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.

Emy Sews Vintage Casual

One of the many things (and there are many) that I love about wax print fabric is that it comes in lengths of six yards (5.5m), so there’s always plenty of fabric to play around with. You’ve seen this particular pattern before, because I used it to make my friend Simo some shorts, and then I had enough left over to make myself a skirt.

Ta da! The pattern is from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual – and I LOVE this book. Love, love, love. If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard of Gertie, you should go to her blog, stopping on the way only to order her books. The first one is called Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, and I also x4 love it. Each books comes with patterns – shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, trousers… all with a serious vintage vibe and a multitude of suggestions for personal touches. But you know, even though I want to make almost all of them, the patterns aren’t my favourite part of the books. My favourite part is the sheer wealth of sewing information: drafting! Fitting! Tailoring! Honestly, I find a new little bit of information every time I pick it up.

The pattern I used was the Flared Skirt. In the book it’s made in striped sateen, and Gertie also gives two variations: an A-line mini skirt and a quilted skirt with flannel lining that is on my to-make list. The pattern is very simple and the instructions are very clear, so this is a quick make. I actually think if I make it again I’ll add a waistband so that I can tuck tops in easily if I want to.

Hey guess what? I pattern matched. This is the centre front seam in the middle of the blue bamboo thing. I was very impressed with myself, because pattern matching usually just makes my brain sore and I give up.

OK, so I had a bit of a hemming nightmare. I actually don’t really know what happened, but instead of being even, my hem pulls up at the sides. Hmm. I think this is because I didn’t have anyone to help me measure  pin, and I haven’t yet investigated in a mannequin. I don’t think it is too noticeable when I wear it and am walking about, so I haven’t lost any sleep over it. Next time I’ll recruit an assistant!

One thing I really liked about the hem was the finishing: in Gertie’s book, she suggests using “hem lace”, but unfortunately I can’t seem to find a UK stockist of that. If you know one, please comment IMMEDIATELY and let me know. I did, however, find some really cute lace-topped elastic in a charity shop for £1. I think it actually might be knicker elastic? I decided it would do as a stand-in, and I think it looks really cute.

So there we are, a skirt that, thanks to the English weather, I am unable to wear for the majority of the year. But I am very pleased with it anyway!

You might have noticed that I made matching bangles and earrings – a “how to” is coming on Quick Tricks soon!