Floral monster March

Candida fabric toy by Ivy Arch

I've finished making a batch of soft toys from vintage Heals, William Morris and Laura Ashley printed fabric remnants. These are destined for two new shops; Taylor-Jones & Son in the seaside town of Deal in Kent (follow them on Twitter) and another soon-to-be-opening shop in Worthing's lovely Warwick Street area – more about this one very soon.

Making monsters
Ivy Arch vintage fabric soft toys
"I'm ready for my close up, Ms Arch"

Eye Couture: Stylish Dress Book - Tunic F

Surrealist eye candy

I can't resist the temptation to badly pun my way through this post, even though this demonstrates a lack of vision and a distinctly lowbrow approach to the medium. If you think my sentences can't get any cornea, read on.

Eye catching fabric from Ikea

Ikea's Vännerna Titta fabric designed by Julia Bernholtz and Helena Svensson could be described as being easy on the eye. It's a nod to Man Ray's Surrealist masterpiece Tears, and a wink to the 1960s pop art of Warhol and Lichtenstein. Ikea (Eye-kea?) only sells this fabric in pre-cut 3 metre lengths and though it's designed as a curtain fabric I thought it was too good to hide away indoors so made a rather eye-catching frock out of it instead.
Stylish Dress Book tunic F

Turning to the Stylish Dress Book for a sewing pattern, dress F "Tunic dress with split sleeves" seemed perfect. I lengthened the hem by 5cms so that it looks more like a futuristic tabard the fabric demands it!

I love the sharp A-line shape it has in this slightly stiff cotton and can't wait to wear the dress out and about, especially if I make it up to London for the Man Ray show at National Portrait Gallery this Easter holiday.

Nothing finer than Brighton Charleston

Charleston feet

Twelve days ago I stubbed the middle toe on my left foot while rushing to get my daughter's bath ready before bedtime. It was a pathetic injury but hurt so much that I couldn't put any pressure on it at all, had to cycle my child to school instead of walking for the next few days, and could only hobble around the house. I applied Arnica religiously and watched as the bruised swollen toe became a bruised swollen foot before fading a little and hurting less. By the eleventh day I was confident I could put both feet through the paces of a Charleston dance class...

The morning of Graeme and Amanda's Solo Charleston Workshop I gently squeezed my feet into the only shoes I have without a grippy sole (a flat smooth sole is recommended for Charleston) and excitedly set off for Brighton.  Meeting Wukulele Harriet on the train as arranged, we arrived in Brighton early enough to fuel ourselves with excellent coffee at Small Batch Seven Dials, then headed for the dance venue upstairs at Good Companions pub. It was a packed and mixed class – male and female dancers, first timers (like me) and regulars.

Brighton Charleston Workshop feet

The dance was broken down into manageable stages and we marvelled at how effortlessly Graeme demonstrated each sequence to us. We also admired his fabulous swing pants and co-respondent shoes! The enthusiasm in the room was infectious and an hour and a half flew by. The great thing about the Charleston is it's a dance you can improvise to, and make your ownwhen in doubt I remembered to smile and made with the jazz hands. Watch the short films below to see the results of our morning workshop.

I left the class elated and buzzing with joy and didn't notice my throbbing foot until I got to Western Road (en route to buy bobbins). I limped on regardless and just couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day. Luckily lots of people smiled back!
Brighton Solo Charleston Beginners Workshop


Visit Lindy Hoppers if you'd like to Charleston dance in Brighton too.

Spring sewing: Habitual Kimono Wrap

Habitual child's kimono

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web he did it with people like Amy Finlayson in mind. Five years ago architect and crafter Finlayson designed and made a children's kimono pattern. It has since become an internet phenomenon inspiring a virtual community of kimono makers - she emails the pattern out by request and for free.
   There's a Flickr group dedicated to photographs of Habitual Kimono Wraps and here the group's 253 members post pictures of garments they've made from this wonderfully simple pattern. These kimonos have also featured on dozens of sites by delighted bloggers around the globe in a cyber Mexican wave of appreciation for Amy's design.

Put a Stamp On It: Kaufman fabricHabitual kimono pattern

For my interpretation of the Habitual Kimono I drafted the pattern at its largest size for my 8 year old and used Put A Stamp On It cotton fabric from Suzy Ultman's Handle With Care collection for Robert Kaufman (purchased from Fresh Modern Fabric at Etsy). I made my own bias binding (a first!) in the pink spotted Michael Miller cotton I used for this dress earlier in the week.
Habitual kimono in Handle With Care fabric

The resulting robe is beautiful - all credit to Amy for her generosity and vision!  Visit Habitual for Amy's kimono pattern and more.

