The Good Life

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I have a confession to make – I don’t really do holidays. That sounds a bit sad when you write it down but it’s not that I don’t like going on holiday, it’s more that I don’t really have the time to go away for weeks at a time. So we tend to do smaller mini-holidays instead.

We had such a one a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Good Life Experience. It’s a kind of festival for ‘grown-ups’. Not that there wasn’t alcohol and late nights involved don’t get me wrong! But it was so much more than just getting hammered in a field (and I’ve done my fair share of that too!).

It really is about the good life – no not the Tom and Barbara variety –  the GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. And it was another chance for us to use our new bell tent that has a stove – yes a tent with it’s own heating! I can’t tell you what utter bliss this is.

 

The festival is run by a team that include Cerys Mathews, she of Catatonia and now 6Music and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone who started Pedlars -(yes I do have a wish list) and is held at Charlie and Caroline’s pad in Flintshire – Hawarden Castle.

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The walk back from the Old Castle and the view of the current Hawarden Castle.

My Charlie, or @thetallphotographer as some of you might know him, was one of the photographers for the festival which meant we could get in early and joined in the singing at the old castle with Cerys and Sills & Stich. We were creating the beginnings of a festival choir that would continue to grow over the weekend. It’s incredibly uplifting being part of a group of singing people. Not that I can sing particularly well but hiding in amongst lots of other voices is very encouraging.

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A bit of a sing-a-long with Cerys and Sills & Stich

The views from the old castle were just stunning and we could see over the rest of the festival and the field of official Bell Tents.

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The view over the festival from the Old Hawarden Castle. You can just see our bell tent right at the back.

It was such a chilled and relaxed atmosphere, everyone was chatting with people they had just met and it was wonderful to just go “ Ahhhhhh” with a G&T in hand. What was even better about this festival was that there was so much ‘other stuff’ going on. There were talks and readings, bush craft, cookery demos, craft activities to try out, lots of amazing festival food, unusual music to listen to, loads of stuff for kids to do, even dogs are welcome too!

I joined a peg weaving workshop and made a surprisingly warm and comfortable cushion/mat thing. Great for sitting on cold camping chairs.

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A bit of peg weaving with Nellie and Eve

I met people I had only chatted with on Instagram and Twitter who were all lovely, including Sara Tasker whose daughter is called Orla as well. She was giving a talk on Instaphotography – yes there is such a thing!

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Sara Tasker looking incredibly Glam in a lovely summery dress and wellies – Charlie is there doing his thing too.

I joined in with the Oh Comely Book Club – I hadn’t actually read the book they were discussing yet, it’s called Strange Heat Beating by Eli Goldstone,  I have it on my kindle ready go.

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The Oh Comely Book Club

I listened to the wonderful Michael Rosen, who held a whole tent of kids and adults completely rapt with his stories.

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I threw axes and wasn’t really rubbish at it! I hit the target more often than not and I really enjoyed it – now where do we keep the axe at home?

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No this isn’t me and it isn’t a dead horse in the background either. Ha ha ha 

I wore my wellies the entire weekend – yes it rained and was muddy but hey this is Wales in September what do we expect?

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And…. I want to go back next year. I loved it. I know spending a wet weekend in a tent isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time (you don’t have to camp by the way, there are weekend tickets too and you can just stay in a local hotel). But it only rained at overnight and I got to listen to the tawny owls in the woods nearby and of course spend some time with my love.

You can order early bird tickets hereIt is a wonderful festival full of inspiration and joy I hope you get the chance to go sometime, maybe I’ll see you there next year?

Jules x

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Apples, Oranges, Pears, Bananas

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Would a size by any other name fit the same? I know I’m badly mis-quoting Shakespeare here but listening to a programme on iplayer the other day prompted me to think about dressmaking pattern sizing as opposed to commercial clothing sizing.

Surfing through iplayer to find something interesting to listen to the other day I stumbled upon a programme called More or Less. One of the topics covered in the programme was on clothes sizing, something that I get asked about a hugely in our workshops.

It was only a short piece but rather interesting, you can listen to the full programme here and the piece about sizing starts at 19.45.

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Commercial sizing hasn’t been around that long at all really, as before the Second World War clothes were mainly tailor made, made at home or were bought from department store or catalogues and then altered.

In the 1950’s the UK Board of Trade did an enormous survey of women’s measurements in an attempt to try and standardise it all to encourage women to shop for stuff and aid the flagging economy after the war. However, due to the huge number of sizes needed to cater for the majority of the population, that was just unworkable.

