Finding models

posted in: Book writing, Photography | 13

As you may know I am at the stage of illustrating my book, Making Life more Beautiful, with photographs I have taken myself. It is turning out to be a great adventure, but not one without its challenges.

When asked in my “major project” proposal to list the possible difficulties I might encounter in completing my project I wrote;

  • Not yet competent in taking good quality printable photographs
  • Not got friends and family to agree to model for me.

Put together these two problems, or challenges as we call them in modern management speak, could scupper the project. Can’t take pictures, and no one to take pictures of. In addition while I define beauty very widely I wanted women with natural hair, minimal make up and enough confidence in their appearance.


Initially when designing the book I imagined I could lean heavily on close family. After all I have a daughter, a step daughter, and a daughter in law. (Just for clarification this book is mainly aimed at women so I will be using female models). I want to show them off as I think they are all naturally beautiful

But when I asked them if they would be willing to model they were just not that enthusiastic. This is a mixture of not not being comfortable being photographed (I have found this is a very common issue and one I feel myself), not wanting to be featured in the book, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. not keen on spending time dressing up and standing around, being busy etc. I was a bit disappointed but decided not to push it. They help me in lots of other ways and I love them very much.


So I decided to advertise for a model!

I put out a call on our work intranet “Hive” saying I was doing a photography course and was looking for lunch hour modelling, lunch included. Two members of staff responded and we are going out locally to take their photos really soon.

I also made a little poster and went along to my local Art College (University of the Arts, Kings Cross). When I got there they offered to advertise on Creative Opportunities their website for students and graduates seeking employment or intern opportunities. I offered £10 for one hour of their time. This proved to be very successful! I had about 30 responses from a wide range of of people – men and women, young students and semi-professional models. Many did not have the natural look I had specified so choosing didn’t take too long.

With both groups I have already “cased the joint” for suitable backgrounds.

The third thing I did was opportunist photography. I have been taking my camera to work every day and if I meet people who are willing to be photographed I just do it there and then. To some extent this is riskier but so far I have found two lovely women to photograph in the course of my day to day work – Genie and Zohar. I have also photographed some men, including Jeremy, which has proved to be good practise for improving my skills (the first problem!).


I was very lucky to have found a perfect pink wall for Genie. Zohar, an architect, is standing by stone carving at the House of Commons. Jeremy is in the office.

I have still got so much to learn and about 40 book images to procure!


SWAP #11 – Silk Evening Skirt

posted in: Finished projects, SWAP | 25

For Sewing with a Plan this year I only have two items left to make – the light grey skirt and jacket. As I am putting off the jacket as the most time-consuming item, I had to tackle the skirt. I want to make a dressy evening skirt.

Normally I would go for colour with an evening skirt rather than a neutral, but I like to think this grey is shimmery and reminiscent of silver or mercury and therefore with a very luxurious appearance. This was a good project for using up my  exceptionally beautiful, heavy weight ribbed but soft, slightly bluish, light grey silk.

On Camilla I put my two grey silk pieces. The lighter weight piece became the painted silk blouse; but I couldn’t decide what to do about the skirt. I pondered on the length, the style, the purpose. I considered draping it, or using a pattern. I have been procrastinating for weeks.

Draped grey silk Evening skirt
Fabric for evening skirt draped on Camilla

In the end I decided on a “no waste” approach, which is what I had used with Bella just before Christmas.

This simple approach to creating a unique skirt that fits well takes a length of fabric, makes it into a tube with a zip, folds or gathers it into a waist band and “voila” as they say in France. Or “simples!” as they say on the advert.

Although I am making this skirt for SWAP I have in mind to wear it to a wedding. Oh for summer and wedding invitations! What could be nicer? This August my friend Amo is getting married to Symon in Poland, and Nick and I are going over to celebrate with them. I am really excited about it – meeting their relatives and friends from Cameroon and from Poland. I wonder what the food will be like? I like Polish food but the rest will be an adventure.

Amo is a very dramatic dresser and she will look amazing. I was wondering about wearing my new silk skirt, but if it is too subdued I do have lots of party dresses I have made over the years which get very little wear. Here is Amo wearing a dress she made herself.

