Beached Starfish of Worthing

Starfish washed ashore, Worthing beach

On Boxing Day we found dozens of starfish washed up on the beach at Splashpoint, east of Worthing Pier. The bodies of beached dead sea creatures stretched all along the coast heading eastwards – reportedly all the way to Shoreham-by-Sea. These were casualties of stormy weather of recent days.

Sea creatures, Worthing beach

We found crabs, remains of large fish, many glutinous molluscs and scores of sea sponges all churned up and spread out along the beach on a carpet of purple sea weed, broken shells and blue-grey pepples. A colourful, sorry sight.

Marine storm debris, Worthing
Sea sponges washed ashore
Worthing beach after storm
Worthing blackbird

Kawaii felt kittens for Christmas

Kawaii kittens

I've wrapped and placed the final home-made Christmas gift for my daughter under the tree. It's this trio of cute felt kittens made from a sewing pattern purchased at the eleventh hour from Dolly and Paws at Etsy.

Felt cute kittens

The pattern (a scanned PDF file) was instantly emailed upon purchase and looks like it comes from a Japanese craft book. Instructions are in Japanese but the pattern pieces are labelled in English with easy-to-follow picture diagrams.

Kitten sewing pattern

I stitched these cats together while watching the final fantastic episode of BBC TV series Ripper Street and two episodes of ITV drama Lucan (which wasn't as enjoyable as sewing-along to Ripper Street, but I persevered to the end). 

 Kittens in a tin

The finished kittens measure approximately 9cms high and are off the scale on the cute-o-meter.

Kawaii felt cats

Tin of kittens

The Onion Dress

Stylish Dress Book: Dress T, with onions

This onion fabric was purchased on a peri-menopausal whim. I spied it in Worthing's soon-to-be defunct Sewing Machine Shop, hidden away downstairs with the quilting fabrics. I love it! Called Eat Onions it's 100% cotton and is produced by Makower UK
Eat Onions fabric, Makower UK

Makower's fabrics are intended for patchwork and quilting but they have such delicious designs I can only imagine them for clothing. Eat Onions is the same superb quality as the Tape Measure and Cotton Reels fabric I made this skirt from. It hangs well, washes and irons beautifully and returns to form.

Stylish Dress Book onion dress: T

The sewing pattern is an old favourite from Stylish Dress Book volume 1. It's letter T, the first dress I ever made from a Japanese sewing book and a design I have now made several times – always a winner! 

with extra onions

Painted Portrait Autumn Wonderland Dress

Painted Portrait dress in Eloise Renouf

Anna Maria Horner's Painted Portrait Dress is a garment as beautiful as it sounds. Sold as a make-it-yourself dress and blouse sewing pattern it has become one of those oft-pinned items that this seamstress couldn't stop thinking about. Last week I succumbed and ordered the pattern from Backstitch as a Christmas treat (ahem).

Eloise Renouf Bark and Branch: Autumn Wonderland

Only the best fabric would do, hence a trip to Worthing's Eclectic Maker. I was excited to find they had Eloise Renouf's organic cotton Bark and Branch range and though I would've liked to buy some of each design in the collection, the Autumn Wonderland tree-print was my favourite. For the contrast yoke I chose a grey printed cotton designed by Rebekah Ginda for Birch Organic. The two fabrics look and feel great together. 

Organic cottons from Eclectic Maker

The Painted Portrait sewing pattern can be made up in several different variations. I decided to opt for a dress with solid yoke, sleeves and pockets this time. Before beginning I perused a few blogs for advice from expert makers. Fancy Tiger Crafts has blogged a parade of pleasing Painted Portraits, Lempo Bee gave good advice on the sizing (I adore her Melody Miller version) and on her recommendation I cut the dress out in a small size (I'm usually a medium but found this pattern rather roomy - if in doubt make a toile first). I followed Cookin' and Craftin's lead (see her superb blouses) in cutting the back yoke as one piece. I'll always choose a button-free dress if possible – easier to sew and more comfortable to wear.

Anna Maria Horner's Painted Portrait Dress

The finished dress is much more lovely than these photos show as I took the pictures on one of the greyest days of the year and eventually resorted to using a flash outdoors in an attempt to capture the colours of Renouf's print. Here's to sunnier days and more Painted Portrait Dresses...

