Christina Sparkle

  1. Delphine Skirt & Pussy Bow Blouse

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    After my success making my own pyjamas I was eager to get onto the next garment in the Love at First Stitch book, which was the Delphine Skirt. I decided to go for a denim skirt as it looks so good in the example and headed down to my local fabric store in Bedford.

    Fabric stores do appear to be quite overwhelming and aren’t obviously labelled by weight or type of fabric, but the lady in Bedford Fabric World was very helpful in suggesting what I should get. I just took a list of what was recommended in the book.

    I picked up some lovely soft medium-blue denim, some red cotton (that I plan to turn into a Megan dress from Love at First Stitch), and some of this black graphic polka print that caught my eye. There was only a metre left but I just couldn’t leave it, hoping that I would find something to use it for.

    graphic-dots

    Once I got back home I put the denim straight in the washing machine to shrink it, dutifully following Tilly’s instructions. Unfortunately it took ages to dry, as I guess denim usually does! The black graphic fabric was washed and dry long before the denim was so I decided to try out the free pussy bow blouse pattern on Love Sewing magazine issue 2 that I had also picked up in Bedford.

    This pattern had the absolute minimum instructions, a stark contrast to Tilly’s patterns. It is definitely designed for an experienced sewer, not a beginner like me. However, with a bit of Googling and some YouTube videos to help I managed to turn just one metre of fabric into a blouse.

    It was tough work; I had to do a collar, and make my own bias binding! But I am absolutely delighted with the result. It’s been hard to take it off. It just goes with everything; jeans, cigarette trousers, skirts and more.

    On Sunday evening the denim was finally dry and I began the Delphine Skirt. I was between sizes so I decided to make the larger size just to be safe. My biggest achievement making this skirt was my very first invisible zip. Zips are quite a challenge, the instructions took a few read throughs before they made sense but I’d like to think the zip on this skirt is as good as one you’d buy in a shop… maybe.

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    When I came to try on the finished garment it was unfortunately too big around the waist, and it really sticks out more than I would like, a bit too much of an A-line for me. I suspect that the patterns are designed to run large for comfort.

    My plan is take in the side seams to reduce the width of the waist, and maybe reduce how much the skirt sticks out too but I’m not quite brave enough to do that yet. I think I may need another book to tackle alterations. Certainly, I need more YouTube videos.

    delphine-skirt


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  2. Before & After House Tour

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    I wanted to document the before and after of our house in Leicester. The first house to be owned be owned by Andy and I. These are the estate agent’s photos of some of my favourite rooms in the house.

    When we first found the house and bought it I had never imagined living in such a neutral space, I was expecting to have a house painted all kinds of bright colours and funky finishes. However, we were very lucky to find this house that had been completely renovated after the cold water tank had fell through the house from the roof. The old man that lived there then went to live in a care home, and we bought the house for a good price because the family were keen to sell in order to pay the care home costs.

    Because the house had been so well decorated it did seem an awful shame to strip it and start again so I started looking for inspiration of homes that had neutral walls, but were bright and colourful in their furniture and accessories. Instead of going crazy with wall decor we instead focused on key details to add colour to the house including adding a feature wall to the living/dining room, and stripping and painting the bathroom (the crazy floral wallpaper was not to our taste, at all).

    46Looking back I wish we had done a lot more, we certainly had a lot of plans, but we did what we could afford. We spent all our money on buying the house, then a year later got married and so it was only after the second year that we could start spending any money on it.

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    The majority of the work we did to the house was to the outside. As it was on a cut through between two streets the front door to the house is actually on the side. When we bought it the front door opened out onto a slabbed area, and a small gate led straight onto the cut through. This meant the back garden had a high fence and to get into the back garden from the front you went through another tall gate.

    We completely changed this arrangement, adding a tall fence and gate between the front door and the cut through, and knocking down the tall fence at the back. This meant that the front door now opened up into the large back garden and provided increased security all around. This all happened at the same time as the council adding a gate onto the cut-through which was closed at night, a similar arrangement to other cut-throughs on parallel streets that were already in place. The council actually gave us the large gate at the front and painted it orange, which isn’t to our taste and was on the re-paint list.

