30 August 2012

Make Escape Embroidery Workshop


We had such fun at the Make Escape on Tuesday, y'all! I was leading an embroidery table for the Club Tropicana-themed edition of the craft night. Drawing bikinis, palm trees and cocktails in thread was extremely popular. It was great to meet lots of new (to me) crafters, as well as Annie from The Village Haberdashery, who donated the hoops and thread. As always happens with embroidery groups, chatting was interspersed with delicious moments of calm as we all got into the flow and focused on our stitching. Bliss! We'll have to do it again some time...

[Soundtrack: 'Kokomo' by The Beach Boys]

27 August 2012

Embroidering Pattern Illustrations

I'm back from holiday! You probably didn't even notice I was gone thanks to the super duper guest posts covering for me last week. I had a wonderful time chillaxing in Lake Annecy. You can tell I was feeling zen as I zoned out from life and into embroidery. Inspired by this talented stitcher, I've been dabbling in mixed fabric embroidery and have embarked on a new project to stitch sewing pattern illustrations. I can see this turning into an obsession...

If you're in London, don't forget I'll be running an embroidery table at the Make Escape tomorrow night. Be there or be square!

What's that, you say? You want to see some of my holiday snaps? Are you sure? Oh okay then, but don't get jealous now... ;)


24 August 2012

A Day in the Life of Lucie Summers - fabric designer

Remember my Life's Too Short Skirt? Many people commented on how awesome the fabric was. Well, for this month's A Day in the Life, we hear from the fabric designer herself! Lucie Summers' fabric line, Summersville, is relatively new but already a hit amongst stitchers. "Hmm... what is a fabric designer's preferred form of exercise?" you ponder. Let's find out...


"The very reason I like working for myself is that every day is different. I never quite know what to say when people ask me what I do for a living, but I suppose I'm best described as a surface pattern designer - that tends to cover most things. I design and print fabric and mugs for my own little Etsy shop under the label Summersville and I also work for Moda Fabrics. My second line for them is due out early next year. My days are spent either working on something new, finishing up a project, designing, writing or sewing. Or standing in the post office queue. I quite like the fact it's a juggling act, and even more so at the moment because my boys are off school for the summer.

I am woken up by my husband with a cup of tea. He's a farmer and up and out early on the farm, especially at this time of year. He doesn't drink hot drinks, so this is an especially nice thing for him to do and over the years has become a very fine tea maker ;) I spend some time on my iPad for an hour, checking and replying to emails and jotting down some notes for a writing job.

I can hear the boys stirring and usually the littlest one comes and jumps on our bed. We go downstairs and I listen to the boys banter (argue) as I make them breakfast. I can't eat this early so I have another cup of tea. I go into my studio, a commute of approximately 4 seconds. I love my studio, it's big and light and airy with a big print table taking up most of the room, but with plenty of storage. I do most of my work at this table, from printing and sewing to packing orders and designing. I'm not terribly tidy though, and every week I promise myself I'll be a more a more organised person. It doesn't really work. This summer I'm particularly enjoying the fact I haven't got the school run and enjoy working in my jimmies, but usually I'm in my normal uniform of rolled up jeans, t-shirt and flip flops.

I've got photography to do for a quilting how-to to accompany the notes I made this morning. The images need editing then putting together with the wording. I enjoy writing instructions so this is a nice task! On a normal school day I start work around 9.15am and leave to pick the boys back up at 3.00pm. That time usually flies by, but these summer holidays are actually giving me more time to work because I’m not having to get the kids to their various after school activities. I'm lucky that today my oldest son is happy pottering around on the farm with his dad and my youngest is happy pottering about in the garden making his own entertainment. He spends HOURS practicing his penalty kicks...

The smell of my armpits has driven me upstairs to shower....

9.30am - 12.00pm
I've alternated between being in the studio working and helping my youngest make some cookies for after lunch. I've also worked hard on a piece of writing I thought was due in tomorrow, but realised it's not needed until the middle of September. What an idiot!

12.00pm - 3.00pm
An early lunch for the workers so I'm back in the studio...this time making sample patchwork blocks and writing instructions for them. My early afternoons are usually reserved for printing or packaging orders. I've figured out the times my post office is less busy so generally do the post before picking the boys up from school.

3.00pm - 5.30pm
I'm feeling bad for my youngest, he's looking forlorn in the garden so I suggest we go into town to do some chores then go to the park so he can run off some steam. We bump into a school friend so have a nice time catching up.

