Blog Archive

52 buttonholes!

Hello again!

It's been a good week, as not only did I have the lovely visit from my dear nephew and niece (in-law) but I also finished and posted 4 shirts to my Darling Daughter.

DD is on an internship in London and, a couple of weeks ago, put out a call for some more cool cotton shirts.  Now, shirts are not my favourite things to make, but I decided I was going to try and learn to love sewing them, in other words, make it FUN!

Hmmmm...  How to go about this?  Maybe I chose the wrong way, but I decided to make 4 in one go!  I do often make 2 similar items at one time, especially if I can use the same colour thread in the overlocker and/or coverstitch.  With hindsight, 4 was probably a bit of a stretch, as I had 3 colour changes.

If you've never made a ladies shirt before I can highly recommend the Vogue pattern number 8772.  I usually make View D; a classic, long sleeved, collared shirt.  It is heavily darted, so very easy to make adjustments to achieve a perfect fit.  My daughter is very tall so I have added at least 2 inches to the length.  

I set about cutting them out.  I really don't like cutting out, so try to find something to put on the television (usually a re-run of Downton Abbey!) to make the time less 'intense'.  I cut out all the pieces, transferred all the markings, cut and applied all the interfacing.  A little aside here about interfacing - it is so worth buying a good quality one, I like the Vilene range, as it applies smoothly, and washes well, without the wrinkling that can occur with some others.  Plus, a metre goes a long way!  The pattern calls for sew in, which I have done in the past, but this time I used a lightweight fusible, which seems to be just as successful with cottons.

Above are all the fiddly bits laid out.  If only my sewing room was as neat as this... (sigh)

Then, the construction could begin in earnest!  Whatever I am making, I sew as many seams as I can, constructing sleeves at the same time as darts, and then take them all the ironing board for a mass press (more Downton Abbey!).

More sewing...

Just how many shirts can you wear at one time, Valerie?...

Time to make 52 buttonholes.  A little tip here:  I don't use the buttonhole guide that comes with the pattern, rather I put the shirt on and mark the full bust point, and that becomes the first buttonhole.  That way you avoid the horrid gaping that so often comes with ready-to-wear.  (In my daughter's case, I have this first buttonhole marked on the pattern).  Then, just mark the positions of the buttonholes from that one point.  I used a 3" spacing.  Here a quilting ruler comes in really handy!

My machine is one of those where you pop the button in the back of the buttonhole foot and it sews a perfectly sized buttonhole automatically.  It sews them 'backwards', so I start at the bottom of the shirt, with the hem nearest me, and work upwards.  To save the foot snagging on the collar band on the top buttonhole of the main body of the shirt, I measure how long the buttonholes are, make another mark the same measurement from where the bottom of the buttonhole is, then spin the shirt around and sew that one with the collar nearest to me.  A simple tweak, but saves a lot of frustration with a bunched up buttonhole!...

A quilting square makes it easy to mark perfectly aligned buttonholes on the cuffs...

After making 52 buttonholes, what's next?? Oh, yes, 52 buttons...  I sewed them on using the button sewing facility on my machine, but then tied them off securely by hand afterwards, and applied the tiniest dab of Fray Check.  Time for some more Downton Abbey...

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, all of sudden, they were finished!! I gave each a final press, wrapped them in tissue paper and packed them in a shallow box. Dashing to the Post Office, I arrived with 5 minutes to spare to catch the last post.  I sent them Special Delivery, as I would dissolve in a puddle of tears if they got lost in the post!

They arrived the next day and I received a lovely string of texts, plus an excited phone call, from DD, telling me I had 'outdone myself'.  What better reward is there than that? :)

Oh, before I go, I should show you the shirts!!

Cotton gingham, with Egyptian Cotton collar and cuffs

Liberty Cotton

Liberty Tana Lawn

100% traditional cotton shirting

I think I shall make myself a simple pull-on knit dress now. Not a buttonhole in sight... ;)

Donna x 

A Perfect Weekend

Hello again!

What a perfect long weekend that was!  On Saturday we had the pleasure of visiting RHS Tatton Park Flower Show for the first time.  I can't believe we have never visited before!  The tickets were a kind gift from my Patient Other Half's sister, for POH's birthday.  A brilliant gift indeed, including a ticket for Premium Parking, which was a great success!

There was so much to see we literally spent all day there, and I'm sure we were virtually the last to leave ;)

The sun shone right up until the last few minutes, at which point it chucked it down, but we were heading back to the car then anyway so it didn't matter.  (Premium Parking, near the gate, came into its own then!)

We loved the show gardens.  So much thought goes into them that I can't possibly do them justice. This one, the Mid Cheshire Hospitals 'Remember Me' garden, was particularly poignant for me, having lost my Dad to dementia a few years ago.  Full of familiar plants that were grown in back gardens everywhere, it tracked the journey from first diagnosis to requiring 24 hour care.  The iron bed frames were planted with herbs, for peace and rest in the final stages.

Below is another show garden, representing Crohn's and Colitis.  Again, so well thought out:

This one was the Gabriel Ash Greenhouse Garden.  Greenhouse envy or what?!

