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One whole week without Jeremy Kyle!

It’s been a funny old week for me. A weird one. But one that I have really enjoyed.

Just before the Easter holidays, I gave up the full-time teaching job that I have loved for 12 years. I won’t bore you with the details; just a few words will suffice – stress, exhaustion, Ofsted, paperwork and lack of family time. Having thought of nothing else for many agonising weeks, the final straw was when my 5 year old son, just a week after the Christmas holidays, said “I can’t wait until the summer holidays Mummy, because then you will have time to play with me again”. Ouch! My life had become a refrain of “Not now, sweetheart, I have work to do”, and putting my job before my family. Because that’s what teachers do.

People that know me will know what a hard decision it was. Yes, I am giving up a regular salary. Yes, I will miss the children. Yes, I feel that I am abandoning the job that I love. But really, something had to give. Either the job, or my mental well-being, family life and relationships. In the end, it was a no-brainer. My little boy’s comments really hit home.

So, at the end of the Spring term, I said goodbye to the lovely school I had been teaching at for 12 years. Twelve years! Where did that time go? I had a fabulous last day full of lovely comments, presents and a super assembly from all my friends and the children. I have refrained from writing about it until now because I wasn’t really sure how I felt about everything.

But now I can tell you. The Easter holidays were the best two weeks I have had for many years. No planning, marking, assessment or preparation for the new term. Just winding down, enjoying time with my family, taking my little boy on outings, actually cooking proper meals and of course doing some sewing. Yay! Time for sewing! Much excitement!

But that was the holidays. The first day back at school was weird. Being a parent first and foremost, and not a teacher (my little boy goes to my old school). I met a couple of other teacher-parents on the way in, one of whom said “I’m really jealous of you”, the other who said “You lucky thing – enjoy it”.  Once I got home I thought “Now what?! Jeremy Kyle and Homes Under the Hammer?!” I don’t know how to be unemployed – I haven’t done it since I was about 19.

But I have filled my 5 precious days with sewing (I have my things in this shop in Norwich and online in my Etsy shop, both of which really need restocking); organising things that I haven’t had time to do for ages (filing, decluttering, etc.) and generally just regrouping and thinking about the future. I also did a day’s supply at a local school, which was great because I went in at 8:15, taught the lovely kids, then left at 3:30. No, people, this is not what teachers normally do!!! But it was good. The best thing was that one day this week, I picked up my little lad after school and then we went to the park! Yes – the park, after school! No getting home, throwing some food together and having just half an hour with my child before bath and bed. It was just lovely.

I have had so many positive comments from colleagues, friends, other parents in my son’s class, and relations. One lovely ex-parent (of a child I taught a few years ago) bumped into me at the castle and gave me a huge hug and said “Well done for getting out!” (her husband is a teacher too, so she knows what it’s like). That really made me feel good. I feel like I am finding myself again. And I hope my family thinks I am a bit more chilled out and less shouty! The house is marginally tidier (miracles don’t happen in a week!) and the home cooking has improved.

Not quite certain yet what the future holds. I am not sure if I can leave completely – I am a teacher and I love to teach. I just don’t like what the teaching profession is at the moment. So I am looking around for what I might do come September. Maybe a short-term teaching contract, maybe part-time, maybe something totally different? In the meantime, I am looking forward to doing some supply days here and there, but I am also busy making bags and bits and doing the family thing. I am really busy and enjoying every minute.

And daytime telly hasn’t even gone on once! Sorry, Jeremy, you’re just not even on my radar.

Sewing

Some seriously selfish sewing…sweet!

So, the Easter holidays are nearly over. It’s been such a lovely holiday. The hols are great because I can stay up and do my favourite type of sewing – late-night! I have recently discovered the amazingness of a bluetooth speaker and GooglePlay combined so I have been creating my sewing playlists and listening to suggested playlists. I loved the one suggested for me the other day – “Britpop: the Blair Years” – brilliant!

Anyway, I did make quite a few new bags & bits for the shop (some of which are in the new window, in case you didn’t catch my facebook updates and tweets!) A big thrill to see my stuff on display in the window! I need to make some things for the Etsy shop now as it’s looking a bit sparse!

But this week I did some ME sewing too. Selfish sewing! I made two things for me. Two useful things, not mere fripperies, I’ll have you know! The first was a lovely new cover for my sewing machine. My machine is my pride and joy, as you know, and therefore needs protecting from dust and other yukky stuff. The cover that came with it is well naff and now getting somewhat tatty with being taken off and on. It’s a rubbish pvc material that is splitting.

A sad-looking machine
A sad-looking machine

So I decided to draft a pattern from it and make a new one, in one of my favourite fabrics (you will recognise this one if you know me well!) I also added a handle aperture so I can lift it with the cover in situ and a front pocket to store my manual (I’m always misplacing it), along with a couple of other bits and bobs should I need to transport it. I lined it in a contrasting red polka dot (left over from my fifties dress, about which I shall blog soon!) What do you think? One dapper sewing machine, is he not?!

