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Manequim magazine - February 2015

27 March 2015, 13:29

When this latest issue of Manequim magazine landed in my post box, I had to stifle a laugh and a double-take that I hadn’t accidentally received a copy of Seventeen magazine from my childhood. Could they have possibly chosen a more 1990s, off-putting cover image?? Like, totally!

Here are the Plus patterns this month: a tunic, simple cowl dres (similar to that Vogue Donna Karan one everyone in the blogosphere sewed up!), and a parka jacket.

Are twist dresses done yet? This one feels really similar to a Pattern Magic design, albeit with a novel back.

From the designer (whom I’ve never heard of & didn’t note down) style section this month, a cute little skort with a panelled front.

I absolutely adore all parts of this image – the styling of the photo, the fabrics the garments were made from, and the patterns themselves! The pussybow blouse and trousers aren’t particularly special, but that pleated waistcoat – wow! I’d personally add some sleeves to make it a more wearable jacket, but isn’t the front shape lovely?

This asymmetric, side-tie dress might be my favourite from this issue, but it’s really hard to see the details in this particular photo. It was featured later on in the segment where they mix and match the different garments laid flat, and you can see the details much better there.

There’s a special feature on skirts this month, with a lot of wearable designs. This first, wrap skirt isn’t offered in my size, but the design lines mean you can take prettty much any skirt that fits you and draw on the new seamlines to recreate the look yourself (and before I get asked for the 456876546th time, this is what I generally do if a pattern isn’t offered in my size or one size up or down).

And finally, from the same feature, I really liked the seamlines and subtle colourblocking on this pencil skirt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hem detail quite like this before!

I’m currently on a much-needed holiday – please keep in mind that, while I will be reading comments as they come in, I will not be able to respond until I am back home.

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Steeplechase Leggings - on sale now!

11 March 2015, 21:15

My Steeplechase Leggings pattern is finally available to buy! Yay!

How awesome is the cover illustration I commissioned from Lauren Cox? I wanted to change up the design a bit for 2015, so I got in touch with her and I created a back cover for the first time as well!

The official pattern description:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

I am seriously SO excited to finally release this pattern – I’ve made up so many samples for myself (and my athlete-model niece) and I even ran a half marathon in a pair on Sunday, too! Even if you’ve never had problems with inner-leg chafing, you’ll suddenly wonder how you ever managed without these – they’re just so comfortable to wear!

And if you’re an equestrian, then you’re in luck, because these are great for riding, especially if you add a little bit of silicone grip to the inner knees – which I’ve marked on the pattern for you, because these pieces look weird! Seriously, get your “WTF face” ready when you look at these pattern pieces, because I guarantee they’re unlike anything you’ve seen before! But they’re still super quick to sew up – most of my pattern testers said they only took 2-3hrs to make, including piecing the pattern together!

But don’t take my word for it, I pulled out some great quotes from my pattern testers (who will seriously hold me to account if anything’s not right, which is why I love them so much!):

Annnnnnd, by way of a launch celebration, I’ve got a coupon code for you all! Use SADDLE10 for 10% off all purchases from shop.fehrtrade.com until 25 March (my birthday!). (Paypal users take note that you’ll go quite far through the checkout process before the discount box appears, but it will!)

And of course, keep your eyes peeled here over the next few weeks while I show off some of the samples I’ve had to keep quiet for so long!


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Comment [9]

Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric

26 February 2015, 14:01

This is not an unbiased review – if you recall, I worked behind the scenes on the production of the third series of The Great British Sewing Bee tv show, then again on the Children in Need specials (which were actually recorded after the main series, despite airing first), and right after that was done, I started work on the book which accompanies the series, The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric, under the amazing, dedicated, and super talented Claire-Louise Hardie (aka “the thriftystitcher”).

But even though I spent several months as part of the sewing team who developed, adapted, sewed, illustrated, and assisted with the patterns in this book, I have zero financial stake in the sales of this book – I’ve already been paid for my work, regardless if there are zero sales or several million. So this review is unbiased in that regard anyway.

