Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Tuesday Night Craft Club: Barcelona Skirts June 29, 2008

Filed under: Sewing,Tuesday Night Craft Club — lauravw @ 3:09 pm

Last weekend I was busy cutting out pattern pieces to make the A-line skirt and the apron overlay, from Amy Butler’s Barcelona skirt patterns.

Cutting out the fabric was a lot of fun: my parents’ new house has a gallery above the living room, which my mum always said would be a nice place for me to sit and cut out fabrics. Since I was staying with them last weekend, I took all my fabrics and tools and got to work. It was great to have such a big space to work in (and to not be attacked by a cat while cutting!), but the best part was that my grandfather was staying with them too. He is 92, and has had a lifelong interest in making things. His eyesight has faded to such an extent that he can’t make things himself these days (he used to do a lot of woodwork – he made me a dolls’ house, and even built his own kitchen) but he was very interested to see what I was working on and to understand how it would all fit together. My rotary cutter in particular fascinated him.

This weekend I made the apron overlay, and I think it’s turned out really well. The fabrics I’ve used are from the Midwest Modern collection – when we flew off to Seattle, one of the things on my shopping list was fabric to make skirts from. The prints in the Midwest Modern range are probably too pale to really suit me, but I like them and didn’t want to come home empty handed. (Because back in the UK, Amy’s fabrics are twice as expensive and I can only buy them online – nowhere local to me carries them.) I hope I can find some darker prints I like to make a second version of this that suits me better.

Next up is the A-line skirt – I’m a little anxious about putting in the concealed zipper, but I’m sure it will be fine. I’ve never made a lined skirt before either, but know that once I have I’ll be able to use the technique on other projects.

Digging around online, I’ve found lots of helpful information from people who’ve already used the patterns, and so that has been reassuring:

I’ve taken two pictures of my creation, which you can see here and here.


Martha’s visiting …or not June 25, 2008

Filed under: Crafts — lauravw @ 12:37 pm

I was interested to read last week on the Martha Stewart blog (as an aside, do you think she writes it herself?) that she was due to visit the UK this week. The UK authorities have subsequently said she’s not allowed in, which seems to be because of the small matter of the five months she spent in the clink, and I for one am a little disappointed. I had visions of running into her in Marks and Spencers, or perhaps seeing her and her entourage drive past me tomorrow while I make a very quick visit to London.

Anyway, I checked her blog again today to see if there was any news on the situation. There’s not been an update as such, but I was surprised to see that many of the comments people have left have been so negative towards us Brits. Essentially there seems to be a view that because she’s wealthy and does nice things, she should be allowed to bypass the rules. I don’t know enough about the rules to understand whether they are fair and sensible ones, but I don’t like the assumption that people of wealth get to play by a different set of rules to the rest of us.

The Telegraph reports that she’s travelled to Ireland instead, and has cancelled her London engagements.


Made in England June 24, 2008

Filed under: Sewing — lauravw @ 7:18 pm

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where things are made, and who has made them. There was a BBC documentary on last night about the people who make Primark’s clothes – I’ve not watched it yet (I’ve recorded it) but have been reading about it over at the Beeb. Much discussion has been provoked by this article, and there’s certainly a lot to think about.

I don’t know where this leaves me: I don’t own any clothes from Primark (I have always been aware that if a t-shirt costs £4, that means someone somewhere down the line is not being paid very much). But at the same time, I can’t be certain that the clothes I do buy are made by people who are treated fairly and have a safe working environment. Just because I’ve paid £30 rather than £4 for a garment doesn’t mean that extra money has been passed down the line to the people who worked hard to design and make it.

I did a bit of digging today on the websites of companies whose clothes I buy fairly regularly, and found out a bit of information, albeit not quite as much as I was hoping for. White Stuff don’t have any information about how their products are made (though they do seem to have a corporate social responsibility programme, which is positive). Kew say they use factories in the UK, Europe and Hong Kong. Great Plains don’t seem to have anything to say on the subject, while Oasis have an ethical sourcing policy. And Next have an encouragingly detailed set of pages on their ethical trading policy.

This information has at least reassured me that it’s not all bad news, but I don’t know what the situation would have been like if I’d tried to find this information on the websites of the pile it high sell it cheap clothing stores.

There’s plenty more I can do to make sure the person who makes my clothes gets a decent working environment: make the clothes myself. Over the weekend I was cutting out pattern pieces for a skirt I’m about to make, thinking about how this skirt, like others I’ve made, will be made in England. I hadn’t really thought about that side of things before: it’s not just that I will have made my own skirt, it’s that I will know it has been made by someone who gets paid a decent wage (albeit not for making skirts).

But there is a downside to this: I am very picky about the fit of clothes I wear, and I’m not convinced my sewing skills quite measure up… And it’s not unknown for me to get cross and stamp my feet when the things I’ve made do not resemble the wonders I had imagined. So I’m posting here these two blog posts I read today as a reminder to myself that it happens to us all, we all make mistakes, make hideous things – and then we move on:

1. Alicia, creator or all sorts of pretty things, produced this horror of a dress. But look – already she’s gone on to make some lovely skirts as compensation.

