30 Jun 2010

Style vs Taste

Having a friend who trained as a make-up artist is fabulous for night's out ... if I ever actually had any I mean. But I haven't. At least, not recently anyway.

So instead, we had a girlie afternoon of make-up and silliness as AnnaP made me over and we had lots of fun and giggles playing in my back garden with a variety of outfits and poses and props (namely the wolf). The purpose was to find me a profile picture I wouldn't cringe at every time I saw it. Mission accomplished I feel!

But it threw something to light that I've been pondering on and off for a while. How do you pick a style that works for you?

I'm terrible at choosing a style. I see so many people and their outfits online that I absolutely adore (I'm talking about you Ulrika!) and I have clothes and patterns that fit those styles because, let's face it, I like the silhouette they create, the shapes and drape of the fabric. But there's one thing I forgot to take into consideration. My shape.

I've blogged about this before; I don't have the curves that Ulrika, Solanah or Gertie have and am almost straight up and down with a thick waist. My face, at 34, still has an awful lot of puppy fat that I'm slowly coming to terms with the idea is not going to change for the better. My hair does not like to be perfect and will find a way out of most styles. The styles of the 50's probably aren't for me. For prosperity I offer the evidence below:

Now, don't get me wrong. I think I look okay in the above outfits, I can get away with both of them but without the hourglass figure that the styles require I don't look great.

In comparison, here's a couple of pictures in a style more suited to my looks:

How do you reconcile to a style that isn't really to your taste but suits you instead of the style you love but don't quite fit? And how do you come to terms with the idea that you're cute and 34 years old? I love my hair, it's naturally wavy but it doesn't lend itself to grown up styles. At least, not the grown up vintage styles I love so much. So it's back to the drawing board I think, with more of the romantic and cute and less of the coiffed. Something more original to me and not others. Watch this space!

Oh, and here's a couple of snaps with the wolf because he's just so pretty:

Thanks for stopping by,

29 Jun 2010

What To Wear To ... A Job Interview { Part 2 }

Well, after the disaster of previous job interviews, all involving the same outfit and a comment from Molly about her lucky Banana Republic blazer I have decided that my blue and white polka dot dress is seriously unlucky. Thankfully I have dress number 2 of 2, a red, white and black snazzy number from Tescos as back-up.

This is the dress that Mum doesn't like so much, it has too much fabric apparently (please excuse the hideous bathroom, another product of the previous owners).

Personally, I hate the batwing sleeves but love the V neck cos it makes my boobs look fab but I have to admit I tend not to wear it to interviews for that exact reason. My 'party' shoes are in the foreground, red suede and fake red snakeskin. They are real beauties and I'm always the envy of every girl whenever I wear them as they're no longer available. Obviously I wear them at every available opportunity.

This dress is obviously luckier than the blue and white polka dot dress because the NHS phoned a few moments ago to offer me the Project Co-ordinator's job they interviewed me for this afternoon. Yes, after SIX MONTHS (9 months out of the last year) unemployed, pending references, CRB check and the salary offer I will be gainfully employed very shortly. Yaaaaaaay!

Thanks for stopping by,

28 Jun 2010

Project: Style Print 1421 { Notes }

Well, I finally finished my shirt (for a sane explanation on the pose please see previous post).

First Impressions of Sewing With A Vintage Pattern/ Sewing My First Piece of Clothing:
1) You are expected to have some modicum of common sense. Unfortunately, when it comes to sewing I seem to lose all mine. I had to recut the tie collar because I thought it would be best to sew the two pieces together after I'd stitched around the outsides. I know, I know, don't ask me what I was thinking, I obviously wasn't. Thankfully, the recut version went together perfectly.

2) Do not put anything with TV boyfriend David (Tennant) in it on the box to keep you company whilst sewing. This Does Not Help with concentration. Nor does anything to do with the Twilight Universe. Or Callum (Keith Rennie). In fact, steer clear of anything to do with brooding vampires or TV boyfriends (especially TV boyfriends with exciting clavicles and tantalising glimpses of chest hair*) whilst sewing. This should mean that you'll remember to sew the two collar pieces together before having to turn in the right way.

