Making sewing plans

If you’re as much of an Instagram addict as I am, you may have noticed your fellow Instagrammers’ penchant for planners (usually snapped artfully placed at an angle on an impossibly tidy desk, accessorised with a frothy coffee, an expensive candle and a perfect manicure).

We seem to be obsessed with planning, and the more colourful stickers, washi tape and to-do lists we can throw at it the better. I even treated myself to a Filofax this year (90s me would be so proud – back then I had to make do with a Funfax).

And it seems the sewing world has embraced the planning trend too, with the likes of Colette’s Wardrobe Architect blog series and Sew Crafty’s lovely sewing journal (pictured) on hand to help us organise our sewing life. I’ve certainly been taking a more thoughtful approach to my sewing in the last year or so, and it’s made a huge difference to my wardrobe and what I sew (as well as what I don’t sew). sewing journal

When I started dressmaking a few years ago, it was a hobby. I still bought most of my clothes on the high street, so I made things simply for the fun of it. A bright nautical print that doesn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe? Great! Using fabric scraps to stitch a pom pom scarf? Why the hell not! Refashioning my boyfriend’s (unwanted) shirt into a skirt? Hell yeah I will!

Now, though, I’m not sure any of these projects would make it to my sewing machine, but that’s not to say I don’t love them (that nautical top is still a fave, and that skirt is one of my summer go-tos).

These days I rarely buy clothes, so sewing has become about creating a full wardrobe of handmade garments that I’ll get lots of day-to-day wear out of. This means (you guessed it!) lots of planning and careful fabric buying.

It can be even easier to get stuck in a style rut when you sew your own clothes. Because sewing takes time, you want to make sure you’ll actually wear what you’re spending all those hours making, which, in my experience, can mean being less adventurous with what you choose to make.

I used to buy fabric on impulse and throw myself into the next project that popped into my head, but now I think things through a little more – will I get enough wear out of the garment to make it worth my sewing time? Will I still love it in a few months, or even years?

This more considered approach has overall been a good one for my me-made wardrobe, but I’m not entirely sure it’s as fun. I miss the buzz you get when a let’s-give-it-a-go-and-see-what-happens kind of project turns out even better than you expected and you end up loving it. Often, these are the projects you learn from, rather than the safer, carefully planned, sure-fire, TNT staples.

So, this year (I know it’s a bit late for resolutions, but, hey, better late than never) I want to make time for both (using my planner to keep track of it all, obvs). Here’s to sewing for the fun of it!sewing plans

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Photo Diary: Seaside

While some bloggers post photos of hipster cafes, buzzing city streets or far-flung sun-drenched beaches, I bring you…the British seaside. In winter. Sorry guys.

Anyway, if you’re planning a seaside trip, I recommend going armed with plenty of 2p coins, because you’ll probably spend a lot of time on the slot machines trying to win pointless stuff (and failing, because who the hell has ever won something on those things?).

Also, you’ll obviously need to leave plenty of room for a fish-and-chips lunch, so don’t go scoffing too many road-trip snacks. Even if they’re not-so-great chips, they will taste amazing because you’re eating them by the sea. Trust me. ClockSeaside daysBritish seasideBeach

Sewing stash updates

I recently made a deal with myself: until I’ve used all of the fabric in my stash, I’m not allowed to purchase any more. I know, it’s a toughie. So, instead of buying more fabric, I’ve added other sewing-related bits and bobs to my stash instead. It’s not technically cheating…

The first new addition to my sewing box were these gold-plated stork scissors from Prym. I’ve seen a few bird-shaped snips like these on the high street, but in my opinion the Prym version is the only way to go for sewists. These are super-sharp so cut cleanly and don’t chew up threads, and they look great too. I now keep them by my sewing machine at all times.Prym stork scissors Hay rulerI also treated myself to this Hay ruler from Papersmiths in Bristol – it isn’t strictly part of my sewing kit as it’s nowhere near big enough to measure anything useful, but it’s in one of my favourite colours and looks nice sat on my sewing table. There are other styles and colours too, so I may just have to start a Hay ruler collection.Sewing toolscustom labelshandmade labelThe final (and possibly most exciting) sewing stash newcomer are these custom labels from Nominette*. I’ve been meaning to get some labels printed for my me-made clothing for a while now, but could never decide what to have on them. The idea of labels embroidered with my own name brings back memories of school sports kits (shudder), and I didn’t want to use my blog title in case I fancied changing it at some point in the future (I’m fickle like that).

