Taffeta & Organza Hostess Apron - What I will Be Wearing For Christmas Dinner!

Ah Christmas Day... families getting together, presents under the tree and the all important Christmas dinner. But what to wear on such an important occasion? Especially if you're doing the cooking...eeek!

Well this year I was determined not to wear a gravy splattered dress or an old tea towel tucked into my waistband, it's not a good look at any time. I wanted an extra special apron worthy of Christmas Day, and I found it at Sew4home, the Cocktails at Eight apron.

hostess apron

Inspired by elegant soirees this apron calls for high heels and tinkling laughter as you serve guests with tantalising canapes....OK I've got the heels, but the rest might be a struggle.

Photo for illustration purposes only......this apron is totally impractical and far too pretty to wear while cooking (the old tea towel tucked into the waistband will be making an appearance here).

And this is a much more accurate representation of me in the kitchen.....

Now onto making the apron, the instructions from Sew4home are easy to follow and very detailed, so no worries there. Just a couple of points to note, organza is the devils fabric! I thought the fabric used in my sequined Christmas stocking was difficult, but organza is actually alive I'm sure of it! The way it moves and squirms about during cutting, I'm sure I heard it squeal when I sewed it. You have to pin it to within an inch of it's life and go very slowly, checking and adjusting all the time.

I also had to do some jiggery-pokery with the waistband ribbon to widen it, the instructions call for 1 inch wide ribbon but you actually need 1.5 inch wide ribbon.

Now who cares if your turkey is dry and your sprouts are overdone, your guests will be too busy admiring your shiny wondrous apron!

And here's where I wobbled on the high heels during the photo shoot (mulled wine anyone?)

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! 
Much love, Wag Doll x

Hot Pink Embellished Umbrella, for Singing in The Rain

There's a reason why the Yorkshire countryside is so gorgeously lush and green... it rains, a lot!

So I'm going to celebrate the rain with an embellished umbrella,

pink umbrella with black bead trim

This is a really quick and easy project and would make a great last minute Christmas present for someone.

Now I know it's unlucky to put an umbrella up on the house, but guess what? Yes, it was raining! And while this brolly loves the rain my camera doesn't so I'm afraid I had to stick with indoor pics.

To make your 'Singing in the Rain' brolly you need a strong umbrella, and haberdashery bead trim. I saw this idea in Sew magazine where they used fabric bobble trim, but a Northern winter needs something waterproof so I went with bead trim.

Measure the outside circumference of your umbrella as you'll need a surprisingly large amount of trim. I thought I'd be OK with a couple of metres but I actually needed 3 metres. You could use the mathematical formula for finding the circumference of a circle (Pi x diameter)...alternatively you could just use a very large tape measure....

Sew the ribbon of the bead trim onto the top side of the umbrella so the beads hang over the edge. I machine stitched in between the ribs of the umbrella and hand stitched around each point as it's impossible to sew over the points with a machine. You could also hand stitch the whole project if you wanted.

And this is the view you get when using your umbrella, doesn't the world seem a better place through a fringe of beads?!

bead fringing


Twinkle Toes! Sequin Christmas Stocking Tutorial

The first day of my Advent calendar is open, and it's officially time for some Christmas sparkle, The Twinkle Toes Christmas Stocking!

I did a little Christmas happy dance when I made this, I love it so much.

To make your sequin stocking read on.

A tutu and a scarf, just what everyone needs for winter!

Just a very quick post to say my recently made sock monkeys are no longer naked at this chilly time of year!

They each have a white tutu....

sock monkeys in tutus

and a bright pink scarf.....

sock monkeys with scarves

I had hoped to find bright pink soft tulle for the skirts, but the only net I could find in this colour was too stiff and scratchy for such tiny tutus, so I had to go with white.

I like them in their scarves, but they do look more girlie in their tutu's. I'm giving them away as Christmas presents so please...help! You know when you've worked on something and looked at it for a long time that you can't be objective anymore? Well now I can't decide which suits them best. Which outfit do you like?

A visit to Harrogate for sewing supplies...and the connection to Johnny Depp

A couple of weeks ago I put on my posh togs and had a day out in the elegant Victorian town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, where I discovered an intriguing connection to Johnny Depp.

The town is known for it's Turkish Spa Baths, The Great Yorkshire Show, Victorian architecture and the world famous Betty's Tea Rooms. There's also a wealth of shopping, from the quirky antique and curio shops in the Montpellier Quarter, to high street favourites in the centre of town and individual shops around the train station area.