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So. The second thing. Made it last night, and felt very naughty as I didn’t start making it until 11:30 at night – eek! But I do like to see things through till the end once I start (this is why I enjoy bags and stuff like that and not anything that takes way too long!) and so I finally plopped the laptop into the finished bag at 2:00 am and then plopped into bed myself! Very satisfying result for a Saturday night.

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I love it. I wanted a messenger-style bag rather than a briefcase-type case as I have to carry lots of other things to work of a morning. I have made it to fit like a glove (totes custom-made, guys!) and the fabric is a gorgeous Marimekko Kivet print brought back from California by my lovely mother-in-law. I do love a bit of orange and red, have you noticed yet?! It is well-padded for protection and fully lined in another cute piece of fabric (first outing for this one too – given to me last Christmas by my equally-lovely sis-in-law in California!) If anyone is ever stuck for anything to buy me for birthday or Christmas, some awesome fabric is ALWAYS a winner!

So, that’s my selfish sewing! What have you been making lately?

norfolk · Sewing

The wonderful Norwich Lanes

I spent the day today manning the shop at Norwich Gift Emporium, where I have my bags for sale. Wow, what a talented bunch of people there are exhibiting their things here! Just beautiful, unusual things and all handmade by local artisans.

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The shop is situated in Lower Goat Lane in the Norwich Lanes district. This is a part of Norwich that is full of lovely small shops, cafés, galleries and other independent businesses.  Down the road there is the Birdcage bar, at the top of the lane there is Imelda’s for fabulous shoes, and there are loads of great eateries to offer coffee, cakes and other yummy delights!

The Norwich Lanes offers the chance to escape the mass-produced generic experience on offer on the high street. Here you will not find Primark or Starbucks. It is fun to wander around looking at all the interesting bits & bobs on offer. I love stopping off for a pot of tea and a cheese scone at Biddy’s Tearoom or browsing the unusual books on offer at The Book Hive.IMG_5962IMG_5953 IMG_5952IMG_5944

I thought I’d tempt you with a selection of photos of some of the goodies that the Norwich Gift Emporium has to offer. Come and have a look! While you’re here, explore the rest of the Lanes – Norwich is really lucky to have such a lovely quarter – come and use it!

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Sewing

Is this any use to you? Yes please!

One of the lovely things about sewing is that once people know you sew, then they will bear you in mind when having a clear-out! You may become the destination for all sorts of goodies, if you’re lucky!

I write this post because this month, I have been fortunate enough to have several things donated to my stash! Some fabric, a boxful of mixed threads and some pins, a couple of cones of yarn and the thing I got most excited about…three reels of bias binding!

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Sewists are by nature hoarders, I think. Am I right?! There is not a scrap of ribbon, a spool of thread or a tiny square of fabric that is useless. Seriously. I always say yes (or actually “WOW, YES, PLEASE!!!” while trying not to drool on the item in question) when anyone offers me anything remotely to do with sewing. You never know when it’ll come in useful. In fact, my Margot pyjamas (see previous post) and my Skater Dress were both made out of fabric that someone gave me last year when their aunt was having a clear out!

Tools and gadgets are also most welcome, aren’t they? Some of my most treasured items came from my grandmother’s sewing & knitting things, which I inherited when she died. Every time I use her darning mushroom or needle roll I think of her. I also have a large tin full of knitting needles of all sizes that have come from friends, relatives and friends-of-friends that know about me!

Earlier this year, I inherited a cute book on crochet from a friend at work that found out it wasn’t for her. I also have become the lucky owner of a whole set of Golden Hands magazines that I have been lusting after for years (oooh! I love them for their seventies macrame and lurex gorgeousness!)

So the message to you all is to say “Yes please”, whenever anyone offers you anything. You might not use it straight away, but if you keep it squirrelled away, you never know when you might want to use it! Now, what can I do with 75 metres of bias binding?!!

norfolk · Sewing

Norwich Gift Emporium

Went this week to see my new bags & bits in-situ in the shop! The Norwich Gift Emporium is one of the gorgeous little shops for which the Norwich Lanes is famous. If you haven’t been to Norwich, you must come! I am not a shopper but I love the interesting and unique little boutiques and eateries & drinkeries, (does that exist?!) that it boasts.

So, anyway, Norwich Gift Emporium is on Lower Goat Lane. It has been open for nearly a year and features handmade goodies from Norfolk artists and makers. As such, it is an eclectic mix of lovely bits and pieces by a bunch of very talented people. I think I might be spending more in there than I make!

So here are a few snaps for you: feast your eyes on the loveliness!

My bags
My bags!
My bits!
My bits!