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This is one of the main reasons the fashion industry has to work with averages. If the bust size of the smallest customer is X and the Largest Y then the measurements in between need to be divided pretty evenly to create a ‘range’ of sizes to cover most people and are usually labelled 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc.  But to be honest it might as well be apples, oranges, pears, bananas, as the name of the size has absolutely no bearing on the actual measurements.

So, if we can accept that the names of the sizes are not directly connected to our body measurements and don’t really mean anything relevant,  it all sounds pretty doable – right? Except when you bring into consideration the more modern concept of the ‘target customer’.

Designers and manufacturers all have their own specific target markets. Top Shop’s range is about age 16 -25 young slim and athletic frames. While White Stuff is more 25 – 55 with a slightly more mature figure (that’s euphemism for a fatter tum!). Evans and other brands may cater for even more specific demographics, but each has their ideal customer.

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Going by exact body measurements the population would comprise of the 126 different sizes mentioned int the Radio 4 piece, but do you really want to be described as size 114 or size 0? I don’t think I would to be honest. Each group of customers, rather than being differentiated by individual size, has appropriated the ‘normal size’ banding of 8 -26  so a size 12 from Top Shop will of course be different from a size 12 in White Stuff or Evans, yet they are still all called ‘size 12’.  And so ‘vanity sizing’ has appeared to become the norm.

Although I don’t necessarily think this is all bad. I am careering headlong into middle age with breakneck speed and have the grey hairs and extra inches to prove it, but even if I still had the figure I used to in my twenties I don’t think I would want to shop where my teenage daughter does. My attitude, lifestyle and general outlook on life have guided me to find my own ‘Style Tribe’. I know the brands of clothing that suit me and I know roughly what size I am. I’m not that bothered if the size 16 I wear should really be a size 24 or anything else. If it fits and I feel good – that’s alright with me.

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Perhaps this is where us Independent Pattern Designers have the edge on the ‘Big Boys’. While they are still trying to be all things to all people we can be more specific. Our branding and size charts also reflect who we design for – usually people like us.

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I love the aesthetic of Sew Over It patterns, they have a wonderfully distinct vintage look to them. The same applies to Tilly, her pretty colours and 60’s inspired silhouettes again feed another group of dressmakers. A lot of the time we dip in and out of different ‘Tribes’ too, depending on our moods or occasion. I buy from White Stuff, Boden and Hobbs as well as M&S.  

So does it really matter that sizing is different from one company to another? Granted it’s hard to navigate the choppy waters of sizing on the High Street, but should it make that much difference to us if we are going to be making our own clothes? The information supplied with each pattern includes the body measurements for the different sizes. After all we measure and fit and alter the clothes to suit our own shapes and bodies.

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Don’t we?

Or do we just expect it to fit if we make up a specific size? Most of the time I make up a Toile to check the fit before I make up the final garment.

So what do you do?

Jules x

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Is September the New January

File 05-09-2017, 17 01 48I am wearing a scarf!

I’m also sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee answering emails and generally planing my day and the week ahead. But I’m wearing a scarf – and there in lies the difference.

The mornings are becoming distinctly Autumnal and there is a bit of a chill on the back of my neck as I sit on the bench in the garden, so my scarf has its first outing of the new season.

August has ended and with it the Summer holidays. Gone are the relaxed mornings without having to duck the sniper like bullets of questions fired at me by a sulky teenager late for school. My kitchen table has been an oasis of early morning calm throughout August, as those of you who wrangle teenagers will know – they rarely surface before noon.

September has sidled her way in and every day the changes in season become more apparent. Our tomato plants have heaved their last sigh and the few remaining fruits have turned a beautiful golden orange. Our Elder tree has almost been picked clean by the starlings, save the ones I managed grab. And my youngest is back to school in her last year of High School.

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The last of the tomatoes.
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What’s left of the elderberries.
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Orla and Sugar

The wheel is turning – but I rather like that.

I rather enjoy the ending of something you have enjoyed, but know will return. It’s the opportunity to  say “thank you, see you again soon” and then “Hello again, back already” to what is to come with all that Autumn has to offer.

I really enjoy making plans for the new things that are to come. Friends of mine lament the loss of Summer and the longer light evenings, but there is nothing nicer that coming home lighting the fire and cosying up as the evenings becomes darker and the weather more inclement.