3) Follow the gorram instructions! That way maybe you won't have to recut the collar. Oh, and learn the difference between interfacing and facing please.

4) Listen to your Mother. She's usually right, you know this, why do you constantly fail to remember this?

5) Strangely, despite having made clothes before (albeit a long time ago) I think I was expecting to just go whizz whizz whizz, hey presto a piece of clothing that looks like something you could buy in a store but more to my taste. What I've got is a shirt that looks okay, I don't think you can tell it's handmade - which, frankly, is a miracle! - but to me it's obviously not store bought not because it's badly put together but because the size of the facing in the front that's clearly visible through the thin polycotton I used. Either I wasn't supposed to use such a thin material or the 50's had different ideas over facing sizes in comparison to today's cheapskate clothing companies.

6) Shirt's from the 50's appear to be a lot shorter than contemporary shirts, probably because they were more often than not going to be tucked into a higher waistband than today's bottoms. If I'm going to make any shirts that may not be tucked in on every wear then I'll have to remember to lengthen the pattern to accomodate that.

All in all I count this one as a win, despite the bad hemming, help from Mum, the too ripped top buttonhole (I got a little rip happy) and the neck facing I can't sew down. I don't think any of those things are really visible and I'm chalking this one up as a yay to me as a result.

* Mmmmmmmmmm

Thanks for stopping by,

Project: Style Print 1421

Finally. Finally! This is finished. Due to my procrastination this has taken me far longer than it should have but I am no longer scared of button holes thanks to my fabulous sewing machine that does it all for me! Literally. All I do is put the pedal to the metal. I lurves button holes! These were my first button holes ever and have come out fabulously, I'm so pleased! 

Mum was right, sewing the sleeve and side seam all in one long swoop is infinitely easier. After making some tiny pleat/ gathers along the arm scythe to make the extra fabric fit I just whizzed along the sleeve seam, down the side seam and voila! one side done. Gorffen*. Finis

I'm not happy with the hem, I just rolled and rolled again and then straight stitched down as I wasn't sure what else to do and the instructions for the blind hem stitch on my machine were a little off putting. It's resulted in the two puckers you can see at the bottom front where I hit the facing and interfacing but as the shirt is designed to be tucked in I don't care! 

I still don't have a clue about gussets. Mum did those for me whilst I was ... well, I was rummaging in the fridge for more coke and making marmite on toast if I'm honest but that's what Mum's are for ;)  I think if I ever make anything that requires gussets I'll have to investigate a better way to do it than the method laid out in this pattern.

And finally, a note on my pose; I thought I'd copy the pose of the view that I sewed to make it easier to figure out which one is the right one. I'm desperately trying not to laugh in the picture so please excuse me and my glasses (I forgot to take them off first like usual).

This is the first completed item for my Sewing With A Plan. Woo and indeed hoo!

Notes to Remember
1) Attach the neck facing to the shoulder seams so the collar sits properly, but allow enough fabric at the back of the neck to ensure it sits flat. I didn't on this project and so I couldn't sew the facing down.

2) Don't bother with interfacing the front pieces next time, just stick with facing.

3) Get Mum to sew all your gussets as you still don't have a clue.

* I should probably mention my off and on habit of writing the odd word in other languages. I tend to write just like I speak and as I'm saying the sentances in my head as I write them, occasionally I'll pop out with foreign words. I don't know why, I just like it. The languages are Welsh and French. French I speak a little, Welsh I don't really know other than the odd word (hence why it's only bits and pieces here!). I'd love to learn Welsh but can't afford a course. My favourite words are probably pobty ping meaning microwave (bakery/ oven and ping for the noise it makes, this is slang not the proper Welsh name) and gwdihw which means owl and is pronounced much like the noise it makes (goid i hoi is as close as I can come to writing it down). Oh and the number 5: pimp (pronounced more like pump but I'm easily amused)

Thanks for stopping by,

24 Jun 2010

Project: Style Print 1421

Do you remember this pattern? I bought it at the Cardiff Vintage Fashion Fair.

