Safari Adventures

There has been a bit of silence round these parts as I have been away on safari! Well, not quite as exotic as that sounds, but I needed a safari suit for a murder mystery dinner party in the depths of West London.

Apologies to my Australian readers, but my character was a loud and brash Aussie businessman who wears a safari outfit, and this was my me-made short-notice costume. I got the invite with costume details while on a Spoolette shopping trip to Goldhawk Road and was rather disappointed to discover I wasn’t going to have the chance to drape myself in Oriental silks (the mystery was set in China), but I had just bought some calico for muslins/toiling.

safari b

I made the long shorts using my self-drafted/traced pj pattern, adding a few extra inches of ease all around. Luckily it was winter and I had to wear tights underneath, as the calico was a little too see-through to wear in public. I found some home-decor weight fabric (a remnant I got thinking I’d use it to make tote bags) that was just big enough to fit the By Hand London Victoria blazer on. I lined it with scraps of rusty red and leopard print I had (I was just a bit too late for Jungle January) since this was fancy dress, but I quite like the mix-and-match lining.

The first Victoria blazer I made fitted amazingly in the stretch twill I used, but it was lucky I made this “wearable muslin” as this stable fabric was a touch too snug around the arms. Wearable for an evening, but good to know for a future everyday version.

safari a

No Australian outfit would be complete without a cork hat. I joked that as a non-drinker I should use milk bottle tops instead of corks, but then I found these cut little wooden spools! I borrowed a hat from a friend and sewed them in place, but they got very tangled during wearing. Strewth! Finally I used a scrap of faux fur to make a moustache (not pictured here) to complete my outfit.safari c


Making a Customised Dress Form

Last May I was on my way home from the supermarket, passing a vintage charity shop, when I spotted some dress forms on the pavement. They were on sale for £10 each. Wow! Bargain!



I put my shopping bags and investigated. The shop had rearranged their displays and so had some extra mannequins they no longer needed, so wanted to get rid of them. I picked the lightest adjustable form, it was wrapped in a bin bag to protect it from the rain, and I took it home.

Once home I measured it and it was rather different from my measurements. By 7 or so inches at the full bust. Luckily Threads magazine (issue 161) had a great tutorial from Kenneth D. King about making covers for dress forms – in some theatres they make covers to match the actors’ measurements, which can be added to just a couple of dress forms, allowing for precise fitting and saving storage.


I draped a muslin cover for the form (on its largest setting) and added a zipper at the back, in case I wanted to remove it for any reason. Then I started padding it out. I wrapped it up in thick batting until it approximately matched my waist measurements. I put an old bra on it and kept padding it out. The original plan was to baste all the layers of batting together and to the muslin inner layer, but it soon became apparent that this would be a lot of effort; am I really going to remove my cover that often.


I used a fitting-shell pattern I had worked on a few years ago to create a skin-tight bodice and upper-skirt (and amazingly the shell pattern was still a perfect fit), adding armhole and neck covers. I tried the cover and needed more wadding to fill it out, so had a break until I could get a second third fourth bagful of batting. Fully fitting the form was a challenge, especially on my wrists due to the pressure needed to get a firmly stuffed body, so this was done over a long period of time. I stuffed and stuffed, then checked my measurements, then stuffed some more, until the form was close enough to me (I think it is an inch too small around the full bust, but I never wear skin-tight over-fitted garments so it shouldn’t be a problem).

Finally I fused some ribbon to the form to mark the centre front, bust and waist lines. If they look a bit wonky, it must be the shape of my body as they are level in real life! Maybe there is a way to quilt all the layers together, but for the moment it is fine the way it is.