In the end, I decided to keep it simple with a ‘Hand Made’ motif that I designed myself. Mine are the 25mm end-fold style (£53 for 100 labels), but there are a few different folding options available. The embroidery comes in myriad colours, but I just couldn’t resist going for gold. I’m really pleased with the quality of the labels and the stitching, and will certainly be ordering more when I’ve run out.

Now, excuse me while I go and sew these onto everything I’ve ever made…

*Nominette sent me 50 labels for free, but all opinions are my own and I haven’t used any affiliate links in this post.

Rome Travel Guide: 9 tips for visiting Rome

Keep an eye on your stuff. As in many cities, pick-pocketing is rife in Rome, especially during the peak holiday season. Keep your handbag zipped up securely and close in front of you when you’re on the Metro or near busy tourist sites (especially when taking selfies – I saw so many people with open bags hanging off their shoulder while they were busy perfecting their pout. Don’t do it!).

Watch out on the roads (and the pavements, for that matter). You’ve probably already heard that driving in Rome is a bit on the crazy side – I had, but nothing prepared me for just how crazy it was. You basically have to walk into the road and hope for the best at pedestrian crossings or the cars will just keep on driving. And don’t think you’re safe strolling along Rome’s many quaint cobbled side streets – scooters and motorbikes speed around them like they’re on a race track. It’s all part of the holiday fun, though – just keep your eyes peeled while you’re eating your gelato.

Don’t stay near Termini. Sure, the prices are reasonable and it’s close to the sights, but in all honesty it’s really not the most pleasant part of Rome, and, to me, it didn’t feel that safe after dark. Instead, stay somewhere slightly outside of the centre, but still within a walkable distance, like Trastevere (where there are lots of great – and cheap – restaurants) or near the Vatican and you’ll have a much nicer stay.

PalatinoEat away from the tourist spots. This one seems really obvious, but when I go on city breaks I’m always surprised to see people jostling to get into the expensive cafes and restaurants near the tourist sights. In Rome, tasty, reasonably priced food is easy to find, often just a few streets away from those over-priced lunch spots, so don’t settle for the first place you come to. I can recommend Osteria Delle Commari on Via Santamaura – the food isn’t the cheapest you’ll find in Rome but it’s not the most expensive either, and it’s absolutely delicious.

All gelato is not created equal. Italy is known for its gelato, and rightly so. But that does mean there are a few gelaterias selling not-so-great gelato to cash in on this reputation. Avoid gelato that is very brightly coloured or that has an overly whipped appearance – both of these things are achieved by adding nasty stuff to it.

Tipping isn’t really a big deal. Seriously. Unlike in many other European cities, the locals generally only tip generously if the service was amazing – like, Michelin-star amazing. Although we just couldn’t seem to get over our polite-Brit need to tip everyone who served us, there was no expectation that we’d leave them something, so don’t panic if you don’t have any coins to spare at the end of your meal.

Book to avoid the queues (or visit in winter). Although we didn’t see much sunshine on our January visit to Rome, the lack of queues and crowds more than made up for it. We basically strolled straight into the tourist sites that are most notorious for queues, which, aside from making the whole experience far less stressful, meant we could get up a bit later in the mornings and still fit lots into our day. Win! If you really don’t fancy a winter holiday, I can’t stress enough the importance of booking before you visit the touristy spots, as those queues will be loooong.

