Archive | October, 2012

Spooky fun

29 Oct

That’s right! I’m still here. Just slightly delayed in posting.

I wanted to post earlier but have been working hard on an odd little project.


Ahem. And as the resident family seamstress I was called upon for costume duty.

I’ve mentioned my younger brother, Little Fro, before.

Well he came up with a genius costume idea for his “super-villains party”. Look away if you’re easily frightened.

Tommy Lee Jones – “Two Face” from Batman Forever

This was going to be great fun to do I thought…

LF provided me with two suits; a gross beige one and a serious black business one. He’d got them from a charity shop near him. He also got two shirts; one pink and flamboyant and a more somber dark stripe. And to cap it off two ties; one paisley pattern the other blood-red.

The tie was the easiest.

I cut it down the middle and stitched it down on top of the other with a mad zig zag stitch.

Next up was the jacket. I marked the centre backs of each and then cut including seam allowance, right up and through the collars. I had to keep reminding myself which side had to be light and which dark as that affected which side of the centre back my seam allowance should be. I stitched the centre backs together from the edge of the collar to the vent from the beige jacket. I then fudged a vent in the black jacket. I felt LF could probably use some give in the butt area.

The collar was tricky. I essentially had to flip the seam allowance so it was pointing towards me. That way when the collar was folded over it wouldn’t show on the outside edge. I had to grade the seams right down to stop it from being bulky but it came out pretty good!

The shirt was a similar matter, except the two shirts were slightly different sizes and had different style features!

I thought the best I have to do is make the neck match up so he can do his top button up ready for his tie.

I matched the centre backs with seam allowance and sewed up the back and collar in the same fashion as the jacket. I had to move a lot of buttons on the front placket though to get them to fit through the new holes.

Finally the trousers. I’m most amazed how these turned out.

One thing not in our favour was that both pairs of trousers were slightly too small for LF.

I carefully unpicked the crotch seams and preserved the beige trousers zip front.

I didn’t want the mess of installing a brand new zipper so I just used the fabric surrounding the existing zipper to make a flap on the black trouser leg.

I aligned the zip first. Then stitched in place. Because I’d maintained the zip I felt I should maintain the button as well.

Then I rejoined the crotch and butt seams. I tried to use as little seam allowance as possible, did two lines of stitching AND rang my serger over it all for strength. If they were going to be tight I didn’t want to take chances.

In the end I thought it was rather neat and considering this was supposed to be a quick job I probably agonised over it waaaaay more than I should have!

Little Fro was so happy with the result. The trousers were too tight but that didn’t stop him dancing all night apparently.

He got ready at my flat so I could see the whole transformation and be on hand for any alterations.

His make up is totally creepy. You can see how he’s straightened and backcombed his ‘fro on one side and slicked it down on the other.

And here is a photo from the party where they made him pose in terrible lighting. Hoping I get sent a better photo of him in full glory.

He wore different coloured shoes to complete the look as well. Dedication!!

Now I wasn’t going to let the suit go without a little try on myself, so for your enjoyment here I am looking like a loon in my glasses and no make up.


Sewing Admin

17 Oct

Organisation is becoming a MUST for my sewing spot.

I already try to regularly clear my sewing tools away, rather than leaving things strewn across my table but that’s not enough.

I have a ludicrously small amount of space and I keep catching Mr Almond Rock cringe as he looks over at the various cuts of fabric and pattern pieces spreading over our second sofa in an aggressive manner!

First up I tackled my patterns. I was originally keeping them in a set of three plastic drawers. The drawers were a dreary grey colour, the handles had broken and I barely fit what I need in them anyway.

To the trash!!

Instead I bought this little beauty. It’s an expandable document holder in grey and black with what reminds me of Blackpool on it!

(yes it is also grey, I’ll give you that, but you must agree its not dreary right?! Unless you have bad childhood memories of rainy days in Blackpool)

It’s got oodles of space for all my commercial pattern envelopes, my prima patterns that I keep in A4 ringbinder inserts, as well as my own patterns and any traced patterns that are just folded up pieces of baking paper.

The envelope tops peek out a little so I can find them quite quickly which helps.

Its made such a big difference already to the space.

Next up I decided to purge my scrap bag. Or should I say scrap BAGS.

Yes there are two. One for fabric left over from projects and the other with ufos and wonky muslins in.

I attacked both.

Less that a fat quarter or this red plain cotton? TRASH!

Dress muslin with shoulder sewn back to front?! TRASH!!

3 metres by 5cms long black wool?! TRASH!!!

Top muslin that’s about 8 times too large and covered in dust and what looks like fabric paint? TRASH!!!!

etc etc….