Style Print 1421 was the pattern I thought I'd start my sewing career with. At least my sewing-without-any-help-from-Mum career anyway.

Ha! Was I wrong.

I spent all day today, some of yesterday and a few hours from earlier in the month cutting and making this shirt.

I have successfully (ish) sewn the collar to the front and back pieces, added the interfacing and facing and stitched the shoulder seams closed.

But I can not for the life of me figure out what the hell the pattern's talking about when it comes to the sleeves and cuffs. Not a sodding clue! Okay that's a lie, I have an idea but given that I've had to recut the collar already (more on that later, but shame on you David Tennant) I don't have enough fabric to recut anything else that I screw up and I'm at the stage now where I'm losing patience, the will to live, and the ability not to throw it in the bin/ ignore it/ mess it all up by doing it myself (delete as applicable).

This is where I'm currently at. The deformed left side is actually the left sleeve where I've attempted to follow Mum's advice; sew the sleeve to the bodice when flat and before side seams of bodice are sewn closed because it's easier and then you can sew one long seam from cuff to bodice hem (it's pinned and not stitched so there's hope yet).

A good idea in principle I feel, particularly given the trouble I usually have easing in sleeves as directed by patterns (i.e. with all seams sewn). And you may think this is what's causing me the trouble this time. Unfortunately, that brief hope was extinguished once I realised just how much ease had to be stuffed in to a hole a good two inches too small. This is not a sleeve that's going to go quietly into the breach, but rather put up a long and frustrating fight as it kicks and screams it's way either into a wadder or a shirt I'll never make again. Time, and Mum's help, will tell!

Thanks for stopping by,

23 Jun 2010

The Joys of Steam Power

I have had another slack tart episode and not posted in a while. Mostly this is because I haven't been doing any sewing but have been doing a lot of DIY ... or rather my Step Dad has and my Mother and I have been cheering (or heckling) from the sidelines whilst drinking tea.

I live in a hundred year old plus stone mid terrace house in an old mining village in South Wales, I may have mentioned this before. I mention it now because something that most people outside of mining villages either in South Wales or elsewhere probably won't know is that coal dust is everywhere. And when I say everywhere I do actually mean it in the literal sense. Despite the pit closing down in the late 1960's coal dust still remains. It was used for the garden, it was used in the plaster, it's in the bricks and the soil and the walls and the ceilings and the pointing and is 90% of the dust I collect in my now black but once yellow duster. This means DIY needs to be undertaken like a military operation.

Due to the age of my house I have fireplaces in every single room. Unfortunately due to the previous owners almost every single original feature has been ripped out of the house and thrown away. I have the bay window but the inside is 'updated' and lacks the pillars between windows and I have an ornate ceiling piece in the hallway along with original plaster coving.

The front room had been knocked into the back room, creating one long area that's still divided into two by the remains of the wall. The fireplace in the front room had been ripped out and bricked up and the one in the back room had been reduced in size and left open (although when I viewed the house there was a gas fire stuffed in the tiny hole).

My fabulous step-dad had already helped me knock out the original range fireplace in the old kitchen when I renovated that room and put the kitchen back in its original place, removing it from the terribly constructed back extension with no power, no ventilation and insecure roof and windows. We had to put in a new lintel as they had removed that too (!).

Once the kitchen was completed, my step-dad returned with the lump hammer and opened up the open fireplace in the back room (now dining room) to its original size, exposing the original arching lintel of bricks so definitive of the house's heyday.

And then, this past weekend, he returned again and heroically smacked at the wall to expose the hidden fireplace behind in the front room. Please note the coal dust all over the carpet, it's impossible to remove all traces of it and the area is now a grey-pinkish colour (Please also note that pink carpet is not my choice but until I get a job and/ or win the lottery new carpet is waaaaay down the list of things to replace).

My Mother and I then spent two days cleaning. The Entire House. From top to bottom. With a steamer. How awesome are they?! Mum gave me her old steamer some months ago and when I took it I remember thinking 'why on earth would I want one of these?!' Ha! Has that attitude changed!

