Adventures in Sewing

Since last September I’ve been on a bit of a sewing spree! It all started when I fell in love with some Rifle Paper co fabric- one of their instantly recognisable floral prints in a beautiful aubergine coloured rayon. Of course at this point I didn’t really know what rayon meant – I just thought the fabric was lovely, so I set about finding a pattern that I could use it for. I settled on a Tilly and the Buttons’ Martha PDF pattern, having pieced together my Rosa shirt dress a year before and knowing how easy to follow their instructions are. So I spent a weekend making my dress, and lo and behold, I was hooked! Since then I’ve followed more inspirational sewing instagram accounts than I can count and the knowledge I’ve gained in the last few months about fabric types, machine sewing and garment construction is huge, though I still have a lot to learn. I’d like to create some more in-depth posts about individual garments that I’ve made, but for now I wanted to list the items I’ve made since then, and also a little wish list for patterns for the future.

The lovely Rifle Paper Co rayon that started it all!

It’s worth mentioning that apart from one men’s shirt, all of the patterns I have made have been from small, independent pattern companies. In general I have found their pattern instructions a lot easier to follow than those from big pattern companies and support from fellow sewers or the companies themselves in the form of blogs etc. has made the prospect of alterations or grading between sizes much more manageable, making the chances of an item fit well better.


Tilly and the Buttons (TATB)

Rosa Shirt Dress – WIP medium denim – (2016)

Martha Dress – (rifle paper co fabric above) (2017)

Agnes Jersey Top – made one for Mum (2017), and one which I added a half circle skirt to to make a fit and flare ponte di roma dress (2018)

Sew Over It (SOI)

Chloe Coat – in lilac wool with floral lining (my favourite and most worn item yet! 2018)

Molly Top – in red and white stripes (2018)

Alex Shirt (WIP) – in white linen ( inspired by a shirt I found in Anthropologie in 2015 – 2018)

Cloth Habit

Harriet Bra – made two but need some tweaks to get the fit right. (2018)

True Bias

Ogden Cami – I made this from a lovely piece of sage green sequinned velvet that I found in a fabric shop in the laines of Brighton. (2017)

Sew House 7

Tea Dress – probably my least ‘me’ make so far. It’s a great pattern and I like the final product and the fabric I used, but I feel very frumpy wearing it and think it will need some tweaks. (2017)

Thread Theory

Camas Blouse (WIP) – made from a red floral cotton – this pattern is meant to be made using jersey or a stretch cotton, so I needed to make the sleeves a little looser. The fit is good but needs to be taken in a little at the hip and cuffed. (2017)


V8889 Mens Shirt – made in a lovely bright red cotton with navy and white polka dot fabric on the cuffs, collar and button placket. I’m really proud of this one as my first shirt. (2017)


Wish list

TATB Francoise Dress

SOI Alex Shirt Dress (have fabric- a pale blue art gallery polka dot cotton)

TATB Fifi Pyjamas (paper pattern)

SOI Erin Skirt (have fabric- a mid blue denim with embroidered selvedge)

SOI Ultimate Wrap Dress (waiting for fabric – an abstract floral jersey)

SOI Mia Jeans

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress




Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake Recipe

Earlier this month, I embarked on my first creation of caramel. It was my boyfriend’s birthday and I was debating birthday cake flavour combinations when I stumbled upon Cupcake Jemma’s Youtube channel. After watching a few behind the scenes videos from the Crumbs and Doilies bakery in Soho, London, I was hooked- the how to videos are fascinating and I’d recommend that any budding cake baker takes a look!

I’d previously pinned a few salted caramel based cakes on Pinterest, so when I found a recipe for salted caramel buttercream, I knew this had to feature in my cake. I made 2/3 of the caramel recipe and 3/4 of the buttercream recipe (I have no idea why I can’t make measurements easy for myself) and this was perfect to sandwich two 20cm cakes together and add decoration on the top. I’m kicking myself for not taking progress shots but hopefully you can use your imagination!


I started by making my fail safe chocolate cake recipe. I first made this 6 years ago and copied it into my recipe journal with inevitable amendments, so I can’t remember where it comes from but it’s a good, firm, tasty chocolate cake that’s not too rich or sweet. The sour cream adds a bit of extra moisture and tang that I particularly like. It does tend to burn and get dry with a moment too long in the oven though, so be sure to keep an eye on it.


  • 125g Butter (I used unsalted)
  • 225g Dark Soft Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs (I used medium, but large would be good)
  • 150ml Soured Cream
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder (heaped)
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 50g Cocoa Powder.


  1. Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 5 / 190 degrees C / 375 degrees F. Grease and base line two 20cm round shallow cake tins.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fully combined and light in colour.
  3. Gradually beat in the eggs, followed by the soured cream. The mixture may or may not look curdled at this stage- either is fine.
  4. Sieve together the dry ingredients and fold them gently into the wet mixture until fully combined.
  5. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until cooked (use a skewer in the centre of the cake- if it comes out clean it’s cooked).
  6. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Tips: someone once told me to beat in the eggs until you think they are combined, then beat them a bit more. This makes sure you get a good rise. I also weighed my mixture when dividing it into the two tins- I have never done this before but I wanted my cakes to be even. The rise was still different on them due to different oven positions, but the thickness was pretty even.

