Monday, 23 March 2015

Not So Mellow, Yellow

Happy Monday all! Hope you've all had a lovely weekend and are feeling more enthusiastic about work than I am right now!

So I recently took a trip to my FAVOURITE haberdashery in the world (The Fabbadashery, Halifax) looking for some inspiration. As my bank account has been drained this month due to a number of factors I was planning on settling on a couple of fat quarters and going with that; but then I decided that this is what savings were for and I was in the mood for buying some happiness (Fabric is happiness)...
At the start of the month I had treated myself to the new Great British Sewing Bee book, mainly for the walkaway dress pattern, but also for the tips and to basically have a sewing bible. It was £25 from Waterstones and worth every penny.

So, as the Walkaway Dress requires FIVE metres of material (!!!) I decided to park that for a richer time and chose the Sleeveless Shell top as pictured below. This required 2 metres of cotton and half a metre of lightweight interfacing (a grand total of £12 for the whole top)

Sadly, I am not as slim as the girl in the photo. As a UK size 16/18 I tend not to go for tops like this in shops as they often don't fit my shape. (Slimmish waist, chocolate filled tummy.) But I took a leap and picked this yellow polka dot material. Yellow usually isn't my go to colour, but with spring coming and trying to get away from black and greys I took the chance and other than a few doubts during construction about it's yellowness I do really love it.

Once again, I didn't photograph the stages because I suck at this and was on a mission. Essentially though the pattern is simple to follow. It consists of front bodice, back bodice (which is in two pieces), the front facing and the back facing. There is also an option to make the back longer than the front which I went for, so it has more shape. The patterns which come with the book overlap each other so you need to trace them. Now before you go and spend a small fortune on dressmaking tracing paper to copy it, let me just say two little words... GREASEPROOF PAPER. My mum used it when she did a lot of dressmaking in the 70s, and it really is an amazing alternative. It's thick, easy to see through, doesn't tear and is £1 for 10 metres in PoundLand. I think if I ever design my own patterns I'll invest in some dressmaking paper, but for now this is a winner.

The pattern starts with sewing two darts at the bust, which took me three attempts to get them matching. You join the back bodice pieces to the front, and then join the two facing pieces together in the same way and hemming it. You then sew this to the neckline and understitch to ensure it doesn't flip up with wear (had to watch a YouTube video on how to understitch though...). The facing also goes down the sleeves. It is held together with ribbon and a button at the top of the back bodice and has a 1cm hem.

And this is the finished product! 

I'd say if you use a cotton with no stretch for it to add a few inches so it has a little give. I have an oddly long torso so it sits a little higher than it should, stopping just above the top of my jeans, so I've been wearing a vest top underneath to make it more wearable. 

This is not the most flattering photo I'll admit, but I can't model things without being silly. I also pretended to be a tram driver yesterday at Bradford Industrial Museum. I'm a natural, clearly.

I hope you enjoyed that and until next time my little sewing bees :) 

Kat xx

Monday, 9 March 2015

Bag It Up

Evening all!
These past few weeks I took on the challenge of making myself a new bag. I bought the main body fabric last month because I loved it but had no idea what to do with it (it's also WAY too expensive to make into clothes right now), but then it inspired me to make a travel inspired bag. Honestly, I'm pretty damn proud of how it's turned out. It has a couple of flaws but only I can really see them luckily.

Annoyingly I didn't photograph the process of it. These days I get so zoned in with my sewing that I feel taking a photo will take up valuable sewing time; so I'll just briefly run through what I did. The pattern is from the October issue of LoveSewing however, if anyone wants to order the back issue. You get an Eliza M pattern too. Amazing.

So I cut out all the separate pattern pieces from the corresponding fabric...
2 pieces of the vintage postcards for the outer
2 pieces of the purple lining fabric in the same size as the above
2 flap pieces in black and white postcard fabric
1 d-ring piece (this was cut in half later) (b&w postmarks)
2 strap pieces (b&w postmarks)
4 pocket pieces (vintage postcards)
1 buckle strap (b&w postmarks)
1 buckle tab (b&w postmarks)

Along with this I also cut fusible interfacing to match each piece (apart from the buckle pieces) and then affixed them to the corresponding fabric pieces.

Once this was done it was time to build the bag! For the most part it was simple enough... you need to box out the bottom corners of the bag which was a little bit of trial and error to be honest but I got there in the end. I won't detail the right (and various wrong ways) to do this but if you would like me to let me know!

I did the same for the lining and left a gap at the bottom, to then pull the outer layer through when inserting the lining. I did learn a lesson doing this though, make sure the flap doesn't get stuck between the lining and the outer when you pull it through, because then it's time to unpick and get mad. pin it down to the back before inserting the lining.

Complete with swivel clips, d rings and a side release buckle and the bag is done!

I wish I had been able to do a run down of this properly but I really suck at explaining these things without visuals. If you would like to make your own version of this bag let me know and I will send you over some measurements! Or you could just buy LoveSewing...

Let me know if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful and click the follow button if you'd like to see more of my creations!

