Pulpos

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Octopi! Octopuses! Octopodes! Pick your plural, these guys are the coolest. I mean, check this out:

I really love them – in fact, on holiday in Spain this year I fell in love with a knitted octopus and brought him back to the UK with me – he’s called Pulpo.

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This fabric called to me when I first saw it on Crafty Mastermind (they’re sold out of this colourway, but they have a really lovely black-on-dark blue one as well. Now do I need a coordinating top??), but as it’s Cotton and Steel and I live in the UK, it was a little expensive. £14.40 per metre expensive. Ouch. So, I wanted a pattern that would show off the fabric, but not use too much of it – enter Delphine.

You might remember that I planned to make this skirt in a red fabric back in August – and I actually did. There’s a reason you haven’t seen it though: it was huge. I tried to shape the waistband and somehow seemed to add about five inches to the skirt… I took it in, but the seams looked a mess, and in the end I gave up on it.

So I decided that the waistband would just have to remain unshaped, and cut a straight size eight (Tilly pattern sizes, not dress sizes!!), although I did add a good three or four inches to the length – I like my skirts to the knee.

It’s a very easy and quick sew, although I did finish the waistband facing differently from how Tilly suggests – I didn’t quite understand her instructions (which is a first – they are mostly so clear and accompanied by beautiful photographs), so I just understitched, pressed, folded the raw edge under, and did stitch-in-the-ditch to keep it all in place. It’s also very nice quality cotton, which made the whole experience even nicer.

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I was making this skirt just before SewBrum, and was thinking how lovely it would be to have something fresh off the sewing machine to wear. It struck me the day before the event, however, that I didn’t have a top to match. Uh-oh.

Sorbetto to the rescue! Sorbetto was one of the first patterns I ever made, and recently, when Colette had a “Sorbetto week” on their blog, I altered the pattern a little (FBA, lengthened it an inch or so, and took out the centre pleat) and made a couple of cotton versions that have yet to find their way onto this blog.

So, I had a simple top pattern ready and waiting, and I also had some lovely navy crêpe in my stash. And not just any crêpe – vintage 1930s/1940s crêpe from a wonderful little shop in Sheffield called the Front Parlour. They sell all sorts of vintage things, from women’s dresses, to cigarette cards, to cocktail glasses, to books.

This top was also a super quick and easy make except… I was seriously running out of time. In the end I wore it to the event unhemmed. I mean it was tucked in – so what’s the harm, right?

And I love this outfit! Two super simple patterns, two beautiful fabrics – and some octopi!

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Sew Now, African wax print, and an English country house

This post comes to you in three parts! We’ll start off with Sew Now magazine:

A new sewing magazine! I first saw that Sew Now was about to launch on their Instagram account, and I was excited enough to take a special trip to Tesco on release day. I mean, I love sewing magazines… the ideas, the free patterns, the fabric porn… and I don’t know any sewists here in Sheffield, so it’s lovely to remember that I’m part of a community. Of course, blogging and social media remind me of that too!

I actually think this magazine offers something a little different from the others on the market, because it includes more Ready To Wear fashion. That’s great for me – I don’t think I’ll ever have a wardrobe that is 100% me-made. I admire sewists who make everything from their shoes to their pants to their plain white tops, but I don’t know where they find the time… I think I’ll always supplement with a trip to the shops now and then!

Even if you are one of the incredible people who makes absolutely everything, I still think it’s great for styling inspiration – I sometimes find it hard to visualise what I’ll wear with things I haven’t even made yet. And it’s not just clothes – they have a page of homewear along with a pattern for making chevron cushions. Cool, eh?

It does still share a lot of great features with other sewing magazines, like coming with a free pattern. Which brings me neatly to part two: the Zoe Dress and Top from Simple Sew Patterns.

When I saw the free pattern through the packaging in the shop, I wasn’t really fussed. Nice enough plain dress, I thought. Won’t make it, but I want to see what’s in the magazine.

Fast forward three hours, to me wrestling my cat off the pattern as I traced it. I guess I just didn’t look properly in the shop, because as soon as I took it out of the packaging, my mind started racing. A loose but still flattering dress… nice with a belt… good with tights and boots or bare legs… what about that red wax print in the cupboard…?

The wax print is what really convinced me. I had been planning on making it into a Seamwork Adelaide, but the idea of using it for the Zoe really grabbed me, and I decided I’d best listen to my heart.

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And wow am I happy! The only adjustment I made was an FBA (of which more in a later post), although I did also take a big ol’ seam allowance around the waist to add a little shaping. I love the neckline, the way the sleeves sit, the length… I just love it!

The dress came together very quickly, and would be great for a beginner project – no zips, no buttons, no set-in sleeves… and the original doesn’t even have darts, so unless you make an adjustment like I did, you can get straight into sewing the main seams. I think a lot of people would want to shorten it though – I’m 5’8″ (173cm) and it comes to just under the knee on me.

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As you can see here, there’s a centre front seam that gets topstitched – along with the centre back seam, facing, sleeves, and hem. I used sparkly gold thread – it’s hard to see in these photos, and I actually think it’s surprisingly subtle (but nice!) in real life… and I was worried, because the thread is seriously spangly. Here’s a close up:

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I think the dress looks lovely with bare legs/nude tights, but it’s getting a bit chilly for that here in the North of England… so I decided to go with purple-y tights. I’m hoping that it’s obvious they’re meant to clash and not match… what do you think? The coolest part is that they match the lining of my jacket!

