Monday, 26 September 2016

Wardrobe Realisation

Today I decided it was about time I tidied my wardrobe. For months now I've been shoehorning my hangers in and just putting freshly washed garments back on new hangers. I also made a pledge that for every item I buy, I send one or two to charity, so after a 3 dress eBay splurge, it was time to sort through the masses. Boy was I surprised at what I found!! My tiny little 1 metre wide wardrobe was so full that I found items I forgot I had! Every time I go charity shop shopping or eBay browsing I think to myself 'I haven't got that many vintage items, one more can't hurt!' But today I realised just how many I did have! The problem I have is that I can't bear to part with any of them, so the newer, high street items, got the chop. As I've probably mentioned before I am a terrible hoarder and because of this I get attached to items that I love but can no longer fit into, so dear readers I was faced with a dilemma! I had this lovely shirt dress - not vintage, more supermarket - that I wore to death around 6/7 years ago. It is made out of this lovely flowery print Lycra & cotton mix and at the time it fit like a glove. Fast forward to now and the only bit I can fit into is the neck hole, so after years of shoving it back into the wardrobe in the vain hope is ever wear it again, I put it in the bag. I feel a small victory about this as in my heart of hearts, I know I will never fit into it again no matter how much I love it. So after being more ruthless than I've ever been before and one nearly full charity bag later, the shoehorning is only mildly easier! With this in mind, I'm still thinking of those gorgeous vintage wedding dresses I saw the other day........

Monday, 1 August 2016

Old Old Or New Old?

I went to the amazing Yellow Vintage Fair yesterday, at the Ageas Bowl Southampton. It's the first time I've been to this show and I wasn't disappointed. Mixing music, cars and stalls, this fair had a lot to offer from clothes to homeware and even in house hairdressers! I love looking at what everyone else is wearing at shows like this and often get chatting to people about their outfits or the contents of their stalls. It was during browsing a clothing stall that my friend and I got chatting to another 2 ladies also dressed head to foot in vintage style clothing. Both my friend and I were dressed in modern vintage - new clothes made in a vintage style - and were commenting on how small true vintage items tend to be. Now I don't in anyway think that this next comment was meant to be nasty or derogatory, but one of the ladies looked up and said "Well I only wear true vintage pieces!" And give her, her due she looked stunning in a 60s mini and cardi. This got me thinking about the old old verses the new old. Price wise new old or new vintage style clothing can be pretty expensive but you are guaranteed a good fit using your normal new school dress sizing and also a garment that is factory fresh and undamaged. Old old or true vintage can be picked up incredibly cheap if you are dedicated enough to search through charity shops, fairs, car boots sales and online sites. From experience I know that sizing and condition can be a nightmare and sometimes I have questioned the authenticity of a supposed true vintage item. Some people may look at new vintage style clothing as not being true to era, with the use of modern materials and fastenings but arguably a true vintage garment has travelled, has a story about it. Personally I love the fit of a true vintage piece (the ones that have actually fit!) but I also like the fact that when I buy new vintage style clothing, I can wash it with my other clothes and it (hopefully) won't fall apart. Vintage fabrics can be hot and scratchy and sometimes a slight fire hazard, but they have a look that no modern piece can recreate. So there pros and cons to both sides it seems. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter if it's old or new, if you like it but it! Us vintage lovers should stick together and be proud to show our individual style whether it's fresh out the packet or someone's nan's! 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Book Worm

I love reading a good book that I can get lost in. I have loved it since I was really young and always wanted to be the library assistant at school. A really fond memory I have is buying books on holiday as a child. We used to holiday in the Isle of Wight every year and my favourite place to visit was Ryde and especially a little arcade of shops called the Royal Victoria Arcade. It is an eclectic mix of antique shops, new age shops, some clothing shops and a secondhand bookshop. Underneath in the basement used to be a flea market, I'm not sure if this bit is still there but the actual shops have changed little over the years. The bookshop used to display some of its wares outside on tables and spinning displays and this is where I would find my teen romance novels such as the Sweet Valley High series and later on Point Horror. This was the mid 1990s and I remember these little magazine type books too, which I only ever remember getting on holiday. I would love to know what happened to these little books as they were great! We would go at the start of the week and I would be allowed to pick one or two and then I would spend the rest of the holiday reading them. I bet you would be hard pushed to find a child nowadays who thinks the highlight of a holiday is buying secondhand books!