2. Florence made a skirt so disappointing she’s not even going to show us – but it sounds like she’s getting over her setback already.


Pretty prints June 22, 2008

Filed under: Shopping — lauravw @ 11:11 am

True Up has posted some pictures of the new Free Spririt fabric line by Erin McMorris, and the prints look great. Meanwhile, Heather Bailey has posted shots of her own new prints, which are also lovely and very bright (I don’t know how Heather gets so much done – there always seems to be something new on her website, and she takes great photos of everything, and…)

And then I read in The Times that Gap have created some dresses using Liberty print fabrics. I went in yesterday and there was nothing to be seen, but the sales assistant told me that they would have some Liberty print shirts by next weekend. She thought the dresses might only be going to the big London store, but if you really must have something designed by Liberty, Kew have a pretty sun top this season which you can buy online.


Up to: make-up edition June 18, 2008

Filed under: Cosmetics,Shopping,Up to — lauravw @ 8:12 pm

While we were on holiday in Seattle (which sadly seems like months ago now…) the very favourable pound to dollar exchange rate was all the excuse I needed to treat myself to a few new goodies.

First up was a blusher by Neutrogena. It’s OK but not outstanding – I think I bought it mostly because of how it looks (a dozen little squares in various shades of pink), but I think to get it to sit in the container in that arrangement, they had to really compress the stuff – so much so that it’s more of a solid than a powder, and as such not that easy to put on. You live and learn, I guess.

Next were two tinted lip balms by Korres – they sell their bodycare range in Boots, but I’d not seen the cosmetics in the UK. Their website is all flash based so I can’t link straight to the lip balms, but they are called lip butters, and I bought quince and wild rose. Both of these are nice, and very moisturising – they don’t have a sticky texture, which suits me. I really like these.

I got three (THREE!) eyeshadows from MAC. I let one of the members of staff there do my eyes for me, which was really helpful in terms of teaching me new techniques (I could do with going back and seeing them again), but the products they used on my eyes were not colours that suited me, and the finish was a bit glossy – not an everyday look. Nevertheless, I bought the shadows they used, worried about it for several days, and then sheepishly returned them and chose some colours myself. On my second visit I think I was a bit embarrassed to be returning things and as a result didn’t make the best choices, but the three shades I bought are nice. One is a pale pink, which unfortunately has led to me being asked if I have hayfever/allergies. The texture of the shadows is excellent though – they are very soft and easy to blend.

While the MAC lady did my eyes, she showed me the brush she was using, and suddenly it became very clear to me that a round, tapered brush is the way to go for blending eyeshadows. I didn’t buy the MAC one because it’s made from animal hair, but I was able to find some good quality alternatives pretty easily. A very helpful sales assistant pointed me in the direction of Origins, whose brushes are all synthetic. This is the one I bought – it’s not quite the same shape as the MAC one, but it works well.

Finally I needed to get some sunscreen for my face. I’ve never bought Clinique products before, but I’ve been very pleased with the City Block Sheer. It says sheer, but it’s a bit tinted and opaque really – which means it covers a few blemishes while it protects your skin. It’s not a moisturiser per se, so I’ve been putting a bit of moisturiser on underneath it every day. I’ll definitely buy some more of this when it runs out, though it looks like it will cost me 25-35% more in the UK. Perhaps I need another holiday…


Tuesday Night Craft Club: Bibs June 10, 2008

Filed under: Gifts,Sewing,Tuesday Night Craft Club — lauravw @ 8:01 pm

I have reached that age where my friends are having babies with increasing frequency, and so I was pleased to find a simple pattern in Bend the Rules Sewing for baby bibs. You need some pretty fabric, some cotton flannel, and little metal fasteners, but that’s all. They were really easy to make, and the budget-conscious side of me was pleased that each one only requires a small amount of fabric, so you can turn out a lot of bibs for very little money.

So far I’ve made nine, and given them away in sets of three. As you can see the fabrics I chose are green/yellow, and I’ve been relieved to see these colours be well received by my friends. (I had worried people would want blue for girls and pink for boys, but that’s not really my taste.)

Someone I showed these to made a good suggestion for a more advanced/complicated version that I think would work pretty well: putting a layer of something plasticky (she suggested parachute fabric, and I can only assume that’s something that can be bought online even if it does sound rather obscure!) so that any spills the baby makes don’t go through the fabric and onto the baby.


Rachel Barker ceramics June 7, 2008

Filed under: Shopping — lauravw @ 11:15 am

We were in Somerset last weekend, and I found a little shop that had some pottery by Rachel Barker. I’d not seen her work before, and found the coriander design very appealing – the shapes of the cups, dishes and jugs are really nice too. You can buy all her work here, and though there’s not much information on her website, she does have a blog.

The shop also had plenty of cards by Angie Lewin, whose work I love. Seeing the cards prompted me to check her website when I got home, and I’m pleased to find out there is now fabric. AND, she too has a blog.