What a lot of news!

I’m back! Happy New Year everyone – I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break.

On New Years Eve I celebrated my 30th birthday. Check out the sewing related presents (Peggy not included) I was given – it seems word has got around!

Can you believe it – there’s an original Singer sewing machine in there!

The celebrations started the day before with cocktails overlooking London from Paramount Bar, and a yummy meal at The Swan.

Yes, me and my sister look very alike 🙂

Then on my actual birthday we had a dinner party at home. Now, I know that many of you have been asking about, and waiting to see the dress I was making for the party. I have a confession to make. It never got made. However, I am hoping my reason will excuse me because…

I’m having a baby! Dave and I are both so excited / scared (what do I know about babies?!!!!), but it did mean that the dress never made it past toile stage. My waist has been rapidly disappearing, and I have just generally been feeling a bit fat (no nice baby bump yet!), which meant that I didn’t feel great about wearing a cinched in 1950s dress.

Instead I had changed the plan to this pattern that my Nan originally made for my Mum.

But the dress was obviously not meant to be. You may remember me being ill before Christmas, which was mostly due to a nasty cold but was made worse due to being pregnant. Unfortunately I had set aside that time to make the dress, so when I was better I had to admit defeat and make a trip to Beyond Retro (no great hardship really). Instead I wore this 1980s (am guessing) crazy jumpsuit thing! The top is velvet with gold fireworks on and the bottom part is plain black something-or-other.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to tackle the whole pregnancy / making my own clothes yet, but needless to say I will be attempting this look…

Rather than this look…

Watch this space!

Image sources

Happy Christmas!

With Dave now on holiday, the Muppet’s Christmas Carol on TV, a fridge full of sprouts, and Michaelangelo hanging on our tree (don’t EVER get one from Homebase people, ours died within a week of buying it and now we are left with a brown twiggy bald thing!!), I think I can now officially wish you all a very happy Christmas!

As I’ve only been blogging a few months, my list of sewing achievements is quite small but I have definitely learnt a lot!

I do however want to say a huge thank you for all the help and support you have given me with my pillowcase dress challenge – especially my Mum and Dave, you have both been brilliant. I will do a proper round-up of the challenge in the new year.

Next year promises to be full of suprises, and lots of sewing challenges I’m sure – I can’t wait!

For now though, I’m off to the panto…..!

Alison x


Tea anyone?

These last few months it has sometimes felt a bit like I’ve gone back in time – I’m back at school with regular lessons, I get half term and now the Christmas holidays, I have homework, and now I have started some work experience! Once a week I have started helping out Anna, who owns women’s wear label Phannatiq.

While our tastes in clothes are extremely different I am learning heaps every time I go. Far from being the tea-girl (I was that girl once. I don’t drink tea or coffee and cannot tell you what a stressful experience I found it), I am finding out lots about how to construct clothes, and getting to try doing new things. I am also getting an insight into the dedication and passion needed to run your own business!

On Tuesday I was tracing off pattern pieces for a toile (rough version) that Anna is working on at the moment.

She began by using an existing jacket toile to mark out the new design.

Each section of the jacket was then marked with a number (think this was more for my benefit than what is normally done!) and I then took the toile and pinned each section flat onto pattern paper.

Using a tracing wheel I traced each section on to the paper.

I then used a pattern master to draw the pattern piece out by following the dots the tracing wheel left.

Although seam allowance still needs to be added, this process created the individual pattern pieces to then make a new toile of the jacket.

My First Pattern

Despite my recent joy at being able to sew for me again, over the last couple of weeks my sewing has annoyingly ground to a halt from being ill.

This little inconvenience has made it quite difficult to think of things to blog about as I haven’t made anything, my lessons have now finished for Christmas, and sometimes I haven’t made it out of bed!

However, I realised today that I had forgotten to share something I was quite pleased with. In my last pattern cutting lesson I finished my first ever real-life proper could-actually-make-a-skirt-from-it-and-wear-it-out-of-the-house pattern!

