Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Review: Delicious!

I've never done a book review for my blog before, and it might seem a bit odd as it's nothing to do with sewing either, but it is a very, very good book. I don't imagine it's something I'll do often as I am voracious reader and get through at least two a week so reviewing might become tiresome for all! I often recommend books to people when they ask, but reviewing isn't something I've thought I've doing but, it's been a week and a half and two whole books since and I still can't stop thinking about this story.

To be honest, I read this entire book thinking that it actually happened, that it was a non-fiction account of Billie's adventures through taste, history and, for want of a better term, "finding herself". I won't give too much away about the plot, but it really is a riot for the senses, I cried on the bus and I was so disappointed to find the last page. Especially when I found out it was a novel. Oh how I wished that Billie and Mr Complainer and Sal were real, that there really was a Timber Mansion with secret rooms and mischievous librarians leaving a treasure trail, that I could eat Teresa's homemade mozzarella, taste the salamis that adorn Sal's deli.

There's a gingerbread that features heavily in the novel, and there's even a recipe for it at the end. I've not tried it yet, but anything that involves bashing your own spices in a pestle and mortar gets my vote.

It is the brilliant writing of this novel that brings it to life, that makes you think that you really are friends with Billie, that she's taking you on her journey. And made me think she was real. Personally, I find taste difficult to describe, and I can't imagine being able to isolate flavours like she does; so writing about it must be quite tricky. Like if you feel music, or trying to describe what a 'gut feeling' feels like.

I gave this book five stars. I never do that. I hope that, if you choose to read this, you'll agree.

And for sewing fans, the sewing posts will resume shortly. It's just that my sewing is currently top secret. And there'll be some craft and goodie related posts coming soon, too, so set yourself up with a good book (see above) and check back soon for pretty crafts and homemade frocks. I'm off to Google Candelabras. Don't ask...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Finding Inspiration: Granny Square Blanket

Ooh, I'm excited! I spent quite a bit of time last night enthusiastically and madly pinning all manner of wonderful ideas to my latest Pinterest board - The Granny Square Blanket. I've been toying with the idea of a Granny Square blanket for a long time but was inspired by a pattern I saw in issue 48of Mollie Makes magazine and I've been musing ever since.

But what even is a Granny Square I hear you cry? And, moreover, why, in the name of all that is holy, is it called a Granny Square? Well, my dear friends, I have some answers. A Granny Square is a square (duh) made of crocheted yarn that starts in the middle and works out and can, as you will see if you patiently read this post, into all MANNER of wonderful motifs, from very simple to the downright wacky. Why is it called a Granny Square? Damned if I know. Probably because who else has the time to sit around crocheting squares? Seriously though, if you know, please let me know in the comments below. Every day is, after all, a school day.

So, the learning bit out of the way, let's look at some pictures. As I mentioned, I got a bit excited when I was doing my pinning yesterday. Some of my pictures were of beautiful, grown-up, muted palettes, like this:

Sunburst Granny Squares Blanket: free pattern
Picture from Ravelry

Some were more complex variations of this grown up style using different sized squares:

I am saving this for the idea of using different size granny squares in a blanket. This of course, could be any color combo of 4 of your choosing.

Then, things got out of hand. Sunflower Granny Square? Er, yes please!

How about an owl? An owl?! In frigging crotchet?! To go on a blanket?! Of-bloody-course!

Owl Granny Square Crochet Pattern

Then, there's this rather tasteful Cath Kitson-esque one, which after seeing the wonderful owls might be a bit of let down.

I urge you to look at the rest of the board, and I'm sure you won't be able to resist making an owl granny square. Even if it's only the one to put in a lovely grown-up blanket... There's also an absolutely magic Tetris one. Absolute genius.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and I'm looking forward to sharing my progress, just as soon as I've decided on my theme.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Shop Review - Fabric Land

There is such a wealth of excellent fabric shops online now, and they cater for all budgets. I've been hunting for a crepe de chine for a pretty party dress for a while now and, having discovered that you can get some very beautiful Liberty crepe de chine for an eye-watering £49.99 per metre, I decided to look elsewhere, just so that I didn't have to remortgage the house to wear a pretty frock.

