The great skanklet debacle 

skanklet-300x181I did so much enjoy watching the Sewing Bee this year, that was until the final episode. So I’m going to stick my neck out a bit and tell you what I think.

Just to be clear, Matt is, by all accounts, a super chap and he is the one who went home with the gong so fair play to him.  But is he Britain’s best amateur sewer? Errrr… no.

All three contestants made an absolute dog’s dinner of the final garment.  Not one of them was either well constructed or sophisticated enough to give you sewing envy, let alone have the catwalk wow that Heather Jack‘s did in 2014.  Neil’s was just too complex to complete in the time; Lorna’s lacked finesse; and Matt’s was simply a repeat of the corset challenge with a poorly executed lampshade attached to the bottom.  images

So backwards to the alteration challenge.  Lorna’s was simple but reasonably well sewn; Matt just added a bit of stiffening to the hem to do something, though not entirely sure what; and Neil made the skanklet. 

Ah yes, the skanklet. It was after all, avantgarde week, so surely we were looking for out of the box solutions.  I’m not sure what side of the bed Patrick got out of on that morning, but it clearly wasn’t the right one. In previous week’s he would have chuckled, admired the chutzpah of the maker and then commented that it was well sewn. Surely ‘wearable’ means you could go out in it without it falling apart, so it fitted the brief.  And you could imagine Lady Gaga strutting her stuff in one (there’s an idea) . It certainly didn’t deserve the vitriol poured upon it, nor was it a final losing garment. Backwards again to that fabulous Japanese asymmetric top. Good on the boys for helping Lorna out (unlike poor Chinelo last year who struggled with the tie pattern challenge). Once again the only person who executed it well was Neil.

Screen-Shot-2014-02-28-at-4.35.21-PMLast year there was a hue and cry that Chinelo Bally didn’t win, but there was a clear reason for that because she was amazing at free form cutting and beautiful fitting jersey garments but bumbled along the bottom in the pattern challenge, so the title went to someone who was consistently good and then pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

Matt on the other hand, although he improved consistently, never rose above good into great or exceptional. Producing the least worst garment in the final challenge does not make you the best overall.

I suppose the biggest proof of who really is Britain’s best amateur sewer is who you would ask to sew an item of clothing for a special occasion to make you look a million dollars. And we all know who we would choose…

Cat x


It seemed like such a good idea at the time

20140212-110733.jpgI bet the marketing team at Seasalt thought this was a really good idea back in June… Poor old Cornwall, like most of the south-west of the UK is currently being battered by horrendous weather and I suspect that floral anoraks and funky wellies aren’t cutting it in Wraysbury or Marlow right now.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take joy in gorgeous design and the optimism of small businesses.  It isn’t just passion and an eye for style that creates a great brand.  Having a consistent story and a clear business head are essential.  I only came across Seasalt five years ago, courtesy of a wonderful hemp long-sleeved shirt purchased in a bijou boutique but a little scoot round their website tells me that they have been around for 30 years.

Seasalt wellies

I’m in the market for a new pair of wellies for walking Destructa Dog because this weather doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon and Mr Cat’s are just a tad too big for me.  What do you think of these?

Cat x


Sew near and yet sew far

Esme_top_patternAs my return to dressmaking was not unsuccessful I thought I would have another go – not least because my wardrobe is extremely sparse and I hate  clothes shopping (isn’t that right Kitty?!).

One of the great things about the resurgence in all things crafty is that it is now possible to buy patterns from wide variety of independent designers who are able to get their ideas to market much faster than the larger conglomerates.

I’ve been toiling away at this Esme Top from Sew Liberated this weekend in some lovely London Calling fabric I bought from the nice people at Raystitch.  The colour and style of the cotton voile are a bit of a departure for me as I normally stick with plain colours (well purple actually) but the sun was shining and I was in the mood for adventure.

Esme_topSew Liberated have taken the decision to create very simple instructions backed up by a video tutorial.  On the whole this is a good idea but the video wasn’t well recorded, in particular the sound and I had quite a hunt to find the bit I needed to answer my particular query.  I also ended up putting in the sleeves the traditional way as there was no way I could make them fit without putting in a gathering thread.

I’ve also come a bit of a cropper on the sizing.  You see nowhere on the pattern does it give finished dimensions nor is there any clue as to the nationality of the designer.  It was only when I  tried the bodice on for the first time that I realised my mistake.  In the UK a 12 is a US 10 and I had added a little bit extra so what I am left with is a bit of a tent!  Coupled with the fact that my sewing machine wasn’t playing nice yesterday either I was not a happy camper.

However, it’s redeemable (at least it wasn’t two sizes too small!) and I’ll know for next time…


Cat x


Lilac_blouseIn the end Kitty and I watched all four episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee (her Dad very kindly recorded it for us so that he wouldn’t be forced to watch it himself!).

We were decidedly uninspired by the first episode… why include two men and then make all of the challenges to do with making or altering women’s clothing.  It was so unimaginative and I can’t pretend that we weren’t just a little bit disappointed.

However, by Episode 3 we were getting into it, rooting away for our two favourites Lauren and Ann.  There was something magnificent about the latter’s command of all things needlework, but we were rather fond of Lauren’s more modern execution of most of the tasks.  In the end the best woman won and let’s hope that I can still wield a needle with such precision in my eighties.

One positive aspect of watching the programme was that I was inspired to make a blouse for myself, something I haven’t done in years.  Every since a certain young man made a comment about my homemade clothing!  I used to make about 60% of my own clothes well into my twenties.  This is probably what contributes to my dislike of clothes shopping – nothing is more infuriating than spending hours trying to find something to wear which fits correctly, is well made and which doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I chose a fairly simple pattern to get myself started, but have experimented with the fabric.  This is an organic cotton/bamboo mix which I bought from Raystitch – one of my favourite online shops.  It had it’s first outing today and I even got a couple of compliments.  Maybe I might just snitch that green fabric I bought to make Kitty a skirt…

Cat x

Day 40

Day40_lilacscarfI did it! Forty makes in a little over 40 days – but nevertheless the task is complete.

This scarf was not actually meant to be number 40 but the project assigned for today is still in a heap on my desk, not least because I have fallen very rapidly in and out of love with jute.  Let’s just say that I won’t be rushing out to buy any more.

Back to my lilac woolly loveliness.  I can knit, and quite well though I say so myself – but I don’t get any enjoyment out of having to sew it all up at the end and then add necklines etc.  I always seem to lose stitches and gain them so everything looks higgledy piggledy and unsatisfactory to my slightly over perfectionist eye.  In this respect I prefer crochet with it’s one stitch wonderfulness.  However, Mr Cat does get a bit cross if I disappear every evening to commune with my sewing machine so it’s nice to have a little project to be getting on with in front of the fire.

I discovered Rachel John and her extreme knitting a little while ago and it is right up my street.  Straighforward knit one purl one but using great big needles (I have hidden them from Destructa Dog) and multiple strands of wool at the same time.  This scarf was easy breezy to make and is currently keeping me nice and toasty warm.

Cat x