted down my standard settings which really help to save time

Threading your overlocker

I was the only one in the class who had threaded their overlocker before. (Yay, brownie points for me!) but I must admit I do find it a pain in the proverbial from time to time and despite my best efforts sometimes we just don’t get on. So it was relieving when Gillian explained that overlockers have a reputation for being disobedient and naughty. Oh I’m sure we all have our stubborn moments. Gillian gave us a few tips on how to stay sane when threading your overlocker:

  1. Patience is key, sometimes they just don’t want to play ball. You’ll get there in the end. Have a break and come back to it if you need to.
  2. Use good quality thread or you’ll find it’s more likely to snap and you’ll need to re-thread more often. To tell if a thread is good quality you can squeeze it. If it feels firm and does not give way the thread is usually good. Another note on thread is that it deteriorates over time. So don’t be tempted to use that vintage thread your granny gave you. Unless you want a whole world of pain.
  3. It’s usually the lower looper where people get in to trouble with overlocker threading. There is one particular stage in the threading process that is tricky to get to, so consult your manual, master it and you’ll have it down. There is also the most tension on this thread, which makes it more susceptible to snapping.
  4. Am I the only one who feels like I am carrying out a medical procedure when threading my overlocker? Tweezers!

    Understanding tension, stitch length and stitch width

    Gillian had prepared samples of cotton, knits, double knits, Lycra, taffeta and georgette for us to practice on fabrics of different weight and characteristics. She gave us guidance with our tension settings but encouraged us to problem solve ourselves and understand which dial(s) to change. When we were happy with our settings we kept a swatch of fabric and pinned it to a piece of paper with the tension settings written on it. These act as a most helpful reference and time saver if you come to work on a similar fabric in the future. She also asked us to experiment with different stitch width and stitch lengths on a swatch, to find out which suited our fabric type. This is a useful exercise to do when working on any new fabric to make sure you get the best stitch possible.

    Tips on getting a good stitch

    • Keep a note of different dial settings for each fabric you use. This can act as a reference for future projects
    • Take a piece of fabric and spilt it in to 4 equal parts with a marker. On one side test the stitch length, and on the other test the width. Choose which ever setting you find most pleasing
    • Adjust the tension dials delicately. Just a small adjustment can make a huge difference. Try in 1/4 turns

    I had quite a lot of problems with getting my tension right. I managed to get a good stitch on the medium and bulky fabrics, but I just couldn’t get it right for the knits. Gillian was very patient and even though I wasn’t satisfied with my efforts in class, Gillian encouraged me to persevere and practice. She assured me I’d get there in the end. I came away thinking that I need to set aside a couple of hours just to fiddle and play with my overlocker, without the time pressure of sewing a garment. Did all you overlocker whizzes struggle with this at first also? Does anyone else have any tips to share?

    See Gillian, I did get there in the end! After practicing at home I got a good stitch on some thin jersey

    See Gillian, I did get there in the end! After practicing at home I got a good stitch on some thin jersey

    I also managed to get a good stitch on some T-shirt jersey too. Getting the hang of this now!

    I also managed to get a good stitch on some T-shirt jersey too. Getting the hang of this now!

    Different stitches and finishes

    Rolled Hem

    Ahh, the finest and most dainty of all hem types and it can be done on an overlocker. I was mildly jealous of the Jenomes rolled hem setting that adjusted the overlocker at the push of a button. For my Toyota I needed to remove the standard needle plate and insert a special, rolled hem plate, which almost looks identical but features a pointy needle like protrusion that provides a surface for the fabric to curl over and be stitched. It works great on light weight fabrics and if you stretch the fabric as you sew you will be rewarded with a flouncy, ruffled edge. Gillian showed us her decorative thread collection to inspire us to be imaginative with our thread choice when doing decorative edges.

    This is a sample of the rolled him we did in class

    This is a sample of the rolled him we did in class

    and the rolled hem from the other side

    and the rolled hem from the other side

    Flatlocked seams

    Flatlocked seams weren’t something I had come across until Gillian demonstrated them, but I realised I had seen the effect on many RTW garments and wondered how it was done. Flatlocking is a technique that produces very flat seams, and 2 different looks on each side. You can choose which one you like best. Flatlocking works by having a very high tension on the lower looper and a very loose tension on the needle. I couldn’t actually get this effect to work in class, but did manage it practicing at home. Gillian showed us an effective technique of weaving some ribbon in-between the stitches to make a decorative trim. Doesn’t it look fab? Flatlocking works best on fabrics which are unlikely to fray.

