Do you know, when I started making things to sell, I had no idea how important it would be that those things should make me laugh. I realise that this sounds like an utterly bonkers way of doing things.
"Does it make me laugh? Yes? Let's do it!"
Honestly though, that approach has been so important.
I absolutely love a good novelty print, and I also love the thought that something I've made will make you smile - not only when it pops through your letterbox, but also every time you see it or wear it. I mean, who doesn't love a cup of tea and a biscuit, for a start?
I bought these tiny little embroidery hoops based on two facts:
they make me smile, because I love a miniature version of just about anything, and
they're both made and distributed by independent small-businesswomen, and I very much like to encourage that sort of thing.
I also thought that they'd be an excellent way of using up some of the smallest fabric offcuts from my dressmaking. I already use up a fair few scraps with the lavender bags, but I always seem to end up hoarding the tiniest little pieces.
A few years ago I made a similar brooch for my Mum, using a tiny offcut, just a couple of inches square, from one of her handmade childhood dresses. I thought that was a lovely way of elevating a little scrap of fabric hidden away in a box into a really sweet little keepsake that she can still wear.
These two smock tops fall firmly into the category of "things I wasn't quite sure about to begin with, but it turns out I wear them all the time".
I bought the one above in March, from a local charity shop. I saw the fabric, which is gorgeous little cats in orange and khaki green, saw that it was my size, paid the £2 (TWO POUNDS!) and grabbed it. I could see that it was hand made, but it wasn't until I got it home that I realised it was also faded, stained, and mended. Honestly though? It's so lovely, and so comfortable, that none of those things really matter too much. You can't see the details on this fuzzy phone selfie, but at some point I'll show you the damage, and what the original owner and I have done to repair it. (There's a patch over a hole right on the front near one of the pockets, but it's so beautifully done that I have to look twice to find it every time.)
This one I made, a few years ago. The fabric is a gorgeously soft bamboo and organic cotton blend. I tracked down the pattern on Etsy, having seen a picture of it on a "WORST SEWING PATTERNS EVER" board on Pinterest... so that should tell you something about my fashion sense!
I have to confess that I'm awkwardly holding the flowers because, thanks to an appalling oversight (also known as running out of fabric), this one doesn't have pockets, so I needed something to do with my hands.
What I particularly like about these tops is that they're really versatile. As you can see, in the first photo I'm wearing the smock top over jeans (Monkee Genes Emily style) and a long sleeve t-shirt (Gossypium). In the second photo I'm wearing a pair of navy shorts that used to be my work uniform, but have turned into really useful summer wear since I left that job! I've also worn the stripy one over long dresses, and I can see it being really handy for the beach, so they're really useful all year round.
This may well be the size of the cup of tea I’m going to need by the time I’ve finished going through all of the new GDPR regulations!
You’re most likely to have heard about this via a sudden influx of emails asking you to re-subscribe to mailing lists in order to confirm that you give permission to keep receiving messages. Basically it’s to do with consent, privacy, and what I can and can’t do with your data.
I don’t have a mailing list (yet), so I didn’t know that the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations states that specific consent is not required if you are sending an email to a customer who has previously purchased a similar product. So if you have ever bought a dress from me, I could add you to an email list of Existing Customers, and have automatic permission to send you marketing emails. I would like to state for the record that I DO NOT DO THIS, and I WILL NOT DO THIS even when I do set up my mailing list, because it doesn't seem like a good fit for the way this little business works. But it does explain the messages from email lists which I didn’t subscribe to in the first place, to which I have happily said goodbye!
But anyway. That’s not the point.
The point is:
you have the right to know what data I hold about you, you have the right to see that data, and you have to right to ask me to delete it, insofar as doing so is within my power.
Your name, address, and phone number. These are required for the purpose of fulfilling the contract between us, which is that you pay for a dress and I use this information to send it to you.
Your name, or pseudonym, if you give it on a blog comment. You are also required to give your email address when you leave a blog comment, but I’m not sure why. I never see it, so it cannot be used to add you to any sort of email list.
Your photographs, of yourself and/or your children. These are freely given with your consent - I never copy your images from social media, or use images that have been emailed to me, without asking you first. I may edit them, usually to add a caption, or to crop to a certain format. I will usually use just a first name to identify the person in the photograph, or occasionally a rough location, such as a country or a county, if that information is relevant. Please bear in mind that photographs on the internet are public property. If you withdraw consent for me to use your photographs, which you are welcome to do at any time, I will of course delete them from my website, blog and social media sites. However I do not have the capacity to remove instances of these images which may have been downloaded, copied or shared by a third party. This is particularly important to be aware of if you are sending me photographs of your children.