I have carried on this love affair with words right through to adulthood and have always got a book on the go. Sometimes I will finish one in a few days and some take me a while to get through but I enjoy them all the same. I find that I know if I am going to get on with a book only a few pages in and it very rare that I will give up on a book.

A few years ago I was given a kindle for my birthday (hints were dropped for months before I just came outright and asked for one!) I loved the idea that I could have this little device containing hundreds of books at my disposal. The only draw back was lack of a back lit screen so it was upgraded as soon as the next birthday came about. The funny thing is I always go back to paper! I am very lucky in that I am given a large quantity of books from family and friends, luckily we all have similar tastes. This sharing of books has turned into a strange little book club, swapping backwards and forwards and sharing recommendations. I like the idea that I book I have read is going onto to another person who will read it and then pass it on to be read again and again.

I do also put my hand in my pocket and buy books, but not usually new ones. I browse my local charity shops for books as I can almost guarantee I will find my favourite authors at a good price. I know some people will have the opinion that I am not really supporting the writer by purchasing secondhand, but when you are on a budget charity shop profits win over publishers profits. My parents signed me up to the local library before I can even remember and I did this for my daughter too as I think it is important to have this opportunity available to use. To be honest I don't really use the library as much as I used to but I know it is there should I need it.

I really admire anyone with the skill to create something that other people can enjoy so to all you writers out there:
Keep doing what you are doing as eventually your book might find it's way to an eternal book worm like me!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Tea For Two

Today I went to my favourite eatery in the whole world the 19 Fourteas Tearooms in Havant (just outside of Portsmouth, U.K.) I love everything about this charming little 1940s inspired tea room. It is like stepping back in time the moment you walk through the door. I've been 3 times now and every time I see something I haven't noticed before. It's an Alladin's cave of vintage treasures right down to the cups and saucers you drink from. The lovely ladies who work there are all decked out in the 40s style which is so nice to see and makes me feel guilty for turning up in my boring modern clothes! The food is lovely, especially the cakes! There is also a gluten free menu which is great to see as its rarely catered for in so many places. The reason why I love this place so much is because of the atmosphere. It's such a cosy warm place and so welcoming from the moment you step through the door. It's one of the only places I've ever been where I have felt so at home! I asked if I could just move in today and sleep on the sofas upstairs! Novelty bars are always thought of as tacky but this charming little tea room is anything but! It's decorated so tastefully and true to its desired era, but is so understated from the outside you could easily miss it. I am so happy I was shown the 19 Fourteas Tearooms and I will be taking all my friends there whether they like it or not! 

Check it out for yourself! 
Here is a link to their website: 

**but call and book beforehand as this little place is VERY popular!!!**

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Creative Paranoia

When I was at school I loved to write stories, news articles and make things for my toys like clothes or cut small pieces of felt and pretend it was food for them. As a teenager I focused on art and music although was rather more successful at the latter! I did music production and music technology at college and got to spend 5 days a week being creative and to be honest I liked it way more than school. After I left college I kind of lost this creative side in the jobs that I did. I have mentioned before, specifically in my bio on here that I started sewing again after my daughter was born. It was almost as if a light bulb switched on in me that gave me back all these creative ideas that I just had to put into practice. Up until recently, I had never made anything for anyone else before and this was a whole new kettle of fish. Suddenly I had to make everything super perfect because I was so worried that the customer would look at me and ask why I had supplied them with a piece of rubbish. I'm not saying that I don't care as much when I sew for myself but I developed what I will call creative paranoia, that my items would not be good enough for someone else. I put myself under undue pressure because of my own insecurities and in a way I still do. I take my hat off to all those crafters who have made a business out of their passion and I always look at their items at fairs or online and think 'Wow! They are amazing! I hope my stuff looks that good!' But it seems maybe I am being too harsh on myself as my customers - as far as I know! - have always been pleased with the items I have made for them. I always wonder if anyone else feels like this or if I suffer creative paranoia on my own? If you are reading this and it sounds familiar please let me know!