    Flatlocked seams from one side

    Flatlocked seams from one side

    and the other

    and the other

    Here is the neat trick with Ribbon Gillian showed us. You pull ribbon through the stitches with a loop turner to get this effect

    Here is the neat trick with Ribbon Gillian showed us. You pull ribbon through the stitches with a loop turner to get this effect

    Overlocking complex shapes and necklines

    Gillian showed us methods to secure our ends, sew in a circle and a neat little trick to serge a neckline which gives a lovely flat finish.

    A quick and easy jacket made entirely on the overlocker

    Here is the jacket I made in class. It's still waiting for a fastening, but apart from that complete

    Here is the jacket I made in class. It’s still waiting for a fastening, but apart from that complete

    So the piece de resistance and the part of the class I was looking forward to the most were to sew a casual woollen jacket, entirely on the overlocker, in under an hour! Phew, the sun was beaming hard through the panes of Gillian’s conservatory and it really felt like we had a literal sweat shop going on for the last hour. Making woollen jackets in 24.C heat in July did feel a bit odd, which would really be my only criticism of the course. It would have been nice to have made something more seasonal, that we could take home and wear.
    We used one of Gillian’s self drafted patterns, which comprised of a back piece, 2 front pieces, a collar and some sleeves. She asked us to bring a boucle style fabric, but I chose a woollen blend I’d cooed over at Leeds Market but never really knew what to do with. We used 1.5 metres for the project which cost me £6.


    Now to be honest, the jacket isn’t really my style, so I’m not sure how much I’ll actually wear this, but I’m over the moon with it for demo purposes, and that I can say I made it entirely on my overlocker. After having a shaky start to the course and having trouble with my tension settings, I felt like I sailed through the last hour and constructing the jacket was childsplay. I really got a feel for how quickly garments can be put together and how overlockers can speed up your work. It came together in minutes, and has given me the confidence to go ahead and make more entirely overlocked garments. I’d like to try leggings next.

    Not sure what I'm doing in this photo. Trying to cast a spell or something? Perhaps to the fashion gods to ask for advice on what to wear this jacket with. The skirt does it no favours ;)

    Not sure what I’m doing in this photo. Trying to cast a spell or something? Perhaps to the fashion gods to ask for advice on what to wear this jacket with. The skirt is not the best combo ;)

    Further overlocking tips from the day

    • Always read the manual that comes with your machine, it really is worth the time it takes and will help you understand your individual machine
    • Get creative with threads. If using a more expensive thread you can usually get away with using it just on the upper and lower looper, and a matching, regular thread for the needles
    • Twin needles can also be used to give a double line of stitching
    • Experiment with serging with and without the knife engaged. Sometimes you’ll get a better stitch when the knife is not on
    • Clean your overlocker regularly to keep it in good working order. If you have a blow setting on your vacuum cleaner this is a good way of cleaning your overlocker
    • If your overlocker has dials, these can be cleaned with a cloth dipped in gin to remove the lint build up. Just wipe it through the sides of the dials
    • Always keep your fabric pulled taut when overlocking, which will help to get a better stitch. Unless stitching a stretchy fabric like jersey

    Summary and course details

    Looking back, the day was a whirlwind of information, failed attempts, intense heat, good company and a completed handmade overlocked jacket! I didn’t realise how much useful information I had actually retained until I wrote this post and reflected on it all. A good sign is that I also took another look at my overlocker book ‘Sewing with sergers‘ and it all made so much more sense than it had before attending the course. I am definitely a practical learner and having it all demonstrated and explained in person seems to engage my brain much more effectively. The book is still great though, and will now be a fantastic companion to my new knowledge.

    So, many thanks to the marvellous Gillian at The Yorkshire school of Sewing. If you are in the Yorkshire area and want to brush up on your sewing skills she offers 14 different courses to suit most sewing styles and abilities, in both Leeds and Harrogate. Her one day courses are £75 a day, and some of her more specialised courses like the ‘Classic Chanel Style Jacket Class’ are £150 for 2 days. Gillian is a real gem of a lady. Her passion and love of sewing, combined with her vast teaching experience make her a fantastic tutor. I whole heartedly recommend a visit, and whilst you are at it, come and say him to me.

    Have any of you visited the Yorkshire School of Sewing? Or taken any other sewing related classes? As someone who is almost entirely self taught, I feel classes are a great way to accelerate my normal learning speed and give my knowledge a boost. Which will hopefully result in better garments?

    Oh and I almost forgot! I promised you all birthday cake photos! I was up until 1am making my sons 3rd birthday cake, and what I deducted is that people who decorate and make cakes are amazing, and sewing is so much easier.
    It was really fiddly and I was on far too much of a sugar high to keep a steady hand. Still the kiddos were happy and that’s what matters.
    Mr Men Cake

    Happy 3rd Birthday my little munchkin!

    Happy 3rd Birthday my little munchkin!

    Happy stitches everyone :)