Bias binding bow

Worthing in Spring: Snow Day

Spring snow in Beach House Gardens

We all knew it was coming. Weather forecasters had warned us for days. That didn't stop hundreds of local radio station fans from getting into their cars and attempting motorway journeys, then getting stuck in the snow all night and phoning in frazzled reports to tell early morning listeners about their ordeal. Even Cheryl Baker from Eurovision super group Bucks Fizz got stuck in her car in the snow (she blamed 'the council') and Toyah Wilcox tweeted that she had spent 14 hours overnight on the M23. It was a bad night for '80s pop stars.
   I was woken at 7am by a cryptic text message from my child's school telling me they would be closed. My daughter didn't believe me when I told her that my school had never closed for snow (only once for asbestos removal). The one day the weather was deemed treacherous we still made it to school but were sent home two hours early. There was no phoning or texting parents, we just set off in small groups (without an adult) and walked ourselves three miles home. It wouldn't be allowed today.

Worthing Snow Day, Spring 2013

After a leisurely breakfast my excited child could be contained no longer and we began our Snow Day in Homefield Park. By 11am the sun had come out and rapidly melted the thinly impacted snow on our sledging slopes so we spent a quality hour having snowball fights instead. More industrious parents built snow men and one a huge Disneyesque snow duck.

Bowling green in the snow: Beach House Gardens

A return home for lunch and hot chocolate, then we set off for the seaside, walking through a lustrous Beach House Gardens. By the time we reached the seafront most of the snow had melted.

Worthng beach March snow

Couture and Biscuits: The Stylish Dress Book

Stylish Dress Book: dress T

Browsing the blogosphere I chanced upon Karyn Valino's Make Something site and her review of Japanese dress books. I'd not come across these before so was thrilled to read about the existence of books full of sewing patterns for simple, chic garments I'd love to wear. Inspired by Karyn's blog I tracked down an English translated edition of Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom. The book cost just under £12 and with 26 sewing patterns included it's incredibly good value for money, especially compared to the cost of individual sewing patterns (in the UK you can expect to pay between £5.00 and £15.00 per pattern).

Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: 1

Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom (volume 1 in this series) is a beautiful object in itself with high production values. It contains gorgeous photographs of all the garments worn by an ethereal young woman looking by turns thoughtful, worried, frail, then a little happier holding a plate of biscuits*, followed by a numbered list of instructions for each pattern with clear step-by-step illustrations. At the back of the book is an envelope containing three folded large double sided pattern sheets. At first glance these were intimidating but with good light, tracing paper, pencil, ruler and concentration the patterns are straightforward to trace out – just don't forget to add your seam allowances afterwards!

Stylish sewing patterns

I decided on pattern T (a pretty smock) and found drafting the pattern, cutting and making up my first dress from the book actually easier than following many other commercial sewing patterns which often have baffling instructions. The simple numbered list and diagrams were a pleasure to follow. I used a recently purchased piece of fabric called Red Folklore from the Isso Ecco & Heart collection by Lecien Japan. It's a cotton/hemp blend printed with apples, birds and plants in vivid, bold colours. For the contrast neck and sleeve trim I used a favourite piece of lime green/hot pink spotted cotton by Michael Miller. 

Making dress T: Stylish Dress Book
Finished frock: dress T from Stylish Dress Book

It's a colourful dress and I'm so pleased with the shape and loose fitting style - my ideal kind of garment! Three other Stylish Dress Books are lined up for UK publication this year: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops is out on 6th May, 23 Stylish Outfits from 6 Simple Patterns on 5th August and Daily Use Dresses, Blouses and Pants on 3rd September. I've a feeling I'm going to buy them all but in the meantime have already started drafting a second dress from volume 1...

Wearing the finished dress

*The biscuit recipe is also included in the book!

Stylish biscuits in the Stylish Dress Book

Spring sewing: New Look 6171 girls' dress pattern

Lille Skip by Naito Shoji: girls' dress
Simplicity's New Look sewing patterns are on sale in The Fabric Shop in Worthing this month, all discounted to just £2.95. My daughter chose dress pattern New Look Studio 6171 as she thought the smart collar gave it a 'grown-up' look and loved the (mock) wrap-over with side fastening bow á la Diane von Fürstenburg!
New Look 6171 kids sewing pattern
The pattern was straightforward to cut out and sew, but I found the collar a bit fiddly so was pleased when it turned out looking like this.
New Look 6171 in Lille Skip fabric
The dress is made from a wonderful cotton fabric from Naito Shoji's Lille Skip collection which we bought at The Eternal Maker (Chichester's Aladdin's Cave of haberdashery specialising in designer and Japanese import fabrics). The print is called Forest and has small deer, little birds, rabbits and tiny owls hiding in and around blue and green trees. I also used a contrasting piece of bright green spotted cotton to highlight the wrap-over effect. The finished dress has something of a 1940s feel about it. It's unusual and lovely – just like my daughter.

The finished dress: New Look 6171