Til next time you creative bears :)

Kat xx

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Friday, 6 March 2015

Inside My Sewing Box

Happy Friday bloggers! I hope you're all having a lovely evening whatever you're doing, and if you're staying in, just remember there is no law that says you have to go out boozing on a Friday. Relish the Netflix binge watching with the cup of tea. That was mainly to make me feel better for not going out tonight. Instead I'm home blogging and watching stand up comedy on Netflix.

I wanted to do a post about my now overflowing sewing basket, as the collection has grown significantly in the past 3 months. From experimenting with different projects I've been discovering what is an essential. So if you're looking into getting into sewing, whether it be dressmaking or quilting or just making little bits and pieces I hope this helps guide you with what you may need to kick start your new hobby,

 So this is my sewing basket. It was a present for Christmas 2014 from my mum, I think it was about £20 from HobbyCraft but you can find them at most sewing or craft shops.It has a wicker handle as well and the body itself is pretty padded. I'm not gonna lie, but I have a feeling I may need a new one at some point, or just a new place to keep my fabric and stuff.

Yeah, I reorganised this before I photographed. It was a right mess before. Anyway, on the top layer I keep the majority of my essentials, stuff I need to be able grab when I'm mid-project. A variety of threads, tape measures, a seam picker (not pictured) and some buttons. I keep needles in the little pocket and I have pins on a separate pin cushion which I keep around my wrist...

That pin cushion was the best £2 I've ever spent. You can barely feel it whilst you're working and makes life so much easier. The dressmaking shears which I stole from my mum are also indispensable. You don't want material that looks like it's been hacked away at, especially if you're dressmaking. I'd say if you want to make an investment, make it a pair of shears. This pair is by Fiskars and you can get them for about £16 on Amazon. So not exactly expensive, but if you're as frugal as I am you'll also believe that anything over £10 is a bit steep.

So the next two are my main threads (polyester and about £3.50 a reel from my local market) and inexplicably three separate tape measures. I'm pretty sure one would be enough, but when one that looks like a ladybird is offered to you, what you gonna do?
Also not pictured is my seam ripper, which has been used far far too much for my liking. I have however learnt that it is an absolute essential when sewing. Mistakes happen (in my case regularly) and unpicking with a needle and scissors is both tedious and detrimental to your otherwise beautiful creation.

Next up are pins (can never have too many pins), this tin was about £2 from HomeBargains back when I first started sewing, The marking  chalk was from my grandmother's sewing basket and is probably about 35 years old now. It still works perfectly and is as good as new. Amazing! The little ruler was free with one of my mum's knitting magazines and has proved really useful when marking darts on the dress which I've just made.

My final essential is a chopstick. Not because I love Asian food. I don't know how to eat with chopsticks, it looks like I'm trying to make them into finger extensions when I do. Instead I use this to get corners out. When you sew two pieces of fabric right sides together and only leave a small gap to turn it right sides out the corners never come back out perfectly, but a chopstick is perfect for this before pressing. So yeah, find a chopstick.

I also keep my ribbons and best fabric in the bottom of my basket. I don't really need to say much more about that, other than I bloody love ribbons.

Anyway, there are your basic essentials (in my opinion) for starting up this insanely addictive hobby. I hope you enjoyed this and/or found it useful and I will see you next time!

Kat xx

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Kraków (Krak-oof)

Fun fact, I've been trying to write this blog for about two weeks but have been getting distracted with crafts every time I pick up my laptop.
Fun fact 2, I got a new laptop. It's purple, and pretty.

Aside from my ridiculously extravagant purchase (side note: it was necessary) I have also been on holiday this month! My boyfriend and I booked flights back in November to Krakow after a bit of a rave from me after my time there. We got a pretty damn good deal and before spending money the whole holiday cost about £200 per person for 6 days, and even after trying my best to live the life that I couldn't afford to when I was teaching I still came out £100 under budget with my spends. So yeah, go to Poland.

So on Thursday the 5th February (after arriving at the airport 2.5 hours too early and losing a hat en route) we finally landed in Kraków around lunchtime. In true Kat style I refused to let us get a taxi so dragged us onto a bus - which to be fair, cost 12 zl compared to about 100zl so I was right.
I'm not going to a chronological account of "What I Did On My Holiday" as that would go on forever, instead I thought I'd review a few places and must sees...

1. Wawel Castle. (Vah-vul)
My family and I went to holiday to Kraków when I was 18, and we never saw Wawel. I am not entirely sure how this was possible seeing as it's a massive fortress in the centre of the city, but I guess you can blame the beer. What I've always loved about the castle though is that the grounds are open free of charge, I've never been inside the castle itself (as going into the Cathedral is cheaper and you get a free visit to the JPII museum afterwards), but the grounds are spectacular by themselves, and so if you're on a budget break that will suffice. Also at night it's lit up quite beautifully and they have a statue of a dragon that breathes real fire. What more could you want?!

Danny was in awe.