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The change from Summer to Autumn around September time is far more pronounced than the actual New Year in January, for me at least. After all the 1st January is still mid-Winter, but maybe it has more to do with the new academic year starting. Traditionally children were given the summer months free from schooling to help their families with the harvests. Then when all was safely gathered in they had to start back again. So I suppose it all links together somehow.

My sewing plans are changing too. Some of the projects I really want to make have had to go on the “next year pile”. But that gives me space to focus on other projects that need to be prepared and started in readiness for the Winter.

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The lovely winter coat I have been using for the last 10 years has finally given up the ghost so that is a project I need to complete fairly swiftly!

I’d like some new trousers, slim legged but not sure of the pocket detail yet.

The Julia top, lengthened is easy to throw on over jeans, so a couple of those in some new French Terry or quilted jersey would be great.

I also fancy a new dress. Maybe one with a waist seam and pockets? Where’s my sketchbook I feel some designing coming on…..

What are you planning on making this Autumn? I’d love to know.

Jules x

The Day We Went To Brum

File 04-09-2017, 16 47 57Thank you so much to all of you that come to meet us for a bit of fabric shopping in Birmingham last week.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces waiting at Stratford Station and waving out of the window attracted a few more to join us at a couple of the stops on the way.

We met more people at Saint Martin’s Church, familiar faces and some new ones too.

The Rag Market was our first stop and to be honest I could have spent all morning in there.

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Looks like the ladies have found something interesting, and it’s not like they’re posing or anything!! 
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There’s even more fabric in the market outside too!

Then it was lunch at Browns while we shared our fabric finds. Luckily we missed the main shower – or so we thought. 

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As we headed over to Barry’s Fabrics the heavens opened and a rather sodden group of sewists arrived to drip all over even more fabric.

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This is definitely one for a “caption competition” !

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The last stop of the day was Fancy Silks to drool over yet more gorgeous fabrics. Although I had spent my quota already so I may have to come back again soon.

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The sun shines on the righteous!

I think the day was held up as a resounding success and everyone enjoyed themselves hugely,  including me.

The general consensus is that we need to do this again as fabric shopping with other fabric minded people is SO MUCH more fun!

So watch this space as we will be organising another one before Christmas.

Jules x

 

How to Make a Fabric Necklace

IMG_0681I’m often asked in the shop or at shows where I get my necklaces from. Well, I make them! And they are really easy to do, so I thought I would show you just how easy they are.

You’ll need :

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A fat quarter of fabric

6 polystyrene balls about 2 – 3cm in diameter

Matching thread

IMG_0656Measure around a polystyrene ball to get its circumference. In my case it was 6.5cm. Add on the seam allowances of  2cm. This gives you the width of the strips of fabric you need to cut as 8.5cm.

 

Cutting

Press and lay out the fabric so it’s nice and flat. If using several layers line them up so the selvedges are level.

IMG_0657I often find they are so quick and easy to do you can make several in one go by layering up the fabric and cutting 3 or 4 layers at a time.

IMG_0658Cut bias strips from the fat quarter the cutting width you need. Cut enough strips to sew together to make about 1m. In this case it was only 2 strips needed.

IMG_0659Sew the strips together by lining up the first strip with the right side up horizontally. Then place the second strip with the right side down, vertically over the end of the first strip.

IMG_0661Sew diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Trim down the seam to just under 1cm.

IMG_0662Then press the seam open and flat.

IMG_0664Fold the bias strip in half lengthwise with the right sides on the inside.

IMG_0665Sew a seam just under 1cm along the raw edges to create a tube. You don’t really need to pin,  you can use your fingers as pins to hold the layers together as you sew.

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Turn the tube the right way around. I’ve used a rouleau turner here but you could pin across one end and push it through with a pencil instead.

 

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Use the latch on the loop turner to poke through the folded edge of the fabric.
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As you pull the loop turner down into the tube the latch closes and brings the edge of the tube with it.
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A bias strip of Cumberland sausage

 

In the middle of the length of bias tube, tie a knot.

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Then thread a polystyrene ball down the tube until it hits the knot.

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Tie another knot keep the poly ball tight up against the first knot.

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Repeat so you have 3 balls one side of the centre knot.

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Then thread a poly ball and tie a knot on the other side of the centre knot. Repeat the process again so you have a central knot with 3 balls either side and 3 knots holding them in place.

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Cut the ends of the tube off so they are level.

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Tuck in the raw edges and slip stitch them closed. Give the ends a quick press to help them sit flat.

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Now you can tie the ends together to wear your necklace

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Happy Sewing!