Luckily I managed to remember to get something out of the freezer for dinner earlier in the day so after a simple pasta meal, the boys go outside and play while I catch up on paperwork. My husband has to work from 7.30 onwards and I've got a Zumba class at 7.00 so I arrange childcare with my practically-step-mother-in-law. She lives next door so luckily this is an easy task!

7.00pm - 8.00pm
Time for Zumba! I've been doing Zumba for a year and have found that exercising makes me much more clear headed and I manage my work so much more efficiently, so I'm trying to fit in a class a day. This is a new class in the village hall, I'm really excited to have one that I can bike to! Living in a small village is idyllic in some ways and super frustrating in others.

A swift cup of tea and chat with my in laws and it's time for the boys to bathe and go to bed. I was planning on getting some more work done but I'm going to relax instead, I've got a busy day tomorrow in Birmingham at the Festival of Quilts.

Off for a bath and a read - got a new book and I can't wait to get stuck in to it. I read a lot in the evenings, it's the perfect wind down time, especially in the bath with a cup of tea. Blissful. It's bed not long after, I'm not a night owl... Wow, I'm coming across as really rock an' roll, me.

I love working for myself and the flexibility it gives me when I've got the boys to think about, but sometimes it's really hard too. I'm so lucky they are so understanding about my work and that I'm not always available to drop everything when they want a kick about in the park or whatever, but it doesn't stop me from feeling awful sometimes. This summer has been particularly difficult as my husband has been so busy, and I've got a September deadline. I'm not really sure if I've got the life/work balance sussed, sometimes I think that women are programmed to feel guilty whatever they choose to do. But somehow we muddle on, and it all gets done eventually. Except perhaps the ironing pile."


You are rock n' roll, Lucie - staying up late is for losers. Or so I like to tell myself. In any case I feel another skirt (or maybe even a dress?) coming on in the black version of Weave...

Readers, I have a few more great Day in the Life interviewees up my proverbial sleeve, but it would be great to know if there's anyone in the stitching world you'd particularly like to see featured. Let me know!

21 August 2012

How to Make Tailor’s Hams and Sausages: Guest Post

No, this hasn't turned into a butchery blog - rather this is a guest post by Kristiann Boos, aka Ms Victory Patterns, showing you how to make your own pressing aids. If you want something a bit more professional looking than my rolled up towel trick, Kristiann will explain how to make your own...


A tailor's ham is a helpful little cushion that is used when pressing curved seams, such as a bust or a hip seam. You can also use a tailor's sausage to slip into a sleeve to press open that hard to reach seam. Use this tool at any point where your seam won’t lay flat.

To make your own, here’s what you’ll need...

Materials List:
Thick cotton canvas
Sawdust for stuffing (you can also use soft wool or scrap knit fabrics)
Regular thread
Upholstery thread
Hand sewing needle
Transfer paper
Tracing wheel

Download and print out these patterns: 
Tailor's ham
Tailor's sausage

1) After cutting out the pattern pieces with the darts transferred to the wrong side of the fabric, sew the darts on either piece for the ham and sausage.

2) Place pieces right sides together.

3) Match dart seams and fold darts in opposite directions to reduce bulk along the edge.

4) Mark two points along the raw edge about 7” apart. Sewing with ¼” seam allowance, begin your stitch at one point with a strong backstitch, and continue all around the piece to the second point, ending in another strong backstitch.

5) Turn right side out.

6) Stuff the pouch with sawdust until it’s impossible to fit one more flake inside.


7) Thread your hand-sewing needle, and sewing with a whipstitch or an invisible ladder stitch, close the opening shut.



Thanks, Kristiann! I'll be whipping up some of these at some point in some snazzy fabrics. Readers, if you haven't already seen them popping up all over Pinterest, do check out Victory Patterns' beauuuuutiful new designs...

17 August 2012

Club Tropicana Embroidery - Join Me!

Sewing machine won't fit in your beach bag?
Worried you'll get sand in your bobbins?
Never fear - take your embroidery to the beach instead!

I'll be running an embroidery table at the upcoming Club Tropicana-themed edition of The Make Escape on 28th August. Yes that's right, Club Tropicana-themed embroidery. It would be so awesome if you came along and said hello!