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like throwing away what could be valuable to someone else but trust me I was not letting go of anything usable.

I filled a big carrier bag full of scraps which was quite rewarding.

Finally I’ve organised my cord. I got a lot of this gifted to me and although I do use it for braided jewellery this stash isn’t going down in size very quickly.

So I got this cute little teal washing basket! It holds everything nice and neatly.


What sewing admin do you try and do regularly?

Any tips for a lady with zero spare space?

Refashioning to the max-i

15 Oct

I call this the Promaballoona project.

If you don’t know about Oona and her “recent” Promaballoona you’re missing out. I wanted to go but had my own deadlines to work to and couldn’t whip up a dress in time (or sort the minor matter of flights out).

Watching with jealousy as everyone else got ready, attended and had a kick-ass time made me think of my own “prom” gown. I use air quotes because I’m talking about my graduation ball from University instead.

I was such a silly girl. I bought a vintage 70s dress that made me feel like a Bond-girl in the casino…

…problem was my kick ass dress didn’t help me have a kick ass night. There was no James Bond to liven things up!

I barely had any friends in my year, and the ones I did have weren’t attending. I got some nasty comments on my dress. And I had a pretty lame night overall.

I cringe when I look back on it.

Errr and for the record NO, I’m not putting any pictures on here as I’m cringing all over again at the thought! *Shudder*

It’s all okay though because I gate-crashed my friends’ ball the next year while I was doing my MA and we had an amaaazing time.

Ahem, anywhoo I still loved the dress and had wild ideas every now and then to chop it up and refashion it.

I’m not really a maxi dress girl being so tiny. And the huge flouncy sleeves just swamped me really.

But check out that gorgeous flower detail. That had to stay.

The dress is pure acrylic, which is partly why I think it photographed so incredibly badly with flash and without. But it looks good in person trust me.

First I unpicked the sleeves and sewed the arm holes as if the dress was always strapless. A little fiddly since I didn’t unpick the whole back bodice so had to turn the seam allowance inside and topstitch into place.

Then I removed the skirt and lining completely. The skirt is a lot tighter than my uni days since my derriere is now more pronounced!

So I made a new skirt pattern that was more gathered and swishy then the maxi column skirt and cut the lining and fabric out.

I then sewed it all up and made sure I added pockets to the skirt. Because who doesn’t love pockets!

The zip was a bit tricky. The dress had a lapped centre back zipper.

Due to my unpicking and altering work I had to upick the whole thing and turn it in to a centre back zipper. It actually came out rather neatly!

I finished the whole thing in about 7 hours (split over a series of nights) and wore it out on Saturday to a lovely dinner in Harrogate.

Dinner was for my Mum’s and Brother’s joint birthday celebrations. We went to the amazing William and Victoria Restaurant in Harrogate.

I still think I made it a touch too long. I wanted it at knee level but it’s just over my knees so still makes me feel a bit titchy! I’m going to take up the hem a couple of inches to raise the va va voom.

I’m really pleased that I now have a dress I can still wear and can hopefully create some happier memories to associate with the dress.

Red Velvet… cupcakes, not the film*

8 Oct

My Autumn/Winter sewing plans are coming along nicely…. Twinkle nearly done and other bits and pieces cut, traced etc.

But I decided I needed a different creative outlet this weekend.


I love baking because I get to work out my stress and then I get a sweet reward at the end.

I wanted to make red velvet cupcakes for several reasons. Here are just three:

1. I’ve been pinning and reading about lots of buns/cupcakes/muffins lately. Guaranteed to make me feel jealous and want to pick up my whisk.

2. I was telling my mum off for not updating her website with more of her creations and got inspired/hungry. I mean hello?! The “Jimi Chew” Grand Marnier chocolate cupcake, with choc cream cheese frosting and chocolate straw heel that she made as a joke for her W.I. friends!

3. Because there’s nothing nicer than when you’re saving money (so can’t buy loads of foodie treats or go out to nice restuarants or for yummy cocktails) to make something using everything in your cupboards and end up with a delicious treat. No buying necessary.

So I got out my trusty fairy cake recipe. It’s on the side of the Tate and Lyle Caster Sugar packet and is the most straightforward and simple recipe I’ve ever tried for buns. Better than a lot I’ve tried from cookbooks.

They never go wrong and you can adapt as you need! I added one tablespoon of cocoa powder and a LOT of red food colouring. You don’t need to add a lot of chocolate as you just need a hint of the flavour and best not to interfere with the colour coming through.

When the buns were done I added cream cheese frosting which you make by adding icing sugar to cream cheese and whipping it lightly to sweeten it. Throw some sugar sprinkles on top and you get yummy cupcakes!