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You might have noticed that these photos are really good. Well a friend of mine, Katherine, does some freelance photography, and I cleverly inveigled her into taking these for me… or, well, she offered and I said yes. If you are interested, you can contact her at katherine.payne@cantab.net

Have I had giant gold gates installed in my garden, I hear you ask? Erm, no. Let’s move on to part three: Chatsworth House.

The house served as the inspiration for Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, you might recognise the house from the 2005 film adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, or the Duchess, another Keira Knightley film based on the life of the fifth Duchess of Devonshire, who lived at Chatsworth. I must say I haven’t ever read that book or seen those films – but hopefully some of you have!

 

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It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the house is MASSIVE. In fact, only part of it is open to visitors – the Cavendish family still live in the other part. It also sits in its own estate with gardens, a farm and farm shop, holiday cottages…

I’m lucky to live close to Chatsworth, but it’s worth a trip even from further away. If you’re making a weekend of it, the town of Bakewell is only a couple of miles away – a really cute English town with old stone buildings and famous pies and tarts. There are also endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, and bouldering nearby.

You pay to enter the house and gardens, but a stroll in the grounds is free – and you get to see some lovely fluffy sheep!

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That’s the river Derwent, cutting through the grounds… there’s a beautiful bridge as you come in, which makes for wonderful photo ops.

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That’s me of course, Katherine of the beautiful photos, and Joe, our friend who was visiting from London. We decided to show him one of the gems of the North, and we got really lucky with the weather: it was chilly, but the sun was shining on the river – and on the gold leaf around the windows of the house…!

They also have the best road sign I’ve ever seen outside the house…

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Inside is as grand as outside – think carved wood, fancy furniture, silk wallpaper, paintings, statues… My photos from inside were rubbish, but Katherine got some good ones of the main hall on her phone… beautiful eh?

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I loved the tiles – I took some pictures of my favourites. Sure wouldn’t mind having some floors like this in my house:

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Apart from being beautiful, the house is very historically interesting. The house was originally built in 1553, at the behest of Bess of Hardwick, but the original building went out of fashion and was completely rebuilt from 1687 onward. The house has belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire (from the Cavendish family, so you will hear them called Devonshires and Cavendishes, which I think is pretty confusing…), and the twelfth Duke still lives there.

And boy do they have some cool statues (these are Katherine’s pictures again):

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So! I feel I’ve bombarded you with both words and pictures, so I’ll leave it here – with a quick note that I haven’t been sponsored to say anything – I’m just an enthusiastic fan.

Little Brother, big Brother

Judging from my blog, my August sewing list might seem like a bit of a disaster: out of seven things, I’ve only posted about one. And that one – my pineapple Lilou dress – did take a long time and a lot of fitting. But I don’t want you thinking I’ve been lazy! I didn’t just give up there…

I made three versions of Ultimate Trousers, each with more fit alterations, but finally admitted defeat and bought Sew Over It’s online trouser fitting course. So more on that at a later date.

My Delphine was almost finished and my first Addison cut out when my sewing machine suddenly started to stutter, skip stitches, and eventually just started snapping the top thread whenever I tried to sew. Uh-oh.

The sewing machine was a little Brother LS-2125, bought second hand nearly two years ago on eBay. It was very basic and complained about sewing zig zag stitch, complained about any fabric thicker than a couple of layers of cotton, complained about sewing buttonholes. But I did love it. I learned to sew on it, I made my first clothes on it… But it wasn’t worth fixing.

At first I was absolutely miserable, because I knew that if I bought a similar machine, I’d have exactly the same problems as I had with my little Brother. But the mid-range, sturdier machines all seemed to be £500 or more – and I couldn’t afford that.

So I dithered around, unsure what to do, and that’s when I happened to see a video Rosabella of Sewn posted, showing her sewing corner, and, in particular, her Singer Confidence machine. An idle Google informed me that that machine cost £349. Hmm. That seemed a much more affordable step up.

So, a short car journey and a traumatic parallel park later, I arrived at Woodseats Sewing Machines Shop and asked to see a Singer Confidence. A little aside here – I really wanted to go to a proper sewing machine shop where they knew their stuff and could advise me; and where I would be able to take my machine if anything went wrong. If you are in Sheffield or nearby, I can’t recommend this shop enough. They were friendly, patient, answered my millions of questions, and showed me what felt like every stitch on every machine in the shop.

They didn’t have a Singer Confidence though… I really wanted to buy from this shop, and I really didn’t want to buy something without seeing it (so asking them to order it in wasn’t an option), so I asked what they had that was similar, at a similar price point.

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A big Brother!!! This is the Brother Innovis 20, and I love it. It was £320 with three years’ warranty, which I thought was pretty reasonable for a digital machine. I won’t bang on too much about the technical details, but it has 40 stitches, including a very nice looking stretch stitch and five different button holes. It also has some embroidery and quilting stitches that I know nothing about. The craziest thing, for me, is that you don’t have to use a foot pedal. You can, of course, but you can also just select a stitch, select a speed, and press “go”. Madness. It also seems to hold up much better with thicker fabric.

So I’ve not finished the items on my list and I won’t manage to make my Ginghamalong entry in time either – but I sure am happy with my new sewing machine.