Joel and Son Fabrics

Thank you all so much for the positive words and support you sent my way after my last post. Since then, we have put our flat back on the market, and we have had multiple offers above our asking price, so I am quite happy about that. We are off to Northampton to view properties this weekend so I am really looking forward to the weekend. I am however cognisant of the fact that things could go wrong so I have decided not to get emotionally involved in the process this time round. Que sera sera.

Now on to the reason for today’s post. Joel and Son fabrics. Have you ever been there? I have never gone there. Alison tells me it is near Edgware Road, which is technically not very far from my house. Joel and Son are suppliers to her Majesty the Queen, a fact which they are very proud of, as I am sure I would be if by some stroke of luck my macarons made their way to her Maj’s dinner table.
I have been to their website countless times, but because their prices are quite extraordinary, I never bought anything from them. They have the most exquisite fabrics which are, unfortunately, reflected in their not so exquisite prices.

I never thought I would ever buy anything from them, until a couple of weeks ago when I went to my usual spot on their website, the bargain section. I saw this amazing looking cotton faille fabric going for £10/metre. I kept praying the fabric would still be there when I got paid and thankfully it was. So I ordered 3 metres. Two weeks passed and I still had not received my parcel. I called them yesterday to inform them. The lady I spoke to was quite helpful, and she gave me the number of their delivery company, as well as my reference number. A quick call to the delivery company, and my parcel was delivered today. AMAZING!!

Just look at this beautiful fabric. If you are not drooling now, I think you need to see a Doctor. There either is something wrong with your eyes, or the part of your brain that curates your emotions is malfunctioning.

Now, not only was the customer service really good, the packaging had me quivering with excitement. Alison was visiting and she could not help laughing at me. We decided to learn more about cotton faile, as neither of us had worked with it before. So out came the Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide.

Now this is not a shop I will regularly buy from. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that they don’t sell good fabric. They do. They sell Very good fabric. From Italy and other places. They have all sorts of designer fabrics. And therein lies the rub. Designer fabrics are not cheap. Alison and I even played a guessing game. She read out a discounted fabric description, and asked me to guess the price. I said £100. It turns out I was almost £900 short of the price. The actual price was £989/metre, down from £1,472. Yes I know, I had the same reaction as you are probably having now. If I was ever looking for a reason for Mr.Dibs to ask for a divorce, I think buying even 0.00001 metres of this fabric would be good enough. In case you were wondering if this fabric was made of gold, here it is. Feast thy eyes!

If there is anyone of you out there who buys from Joel and Son regularly, I hate you, and I never EVER want to meet you because my inability to suppress my jealousy and envy would inevitably lead to murder, and I really, really want to see Noah grow. I won’t be able to turn him into the professional sportsman he is destined to be from Belmarsh prison. To those of you, like me, who can only dream of making a purchase from the bargain section, rejoice. They always have some sort of offer. The offers are still expensive for the likes of us, but for that special occasion, or reward or treat, a remnant piece of 2metres at £40-£50 is achievable.

An added surprise for me, was the packaging. The fabric came wrapped in tissue paper, in a branded plastic bag, with the royal charter proudly incorporated….of course.

A postcard was included, which I thought was a nice touch, as well as a tape measure. Wasn’t that sweet of them? I’m sure I shall buy from them again, if only to see what little free gift wends its way towards me.

I love my cheap fabrics. I am a Goldhawk road girl to the core, but once in a while, a very rare while, I like to indulge myself. This purchase does not really qualify as a splurge because the fabric was heavily discounted, and I have bought more expensive fabric than this, but the whole experience of buying from Joel and Son to me, was a treat. Have you ever bought from them?

Blogging and Life

The new year always starts with so much promise. This year I was quite hopeful about my blog. I was going to be sewing and posting every week, not simple sewing mind you, no, not good enough for moi. I was going to be making well crafted pieces, boning and all. Ha! Here we are, going into the middle of the year, and I have nothing to show for it.  Where did all the days go? More importantly, why have I not been sewing, or blogging?

The truth of the matter is, unless blogging is your full time job, you need to dig deep down to find motivation to blog regularly. I am not saying it cannot be done, we all know there are fabulous bloggers out there who have demanding jobs, but still blog regularly like it was easier than making a cup of tea. To those bloggers, I raise my cap. I, on the other hand, really struggle. Ever since Noah came on the scene, things have gone pear shaped sewing wise (no pun intended). Again, I am not saying you can’t blog successfully when/if you have kids, as there are mega bloggers out there with more kids than I can count on my two hands. How do they do it? How do you do it? Any tips for a struggling sister?

I struggle with finding time to sew, or blog. Somehow, sewing and blogging have been relegated to the bottom of my to do list. I just don’t have the time, and I realise I need to make more of an effort but it is just so hard. There are a couple of things which are responsible for this inactivity, which I will briefly  touch on.