Perfect to enjoy as dessert after a nice dinner or with an afternoon cup of tea.

I wouldn’t recommend after 9pm though, in case like me you are very susceptible to e-numbers! All that red food colouring had me awake twitching all night.

And I’ll be enjoying the last one (I altered my recipe to only make 6) tomorrow night while I watch Sunday’s Downton Abbey.

Mmmmmm can’t wait…

*For those of you who aren’t familiar with the film “Red Velvet”, it stars Henry Thomas and it is about a man and woman who have a chance encounter at a laundromat type place which then leads onto him telling her a story about a birthday party where everyone has been killed by a madman in a white jumpsuit…

So good family fun basically. NOT

It definitely shouldn’t be confused with Henry Thomas’ actual family friendly film, E.T. (He was Elliot!)

And here ends Almond Rock’s review of films NOT to watch!

Twinkle twinkle little star…

1 Oct

I’m currently working on one of my Winter sewing plans laid out in the last post.

The BurdaStyle Twinkle skirt is offered for free on the Burda site as part of a collaboration with Whenlan Chia, to promote her line Twinkle By Whenlan and her book Twinkle Sews.

For a free pattern this is quite a lovely garment. I was really quite surprised. It’s almost too good to be free!

Now that I’ve said that, I’ve got to list the things to take the shine off the niceness.

Firstly the pattern pieces. Printing at home is terrible to do when there are 10-20 pages. But this pattern had 50 pages!!! FIFTY!!

Phew. I started by cutting out the pieces on the train home from work on Friday. Best way to make my hour commute fly by…. Though you attract looks like you’re a nutter.

All the waste makes me sad. I understand from a logistical perpective you need a border to ensure the pattern pieces are matched properly. But does it need to be such a big margin?

I decided the taping of the pattern was a Saturday daytime task. I made such a pest of myself to Mr Almond Rock. Oops, apparently my butt gets in the way when taping on the floor in front of Soccer Saturday.

Matt Le Tissier looks disgusted at how big this pattern sheet is

They had to put the skirt front out in full to show the pleat instructions. I get that. But why but the skirt back and lining pieces out in full? They could have been cut on the fold couldn’t they? Am I missing something special about them? Wool doesn’t make a difference surely.

*Edit: Since writing this I tried cutting wool on the fold. It’s almost impossible! So I take back what I said about the skirt back. Burda/Whenlan you were right. I still stand by what I said about the lining pieces though!!*

Well I got over it in the end and went shopping for some muslin fabric. I wanted and still want a red wool skirt. Something not too tomato coloured but warm and bright.

I felt sure Samuel Taylor’s would have something gorgeous and perfect… NOPE. NOTHING. NOWT.

I went to the market… NADA, NIL, NONE… ZIP (had to get the sewing related  one in)

Then I fell in love with some navy wool with a sort of waffle knit pattern. But there was only 1m left and this pattern calls for 1.6m. Sigh.

Then I spotted a blue wool suiting fabric and laughed. It’s pretty much the same shade as the sample picture! Well at least I knew how it would look.

And I think it’s coming along quite similar!

I agonised over the pleats because the instructions made NO sense. The diagram in the instructions made them look like inverted pleats but the sample photo shows folded pleats. Turns out the sample photo was more helpful than the careful created line drawing.

The other problem I encountered was the sizing. There is a cautionary note on the Burda pattern page that this pattern uses Whenlan’s sizings. And it’s true they are on the 5th page of the instructions but they refer to 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 sizes….


Epic fail.  0, 4, 8, 12, 16 on the pattern? No chance of keeping it straight unless I’m a size 4… Or a 0. I struggle with American sizes already but I know I’m not a size 4.

I’ve already worked out I need to take 3cm out of the width.

*Blows raspberry*

But overall I’m pretty happy. I’ve cut out some midnight blue satin lining so it feels gorgeous against my skin and worked out the placement for my invisible zipper with the size alternations.

(On a funny note Whenlan’s instructions say “install the zipper using your favourite method”. Good job I know a couple of ways right Whenlan? Cos you’re not telling me any!)

I still need to decide on whether to hem this with a visible stitch (Whenlan calls this the “sporty” look) or use pretty lace hemming tape.

I’ve never used hemming tape before but imagine I’d get crabby about the state of my handsewing as I catchstitch it into place. I don’t think the suiting fabric is that bulky so it isn’t really necessary but I love the idea of my skirt ruffling in the wind and showing a peek.

Should I build up my handsewing skills? Should I go for the sporty look? Or can I form some hybrid using wonderweb?! All thoughts welcome.