You may notice that on the pictures of Gwenie, the black and white floor looks a little ... dirty. That is in fact grout from when I grouted the floor with no idea what I was doing. I'm proud of that floor, Mum and I laid that ourselves. I was not proud of the grouting because, frankly, it sucked. But with steam power that's all changed! My floor looks fantabulous!


Unfortunately, what all this DIY and cleaning has meant is that I have done absolutely no sewing whatsoever and am feeling super guilty over this, not to mention a little panicky that I'm not going to complete all my sewing pledges.

I should really pull my finger out and just get on with it. After lunch. Promise. Shame the steamer can't help me with this one!

Thanks for stopping by,

15 Jun 2010

Spotlight: Guenhwyvar { Domestic Goddess }

I'd like to introduce you to Guenhwyvar or Gwenie as she is known in my house.

Gwenie is a Domestic Goddess and fully deserves the capitalisation. She was named after Miss Pettigrew because, as Delysia says in the film, the woman can do anything. The spelling of her name is the Welsh spelling, as to be expected for a fab Goddess who lived on the Welsh border.

Gwenie came into being circa 1940's, no one's entirely sure when as all records about her have been lost but for an oldie she sure is pretty and you'd never guess by looking at her just how old she is.

Here's some pictures of Gwenie in action:

This is Gwenie when she first arrived. As you can see the trip made her go to pieces and it was a little while before she pulled herself together. Marigold (a butch, hairy biker type chap) was instrumental in putting her back together.

Since then we haven't looked back!

This is Gwenie, all done up and in her new home. Isn't she pretty? You'd never guess how old she was.

Gwenie originally ran on coal but the Aga Shop in Twyford fiddled about with her insides and now she runs on mains gas.

Aga's are on constantly, you don't turn them up or down or off ... well, you can turn them up but it can take an hour or so for them to reach temperature. Instead, you run them constantly at about 220°C and if you want it colder you put a sheet of food grade stainless steel in the oven which will absorb the heat you don't want.

Gwenie's currently running at about 180°C, I say 'at about' because there is no thermometer attached to the Aga, there's only a gauge to indicate how much stored heat she's got in her so most of the time I'm cooking with a lot of guesswork and frequent checks inside the ovens as she doesn't release any cooking smells (they go up the flue instead). This is Unfortunate as it means I burn a lot of stuff unless I'm really paying attention.

Gwenie's of the two oven variety. The top door on the right is her roasting oven, this is Very Hot Indeed. Inside there are various places you put things to make them cook at different temperatures. By placing a roasting tin on the floor of the oven and putting a shelf in it I can simulate a BBQ. Betcha didn't know that about Aga's didya?

The bottom door on the right is her Simmering Oven. Aga's work in the opposite way to normal ovens, most of the cooking you do with Gwenie will be done inside her rather than on the top. If I want to boil carrots for example, I would bring them to the boil on the Boiling Plate (the left plate on the top) and then put them in the Simmering Oven to finish off. If I wanted to I could put them on the Simmering Plate (right plate on the top) but the point of the Aga is to keep as much heat in as possible so opening the top lids to expose the plates is only done when necessary as it releases a lot of the stored heat.

In order to retain that heat Gwenie is stuffed with insulation. She's made of cast iron plates, enamelled a beautiful cream colour and then filled with loft insulation of the roll and pebble type (see big bags in first picture). She runs off a pilot light that just tops up her heat as required, a lot like an immersion heater. This means that, hopefully, she's not costing me a lot in gas (I've yet to have my first bill). This might sound a little expensive but I have no need for an electric kettle, toaster, toastie maker, slow oven, microwave or tumble dryer as she covers all those bases with the heat she's already got stored. Win, win I say!

Gwenie is excellent at multi-tasking:

Gwenie drying the washing and keeping Bear's butt warm

Drying the washing and boiling the kettle and keeping the wolf's butt warm
(see I told you she could do anything!)