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A couple of my things have been put in the gorgeous new window display. IMG_5767

You can find the shop on facebook here.

norfolk · Sewing

Norwich in the sunshine!

Hi guys,

Thought I would share a photo of my beautiful city with you. I snapped it this week on the way through town to meet a friend for coffee (and the hugest chocolate hazelnut brownie I’ve ever met!)

It was such a gorgeous day I thought I’d just show you what a fine city Norwich is! If you live here or have visited, you’ll know it’s a vibrant place full of interesting buildings and has a lovely, relaxed feel to it. It’s at its best on a fresh early spring day!

So here is a picture of Norwich marketplace, famous for its colourful striped roofs, with the castle in the background.The Castle Museum is one of our favourite haunts at weekends or in school holidays. Did you know that although a Norman castle, it was used as a prison in Victorian times? It now holds a fascinating array of permanent displays and visiting exhibitions and is suitable for the whole family. It also sells, in my opinion, some of the best cheese scones in town!

Norwich Castle and market

I also wanted to share my latest “I could make that!” (does anyone else walk round town muttering that?!) I saw this lovely Maxmara dress in the window of Jarrolds – Maxmara and the like is not usually my thing but I like the style. I do not like the jaw-droppingly huge price tag, but I do think it looks like something I could make! Pinning it here for future inspiration! The “weekend trousers” that are next to it look like pyjamas that someone’s whipped up from my Nana’s sixties bedlinen!

Maxmara dress - a snip at only £225...eeek!
Maxmara dress – a snip at only £225…eeek!

Has anyone else been out and about in the lovely spring sunshine?

Sewing

Now appearing in a gift emporium near you! (If you live in Norfolk!)

At the end of last post, I said there was soon to be some exciting news! Now I can reveal that as of this week, I will be selling a range of my items at a gorgeous little shop here in Norwich. Yay! So excited!

So this weekend I have been busy making some things. Firstly, some new tote bags with the ubiquitous button detail! (Have I told you how I lurve buttons?!) Also some of my popular little coin purses in some cute fabrics. I am going in today stock up and then we’ll see how it goes! Will post pics as and when I get in there!

Button totes 3 Purses

I also finished the first item on my 2015 To Do list – yippee! It’s a Skater Dress, a Simply Sew pattern that I got free with Love Sewing magazine. It’s advertised as a pattern for an ambitious beginner. Well, I am no expert, but I have made a few dresses now, and the pattern was not the easiest to follow! Very confusing, in fact, and actually if this was your first attempt at making a dress then you’d be stumped, to be honest, and you might give up. What a shame. I found I had to read the thing extremely carefully over and over and it looks like steps have been missed out and some printed in the wrong order! It made me wonder about whether it had been properly tested.

So luckily I used my initiative based on what I’ve learned doing other patterns. The end result is a cute sleeved dress that I chose to make in a dark navy pinstripe wool. I think if I made it again, I would lengthen the bodice by a few inches (I am coming to the conclusion that I am a bit longer in the torso than some people, and might need to learn how to adjust a pattern…boo hoo!) and would also lengthen the skirt by a couple of inches.

That said, I enjoyed wearing it. I did make a bit of a boo-boo with the zip! I bought an invisible one as directed but could only find a longer one. No matter, thought I, I shall just trim it to size. Which I duly did. I stitched in one side of the zip tape,  (unzipped, as directed), then zipped it up, ready to pin in the other tape. I only remembered that it was a cut-down zip at the very moment the pull came off the zip teeth in my right hand with the zip still on the dress. “YOU IDIOT!” quoth I, followed by a chorus of “DAMMIT!”

So I had to improvise, with a regular zip. I decided to make a feature of my cock-up and do it in a contrasting colour (dark red). I like it though. I have already worn it a couple of times. I now think I need to make a shortie bolero type cardi to wear with it, as all mine are a tad long and spoil the shape of the skirt.

My skater dress (minus invisible zip!)
My skater dress (minus invisible zip!)

What have you been up to lately? Any schoolgirl/boy errors in the sewing department?!

Sewing

Back with a vengeance!

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My last post was mid-flu. While writing, I thought I was getting better, but then the next few days were spent with me barely able to get myself off the sofa for more than half an hour. Exhausting and extremely frustrating, not being able to do anything.

It’s now 3 weeks later and finally, I’m almost feeling my old self again! Yippee! Bursting full of ideas for my sewing adventures for this year. Please come along with me, give me feedback, hints, tips, advice, etc. I’d love to hear from you and see what you’re doing.

So, have sketched out a few ideas in my sketchbook: things I’m planning to make this year.

1. Skater dress. Free pattern with one of my sewing magazines a month or so ago. It’s a Simple Sew pattern. I love indie patterns (if you do, see Sew magazine this month, with a cool article on indies). I have a length of pinstripe wool that I think would look great for work. Watch this space, as I think this is my next project!

