Thursday, 14 November 2019

Bling Bling

A while ago I had the opportunity to review some sequin fabric for Minerva. I have never sewn with sequin fabric before and I'm not sure it's an experience I want to repeat often. Don't get me wrong - the fabric is lovely, but it was very hard on my machine needles - I broke loads.

I used this fabric to try out some ideas I had. I fancied a cropped top and jacket. I lined the top with some lovely stretch cotton from 1st for fabrics. and I also paired the top and jacket with a pencil skirt and some slim cropped trousers - both of which were made from the same stretch cotton.

I used Closet Case Ginger Jeans pattern for the trousers and ended up over fitting and almost ditched them, but then I hate waste so I re did the side seams and inseams and they are a perfect - if very close fit.

The skirt is the pencil skirt from Gertie's new book for better sewing - I've made this a few times as it fits my waist to hip ratio well. Due to the stretch of the fabric, I did take this in quite a bit.

I think I made the top just a little too short and maybe needed to keep it at waist length - I have a very long torso so any gap is going to be accentuated!

I have decided that these tops are not really me and will probably end up being gifted or worn by my daughter. The details of the fabric and my full review of it can be found on Minerva's blog.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Hair Raising

I'd like to share with you my experience of changing my hair washing routine to something a little less chemical-laden.

Way back in early August I decided that I would like to reduce my use of plastics in the bathroom and decided that I'd give solid shampoo a go. For my birthday I'd had a selection of goodies from the Ethical Superstore, one of which was this small Lamazuna shampoo bar. I found this bar worked quite well for my hair, but it did leave it quite frizzy, but it felt clean. it is quite pricey at £9.99 and I knew that it would be out of my budget to use this all the time.

At the end of August, I had attended a simple soap making course, which used melt and pour soaps and you added the essential oils and exfoliants. I thoroughly enjoyed this, but after a bit more reading I realised that the chemicals in these soaps are basically the same as the mass-produced ones and I became more interested in truly hand made soaps that are SLS free. I plan to do a course on making these at some point. This made me realise that I needed to buy a natural solid shampoo bar to use to wash my hair.

I tried the Friendly shampoo bar - It's a good price and I knew it would last. However, with just the first application, my hair felt claggy and looked awful. I had heard about transition periods for using this type of shampoo and thought that after a few washes it would be fine. It wasn't! Then I tried Alter/Native shampoo bar and conditioner bar. At first, this seemed much better. The conditioning bar left a silky smooth coating and my hands felt great after using it. However after just two uses, my hair felt clogged up and straw-like - my husband even commented on how awful it looked and I ended up wearing it up all the time. I heard I needed to rinse it out really well and used an apple cider vinegar rinse, but it didn't really help. After a couple of weeks of my hair feeling awful I was getting completely sick and tired.

I began to read more about the experiences of other people and how some found that the transition period could last up to 6 weeks and those with short hair had fewer issues - I considered cutting my hair. Further reading, however, shed more light on the issues I was having - it was all down to the hardness of the water.

I live in an area where the water is slightly hard. This can have a massive impact on the effectiveness of natural soaps. In a soft water area, the soap will lather easily and be washed away without leaving build-up on the hair. In a hard water area, the soap does not lather as well - this is masked in commercial products bu SLS which is a chemical that makes the product lather, but also strips the hair/ body of its natural oils - making you need to wash it more. Hard water areas typically have a build-up of limescale and soaps do not lather - or rinse out easily. So there was nothing wrong with either of the shampoo bars I used - it's down to the type of water.

Further reading led to hear about those who advocated the 'no-poo' method of washing hair. This seems a ridiculous term, but I liked the idea. Some used just water, others shampoo bars and others used just apple cider vinegar rinse. Some people also used Bicarbonate of soda. So before trying yet another solid shampoo that may or may not work in our area, I decided to go for the simple option and use what I already had in the kitchen.

I have settled on a Bicarbonate of Soda wash every now and again and apple cider vinegar rinses in between. I mix the bicarb with warm filtered water and apply to my hair. letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it out with clean water. The ACV rinse is simply 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water, also applied to the hair and then rinsed after a few minutes.