Since August 2013, we have been trying to sell our matchbox flat. Our little family is growing, and we no longer have space to breathe in our flat. We had multiple offers for our flat the first day of viewings, and found a lovely new house for ourselves. Unfortunately, our buyer was a first time buyer, and unbeknownst  to us, had not even secured a mortgage. A couple of months later, the chain broke, so we were back to square one. In January we put our house once more on the market, and sold for 5k above our asking price on the first day of viewings. We decided to move to Milton Keynes, and found a lovely house which I could not stop dreaming about. Turns out it was not meant to be. Our house sale fell through again because of the damp in our house. The heartbreak this time was even more painful because I had already strong armed Mr.Dibs into letting me convert one of the rooms into a sewing room. Needless to say, I did not want to see my sewing machine because it reminded me of things that were not to be. We have since fixed the damp, and thousands of pounds later, our house is going back on the market today. I am trying work some excitement into the process but to be honest, I am struggling with that as well. I don’t think I will be able to handle another disappointment.

On a more positive note, one other thing that has been fighting for my time, is my obsession with macarons. I wrote a post about them earlier this year, and my love for them has only increased. So much so that I have decided to start selling them. I have been doing alot of research on how I want to proceed with my macaron business, and what brand image I want, packaging, distribution and the usual suspects. It is fun, and scary at the same time. I am going to Paris in June to study this course at Ferrandi, a French culinary school. My friend is getting married in June, and she wants me to make a macaron tower for her, so exciting times ahead. Plus, I will need your help sometime soon, I plan on hosting a macaron tasting party so we can all decide on the flavours I will be selling. If you think you could help with that please drop me a note in the comments box.

I also decided to loose some weight. I joined the gym, and so I go some days after work, which means I don’t have enough time after work to sew. I currently work in Maidenhead, so by the time I get back to London, all I want to do is eat and pass out. I have good days and bad days, and I have had a cold twice in 30 days, which has broken my motivation to go to the gym. I am hoping to get back on track this month. I have lost a bit of weight though, as you can see from the picture below.

So there you have it. My gazillion reasons for not keeping in touch. I don’t even know when I will get back to sewing as my weekends are already fully booked till the end of June. I am on the lookout for a Babylock overlocker though, so if/when I do buy it, the excitement of a new machine might translate into me actually sewing something.

I have been buying fabric though. That is the one constant in my life. My fabric obsession. I am so looking forward to summer because of all the maxi wearing opportunities I will have.

Oh, one more thing, how do you manage the demands on your time and life, with sewing and blogging?

Zlata Skirt

I finally made something people. After months of inactivity I finally made something. Since my last sewing project, so many things have happened, bad things, good things, and so so things, but more on that later.

I made a skirt. Do you like it? I certainly do. Sometime ago, Ana of Stepalica patterns, was looking for testers for her new pattern, and I signed up for it. Ana’s patterns are not your usual patterns. She is self taught, but you will not know by the quality patterns she puts out. Last year I wrote about her first pattern, the Nougat dress. I am still to make that, but this year shall not go by without me making it. Touchwood.

So yeah, the Zlata skirt. It is a lined pleated skirt with a twist. I told you Ana does not do the usual. You can read all about the skirt here, and see different versions of the Zlata skirt made by some of the testers here

It has three variations, and I made view C. I was not sure about my size, so I cut size 42. In hindsight I should have cut the 44 because the 42 is a teeny weeny bit too tight. Which brings me to another thing, I have put on alot of weight. I recently discovered I am a comfort eater, and the past couple of months of have been really hard on. Lots of stuff, which I hope to never go through again, happened. Anyways, my issues translated into midnight trips into the kitchen for some ice cream and chocolate cake, followed by macarons and coca-cola.I now weigh 92kg, which is the heaviest I have ever been. I currently have an incovenient pain in my knee, which Mr.Dibs and a friend of mine have attributed to my weight gain. Sad stuff people, sad stuff.

Anyway, back to my skirt. I love it. It is so different to what I normally make. I rarely sew solids. I definitely should incorporate solids into my wardrobe. The fabric is a cotton/linen blend I bought from Abakhan fabrics in Manchester. It was a dream to sew and I now wish I had bought more of it.

In terms of difficulty, I would say the skirt is a medium. You have to line it, so if you have never made a lined skirt before, this is a good project to start with.

 I found that my bum raised the back of the skirt, so I need to address that in my future projects.

 Ana gives you a few suggestions on how to add more details to your skirt, one of which is pipping. I added some pipping to the pockets, and waistband.

I might make view B next. 

Stepalica: Zlata skirt Pattern #1401

My next two projects are a toile du jouy dress, and a simplicity 2053 dress.  I actually started these two projects last year, but with the issues I had, I could not complete them.

You might also have noticed that I have not been posting Minerva Blogger projects. I left the network. I am very happy I was asked to join. I had fun while part of the network, BUT, I was not in a good place, and I just did not have the energy to do the projects justice. I still love seeing what everyone else has been making, and I just know it will only get better.

Macaron Sunday

Happy New Year people. Have you already broken your new year’s resolutions yet? Yes? Ah, see, that is why I do not set new year’s resolutions. I never keep them.