Amo in the sewing room

To make my skirt I used a double width to get a very full and luxurious look. I also decided on a fairly long skirt that will be more suitable for evening wear. Also I like below the knee for summer as it means I don’t have to wear tights. For winter, with opaques, I feel very comfortable in short skirts or short. But I don’t like bare knees!

While the skirt is symmetrical I played around with the types and styles of pleats to get fullness in more flattering places. I then created a very deep waist band (7cms), again to add drama to a very simple and plain skirt.

Pleated silk skirt with deep waist band
Deep waist band


I used six or seven tiny hooks and eyes to secure the waist band, which I basted and attached with stitch in the ditch.


And here is the skirt with my painted top. It feels very yummy and swishy.

Painted silk blouse and pleated skirt
Pleated silk skirt and sleeveless blouse



Another Man Jumper

I mentioned I was trying to knit a jumper for my husband Nick, having practised on my son Gus.

Here are the issues with knitting for men

  • Much bigger bodies
  • Need more yarn and time to complete
  • Men’s bodies are a different shape to women
  • Most men (or people who do not make clothes in general) do not know how to specify what they want
  • I always find making for other people is fraught as there is so much emotional content associated with it.

In this particular case I had added issues

  • I was reusing yarn – Rowan Cocoon – from another project – a Kate Davies owl sweater for me. This was a learner project I started years ago and found it too hard and it was never completed. I unravelled the yarn, Nick said he liked it. I started knitting a jumper for him, soon ran out of yarn, reordered it and found it was a completely different colour.
  • I unravelled that jumper too, and started again knitting one row of each and this worked surprisingly well.
Mixing two shades of yarn
Mixing two different shades
  • I didn’t know what pattern to use. I had tried the Elizabeth Zimmermann New Zealand jersey, but the yarn was too stiff for the job. Or maybe I wasn’t using large enough needles. But it was not pretty.
  • I offered Nick some of my vintage patterns but he expressed dislike of anything fussy.
  • I thought I would stick to what I knew and produce an Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweater. I had already made five or six of these for myself and found the raglan sleeve look was simple and effective.
  • On EZs advice I cast on fearlessly and started going round and round in huge circle until the torso tube was complete. I then used the percentage system to determine the sleeve width, and kept decreasing until I got to this stage.
  • I didn’t find much instruction on turning this sweater into a polo/turtle neck in Knitting without Tears, but taking advice from Instagram I built up the back neck and side neck by doing about eight short rows to the front raglan seams, and then just knitting a tube for the collar. As you can see in the finished picture there is a fold at the CF below the collar which shows I didn’t get this quite right.
  • At this point I put the jumper into a cold wool wash. I have done this before, but on this occasion the jumper shrunk a little bit, and became slightly felted. More positively the yarns blended at this point and the brownness seemed to wash out! At this point I nearly cried. I should have carefully hand washed it as advised by EZ.
  • In order to save it I dried it carefully and added length with a knitted ribbed band to the hem and sleeves. In the photo below the ribbing is not soaked; it is just as it came of the needles.
  • The shaping is not that great. Nick is fairly wide in the shoulders and chest, with a narrow waist and hips – the classic inverted triangle. As the jumper is just a tupe plus sleeves we have a little tightness across the chest and shoulders, too much fullness at the waist, and loads of fabric at the back that was unwanted and uncalled for.
  • Nick said he would prefer a deeper but narrower collar. I was a bit cautious on the width as I wanted to be sure it would go over his head.
    Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan


I was pleased with the photograph though. The copper background worked beautifully. The second photograph shows the problem at the back. It is shorter and too full.

Handknitted sweater showing fullness at the back



My first reaction to these obvious fit problems is

  • Never make another one
  • Actually make another one and learn from the mistakes

So if I do another EZ seamless here is what I will do.