While the cake was cooking, I made the caramel following the recipe in the video. As previously mentioned, I made 2/3 of the recipe and omitted the vanilla essence (simply because I had run out). I let the cakes and caramel cool for about 45min to an hour, chilling the caramel for the last 20 minutes or so before making the buttercream (recipe also in the same video). I don’t have a kitchen aid (though I want one!) so buttercream for me is creamed together by hand, then beaten more with my trusty electric mixer. The leftover caramel so far has been used with some greek yoghurt, (tasty but very, very sweet) and I’m thinking of using some with ice cream or freshly baked brownies (mmm…).

First, I spread a little buttercream onto my cake board to effectively stick down the bottom cake layer and stop it shifting (especially useful if you need to transport your cake anywhere). The layers were sandwiched together with the buttercream, then the top was covered all over, also using said palette knife to create a swirly effect. I put the rest of the buttercream in a piping bag with a Wilton star nozzle and piped stars around the edge of the cake until there were two rows. I also chose a block of toffee chocolate (about 100g) to chop roughly and used this to decorate the centre of the cake. In my imagined version, the cake looked less like a sunflower and would have left some of the swirly buttercream uncovered, but I didn’t want to waste the chocolate chunks!


The chocolate and buttercream went really well together, and my boyfriend loved the cake. I do think the salted caramel buttercream was the real showstopper though. Next time I have the opportunity to make an occasion cake I’d like to try icing the whole cake in buttercream with a super smooth finish.



Digital Sewing Patterns

Back in February I started a new endeavour- a course in Graphic Design. I wanted to completely immerse myself in it and get through it as quickly as possible, in order to start a career with a more creative direction, get stuck in and be ‘adulting’ sooner rather than later. I hit the ground running, but soon found that doing an accelerated degree course alongside 3 days of work and being a bridesmaid for two weddings back in September was… full on! I’m proud of myself for working hard and getting through the first level of the degree with zero spare time, but I decided that my general sanity along with having time for my friends, family and relationship as well as myself, was more important than getting the course finished a year earlier. It was a tough decision but now I’ve swapped down to part time I feel happier and a bit more relaxed!

With my new spare time I decided to embark on a sewing project- the Rosa shirt dress from Tilly and the Buttons. This is the first time I’ve downloaded a digital pattern so I wanted to write a bit about the pros and cons.


Pros: You can get started straight away! The pattern and instructions download links are sent to you via email as soon as you’ve paid for it- and it’s a little cheaper to buy digitally than the physical pattern. This was great as I was just in the mood to get started and had the weekend ahead of me to work on the dress. The instructions on printing and gluing together the pattern are detailed and clear with information on how to scale for printing and advice in printing the first page (with test square to measure) before the rest, just to make sure the pattern is the correct size.


Cons: The amount of paper used- I think it used 36 sheets in the end. This is quite a bit- initially I couldn’t help feeling nervous about the amount of ink being used though actually it’s not much. The 36 sheets did take me a while to print- I’d say probably about 20 minutes, but I’d allow 30 if your printer is a bit picky like mine. The biggest con to printing the pattern at home is the time it takes to piece it all together, and the space needed to do so. I’m lucky to have a pretty big dining room table to work at but 6×6 A4 sheets of paper is huge! I ended up doing it row by row, then gluing each row together at the end, which meant it wasn’t quite as precise as I would have liked. Perhaps a large wooden/lino/tiled floorspace might have been better to work on. I would estimate that gluing the patten together then cutting it out took 1.5 – 2 hours, so in total, up to 2.5 hours to prepare the pattern before pinning it onto the fabric to cut.

Overall, I would definitely buy a digital pattern from Tilly and the Buttons again and would recommend doing this for those of you who, like me, just get the sewing urge every now and then. Just be aware that it does take a while and a little patience to prepare it and make sure you have enough paper ready. If I was able to plan a few days ahead for my next sewing extravaganza I’d probably think about buying the physical pattern, to save actual crafting time. Of course, the ideal is to be able to buy the physical pattern along with all the supplies and material needed from your local sewing shop. Unfortunately there’s not many of these around me these days, so online ordering for patterns may have to do.

Let me know if you’ve had any experience with digital patterns, or sewing Tilly and the Buttons patterns!

Colouring and Line Drawings

One of Johanna Basford’s line drawings from her Enchanted Forest book.

My last post back in April was one from the Writing 101 challenge. I feel a bit bad having not completed it- I really don’t like giving up on things I have committed to and while I’m not sure I gave up exactly, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I have several unpublished drafts and will keep the prompts I didn’t use in case I feel inspired to write other posts in future, but for now I will be going back to my mainly crafty theme!