But really, I mostly want to show you all what’s in this book, because a) myself and the team worked really freaking hard to deliver a book chock full of quality patterns, and b) because it really is the perfect book that intermediate/advanced sewists have been craving for a long, long, time. Don’t get me wrong – there are some easy, beginner styles in here, too, but there are loads of projects that are more advanced and have really interesting shapes and design lines.

It should really say something that I spent months of my life sewing up these patterns (both the ones you see as samples in the book, but many, many test versions you don’t see) and I still want to make a ton more. Seriously.

But let’s start with the patterns, shall we?

It’s a great sign that the pattern sheet stack is nearly as thick as the book itself, and each sheet is labelled on the upper right corner so you can see which patterns are printed on that sheet as you flip through the stack. The patterns need to be traced (here’s how I trace a pattern, btw), but they’re colour coded and really nicely spaced out – waaaaaay easier on the eyes than Burda’s pattern sheets, for example, and the sheets themselves are printed on hefty paper, a bit like the old KwikSew patterns. And the sheets aren’t freaking enormous like Vogue’s ones that cover my entire lounge!

Here’s the size chart, which ranges from size 8 (B32.5/W25.5/H36in) to 20 (B45.5/W38.5/H49.5in). Since there are also kids and mens patterns, too, there are (obviously!) different size charts for them. But there are also a few garments in the book which you draft from your own measurements, so if you’re outside the size range you can still make a few things (like Lorna’s curtain skirt from episode three!).

There’s the obligitary section at the start of any sewing book explaining about the supplies you need, how to trace a pattern, sew hand stitches, etc. To be honest, I always just skip past these since I know what I’m doing. But there’s also a section on common fit alterations like an FBA or trouser fitting alterations, too.

But onto the patterns themselves! I haven’t highlighted every single one, but rather pulled out my favourites (or ones where I’ve sewn the sample you see in the book!). For each pattern, you also get a “hack” variation which re-uses the same basic pattern pieces but in a new way to get a totally different look. IMHO, Claire-Louise did a great job in putting new twists on these patterns and showing how you can really make them your own.

In the Cottons section, you get a pattern for capri trousers, which you may recognise from the first episode!

Now, I’ve never been particularly on Team Jumpsuit, but I really like this jumpsuit pattern, and it totally grew on me throughout the book development progress – so much so that I’m planning on making this myself! If you’re not on Team Jumpsuit yet either, then you may be interested in the “hacks” for this pattern, which allow you to make a frilled camisole top or casual trousers instead.

Here you can see the adorable girls board shorts (which I made!), which combine jersey and quilting cottons in a really nice and easy-to-wear way. There are also patterns included for the longer, boy’s boxer-style shorts and the elephant ballerina costume, both of which featured in episode two.

And for the men in your life, you get patterns for a classic men’s teeshirt and cargo shorts, in addition to drafting instructions for a kilt, too. I’m proud to say that I sewed the samples for the teeshirt and the cargo shorts sewn in the book, and they’re both really modern styled – exactly the sort of fit your man would expect.

The Leather jacket is probably the most advanced pattern in the book, but my god is it ever lovely! There are full instructions for working with leather, sewing that zippered, welt pocket, and the pattern includes separately-drafted pieces for the facing and lining, too. The “hack” for this is a tweed and faux-leather version that is really very stylish, too.

In fact, having recently tried on my muslin for the Burda Jan 15 jacket yet again and found it’s still not fitting right in the shoulders, my next move is going to be to frankenpattern the Burda style lines onto this leather jacket pattern, as I know this fits me well from trying on the early samples!

And now we come to my absolute favourite pattern in this book, possibly favourite from the entire last year – the Drapey Dress. In my opinion, this pattern alone is worth the purchase price of the book. When we were developing this pattern, each and every one of us on the sewing team tried it on, and everyone looked great in it – seriously!

It’s an avant-garde shape, with a wide fit through the bust and shoulders, narrowing to a slimmer fit through the hips, but the length and diagonal lines make it really slimming indeed, and the side profile is really minimal, too. It also has pockets! Pockets! You can make it with long or short sleeves, so it works for most seasons, and it slips over the head, so there’s no fastenings to sew, either. It’s also easy to sew on a regular sewing machine (no overlocker needed!), and when I’ve sewn these, I’ve constructed the entire front on my sewing machine even though I own an overlocker. Best of all is how I feel when I wear it – super chic!

