A Finished Dress!

Last week I decided to take the plunge and after a gap of over a decade, get back into dress making. Well, I’m happy to say that I’m considering the result as a success.



I felt like a true rebel actually cutting along the lines of the pattern!

The vast majority of the dress making I’ve done in the past has been under the watchful gaze of The Old Bat, and done to her strict set of rules. As a consequence,  I felt quite rebellious in my own little way doing things the way I wanted to. The first of The Old Bat’s rules I broke was reading the instructions  – I never even knew dress patterns came with instructions until I left home – who knew that some clever person has put together a detailed set of clear instructions and included them free with every pattern! So, first I read and decided to follow them to the letter.

My second act of rebellion was cutting along the line for the size of dress I wanted to make – I know, it’s life in the fast lane in this house! Muti-size sewing patterns come with a series of different lines on the pattern, each line being the cutting line for a different size. As kids we always had to carefully cut and fold back the pattern to the line for the size we wanted – which sort of worked on any straight lines but was a real pain on any curves, and always meant you started off with slightly wonky lines and a deep seated feeling that it wasn’t quite going to turn out how you wanted it to. I took the rash decision that if I ever either gain or loose several dress sizes, I’ll quite possibly have more to life to worry about than the cutting lines on a dress pattern.


I love the fox fabric for the interfacing!

In all my dress took me two happy evenings of sewing, one to put the main body of the dress together and the second to finish off the hem. I love the foxy fabric I chose for the interfacing, it’s just the right weight of fabric and sits well hidden inside the dress.


I chose to finish the hem with blue bias binding – and I think it was the right choice, nice and neat without having to make two folds in the denim fabric.

I think the most painful bit of the entire process was standing in the back garden trying to get Mr P to take a half way decent photo of me wearing the dress before we headed out to a friends 50th last Saturday. Evidently it was very hard for him to get the exposure right because my skin is “soooo pale” – great!



Feeling like a total chump chop!

As I sit here typing, there is already a lovely new bit of fabric sat on my table waiting to be turned into a pair of trousers. I’m going to have to review my new love of following the instructions, as the pattern I’ve ordered online is Danish – I’m hoping that it’ll either come with multi-lingual instructions or very good pictures!

I also just want to say, much as I whinge about The Old Bat’s teaching methods when it came to handing down the wonders of sewing – I am very glad she did. I’m sure my sister and I tested her patience just as much as she tested ours. So, hats off to The Old Bat for carrying on regardless and giving me a skill that will last a life time.

A Return to Dress Making….

Oh, Great British Sewing Bee, you’ve got a lot to answer for! My sister and I were brought up with sewing and dress making being a part of our lives, from school dresses to matching outfits, The Old Bat would make them all. We both started being given little jobs (taking the pins out that attach the pattern to the fabric) and proceeding on to making our own clothes. However, as soon as we’d left home and started to earn money, the dress making was soon ditched and the temptations of the high street took over, and clothes shopping was something that I think it’s safe to say we took to like ducks to water.

While this sounds lovely, the sewing was done on a sewing machine that my mother had been given by her mother for her 21st, which was therefore fairly old and temperamental and also had lots of sentimental value, so woe betide you if you did anything to make said machine unhappy (and The Old Bat could even hear from the next room if you were doing something wrong, such was the connection between her and her sewing machine). Then add in a sprinkling of The Old Bat (as lovely as she can be, let’s just say she’s earnt her name over the years) and big dash of frugality – never quite the right fabric, quite the right pattern, quite the right zip etc – it means that the learning process was far from relaxing!

However, I’ve had an idea for a dress that I’d like for a while, but I haven’t been able to find anything in the shops, and on the rare occasion that I find anything even close, being a tall bird (almost 6ft) then it never fits, or even if it does fit most of me the hem line is such that it looks more like a top than a dress. Thus I found myself browsing the web for sewing patterns and heading into town on Tuesday morning for a spot of fabric shopping.


I’m going for the most simple of these, so the pink dress in the picture, but using dark blue denim, with the fox fabric for the interfacing.

The dress I’d like to make is pretty simple, just a plain shift dress in dark denim – the sort of thing that I can wear with thick tights and a top under in the winter, or flip flops and a cardi in summer (if we have one). So, I’ve bought my fabric – thin dark denim for the outer, and the foxy fabric for the interfacing – on a practical level I didn’t want the interfacing to be too bulky, which is why I’ve chosen to use a different fabric, but I also love the foxy fabric and a bit of hidden contrast.

So, for the first time in years I’m about to embark on a spot of cutting out – all done on the sitting room floor as is tradition, and even though The Old Bat is safely at home over a hundred miles away, I’ll be able to hear her grumbles if I happen to do anything not quite the way she’d do it….