After googling "crepe de chine" I stumbled across Fabric Land. After my eyes became accustomed to what is possibly one of the worst bits of web design ever, it's an absolute treasure chest of excellent and cheap fabrics.

After some perusal, I settled on 'Morning Glory' at a much more affordable £3.99 per metre.

They also have a really good range of linings and interfacings, which I also made use of!

You can't order online, but you can order by phone or by email. I wrote down what I wanted because they were closed by the time I'd finally made my choice and took the post-it with me when I left for work the following day. I had to travel down to the London office so, having arrived much too early for the train, I decided to give them a call. After reeling off my order, we then had the nightmare of address and payment details while the train announcement lady went mad with her announcements, and then the train announcement man kept telling people not to skateboard in the station. So I was not surprised when the parcel arrived incorrectly addressed (thank heavens we got the house number and postcode right!)

I was really pleased with how quickly my fabric arrived - I ordered on Thursday morning and our friendly post lady knocked first thing on Saturday morning. So I've been spending the weekend making a party dress, but you'll have to wait a while for that post.

What shops do you like to use for your online fabric shopping?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Stationery Lovers Christmas Swap

I never thought I would, but I have fully embraced the world of social media. Particularly after the summer's Northern Sewing Meet-Up, I am definitely ringing all the bells to herald The Internet. Even if I still don't know what html is.
So, imagine my delight when I heard through Twitter (of course) that there was a Sewing Secret Santa AND a Stationery Lovers' Christmas Swap. I joined both, of course, and set to work researching my partners for each.
Obviously, I'm quite late in blogging about Christmas generally but, I got round to it eventually (it was lovely, I stayed in with the Mister, I had two weeks off).
I'll blog on the Sewing Secret Santa another day (the pictures are on my old phone and I can't find the lead to get them off. It's been two weeks...) but for today, here is what santa brought for me from the delicious world of paper:

mini picture cards, 'don't forget' stickies with a little fox, pen and pencil, pretty greetings card, tree document markers, squirrel notebook

I'm not sure where any of it comes from, but it is all totally beautiful. I particularly love the squirrel notebook as it reminds me of my walks around St James Park when I worked in London. And this little card is good for reminding me that it won't always be this cold!

I had a small issue with this swap, in that my partner didn't swap anything. Or, if she did, it didn't arrive and she didn't reply to my email checking she'd got mine ok (post was horrific this Christmas). But Emma from mabismab kindly sent me this to compensate, and so that I could still join in. Hoorah!
Overall, I definitely recommend getting involved in these present swaps. Who knows what treasures you'll find? And, if you spent Christmas buying people boring presents (my dad asked for extension leads), buying things you love but for someone else is even better than buying things you have no interest in, even if the other person loves it.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Tilly Francoise Dress

Well, well, well; it has finally happened. A dress I've made that I actually really do properly love! And it fits as well.

Tilly & The Buttons has done it again, a deceptively simple dress that will flatter almost everyone and, for those who made the Tilly Coco as well, a chance to make a more tailored dress and try and some new techniques. Although I've been sewing for a long time, I've never done darts like this before and this is a first for self-covering buttons (I love it, I could do it all day).

I had a couple of issues:
1) I thought I'd melted the zip with the iron when I went to try it on the other day. Luckily, after trying it again today before I took it out and replaced it, it was probably just getting caught in Monday's thermal vest.
2) I have a job reaching for the zip to get it all the way to the top. With the Mister in London during the week, let's hope this doesn't lead to a Phoebe from Friends incident.
3) I have come so close to matching the pattern on the back.

4) I need a couple of little darts at the neck line to take the fullness out of the shoulders.

5) My front facing won't lie flat.

But all in all, I love this dress. Look at that beautiful tab!

I'll definitely be making many more of these dresses - it'll become a wardrobe staple I'm sure.

A note on the fabric - it comes from B&M Fabrics in Kirkgate Markets. It is kind of a twill weave tartan and it doesn't get stuck to tights. Warm and practical: double win.

What would you use to sew a Francoise?