If you’re still skeptical and wondering how it looks on a non-model, well, here I am wearing the first ever drapey dress sample, early in the pattern development procress in a hotel room in Bolton last summer…

I’ve sewn 6(?) of these already and I still want to sew another for myself! That’s how great this dress is.

There’s also a stripey “hack” of this (which I also sewed), which adds on longer sleeves, changes the orientation of the stripes, and shortens the hem…

One of the more straightforward patterns is the lined, Lace pencil skirt, which can also be “hacked” to be a short, A-line tweed skirt. When I say straightforward, I mean in terms of design – lace requires careful planning and cutting, but there’s a really versatile pattern hiding in there, too.

It’s a really great, basic skirt that has NO darts in the front, two darts in back, an invisible zip in the CB, and nice shaping. And you’ve actually already seen me wearing it, when I made it to match my green jacket but couldn’t tell you where it was from!!

And finally, there’s a chiffon pussybow blouse pattern, but I actually like its sleeveless, collared, “hack” version even better.

If you pick this up in a book store you’d see a lot of patterns shown on on the back cover, but this isn’t even all of them!

My only slight disappointment with this entire book is that there aren’t any technical drawings of the designs, just photos. I think as a sewist, tech drawings are something I really like to have, and I’m honestly not sure why they weren’t included. It takes a little bit of extra time to look at the model photos, pattern piece fabric layouts, and kind of draw a picture in your mind, but I find it easier to remember a style’s details in drawing form.

But really, that’s my only disappointment – not even a complaint, really. The patterns are varied, fashionable, and well drafted. The photography is fun, clear, approachable, and fashionable without obscuring the design details. The instructions are really well illustrated – I didn’t do the illustrations but I did a lot of technical illustrations to assist the actual illustrators and I’m well chuffed with the final results! And I think the projects are both engaging for intermediate and advanced sewists, and aspirational for beginners, too.

Honestly, this is the best sewing book I’ve seen in a long long time, and one I’d buy even if it wasn’t affiliated with a tv show I love.

…or that my name is listed in at the back!

This is a book I’m really, really proud to have been a part of.

If you haven’t already clicked through to buy this yet, you really should do so now, and show publishers that there is a demand out there for well-produced sewing books that aren’t just for beginners! Buy on Amazon (UK)!


Comment [14]

Manequim magazine January 2015

25 February 2015, 13:27

Well, it wasn’t just me, then – loads of you also thought the March Burda was a total stinker! Well, here to mop up your tears with an injection of Brazilian sunshine is the January edition of Manequim magazine (the issues take a little while to make their way across the world to my postbox…).

First up is a pattern from the “soap style” section, a rather nice little top with a collar, gathered back yoke, and long front zipper. Also of note is that this style is available in the full size range for regular Manequim patterns, 38-48, meaning pretty much anyone could make this or use this as a basis for sizing up other shirt patterns which aren’t in your size…

From the cover, I rather liked the design of this flirty, fun little summer dress, and even moreso when I saw it’s made in neoprene (which I assume is actually scuba). The asymmetric hem with the pleated layer is a great little detail.

There’s no designer-style section this month, instead they’ve disappointingly used the 1970s as the design inspiration instead. IMHO, the 70s are the worst decade for fashion so I was surprised I liked even a single pattern from it! But this little camisole stood out, not just for its frill and open back, but also because it uses less than a meter of fabric and is offered in multiple sizes.

I don’t know where you would find a zipper long enough to stretch the whole way down the back of this dress (or you could just make do with a shorter, invisible zip I suppose!), but the real feature here is in the front, anyway! Brazilians love to show a little bit of skin, and the cutaway abdomen in an otherwise demure gown is a really interesting design detail.

I’m usually prepared to be disappointed by any magazine feature that tries to do “sports luxe” since I invariably laugh at the impracticality of actually exercising in such clothes. But I attempted to just look at the clothes for their own sake, and I liked the piped seaming on this short, flippy skirt.