At the moment I have all these ideas and projects that I want to do but not enough time to do them! I plan to share some of my new stuff with you on here, as some of it will be things I have never tried before, like hats! Millinery is my new favourite Pinterest obsession and to tie in with my love of vintage Pill Box hats in particular. As mentioned before I will crack Crochet and I also want to try machine embroidery, which fascinates me! So lovely readers, the next few months for me will hopefully be a creative tsunami!

P.S: I am on Pinterest so check out my boards! Mama Likes To Sew

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Handmade Summer Challenge Update!

I am a month into my homemade summer challenge and so far so good! I have been lead into temptation a couple of times but can happily say I have only left a shop with one bra! As underwear was excluded from the challenge I am quite proud of myself.

Over the last month I have made a tube dress, a unicorn half circle skirt and have customized an old charity shop buy. Thanks to my lovely friend Leilei at Von Clair Designs I have acquired the half circle pattern and am planning to make a few more of these over the next few months. I have learned lots of new sewing techniques already which has been a fun process. I have perfected by exposed zipper technique, learned how to create the perfect curved hem and also how to use bias binding, which is my particular favourite.

I have also had some lovely custom orders for my soft furnishing business Pilosity and this has given me the chance to work with some new fabrics and perfect my piping skills. I love to create things for other people and can't wait to see their faces when they see the items for the first time. Thanks to the support of lovely friends supporting my new business venture I am able to add to my portfolio.

All in all it has been a great month for crafting and I am really enjoying myself! It's always good to learn new skills and with the use of Pinterest and YouTube it makes tutorials so much more accessible. I have a huge collection of sewing books but I will always make these my go to sites as there is nothing quite like watching someone else to make learning easier. My next skill to master will be Crochet and I am determined to do this! As a lefty I am finding it quite awkward and have tried doing it both ways but still feel like I am all fingers and thumbs. I think over time with enough practice I should be ok but I can see it being a tough one for me to start with! Watch this space!!   

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Summer Tube Dress

Really excited to make the first item in my homemade summer challenge! I've decided to start off nice and simple with a strapless tube dress made out of some fabric which I found in The Works book shop in their craft section. When I originally got this fabric I was going to make some bags and cushions from it, thinking it wouldn't be that big but when I opened it, I realised it had some serious potential. I'll be using 2 packs of this and priced at only £2 each it's a great start to the challenge! 

For this dress you will need:

Fabric ( my squares are 100cm X 74cm each)
Elastic for top band ( mine is 1inch wide)
Sewing machine

1. As I will be gathering this at the top band I haven't needed to cut my fabric, instead I have put them right sides together and pinned down each side. Then I have used a standard 5/8" seam allowance and straight stitched down both sides creating a large tube.

2. Next turn and press your bottom hem. I've stuck to the 5/8" seam. As my fabric is 100% polyester I don't need to serve the edges, but if your fabric clearly frays it would be a good idea to either serge or zig zag stitch them before turning and pressing.

3. Once the bottom hem is stitched, repeat the process with the top. Once this is done you will need to create the tube for your elastic. I did this by turning my top hem over enough to fit the elastic with a little room to spare. When sewing the tube remember to leave a gap to insert the elastic.

4. When cutting the elastic for your top band you need to make sure it is slightly stretched so that the dress will be held up. Measure under the arms and over the boobies and cut.

5. Carefully thread your elastic into the tube without twisting it. I managed to get mine twisted and had to unpick the stitching! Stitch the elastic ends together and pike into the tube. Now you can see up the gap and even out the gathers.