    We also replaced the front fence entirely (the photo was taken in between us painting the panels), and replaced both external doors which unfortunately you can’t see in the pics but did do a lot to transform the house. All of the work to the outside we believe was a good investment, everything we did made the house more secure, and more attractive (the exception in the attractiveness category being that orange gate) so we hope to have added value.

    As Andy took on a new job recently we had to leave the house behind and rent a new house in Bedford. This means we have let out the Leicester house until we feel ready to sell it. It was certainly very hard handing over our house to someone else!

    Please note: these photos were not in any way “styled”, the rooms were only just tidy, but they do document what our house looked like when we bought it, and what it looked like when we left.


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  3. How to make your own clothes

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    For my sister’s birthday this year I bought her the Sew Your Own Wardrobe book from The Great British Sewing Bee. In return, for my birthday, she bought me Tilly Walnes‘ book for dressmaking beginners, Love at First Stitch.

    I was confident with a sewing machine already; I knew how to thread the machine, and how to fill a bobbin. Since being a teenager I’ve made cushions and doorstops and simple things that only require sewing in straight lines. However, I’ve never actually made anything from a pattern before. Dress patterns seemed extremely intimidating to me!

    Tilly’s book is a great guide for beginners. She gives step by step instructions in all the basics, even if you don’t know where to start at all. My sewing machine is actually an old 1960s Bernina that I’ve inherited from my Granny. I was pleased to see in Tilly’s explanation of sewing machines that I had all the same controls of a modern machine and wouldn’t be losing out in any areas.

    The first pattern I wanted to tackle from the book was the Margot Pyjama bottoms, all I needed was some fabric. This is where I hit my first hump, I’m used to crochet and embroidery patterns where they tell you exactly what yarn to buy; which brand, which weight and which colour to get the exact effect that you see in the examples, then you can choose to buy a colour you like better or find a cheaper brand. I guess this just isn’t the case with dressmaking, you get a basic guide on the weight of fabric but that is it, and you’re lucky to even find fabric labelled by weight in the fabric stores. I searched high and low for the fabrics that Tilly uses in her book and only managed to find one that still is available to buy.

    Once I had resided to the fact I wouldn’t be able to reproduce the examples, and after some advice from my super-seamstress friend Amy, I then set out to find fabrics that I liked myself but that was hard too. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the fabric of garments very closely. I look at the overall shape and of a garment and if I like the print or colour – I view them as a whole package together. Starting dressmaking has forced me to look at these elements separately. I started looking through my Pinterest board to look just at fabric prints and colours to see what attracts me.

    I finally settled on some candy striped cotton from Fabric Godmother that was similar to what Tilly uses in an example. However, they emailed me to say that when they had come to cut there was a brown mark along the side. I decided to take it anyway at the reduced price. I bought an extra metre with the intention to cut around the marks.

    Once I had received the fabric I started following the instructions step by step. I followed Tilly’s advice to use a tracing wheel and dressmaker’s carbon which made the whole part of transferring the pattern super easy. I also bought a cutting wheel because I know that there is no chance that we can keep a pair of scissors just for fabric – it would only be a matter of time before they were used on paper or pizza or something.

    I cut an extra leg piece so I could swap out the marked piece but as soon as I had cut I realised that I hadn’t done it properly. I should have flipped the fabric over so the none marked piece was on the correct side, instead I ended up with two pieces with brown marks exactly the same. I decided to continue anyway as they are only pyjamas and no one will see them really. I may even work out some cute applique to hide the marks in the future.

    Once I had sewn the construction (which felt like a big achievement but was very straight forward), I started to make them my own by using ribbon for the waist tie, because RIBBON! I need to get through that ribbon stash left over from my wedding somehow! I also added elastic to the waist to make them a bit more comfy for every day, and I used a fancy stitch from my sewing machine to add the scalloped effect to the bottom. Here’s the result…

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    The scalloping didn’t quite come out as I hoped but I’ve since worked out that the tension was too tight on the thread so that’s a lesson learned for next time. But overall I’m quite pleased with the effect.

