Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Bib for S

And again the time slips by and the machine lies dormant. It had to come out this weekend though; the arrival of a new baby rapidly getting not-so-new and still I hadn’t made anything for it. Which, admittedly, little ‘S’ probably wasn’t that bothered about, but I was. The trouble was I couldn’t think of the right idea. Before he was born – and before I knew the full extent of his name – I wanted to make him a hanging mobile of the letters of his name, which I thought would be cute. Then, when I realised he had a seven-letter name, I thought that that had passed the point of cute and was now a bit clunky – and I suddenly thought that, regardless of little S, his very fashion particular mother might find it a tad ‘du trop’ . So I dithered and procrastinated and ended up not doing anything at all. Until I realised that I was overthinking the whole matter. What does a baby really need? A bib, of course. And his mother is obsessed with Biba… Bib, Bib-a… The answer was obvious. I had just the right fabric for the job and the machine, pleased to be in use after all this time, ran it up in no time. All that was left to try it out on that certain ‘S’ and see what the reaction was…

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Bank holiday morning dawned and I pulled out the pattern, slightly dismayed by the immensely complicated drawings and instructions. It quickly became apparent that my measly metre of fabric would never yield the big collar, two sleeves, front and back with extra button-hole allowance that the pattern called for.
I didn't have a back-up fabric or a back-up plan. I'd have to make do - if I got rid of the sleeves, made the collar from a different fabric and replaced the button-holes with a zip it might just work.
By breathing in hard, I managed, just to cut out the pieces I needed - noticing the tiny tears on the pattern where Mum's pins had been, once upon a time.
Next I got the machine out and could see immediately that the needle was blunt. Which isn't surprising, as I haven’t changed it in the time I’ve had it - worried that if I took it out, I’d never get it back in again. It was actually surprisingly easy. Until the brand new needle crunched down onto the metal of the zip and shattered.
With another new needle in, I ploughed on - six long tucks at the front of the dress, zip at the back, then joined at the shoulders and sewed down the side before putting facing in where the sleeves should have been. The trickiest part was the collar. I cut out two giant white bat wings and sewed them together, then tried to figure out how to attach them.
Use bias binding, the pattern said. What bias binding? I realised they expected you to make your own. All I had left was a long, thin offcut of fabric which I eked as best as I could into a semblance of bias binding. It wasn't cut on the bias though, something crucial, as I realised when trying to attach it to the collar and finding that it wouldn't bend or stretch to the shape of the neckline.
On the inside it was more like a dog collar. On the outside, it looked like a gigantic pair of wings - all set to whisk us off for Never Never land.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Pattern that Never Grew Up

I’d been a bit dubious about going back to the machine, haunted by memories of the horrible noise it made before freezing up on me. Not wanting it to happen again, I put off using it. And put it off. And put it off. Even with two long bank holidays coming up I still had the fear. Then Mum turned up on the doorstep with a clutch of old patterns and an expectant look in her eye.
Why don't you try one of these? she asked, hopefully.
I had a quick browse to keep her happy and, amidst the puff sleeves and flounces, found a shift dress with short sleeves and Peter Pan collar. I know the jury's out on whether a collar named after a boy who never grew up has a place in grown-up fashion but I liked it in combination with the short dress.
'I could use the Amy Butler fabric...' I thought, remembering the green and yellow geometric patterned fabric stashed away for a rainy day and starting to feel a teeny bit excited.
Funny though, I mused, fingering the 6 shilling pattern with its Army and Navy store stamp on the cover. The pattern dates back to when Mum was my age, probably to before I was even born. It, like Peter Pan, is frozen in time - we, on the other hand, have both grown-up.

Pirates and Pigs

Why are pirates called pirates? Because they arrrrrrrrrrrrr. For a little boy’s second birthday I made a cushion using pirate fabric for the 2. For his third birthday, an apron using the same fabric for the 3. Sadly there’s none left to make him a 4 – but perhaps that's just as well, as what he actually loves most in the world is Peppa Pig.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Making Mountains

So you want to take a present to some people you haven’t seen in two years, who live in a swish Swiss ski resort, and who have impeccable taste. Play it safe with chocolates you say? Come on, this is the land of Toblerone. A chocolate shaped like a mountain really cannot be improved upon. Flowers? You’ve heard the edelweiss song – they’ve got it blooming up to their eyeballs. No, it has to be something different… something unusual… something not available in the haute Alpine High Street.
Of course. The answer is obvious when you think about it. Just take a little blue fabric, a smattering of cherries, some wadding and a hastily sketched outline of Switzerland’s most famous mountain. Throw it all together, put a couple of eggs on to boil and there you have it: miniature Matterhorn egg cosies. Different? Yes. Unusual? Yes. Utterly Useless? Of course. The perfect gift in so many ways... and no, I don't expect we'll be invited back.

Some gentle TLC

It’s been a long, dark winter for sewing. Partly because there’ve been other things going on, and partly because I was scared to go back to the Machine. I broke it you see. Or thought I broke it – it kept making a horrible noise and swallowing up the fabric and regurgitating it in chewed-up pellets. Hungry? More like angry. After 30 years of faithful service, the Machine had just had enough and was putting its foot down.
‘I broke the Machine,’ I wailed, feeling like I’d committed a small, mechanical murder.
‘I’m sure it’s not broken,’ Mum reassured me. ‘It just doesn’t like some kinds of cotton.’
She had a fiddle and the noises stopped. It emerged that there was nothing physically wrong with the Machine – it just didn’t like being taken for granted. Phew, I thought. Mechanical issues are beyond me. Stroppiness I can relate to. So I did the only thing you can do in such situations – I soothed and coaxed, carried out a long-overdue de-fluffing, bought some brand new non-scratchy cotton and generally acted the dutiful owner. The next time I switched the Machine on it purred like a pussycat.
Forgiven, I thought. For now…