Likewise for these shorts and parka – not great for actually working out (if you wanted running shorts, you’d be much better served by my Threshold Shorts pattern!), but as summer casualwear, they’re cute enough.

Most issues, Manequim just publish three Plus-sized patterns, but twice a year they do a full feature full of Plus designs, and this summer it’s all about beach wear! The collection starts off with two swimsuits – a bikini and one piece that look great for supporting larger busts and/or adding foam cups, too.

I’m a total sucker for a good skort pattern, and this one reminds me that I really must make one this summer! (If we have a summer – never a thing to be taken for granted in England!)

And finally, again in the Plus beachwear spread, a casual jumpsuit and what looks to be a nice enough shirt (though Manequim label it a “parka”). IMHO Manequim are much, much more in tune with what works for Plus bodies than a lot of the pattern companies out there, and the whole spread looks very wearable indeed.

Coming up next: an insider’s review of the third Great British Sewing Bee book, Fashion with Fabric!

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Comment [7]

Burda magazine March 2015

23 February 2015, 12:20

I’m of two minds when I get a pattern magazine in the post and there’s really nothing I want to sew from it. On one hand – “arrgh! What a waste of my subscription money!”, but on the other, well, at least there’s nothing new to be added to my already-overflowing Must Sew list, right?

I don’t often comment on the covers of magazines, but seriously, did no one at Burda HQ look at the “aloha hawaii” writing overlaid onto the skirt of the same colour and not foresee problems?!? Maybe we should reclaim “aloha haw” and get it trending on twitter, pff.

Oh geez. Let’s start with the abomination on the left – to me this looks like she took a burlap feedsack, wrapped it around her waist, and borrowed some man’s belt to hastily cinch it together. The jungle background isn’t helping, either, all I can think is that she’s on some survival tv show, forced to cover herself with whatever’s available. The unwearable jumpsuit on the right is almost chic in comparison – if you overlook the fact that it’s open to the navel ad requires wearing something else underneath it (the jumpsuit in the upcoming Sewing Bee book is far, far nicer).

This dolman-sleeved woven top is quite a nice take on a woven tee (which are much more frequently short sleeved or sleevless). I’m not completely sold on the underbust gathering, but that could easily be converted to pleats or darts. Still, a nice enough staple to have in your pattern arsenal.

This wrap dress is probably my favourite of this issue – I rather like the waist treatment, and the deep pleats at the skirt are flattering, too. Overall, a really nice, fresh take on the usual wrap dress.

I couldn’t bring myself to scan each and every hideous wedding gown in the wedding feature. With every single one I thought to myself “ugh! What a horrible, ugly dress. If I saw a bride dressed in that I’d pity her, and then think less of her for choosing to wear that out of all the dresses in the world…”. And then I’d turn the page and think the exact same thing all over again. Ugh, Burda, I know you do weddings every March, but if you haven’t got anything good, just repeat some old ones, or do that thing where you copy famous vintage celebrity gowns, remember that? Those were great! These are just depressing.

I love the concept of creating colourblocking by overlaying fabric onto existing tops or dresses. But Burda’s method sucks! Yes, why don’t we interface jersey, then clip and press back the seam allowances and then, to top it all off, hand stitch them in place (so that as soon as you move the stitches pop!). Yes, why don’t we…

And to top off this stinker of an issue, I give you… the frumpiest pair of dresses to ever grace the pages of Burda, conveniently placed on the same page of the Plus section. Seriously, the poor model looks like she’s three times larger than she is, and the fabric just looks cheap and nasty, like someone was let loose in the quilting cottons section of Joann Fabrics. Ugh.

The designs I didn’t pick out from this issue I was just pretty ambivalent about – I know there was lots of asymmetry which is usually my thing, but this all just seemed a bit too quirky and hastily tacked on to an otherwise standard design. The good news is, I’ve got a Manequim magazine to show you later this week, and it’s a bit better!

What about you, did you like this issue? I know some people found a lot to like in it, so maybe it’s just me!

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Comment [20]

A Mountain of Your Makes (Part Three)

20 February 2015, 14:33

We’ve made it – thanks for climbing the mountain with me! I hope these last few makes of yours are as inspiring to you as they are to me. I always love seeing my patterns go off and have a life of their own – being interpreted in ways I’d never imagined, changed to suit different bodies, activities, and tastes, and truly become your own.