JP x


Just the sight of a sewing pattern takes me right back to my childhood. All cutting out should be done in the middle of the sitting room floor!




Bamboo meets bamboo


Afternoon all

This past week, I’ve decided that I’m like a cross between a magpie and some other (extremely) easily distracted animal where it comes to yarn.  Through (almost) no fault of my own, I’m working on three separate projects at the same time…again.  Why do we do this to ourselves (I know it’s not just me now is it?)  On this occasion, it’s probably because I happened to walk past a nice wool shop (oooooh shiny yarn), and couldn’t actually just walk past (wouldn’t that make a nice cushion), when really I should have (especially if you put it with this other colour here…..mmmmmm).  Oh dear!


So, project number one is the continuation of my poncho – which has now turned into a blanket (don’t ask!) instead. Somehow, it was just so cozy sitting under it and working away, that it seemed a shame not to keep on going.  I’ve decided I’m going to have three long stripes of colour and see how that works.  I’ve started with this denim blue and have found a deep teal for the next stripe along.  I’m using Wendy Mode chunky (see here) which is 50% pure merino wool, just soft enough, and very warm! Not sure if I’ll go for something very bright as a contrast once I’ve done the teal, or stick to more subtle colours – will just have to wait and see what mood I’m in 🙂




Number two is pure indulgence – I bought this amazing yarn (Rowan Kidsilk Haze Stripe) from John Lewis (see here) a couple of weeks back.  It’s THE most expensive yarn I’ve EVER bought, but one ball makes a super soft long scarf, which I’m making for my mum.  So….I’m considering the cost as a present – ok,ok, that’s just my excuse 🙂  The colours really are just wonderful and I’m constantly wondering how on earth they manage to make the colour change through the yarn – my small brain can’t really comprehend it (sigh).




And finally…number three is going to be using this fabulous bamboo yarn, mixed with Sari Ribbon by Louisa Harding (all will be revealed soon).  To be honest, I’ve not yet found a Louisa Harding yarn that I don’t love, and this ribbon style yarn really is no exception.  Its quite firm in texture, so I’m not sure I’d like to use it solo, but as an addition to another yarn, I think it will be pretty fabulous.  Once again, it appeals to my eternal need for general shine and sparkle, and it comes in some amazing colours.  The one I’ve chosen is appropriately called ‘Jam’ and actually doesn’t break the bank at around £5 for a 100g ‘hank’.  (I bought mine from www.blacksheepwools.com who seem to have very reasonable prices).  I’ve used bamboo yarns before, but never of this weight (this one is Sirdar’s Big Bamboo) And, of course, I’m a true believer in bamboo hooks. Bamboo is pretty remarkable substance really, considering it’s various uses. This is going to be a great project, and Jo and I are working on a tutorial to go with it, so watch this space.





Happy crochet days.




It IS spring, it IS spring…isn’t it?


Wow – the weather just can’t make up it’s mind at the moment can it?

At least the flowers around about have made a determined effort to keep the seasons turning, and there is the teeniest little bit of Spring in the air if you sniff carefully – oh, and rainbows too 🙂


And Spring (or at least the sniff of it) has bought me back to the bunny that never was – a project I started about a year ago and have FINALLY finished – yay.


Crocheted animals are more Jo’s gig to be honest, but I decided to make this little guy for my daughter and then….erm….got a little bit….sidetracked!  I just didn’t like the ears from the pattern and wanted to make my own version, but somehow just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm.  So, the earless and faceless bunny has been sat in my (rather large) ‘to do’ pile, whiling away the days and months.  Until this weekend, when I decided enough was enough – so here he is, ears and all.


The yarn I used was just amazing – it’s Debbie Bliss Andes, which is a Baby Alpaca / Mulberry Silk mix. It feels wonderful and is super shiny.  You can buy it here in the UK.

And whilst I was not making the bunny ears, I was keeping busy playing with another Debbie Bliss yarn (Party Angel) which I get a little over excited about, because it has sparkly bits in (I know, but really, how can you resist). There are pretty pictures of it here.


I’ve played around a bit and made some wrist warmers for my daughter.  I took a stitch pattern (Peacock) from this very lovely book and created an outer layer in the Party Angel


then sewed it onto a jersey material backing (which was actually the cut off ends of some sleeves from an old t-shirt!).  Still have some finishing up to do, but the effect is pretty much what I was looking for.


Not the most practical of items, but frankly, I don’t care, because it’s sparkly!  🙂

Happy hooking people.