The form didn’t have a stand, so I made a few trips to my local hardware store. I bought a 1m chrome tube and a handful of rubber washers. I attached the tube, using the washers, to the inside of the form, where there was already a larger tube (lots of measuring was involved). At first I put the tube inside an old tripod base (the top had broken as it was fairly cheap) but this wobbled and was very unsteady. I went back to the hardware store and got some heavy weights (for window cords?) and made little pouches to tie these to the tripod legs. This didn’t work either 😦 Then I remembered I had a fan under my bed from a heatwave a few years ago; we had bought a big fan during the heatwave, but it was so strong and noisy we could hardly use it. It has been gathering dust, so I took the base and put the dress form on top. This was so much more stable and sturdy, due to the heavy, heavy, round base.

£10 for dress form
£5 for hardware
£12 for fabric
£ lost count for batting
=£40-50 for a personalised dress form to help fit and drape custom-fit garments. Quite a bargain in my books.


The latest knitting must-haves!


Yup, some anti-inflammatory gel and a support bandage. I have an inflamed tendon in my thumb caused by… knitting. I’ve got a case of RSI from lots of repetitive knitting, and worsened by being back at school giving kids encouraging thumbs-ups!

It is so hard to rest my hand and manage without, so today I have strapped it up in the hope it will stop me moving it. Opposable thumbs are used more than I realised!

In the meantime I’m getting my crafting fix from reading old issues of Threads for jacket tips, and tweeting about the Great British Sewing Bee (I’m @crafty_alibobs)

Quick cosy crafting

I have been struggling to keep my eyes open this week and haven’t been awake and out of work long enough to edit the photos of my weekend baking, so instead here is a quick picture of the only crafting I’ve managed to do.
Take one favourite over-sized cardigan that accidentally got in the washing machine, shrunk and felted, and has been in a “I can’t throw this away so will do something with it” pile for almost a year. Fold the sleeves in and the top down, blanket-stitch along the edges and fill with a cushion. Easy-peasy and makes a cosy place to rest your head for a nap.


I got some lovely crafty gifts for Christmas, however I have been blind sighted by my blanket since (only 2 border rows to go, so hopefully will be finished before the weekend is over) and have neglected to show you all what I received.


The big thing I asked for (and I mean big, it was a mission carrying it on the train home) was a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I have had a bit of a play with it and my accuracy is improving, but I need to practice how much pressure I need to use before I try cutting anything important.

yarn 242

Another large parcel under the tree was two big balls of soft chunky turquoise-blue-purple variegated yarn. I have no idea what I will use it for, but luckily I got some lovely books to provide inspiration.

books 232

The first book, Knitalong, was from a colleague who, when giving it to me, worried what she might be responsible for! Half of the book is a history of knitting, the other half is a collection of knitting patterns and it all comes with a whole lot of inspiration for social knitalongs. The second book I opened is Knitivity – instructions to knit all the characters in a Nativity scene complete with the story and props to make the scenery. Very cute characters, and the basic dolls could be dressed up in other costumes. Plus, I do love a good cheesy pun! The last book I received was The Liberty Book of Home Sewing. Most of my sewing is dress-making so it will be nice to branch out and make some pretty things for my little flat.

thread spool 236

Finally, I bought myself a little sewing related gift in the sales – it is a spool to hold my earphones! Practical and pretty 🙂 Tomorrow I will tell you my new year craft goals and how I plan to make the most of these lovely presents in the new year…

Review of 2012

Everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to follow the cool crowd and do my own review of the year. I love seeing reviews of the blogs I follow and remembering all the inspiring images and projects I have read and followed through the year, so I hope you enjoy mine as much.

I tried to pick just 5 or 10 top makes over the year, but as I looked through all my pictures* I saw so many makes I forgot about (because they have seamlessly merged into my wardrobe, not because I never looked at them again!) so here, sorted into categories, is my round up of the year…

In the category of Most worn garment of 2012 the nominees are:

most worn 2012

In the category of Best Fancy Dress of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Self-drafted boiler suit (worn to Secret Cinema showing of Promethius)
  • HRH The Queen cloak and sash (worn to a birthday party)
  • And the winner is… HRH The Queen! I loved this night out, the cloak was great for waving while dancing, and it can probably be reused for future parties with different themes.