Katherine’s Surf to Summit rashie

Read more…

AZGreyGirl’s two different striped Duathlon capris

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JessieBear’s Surf to Summit with ingenious thumb-hole mitts and piping

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Elizabeth’s rainbow leopard Surf to Summit for her sister

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Kathy’s XYT Workout Tops with mesh upper backs

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Kerry’s two new Surf to Summit tops

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SJ’s flaming Surf to Summit Top

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Katherine’s Pnuema-meets-XYT Top mashup

Read more…

If I’ve missed yours and you’d like to be included in the next roundup (likely in April after my next pattern release), please comment below with a link or email me with some photos.

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Comment [2]

A Mountain of Your Makes (Part One)

17 February 2015, 12:54

I am long, long overdue at showing off all your incredible, inspiring, and beautiful versions of my patterns, and I’ve accumulated so many over the past 6 months or so (shocking, I know!) that it’s enough to fill not one, not two, but three posts! These are only in rough date order from when I collected them, so if you don’t see your more recent make included, hold on, as it may be in Parts Two or Three (all of the Surf to Summit Tops are yet to come!).

Devon and her “Rainbow Sparkle Pants of Awesome” PB Jams

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Winnie’s third(!) art-print VNA

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Ms McCall’s spotty Duathlons

Read more… (scroll down)

Kat’s new XYT Workout Top

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Ms McCall’s Threshold Shorts

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Maria’s Funki Fabrics “dyesplosion” XYT Top & Duathlon Shorts

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Karen’s Threshold Shorts (for her and her daughter!) with added piping & drawstring waistband

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Allison’s VNA Top and two pairs of Duathlon capris sets

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Winnie’s crazy Funki Fabrics Duathlon capris

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Geo fit her Duathlon capris into one yard of Fehr Trade x Laurie King fabric!

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Katherine’s Threshold Shorts, sewn from a hotel room on a travel machine

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Elizabeth’s purple “Maps” Fehr Trade x Laurie King Duathlon Shorts worn to Parkrun

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Katelyn Allers PB Jams – encouraging others after the Tussey mountainback race

(Sent via email)

Sue’s purple & blue XYT, worn to Crossfit

Read more…

If you want even more inspiration to sew your own activewear (and a peek at a few items coming up in Part Three!), then I highly suggest you look at the entries in the Pattern Review Activewear Contest, which genuinely had me clapping with delight. So many amazing makes, and so many amazing sportswomen!

And, as always, you can buy any of my digital sewing patterns from shop.fehrtrade.com, where you’ll get both fully road-tested multisize patterns in both “print at home” and “print at a copy shop” pdfs, fully illustrated instructions, and the knowledge that the highest percentage of your money is going directly to the designer…

…which allows me to design even more patterns, like the one I’m feverishly trying to finish up to get out to my testers right now!

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Comment [4]

Burda magazine February 2015

3 February 2015, 14:01

I’m a bit behind on my review due to my emergency trip to the States, but this wasn’t the greatest issue ever anyway, IMHO, but there’s plenty enough to like (and to moan about!).

This shirt is probably my favourite of the entire issue – I love its angular seams, inset corners at the shoulder, and general shape. I thought it’d be the perfect partner for some muted, geometric Liberty lawn in my stash, but the pattern actually calls for jersey. For once I actually don’t want to sew something in jersey, figures! I also quite like the asymmetric skirt it’s paired with. It’s just a basic pencil skirt with some additional, diagonal darts and a drape but I think it works here.

This coat pattern is shown in several guises throughout the magazine, but I like this classic navy version the best (minus the weird patch pockets over the boobs!). It’s also the pattern with coloured, illustrated instructions this month, too.

Here’s that same angular-seamed shirt as seen above, but made in a thicker fabric so it looks more like a sweatshirt than a teeshirt. The skirt it’s paired with here is very simple, but works well to showcase a special fabric, or in this case, just two great colours! (also, bonus points for including a bicycle in the photoshoot, Burda!)