2. Pyjamas. Have made pjs for myself before, a couple of times, and some sweet ones for my little boy in a pirate fabric. But want to make Margot pjs from Tilly’s book Love at First Stitch (have I told you before how much I love her stuff?! I must have done! She is totes my hero in sewing right now, and the reason I got into sewing clothes rather than bags all the time!) Although I still lurve making bags!

3. Another Ruby dress. I made the first one in a lovely navy floral fabric that I had in my stash (looks a little bit Joules). I have worn it a lot and it’s a cute little dress. I fancy another – maybe a red one?

4. Francoise dress (another Tilly pattern). I bought the pattern a while ago but as yet haven’t found the right fabric. Looks lovely though – fancy the sleeved version.

5. Oven gloves. How glamorous! I need some, and want some more funky than the Tilda/Cath Kidston-style ones that are everywhere!

6. Kids’ clothes – in particular, girls’ dresses & skirts. I don’t have a girl myself, but really hate the sea of pink, flouncy, sparkly offerings that clothes manufacturers think girls want. I fancy superheroes, dinosaurs, space, etc. There’s been stuff happening on twitter about this very thing this month – M&S are stocking Natural History Museum dinosaur clothes…”for boys”.

7. Skirt(s)…my fabric stash calls!

8. Another Coco dress as I love mine and it’s so easy to wear. Polka dot this time? Stripey? Dinosaurs? Hmmmmmm….

9. Stag head on tweed cushion. Maybe one for next winter.

10. More knickers! (Many people have seen my post on this and commented!)
I’m also planning to blog more often – aiming for twice a week if I can. Look forward to seeing you!

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Love these totes – you can never have enough! Here I’ve contrasted different fabrics and added my fave – the button!

Also awaiting some exciting news about selling my bags & bits, so will let you know when it happens!

Sewing

2015 and all that

Happy New Year to you, my lovely reader, from me in beautiful Norwich!

As I write this, I am slightly delayed in welcoming in the New Year in all its glory. I had planned to get Christmas out of the way, and then feel raring to go with tons of ideas for new makes, sorting out my sewing space and developing my little business, but then the dreaded lurgy struck. We’ve all been unwell over the last few days and despite rallying round for a few hours for a lovely little party with good friends on New Year’s Eve, have all felt pretty rubbish and devoid of energy and enthusiasm.

But this evening things are looking a little brighter and I’m beginning to get my mind in focus ready for lots of fun things to do and make in this, 2015. I have plans! I have also signed up for the Create & Thrive 30 Questions Challenge, to help me focus on what I want to do with my sewing as a business. You can sign up here for what looks to be a fun and thought-provoking month of questions for yourself!

I got some lovely sewing presents for Christmas and my birthday (which is unfortunately Boxing Day – that’s the 26th December to you folks not in Britain!) – a pom pom maker, the Merchant & Mills sewing book, some awesome fabric my mother in law brought back from California for me and a lovely turquoise IKEA wheeled trolley for storing all my crap sewing essentials.

IKEA trolley - all ready for storing my stuff!
IKEA trolley – all ready for storing my stuff!

A friend also gave me this cute magic box that opens up into a very cool little sewing cube – it’s very pretty and really useful.

A lovely decorative box...
A lovely decorative box…
Ta da!!!
Ta da!!!

I feel very spoiled! What crafty goodies did you get for Christmas? And what’s on your To Do list for this year?

Sewing · Uncategorized

Knickers to you, madam!

Have been meaning to update the blog for ages. But it’s the end of a busy, busy term at school and I’ve hardly had any time! But I wanted to tell you all about my knickers!

How rude! I do, of course, refer to knickers what I have made myself, madam!

For ages I have been wanting to do the makeplace knicker making workshop. I do like cute knickers and fancied the DIY route! I attended the course as I was a bit nervous of going it alone! I enjoyed it and was really pleased with the results. Although on the downside, thought it was a bit pricey. £39.50  for the two and a half hour course. On the day, it only lasted a hour and a half, presumably as there were only 4 people attending. And I thought for the price, they could have included a cuppa and a free pattern to reproduce the knickers at home. If I ran workshops, there would always be lots of cups of tea!

These are my new pants, handmade by me! I love the colour combination (pistachio andIMG_5586 strawberry ice cream?!)  IMG_5587 IMG_5588

So, yes, those there were proficient enough sewers to be able to make their own pattern from the knickers they’d made. But I think it would have been nice to have provided a free one so as to save a little bit of time having to draft one. I was really pleased with them, though, and quite taken with the idea that they can be made out of upcycled clothing. So on the way home, I bought some more lace and then found a 50p top from the charity shop that I thought I’d chop up.

I made another pair! Both are very comfy and I plan to make several more. I have bought some stripey jersey fabric ready for it! Has anyone else ventured into underwear?

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