fancy dress 2012

In the category of Most time-consuming make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Miette cardigan (it has been a decade since I last knitted an adult-sized garment)
  • Peacock dress (hand-beaded, couture finish in expensive silk)
  • Colette Sorbetto (lots of pattern adjustments to get the perfect fit)
  • Jeanius Jeans (making a pattern from scratch and lots of muslins)
  • Minoru jacket (again, lots of muslins and adjustments)
  • And the winner is… The Peacock Dress! When people admired this dress and asked me to make them a dress, I added up costs of materials and my time (at least 15 hours of beading, 6 hours of fitting and tweaking, and many, many hours of construction including 4 hours hand-sewing the hem!) to give a quote of just a little under 4 digits. Surprisingly nobody made further requests…

most time consuming 2012

In the category of Most unusual craft location of 2012 the nominees are:

  • in a cable car over the Thames (going between Olympic venues)
  • on a beach in the middle of Camden at 7am (after the start of the last leg of the Olympic Torch relay)
  • outside Buckingham Palace while waiting for Olympic cyclists to arrive.
  • And the winner is… The Beach in Camden at 7am. A beach in Camden is pretty unusual. Being there before breakfast is even more unusual. Sitting in baking sunshine by 8.30am in England is definitely the most unusual happening!

most unusual location 2012

The final category is for projects that I would never have believed were possible a couple of years ago (well possible for other people, but not me!). In the category of Most life-changing make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • the Peacock dress (sewing with silk, couture techniques, hand beading)
  • Jeanius jeans (making a pair of jeans without a proper pattern)
  • spotty Burda blouse (I’ve never even managed to buy well-fitted woven tops before)
  • Miette cardigan (not just a knitted garment, but one that fits without gaping!)
  • Minoru raincoat (It is a coat. I can wear it when it rains. I don’t get wet!)
  • And the winner is… the spotty woven Burda blouse. The other nominees may be fancy or more technical, but as a curvy girl I have never worn or owned nice woven tops (without them looking unflattering) so this blouse makes anything seem possible. Plus, when I tried on the finished blouse I wanted to wear it immediately, which is always a good sign.

most groundbreaking 2012

Looking through all my pictures there were so many that didn’t make the nominations, so here is the best of the of the rest 2012

Top row, left- right: Sorbetto top, giraffe crochet hat, Birthday Butterfly dress
Middle row, left-right:
Summertime skirt, Embroidered Embroidery case, iPad case
Bottom row, left-right:
Blogging meet up and shopping, Denim Traveller dress, United Stashes of Awesome skirt

A lot of great crafting and great memories this year, I hope you have enjoyed reading all about them on my little blog. Thank you to all my followers and for all the lovely comments. Happy New Year!

* I am aware that some pictures haven’t been blogged, or some makes haven’t been photographed. Sorry. Will try and do better this year!

Cosy Crafting

Last week I had a free weekend, but after waking and getting up at 7am I started to get a little stir-crazy in the afternoon. I wandered down to Tate Britain and then decided to jump on the bus to Fabrics Galore, with the intention of getting some fabric to make something for someone for Christmas (I can’t be more specific as I keep hassling my family to read my blog and I think they actually do now). I brushed past a pile of tartan brushed cottons and after lots of umm-ing and ahhh-ing I got some to make some cosy Christmas pjs (a new tradition I started last year). Yesterday I popped into work with the intention of getting a couple of metres of something to finish a something I started making for someone. I got a few bits of haberdashery and some other bits for other presents I’m going to make, but then something caught my eye.  Last time I popped into John Lewis I spotted this cosy knitted fabric but showed great restraint and left it alone. The weather has really got chilly over the past few days and the Christmas lights were twinkling, so last night I was feeling festive and gave in and purchased some to make a polo-neck jumper.