Somehow in a feature all about pairing denim with white shirts, Burda have failed to provide a classic jeans pattern (ummm, okay?). But on the upside, this wrap skirt pattern is really cool – it reminds me a bit of Tilly’s Miette skirt pattern, but Burda’s incorporates a deep centre front pleat and wraps round to tie at the back instead of the front.

On first glance, you might look at the shape and flip the page, thinking “ugh, not another peplum shirt, I’m so over those!”. Or at least that’s what I did the first time through. But there are some amazing details lurking in here, like the curved neck placket, two-part sleeve, and that amazing asymmetric, freehand curved joining seam! The latter totally looks like something out of Pattern Magic, and certainly elevates this above your average white dress shirt.

Behold – the ugliest top I’ve seen in a long, long time. Off the shoulder, unflattering gathers, zero body shaping, boring yoke, and to top it all off, a weird, furry fabric. That’s also so sheer you’d have to wear something underneath. Impractical and ugly? That’s impressive.

What? You’d like something equally ugly to wear with your ugly, shapeless, furry top? How about some horrible clown trousers! Hooray!

You may not notice it immediately, but this leather jacket uses the same base pattern as the navy coat seen above but adds some colourblocking and an attached jersey scarf collar. I’m not keen on the particular leathers they’ve used here, but it’s a nice enough concept.

I’m not likely to ever wear a crop top, but I thought it was interesting that this is yet another variant of the first shirt I liked with the angled seams, showing you can also make it with short sleeves if you like. The skirt is also a variant of the yellow cycling skirt, so I almost didn’t show this again, except that I bought some striped, woven fabric in Mexico as a souvenir and I wanted to remind myself that this would be a good pattern to actually use it!

And finally, in the Plus section, which had some decent separates, my eye was drawn to this frumpy mistake. This design might seem fine on paper, but put it on anyone with half a bust and it’s just the frumpiest, least-flattering design possible. Ugh. Poor model.

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Comment [14]

Goodbye Granny

30 January 2015, 19:35

Sorry for the silence this past week, but I had to take an extremely-last minute, emergency flight back to the States last week to attend my grandmother’s funeral (as in “book me a flight for tomorrow“). Her last gift to us all was to prompt a family reunion, and I really felt strongly that I had to be there, so it was good to have some family time despite the circumstances.

Granny and I at our wedding reception in 2010

Granny has been in the background of my sewing for pretty much my entire life, but there were a few times when she featured heavily on this site, in particular when I refashioned her wedding gown into mine in 2010, but also earlier the same year when I made her a blouse from some vintage fabric in her stash (and which my mom said she was still wearing regularly right up until the end).

If you’re a new reader to this site and haven’t yet seen my wedding dress project, then really, I urge you to just stop for a minute, click through and take a look. Granny was so immensely proud that I looked so beautiful in “her dress” and she continued to show our wedding album to everyone she could. I had so many relatives come up to me at the funeral saying how much they loved that I turned her gown into mine.

Overall, this weekend really reinforced to me how much “making” is in my DNA – I knew Granny had been quite crafty, but I hadn’t realised that she was actually a seamstress in her early life before going back to school as a young mother and becoming an insurance underwriter. She continued to quilt and sew clothing throughout her life, but also knit and crochet, too. Happily, I was gifted a very modern-looking yoked cardigan that she’d knitted years ago (I actually wore it to work yesterday!) since I was the only one in the family it really fitted (ditto to a gorgeous pair of sage green leather gloves and an astonishingly beautiful vintage coat).

The funeral stationary was quilt-themed!

Over the course of the weekend, the family went through some of Granny’s most cherished items, and my granddad asked if I’d like to see her sewing machine. Of course I did, and before I knew it, I had it humming away fixing a tear on my sister-in-law’s trousers!

I was also able to measure up my tween niece to be an athlete-model for my next pattern (now delayed a bit), as well as measuring my aunt for her wedding dress!

But as I mentioned, my granddad is also crafty, too – but his medium has always been wood instead of fibres. For as long as I can remember, Pop has had a woodshop, and the contents of it were moved to the retirement village when they did, and merged with loads of other machines and housed in a special community workshop. Pop built all sorts of tables, chairs, chests, and other furniture years ago, but these days he mostly carves intricate figurines, rings, and bowls on the lathe when he can find the time.