Drying my clothes and making spaghetti bolognese

And finally, boiling the kettle and some potatoes whilst looking pretty

The weird metal round thing that kind of looks like a cross between a tennis racket and a snow shoe hanging from the shelf above Gwenie is what I use to make toast. I only recently discovered how to make perfect toast with Gwenie and promptly ate 8 slices of toast for lunch and tea. Roasts are divine with Gwenie because all the moisture is sealed in (the ovens are just big metal boxes after all). And don't even get me started on American Pancakes ... mmmmmmmmm.

Surprisingly the wolf loves her too, given how much fur he has I thought she'd run too warm for him but if I'm in the kitchen then so is he and inevitably he's curled up in front of Gwenie. 

Dear Gwenie, I don't know how I lived without you!

Thanks for stopping by,

13 Jun 2010

Remembering Christine

Almost two weeks ago the bravest woman I've ever known passed away. Christine Mitchell died after over fifteen years of living with aggressive cancer. She totally and utterly refused to give in but finally lost her battle a week ago last Tuesday. She is survived by three boys who have been family to me since I was three years old.

Christine was a constant; constantly smiling, constantly laughing, constantly dancing, constantly not doing the housework, constantly allowing us to use every sheet and blanket in the house to make forts in the lounge, constantly there at the end of the street, at least until now anyway.

After she passed away, my Mother returned to our hometown some 200 miles away and spent the week prior to the funeral with the boys and their families, helping them get the house in order and Christine's things organised. When she returned to Wales on Friday she brought back Christine's sewing stash with her.

When I visited my parents for a yummy Sunday lunch today I was greeted by two huge bags and a couple of sewing boxes. Mum and I had a lovely and slightly teary sort out. Christine loved sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidering. She had no daughter to pass her sewing things on to, her daughter-in-law is a newbie knitter and we have packaged up all Christine's needles, yarn and patterns for Orla. Mum and I have divided the sewing and embroidering things between us, I'd like to think she'd be glad we are using her old things to make beautiful new things.

I don't have a scanner so I have no pictures of Christine to post here, but she will always be in my heart.

12 Jun 2010

What To Wear To ... A Job Interview

Yesterday I had a last minute job interview pop up. I got the phone call Thursday afternoon asking if I'd go to Cwmbran for the interview the next morning. This is a job I really wanted despite only being a nine month maternity cover so I agreed because, well let's face it, it's not like I'm doing anything more important right now!

This, of course, then prompted the problem of what to wear. In my previous life in the television industry there was no dress code unless you were filming a live event and then you had to wear black. Didn't matter what you wore, so long as it was black. There was one, never to be forgotten, immortalised on the Doctor Who website, morning when I turned up at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in my PJs. However, it was pre-dawn and mid winter and I was going straight home again so I figured I was allowed.

What this has meant, though, is that I own no suits. I own very little that can really be construed as smart casual enough for a job interview or anything smart casual that goes together, fits me, appeals to my current sense of fashion and is good enough for a job interview.

The email said suited and booted. I decided to ignore that, not having any other choice and not being the kind of person who'll wear a suit when made too (and being broke) I wasn't about to go out and buy a cheap one that wouldn't fit properly anyway (and would no doubt be made of a stretchy material).

So what did I choose? Why, this of course:

The dress is a tea dress style navy and white polka dot dress from La Redoute, a french catalogue that I love. It fits a lot better than the photo implies (I don't photograph well, particularly not when taking it myself on my phone).

I had put my hair up as per Super Kawaii Mama's tutorial, an easy to do style that I adore.

I wore my tan t-bar heels and took my tan saddle handbag and garnered stares wherever I went.

This is probably one of only two dresses suitable for interviews/ work that I own. The other is a bit too low cut and apparently doesn't flatter me as much as this one. Looking at this photo I'm not sure I believe my Mother anymore!

As fab as I think I looked, I don't think I got the job. They want someone to start on Monday and I've heard nothing so I'm guessing that's a big fat nope. On to bigger and better ... hopefully!

What about you, do you have an interview outfit? Or a 'best' outfit? What is it?

Dress: La Redoute
Shoes: Hush Puppy

Thanks for stopping by,

7 Jun 2010

10 Ways You Know You ...

... live in a village in Wales (and I kid you not ... well, not really*). Some good, some bad, some are a matter of perspective.