Hackney Attic, 5th floor of the Hackney Picturehouse E8 1HE - you have to ask at the cinema box office for a free ticket to get upstairs

7.30 - 10.30pm, Tuesday 28th August 2012

The Make Escape is a friendly night of making things, making a mess, having a go and having a drink. Seriously y'all, it's a really great night, run by the lovely Momtaz, who you won't be able to miss - she's the gorgeous lady with the pink hair and huge smile. They'll be lots of crafty stuff going on, or you could just have a drink and a chat!

How much?
It's free! With special thanks to the Village Haberdashery for donating the embroidery materials we'll be using on the night.

Great, see you then!

14 August 2012

Improvised Sewing Tools: Hints & Tips

Although it can save you money in the long term, sewing can be a costly hobby, particularly when you’re just starting out. In addition to investing in a machine, there are about a squillion tools on the market tempting you with their promise of making sewing that little bit faster, easier, more efficient.

But just as you’re being creative making your own clothing, you can get creative making some of your sewing tools yourself or improvising with things you have around the house. Here are some ideas…

1) Make your own dress form
I recently invested in a dress form, which I must say I love. But for my first two years of sewing I did without. I spent a fun afternoon making my own out of parcel paper – and you can too. It may not be quite as elegant as a padded form on a wooden stand, but on the plus side a parcel tape version conforms to your shape exactly.

2) Improvise pattern weights
You don’t need to buy specialist pattern weights to hold your pattern pieces in place while you draw round them. Grab whatever you have on hand – I use tins of sardines for corners, tins of beans for curves.

3) Alternative to a loop turner
I still can’t get over the fact that you can buy an implement whose sole purpose is to turn tubes of fabric inside out. Maybe I just don't turn enough loops in my life? Alternatively you can enclose a piece of string or cord inside the tube when you’re sewing it, stitch it to one end to secure it, then pull it out the other end while turning the tube of fabric. Okay, so the loop turner may be slightly quicker, but I’m pretty sure people made do without for decades :)

4) Improvise pressing aids
A tailor’s ham and seam roll are useful for pressing shaped parts of garments. But they’re not cheap, so if you can’t afford them right now, you can use a towel instead. Roll or mould the towel into your desired shape. I do this and am happy with the result!

5) Marking tools you may already own
My favourite tool for transferring pattern markings onto fabric? Washable felt tip! If you can’t get to the haberdashery store for your tailor’s chalk, look in your newsagent or supermarket for a cheap packet of kids' washable felt pens instead. They’re not suitable for all fabrics, so test them out first, but I use these for loads of sewing projects.

Do you have any make-shift sewing tool tips of your own? Do share!

[Soundtrack: 'Rich Girl' by Nina Simone]

10 August 2012

More Picnic Blanket Skirts by Readers



Ooh I feel all aglow seeing such a beautiful collection of Picnic Blanket Skirts made by my dear readers! (More here.) The skirt works so well in all these fabrics - ginghams, striped shirting, plain cotton and florals. I wear mine all the time - it's one of those garments I miss when it's in the laundry basket. I'm currently dreaming of making a bright red linen version which I'm looking forward to wearing with black patterned tights in the Autumn.

If you want to make your own, take a look at the free tutorial series. How would you translate the Picnic Blanket Skirt into an Autumn piece?

PS. The awesome Joanne from Stitch and Witter (and she really is awesome - I've had the pleasure of meeting her IRL, y'all) interviewed moi for her brilliant new series on sewing style - check it out!

[Soundtrack: 'Running Up That Hill' by Kate Bush]

7 August 2012

The Hydrangea Dress

So it turns out I was the only person in the world who looked at this dress and thought "four leaf clovers", to everyone else it clearly screams "hydrangeas". So hydrangeas it is!

I got this vintage dress relatively cheaply (by UK standards) as it had a broken zipper. But as long time readers will know, mending (ie. boring sewing) isn't my forte. So it of course sat unloved on a shelf for... erm... about two years, until inspiration struck and I realised that, if I removed the Peter Pan collar (sacrilege!) and lowered the neckline at the same time as refitting and adding a new zipper, I could wear it to a wedding without looking like I'm twelve years old.

I cut quite a few corners to make all the adjustments without having to remove the lining. If I'd had more time, I would have added some tiny darts to the neckline, as a lower neckline fits the body differently to a higher one. But it's fine to wear, and what I did do was save the bra hooks on the shoulders to avoid any straps showing. Perfect for a wedding disco!

[Soundtrack: 'The Denial Twist' by The White Stripes]