Look at these bonsai trees!  Decades old!  The patience in creating something like this is phenomenal.

The one below was started in 1893.  Imagine being the one to forget to water it...

It was quite by chance (I think) that the tickets we had for the Saturday coincided with Monty Don being there, giving a talk.  I love watching Monty Don, particularly on Gardeners' World, and also enjoy reading his books and articles in Gardeners' World magazine.  He has such a natural, thoughtful way of writing I really enjoy.  He was even better 'in real life' and the hour that he spoke for zipped by.  Sadly he was without Nigel, the undisputed doggy star of the show for many people, but I was very happy just to listen to Monty describing the creation of his own garden, Long Meadow.

We had such a good day out, we will certainly go again.  

(OOH!  Where did he appear from??  He was very yummy though!)

Saturday evening brought another joy, in the arrival of my beloved eldest nephew and his wife, who I truly consider to be my niece. They were visiting for a few days in order to attend a wedding locally, but we had lots of time to talk, laugh, eat, and have fun. They arrived bearing gifts - beautiful gifts

Isn't this just the sunniest, happiest flower arrangement?

We took them to my Happy Place, Dunham Massey. I know I told you all about DM last time, but I must show you this photo of the deer.  We were lucky enough to spot a White Hart Deer. You can see him on the right hand side of the photo, by the archway.

My nephew and niece went home yesterday, and I do miss them. Daisy Dog must miss them too, as she is definitely off her food!  I even cooked her some minced beef, but she turned her nose up at first.  I think she just loved being carried around and cuddled all day!

Changing the subject completely, our home grown potatoes are particularly delicious this year. We are growing two varieties, our usual 'Charlotte' and, new for us, 'Pentland Javelin'.  I must say that we are preferring the Pentland Javelin, as the flavour is excellent, they are smooth, waxy, and deliciously sweet!

We do grow potatoes in our vegetable beds, but these were grown in an old, holey bucket, with extra holes drilled in the bottom.   I grow several lots of potatoes like this every year, as they fit into any spare, reasonably sunny corner.  You can buy potato growing bags too, and I do use some, but I prefer buckets as they seem to keep more evenly watered.  The soft sides of the bags have a tendency to collapse inwards and prevent the rain, or water, reaching the tubers.  Some DIY shops sell buckets for as little as 99p, and they last several years.

I place about 4 inches of compost in the bottom, and put 3 tubers, eyes upwards, on the top.  Then I cover them with another 3 or 4 inches of compost, mixed with some farmyard manure (from a bag). It's important to keep them well watered too. As the plants grow, 'earth them up' with more compost, and a handful of manure every so often.  Once the compost is a couple of inches from the top stop adding compost, but keep up the watering.  The plants will flower and when the stalks start to droop they are ready to harvest! Tip them out and collect up your tasty tatties! The used compost can go on to the garden.  

New potatoes are best served the day they are harvested.  You can't beat them!

I still haven't shown you my vegetable garden, but it's raining at the moment, so I will save that for another day.

Now, I must go and sew on 52 buttons...  I'll tell you all about that next time!

Donna x 

A Grand Day Out

On Saturday we went to Dunham Massey, which is definitely my 'Happy Place'.  We go quite often, as it's a lovely day out, we belong to the National Trust, (so it's free to get in), and it's dog friendly!

Near Altringham in Cheshire, Dunham Massey was once the family home of the Earls of Stamford. During WWI it became the Stamford Military Hospital, and two years ago the National Trust recreated the ward, recreation room and operating area.  What a fabulous exhibition that was!  At the moment the exhibition is 'The Lost Years', and tells the story of when the 7th Earl married a circus girl, and, as society would not accept the new mistress of the Hall, they moved away.

Anyway, back to Saturday.  We enjoyed a lovely picnic.  The strawberries are just perfect right now!

Then we invested 50p in some duck food, and had a lovely time feeding the ducks.  I love this simple activity; ducks are so comforting somehow - up to their feathered armpits in cuteness. Definitely 50p well spent!

Then we split up for a short while to explore the formal gardens, as dogs are not allowed in that bit. The flower beds were looking so colourful, particularly the ageratum and antirrhinum.

Back to the dog friendly deer park, and the deer were very, very friendly today!

A run around the field, where we can let Daisy off the lead...

... and then it was time for a restorative cup of tea!

It was a perfect day, and we returned home restored and refreshed.  We treated ourselves to a takeaway and had a restful evening with our feet up!  We'll be going again soon :)

Donna x 


Hello again!  I can't believe you came back!  How lovely you're here again, as I want to tell you about Freddie.

Freddie was my first ever attempt at amigurumi, and was made for my daughter.  I spotted the book Cute Crochet Animals, by the very talented Emma Varnham.  What a fabulous book!!  Full of super cute crochet animals, with a whole wardrobe of clothes that you can swap between the various animals.

The first thing I had to do was learn how to pronounce amigurumi, and much hilarity was had at Cooper's, with Lucy, from Attic24, trying to teach me by sounding out the syllables.  Eventually her patience paid off and I still think of it as 'Am-i-gu-ROOOMI'!