1) You don't need to spend all day, every day, in a bar for everyone to know your name.

2) No one bats an eyelid when cows suddenly appear in the park or sheep wander the Old Pit Road.

3) There's a disused mining pit in/ just outside of your village and coal slags at the top of the mountain(s).

4) If you're not "from 'round 'ere" people, particularly the older generation, find it difficult to understand you because of your accent.

5) You get good deals from the village mechanic because, let's face it, you know where he lives.

6) Growing up, every woman in your street was your 'Auntie' and even now, 30 years later, you still greet them as such.

7) As you wander past the allotments with your dog, random strangers talk to you and offer freshly picked lettuce for you to take home because they've grown too much.

8) If you do something stupid, everyone will know about it within seconds - amazingly, you don't even need to tell a soul for the entire village to find out.

9) Getting snowed in is a regular occurrence, not because the snow is too deep but due to ice on the steep-side-of-the-mountain roads and no salt being put down the steep-side-of-the-mountain side streets.

10) Every summer at least part of the mountain will catch fire (and not just the same mountain, all the mountains).

Just to be clear, I love living in Wales. I was born and raised in England but Wales is my home and I doubt I'll ever move back across the border. And as a bonus I get to live in views like these**:

What's it like where you live?

* Every one of the things listed above has happened either to me or someone I know or by someone I know
** These really are pictures I've taken from my village and immediate surrounding area whilst out with the wolf, more can be found here

Thanks for stopping by,

6 Jun 2010

SWAP Update

I'm not sure that signing up for all these sewing challenges was necessarily a good idea because:

a) after the epic disaster of the Shirtwaist Dress I've lost nearly all my confidence in my non-existent dressmaking skills (but thankfully none of my drive)

b) I've spent all morning day and all last night trolling through eBay, Etsy and Folksy in an effort to find patterns I like that I can sew

c) I've spent all morning looking at fabric on eBay and come to one conclusion, I have the taste of a 90 year old woman

But! I have decided on some things, which are as follows:

Sewing With A Plan

Trousers Trousers Skirt Skirt
Indigo Stretch Denim Navy & White Stripe Twill Cotton Brown & white floral cotton poplin Brown & white mini polka dot cotton
Shirt Styleprint 1421 Butterick 5677 Colour Scheme
White polycotton White polycotton Rambling Rose Cotton
Top Top Jacket
White polycotton White polycotton

Assuming I win all the patterns I'm bidding for I should be able to do the above. I've already got the denim and I bought the brown check, blue polycotton (see below) and white polycotton today. I'm going to make the brown check shirt like a cowgirl kind of shirt, with brown piping and I might, if I can make it work, change the design slightly and add a yoke. I can see in my mind how it all fits together but doing it so that it all fits correctly still is a whole different ballgame! I thought I'd shorten the second pair of trousers into pedal pushers.

I've also figured out a few more bits about the Summer Essentials:

Summer EssentialS

Ivory & red stretch cotton
Dark blue polycotton
Ivory & red stretch cotton CLAM DIGGERS & CO
Ivory & red stretch cotton
Black cotton
Simplicity 2111 THE SUNDRESS
Red, white & blue cotton poplin


I'm going to attempt to make the playsuit as 'sailory' as possible, again I can see in my head how to do it but actually doing it will be the test. I think I'm going to cheat with most of these and ask my mother to tutor me, I'd hate for another Shirtwaist Dress disaster! You'll notice all the fabrics are a cotton or cotton blend, this is purely because I have not yet learnt what all the other fabrics are like nor how to sew them. I'll get to that once I've learnt a bit more about actually constructing something and having it turn out without a gaping hole down the centre front!

Oh, and whilst wandering eBay (all day!) for fabric I came across the most divine shop full of divine fabric and want to buy pretty much everything but then that would mean my wardrobe would be made of nothing but florals and I don't think that would be such a good look. But do check out the shop, there's bound to be something there you'll like, promise.*

* I wasn't paid to say this, I only ever point the way to shops with things I adore

Thanks for stopping by,

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