  • Using a similar Aran weight yarn use the stitch count to make adjustments.
  • Do half a dozen short rows at the start to make the back longer than the front
  • Start narrower and gradually increase by around 20% as you come to the joining of the sleeves to the body piece.
  • Repeat the method already outlined for the collar, but I will use less stitches to create a narrow, longer tube.
  • Don’t machine wash the jumper!

It was a labour of love and it was not entirely successful. But it was a good learning experience and I am going to do another one at some point.

Man in hand knit poloneck


SWAP #10 Painted silk sleeveless blouse

In terms of SWAP I think I am now on item 7! After this blouse I still have to make (by

  • the grey silk skirt,
  • grey jacket and
  • westwood skirt.
  • I will be adding a RTW or a previously made item.


I had a nice piece of light weight, but not flimsy, pure silk crepe in very light grey. For fabric painting I much prefer using white fabric to any kind of colour, but pastels do work relatively well. It is nice to line or face the garment, or even trim it, in the plain fabric. However with grey fabric all the colours have a slightly muted cast so I had to work quite hard with the colours, especially the red.

While I had my paints out, and the kitchen table protected with some black plastic, I cut out a scarf and a handkerchief, thinking one or both could serve as my accessory (desirable but not essential for SWAP 2018).

Having taken a big chunk of fabric for the accessories, I decided,  late in the day to line the top rather than create facings, and I didn’t have enough left, so I pieced it. All in all a bodge, when it should have been a lovely straightforward project.

Oh well.

For the fabric painting I used navy and grey, with yellow and red as my accent colours.

Silk painting Fabrickated
Painting the fabric for the blouse
Handpainted fabric
Checking the colours and spacing

I took these photos using the timer, by the way! It is a wonderful invention.


I have been thinking about what pattern to use for a while. You may remember I tried out the free Marfy pattern , but I didn’t feel it suited me. So I reached for I a tried and tested pattern. If you have a good memory you may recall I have used this pattern several times before. I particularly like the skirt pattern.

The wonderful thing about TNT patterns is that you know they will fit, so there is no worries on that account. For my SWAP this year i am using simple self drafted or TNT patterns. I have reduced all fitting problems to the absolute minimum.

Vintage vogue 7379
Vogue 7379


On the other hand I sometimes find with a TNT pattern I go onto automatic pilot, with a false sense of security. Not only did I not plan the silk painting properly (half making up the garment first so the painted pattern is continuous), I didn’t plan the finishing at the start, and I ended up redoing the zip three times. What should have been quite a quick and simple project ended up taking more time and it’s not as nice as I would have liked. More haste less speed is a very true saying, isn’t it?

If I make this pattern ever again here are my tips for myself

  • Cut out, make up flat, use batik wax on the seams and darts
  • Paint the silk
  • Cut out a lining in the same fabric, but unadorned
  • Sew together at neckline and armholes and then pull through
  • Then put in an invisible zip at CB
Hand Painted silk blouse, Vogue
Hand Painted silk blouse, Vogue 7379

I like it. The colours are quite subtle and nice, and I think this blouse will co-ordinate well with my plain grey and navy items. I suit light colours best, and have made the blouse with the deeper colours towards the hem and the lighter colours towards the face. The silk feels really lovely.  It is loose, comfortable and slightly warm, but while spring is just starting, if you look closely you may see goosebumps.

Finally, because I was doing silk painting I also made a scarf that includes the same colours, but not in a matchy-matchy way. When I am doing silk painting I rarely plan, or look for inspiration or something to copy in advance. But this scarf looks like a 1950s pattern I think. I think, because my SWAP is so navy and grey this splash of colour will be important in making some outfits up.

The scarf has four separate quadrants so you can wear it lots of different ways.

Hand painted silk scarf
Hand painted silk scarf (still wet)

Photography project – backgrounds

posted in: Photography | 23

The first term of photography is over. Next term, we move to our “major project”.

My major project is to produce 50 images for Making Life more Beautiful (my book). Last week we had to produce our proposal. The tutor had one word to describe my plans – “ambitious”.

We talked through how to approach the pictures I want to illustrate the book.