In addition to sightseeing and sampling the wares of a local cafe I managed to find some sewing and crafting shops for guilt-free shopping, well it's not that I just like buying fabric, I need it! Read on...!

Winter Cape in Gray Wool Cashmere - McCalls M5913

Well my first attempt at clothing from a commercial pattern is complete! A winter cape coat.

Gray Cape Coat

I adore capes, I already have 2 ready-to-wear versions bought a couple of years ago. I love the way you can wear them over chunky winter jumpers and batwing sleeves without crushing your armpits. I really don't need another one, but I saw this cape on Ebay a few months ago and was outbid (grrr!) ....

A Well Dressed Sewing Machine - Cover Tutorial

My poor sewing machine works hard and has to put up with my creative tantrums and cursing, so it's time to show some love by making a pretty little cover for it.

sewing machine cover

Dust and fluff can cause havoc with the internal workings of your sewing machine so always try and cover it, or keep it stored in a cupboard. This machine was supplied with a plastic cover when I bought it, but there was always an air of 'body bag' about it... *shudder*

Not content to do things the easy way, I decided I wanted a cover with access to the carry handle on the machine.
Here's what I did...

Do you really get what you pay for? Toiletry & Perfume Review

A change of subject for me this week, for a couple of reasons.

I'm mid-way through on a number of sewing and craft projects so I want to wait before posting about them.

I've also been very busy filming at a number of martial arts events, assisting the Loftcon Studios camera crew at Muay Thai, MMA, Cage and Kickboxing events around the UK. I may do a blog post in the future, would anyone be interested in that?

I love make-up, creams, potions and lotions in all forms but I also want value for money, so how did these products fare?(and just to note, I paid for all these products with my own hard earned pennies). Make sure you check out my bargain of the year at the end!

Sock Monkey Modelling Shoot

In addition to battling with my winter coat project I've made a couple of Christmas presents... sock monkeys, loved by all ages!

sock monkey

I love making them, after all they're what lured me back into sewing (sock monkeys inspire me). They're also perfect for this time of year, very much a winter project to me. The hand-sewing involved is best done curled up on the sofa watching TV. Plus sewing monkey limbs stops me from reaching for the biscuit tin....

sock monkey modelling

I prefer mine to have a serious yet mysterious expression, a sort of sock monkey Mona Lisa....

They look a bit naked for my liking at the moment, so I'm going to knit them a winter woolly scarf each (might take a while as knitting isn't my strong point....we've got a few weeks until Christmas yet though). And I may change their button eyes for felt circles for safety. These two are presents for older girls who would be fine with buttons but I worry they might get into tiny hands, would you change them too?

beautiful sock monkey

I also wanted to test out a photography technique I'd read about on Katie Evans  blog, the 'beauty shoot' using natural light and a reflector to infuse your pictures with light, not sure Katie had sock monkeys in mind when she wrote the tutorial but I think they make perfect models :-)

Frilly Shower Cap (and the one that went wrong...)

In an effort to be less of a drowned rat and more of a bathing beauty, I thought I'd have a go at making a frilly shower cap.

Normally myself and darling daughter 'Wag Dollette' wear plastic shower caps from my hotel toiletry stash. Unfortunately we were down to the last one and the elastic had gone (happens to us all...) hence it looked more like a flat cap than a shower cap. 

Here's the new frilly yet functional shower cap....

frilly shower cap

Re-Fashionista! Silk Top Revamp


I have a love/hate relationship with revamping old clothes.

On the one hand I feel a sense of achievement in turning a hideous garment into something wearable, and it's certainly 'greener' than throwing it away. But, it just doesn't ring my bell like sewing and creating from scratch. You can't bask in the glory of "Oh this? I made it myself!" when there's a dirty great label sticking out of your neckline.

I've always altered clothes to improve the fit, and done repairs...(urgh, necessary but so boring). But I don't often revamp. However, here's one I did this weekend.

gray silk top
Silk top after

And here's how it started life

OK, the fact it's not ironed in the before photo doesn't help!

But yes it really did look like a shapeless sack in it's original form. I bought it because I loved the colour, it's pure silk and I adore the neck embellishment, but it did nothing for me. I looked like I was wearing a maternity smock, which is fine if you're pregnant, but not a look you want if you're not.

I was slightly concerned at cutting into a perfectly decent silk garment, but nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. So my advice is "Be bold! Attack with the scissors, if you never wear it then you've got nothing to lose." (You can always use the fabric for something else if it goes pear-shaped - my strawberry pin cushions were scraps from a blouse).