Way back in September in our first lesson we were asked to choose a skirt we liked from a selection cut out of magazines. The intention then was to learn lots over the term, and be able to turn the photo of the skirt in to a pattern. This is the one I chose:

I chose it both for it’s colour and simplicity, and I think I secretly wished I was the girl in the photo – very glamorous 🙂

When it came to creating the pattern, I started by making a skirt block to my own measurements in full-scale. It’s been rolled up for a while so please excuse my slippers and the fabric at the top weighing it down.

The block is then used to create the master pattern, where you do all your workings out etc. When doing this it became apparent that my blocks weren’t quite right.

Despite measuring myself, I managed to put the hip line in too low (it should be about 21cm, I had put mine in at 25.5cm) and I hadn’t shaped the waistline at the top. I rectified both of these things in the master pattern below.

The photos aren’t brilliant, but hopefully you can get the idea that it is here on the master pattern that I made all the changes to the basic block shape that I wanted to create the right pattern for the skirt. I have made lots of scribbles and notes as to why I have done things.

Essentially it is just a simple straight skirt with a pleat down the front. The pleat is the hatched area on the right.

At first I drew the pleat straight down, but to make it hang better I moved it outwards at the bottom by 1cm. This also moved the grainline and centre front (CF) slightly.

In order to be able to walk easily in the skirt I moved the centre back (CB) line out by 1cm at the bottom, and extended the front and back by 3cm (this is a standard measurement to use, although I couldn’t tell you why!) on each side from the knee. By doing this it meant I didn’t have to have a seam down the back to then be able to make a split for easy walking.

Extending CB out by 1cm

Extending sides by 3cm at knee

As I had decided that I didn’t want the back to have any seams or a zip, I have marked where an invisible zip would go on the left side. Initially I had had it on the right with a seam down the CB.

Once all that jiggling around was done, I taped the master pattern down to the table so that I could then trace off a final skirt pattern, omitting all of the scribbles and things I didn’t need.

So here is my first ever finished proper pattern, with a waistband, all ready to be made in to a real life skirt!

Admittedly it was a much simpler skirt than some others in the class, but it’s nice to see how to put together everything that we learnt in the term. Well done me!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to Kenya we go!

Early this morning Dave and I were packing a suitcase. Unfortunately it wasn’t for us, but excitingly it was for 70 of the Pillowcase Dresses from my challenge!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with suitcase packing, here is a little story board of how we did it 🙂

Today the dresses started their journey to Kenya, where charity Chance to Grow will be giving them to children they support in an area called Kitale.

Dave will be handing over the dresses to Chance to Grow chairman Ben Margetts later today, and Ben will then be shipping them out to Kenya.

Chance to Grow supports an orphanage and school called Great Mercy. Founded in 2001 by Judith Mutange, Great Mercy was built in response to the number of orphans living on the streets and not receiving education in the region. The number of children needing care rose dramatically in 2007 following post-election violence when over 1,500 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in Kenya.

Great Mercy now serves many orphaned children from the region and offers education to those children who slip through the net of primary education. In Kenya, while primary education is free, secondary schooling is not and students must pay fees of around £400 per year. This is more than double the average annual income of a rural Kenyan family.

Families in rural areas are less likely to send their child to school because children are an important labour force. Girls are less likely to be educated than boys and are often married off at an early age. In addition, HIV/AIDS has left many orphans to be raised by relatives, who can’t afford to pay more school fees. The Chance to Grow goal is to support Judith and her team in providing a loving home for children with nowhere else to go, and to provide education for those who would otherwise have no access to it.

I can’t think of a better place for all our dresses to go – thanks Ben and Chance to Grow. I look forward to seeing some photos of the dresses being worn!

The Christmas Elephant

You may remember my evening with charity Awamu, where I made a hanging bird decoration. Well recently I finished the elephant as well, and the Christmas Elephant was born!

Admittedly, the elephant isn’t the first animal that springs to mind when you think of Christmas. Maybe reindeer, donkeys, or even a little festive robin.

However, it seems the Christmas Elephant has long been overlooked. According to Wikipedia, the source of all accurate knowledge known to man, animals in “…nativity scenes include elephants and camels.” Told you! The Christmas Elephant exists!