What I did decide on though, was to enter the kitchen more. Before getting married to Mr.Dibs, I lived with him for a couple of months, and I was such an exemplary house guest that he decided to put a ring on it. I suspect the marriage proposal was a result of the delicious food I cooked everyday. Unfortunately for Mr.Dibs, my forays into the kitchen was part of my plan to get a marriage proposal from him. I stopped cooking regularly as soon as we came back from the honeymoon. I am not even joking. Mr.Dibs has been trying to get me to turn back into the domestic goddess I was pre wedding ring, but I have been steadfast in refusal to revert. Every so often I would be moved by the need to do some good for the universe, and I would cook him something special.

Which led me to my new toy.

Last year, when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I was not sure what to ask for. I wanted two things, a Coverstitch machine, and a Kenwood chef. Both of these things are not cheap. So I could only choose one. I weighed the pros and cons. Which of them would get the least resistance from Mr.Dibs? Hmm, Mr.Dibs has never benefited from my sewing. I am that selfish. I’m sure there will come a time when I would make something for him, but that time is not now. Food on the other hand, is something the whole family could enjoy. So I chose the Kenwood. And his exact words were ” About time I benefited from one of your hobbies”. Now, saying cooking is one of my hobbies is a very long stretch, but what the heck, Mr.Dibs can say anything just as long as I get what I want.

So, last year, This bad boy made its way to my house.

Since having it, I have improved somewhat in the kitchen department. I am not quite up to Nigella Lawson standards yet, but I will get there eventually…I hope.

I have used it mostly for baking. I love baking. I have used it to bake cakes and cupcakes, but what I have loved making the most, are macarons.

I am quite pleased with myself. I first had macarons from Pauls. They are not cheap though, so I reserved consumption for special occasions. Then , when I was pregnant with Noah, Mela came visiting with some chocolate macarons she had made for me. Junior Mr.Dibs still remembers that day fondly. When I think of baking, I thnk of my two gals, Mela and Rachel. Those girls are mean in the kitchen. So when I got the Kenwood, I started looking online for receipes and inspiration. The general consensus was that they were very finicky to make, and you had to be very precise with your measuring. The macarons in this post are my fourth attempt at macarons, and they are my best so far.

Traditional french macarons are made using almond flour, icing sugar, caster sugar, and egg whites. So you make a meringue, and mix with the almond flour and icing sugar, and a colouring of your choice.  You can make macarons using three different meringues. The french, swiss or italian meringue. I used the Italian method. I will go more into the details in another post.

Noah has been very excited about these macarons. He would not even let me do a successful photoshoot.

I had to enlist Mr.Dibs to restrain Noah.

I love making macarons. I find them really easy to make, if you follow the instructions that is, and carefully weigh all your ingredients, and pipe them well, and bla bla bla. What I am trying to say is, they get easy with practice, and once you get the hang of making them, they suddenly seem like the easiest things to do.

So what about you? Have you made macarons before, any interesting flavours you think I should try? I’d like to know. I would also like to make more use of my kenwood chef, so if you have one of these, or a normal food processor or a Kitchen aid, what do you use them for? Care to share any recipes?

Minerva Crafts Blogger Network: Butterick 5559 sheath dress

My project for this month is not for the faint hearted. Don’t get me wrong. Butterick 5559 is not a difficult pattern. Far from it. What it is though, is LABOUR INTENSIVE.

I should have read the reviews from other bloggers before picking this pattern, but what can I say? I loved the pattern. I have been admiring it for a long time on other bloggers, and wanted to have a go at it, so I have no one but myself to blame.
For this project, I selected a turquoise ponte roma knit fabric. This fabric is absolutely luscious, and I love the fact that it behaves like a woven fabric, minus the fraying, and it is stretchy enough to hide my many lumps and bumps. You can find it in 21 colours here. I am  definitely going to buy more of this fabric for future projects. I call it my “no hassle fabric”.

 So, back to the pattern.

It is a sheath dress, which is good for me because my body proportions are all over the place. I cut a size 14 for the bodice, and then graded out to size 20 at the hips. I have a feeling after Christmas I shall be grading out to size 22.

The pattern like I said before, is easy, but quite tedious. It has 7 darts which are placed between 14 1/4 inch tucks, which when sewn, are hidden. Genius non? Tracing the fold lines for the tucks was not remotely amusing. You have to make the tucks on the right side, so what I did was machine baste the lines directly on the pattern with the pattern pined to my fabric. In hindsight, I should have used wax paper and traced the lines unto the wrong side of the fabric, then use that as my guide to machine baste the lines. My pattern is now completely destroyed, because I had to rip it off my fabric after basting. If you want to have a go at this pattern, don’t make the same mistake I did.

When doing the 1/4 inch tacks, you have to be very accurate. I think I rushed things a bit, and the sides are not as aligned as I would have loved. I can live with the way they are though.

The dress runs short, so if you don’t like short dresses, you will need to add some length to it.I added about 4 inches to the hem, but I think I should have added more because after hemming it, and all those tucks, it went to my knees, and I am not even tall.

I am actually quite happy with the dress. Mr.Dibs was impressed, and in his own words, “hmm, you know what you are doing sometimes”. I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you

If you want to read more about this dress, and various ways to help with the construction, you can check out this pattern review page on it.There are 37 reviews on it. If you want to brave it, you can buy the kit to make it here.
Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all next year.