So do you revamp old clothes? Do you consider it wrong to cut into wearable clothes? And what the heck do you call it? Revamp, refashion, trashion (my personal favourite) or upcycle (my pet hate, it sounds like an upmarket unicycle to me).

I made my own bias binding tape! Tutorial

Bias tape, or bias binding as it's also known, is one of those essential sewing items used to neaten edges and to add decoration. You can buy it pre-made, but you can also make your own in jazzy colours! It's often used around the edges of placemats, quilts, and babies bibs, and around the armholes and necklines of garments. See how the very talented Dana used it on a child's bathrobe here.

Here's some I made with a nifty little gadget I bought on ebay.

bias tape

Now making your own does involve some mathematical algorithms....OK maybe not, but it does involve understanding the word diagonal and drawing lots of parallel lines. That's about as Einstein as it gets. Plus quite a bit of ironing......

Bias tape is cut on the bias of fabric (diagonal or cross-grain) to give it stretch and enable it to be worked around curves without puckering. Read on if you want to know how I achieved this miracle of haberdashery.

Funky new scissors, meet my old dressmaking shears

Aren't these scissors just gorgeous?!

colorful scissors

Maybe it's only crafters and sewers who get excited about such things, but I saw these scissors in a local supermarket and just grinned insanely. They were a bargain price and I couldn't chose between the two, so I bought both, well you can never have enough!

Despite the price and glitzy design they are actually OK at cutting fabric, no doubt they won't last too long and I'll relegate them to paper-cutting....the fate of all unloved dressmaking scissors. In the meantime have another look and drool......

2 pairs of scissors

But these old badboys are still my favourites. 8 inch stainless steel dressmaking shears. Oh yes, these are not mere scissors, they are shears!

dressmaking shears

I got these second hand about 20 years ago so I think they are at least 30 years old. My lovely dad sharpens them for me, and they can cut through layer's of thick fabric with ease. Leather? Denim?...pah, they laugh in your face!

I also have an assortment of other sharp implements; a couple of pairs of small snipping scissors,  a pair of one-handed thread clippers and a seam ripper (which I've always called a 'quick-unpick' for some reason). Lets just say the seam ripper sees far more action than I'd like....

On my wishlist? Well it's got to be the lovely rotary cutter and mat, I really want one of these but
(1) I'm confused by which one to get, and
(2) They are expensive.
If you have any recommendations for a rotary cutter (or one's to avoid), I'd be very grateful for the advice.
And I'd also like a pair of pinking shears, to me they are the glamorous sister of the humble scissors.

So what type of scissors do you have, and which do you lust over?

Jersey Mini Skirt - My First Clothing Project and Tutorial

 I've overcome my fear of dressmaking, the demons are banished!

Since I started sewing at the beginning of the year I've stuck to craft projects....no pressure there, if they look wonky and misshapen then it all adds to the charm.
But wonky and misshapen isn't really the look I'm aiming for when I get dressed...... Enter the easy jersey skirt!

mini skirt

Those of you who just want to look at my legs and/or tiling may want to leave now....for the rest, here's what I did....

Strawberry pin cushion from fabric scraps

I'd rather have a strawberry tart, but failing that, how about a strawberry pin cushion or two?

strawberry pin cushion

This is a very easy project using just fabric scraps. Sewing has made me look at unloved clothes with a new eye, can I do something with that fabric? The red material is from a blouse destined for the charity shop and the green is left over from the grocery bag project.

The strawberries are basically a circle of material cut in half hence a pair (I drew round a side plate), sewn down the straight edge to make an ice-cream cone shape.
Stuff the strawberries with poly wadding, and gather the top edge with a long running stitch. The green leaves on top hide all the gathering.

I originally planned to make a mouse or hedgehog pin cushion, but couldn't bring myself to stick pins in a cute little critter, even a fabric one! Cruelty to fabric strawberries rests much easier on my mind...

Do they count as one of my five-a-day?

Which came first - the fabric or the project?

Which way round do you work? Do you find inspiration from fabric, or do you love a pattern and then hunt down that special material to go with it?

I tend to find a pattern or see a project, decide I want to make it and then buy the fabric. But occasionally I work the other way round especially with donated fabric, they just spark an idea.

