#readingissexy – Lingo

Languages! You speak one. Maybe you even speak more than one. I speak either two (English and German) or four (also Russian and French), depending on how generous your definition of “speak” is. I also like to dabble in bits of other languages whenever I can. Cheeky Swedish course? Check. Read some Harry Potter in Dutch? You betcha. So when I missed my bus home last winter and I was sheltering from the cold in Waterstones, this little fella caught my eye:

Languages scare English native speakers. I know, I know. I’m a trainee German teacher, and I am fully aware that a lot of people think that they “can’t do” foreign languages. Firstly, that’s not true at all. And secondly, I promise you don’t need any advanced linguistics training to read this book.

The writing is great. Sharp, funny, clear. And the book changes style from chapter to chapter – some of it is written in the style of a propaganda broadcast, some as a conversation between a woman and her doctor, and some are straight up explanations. Each chapter takes on a different language and examines a particular aspect of it, from crazy spelling to fast-talkin’ natives, including words that language has contributed to English – and some that we should think about adopting.

The book covers a good mix of languages – including ones I’d never heard of, like Galician and Sorbian; ones I’ve seen but know nothing about, like Hungarian and Scottish Gaelic; and everyone’s old favourites, like French and Spanish.

I haven’t been able to find all that much information on the author, but I believe English isn’t even his first language, which makes the writing doubly impressive. Seeing as you’re reading this, you can’t be opposed to a blog or two – and you can check out his blog, Language Writer, here. (Of als je wilt, de nederlandse versie.) And for my part – I think you should go and buy Lingo now.


A casual spot of pattern drafting…

I wasn’t kidding when I said I still had some summery posts – although this photo was actually only taken a couple of weeks ago, on a day with particularly obliging weather.

Do you know what the crazy thing about this skirt is? I made the pattern myself. No really. Me. I drafted it. I used to have this wonderful skirt – it was floaty and full without being too huge, flattering yet comfortable, and it could be dressed for warm or cold weather. It’s long since been consigned to the bin, as I wore it until it was falling apart at the seams. But I still fantasize about what a perfect shape it was, and wish I could have more of that same shape skirt in my wardrobe.

Boom! I’d like to include step-by-step instructions on how I came up with his pattern, but honestly, I’m not quite sure how it happened. I started off drafting a circle skirt, but then I thought it would be too full for an everyday skirt, so I measured in about four inches from either side of the hem and redrew the sides to match the waist. Then I drafted a simple waistband – double the thickness I wanted, and a few inches longer than my waist measurement for safety. Then it was just centre and back and one side seam to sew together, waist band to attach, invisible zip to insert, and hem to finish. If any of you would like me to give a more detailed explanation, let me know and I’ll see if I can get a step-by-step tutorial together.

The fabric is a drapey drapey viscose (rayon) that I bought here in Sheffield at Grace’s Fabulous Fabrics in the covered Moor Market. I think it was £6 a metre. They’re always very reasonably priced and have a good range for a little stall, so do go and visit if you’re in Sheffield.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a pain to sew with, because it wants to scrunch up under the machine foot, and the seams can end up weirdly wrinkly. To counter this, I put some strips of tracing paper underneath the seam I was going to sew, then just ripped the paper off afterwards. It seemed to work pretty well stopping the fabric from twisting and slipping. The hem, unfortunately, did not want to be slip stitched into place, and I ended up using some iron-on hemming tape… So far it’s holding up, so fingers crossed!

I know my eyes are closed in this photo! Sorry about that…

I hope to make many many more skirts with this pattern! It’s so comfy, easy to wear, and smart enough for work. So you haven’t seem the last of it…

Quick tricks: ironing board cover

Any of you other sewers out there will already know about Tilly and the Buttons, but for the rest of you, Tilly was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, and has since become a giant of the indie pattern world, with one of the most stylish blogs in the business. Poring over some older posts, I found this tutorial for making an ironing board cover. Our ironing board cover was really on its last legs – burn marks, a rip, an air of tragic desperation… I bookmarked the page straight away.

I had a some lovely purple fabric that I bought out of love, even though I couldn’t think of anything to make with it and the colour doesn’t look that nice against my skin. So this was the perfect project for it! The instructions were dead easy to follow – I cut a little further away from the board than it suggests just to make sure, but otherwise I followed them to the letter. Here are my pretty non-artistic photos of the finished product!

和服 – Simple Sew Kimono Wrap Dress

Today was the first really autumnal evening here in the North of England. As I was walking home from the bus stop today, it was already dark at seven in the evening, the air was misty, I could smell a bonfire a few streets over… And here I am still blogging summer dresses! Readers, I hope you will forgive me a few more summery posts.

Who doesn’t think kimonos are beautiful? I’d love a real one. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese clothing (or anything else), but I’ve seen plenty of photos of gorgeous flowing silk, minuscule embroidery, and of course, those sleeves. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly practical to wear. And as for making one – they can take up to 13 metres of special narrow fabric.

Enter the Simple Sew Kimono Wrap Dress! This has wide kimono-style sleeves and a floaty feel, but I think it’s very wearable. I got my version in Love Sewing Magazine (who don’t sponsor me, honest!), and you can order the back issue with this pattern here. As soon as I saw it, I thought of my friend Simo, who is becoming something of a regular feature on this blog! We chose some fabric together, and I made it up for her.

I’ve yet to meet a Simple Sew pattern I didn’t like. The instructions are really clear and I think their designs are very clever – they’re easy to make without looking amateurish, which my sewing still is… Construction for this dress is very quick – it pretty much involves sewing the front and back pieces of the dress together and then hemming all the edges. Then sew the front and back of the belt together. Boom, done.

Look at that neckline at the back! So elegant! Once again I can’t link to the fabric, as it came from an Etsy shop that no longer exists. Sorry! I’ve been quite useless as tempting you with fabrics recently. I’ll try and step up my game! Although it was cotton, it was actually a bit of a bummer to work with – it was so thin it kept snagging and scrunching up in the machine, and it wasn’t keen on staying smooth post-pressing. It was actually also very see-through – thankfully Simo managed to get away without a slip or lining. BUT – isn’t it pretty?? I love the detail on the feathers and the soft greens.Well, just as with the Matilda dress, once I’d made it for Simo, I wanted it for myself. And Simo, bless her heart, offered to get me some fabric to make my own version. Ta-da! I chose some fabric from John Lewis, the British department store. Their fabric is overpriced but lovely! I’m not sure exactly what the little circles are meant to be – some of them look like little slices of oranges or lemons, but others seem to just be graphic shapes. I also have some in blue, so watch out for that in future posts!I’m happy with this dress… I didn’t really know how to adjust it so it would cover my boobs, I’ll be honest. But I decided I’d rather wear a little camisole underneath, rather than make my own haphazard adjustments and risk ruining my lovely fabric. I think if I make it again I’ll give it a go, though!

And let’s end with a fun language fact: the word “kimono” (和服, as in the title of this blog) literally means “wear thing”. And that makes me happy.