Hearty Heart Felting


Just back from our needle felted hearts workshop with far too much energy for half ten at night. For some reason, I can never sleep after a workshop – especially when I’ve overdosed on the lovely lemon cake that Jo made to feed us all with – pretty isn’t it. Late night sugar rush – sigh 🙂

We’ve been spreading the needle felting joy this evening and people made some really lovely things for Valentines day – it’s always great to see what ideas other people come up with I think.

My own efforts have made me rather happy to be honest.  Apart from a slightly more sophisticated hanging heart trio – voila….


I also played around with some red hearts to give them a bit of character – ok, in this case, a lot of character.  He does make me smile – although clearly, he’s a bit bonkers!





The others turned out just as I’d hoped, and they will all be parcelled up for giving away on February 14th!


Hope you have a good one too.


More Felting Joy

Jo’s totally right about felting (….see here).


We’ve been having lots of fun rediscovering needle felting.  The book by Jackie Huang has certainly helped with inspiration, and has led me off on my own journey of discovery too.  From the owl featured in Jackie’s book, I moved swiftly on to playing around with my own designs.  I just LOVE this stuff.  It’s like grown up play dough, you can add a bit here, change a shape there and the range of colour choices is just amazing.


This monster was for my son – and also to use up some ‘variegated’ wool roving that I’d bought and couldn’t think of a use for, so a monster it was.  He’s somewhat crazy, but totally fun too.  I had a lovely time adding little bits here and there.  Jo and I both agree that we prefer working with a slightly rougher wool roving rather than the super soft Merino – it just seems to mould better, although the merino does give a ‘smoother’ finish….


Monster finished, I got pestered for something for my daughter, and this little fairy lady popped into my head.  I’m really pleased with how she turned out.



For some bizarre reason, I then decided that the fairy needed a tree to stand next to (don’t ask, I don’t know why…) and then it was time to start playing with some valentines ideas.



For now though, I have tied the top of my felting supplies bag firmly shut until I’ve finished my poncho which is growing ever so slowly….

Until next time.


A New Love

We had been asked by a couple of people to add needle felting onto our list of workshops, so we’ve dutifully been working on putting together a new workshop – which will be needle felted hearts, ready for valentines day. Now I have to admit that in the past needle felting has just left me a little cold – I could do it, the end product was quite pleasing, but I just didn’t feel the crafty love. Now however, I think I’m getting a little obsessed, mainly due to this book by Jackie Huang.


Something has clicked in what’s left of my little brain, and I’m a little bit in love. The wool buddies have been increasing in number and the orders to an online felting supplier have been flying off from my keyboard. It all started with Mr Owl, and he was closely followed by Mr Rabbit (not sure why, but all my creations are boys).


They’ve been very pleasing to make, the repetitive stabbing action is gentle and easy to get lost in. They slowly, slowly start to take on  shape, character and identity. The felting process is very forgiving (unless you stab your finger), it feels to me like to play dough of the craft world. If the shape you’ve felted isn’t what you had in mind, no matter, just add a bit more wool and carry on stabbing. Adding the detail is the most satisfying part, building up the woolly definition to create fun and interesting features. Somehow it does feel wrong stabbing them in the eyeballs, but if they’re going to be felted on, stab I must.


Mr Fox came next, looking up at me rather like my childhood dog used to when you were anywhere near food. The final project for the week was Mr Frog, as requested by my eldest, because in the book they have the same name.


My mind is starting to whirl slowly with original ideas of my own, and Karey has already made some fantastic designs of her own which hopefully she’ll post up here soon.

So, for this week at least, my crochet projects have languished in the basket at the end of my sofa while I play with my new found love.

JP x

Happy New Year – Let the Making Commence!

Hello there – and a most Happy 2014 to you all!


Wow….I’ve just had a really fun, full on, happy family, happy friends kind of Christmas.  Two weeks packed full of lovely stuff, and I’m now looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store.

This is probably the first year that ‘most’ of my family got handmade presents (handmade by me that is!).  And, to be honest, there’s nothing like a Christmas deadline (and Jo threatening to finish things for me…) to focus the mind a little.

First on the list was this quilt for my daughter.

IMG_2198And let me just say….quilting folk, I bow down to you, and your dedication to straight lines.  This has been rather a labor of love for me – one I will only be likely to repeat for my son – after a long break – and perhaps hypnosis…..But – I have to say, I really do love the finished article.  Very pleased with the bright colours for the backing and edging, which I think turns this from plain pastel to pastel funky?

My other two projects took me back to my happy place of crochet – yay.  The first being my personal favourite. What do you think?