I want to take full length and facial portraits. Many of the students are doing pictures of people and some of them are using a studio with professional lighting.  I have seen lots of versions of this type of photo (this one from Tilly and the Buttons) – brand coloured background and clothes, lighting, flash, perfect hair, makeup and subtle tattoo. I was thinking I would need a backdrop, lights and a flash gun, reflectors and various other expensive extras.

However this is not the look I want, even though it is pretty and appropriate for the market (young beginners).

Amber in Tilly top

I don’t want to be too pretentious but my inspiration is @DamianFoxe who is a truly amazing  stylist and photographer. Here is my inspiration wall at the moment, packed full of work by Damien. The clothes are great but I am currently focused on the backgrounds.

For my own project I want real backgrounds, backgrounds that reflect my environment: London, the Cotswolds, building sites. I want backgrounds which complement my models and their natural beauty and colouring, rather than my “brand” colours.

Photography Inspiration board
Inspiration board

My tutor suggested I research the backgrounds first, photographing them and being prepared for the model. This turned out to be brilliant advice.

Over the weekend, I went round the Cotswold estate where we live, which is still being built, and I took several backgrounds. I tried natural ones, fences, brickwork, stone work. These all had a nice neutral look and I thought if I could get mastery of the depth of field I might be able to get a muzzy background.

I also tried painted, distressed surfaces which I found more appealing, a bit more edgy, and of course more colourful.

This was a fascinating experiment and really meant I was well prepared when Bella, my teenage model and next door neighbour, arrived. I knew where to go and what setting to use. I was confident I could get a good picture and I was able to “direct” her.

Bella with blue backgound
Bella with white background

I have five more models to find and photograph, and I have a deadline of early June. I am hoping to rope in a few friends from work, and possibly a couple of family members. Bella enjoys being photographed and it shows, I think. Most people I know hate it. That’s a problem I have yet to overcome.

Bella with wood


posted in: Book writing, SWAP | 6

As one of my favourite podcasters says “Where are we now?”

Here are the Sewing with a Plan rules:

  • Choose two neutral colors
  • Add one accent color and two prints OR two accent colors and one print
  • Make at least three garments from each neutral color
  • Make at least one garment from each accent color
  • Make at least one garment from each print
  • Remaining two garments may be made from any one or combination of your neutrals, accent(s) and/or print(s)

My own rules for my “Low Key SWAP” are

  • No purchases necessary (no fabrics or patterns can be purchased)
  • TNT or freestyle patterns
  • Low stress

The two neutrals (three garments from each)

  • Light grey linen jacket (have pattern and fabric but haven’t started yet)
    Light grey linen jacketing
    Light grey linen for jacket
  • Grey skirt (complete)
  • Grey evening skirt. I have some amazing grey silk – a lovely weight and texture. I think it is silk Marocain. Here is some that is similar, but obviously a completely different price. Nick and I are going to a wedding in Poland in August and I thought a long silk skirt might be a nice.  I thought of a draped skirt with an evening vibe, but also I am wondering about a second circle skirt. Or even a full, pleated, calf length skirt. So all relatively easy to execute, but which will have the most versatility? The upper piece of grey silk is what I am planning to use for the silk blouse, now painted.
    Draped grey silk Evening skirt
    Fabric for evening skirt draped on Camilla
  • Navy jumper (done)
  • Navy circular skirt (done)
  • Navy trousers (done)

Colour and pattern

  • Yellow sweater (done) (one accent colour), (but may substitute my grey sweater in above picture with the trousers)
  • Patterned top – I have made some fabric for this but I am not yet sure what pattern to use. Probably the sleeveless blouse from one of my old favourites
    Handpainted silk fabric
    Painted fabric

    Vogue 7379, a pattern I used for my first SWAP. 

  • Paper bag shorts (done)
  • Westwood skirt (still thinking about the right fabric)
  • previously made or RTW garment – maybe a white shirt?


I think I am compliant with the rules. What about timing?

I had better get my skates on: the work must be complete by the end of April. When I first committed to this project I deliberately chose the easiest, simplest TNT patterns, as suggested by Artisans Square. Despite that, and perhaps feeling it was a little unchallenging, I have let my time slip by.