Here are some of my recent stashes, and the reasoning behind them.

pieces of fabric

The dark denim was given to me by my mum, and I still haven't got a project for this, any ideas?
The 3 pieces on the right were given to me by a friend and inspired the grocery bags project, as the fabric was very strong and luckily the 3 colours matched perfectly. http://www.wagdoll.co.uk/2011/09/plastic-bag-is-dead-long-live-home-made.html


Now these 2 fabrics are very heavy oil-cloth/vinyl type pieces, I bought them as remnants for 50p each as they were so cheap, but no idea what to do with them :-) !

curtain fabric

This fabric is actually a pair of curtains from a sale at Argos, and I've got a few ideas in mind for this.

red heart fabric

The red cotton was bought with a specific project in mind, and I'll be showing you this one in a post soon!

fabric pieces

All this fabric was donated to me by my lovely mum, I think I'll make a jacket out of the wool suiting fabric on the left, although some wide legged trousers would be nice too. The 2 gingham fabrics are both stretch cotton so ideal for clothing but I don't have any ideas for these yet. Any thoughts?

That's some of my recent stash, there is more but I'll save those for another post. 

So which way round do you prefer to work, fabric then project, or project then fabric?

Mum's vintage Singer sewing machine is 61 years old!

Singer sewing machines are celebrating their 160th birthday this year, with an invite to trace the history of your Singer sewing machine.


My mum inherited my grandmothers sewing machine and it's still going strong. So I thought I'd trace it's history.

vintage treadle singer sewing machine

It's a treadle machine, which means it's powered by working a footplate rather than electricity. There's definitely a knack to this, I've only ever managed to sew backwards on it........ooops. As well as being environmentally friendly it also gives a good leg work-out, mum's got some shapely calves!

After typing the serial number into Singer's database I was told the machine was made in 1950 and some further digging indicated it had been made at the Clydebank factory in Scotland. These antique machines are built to last, it's had the occasional service and belt change...and still works like a dream after 60 years. It can plough through layers of heavy material and it all folds away into a lovely wooden cabinet.

Mum remembers my grandmother making her school clothes on the machine back in the 1950's, and mum recently made her grandaughter a skirt with it, isn't it amazing that the sewing machine has connected our family across the generations?!

The plastic bag is dead, long live the home-made grocery bag!

Not sure how the rest of the world views plastic carrier bags, but in the UK they're definitely an endangered species.

 I've carried a motley assortment of bag-for-life type carriers for many years but they are still plastic and well...not the most stylish accessory. Although I do get a peverse pleasure out of using the 'wrong' carrier in a supermarket...Asda bag in Tesco's, Tesco's bag in Waitrose (when I've been paid), Sainsbury's bag in Aldi (when I'm broke...) That's just the rebel in me......

But enter the home-made and decidedly more chic grocery bag (shopping bag, tote...call it what you will).

My bag started life from as a collection of fabric donated to me by a lovely friend at work. I used the 3 pieces in the bottom right corner for this project.

pieces of fabric

I played around with numbers and sketches, deciding on a 3 tone bag dictated by which pieces of fabric were bigger, The fabric was a heavyweight cotton so I didn't need to line the bag.

And here's the finished bag

I squared the bottom of the bag to make it more stable when packing, and reinforced where the handles join the bag with a box and cross stitching arrangement. The fabric was pre-washed to avoid shrinkage as I want to be able to wash my grocery bags in the future.

I loved my bag so much I made a couple more.

homemade grocery bags

Oooh get me with my matching shopping bags! Soooo much more stylish when one is perusing the aisles of the Marks and Spencers Food Hall, and equally at home buying spuds from t'market!

Arts Festival

This weekend I visited the Chapel Alleton Arts Festival held in North Leeds. The annual festival is held to celebrate local art, craft, poetry, dancing and music. The street outside the pub is closed to traffic and instead hosts stalls, a music stage and people enjoying the vibe. The festival is a real feel-good community event.

Here's a flavour of the weekend



Bootscraper, they describe themselves as a bluegrass punk band. They're not the kind of music I usually listen to, but they really got the crowd going and it's good to expand your horizons!

chapel allerton arts festival

Crowds filling the main street

bugalu foundation

The Bugalu Foundation, a latin jazz funk band, fab. I loved their soundcheck too, not the usual "one, two, testing, testing" ...they used "Get down with the trumpets" !

singer on stage

Sing it loud!

regent pub

Street decoration outside the pub, I've never seen this style of bunting before, apparently it's called Mexican Papel Picado and is made in a cutaway style. A workshop was held before the festival for people to get involved. Ripstop nylon was used here to make the bunting rainproof (altho this year the weather was kind.)

All in all a good time was had by all, and roll on next year's festival!
Copy the code below and insert it right above the tag.