The patterns are so well written and easy to follow that it wasn't difficult at all.  The best advice I was given was ALWAYS, without fail, use a stitch marker to mark the end of each round, because as much as you think you will remember where you are, you won't!  I can vouch for that, so always have a couple of stitch markers to hand.

Freddie was made from Stylecraft Special DK in 'Spice'.  His duffle coat is in a pure wool worsted from Rowan, and his other clothes were left over bits and pieces.  As Freddie grew on the hook, he took on more and more character.  Here he is as just a head!

And then he became a whole fox, but with no clothes, so he hid in my wool bag...

When he was finished  he came with me one afternoon to Cooper's, and met the ladies there.  He was pleased to see they stocked San Pellegrino, as that's his favourite tipple...

My daughter is a PhD student at Oxford, and once he had sufficient clothes to start his new academic life, he packed his suitcase in readiness for the move...

Being a discerning fox, he insisted on travelling first class on the train...

He is very happy living in  his new home, and helps my daughter with her research...

I miss seeing Freddie every day, although I do receive regular photo updates from him, so I am creating my own little friend, Emily the rabbit!  I am making her in Drops Karisma, which is a 100% wool, superwash yarn.  At the moment she is a grisly pile of body parts, but she's taking shape, limb by ear, and I can't WAIT to start making her a wardrobe of pretty clothes.

If you've never had a go at Am-i-gu-ROOOMI, I can highly recommend it, for something fun, fast growing, and pretty cute!  Just don't forget those stitch markers!!!

Oh!  I finished my dress on Monday.  I wore it on Tuesday and it was very cool and comfortable. Here it is, modelled by Valerie!

I wonder if anyone I saw on Tuesday has rumbled that I currently have 6 dresses from this one pattern???  Maybe it'll be 7 before the summer is out :D

Donna x

New Beginnings

Hello!  Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my First Ever Post!

I've been encouraged to write a blog by my lovely friends at Cooper's Cafe Creative Group, in Skipton, and have dithered and swithered around with a template for a couple of weeks.  I've such a lot to learn, but suddenly decided this morning to just go for it, so I hope you will bear with me and stick with it whilst I learn all about blog land.  (So many gadgets!!)

One of the articles I read last week was about how to write your first blog post.  It said to say what the point of your blog was.  Well, in answer to that I would say this blog will be the story of my creative life.  A life, I think, well lived.  I love so many different creative hobbies I hope to inspire others to 'have a go'.  I hope to be inspired and to learn from my readers, as I already do from my creative friends, and the other blogs and Instagrammers  I follow.

Today has been about dressmaking.  I've been prewashing/shrinking some beautiful Liberty Lawn I bought at the wonderful Standfast and Barracks Factory Shop in Lancaster on Saturday.  I bought four different fabrics, but the one in the photo above is a favourite.  It looked lovely wafting on the washing line this morning, but the colour doesn't show up properly, so here it is indoors, waiting to be pressed:

The colour is still much better in real life than the photo - a really deep, velvety red with fine black patterning.  I made my grown up daughter a long evening gown in it a year ago, and she looks stunning in it.  Mind you, she could wear a bin bag and look beautiful!  I haven't decided what I will use this length for, but it'll certainly be a dress for me.  I bought 3 metres, so will have plenty.

If you've never heard of Standfast and Barracks I will quickly tell you it is the most amazing place! They are the fabric printers for Liberty, John Lewis, Sanderson etc. and have a proper factory shop where they sell fabrics at hugely reduced prices.  Many are seconds but I can rarely see where the flaw is. I expect they just have exacting standards! If you don't live anywhere near Lancaster they do telesales throughout the mornings.  They have a good Facebook presence, (Standfast and Barracks Factory Shop), and regularly post updates and special promotions.

Anyway, that fabric is for another day but today I'm making another dress from the fantastic New Look pattern 6020 - sleeveless cotton dresses.  I've lost count of the number of dresses I've made from this pattern, but I hope by varying the 'view' I make, as well as using wildly different fabrics, they do look like different dresses!  The fabric I am using today is a bit different for me, as, being fair, I tend to use bolder colours.  However, I recently saw a fair haired lady in a dress this colour and it looked very summery, so here goes!  It's like a super milky cappuccino!

This is a lovely pattern, princess seaming (very flattering and very easy to make bodice adjustments with) along with a fairly full skirt.  I like sleeveless dresses in the summer, in cotton fabrics, as I don't take the heat well, even in the North of England, and seem to be forever saying "is it me, or is it hot in here??!"

I'll continue working on it this afternoon, and will do the Big Reveal once it's finished.

How long should a first blog post be?? I don't know, but perhaps I'll stop here for now.  There's so much I|wanted  to talk about - crochet, gardening, baking, Freddie the Fox (the little chap on the right, under my profile), the great outdoors, Daisy Dog...  If you look back at the top photo you may spot, to the right of the fabric, an archway over some gravel.  Well, that leads to the vegetable garden, one of the joys of my life, but I'll save that for another time.

Whatever you are doing today I hope you are enjoying it.  Please do come back and visit again!