Archive for Musings

Ooh – new shoes …….

Well that’s not very sewing-y you may say.  But you’d be wrong …..

So the big (shh) birthday came this week.  Much to my surprise I’m feeling ok about it.  We had a lovely family meal at Gallini’s on Swansea marina to celebrate, I bought myself some quad skates (mid-life crisis no doubt) and I had some very lovely presents.  Which leads me to the shoes ….

I’ve been drooling over a gorgeous pair of Irregular Choice shoes for months but they were a bit out of my price range.   I’ve been telling the girls in work about them and how they are so “me” and how I’m going to save up for a pair.  When I got into work on my birthday morning there was a beautiful blue shiny box sitting on my desk.  Inside the box, wrapped in tissue paper sat ……

How fab is that??  With it was a note from my friend saying “I couldn’t stretch to the shoes so I got you the bag instead”.  What a lovely surprise!

When I showed hubby my prezzie that evening he said “well, you’ll have to have the shoes now won’t you”.

And today they arrived!!!!!!


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A Very Good Week :-)

Well, just over a week really …….

……. starting on Good Friday

Hubby took me away for the weekend for my birthday.  Ok, it’s not actually my birthday for a couple of weeks but it was the only weekend he’s not going to be working for a while.  He doesn’t normally take me away for my birthday (not to mislead you that we’re very posh and do this sort of thing all the time) but it’s a big one this year 😦

So to soften the blow he booked us into the Castle House Hotel in Hereford.  Oh it was gorgeous!  You can take a little peep at the suite (yes, I did say suite!) we stayed in here.  What a treat! 

We stumbled across some lovely little sewing/fabric shops while we were there.  Doughtys have three shops in Hereford – one for quilting fabric, one for dressmaking and one for habi.  After a lot of agonising I eventually chose some lovely fabric to make myself a couple of summer dresses.

I got this:

Amy Butler’s “Wildflowers” in Navy.  And this:

Erin McMorris’s “Freespirit” in turqoise.  Yum!

Since I’ve been home I’ve worked on Chloe’s flourescent yellow top and I finished it this afternoon (pic to follow).  She loves it but her dad is rather unimpressed with the colour.  As I pointed out to him, we were wearing the same colours back in our teens and our parents probably thought the same.  (Although I was chatting with my mother-in-law last night and she told me how she wore those colours in her teens too!  Fashion doesn’t just go full circle – it loops the loop!).

And last, but certainly not least, we went to a couple of car boot sales this morning and I picked up som real bargains!

Bargain 1 – teenage girl books for 10p each!  I bought 7 for Chloe so that should keep her busy for a day or so.

Bargain 2 – BRAND SPANKING NEW Fiskars Softouch 21cm scissors for – wait for it – £5!!!!!  Amazon are currently selling them for £14.99. 

The packaging was seriously ratty but the scissors themselves are perfect.  It looks like the people selling them are buying damaged stock because they had lots of different types of Fiskars products for really silly prices.

For those of you living in the Swansea area they go to Singleton Hospital car boot on a Saturday morning and Julian’s (Garngoch) on a Sunday.

We’re off to Gloucester for the day tomorrow – maybe there’s a little fabric shop tucked away ……….

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It’s been weeks and weeks since I blogged last – we’re only just back online. 

I have to say it’s not been a brilliant start to the New Year – just before Christmas our poor house was diagnosed with dry rot.  It’s an absolutely horrible fungus thing that spreads like crazy and the treatment is pretty radical.  So basically, since Christmas we’ve been living on a building site while the builders hacked off infected plaster, ripped up floors and pulled out windows.  Anything of value has had to be packed in polythene to stop the phenomenal amount of dust getting into it.  So I’ve had no computer and no sewing machines for weeks!

The good new is the work is all finished bar the decorating.  The bad news is that it’s cost us a fortune (many thousands!) so hubby and I are thinking up ways of making extra cash.  Think I need to pull my finger out and start doing a few craft fairs …..

Anyway – frogs.  Check out this really fab fabric.  I picked it up in Butterfly Fabrics in Cardiff yesterday.

I’m going to make the bag in Issue 14 of Sew Hip magazine.  It looks nice and roomy, which is good because I tend to carry half a ton of junk round with me.  I’ll get hubby to take a pic of it when it’s finished.

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I’m not quite sure what to say …..

…. which is unusual for me.