The other fabrics in the photo are all for Christmas presents. Half of the fabrics are cut out and the others are about to be chopped up and sewn up – today is perfect weather for Christmas crafting and watching films 🙂

Movember sewing

Somehow it is already the end of October, which means tomorrow is November. Or Movember as it is becoming known in certain circles. Movember is when guys look really silly by attempting to grow moustaches to raise awareness of men’s cancers. A colleague at work told me she had got some moustache earrings to wear for the whole of November, so I wondered what I could do and on the tube today I embroidered this little badge. A scrap of muslin and just one needle of black embroidery thread and now I can pretend to be an East London hipster! And what is that in the background? Oh, it is my new cowl/roll-neck jumper/top using some of the fabric I got on Saturday. I used about half of the black ribbed knit, so I think this jumper cost £1.50. Seriously! I wore it yesterday with just a vest underneath and got a little too hot at times and was unable to take it off, so I think this is definitely a jumper and not a top. The neckline was a little low and wide for a roll neck so it is more of an over-sized cowl, but what ever it is it is perfect for keeping cosy in this chilly autumn weather.With just two months to go until the end of my crafty resolution, tomorrow I will do a count of my (meagre) progress and try to get up to speed before the weekend is over. Hopefully I’ll have some good crochet news to share tomorrow!

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny

Warning: This post contains super cute images. People who coo easily should proceed with caution.

Last week I spent my evenings crocheting and sewing some teeny tiny little baby things. A relative has just had a baby girl so there was no way I could resist the chance to make tiny little pink things. I am very much a believer that girls and boys can do whatever they like – when my support staff at work get the cars out for “the boys” I always tell them that everyone can play cars – and dislike the way everything and anything these days has to come in pink and blue, but look how cute and pretty these booties are… The booties were made from a Purl Bee pattern that Tania had made recently and was so quick and easy to make – it took a bit longer for me because I didn’t use felt and had to sew some fleece and fabric together and turn before I could get hand-sewing. I also made the little baby a pink and purple crochet hat which only used a tiny bit of my blanket yarns. I love how quick it is to make tiny things for babies 🙂

Another creation is for an old friend who is due in the next few weeks. When I knew she was having a baby I wanted to make a crazy hat for baby and spent ages on ravelry searching for the best one – everyone has hats with bear ears nowadays so I wanted something a bit more special.

This is probably the cutest thing I have ever made and I kept squealing excitedly to myself as I put it together and could see what it would look like. Are you ready to see something cute?It is a baby giraffe hat!!! The only thing I can think of that would be cuter, would be a baby giraffe hat being worn by a teeny tiny baby.

A Royal Refashion

Yesterday morning I bought these rather large, shiny and feathery earrings on sale.Hmm… a bit big for my taste, what to do with them… What if I were to break them up with wire-cutters and pliers, what could they become?*
A whole sash-worth of medals fit for a Queen! Hem a long strip of lining fabric to become the sash, add some fur and ribbon to the top of a cheap bed-sheet for a ceremonial robe, and cover some card with LOTS of glitter to make a crown and… hey-presto! A fancy dress outfit fit for a Queen!

A friend had her annual birthday karaoke do and this year the theme was “Best of British”. She was Amy Winehouse, there were policewomen, cricketers, Olympic Games Makers, a traditional British gentleman, Boy George and Freddie Mercury (from the ‘I Want to Break Free’ video, complete with vacuum attachment) and I was HRH The Queen. Here is Her Majesty singing Total Eclipse of the Heart with Miss Winehouse – lots of passionate gesturing and pointing happens to look just like a royal wave. The crown barely survived the night -there was nobody to carry an umbrella over my head – but the rest is going into storage and is going to the top of my Best Fancy Dress Outfit list. I also sang The One and Only because it is an awesome song, but it turned out to be a good song for the Queen to sing.

I took some cakes and it was easy to make them themed with just some red and blue icing (and Haribo sweeties for the birthday girl). They aren’t totally accurate but under the flashing disco lights they looked good enough. And people were a little too tipsy to notice that some were a bit over-baked!

* It is slightly worrying how easily they fell apart, I barely had to use tools. I also have 14 feathers that I need to find a use for… any suggestions?