We didn’t get many family photos over the weekend, as we’re more the sort to talk and laugh and cry and hug instead of pose, but we did get this nice shot of my mom and I after the funeral itself…

…and another of the four grandkids (my brother on the left, and my two cousins). If you can believe it, I’m probably the least funny one amoungst us, and my face is always hurting from laughter when we’re together.

It truly was the kind of atmosphere that Granny would have wanted – full of love and memories we had of her over her 87 years, but also filled with lots of laughter and introductions to the newest generation, too.

While I was staying at the retirement village, I also took the opportunity to get some of my grief out on the road. I’d brought along my mustard merino Surf to Summit top but didn’t expect to run in the fresh snow twice in under a week! Both times I ran along a very hilly country road, with my eyebrows and eyelashes freezing in the Juno snow on Monday morning! I’d kinda forgotten exactly how awful Pennsylvania winters are compared to mild London weather!

(I was on literally the last plane out of Philly airport on Monday night before it closed for the storm, too, so thank you for all your Twitter-based good luck!)

I’m back home now, feeling utterly exhausted for the unexpected trip, rather overwhelmed with the amount of work which piled up in my absence, and in desperate need of a rest, but I still don’t regret for a second that I dropped everything, charged a huge amount to my credit card, and just went. If you’re ever in the same position, I urge you to do the same.

Granny and me in 2005, when she and Pop visited London

Esther Kemmerer, my beloved grandmother, 1927-2015.


Comment [30]

The Sonata is Saved

19 January 2015, 12:32

My main sewing machine is a Joann Sonata, metal-body sewing machine, produced in 1984 and running on a voltage converter since my mom brought it over in her suitcase 12 years ago. It was a gift from my sister-in-law, having been in her family for the past 30 years, and it has been sewing like a dream through pretty much everything you’ve seen on this site since I started writing it in 2005.

The Sonata in 2006(?), pre-boatlife

In all that time, I’ve never taken it to be serviced, and – I’ll admit – I’m not the most regular oil-er, either. But everything was fine until a few months ago, when the foot pedal started to feel decidedly jerky. I’d have to press down quite far before the machine would respond, and then it’d be off at positively industrial speed.

This I could live with.

But then it started to continue sewing even after I’d left my foot off the pedal, sewing off happily into the beyond at lightspeed, leaving me to scream and kill the power switch. Obviously this could not really continue, so I begrudgingly rang up the Maury sewing machine repair shop I’d used a few years ago when my overlocker looper got bent out of shape. The shop isn’t that far away, but since the machine is heavy, I’d been dreading taking it up there, as I’d need James to drive me out on a Saturday.

I’m going to reiterate again that my machine is some random-ass brand no-one’s ever heard of, running on a foreign voltage. But he listened to the issue, and without even needing to open up the case to look at it, told me several ways he could fix it (he’d usually just graft on a new pedal, but with mine being 110v that’d be a long eBay wait). Plus I wanted a few other tweaks and a good oiling, and he said he’d give me a ring when he knew more. I should digress at this point to say that I also brought my overlocker along because I’d bought a replacement upper blade but didn’t have the special Bernina wrench required to take the &%^#% old one off. He swapped it over as I stood there (no charge!), then as we were leaving, ran out into the rain to tell me exactly which wrench to buy if I’d like to change it myself in future. What a dude!

On Monday (2 days later!), he rang me on my mobile to say he’d taken apart the wiring inside the pedal, cleaned it out, tightened up some connections and when he reattached it all, it was working fine. Plus he straightened out my needle position and oiled it so it is so much freaking quieter now it’s like another machine. All for the sum of £42. And the weird voltage and random brand didn’t even phase him – he was going to replace the entire motor to something 240v should nothing else work, just so I’d still be able to keep my beloved machine.

I’m going to say it again – what. a. dude!

The Sonata today, after her first repair.

Londoners, if you’re in need of an awesome sewing machine repairman, definitely speak to Mark at Maury Sewing Machines on Hackney Road (between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green). He can work miracles. Plus, the shop is absolutely crammed with a million random cool machines to look at!


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