Monday, 23 February 2015

Building a Living Willow Dome

Worthing Willow Dom

The first few days of February's half term holiday were spent helping to build a living willow dome in Worthing's Beach House Park. This family-friendly project was part of BugCycle an initiative run by community arts organisation Creative Waves in partnership with Worthing Wildlife. BugCycle aims to bring wildlife, planting, crafts and colour to an underused space in this beautiful park.

Building a living willow dome

Willow crafting team extraordinaire Ganesh and Elaine of Creative Willow led the construction of the dome and taught us how to make bird feeders, stars and living willow pencils. Children were encouraged to decorate the area with chalked drawings and crafts. Happily the BugCycle team provided hot drinks and biscuits which nicely took the edge off the winter chill as our kids were having too much fun to want to leave!  

Willow crafts and decoration for Beach House Park
Creative Waves willow dome workshops, February 2015
Elaine and Ganesh at Creative Willow; BugCycle's Ellie, Charlotte, Sarah, Nadia and Vanessa

Beach House Park is a place I walk through every day – with tree lined paths and herbaceous borders it's a haven for birds and wildlife as well as the site for Nancy Price's Pigeon War Memorial. For years the park was famously home to the Bowls England National Championships, an event that packed out the park every summer. Controversially this flagship tournament moved to Leamington Spa last year amid local mutterings that Worthing Council should have done more to hold onto what had been an acclaimed and lucrative event for our town for over 40 years. The loss of the tournament (and revenue) has already signalled changes in the park with the vast, colourful flower beds that ran through the central avenue being dug out and replaced by large green tubs of low maintenance shrubs. While these are still pretty they're not a patch on the spectacular floral displays that greeted visitors to the park during the Bowls Championship years.

Beach House Park willow dome

BugCycle hopes to breathe life into neglected areas of Beach House Park again and I'm sure will help attract many new visitors – human as well as insect! I look forward to seeing the project grow, especially the living willow dome.

Doodling bugs

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Wukulele Love

My ukulele at Wukulele February 2015

Wukulele jam traditionally takes a break in January, so today saw us meeting up for the first time in 2015. With every seat in Worthing Rowing Club taken, latecomers were huddled into the bar area – it was standing room only but no one was turned away!

A jam packed room at Wukulele

We belted out tunes from Wukulele Songbook 16 – highlights being What's Up, Don't Stop Me Now and Morningtown Ride. After a break for refreshments and chatter we reassembled to storm through the Bad Lyrics of Love Songbook. Both songbooks were diligently put together by Harriet who keeps the jam going with boundless enthusiasm. Happily under her direction Wukulele jam continues to go from strength to strength.

Wukulele people, February 2015

As we played the sun streamed in through through the Rowing Club's windows, and we were in such good spirits that we all trooped outside after the jam to play a few more numbers to a bemused crowd of onlookers on the seafront. This went down so well that we plan to make it a regular occurrence in fine weather!

Ukuleles of Wukulele

Wukulele takes place upstairs at Worthing Rowing Club, usually on the third Sunday of the month. Check the Facebook page for more details. You can download all our Wukulele Songbooks for free from

Worthing beach, February 2015

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Embroidered by Imagination: A Gudrun Sjödén Valentine

Ivy Arch wears Gudrun Sjödén's Li Wei coat

Embellished with embroidered and printed roses, Gudrun Sjödén's Spring 2015 collection is influenced by the colourfulness and craftsmanship of the Far East.
Embroidered and lined with roses: Gudrun Sjödén's Li Wei quilted coat

My favourite piece from Sjödén's Spring collection is the Li Wei coat. The coat is padded and finely quilted with a stitched scallop pattern around the hem and has exquisitely embroidered roses and leaves on the front. Inside it's lined with Xiang print fabric which looks like a spray of roses in full bloom. The coat is just lightly padded but is surprisingly warm and in the cherry red colour is just the thing to brighten any grey day.

Inside the Li Wei coat is lined with Xiang bright rose print

I chose the Sakura button-through kimono dress to wear with it. 'Sakura' means cherry tree and this bright hibiscus pink fabric is printed with sweet cherry blossom flowers.
Sakura kimono dress: Gudrun Sjödén Spring 2015

My final pick was a break from convention as I hardly every wear anything tight around my waist – I chose the kod woven cotton tie belt in mustard as it looked so wonderful on the models in Gudrun Sjödén's catalogue! It wraps around the body and ties a bit like my daughter's karate belt. It feels rather ceremonial to wear and I like the fact that it has no buckles or metal fastenings.

A Gudrun Sjödén valentine

See more of Gudrun Sjödén's exciting Spring Collection 2015 here

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Save Worthing Skyline!

Say NO to Roffey's Skyscraper on Worthing beach!

Property developer Roffey Homes intend to build a 21 storey high-rise apartment block close to the promenade on Worthing beach. Yesterday I joined the Save our Seafront protest to voice my opposition to these disproportionate plans for a sight previously bequeathed to the town's people for leisure use.

Sign the petition!

For two hours two dozen locals braved the cold weather to hand out fliers to passers by, collect signatures for the petition, hoist banners and raise awareness for this just cause. Every supportive beep from passing motorists, bus, lorry and van drivers was met with a cheer!

