Stocking up on Plaintains

I’ve been so behind in my blogging of completed clothes! I guess in a way, it’s a good thing since I can then see whether or not I’m enjoying wearing what I’ve completed. I generally dislike taking pictures of myself, which makes it difficult to show what I’ve been sewing. That has been the key thing keeping me back from blogging my completed projects.

Deer & Doe’s (FREE) t-shirt pattern is the Plantain. It’s been released for a while now, but I’ve only just jumped on the bandwagon.

I’ve been making a lot of woven tops lately, but realised that when I went to go reach for something to throw on to run errands or pop out, I wouldn’t automatically go for a women. My go-to shirts are normally jersey because they don’t wrinkle (easily), they’re comfortable to just slip on and wear. Noticing a gap in my me-made clothing (gasp!) I decided to try out some short sleeved plantains. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I didn’t need to make any adjustments and I just find that the shaping and fit is really flattering.

These two are my first makes. The fabric for both was from Walthamstow Market and I love how jazzy they are. I bought them from The Textile Centre and it looks like they have more in their ebay store. White/Black and Cream/Coral.

20150807_183007

20150807_183001

20150807_182939

20150807_182928

I really love the texture of the jersey. It’s unique, and I like the geometric patterns as well. So far, I’ve really loved wearing these, and they’re really comfortable!

I most recently made up the plaintain in a blue ponti roma from Abakhan Fabrics. It’s a really nice royal blue and I made the sleeves slightly longer and added cuffs.

20150807_183104

Advertisements

By Hand London Anna Peplum

I’m obsessed with By Hand London. Their patterns are so pretty and easy to sew. One of the things I love about them are the hacking and separates potential. With their dresses you can mix and match bodices and skirts as well as play with different necklines. I recently made my first Anna dress and it really is so elegant, and simple to sew. I’ve read on blogs everywhere how it’s a “dream to sew up” and they aren’t kidding. There’s also a pattern hack to add pockets to an Anna skirt…that is on my list of next projects…because let’s face it, who doesn’t love pockets?!

A couple weekends ago, I decided to try making an Anna top. Since the bodice is quite short, and I’m not quite a crop top wearer, I thought I’d add a peplum for the extra length. I used the instructions on Autumn’s blog to figure out the peplum portion.

I used this gorgeous black and white polka dot fabric from Minerva Crafts. It’s kind of stretchy but also thick like scuba. I mistakenly overestimated the stretchiness of this because I took out the back seam allowance since I didn’t think I’d need a zip. Then, I sewed the peplum on, but tore some stitches in the waist seam trying to pull it over my head. I ended up unpicking the peplum, taking out the darts in the back and then sewed the peplum back to to give me the space I needed. *Phew! I would have been gutted if I’d wasted this gorgeous fabric and all that effort!

I haven’t decided whether I want to sew a hem or leave it as is. The material ended up fraying quite a lot so I zig-zagged the raw edge. Since the fabric is quite thick, I’m worried that sewing in a hem will make the edge look to bulky. I wore it to my company summer party unhemmed, and you honestly couldn’t tell. It didn’t fray more either, so I think I’ll leave it as is for now!

I think next time I make it, I may put an invisible zip in the side hem and see if that helps. I do miss the back darts as they shape the back nicely. Thankfully, it’s not that noticeable in this version.

The front bodice with the darts sewn. With the v-neck  and the darts, you can already see it taking a really nice shape
The front bodice with the darts sewn. With the v-neck and the darts, you can already see it taking a really nice shape
Finished product, with the peplum! I haven't decided if I want to hem the peplum yet.
Finished product, with the peplum!
I wore it to my company summer party with some black jeggings. It worked out well!
I wore it to my company summer party with some black jeggings. It worked out well!

My first Anna!

By Hand London. Every blogger that I follow has made at LEAST one of these amazing Anna dresses. Here are just a few of the amazing Anna’s that inspired me to make my own: Fiona’s amazing polyester crepe Anna, Sew Busy Lizzy’s rose Anna, Sallieoh’s silk maxi Anna, Heather Lou’s gorgeous version and Tasia’s cotton print version. There are so many others, but these are some of my favourites. For those sewing the Anna for the first time, there’s a great sewalong to help you if you’re stuck.

First of all, I knew I’d have to do a SBA (Small Bust Adjustment). The sewalong gives really good instructions, and the bodice fit me like a glove. I was pretty happy considering it’s the first time I’d made a dress, let alone made an adjustment to the pattern piece. I used a light and flowy navy cotton lawn with small blue flowers. Upon closer inspection, they look like shamrocks, but blue! I decided to make the midi version because I figured I’d get more used out of it. I don’t tend to be a big dress wearer, but with all the pretty dress patterns and fabrics I’m seeing, I might end up becoming one!