We have 6 more weekends left.  It should take one week each  for the evening and westwood skirts, one week to make the top, leaving me with two weeks for the jacket. And this is if I use one RTW (or previously made). If desperate I can use both my jokers….

  • In other news we are due to complete our Notting Hill Genesis merger, shortly after Easter. Then the real work starts, but it will be a huge relief to have reached legal close.
  • I said I would have my book, Making Life more Beautiful, finished by Easter, but actually, while I have finished the text I have not started taking the photographs, although I am getting close to it!

I need five still life pictures, 16 portraits, 18 shots of my models, 10 shots of the models in clothes I have made, and a few oddments. Nearly 50 photographs in all, and I am still getting to grips with the camera.

My life is full, but very sweet. Here is granddaughter Maia who has just lost a tooth. And Ted, one year older who has lost four but gained three.




Making Log Cabin Mittens (Karen Templer pattern)

posted in: Uncategorized | 1

One of my favourite blogs, as I mentioned on Saturday, is Fringe Association, and I liked the look of these mittens.

Karen Templer Log Cabin Mitts

They are based on a log cabin patchwork design. I discovered this method when I did my quilting class. Nick and I loved this pattern. Ideally the centre square is red (the fire), and the logs around the edge.

Log cabin quilting method
Log cabin quilting

I have not yet conquered knitted gloves.  When I was training I made leather hand sewn gloves – in orange! There is an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern that I really want to have a go at.

Elizabeth Zimmermann glove
Elizabeth Zimmermann glove


Anyway here is Karen’s Log Cabin Mitts  pattern. It’s free to download from Ravelry.

I decided to use up some of my small pieces of cashmere yarn. I have quite a few colours, but decided on deeper neutrals for this, my first pair (there will be more).

Although Karen has provided very specific and excellent instruction I made a few changes. The most important of which was that I used four colours rather than three. This was because I didn’t want any colour to join itself. Four is the minimum number to achieve this effect. Some of Karen’s versions use only one colour, as in the toffee coloured ones at the top of the post. I think these are nice, with the interest coming from the changed directions.

The other thing I did was gather up the top of the thumb piece just a little to make them more shapely. I really like the way the bands actually work on the hands, with the brown bands across the wrist and base of the fingers.

Log cabin mitts
Log cabin: Finished glove

They are nice to knit – in double knit with 4mm needles I think (I bought cheap Chinese circulars which are not exactly a specific size). You make the left and right differently so they mirror and match.  I photographed the yarns against a nice William Morris print. I intend to have a pair of the go over the next few weeks, despite the fact that the weather is brightening up.

I thought they might be good to use for photography projects as I have free fingers.

Having finished my first mittens,  I have started on a second set.

Second set of mittens

As we develop our photography skills I am thinking about “styling”. I have used two pretty backgrounds here – designs by CFA Voysey (1857-1941). I have a calendar so there are ten more to share at some point! Not as well known as William Morris, he is from the same Arts and Crafts stable.


SWAP #8 – Bermuda shorts

I watched the Versace American True Crime documentary last night, by the same people who did the People v OJ (which I l also oved). True Crime is my guilty secret!

Versace American Crime Story

According to the film both Gianni and Donatella were dressed to the nines at all times of day and night. She in her head to toe, tight black outfits, or gorgeous satin dresses, high heels, lots of make up and false eyelashes. Even in his night or beach wear Gianni likes wonderful colours and fabrics. I loved his coral dressing gown and sandy coloured shorts. Set mainly in Florida I started yearning for sunshine, the beach and a chance to run around without a hat or gloves.

So my next SWAP item is a pair of shorts.

I wear shorts quite a lot – although rarely in photographs. In our beautifully warm new eco-home I wear shorts around the house.  I normally reach for sports shorts. Mine or someone else’s. Both my sons left their swimming shorts here, and I like wearing them: they are lightweight, comfortable and Gus’s have lobsters on them.

