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  1. eternal magpie: smock cutting layout without fabric waste

    I've been wearing my ancient cheesecloth blouse since the heatwave started. As I pulled it from the washing line yesterday I realised that it's made entirely from rectangles, which means that no fabric waste was left over from its production. This has been bothering me lately. I've been making lavender bags and summer hats from my fabric scraps, and I donated a bag of bits to a friend who's organising a charity quilt project, but I still have more leftovers than I'd like. So... why not try and design the leftovers out?

    This rang a bell with a cutting diagram that I'd seen in one of my textile history books... and here it is! How to cut a top or dress, using the maximum width of the fabric, without wasting a single piece. 

    eternal magpie: smock worn by Thomas Pitkin in around 1894

    The garment in question is one of these - a nineteenth century smock - but the construction is identical to the summer blouse I'm wearing today. 

    The first volunteering I did for the Museum of English Rural Life, about nine years ago, was documenting their collection of smocks, so I've been lucky enough to get my hands on about sixty examples of the real thing. Another volunteer and I took detailed measurements, studied whether they'd been stitched by hand or machine, and described the patterns of smocking and embroidery stitches on each garment. One particularly interesting thing we noticed was that the vast majority of the adult smocks were made from the same width of fabric, regardless of the size of the wearer. The side seams were almost always made from the selvedges, so we could see straight away that the entire width of fabric had been used. 

    I'm starting to feel an experiment coming on... not to replicate a 19th century smock, because I know how much time that would take! And probably not a 1970s or 80s smock like the ones in my pattern books. But maybe a pintucked blouse or a coat dress, made entirely from rectangles, with no scraps left over. I like that idea very much. 

    eternal magpie: liberty smocked aesthetic dress

    Mind you, there is one thing I'd like to replicate at some point... and that's a smocked aesthetic dress. Obviously this one has a much more complex construction, including a very heavily structured inner layer. Not quite the no-waste experiment I'm looking at right now, but isn't it gorgeous? 

  2. eternal magpie & Rainbright Photography

    For our dress giveaway, Sarah of Rainbright Photography and I asked folks to leave a comment describing what their child would be most likely to keep in the pockets of this dress. The results were many and varied, ranging from kisses (so sweet!) to little toys. Certain themes did crop up quite frequently though, so I've compiled a Top Five list of Things To Keep In Your Pockets: 

    eternal magpie: what would you keep in your pockets?

    Stones, pebbles and rocks were the most popular answer, by a very long way! Maybe the current painted rock craze has something to do with that... or perhaps everybody loves a nice smooth pebble? 

    Daisies and other flowers were second on the list - perhaps inspired by Sarah's beautiful photos of Sienna, who definitely enjoyed picking lots of different flowers and popping them in her pockets! 

    After that, there were clear groupings of other items. Natural treasures such as leaves, feathers, sticks, acorns and fir cones were very popular. Then came a selection of actual creatures, from slugs, snails, worms and baby birds to a pet mouse! There was some concern as to whether a pet mouse might nibble a hole... but can't you just imagine a sweet little mouse curled up in a cosy pocket nest? 

    In fifth place, with an equal number of comments, came fairies and snacks - clearly both very important items to keep about your person!

    Given that the majority of the pocket treasures on the list are things found in nature... I had an idea to maybe write a monthly(ish) blog post (or start a mailing list) about what you might find out and about each month that you could bring home in your pockets. What do you think? Is that the sort of thing you might be interested in reading, either on the blog or in an email? Let me know!

  3. Liberty print summer pointy witch hat

    You know that train of thought where you’re looking at your felted witch’s hat and thinking that it’s a bit hot to wear for the summer solstice and then you start to wonder what a summer witch’s hat would look like and suddenly you’re drawing up a new sewing pattern...? 

    So, here's the thing. I seem to have made a Liberty tana lawn witch's hat. 

    It needs some minor alterations to the brim (it's asymmetrical, and a bit floppy on the other side), but I rather fancy making a few more of these!

  4. eternal magpie: behind the scenes with Rainbright Photography

    A little while ago my friend Sarah and I ran a model call, so that we could take some photos of my dresses on an Actual Person rather than on a coathanger up a tree. After several weeks of waiting for the perfect evening weather, and some tense moments when the local council very inconsiderately mowed down our favourite meadow (how rude!), the day came around and we all met up at a local park. 

    Rainbright Photography & eternal magpie photo shoot

    I think we can agree that it went quite well! 

    Rainbright Photography & eternal magpie photo shoot

    I absolutely love Sarah's work - as Rainbright Photography, she specialises in outdoor seasonal portraits of children and families. The way she captures the light, no matter the time of year, is absolutely magical. 

    Rainbright Photography & eternal magpie photo shoot

    These are just a few of Sarah's images - I'll share the rest over the next few weeks, as I pop them on social media and start changing over some of the pictures on the website. I've specifically picked out some of the photos featuring the lovely Sienna making good use of the pockets, and that's because...

    drum roll... 

    Rainbright Photography & eternal magpie photo shoot

    We're having a GIVEAWAY, and you can win this dress! 

    I actually have two, in ages four and five. The way to enter is to pop over to my eternal magpie Facebook page and leave a comment letting me know what your little one would most like to keep in their pockets!
    For an extra bonus entry, you can do the same thing on Sarah's Rainbright Photography Facebook page too. 

    We'll be choosing the winner on Saturday, so you've got until Friday night to get your comments in!

  5. eternal magpie: upcycled t-shirt

    Some days it's all about sewing lovely dresses. 

    Some days it's all about taking the scissors to your favourite t-shirt because you can't stand the way it's touching you. 

    Today is the second kind of day. 

    I bought this t-shirt last year, and completely forgot (despite it being very clearly stated on the website!) that this particular brand runs small. I wear it a lot, because I love the print, but I always find myself tugging at the too-high neckline or fussing with the too-tight sleeves. 

    Today I'd had enough, so I took the scissors to it and turned it into a vest! 

    All I did was very carefully and neatly snip off the sleeves and the neckline ribbing.

    Jersey t-shirt fabric doesn't fray, so I could have simply left it at that and allowed the edges to roll over - no sewing required! 

    I decided that I would quite like to hem the neckline and sleeves, so all I did was fold the raw edges to the inside, pin the hems into place making sure they were nice and even all the way around, and stitched them down. 

    I didn't use any fancy stretch stitches, I didn't use my overlocker to cover the edges. I just stitched the hems with an ordinary straight stitch and then ironed them nice and flat. And now I have a brand new favourite t-shirt, that doesn't irritate me every time I put it on. Success!