20150614_090348-2

Really loving the cowl necks

I’ve done quite a bit of sewing in the past couple months but I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it. I’ll be playing catch up over the next few weeks.

I never used to be into cowl necked things, but I find them flattering, and comfortable to wear! The fact that they’re made from jersey adds to their comfort because they nice and stretchy 🙂

A while back I made a red long-sleeve cowl neck top from Sew Over It. It’s made of a lovely and thick ponte roma jersey that I picked up on Goldhawk Road. I’ve worn it loads of times since making it…just never got around to blogging about it. I don’t have an overlocker but used twin needles, which works remarkably well. There’s a really great tutorial on A Stitching Odyssey’s blog that I found really useful. The pattern is so easy to follow and to sew. It’s 4 pattern pieces, 2 cut on the fold and 2 sleeves. With the weather getting warmer, I doubt I’ll be wearing it much now but as soon as it gets cooler I’m sure I’ll be getting a lot of use out of it. I’ll probably also make more in a variety of colours 🙂 Ahhh…the joys of sewing.

View from the front. As you can see, I've made the sleeves nice and long, which suit me just fine :)
View from the front. As you can see, I’ve made the sleeves nice and long, which suit me just fine 🙂
It looks a bit orange here, but I think it's just the light
It looks a bit orange here, but I think it’s just the light

A couple weekends ago, I got around to making another version out of this lovely blue scuba fabric. Since the weather is warming up, I thought making a short-sleeved version would be in order. Another successful cowl neck top! I can guarantee I’ll be making more of these in the future.

Oops, this picture came out a bit blurry!
Oops, this picture came out a bit blurry!
Close up of the front
Close up of the front
View from the side. I really love how easy the scuba is to sew!
View from the side. I really love how easy the scuba is to sew!

Perfect Travel Companion: The Flapjack

One of my top priorities when I travel is “what should I bring/buy to snack on?” As someone who gets hangry (hungry-angry) it’s important for me, and my travel companions’ happiness, that I am well fed. That why on road trips or long train journeys, I come well prepared with every snack possible. Gummy bears, crisps (chips), cookies etc. Something salty, and something sweet to cater for all tastes. They’re usually store bought snacks but on a trip to Europe with friends last year, I decided to make something home made. We were going to be hiking Cinque Terre and spending a lot of time travelling. I sometimes make my own muesli (toasted granola) and had seen recipes for flapjacks. I decided it’d be a good snack as its simplest is made of oats, sugar and butter. It’s a great base starting point. I used this recipe from bbcgoodfood as my base. These flapjacks have been lifesavers, particularly on our Cinque Terre trip where we had train strikes that made our journey HOURS longer than it was supposed to be, and sustained us on our full day hike.

Base ingredients:

250g Porridge Oats – I use the large porridge oats, not the ones used for instant porridge or even microwaveable porridge. I use jumbo rolled oats.
125g Butter
125g Brown Sugar – I use dark muscovado because it adds really great flavour, and isn’t as refined as normal brown sugar
2-3 tbsps Golden Syrup (depends how gooey you want it) – could substitute agave which has a lower GI
*From here, including the method instructions, is where I deviate

Deb’s additions:
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp (or more) of flaxseed – great for fibre and good fats!
You can add any of these in together, or separately – it’s entirely up to you!
Pumpkin seeds
Nuts (I will use crushed cashews or pistachios, but anything will work)
Dried fruit or berries
Chocolate chips

Method

-Weigh out oats and put into mixing bowl
-Melt butter – once melted, add in the brown sugar and mix it around so that any lumps are dissolved or made smaller
-Mix the butter/sugar mixture, spices such as nutmug, cinnamon, vanilla essence and flaxseed into the oats
-Add in the golden syrup and mix

**Here is where you can split the oats mixture and make part of it plain, and another part with nuts, seeds, chocolate etc.
**The original recipe says to use a baking tin but I’ve had good results with filling muffin tins 1/3 to 1/2 way up and you don’t have to worry about cutting them! Nice for if you’re creating more than 1 kind of flapjack.