Mens swimming shorts
My son’s swimming shorts

I know both shorts as housewear and watching American True Crime is bit down at heel and ultra-relaxed; maybe you didn’t see me a slob who likes watching TV in a pair of men’s lobster shorts?  I like to be comfortable, the right temperature and suitably dressed if I fancy doing a few press ups or downward dogs. I had a piece of navy floral fabric containing red and grey. It is polyester and turned out bouncy during construction.

Navy polyester crepe floral
Navy printed polyester crepe

As I had previously had a disaster with a Style Arc elasticated trouser pattern I decided to freelance. I made a very simple pattern for elasticated shorts with a paper-bag waist.

it is simple enough to be cut straight into the cloth.

How to make elasticated waste trousers, or shorts, with a paper bag waist (UK 8-12)

  1. Use a piece of cloth that is 150cms wide.
  2. You are going to cut just two pieces. You need a fabric length of 60cms for short shorts, 80cms for Bermudas, or around 110 cms for trousers
  3. Fold into four lengthwise.
  4. At the top of your fabric measure 27cms from the folded edge to point A, and cut down to 34cms which is point B.
  5. Now cut a nice, crotch curve to the very edge of your fabric (which is 37 cms from the fold) which is point C. The depth of this cut is about 10cms.
  6. For trousers measure 22 cms from the folded edge to point D and connect C to D with a straight line.
  7. For Bermudas the width from the folded edge will be about 27 cms
  8. For Shorts the width from the folded edge with be about 34 cms.
  9. Mark you waist line which is 12cms down from the top of the fabric, on your fabric.

Here is a diagram that is not exactly to scale, but it is approximately correct.

Elasticated paper bag waist trouser pattern
Elasticated paper bag waist trouser pattern

The construction is very simple.

  1. Using French seams (throughout) attach the left and right leg at the CB seam
  2. Create the facing and elastic casing by folding over the top twice,  to match the waist line with a clean, folded under edge.
  3. Stitch close to the edge.
  4. Create a second layer of stitches above it in the facing, wide enough for your elastic (mine is 1cm wide).
  5. Sew the legs together at the CB seam.
  6. Sew the trousers together on the inside leg seam, creating a nice round curve
  7. Create a narrow hem on both trouser legs
  8. At the CB create a little slit either side of the CB seam so you can insert a large safety pin attached to your elastic. Thread it through to the other side of the CB seam and pin together so you can try them on.
  9. Adjust elastic to fit, then sew both ends of the elastic together on the machine.

Now they are done I don’t know how I feel about the length. I always like trying something new and I think these are quite fun, and look like a divided skirt from the distance. True Bermudas are more fitted, and actually above the knee, as these gentlemen below will demonstrate.

Bermuda shorts
Bermuda Wedding

I think i will wear them for work to see how I feel about the length. Maybe slightly above the knee, or short shorts is better? Let me know your views.



More photography homework

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 26

I know not everyone is interested in my photography learning, let alone my homework assignments, so feel free to skip along…

The homework brief, was ten photographs that tell a story. I could have done the story of making a jacket or of a dressmaker at work or perhaps a fabric shop or market stall. These would have been on-topic, blogwise. But I chose something easier to combine with my 9-5.

My story was One day in the Office – my office – and I found the whole experience very interesting. Maybe I should just say this was first experience of using a non-automatic camera, and I adjusted for depth of field, ISO, white balance and focus. It was hard! Not all the pictures are as crisp as they should be, but I hope they represent the beginning of my learning.

I didn’t aim to get our logo in every photo, but it sort of turned out like that. It’s interesting because once we merge with Genesis Housing (due in April) we will have a new name and logo, and the old signs, lanyards, mugs and coasters will have to go.

  1. It was a Monday and it was snowing. I stood outside the front door of our main office and took pictures of my colleagues arriving for work between 8.20 and 8.30. Many of them looked at me oddly. I don’t normally stand in the snow, first thing in the morning, wearing my earflap hat and a long, white, Uniqlo down coat. Much less taking photos.
1.Going into the office


2. One of my colleagues is always in early, and he drinks his coffee slowly, reading the newspaper. The yellow flowers behind are a decorated wall in our breakout area.