Painted Portrait Dress, back yoke view

The Garden Gnome Girl's Party Dress

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids : dress J

This is a party frock I've made for Harriet 'Wukulele' Booth's seven year old daughter. It's another Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids garment, Dress J made from remnant fabrics left over from a beautiful bespoke Dig For Victory dress Harriet recently had made. Therefore, I take no credit for choosing these wondrous fabrics which were picked by Ms Booth herself – a green lawn print cotton by Michael Miller and contrasting garden gnome design cotton from Hoodie's Collection at Timeless Treasures.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids dress

There wasn't quite enough of the grass print fabric to make a full length skirt so I added a jolly gnome border to the hem. I also lined the bodice in a bright green cotton material left over from making this kimono.

Gnomic details

The dress is a surprise Christmas present for Harriet's daughter – I do hope they both like it!

Lawn print by Michael Miller, Gnome fabric by Timeless Treasures

Cross-over in Corduroy: Happy Homemade Sew Chic - Tunic K

Happy Homemade Sew Chic: Tunic K

There's always room for one more corduroy dress in my wardrobe and I snapped up this blue floral needle cord fabric at Brighton's Fabricland in September as soon as I saw it (it quickly sold out).  It was a few months before I decided what to make with it, then along came Happy Homemade Sew Chic, and tunic K seemed perfect for winter layering over long sleeved tops and jeans.

Yoshiko Tsukiori's Happy Homemade Sew Chic

This dress pattern is super easy to sew. It has a shirring elastic detail at the shoulder (essentially just two lines of stitching) and this clever small detail nicely curves the wrap-over front neckline.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic: Tunic K

I made the sleeves and hem a couple of centimetres longer than the sewing pattern and added a patch pocket which I have sewn on just a bit too high. Haven't had the heart to unpick and re-stitch it yet though, so may just leave it where it is, it's pretty well camouflaged in the floral print! The finished garment is effortless to wear and feels lovely and soft.
Yoshiko Tsukiori's Happy Homemade: Tunic K

Huggable Happy Homemade Hoodie

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids - S

As promised earlier this month, I have made my daughter pattern S from Tuttle Publishing's Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids book. The book calls it a Pull-over Parka but to my British ears that suggests more of a coat than the cute simple hooded sweatshirt it is.

Pattern S has three-quarter length sleeves, a drawstring waist and a loose hood. I used a lovely bright floral fleece for added huggability. It was a very easy make and I will definitely be sewing more versions of this – perhaps with full length sleeves and an added kangaroo pocket next time.

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids
Pullover Parka pattern diagram

I can report that the Happy Homemade hoodie has been thoroughly tested climbing trees in Homefield Park! It more than passes muster and is currently her favourite thing to wear.

Happy Homemade Hoodie
Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids hoodie

New Ivy Arch telephone and typewriter lavender bags

Ruby Star phone lavender bags by Ivy Arch

The run up to Christmas is the busiest time of my lavender bag producing year and the soothing sweet scent of this herb permeates my house. 
   According to folklore lavender is a favourite scent of the elves, which is why it is sometimes referred to as Elf Leaf. Some incredible properties have been attributed to it including the power to ward off depression (by simply gazing at the plant) and the ability to maintain peacefulness at home (by scattering lavender flowers around the house). It was also recommended to smell the plant as often as possible to guarantee a long life.
   While I can't promise that my lavender bags have magic properties they do smell great and make ideal Christmas gifts. I've added two new lines to my Etsy shop today, new telephones and typewriter lavender bags in Melody Miller's Ruby Star fabrics for Kokka, Japan.

Ruby Star telephone and typewriter lavender bags by Ivy Arch

If only this was smell-o-vision I could share the gorgeous scent with you on this blog too! Go here for a closer look and to buy.

A Happy Homemade girl's Gudrun Sjödén dress

Happy Homemade Gudrun Sjoden

Like many DIY dressmaking fans throughout the land I'd been eagerly awaiting the release of Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids so of course jumped at the chance to review Tuttle Publishing's forthcoming title!