-Mix in the “extras” and fill either your baking tin or muffin tins
-Bake at 180 Celsius or ~ 350 Farenheit for 20 minutes
-Note: It may require less time if using muffin tins – more like 15 minutes
-Remove from oven when they are golden
If you use dark brown muscovado, the flapjacks will look more brown than golden

I made these flapjacks for our most recent trip to Croatia. I used the baking tray method this time.
I made these flapjacks for our most recent trip to Croatia. I used the baking tray method this time.
Side shot of the flapjacks. I used pistachios and chocolate chips in this version...loads of them :)
Side shot of the flapjacks. I used pistachios and chocolate chips in this version…loads of them 🙂

Sewing adventures continued! Cowl Neck top

One of the big issues I have with finding long sleeve tops is length. Length of the torso and length of the sleeves. I have long arms, and can never find long sleeve tops that fit my torso and don’t eventually become 3/4 sleeved after 1 wash.

I’d been watching the Great British Sewing Bee (I realise that admitting this may put me in granny territory) and it’s really motivated me to start sewing again!

I found this great sewing shop in London called Sew Over It. They have these amazing sewing classes and patterns that look intermediate friendly. It’s been a cold winter and a cold spring (so far), and I find myself turning to long sleeves on a regular basis. As a result, the first pattern of theirs that I tried is the Cowl Neck Top and dress. I liked that it could be used to make a long sleeve or short sleeve top or dress.

I had some striped jersey in my fabric box and decided to use it for this top. I don’t have an overlocker, so I did all of this on a traditional sewing machine. The instructions call for zigzagging the edges of the jersey and using a straight stitch for the seams. I decided instead to use twin stretch needles to sew all of my seams and hems so that the stitches would give when stretched.

Overall, a really easy pattern to follow and quite simple to put together! I’m really happy with the stripey long sleeve and have already worn it many times since completing it. I’ve just bought more jersey to make more versions of it! I definitely chalk this project up to a success!

Striped Cowl Neck

A Lesson in being Observant and Trusting your Instincts

Being a woman anywhere in the world, you can often find yourself targetted for one reason or another. Because of ethnicity, because you may appear weaker and thus easier to take advantage of, or because of your age. We get a lot of talks about being careful and aware of your surroundings, but I can’t stress enough how important this can be. Not to make you paranoid of everything, but to have an observant watchfulness that could very well save you from bad situations. I’m not in law enforcement, nor am I trained in self-defense. An incident that happened on my way home from work today made me feel like I should share some stories with you, because a woman’s instincts are one of the most important tools she has in staying safe.

I am generally observant by nature, and prone to question people’s motives or why they are doing a certain thing. I’m not what you’d classify as paranoid. I also don’t possess an overtly negative outlook towards the world. But in my adult life, there have been 3 situations where being observant and aware of my surroundings has helped me, and I want to share these with the women out there in the hope that you will employ some of the same techniques.

1. A number of years back, 3 friends and I were shopping at the Las Americas outlets in San Diego. We’d gone shopping in pairs, and had decided to meet at a fast food restaurant nearby to go home together. After a successful shopping trip, my friend and I decided to drop our purchases off at my car, and to walk back to the shops to check out a couple more places we missed on the first go around. As we were walking through the parking lot towards my car, a white sedan pulled out of its parking space just ahead of us. We stopped to let it pull out before proceeding ahead. I noticed the man glance at us, down at our shopping bags and then kept backing out. Nothing to make me worried, but just something I’d noted. As we kept walking towards my car, I noticed that the car had come back around into the parking lane we were in, and park only a few spots away from where he had pulled out of. I thought to myself: “Why did that man pull out, just to park again a few spots from where he left?”. I mentioned this to my friend and she didn’t really think anything of it. It still seemed odd to me because the parking spot was further from the shops, so it’s not like he was getting a more convenient parking spot.

We put the shopping bags in the trunk (boot) of my car and as we walked away, I noticed the man get out of his car. I turned around once, and he was walking back towards my car. Then he saw me notice him and he kept walking behind us in the direction of the shops. As we turned our backs and kept walking, a few seconds later, I looked behind me, and he had turned around and walked in the direction of my parked car. He looked and saw me watching him so he pretended to walk back towards us towards the shops. This proceeded to happen twice more. I told my friend I’d wait for her in the parking lot so I could keep my eye on the man. He kept up the charade of walking towards the shops and as he disappeared around a corner, I saw him glance back at me. I am certain, that had I not turned around, he would have broken into my car and taken all of our purchases. He noticed we had quite a few shopping bags, and once it became clear we were about to do more shopping, he was going to break in. I’m sure at a few points during this scenario, my friend thought I was paranoid, or crazy. I myself questioned it a few times, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

Lesson: If something seems off to you, don’t just brush it off as coincidence. Even if you don’t act on it right away, file it away. What triggered it for me, was the man’s eye movement. I saw him observing our shopping bags. That movement felt odd and everything that happened after that just confirmed what I had observed.  In the off chance I was being overly paranoid, the worst that could have happened was that he’d think I was some paranoid female and shake his head and move on. I would never see him again, so why would i care what he thought of me?