Initially, my hair became quite greasy within about 3 days, but after a couple of weeks, I could last a whole week without washing my hair - tying it up for the last couple of days. I even managed to continue the regime on my holiday in Spain. The water there was super hard and as it was warm I needed to wash my hair a bit more often. So I'm 4 weeks in. I'm not convinced it this will be a long term option for me but at the moment it's working and my hair is in good condition.

I'd love your advice if you've been on this journey and have any pearls of wisdom to share.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Second Summer

I'm not sure we really had the first one but I feel like I've just experienced a second summer. Let me give you a little background.

We don't really do big summer holidays, recently we have been to the Vendee region of France at the end of August and camped with the whole family. It's been fun, but John and I haven't ever really done holidays by ourselves. This year we were determined to get a bit of us time and have managed it quite well. The boys are grown up and both are now at university and more willing to make their own plans. So in the Summer, while our daughter was on a trip to Mexico we had a week away and stayed with our very good friends in Cheshire - we had a great week, but there were a few work issues that John had to deal with, which meant he didn't really relax.

We chatted about getting a last-minute all-inclusive deal, but when push came to shove, we realised that it really wasn't us - we like to do a bit of exploring and to cook and eat local food. Friends of ours have a flat in Altea in Spain and it was free over the half-term holidays. due to our half term being a week later than Scotland it was much cheaper to fly from Edinburgh. So we booked the flights and last Saturday, away we went. The flight was late afternoon and arrived in Alicante, mid-evening, but after the last service bus had departed, so we booked a shuttle bus - slightly more than getting public transport, but efficient and reliable - which was great. We arrived in Altea at about 10.30 and by the time we had found the flat and settled in, it was late- we managed to find a bar that was still open and had a quick beer before getting take out pizza.

I loved the fact that we could get coffee and croissants for 6 Euros on Sunday morning, but there wasn't much open early and all the supermarkets seemed to be shut, however, while John watched the rugby I went off to explore and found an open small shop and managed to get bread, butter, and milk - just to see us through Sunday.

The flat overlooked the beach and promenade and was a great spot for sitting on the balcony people watching and listening to the hustle and bustle of daily life. We ate a restaurant along the front on the first day and had good food.

Over the next few days, we explored the local area - walking the full length of the seafront, heading up into the old town to explore the streets and see the church - which was stunning. We read, listened to music, ate out, relaxed. I swam in the warm sea - Teva's on as it's a pebble beach and tough on the feet.

John took a look at the two bikes that were at the flat and once he had procured a new inner tube we headed off on a morning ride to the Eastern Orthodox church about 5km away. It was a hilly ride and the bikes really weren't up to it - lots of slipped gears, bearing issues and the chain coming off frequently. We made it and the building is stunning - wooden and highly decorated. We arrived in time to do the Northumbria Community morning office and took the opportunity to pray in the church of a different culture to ours. After photographs of the building we headed back on the bikes (much easier back as it's almost all downhill).

It was great to feel the warm sun on my skin and have the opportunity to sketch - I'd only taken a couple of pens and a limited selection of watercolours with me and found I was craving creating something much more substantial. - next time!

I can honestly say it has been a real blessing to have some time in the sun, to relax, to reflect, to breath - I needed this holiday and I hope I feel the effects for a while to come as we hurtle towards Christmas.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Making it Work

I don't know about you, but I sometimes have moments where I wonder if I actually know anything about fabric and sewing. I have those projects that should just work and for some unkown reason just don't. Do you know what I mean?

This project was one of those. All the elements for a successful make were there: stretch cotton, tried and true pattern, all the right notions and haberdashery but somehow - It. Went. Wrong. and I'm still trying to work out what I did that caused the error.

Recently I'd been working on a make for Minerva and had bought some black stretch cotton from 1st For Fabrics to line the top I was making and make an accompanying black skirt. I had enough left over for a cropped pair of trousers.

This cotton is super stretchy - it has a slight sheen and a smooth even surface, it does crease quite a lot, but as it's a stretch garment that isn't too much of an issue. The recovery is good too.