Save Our Seafront protest, 7 February 2014
These people all say NO to Roffey's skyscraper on the beach!

Roffey's proposed skyscraper is an ersatz, unimaginative design that would exceed the height of all buildings in Brighton Road and along the seafront. It would ruin the seafront skyline and herald the destruction of what is historically an elegant seaside resort. Over a thousand people have signed a petition indicating they don't want it to go ahead and I hope that Worthing Council will consider our views and veto Roffey's plans.
I urge all readers of my blog to sign our petition to Save Worthing Seafront. You don't have to be a local resident to sign – you are all potential visitors to Worthing!

Save Our Seafront! Please sign the petition.

For more information visit Save Our Seafront Worthing. Sign the petition here.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Year of The Goat lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

To mark the imminent start of the Year of the Goat I have restocked my Etsy shop with some new Chinese zodiac goat lavender bags. They're made from Mini Moderns Stevie printed cotton which was inspired by an oriental postage stamp collection. Mini Moderns produced this wonderful fabric for Clothkits a few years ago and the fabric is now out of print, making these lavender bags very rare indeed! For the backs I used Carolyn Gavin's poppy design organic cotton.

In the Chinese zodiac the sign of the goat (ram or sheep) is thought to symbolise good things and represents creativity and calm. Wishing you these things and more for a Happy Chinese New Year!

To buy or for more info visit the Ivy Arch shop.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Jurassic Fleece: McCall's M6785 Girls' Dress

Dino dress: McCall's M6785

My ten year old's interest in all things Jurassic happily shows no sign of abating, so when I found some polar fleece fabric printed with dinosaur bones in Brighton's Fabric Land, I knew what I had to do.

Rex Bones polar fleece from Fabric Land

For this, her second dinosaur dress, I used McCall's M6785 girls' sewing pattern. The pattern has four versions of a simple pullover dress (and leggings) and is designed for stretch or knit fabrics. 

McCall's M6785 sewing pattern

I modified the pattern to suit the fleece, so made the dress with a shorter stand up collar (model C) and added the kangaroo pocket (from B, the hooded version of the dress). 

Jurassic Fleece - M6785 with modifications

M6785 is easy to make – just like it says on the packet – and the sizing is a good fit too.

Dino crazy!
Dino fleece M6785 details

The dinosaur fleece fabric looks fab as a dress and is a lovely snuggly thing to wear – I'm pleased to report that this junior palaeontologist loves it!


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Just Desserts Dress: Lisette Portfolio - Simplicity 2245

Lisette Portfolio by Ivy Arch

Trifling with the idea of making another Portfolio dress, I spied Fabric Land's pudding patterned Cake Stand heavy cotton (from their own-brand Hill-Berg range) at £3.99 a metre – it would've been churlish not to buy some to make this dress with.

Novelty print linen-look heavy cottons are a Fabric Land favourite of mine, and while they may be intended for craft use, I find them most suitable for dressmaking. The dress I made from their Berlin Macaroon fabric washes and wears well and still looks as good as the day I made it, as do the two Ticket To Ride dresses. They're a perfect weight to wear layered during the winter and the fabrics feel cool enough for summer too.

The Hill-Berg Cake Stand fabric features images from Mrs Beeton's 1861 Book of Household Management including illustrations of meringues, chocolate cream, blancmange, jelly, trifle, stewed pears and tipsy cake. The fabric is available in three colourways but I liked the blue best.

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management
Illustrated puddings from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861
Fabric Land's Cake Stand printed cotton
Fabric Land's Hill-Berg design Cake Stand printed cotton

Sewing a second Portfolio Dress I decided to try the short turn-up sleeve version this time. The instructions state that you should apply fusible interfacing to the sleeve bands, however, in the orange needle corduroy I used this has made them feel a bit too chunky to turn back, so I'm leaving them down. Next time I will skip the interfacing step. The corduroy is another remnant from my stash.

From trifles to Tipsy cake - Lisette Portfolio dress by Ivy Arch

I think the finished dress is splendid, and the fact that it cost me less than £10 in materials to make is the cherry on the cake! 

Simplicity 2245 made by Ivy Arch

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Green Surge Baba Yaga Dress

Baba Yaga dress by Ivy Arch
In a week when membership of the UK's Green Party overtook that of the Lib Dems and UKIP in what Twitter called #GreenSurge, I was pleased to wear a new green Baba Yaga dress (hot off my sewing machine) to our first Meet and Make crafting get-together of 2015.

#GreenSurge Baba Yaga made up of leftover fabrics

The dress is green both in colour and because it recycles fabrics left over from previous sewing projects. Scarlett et Marguerite's Baba Yaga design lends itself well to stashbusting!

Baba Yaga dress cuffs, border and back details

The main dress is cut from Soft Cactus Lasting Leaves cotton (seen earlier in this Poppy Tunic); the cuffs are pieces of vintage Paco Rabanne printed cotton (which I made a dress from a decade or so ago, and more recently used scraps to make monster toys); and the small centre front panel is a tiny piece of Lille Skip Forest Blue (left over from making this dress). It's trimmed with three different types of braid from my overflowing tin of ribbons.

Baba Yaga dress trimmings

As with my first Baba Yaga, this dress is a joy to wear and I look forward to dreaming up new fabric combinations for future Baba Yagas.
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