2. I was driving home from my fiance’s (now husband) house one evening around 11pm. The area I lived in wasn’t super posh, but it wasn’t necessarily unsafe either. I was driving through residential areas and noticed a truck behind me. It got really close to me, and then backed off and started following me at a further distance. At the time, I didn’t think “oh, this truck is following me” but I thought it was odd that it had done that. The streets were practically empty (because it was late) and if it’d wanted to pass me, it could have. Why did it back off? I didn’t pay any more attention to it until I was making a turn and I noticed it slow down and pull over. I figured it had pulled over it front of their house. But no, once I made the turn, it kept driving and following me. I noticed that each time I pressed on the brake, it would slow down and pull over, as if to see whether I was stopping at that house. Because I was taking backstreets through residential, there were a lot of turns, so I was able to observe this happening quite a few times. As I approached my street, I pulled over to the side of the road, turned off my engine and stayed in the car with the doors locked. I kept the keys in the ignition. The truck pulled over into a street behind me. It pulled out and drove past me. In that moment, I told myself “See? You’re just being paranoid” and got out of the car. As I got out, I saw that the truck had turned around ahead of me and was driving back in my direction. In that moment, I cursed my stupidity for getting out of the car so quickly. I stood there, realising that I might not have time to get back into my car and lock the door. I was determined to get a look at his face so I stood there, in front of my open car door and stared into the drivers side window. The windshield and the window were tinted so darkly that I couldn’t see a thing. The truck slowed in front of me, but didn’t stop. After it passed me, it sped up and drove away. I looked to see if I could get a license plate, but it didn’t have one. I’m not sure what would have happened, but I drove an older camry, so I doubt I was about to get my car stolen.

Lessons: Getting out of my car was a stupid idea. I should have had a populated place in mind that I could have driven to in order to get a bead on whether the truck was really following me. Either that, or I should have been aware of where the nearest police station was so that I could have driven there. Ladies, it pays to plan ahead in case you believe you’re being followed. The truck was old, so why did they pay to have the windows tinted so darkly? It was also missing plates, so they clearly didn’t want to be identified. I was dumb to get out of my car, but I was probably staring directly into the eyes of the driver, and my awareness scared them off. An attacker wants to catch their victims when they’re off guard. Digging for keys in your purse, or juggling a lot of items. I know that even though getting out of the car was stupid, being defiant and letting them know I saw them probably made up for my stupidity because they drove off.

3. Today’s incident wasn’t as dramatic as the last two, but I want to tell it because seemingly benign behaviour, should be noted. I was walking home from the tube station and there was this man walking a bit aimlessly in front of me. He was caucasian, well dressed and clean cut. There were a lot of tourists in the area, but he didn’t strike me as a tourist. I thought he could be a man going home from work, but his aimless walking is what made me notice him. Most people on their way home from work in the city, walk quickly and purposefully to their locations. I passed him on the sidewalk and walked ahead like I was going home. I noticed that he’d started walking faster, and was keeping pace with me, but a few metres behind me. This can happen, because there are a lot of people in London, and inevitably, some will live near me. I did slow down a bit to see what he’d do, and he slowed down too. Again, nothing earth shatteringly obvious, but another thing to note. I decided that I would stop at the local pub and check my phone as if I was waiting for someone. I turned the corner and stopped just out of the eye line of the street. The man walked up, saw me standing there with my phone out. He turned, crossed the street, and walked back in the direction we’d just come. Only once did he glance back at me. I waited until he was out of sight before I went home. Now, I live in a very nice area, and it was practically broad daylight. I’m fortunate to have restaurants nearby that I can go to if I need to. The man may have decided that he was going the wrong direction and turned around to go back, but I wasn’t going to risk putting myself in a situation to find out.

Lesson: No matter how benign you think a situation is, test it. Do what I did and walk a bit faster, and then a bit slower to see what happens. If you’re wrong, then there’s no harm done. People may just think you have an erratic walking pattern. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re instincts are wrong, or that your gut is misleading you. I’m a normal female adult, and I truly believe that my ability to observe, and not just see (an homage to Mr. Holmes), as well as to trust my instincts, has served me well.