This is my first look at a Japanese childrenswear sewing book. Sew Chic Kids contains 20 designs by Ruriko Yamada for children aged between 2-8 years – several girls dresses and blouses as well as shorts, trousers, a shirt and a hooded pull-over (suitable for boys and girls). All simple, elegant designs. It follows the same format as its mother title Happy Homemade Sew Chic and has a thorough section devoted to basic sewing techniques, sewing machine tips, how to draft a paper pattern and advice on pattern placement.

My daughter was delighted that these Japanese clothes would fit her instead of me! I asked her to choose an outfit she'd like me to make and after half an hour of ruminating she managed to narrow her choice down to 9 garments. We finally agreed on pattern J, a v-neck dress (and I've promised to make the pull-over parka next).

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids
Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids: V-neck dress J

I thought the clean lines of dress J would look good in Gudrun Sjödén's bold, bright Solros fabric. It's 100% organic cotton and is printed with large scale multicoloured flowers – a sturdy fabric great for this autumn/winter dress. 

Girls dress in Gudrun Sjödén's Solros fabric
Happy Homemade dress J in Gudrun Sjödén's Solros organic cotton

I fully lined the dress in another Gudrun Sjödén material – a soft airy cotton voile printed with her Krokus design. The finished dress feels lovely and silky inside. Here's what it looks like inside out:

Dress lined with Gudrun Sjödén's Krokus fabric
Inside out: dress lined with Gudrun Sjödén's Krokus fabric

We went across the road to Homefield Park to take our photos amongst the dishevelled leaves and fallen branches of trees struck by St. Jude's storm.

My daughter loves her very first Happy Homemade Gudrun Sjödén fabric dress!

Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids is published by Tuttle on 5th November 2013.
Gudrun Sjödén's fabulous fabrics are available by the metre from her webshop and in store at her boutiques.

Autumnal appliqué ukulele tote bags by Ivy Arch

Ukulele appliqué by Ivy Arch

I've listed four new ukulele appliqué bags in my Etsy shop today. I made them from heavy vintage cottons which were originally produced as furnishing fabrics for William Morris, Laura Ashley, Peter Hall and Bernard Wardle.

Ivy Arch applique bags

The colours are just right for autumn – but don't let that stop you using them all year round! To buy, or take a closer look visit the Ivy Arch Etsy shop.

On Highdown Hill

Highdown Hill, South Downs

The day after Saint Jude's storm saw calm blue skies with bright puffy clouds over Worthing. I headed up to Highdown with friends to breathe some South Downs air and hike across the breezy hilltop. Our children scrambled through long grass, explored ditches and climbed trees while we marvelled at the splendid views across Worthing and out to sea – blighted only by the sight of a sprawling Asda superstore.

Highdown Hill, West Sussex

As the air began to chill we gambolled back down the hill to Highdown Tearooms and refuelled with huge glasses of hot chocolate with whipped cream and generous portions of cake before investigating Highdown's chalk gardens

Highdown Gardens in autumn time

The children disappeared in a game of hide and seek and we could've stayed another hour enjoying the rich autumn colours but were driven out by the sound of a ringing bell warning us that the gardens were about to close.

Sunset at Highdown

The Two Hour Dress: Gather One-Piece

Gather one-piece: Easy Cute Straight Stitch Sewing

This dress took me two hours to make from start to finish, including fathoming out the Japanese instructions in Yoshiko Tsukiori's Easy Cute Straight Stitch Sewing book and drafting the sewing pattern from scratch.

Yoshiko Tsukiori's Easy Cute Straight Stitch Sewing

I'd made a similar Gather One-Piece dress before so knew what to do. The pattern is essentially two rectangle shapes and the trickiest part was drawing a pleasing curve for the neckline – and that's as hard as it got. The sewing diagram is so easy to follow (even in Japanese) with just five simple steps.

Gather one-piece

I used 2.5 meters of red poly-jersey bought from Worthing's Wednesday market – synthetic stuff but feels soft and silky and it's printed with thousands of tiny stars. I lined the bodice in the same fabric as I thought it would give a smoother neckline and sleeve edge than binding such a stretchy material, this probably took less time than making bias binding too.

Easy Cute Straight Stitch Sewing: Gather one-piece

This must be the quickest garment I've made since running up skirts out of tie-dye bed sheets as a teenager! It's the perfect dress-make to appease a fast fashion habit but without sweatshop production values.

Easy Gather One-piece