2. Having a coffee


3. This colleague had a desk full of interesting things; a flamingo snow storm, reusable beakers, pot noodles, soya sauce, cutlery, free sample of canned soup, sweeteners, artificial grass, (and unseen in this photograph, a Santa hat). What does your desk say about you? What do you surround yourself with? Do you have a pristine or personalised space? I also liked her  blouse and earrings.

3. Getting down to work


4. These colleagues came to see me in my office, discussing the brochure they had prepared for the MIPIM conference, which I recently attended. She is a published novelist; he is an actor. They both bring a certain extra dimension to our work. I liked the strong colours and contrasts in this photo, and their reading glasses.

4. A small meeting


5. And then it was lunch time. Five men sit having their lunch, looking at the wall. The yellow manifold makes it a bit brighter, but these colleagues choose to eat alone, three listening to music or podcasts, two in the foreground chat a little. I am not judgemental. Often at lunch time I just want to be quiet, and read or listen to something.

5. Lunch time


6. Another meeting – considering templates and standard letters associated with the merger, I think.

Here we have four women in a row, providing a nice counterposition with Image 5, above. The obvious way to take this picture was flat on. But they were widely spaced. I had the idea of shooting them from the side and it came out nicely. I focused on the woman in blue who finds the letter amusing. She has eaten her lunch during the meeting. I liked the variety of hair colours and lengths, the natural beauty of the women, their concentration, and commitment. They are Business Leaders –  responsible for some of our main businesses – in charge of IT transformation; services for homeless families; care and support; and social housing.

6. Review meeting


7. I was interested to see how things were going in the basement. I wondered if I could take a picture with no natural light and I was intrigued. In the basement we have a group of IT developers. Mostly they work for an outside contractor. The mood and feel is different. Whereas we had a girl’s desk in Image 3, here we have a boy’s desk. The Star Wars models caught my eye. I tried to focus on the models with the men in the background, but I ended up focusing on the arm of the foreground chair. I hadn’t really spent anytime in this part of the office before and it was an eye opener for me.

7. Male models

8. This picture is taken in the same basement room. In some ways it is my favourite as it is so grey, and depressing. Look at those files!  Unbelievably this is the “Paperless office project”. I actually laughed. The man wears a cabled jumper and hat. Is that a coincidence?

8. Paperless office project

9. The other area of the office I had never visited before was the smoking area. I am judgemental about smoking actually. But I like the people in this photograph – they are all sociable and good fun. Our smoking area is between this bike shed (we have lots of cyclists) and the bin store. There is a shelter for when it rains. I find the photograph rather humorous. 

9. Smoking!

10. And then it ends, only one photograph left, and it is the reverse of Image 1. My colleague leaves the building, in the snow. I love his reddish hair and russet jumper with a brown scarf, and his hurried, purposeful air, with a slight acknowledgement that his crazy boss is taking pictures.

10. So Long

My top ten blogs

I have been meaning to write this post for years!

Sewing, and related, blogs have helped me, sustained me, amused me, and encouraged me over the past few years and I am so grateful they exist. While I follow around 100 blogs and manage to read them on the bus, at the weekend, on my phone, even (very occasionally) in meetings, I don’t always leave a comment (mainly because Blogger is unfriendly to me). You may already be an avid follower of blogs, and you may have your own blog, but if not please check these out. I think you will enjoy them.

Most publish to a schedule, so if you follow they will come. But even those that are inactive for a while have a great backlog of important and interesting posts. Use the search button. Like me I believe all the authors welcome questions which they will answer on their blog, if they can. The most professional among them can sometimes intimidate a little, but these bloggers are all very human.

In making this list I was torn. I could give you my whole list, which includes beginners and professionals. In the end I thought I would give you one or more from each of my main categories, a stand out blog that I always enjoy – because of the expertise, writing style, and (in a world where many of the blogs just cover (“things I made”) slightly more unusual content. Some of these bloggers are my friends (now). In creating a short list I have tried to offer you the creme de la creme.