Other data collected by the website itself, or by third parties, are payment details and Cookies. I do not have direct access to either of these types of data.
All of my payments are currently processed by PayPal so I never see your payment information, whether you’re checking out through the shopping cart or paying instalments on a flexible invoice.
Cookies are used for two reasons:
to ensure the functioning of the website For example, you might put an item into the shopping cart, wander off for another browse around the site, and when you come back to the cart your original item will still be there waiting for you. They also ensure that your customer account, if you choose to set one up, knows who you are when you log into it.
to analyse the use of the website Google Analytics gathers information about website use by means of cookies. The information gathered relating to this website is used to create reports about its use. The data gathered may include information about your location, or the type of device you are using to access the internet, but it cannot be used to identify a specific individual. These details help me to understand who is using my website, and how I can improve it in the future.
If you’ve read all of that, thank you, and well done!
I still have a fair bit of work to do behind the scenes, in terms of paperwork to justify why I need to use all of this data (mainly because my website doesn't work without it!), but this is the only thing you really need to be aware of.
One of the difficulties of dressmaking is that you can't try things on until after you've made them... and even with the most careful of measurements, sometimes you'll make a dress that doesn't fit or doesn't suit you, or you just don't find yourself wearing as often as you thought you would.
For me this turns out to be the case with the dresses I've been making from vintage sewing patterms. I was SO EXCITED when I discovered "half size" patterns. Designed for the "mature figure", they have a lower bust point and a larger waist measurement than their corresponding "ordinary" sizes, so those of us who aren't disposed to go the whole hog with 1950s-style underwear can actually stand some chance of fitting into these lovely dresses!
(If you do want to go the whole hog, by the way, I can wholeheartedly recommend Kiss Me Deadly. I absolutely love every single piece I've bought... even though the fibromyalgia means that I often can't wear any of it.)
Sadly, the simple fact that I work from home and very rarely leave the house on what might be considered dress-wearing occasions, means that these little lovelies simply aren't being worn.
So... rather than leaving these dresses languishing at the back of my wardrobe, I've decided to set up a "sample sale" department so that you can grab them at a bargain price! Of course this does mean that you need to be roughly the same size as me - which is a modern UK 14-16, or a late-1950s 18½.
The sample sale isn't going to just be full of dresses I've made for myself and then decided to re-home. It will also include any dressmaking experiments that I happen to conduct, which I might then decide not to add to the current range. This gives me the freedom not to worry about drafting a design in eighteen different sizes before I've even started! I can just make one, wear it, test it out, and then decide whether or not it's going to be a keeper.
I get to play, and you get the opportunity to pick up a bargain!
I decided to take advantage of a day to myself over the Bank Holiday to indulge in a bit of Selfish Sewing - in this case a lightweight summer blouse. I get sunburnt very easily (many years of medications have left my skin photosensitive, plus I'm allergic to every type of sunscreen that I've ever tried), so I need something with long sleeves that I can pop on when the sun comes out which isn't going to leave me boiling hot!
Enter this blouse, which I have to say is made from the most frustrating fabric that I've worked with in a very long time! It's been lurking in the stash since before I made the decision to use only organic and recycled fabrics. It's a white spotted cotton lawn, with a cream floral print over the top. What I didn't realise when I bought it was that the floral print is actually some kind of plastic. So the cotton lawn needs a fine needle and a nice hot iron... but the plasticky print needs a heavier needle and a cool iron. Nightmare. Usually I'm an advocate of ironing your clothes to keep them looking lovely. Sadly I'm just going to have to wear this one crinkly, because even inside out and with a pressing cloth, the fabric has left gunk all over my iron. Grrrr.
Anyway! On a cheerier note, I've been wearing it for a few hours now, and it's really soft and comfortable. I particularly like the details - the back fastens with an elastic loop and a vintage flower button, and the sleeves are trimmed with vintage Austrian lace.
Speaking of the sleeves... I can see some of you cringing at them from here, but I have to confess that I absolutely love a massive puffy sleeve. The pattern for the top is New Look 6471, view D, with the front lengthened to match the back. The sleeves I copied from Simplicity 5645, a pattern from 1982, as I didn't think the original ones were enormous enough! The lace trim and the elastic cuffs were made up as I went along. The elastic is designed to be loose at the wrists, but just tight enough to stay put when the sleeves are pushed up to the elbows.
Apparently the weather's going to stay warm and sunny for the next few days, so I should have plenty of opportunity to give this top a good wear and see whether it does its job!