One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

What’s in the stash?

Over recent weeks I’ve been enjoying rummaging through my yarn stash and reminding myself of what I have squirreled away. There is some lovely wool, but there are also quite a lot of balls and oddments of stuff that I really have no desire to ever use… quite a bit of which has been passed on to me over the years, rather than stuff I actually bought. So, I’m putting together a box to go off to a charity craft shop (once they are in a position to accept it) and I’m working my way through some of the bits and pieces in a variety of projects like the dinosaurs. The last few days, however, have been all about cotton.

A while back I bought a couple of packs of discontinued organic cotton yarn. The colours were not ones that I would want for a garment, but since the point was to make wash cloths, that really didn’t matter. I also discovered a ball of actual dishcloth cotton, made from recycled fibres. So, in the spirit of play, I’ve been choosing various granny square patterns and crochet stitches and working up squares. On the basis that you can never have too many cleaning cloths in the bathroom and kitchen, I’m just keeping going. So far, no two are the same:

If you crochet and have a favourite pattern for making cloths, do let me know what it is… I’ve got lots of yarn and am always keen to try something different.

ScrapHappy June 2020

It has been rather warm for much of the past month, so I was glad that that I was no longer labouring under last month’s ScrapHappy creation. In fact, after the success of the crochet T-rex (who has, incidentally, been named “Cupcake”) I moved on to another ancient creature. Young Maisie, the recipient of the T-rex, is a big fan of Mary Anning (fossil hunter and palaeontologist born in 1799, who discovered the remains of huge aquatic creatures in the cliffs of the Dorset coast). I thought, therefore, that a pleisiosaur would be greatly appreciated… which it was.

Made using wool oddments, this pattern, like the last dinosaur, is by Kerry Lord:


I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Oh, sheet!

Over the years you will have gathered that I find it almost impossible to throw things away that “might be useful”. This means that our house is full of stuff, and that can be challenge sometimes. However, there are occasions when a particular item turns out to be exactly what I need… which is just what happened recently.

A while back, when one of our large fitted cotton sheets wore through, I laundered it and put it in my fabric stash thinking that the more robust parts would be useful for lining bags, or something. This meant that when I bought a dress pattern that I was unsure about, I had plenty of old sheet to make a toile (an early attempt at a pattern in cheap fabric) and play about with length and pocket placement before cutting into the linen I had bought for the final version.

This gave me the confidence to cut my bought fabric, knowing that the final dress would actually fit. It’s not finished yet, but I’m making progress.

Because of the size of the sheet, even once the dress was cut out, there was still lots of fabric left, which turned out to be a good job. Recently Mr Snail’s hayfever has been extremely bad, and he has been using handkerchiefs very rapidly, so I shouldn’t have been surprised this morning when he announced that there were no more clean ones in the drawer. Remembering Kate’s recent post and comments on an earlier post of mine about making handkerchiefs out of old sheets/pillowcases, I set to work. I didn’t worry too much about exact sizes, although I aimed for about 35-38 cm square. If it hadn’t been an emergency, I would have hemmed them, but for speed, I overlocked the edges. This means they are a bit scratchy, but better than nothing. And the result, in less than an hour, was 11 large hankies.

Ignoring the fact that they could do with ironing, I’m rather pleased with myself.

Lockdown Dinners at The Dogs’ Diner (and other suspiciously similar-looking places) — writinghouse

Mr Snail has saved me the bother of describing our eating adventures during lockdown – do check out his post:

PROLOGUE There are three things that you need to know about Chez Snail: There is an attention-loving, and hence pesky, spaniel-based lifeform called Daisy who is involved in the day-to-day running of some eating and drinking establishments shown here. There is a squeaky-ball-obsessed terrier-based lifeform called Sam, who also appears to be involved in self […]

Lockdown Dinners at The Dogs’ Diner (and other suspiciously similar-looking places) — writinghouse


It’s been rather warm here recently and so I’ve been reluctant to work on large woolly things – like the jumper that I want to complete, that is worked in a single piece, so provides far too much cover on a hot day. I decided, therefore, to use up some left-over balls of yarn for some little projects.

We have a young friend who loves dinosaurs… so I made her a T-rex.

The pattern is by Kerry Lord of Toft.

I don’t think it’s going to be the last dinosaur that I make – they seem to be popular with children and adults alike. I see some ScrapHappy dinos in the future!

Posh shoes

Here in Wales we are still staying at home… some of the lockdown restrictions have been eased in England (or didn’t actually count if you were a government advisor), but here things continue pretty much as before. We walk the dogs everyday and, as a result, encounter people from our local community. We pause for a distanced chat… sometimes there’s a gift of a plant (I came home with a spinach seedling the other day), or a request for help (“Do you have any spare knicker elastic? I’m making face masks”). We tick along, I have lots to do: my editing work was always done at home, and there’s plenty of that to keep my busy; I have completed several crochet projects; done lots of sewing and mending and failed to keep on top of all the jobs in the garden; I bake and try out new recipes; and I chat to friends regularly on Zoom/Skype/phone. But I’m sad that I can’t have my monthly shared lunches with my permaculture friends (hello to Sharon, Ann and John if you are reading this), that Sue (Going Batty in Wales) and I can’t sit together and put the world to rights over homemade soup and (always) cake. I’m also sad that Mr Snail can’t be away in Reading, having the mental and physical space to write and seek out a literary agent, to play pool with his friend Martin and go to the pub quiz he enjoys so much.