I popped into Tesco this afternoon for some post-Christmas pre-New Year milk, bread etc and discovered that the Christmas goods have been pushed right to the end of their aisle and replaced with ……….


Has the world gone mad????

Quite possibly.

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How to make a tutu

It’s that time of year again – trick or treating, fancy dress parties.  Well, the kids anyway – I just get to stay in and make the costumes!

This year Chloe wanted to go to her friend’s party as a “BadFairy” and insisted that bad fairies wear purple and black tutus.  After looking at a few not very inspiring tutus in town I decided I’d have a go at making one myself.

So, armed with a couple of metres of tulle and a bit of elastic and a very vague idea of what I’m doing, here goes ……..


1.  Materials

1m each of purple and black tulle (medium weight)

1m of black elastic (approx 5cm wide)


2. Take your first piece of tulle and fold in half along it’s longest edge, then fold in half again.  Pin.  Remember, your tulle should be roughly 1.5 times the length of your elastic to allow for sufficient “ruffle”.


Then cut along top and bottom folds.  Do the same with your next piece of tulle.

3. Now to create your layers – I decided to have alternate black and purple layers.  Separate the tulle and carefully lay each layer one on top of the other, ensuring the top edge of each layer matches the one below.  This can be quite fiddly as the tulle can slip so you may find it helpful to use plenty of pins as you go along.  If you are using only one colour tulle this step will be a lot easier as your tulle will already be pinned and ready to stitch following the cutting stage.


4. Next you need to sew your layers together.  I decided to use my overlocker (serger) for neatness although you could just as easily use a straight stitch on your sewing machine.  Because I used my overlocker I tacked the layers together first (don’t overlock with pins in your fabric – it gets very nasty when your cutting blade hits one!).


Don’t worry about creating ruffles at this stage – this is done when adding the elastic.


5. Pin the tulle layers evenly across the lower edge of the elastic (about 1cm from the lower edge) leaving approx 3cm overlap at one end.  I added an overlap to make sure the skirt didn’t gape open when worn.


6.  I always find this the scary bit!  Using a medium length stitch sew the tulle on to the elastic.  Because there is a lot more tulle than elastic you will need to stretch the elastic as you sew.  To help avoid snapped needles sew at a medium speed and stretch the elastic either side of the needle.  If you only stretch it at one end you will put too much pressure on the needle.  It’s this stretching process that creates the ruffled look.


7. Finally, I pinned the tutu around Chloe’s waist and then stitched to secure.  I used a zigzag stitch to allow for “give”.

And here’s the finished result – I was really pleased that it was full enough to be able to stand up on it’s own.


Chloe was thrilled as you can see from the pic

Bad Fairy

I was pleased with my first attempt but would welcome any tips for the next time I make a tutu.

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My “cwtch”

Cwtch [pronounced cootch].   (adj) (v) Welsh.

I like the word cwtch.  It’s a nice word.  A warm and fuzzy word.  It’s also a word with more than one meaning.

Now my favourite definition of the word is the verb (to cwtch).  It means to hug; to cuddle; to comfort.  If one of my children fell over when they were little they would want a cwtch from Mammy to make them better.  If I’m feeling chilly in the evening, there’s no better way to get warm than a cwtch from my hubby.  See?  Nice word.  Use it lots.

The other definition of cwtch is the one I want to tell you about today.  It’s also a nice word.  It describes a small, cosy space.  Most Welsh houses have a “cwtch dan stâr” (the little space under the staircase); or if your puppy has been naughty you may tell him to “cer cwtch!” (go to your basket!). 

I have my own cwtch where I sew.  My cwtch is at the top of the stairs outside my bedroom door.  It’s where the landing turns to make a [very little] “L” shape.  My sewing table just about squeezes into my cwtch. 

On top of my table I have my sewing machine; my overlocker; my lamp; my ham & sleeve roll; my magazine holders full of “Sewing World”, “Sew Hip” & “Sew” magazines; my quilting extension table and the thing that catches all the bits from my overlocker.

Underneath the table I have a little chest of drawers full of all my bits & bobs and sewing paraphenalia; my plastic boxes and bags of fabric; my bin and my chair.



(note: the bannister is quite useful to hold “work in progress”)

Ok, not a very organised or practical cwtch (to sew, everything has to be moved and dumped on my bed) but it’s mine.  It’s warm and cosy and quiet and I rarely get disturbed.  It’s where all my creations are – well – created!  It’s where all my disasters happen.  It would be nice to have a bigger cwtch – perhaps enough space so I don’t need to hire a removal van every time I want to stich a hem – but then it wouldn’t be a cwtch……… would it?