Now you have a dress! You can either add an elastic waistband or like me wear with a waist cinched belt to pull it in. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Fear of the Unknown

In my last post I wrote about a challenge I set myself to not purchase any new clothes until October. In conjunction with this I have also realised to be successful in making and altering my own clothes, I need to be more educated in the features of my trusty Singer. When I started seriously sewing I was using a beautiful 1955 Singer 201k, which is the ultimate work horse. That baby would sew through leather as if it were the thinnest cotton but the trouble was it only did a straight stitch. I am lucky enough to own an abundance of different attachments for it including a zig zag and button holer. But I found these increasingly frustrating to use with little or no instructions. I decided when I enrolled in a dress making course last year that I would invest in a modern machine to enable me to learn the skills first and then I could transfer these to the 201k at a later date. Anyone who sews will know that modern machines are equipped with up to hundreds of different stitches and all kinds of trickery but on average only a fraction of these features will ever get used. So regarding my challenge, I have been playing about with some of my lesser used machine functions and am actually quite proud of the results! I'd never attempted a button hole until this evening and I'd never tried to sew an actual button on using a machine before! I thank the good people at Singer for the latter as I HATE sewing buttons on at the best of times so this has really changed things up for me! My next experiment will be with the decorative/embroidery stiches which will look great when hemming clothes or adding appliqué to cushions. I've got plenty of scrap material to try this on and hopefully it will yield some productive results. All in all I would encourage anyone with a sewing machine to get out of their comfort zone and try some of these unused functions because you never know, they could become the most useful resources you have.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Homemade Summer Challenge

Yesterday I did my yearly trip to Primani to get some new strappy vests for summer. I replace all the faded, shrunken and generally scrappy tops in time for the nice weather and also if you go early enough in the season they have a better range of colours! Yesterday was my last shopping trip for clothes for the foreseeable future because I have decided to set myself a mammoth challenge! You see I'm a bit of a shopping addict so for me the following will be a BIG deal. I have decided that from today I will not be buying any new clothes for the next 5 months! That brings me to my birthday month of October and as I can't promise I won't enjoy a few new items around that time, it's the perfect time to end my challenge. Until then I will only wear what I own or make or alter from charity shop finds. I'm hoping this will not only help my sewing skills improve but also save some well needed pennies. It will also prove to me that I don't wear 40% of my wardrobe which will be donated at the end of the challenge. I am allowing myself to buy essentials such as underwear and hosery but this my friends will be it! Let the challenge commence

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Website Update!!!!

I've just spent all afternoon sinking my teeth into editing and updating the Mama Likes To Sew website. When I originally set up the site I had no idea what I was doing and it was a rather daunting task to say the least! I spent ages trying to find a host and comparing prices and I was worried the more I searched the less likely I was to actually get the domain I wanted. It's an absolute mine field trying to get a website up and running! Today I have tweaked everything, added new pictures, new content and tested every link is present and correct. There is still much work to do photo wise as I'm constantly adding to my portfolio but all in all I'm quite proud of myself! 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Hello old friend

It's been FOREVER since I last posted. Life just kind of took over and now I'm back and ready to roll! Or sew, however you want to look at it! I've been studying Pinterest a lot lately for new inspiration from like minded people and getting ideas for future projects. I got my Singer out for the first time in yonks the other day and realised how much I actually enjoy making something from scratch. The feeling of looking at a finished item is one of such pride, especially when it was just a pile of fabric, wadding and a few reels of cotton only hours before. This got me thinking about the potential of some of my fabric stash. Crafting as a whole is seeing the potential in something that maybe others can't see, whether it's a pile of fabric, paper, beads or even furniture, the thought process is always focused on the final result. I really thrive around like minded people and revel in their creativity. A friend of mine is so talented in not only dress making but also mixed media art and has an amazing studio in her house dedicated to crafting. It was like walking into an Alladin's cave of creativity. She is able to take even the most mundane object and turn it into something beautiful and that my friends is a talent. I'm so glad that programs like the Great British Sewing Bee, Money For Nothing and George Clark's Amazing Spaces are given air time because these shows enable ordinary and unrecognised people a chance to show what they are truly made of. My local fabric store in town is always packed when I go in there and it just goes to show, the old skills are well and truly still going strong.