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    As soon as I finished the striped pair I was exhausted but I guess I was on a roll because I decided to make another straight away. These use a vintage 1950s brushed cotton/flannel that I picked up in a fabric bundle at a house clearance. Again, I used a ribbon for the elasticated waist and also added a ribbon trim to bottoms. These will be fab in the winter for cozy nights on the sofa.

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    New skills learned: pattern cutting, hemming, seam finishing.


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  4. Knowing when to quit your job

    Wow, time flies. So much has happened in the last year and a half, it’s crazy.

    Soon after our wedding Andy Candy left his job. He wasn’t happy, it wasn’t going anywhere and it seemed like there was nothing like a bright future ahead. He set up a home office and started working as a freelance writer. Writing for blogs, writing for SEO, writing for online help guides, and that is exactly where he found his happiness.

    Don’t get me wrong, working for yourself is hard, always worrying about money and where the next job is coming from, and constantly having to market yourself. It’s exhausting. But he did it, and found what he enjoys doing and can be successful at. Within a few short months he was earning enough to pay his share of the bills again, and have the same spends as he had had in his old job.

    It was at that point that I also took the jump and left my job too. Five years at the same place where I loved the clients, and solving problems through design, but had become staid. Staid in my design, staid in my outlook, and staid in my career. It was time to take a huge leap, and have never had a moment of regret. Of course, there have been highs and lows but I would not trade the variety and range of work that I now do for anything.

    My work is now on projects that change from day to day, week to week. Projects that are at polar opposites to each other and challenge me every time. No one is coming to me and asking me to replicate designs that I did two years ago. They are coming for something new, and fresh and clean. Of course I am still a nervous, insecure wreck every time I present a design to the client but I am proud that the work I’m producing now is a hundred times better than what I was doing only a year ago.

    After a year freelancing Andy took on a full time position as a Technical Writer, writing manuals and instructions for software. However, that job was not in Leicester it was in Bedford – a town almost 2 hours away. That’s pretty far for someone who doesn’t drive. So we moved. We let out our beautiful house to strangers (I’ll post some before and after piccies soon) and are now renting in Bedford. Andy walks to work through a country park and comes home smiling every day. It’s the polar opposite of his previous full time job and just goes to show that quitting his job and taking the risky leap into freelancing was exactly the right decision.

    Bedford however, has been an adjustment. We’re still adjusting but I finally feel like we are starting to settle so I think I’ll write a bit more about that in the future. It feels good to be back writing again. So much has changed, and there is a lot I need to get out.


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  5. URL Badman

    Lily’s back, huge huge love. Maybe I should make a come back too? So much to catch up on!


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  6. It’s been too long

    1aGoodness me, I can’t even believe how long it has been since I have blogged. Far. Too. Long. I’m not really sure what my excuse is. The winter months have just had me watching a lot of Buffy and a lot of Daria, doing a lot of crafting and some home improvement. But mainly I’ve been snuggling under a blanket with a husband and/or kitty.

    I decided that to make return after so long I would have to do it in style and so here are our pro wedding pics. Massive thanks to the beautiful Grace Elkin for capturing our big day at Halstead House.

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    5Our colour scheme was pink and green of every shade – I tried to make sure we went for brights over pastels but a few pastel shades managed to sneak in there.

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    1One of the best parts of our day was the first look photo session we did. It was so calming to spend a little time together before the ceremony to enjoy the farm, and to get a lot of our couple shots out of the way so we could spend the rest of the day with our guests.

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    7“It must be love” by Madness was our theme for the day. We used it for processional, and recessional performed very kindly by Andy’s best man on the guitar. It was also featured in the band’s set during the reception (again fronted by Andy’s best man).

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    11For anyone else planning a wedding right now I guess my advice would be to make use of Google Docs, it definitely made planning a breeze for us! And, don’t sweat the last minute things – there will always be something you remember at the final hour but that says to me that it really wasn’t that important in the first place, so forget about it. Oh, and good luck!


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  7. Free holiday gift tags PDF

    Check out these gorgeous printable gift tags from Eat Drink Chic!

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted a tutorial or freebie, I’ve found good ones hard to find. But hopefully these beauties mark a change in that trend


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