We have found a way through. Tuesday night is pie night, Thursday night we take part in Jay’s Virtual pub quiz whilst Mr Snail chats with one of his quizzing friends via WhatsApp, we watch The Great British Sewing Bee on Wednesday night, we play Scrabble. Food has become a particular focus and we eat in the limery every night, enjoying the long evenings and watching the birds and (later) bats swooping over the house and garden. Perhaps it sounds idyllic – perhaps we should feel that it is – but we always know that we are restricted and our choices constrained. I think our mental well-being is compromised… of course it is, it’s a challenging time.

However, sometimes on a Saturday night we get dressed up and “go out”. I cook a nice meal, and we eat out at The Bistro Chez Snail. And for this, I put on a nice frock and proper shoes – with heels. The rest of the time I’m either wearing slippers or walking boots, or have bare feet. But to go to The Bistro I wear posh shoes… and strangely it’s remarkably good for my state of mind.

Play time

Scrabble and chocolate mousse

Since we can’t go out to play at the moment, I have been finding some indoor things to play with. As well as regular evening games of Scrabble and Jenga in the limery, I’ve been playing in the sewing room. I have taken the opportunity to make something that I’ve wanted to try for a while and to sew with a new material.

Both my projects resulted from not being able to go to Wonderwool this year as it was cancelled. I had a trip planned with friends and had even bought the tickets. Instead, there was an online event and the organisers invited the exhibitors to contribute links to their shops . I don’t really need any more yarn (still working my way through my stash), but I wanted to support some of the small businesses who are currently unable to trade. I found a lovely little fabric shop – Black Mountain Fabrics – that does not normally trade online and, after several messages backwards and forwards, selected two kits that interested me.

First, a Japanese knot bag. I keep seeing pictures of these and thinking that the construction is interesting. So, what better way to have a go than with a kit? I told the lovely lady who owns the shop what sort of colours I’d like and she sent me photos of fabrics to choose from. I was smitten by some with peacock feathers and we combined it with a teal lining. It was a quick and simple make and I think I’m likely to make more of these – they would be ideal for little gifts and only require the fabric – no interfacing, clasps, zips or drawstrings.

Second, a little kit that included cork fabric. I have been fascinated by the idea of cork for bag-making for a while, but wanted something simple to experiment with. This bag has a simple construction and the most wonderful octopus lining. The handle was easy to fit and it was another quick make. I was interested to discover how flexible the cork is and how beautifully it sewed (at least on my sewing machine). I would certainly consider using it for other bag-making projects.

I know that several friends have found their creativity lacking during this period of enforced confinement, whilst some people are flourishing. Have you been playing with new materials or media recently? Or have you simply wanted to crawl under the duvet and not come out?

All dressed up and nowhere to go

No mending this Monday, so I thought I’d share a make instead.

Last autumn, when we could travel and see friends in the same room, rather than only electronically, I went to London. The main purpose was lunch with an old friend, but I slotted in a bit of fabric shopping and bought a lovely piece of Japanese cotton. I chose it to go with a specific dress pattern and intended to make it almost straight away. However, the need for a cotton dress in the winter is limited and so other projects took precedence. Now, however, it’s spring and the time was right for this piece of sewing.

It’s a simple garment, with raglan sleeves and a zip at the back. The idea was to choose a fabric that would take centre stage. It turned out to be a fairly simple make, although I did have to adjust the shoulder darts a little and may revisit them, as I think the shaping could be better.

So, I give you the Raglan dress (a pattern from the Avid Seamstress):

Now, I just need to be allowed out in order to show it off.

ScrapHappy May 2020

Whilst I may not have managed to write much this past month, I’ve certainly been busy with my scraps. You might remember that some months ago I started using up scrap sock (and other 4-ply) yarn in a scrappy blanket. The last time I reported on progress was in November 2019, and I’d got to this stage:


Since then I’ve beavered away and dug out old scraps and small scraps, until I finally had more than 200 little squares. In order to turn them into a blanket, I did have to buy some yarn, but I supported my local yarn store and, fortunately, had collected it before the lockdown happened.

And now, I’ve got all of the bits joined together and all I need to do is work the border. My intention was to achieve a stained glass window effect and I think that I have been quite successful. Unfortunately there is very bright sunshine today, so the photos don’t quite do justice to the most vibrant colours, still, you get the idea…

Some of the squares are unique as I had only enough yarn to make one, some are made with several scraps in order to use up bits. Some of the yarn was left over from making socks or shawls or blankets or gloves, some was given to me by folks who no longer had a use for it and one ball was a dye test. Considering the varied origins I’m rather pleased with the result. Placement was random with the only rule being that I did not put two squares next to each other that were the same.


I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

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