2. Auschwitz. (Owsh-witz)
No, I don’t have any of my own photos from Auschwitz-Birkenau, because I was there to learn about the DEATH CAMP. Not create a ‘look how cultured I am’ Facebook album. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but taking photos in places like Auschwitz is genuinely one of my pet hates. Sure, take a picture of Arbeit Macht Frei if you must do, but for everything else please put it away. In our tour-group there was a group of girls who took photos of LITERALLY everything. At one point Danny saw one of them hold up her camera, take a picture, and walk away from an exhibit, without even looking at it herself. Apart from being (in my eyes) seriously disrespectful, she wasn’t even taking in the (harrowing) experience that she’d paid good money for. It just infuriates and disgusts me. Rant over.

In all honesty, I believe everyone should visit Auschwitz at some point in their lives. I’m not going to lie to you, it is far from being an enjoyable experience, but it opens your eyes to a part of history that we only learn so much about in school. It has been kept and preserved as a reminder of the torment and evil that was experienced not even 100 years ago. We still need to learn from what was practiced there, as well as learn that it can’t be buried, even 70 years later.

Last month will probably be the last time I visit Auschwitz. I have now been there twice, once when I was 18 in the height of summer, and then again 8 years later in the depths of winter. Both times affected and shook me deeply, as well as teaching me more than books ever could. Neither times did I take a photo.

3. Zakopane (Zak-oh-pan-ee)
So this isn’t a part of Kraków, but rather a mountain town about 3 hours away (4 if you cleverly go in the depths of winter during a very heavy snow drift). When I was teaching last year I had many of my students insisting that I MUST go to Zakopane, however my time in Krakow flew by and my money was always disappearing fairly quickly so it wasn’t possible then. However, right before we left we realised our 6 month anniversary (yeah, we’re THAT couple) was on the Sunday that we were away for and so we booked busses and hotels for a mini holiday within a holiday.

The place is BEAUTIFUL. As many of you will know I love snow more than I love life itself half the time. The snow boots were out, there was always a foot or two to walk through, and everything just looked magical all the time. We arrived on the Saturday night and after doing a spot of shopping we found a snow covered log cabin with an Oompah band playing in the corner and very cheap beer. (we were fairly tipsy and the whole bill came to £11).
Bad Polish leads to big beers

The next morning we decided to leave early after a breakfast of cake as the snow was getting so bad that we wouldn’t have made it to the centre of town, especially with luggage, so we walked to the bus station. I have never seen snow so heavy or so deep. This was the aftermath of our 15 minute walk...
My hair was frozen
One of the things I really love about Poland is the fact that 9 times out of 10 you needn’t book travel in advance. You can hop on a coach on the day and it costs no different. We’d already booked with to travel back to Kraków that evening but due to the snow paid 15zl for an earlier bus. I got momentarily annoyed by this inconvenience, and then Danny reminded me that that’s £3.

4.  Kazimierz (Kahj-ee-meersh)
Another part of the city that I didn’t see when I was 18 and drunk, was the Jewish Quarter. Located south of the Old Town, Kazimierz is definitely an artier, more bohemian district. The bars and restaurants are second to none, and in the centre there is an entire square of
Zapiekanka (read here for more info on that gem...

I've never been happier
History plays a big part in everyday Kraków life, and it’s no different down in Kazimierz. Look beyond the drunk tourists and you’ll see beautiful architecture, educational street art, and still a lot of Jewish culture. One of my favourite places is the Jewish and Holocaust bookshop at the end of Ulica Jozefa. It holds a library of books in differing languages all relating to the war and the Jewish history. It also sells maps and Hebrew alphabet books. 
As well as this bookshop Kazimierz hosts some of my favourite bars – Mechanoff on ul. Estery, near Alchemia (where you must walk through a wardrobe to get to a different room in the bar ... NARNIA); Klub Wodki on ul. Jozefa (the bar man recognised me after a year away, cringe); the Singer Club on ul. Estery as well (old Singer sewing machines are set into each table, heaven for me) and Kolanko on Jozefa. There are so many more, but these are by far my favourites.

5. The Old Town.
So you can’t write about Krakow without referencing Rynek Główny (its beautiful main square) with Kościół Świętego Wojciecha (St. Adalbert's Church) towering over it. The beauty of this place hits you as soon as you see it. You can spend hours, days even, just sitting and taking it in. I don’t feel like I need to say much about this place, because photos speak for themselves. Just be sure to explore the streets which lead off from it, because they are full of hidden gems.

On the Sunday night we had been for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on the square and wandered out afterwards to find a place for a drink. As soon as we step outside we hear a piano being played, and go to investigate where it’s coming from. Low and behold, a small cafe in Sukienicce (sook-ee-nee-sah) with a grand piano being played and a free table by the window, looking out at the square. I swear I have never had a more romantic moment in my life and I would have vomited if I’d seen any other couple sitting there holding hands and gazing out. Of course that only lasted 5 minutes and then we had a thumb war tournament.
So there we are. My 5 highlights/must-see’s of my recent holiday to Kraków. We stayed in the Goodbye Lenin Revolution Hostel on Dolnych Młynów which was £9 per person per night for a deluxe double room with a private bath. We were seriously impressed and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. (

So there we are, hope you enjoyed. Do zobaczenia wkrótce czytelników!

Kat xx