I settled with the Closet Case Ginger Jeans pattern as the base for these trousers - constructing them without all the top stitching as I was making trousers. I also omitted the back pockets. I made the same size that I had done the last time I made Jeans (less stretchy fabric) and made my usual adjustments. I even basted them and tried them on - all seemed well. However, once I had put the waist band on I tried them again and realised they were way too tight. I wouldn't have been able to sit in them.

Cross with myself I threw them in the corner, thinking that they might fit my daughter, if I could be bothered to finish them - she wasn't intreested. I left them there for several days until they were ready to say sorry and I took another hard look at them, determined to make it work. I hadn't trimmed the waistband so that could be taken off and I'd left the full seam allowance on the inseam and outseam. 

I unpicked the waistband from the front to just past the side seams to allow me to adjust them. Then I let out the inseam and outseam by 0.5cm - not much at all, but enough to make a whole world of difference to the fit. Before sewing a second line of stitching to secure the seams, I thought I had better try them on - Hooray, success! I thought to myself as I pulled the zip up and straight off the end of the zipper! DOH! I had forgotted I'd trimmed the zipper tape.

Off I went to my local fabric shop to buy another zip as I didn't have another at home and then proceeded to complete the fiddly task of applying a zip after finishing the fly!

With the buttonhole finally made and a button from my stash and the hems completed, these were finished. I wore them to work last week and got lots of compliments  - they are very slimming! I'm not sure how much wear I'll get out of them before it becomes too cold, but I'm sure these will be a great addition to my summer work wardrobe.

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Assembly Line Hoodie Dress - Summer version

Well August Bank Holiday weekend is upon us and for once the weather forecast is good and warm and this dress is the perfect iteration for warm weather.

When I first made the Hoodie dress almost a year ago I realised it's potential for pattern hacking. I still haven't done all I want to with this pattern yet but this version is my first hack of this pattern.

It wasn't difficult. First of all, there's no hood; then there are short sleeves and the length is shorter. I think this is the perfect cover-up dress for the beach or walking around town. The fabric is a light Chambray from Minerva and you can read my full review of the fabric and what I did over on their blog.

In other news, we have been creative this week. And it's not sewing related!

Yesterday we headed to MBC Ceramics to attend a Soap making workshop - It was the simple melt and pour type and is very easy to do. MBC Ceramics host a whole range of creative courses and I advise you to take a look if you live in NE England and are in travelling distance to Sunderland.

This Morning John made the most epic loaf of bread ever. it looked amazing and tasted delicious with fresh butter.

We've also made our own Greek yoghurt. Surprisingly easy and delicious.

We even dusted off the 6 demi-johns of country wine that have been sitting in the garage for I don't know how many years, fully expecting them to be awful. However, Only 2 demi-johns were not great and we now have 10 bottles of Elderflower wine and 10 of Rhubarb wine.

Right - I'll be back soon, I'm off to eat more of that delicious bread!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Another Saraste Dress

I love this pattern. I love this fabric. Love Love. Love.

This is the second time I've made the Saraste Shirtdress from Breaking the Pattern from Named clothing. The first one was a sleeveless version that was a little shorter than the pattern called for but I only had a short amount of fabric.

This time I made the same version -  a sleeveless dress but this time I made it as the pattern directed. I did forget that the seam allowances are only 1cm and started by sewing at 1.5cm and had to do a bit of unpicking.

I changed up the construction a little from the directions to allow me to fit the dress a little more easily. I received the fabric from Minerva in exchange for my review of it. The buttons were sourced locally from The Sewing Box in Morpeth. I had a few issues finding buttons that were suitable. when I found the right colour, the size was wrong; When the size was right the colour was wrong! However, The Sewing Box came up trumps with these 'day of the dead' style skull buttons.

You can read my full review of this fabric over on the Minerva Blog.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Ginger Jeans Take Two

I made more Ginger Jeans. This pattern is fast becoming a staple and I've just cut out a pair of cropped trousers using the same pattern. I made these jeans to review some slub stretch denim which was sent to me free of charge in exchange for my review.

These have been getting some serious wear this summer and I've had lots of compliments when wearing them. Alongside my Doc Marten sandals, they have become my casual uniform!!
I wore them for pounding the streets of Liverpool and Chester last week while we were visiting our friends. You can check out my full post and review over on the Minerva Blog.

(Top two photos by D. Moncur)


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