And for those vintage lovers among us, it gets even better. I have uncovered a 1960s classic piece which I feel must surely prove how important the Christmas Elephant was to people of that era (probs best to listen with headphones if you’re at work!):

And if I still haven’t made my point clear, here are some recent Christmas Elephants having a great time unwrapping their presents at Whipsnade Zoo.

Long live the Christmas Elephant!


What Next?

Now that the Pillowcase Dress Challenge is coming to an end, I am able to think about what I would like to make for me. Me, me, me, me, me!

I still have my birthday dress to make for New Years Eve, and all the patterns from my mum’s collection to go through and choose which one to tackle first.

As well as those, I bought a couple of Vogue patterns in a sale recently (yes, I definitely needed more patterns on top of all the ones I already have).

I got this pattern after seeing the versions that Karen has been making over at Did You Make That? I’m going to New York in February and usually fly in the ugliest, most comfortable clothes I own. Not this time! I found some lovely turquoise jersey on Walthamstow Market which is going to make a super comfy version of this dress. Also having never sewn with jersey before, I thought I would give it a go!

So, the patterns are ready, the fabric has been selected and washed – what’s stopping me?!

More Dresses!

Due to an unforseen bout of generally feeling pretty awful, it’s taken me a bit longer than planned to put up the individual photos of the dresses from Drink, Shop & Do. Still, better late than never, below are the dresses that were embellished or brought along on the night. Considering we couldn’t really see what we were doing as the lights were so dim, they’ve turned out brilliantly!

I have also updated the Pillowcase Dress Gallery with all the new dresses that were made. All the Drink, Shop & Do dresses are from dress 90 so you need to scroll down a bit.

If your embellished dress isn’t in the gallery, it’s because it is already on there in it’s un-embellished form – I just haven’t had time to change them over.

Thanks for a great night!

Despite all my worries beforehand, last night’s Pillowcase Dress embellishing event at Drink, Shop & Do was a great success – thank you to everyone who came and helped out!

For those of you that love stats, here is what we achieved (in the very dim lighting!):

30 People keen to sew
33 Pre-made dresses embellished
20 New dresses brought along by the wonderful Lisa
11 New dresses brought along by other lovely seamstresses

Which means:

131 Dresses made so far – amazing!

If anyone has dresses waiting / nearly made at home I’d really appreciate it if you could try and get them to me by the end of the year, or at least let me know they’re on their way. That way I can announce the grand total! You can email me at spally55@hotmail.com and I’ll let you know my address.

A lovely mix of people came, from those who hadn’t really sewn before, a birthday party, and some fellow bloggers (sorry if I missed anyone) – Dibs, Rachel from House of Pinheiro, Alana from Lazy Stitching, Janene from Ooobop, and Rehanon (who came all the way from Brighton!) from Miss Demeanour Is On The Make.

Thank you all for coming, and for being so creative!

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to speak to a few different charities about taking some of the dresses, so keep checking back and hopefully you will see where your dress ends up! I heard yesterday that the trip to Ghana went well, and the dresses that Jenny took out for me were a great success. Hopefully I’ll have some photos to show you soon.

You can read more about my challenge here, and see other dresses that have been made in the Gallery.

Here are a selection of photos from last night (click on one and they get bigger), as you will see from the last photo I have only had time to sort the dresses into piles, so will show you the finished creations later this week!


Tonight’s the Night! Drink, Shop & Do, 6.30pm

Just a final little reminder for all of you in London, hope you can make the Pillowcase Dress embellishing party tonight at Drink, Shop & Do!

The evening starts from 6.30pm, and you can get directions from the Drink, Shop & Do website, or the map below.

Drink, Shop & Do is only a 2 minute walk from Kings Cross Station at 9 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX.

View Larger Map

Lots of dresses have been made, so put your creative hats on and bring any buttons, ribbons, needles, thread and scissors etc that you think could be used to decorate a dress. If you don’t have anything lying around at home don’t worry as there will be things provided that you can use.

If you would like to reserve a table (especially if there is a group of you coming), then please can you let Drink, Shop & Do know by either calling on 020 7278 4335 or email mail@drinkshopdo.com.

See you later!