My favourite sewing blogs

With sewing blogs I look for expertise beyond my own, a generosity of spirit, clear, and unpretentious writing. I generally avoid commercial sites.  The top few that I always rely on because of the expertise, are mainly American (but there is a Brit and an Australian in there too). These are all big blogs, most with lots of followers, and deservedly so.

  1. Mrs Mole writes Fit for a Queen; tales from the sewing studio. 

The anonymous Mrs Mole shares hilarious stories of altering wedding dresses to fit. As fit is one of the areas many sewists struggle with I believe there is much to learn here. She also shares the outrageous behaviour of some of her clients, so an entertaining read.

2. Mary Funt writes Cloning Couture: exploring the world of couture sewing. 

Mary is also a sewing professional with very advanced skills in all aspects of pattern cutting, draping, couture sewing, fit and design. These she shares freely. She has a particular interest in “high-end” and couture looks and produces beautiful tailored garments, with a particular interest in shoulder pads and sleeves.

Japanese basting cotton
Mary Funt

3. Carolyn Norman’s Diary of a Sewing Fanatic

I love Carolyn’s blog. She mainly uses patterns from “the Big 4” – so a useful place to go to see the commercial offering, well made, well fitted and in great fabrics and colours.

4. Bunny is La Sewista.

Bunny can be a bit eclectic, but I love that. She includes bags and other items as well as clothes that she sews for herself. She writes about her home, family, personal history and area. She did a series of important and interesting articles for sewists who are no longer beginners – Next Level Sewing – that I think you will enjoy.

5. Carolyn Smith writes Handmade by Carolyn: Sewing, knitting and thoughts on looking my best.

Carloyn is prolific and professional. She is a great constructor, likes to experiment, occasionally prints textiles and includes beautiful photographs of the Perth (Australia) area. With her daughter she has just started a pattern company.

6. Pia writes The Overflowing Stash, a great name, eh? Pia lives in London and is a very talented designer, pattern cutter, and constructor. She copies designer clothes, plays around with blocs and designs, makes very lovely clothes, and organises her blog in a totally professional way taking extraordinary efforts to produce useful and beautiful information. She also helped me make a perfectly fitting bodice using cling film.


My favourite knitting blog

7. Karen Templer of Fringe Association: Knitting ideas, inspiration and free patterns, sells yarn and knitting equipment. She too is in the US so I don’t feel like buying (the postage and tax are prohibitive). But she shares lots of ideas, free patterns and expertise. My knitting skills are less developed than my sewing skills so I find her approach about right for me.

The funniest blog

8. Anne of Pretty Grievances: when I am not complaining I sew

This blog is hilarious. Anne critiques the latest fashions from modern designers. She also writes up her sewing adventures from time to time, using gaudy fabrics.

The most educative and interesting blog

9. Canadian Sarah Sheehan writes Pattern Vault: Fashion History through DIY couture.

Sarah is a “recovering academic” so you will find her research writing both reliable and polished. She researches the history of patterns and makes a few of them up. A really interesting and valuable blog

The quilting blog

10. Jenny writes Lilac cat: Quilting and Sewing. 

If I am really frank I am not a cats and quilts kind of person. I tried quilting and there is a place for it, but I am not obsessed. Lilac Cat makes quilts for people in need, and some for herself. She has beautiful cats. She writes really well and shares how to make various quilt blocks.

I love all these blogs and read them avidly and learn from them. There are lots of other blogs I follow and enjoy, with much smaller readerships and less regular output. Maybe they are quirky, or I follow them because I like the person and what they do.

But these are my “top ten” recommendations.

Do please mention any that stand out for you.

And just because I need a picture and I have never blogged this sweater, here is something I prepared earlier. It’s another ombre sweater.

Elizabeth Zimmerman raglan
Zimmermann raglan sweater

I used the same Zimmerman pattern (it’s just like the colourful yoke sweater, but with a fake raglan sleeve), and a variety of 4 ply yarns. I had plain bright pink and beige, and I mixed this up with a variegated yarn called Amitola by Louisa Harding. This yarn with wool with silk. I like how the colours came out.