See some modern art. I’m not suggesting you bypass the city’s famous historic sites and see some modern art instead, but Rome has a great modern art gallery that is well worth a visit. We saw some fantastic works by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, plus an exhibition on film star Monica Vitti (although the rest of the gallery has English translations, this was in Italian so I didn’t understand what the point of it all was, but I got lots of sewing inspiration out of it!). Plus, you can stroll through the lovely Villa Borghese gardens beforehand.

Walk it. Rome is one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever visited. We only used the metro a couple of times, and even then we got off a few stops early because we fancied the walk. On our first day, we walked over 25,000 steps and saw loads of the city. Just make sure you wear comfy shoes, or your feet will hurt before you’ve even done any sightseeing. Bridge

 

Rome Travel Guide: Photo Diary

St PetersChances are you’re already pretty familiar with Rome’s landmarks, so I won’t bore you with how amazing the Colosseum is, or how you really must go and see the Roman Forum and the Pantheon (although you really, really should – they’re famous for a reason, you know). Instead, I’ve put together this mini photo diary of my favourite snaps from my week in the Eternal City. I went, I saw, I ate gelato…

Vatican MuseumscolosseumRoman Forum Modern art in RomeMonica VittiRome bridgeRome sightsWandering in RomePantheon

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My review of where I stayed in Rome.

My Paris photo diary.

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Also stay tuned for the third and final part of my Rome travel guide series – I’ll be sharing my top tips for those planning on exploring the city.

Rome Travel Guide: Where to Stay

When it comes to travel accommodation, I’m not usually the fussy type – as long as a place is clean, affordable and relatively close to everything I want to see, I’m happy. But my recent stay at a lovely little place in Rome has had me rethinking my criteria – it turns out that staying somewhere nice is pretty, well, nice. Shocking, I know.

I’ve always preferred city breaks to beach holidays, and often this means accommodation can be rather pricey, even for the most basic of hotels or apartment rentals. One thing this month’s Rome trip has taught me, however, is that visiting cities out of season is the way to go. Although it may not be appealing to sun-seekers, travelling outside of the tourist months has many benefits (hello, no queues!), one of which being that accommodation at the nicer end of the scale is so much cheaper.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when our taxi rolled up outside Relais Clivo Vaticano (well, when I say outside, I mean as close as our friendly driver could get – the hotel is set on a hill just outside the Vatican walls, so there were several steps to climb). We were pleasantly surprised by what we found beyond its unassuming gate – a little haven of calm in a hectic city, with stylish, contemporary decor and one of the prettiest gardens you ever did see. And all a walkable distance from Rome’s well-known sights (not to mention some great restaurants, too).Rome gardensgardenRelais Clivo Vaticano breakfast roomWhere to stay in RomeItalian breakfastAs you might be able to guess from these photos, one of the highlights of our stay was the complimentary breakfast, which featured an array of delicious homemade cakes and pastries and was served in the bright conservatory overlooking the city – heaven. Getting used to having boring old cereal again is going to be seriously hard.

If you’re booking a stay in Rome (you lucky thing, you), I can’t recommend Relais Clivo Vaticano enough. As it’s more of a bed & breakfast than a hotel, it has such a personal, relaxed feel and we really felt at home there.

Stay tuned for the next post in my three-part Rome travel guide series, and follow me on Instagram for a few snaps from my Roman holiday.

A Fairytale Fit at Ted & Muffy in Bath

When much-loved brands get a makeover it’s not always for the better, but this isn’t so for shoe boutique Ted & Muffy. Duo was known for its excellent fit and beautiful quality – just check out my post from their blogger event last year to see what I mean – and while I’m sure many will be sad to see it go, its latest incarnation as Ted & Muffy is an exciting one. Ted & Muffy is Duo’s cool, stylish sister – like Duo, it offers a vast range of calf and width fittings (and size 35s for my little feet, hurrah!), but there are edgier styles as well as the classics Duo was known for which makes for a more interesting collection, with flashes of cherry red, cobalt blue, metallics and animal print.