Cosy Tea

A friend of mine bought one of these metal teapots and I loved it – so off I trotted to bag one for my brother (who has a bad habit of breaking tea pots….yes, really).  Then I managed to find this wonderful colour change yarn that just matches perfectly, and set to work making it a wooly hat.  Basic flat circle pattern using double crochet (UK terms) for the top bit and then moved onto half trebles for the rest. The bobble was just a moment of inspiration 🙂

And last over the finishing line was a second cushion for my Nan – which is of course now sitting happily in her house where I can’t take a picture of it (I know, I know, Jo and I are learning about the photo thing slowly…..see here) to go with this earlier one which followed a Bavarian Crochet pattern (there’s a great tutorial for this stitch here):

Bavarian Crochet Cushion

Bavarian Crochet Cushion

I was basically far too lazy to make a second identical one, but wanted to use the same colour palette – so I just made small squares using one of my favourite yarns (Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK) and then crocheted them together. Once it was all neat and tidy, I just sewed the panel onto the front of a 30x30cm cushion that I’d bought from eBay and voila!


So….what next I hear you ask? Well, I think it’s time for something for me, and I’ve been hankering after this poncho that I saw on Ravelry…take a look here. It’s just possible that I’ve got some lovely, navy, chunky yarn hidden away somewhere.

Until next time.


The Cod

I’m fairly sure that when I have ideas like I’ve had this week (and more to the point, I’ve have the time to get from idea to finished product) that thoughts about me getting a ‘proper job’ start to cross my husband’s mind. Luckily he keeps those thoughts to himself and family life in Pillay Towers chugs along as normal.

The idea I had this week was to make a cod. Bare with me, there is a logical (ish) reason. A good friend of Crafts & Coffee works at our local theatre, and this year with the Christmas flooding, panto has been more of a challenge than usual. Now, I like to class myself as a regular theatre goer (twice a year is regular, right?) and my two trips are once to the panto and one to The Cod.

The Cod is when, after the last performance of the proper panto the crew do their own version of the show. It’s part revenge, very funny, pretty rude, brightens up my january and raises lots of money for charity.



So, as this performance is happening this evening, on Wednesday I started to wonder if I could crochet a cod – after a quick browse of google images of Gadus Morhua and a trip out for some suitably fishy yarn (Sirdar Ella) my ideas started to take shape. I wasn’t after 100% accuracy, just the spirit of fishyness – and a lot of sparkle, as this was after all destined to be a theatre cod, darhling. My initial ideas on size had to be scaled back, as progress and time frame became clear, but I worked his body in rounds playing the increasing and decreasing by eye as I worked along the body. The fins and the all important sparkly sequins were added on after.


He’s been a very pleasing project to make and my mind has started to wander towards what other fishy creations I could make, but theses ideas will have to join the queue and wait quietly.


He’s fishy, he’s coddy and he’s about to be gift wrapped and given to my friend, after what will no doubt be a very funny performance this evening.

JP x


The One that Got Away….

OK, so I’m a bit of a beginner at this blogging business – I read enough crafty blogs to get the idea that you’re supposed to write about what you’re currently making, then when it’s done post lots of lovely photos of the completed work. So, on the upside I’ve finished the polar bear I wrote about in my last post in plenty of time for Christmas, on the down side, it’s now in Suffolk and I forgot to take any photos before it went. Rookie mistake. So, you’ll have to trust me on this one – he was very cute and was well received by The Old Bat.

My current project (which incidentally is for me to keep, so there will be photos of the finished article!) is a Chameleon, from the same book  ‘Crochet Wild Animals’ by Vanessa Mooncie that the polar bear came from.


He’s not going to have any real purpose in life, I just liked the look of him and he looked pretty tricky and I’m always up for a challenge. So far, it’s going well – in order for him to be able to change colour you work two identical chameleon ‘bodies’ and eight legs which are then stitched so that he can be turned inside out to magically change colour.


This is all great, but eight fairly fiddly legs are driving me nuts – am trying to do one a day to get the job done, I’m determined that I’ve done too much work on him so far to let him languish in my work-in-progress pile. The current pile of chameleon bits and bobs is looking far from attractive – to the point where my sister visited recently and taking one look at a pile of part finished legs and inquired if I was making offal – nice!


Today for me has mainly been about getting ready for the Crafts & Coffee workshop Karey and I are running tonight. Before a workshop we always spend some time during the day getting everything ready. Tonight we’re going to be teaching crochet hand warmers – perfect for this time of year, and a very pleasing project that’s easy to master and make something useful. My favorite part of getting organised has got to have been a chance to play with my wool winder – an ancient bit of 70’s beige plastic that magically turns the yarn we buy into beautiful balls of exactly the right weight for the projects that we’re teaching. There is something about neat tidy balls of yarn all lined up and ready to go that makes me very happy. If this is an indication that I should possibly get out more, then so be it!


Happy 2014 everyone!