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Previous project

This is the project that really kicked off my passion for sewing!  Previously, I’d made the odd dressing gown or pair of shorts (not particularly successfully) but had never felt really inspired.  Then, last year, I realised that Chloe was going to need a dress for her “End of Primary School Prom”.  I really didn’t want to pay silly money for a dress she’d only wear once but I did really want her to have something nice to wear.

So – I enrolled myself on an evening class and set to work!  It took me months to make and was literally putting the finishing touches to it the night before but I was quite happy with the result.

Chloe chose both the fabric and the pattern (with a little steering from mum – tried to keep her away from the really complicated patterns) and was really happy with the result too.

We used McCall’s M4765, which is actually a skirt and a choice of two tops – Chloe chose the version with cap sleeves.  She chose a lovely lilac coloured polyester satin, which went beautifully with her fair colouring.  To add a little detail to the top I layered some lilac coloured sequinned netting over the front and back centre panels.  I had a enough left over to make her a simple little stole too! (I didn’t use the pattern for that – I just squared off the edges of the fabric and finished them with the rolled-hem feature on the overlocker [serger]).

(Daddy took the photographs – a bit of a family event in the end!)

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I’d love to know ….

We all love fabric don’t we?  And we all love to buy it too ~ but what is our favourite way of getting our sweaty mitts on that oh-so-gorgeous printed cotton or sumptious satin?

My personal favourite is to haggle for a bargain with Mad Mike at Lee Mill Fabrics – and to be honest I just love to “touch” the fabric as well as look at it – but there is certainly something very therapeutic about browsing the net over a cup of coffee. 

I’d love to know how you like to shop …

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I really love a good book ….

I bought a fab sewing book this week.  It’s called “The Sewing Book” by Alison Smith and I think it’s really going to get a lot of use!See full size image



It’s got lovely step-by-step instructions on how to do practically anything sewing-related.  Each step comes with its own colour photograph so you can see exactly what you should be doing.  It also explains the properties of different types of fabric which I find really useful (I don’t know about you but I still don’t know my chambray from my chenille!). 

It also has a “Project” section at the back ~ and one of the projects shows you how to draft a simple kimono pattern.  Looking at the instructions I think I may be able to adapt the pattern to create the jacket for the Welsh costume (see last post).  I’ve never tried drafting my own pattern before so that should be interesting!

I can say only one negative thing ~ and it has nothing to do with the book really ~ I bought my copy in Borders because Nat gave me a £10 voucher to say thank you for making the curtains.  The book was £25 so I put £15 of my own money to it (little maths lesson there).  I’ve just looked on the web for a picture of the book to post here and I’ve discovered that the Book People are selling it for £8.99!  What did my mum always say “Act in haste, repent at leisure”?  Oh well, I still really like my book …..

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I think I must be mad …

Honestly, why do I put myself up for these things??

For those of you who don’t live in Wales, we have just celebrated St David’s Day.  If, like me you work in a primary school, that means Welsh Dragon pictures everywhere, leeks, cawl (lamb & vegetable soup) for dinner, Eisteddfods (song, poetry & dance competitions) and, most importantly, little girls dressed in Welsh costumes.

Chloe in Welsh Costume around 2002

Chloe in Welsh Costume around 2002

A few of the teachers mentioned that they’d like to dress up on the day too but adult costumes can’t be bought “off the peg” and cost upwards of £150 to have made specially.  So of course I said “I’ll make some ready for next year for you”.  Nice idea but where on earth am I going to get a pattern???
After a lot of fruitless searching of pattern catalogues I decided to get some proper advice.  I emailed St Fagins, National Museum of Welsh Life who suggested I contact The National Wool Museum in Drefach-Felindre.  Apparently they make the traditional fabric there and also “made to order” costumes so they may be able to help with a pattern. 
I also emailed “Sewing World” magazine.  Julie Bonnar, the Assistant Editor, got straight back to me with suggestions of patterns I could adapt.  Many thanks Julie!  And of course Babs, my lovely tutor, had lots of good ideas too – she suggested using a simple kimono pattern and adapting that to suit. 
I’ve now got about 11 months to work on this project ~ I’ll keep you posted.

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