I couldn’t make this year’s blogger event, so the Bath store was kind enough to invite me in last weekend to show me around the newly refurbished boutique and get me fitted for my first pair of Ted & Muffys (scroll to the bottom of the post to see which style I chose…). The decor makes it all about the shoes, with pared-back white walls and wooden floors and vintage-look accessories. It’s a more contemporary, minimalist look than Duo’s, and I like it!

AW shoes#TedandMuffyBoots and shoes at Ted and MuffyTed and Muffy Bath storeBootsNew Ted and Muffy store BathBoots AW15Ted and Muffy bagsOTK BootsTassel loafersVintage decor BroguesAntique mirrorboots glorious bootsHawk boots Ted and Muffy

And here they are! My Hawk ankle boots, with touches of patent leather and a zip detail at the back. Although I wish my legs were long enough to pull off the OTK styles (let’s all take a moment to admire these lace-up Freia boots) I always feel most comfortable in an ankle boot. I was tempted by the Arietty and Pixie styles, but I chose the Hawks in the end because I haven’t seen anything like them elsewhere (and I can’t resist a bit of patent leather!).

Find out more about the new Ted & Muffy brand on the website (just don’t blame me if you end up wanting all the shoes) and follow Ted & Muffy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for competitions, offers and outfit inspo.

Lately on Instagram

Eclectic Threads Instagram

1 Remember when it was sunny enough to wear sandals? Sigh. 2 Wedding flowers. 3 More flowers! These were for my birthday. 4 Another notebook to add to my collection – this one is embroidered with my name though, so it’s extra-special! 5 My handiwork at a cupcake-decorating class for a friend’s hen do… 6 …and these were made by the professionals! 7 The two surviving flowers from my birthday blooms. 8 Posh breakfasting at the Lido. 9 My gorgeous Rainbow Club Jackie heels from last year’s blogger event had an outing at a friend’s wedding.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done an Instagram round-up – mostly because my Instagram posts have been rather sporadic recently to say the least! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of hen dos, weddings and work – plus my birthday in between – so my feed has mostly included photos of food and flowers, which is no bad thing in my book.

My favourite of these images is probably the last one (I wish I could wear shoes that pretty every day!) and, of course, the two cupcake snaps, because cupcakes.

You can follow me on Instagram here.

Sewing Expectations VS Sewing Realities…

 

Sewists are a creative bunch, and that’s a great thing. But it can mean that we get a bit, well, ahead of ourselves when it comes to our sewing expectations. So, in the style of that roof party scene in 500 Days of Summer, I present a rather silly list of sewing expectations versus sewing realities…

Expectation: I’ll just quickly pop into the fabric shop for some thread. Reality: You emerge over an hour later with at least six metres of fabric in tow and a severely depleted bank balance.

Expectation: On my next project, I’ll be really, really careful not to drop any pins. Reality: I’m sure I didn’t just drop a pin…did I?

Expectation: Of course I’ll have time to make 10 dresses before my summer holiday. In three weeks’ time. Reality: Who needs 10 new dresses anyway? One is more than enough *sobs*.

Expectation: I’m definitely NOT going to leave bits of thread and fabric all over the carpet this time. Reality: I’ll just quickly snip these loose threads and hope they somehow disappear without me having to get the hoover out.

Expectation: I’m going to be ultra-organised and get all my sewing kit ready before I start. Reality: WHERE THE HELL IS MY TAPE MEASURE?

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Friday Fabric Love: Tile Prints

 

1 Classic blue and white tiles from Spoonflower. 2 A jazzy print from Remnant Kings (this one has a bit of a 90s vibe, but in a good way!). 3 Gold print cotton from Etsy. 4 Blue tiled poplin from Splendid Stitch. 5 Persian-inspired tile print from Spoonflower.

Although summer seems to have deserted us already here in the UK, I’m not ready to let go of it just yet! Even if the skies are grey, tile prints like these are cheering me up no end. Especially that sunny yellow one! I’m imagining pretty tiled fountains in far-flung cities, or an ornate tiled pool at a five-star resort (well, a girl can dream).

What prints are on your fabric wish list at the moment?