At the beginning of May I indulged myself by buying some Staedler fineliner coloured pens and one of Johanna Basford’s colouring books that are aimed more at adults than children. Her beautiful illustrations just beg to be coloured and there is a satisfaction in filling each small section with whatever shade you choose. The book I bought was called ‘Enchanted Forest’ that is mainly leafy pictures with the occasional woodland animal such as an owl or fox popping up. The artist has another book published called ‘Secret Garden’ which has more flowers in. Thinking about it I possibly would have preferred that one, simply because flowers allow for more colour options! I think she is also working on an Ocean themed book to be out later this year.

A Mandala, loosely based around a compass.

Seeing all her lovely illustrations led me to do a bit of research on the artist, which in turn inspired me to get drawing myself. I have always loved a ‘doodle’ style of drawing but haven’t done any in a very long time, so I enjoyed going back to my roots as such!

A stylised Blue Jay based on a photo I found on Pinterest.

After I put some of my pictures on facebook, the kind people at Staedler sent me some pens to review- a set of Pigment Liners and some Neon Triplus Fineliners! This is the first time a company has ever sent me a product to review, so I was really chuffed!

Staedler Pigment Liners and Neon Triplus Fineliners

My following drawings are all done with the Pigment Liners which I have loved using. Having different sizes to play with has been really useful- I have found I used the 0.3 most, with the 0.1 or 0.05 for finer detail. The ink runs out of the nibs of both types of pen really easily and smoothly, especially in the smaller nibs- with the larger nibs it is a little harder to get a uniform thickness of line. In the last picture on this post the thicker 0.8 pen came in handy for blocking areas out and thicker outlines. I haven’t used the Neon Colours a lot yet, but I am impressed with the pure, highly pigmented colours. I think the coloured Triplus Fineliners are wonderful for doing line drawings as they are a joy to hold and the colours are lovely and bold. One thing I would say is that uniform block colouring is a little hard as it is easy to overlap pen marks when colouring- this is an issue I have always had when colouring with ink pens though, so may be my technique!

Flower line drawings: L>R Peony, Hellebore, Anemone. I love the names of these flowers too!
A simple Koi Carp

Most of my drawings are of nature- animals or plants or flowers. I find beauty in all of nature and love peering at things I find outside close up to see textures and colours, or taking pictures. I enjoy drawing the things I find most intriguing for whatever reason- either to be realistic or to use the shapes and outlines to create something new. A couple of my friends commented that these drawings could be used as tattoos, which is a fun idea.

Patterned Lotus/Water Lily
Floating Feathers!
Something a little different- a Pansy with patterned background

This last picture is a bit different because the Pansy is the focal point but not the outline of the picture. I think it would work especially well if the Pansy was coloured while the rest remained in black and white- maybe I will have a play with some picture editing software and see what it would look like!

This post was fueled by listening to Florence and The Machine’s latest album- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

Home Is Where The ……. Is?

Day 11’s prompt is to write about where you lived when you were 12, using varied sentence lengths. A teacher once commented years ago that I was the ‘queen of complex sentences’, so with any luck that shouldn’t be a problem! However, I am going to change the prompt a bit and write a bit about homes in general.

I moved into the house I currently live in 11 years ago, when I was 14. I live with my mum and my two cats, Topaz and Ludo, in the town that I grew up in. I have very itchy feet.

I am very lucky, I know this, yet at the same time I don’t feel it. Mum and I get on well for the most part, there was a time when I was a teenager that I remember thinking ‘we have nothing in common’ and feeling that we would never be close- luckily I was wrong. When I went to university (touched on in my ‘Losing Direction’ post) I found it very difficult and Mum was a rock for me during that time- I called her a lot at first and she helped me just to get through each day to start with. Gradually I ended up calling home once a week or so, visiting home once every month or two. Home was a place I felt safe when I was studying in Portsmouth; all the difficulties of adult life could be forgotten- a bit like when you’re ill and you just need someone to look after you. Coming home at the weekend meant I didn’t have to decide what to do with my day, I could just do what Mum was doing. I had constant company and a great distraction from my worries and work.

Now I’m back home from uni and having been back for three and a half years now it’s the things that once comforted me that bother me. I come home from work and Mum’s here. I get up in the morning and she’s there. I have the weekend ahead of me and she’s got the radio on in the kitchen and is on her laptop at the table; the only way I can get my own space is in my room, which I can’t spend every waking minute in, or in the bathroom (go figure). When I went to uni she scrapped my car to get some money off a new one, so we share the car too- if she goes out I don’t have my own transport and given that I get on the train to go to work or to visit my boyfriend I get rather sick of trains. I love her, don’t get me wrong. As I say, I am very lucky that I am able to live at home and therefore the rent and bills I pay are nowhere near as expensive as they would be if I lived on my own. It has allowed me to take my time finding a job that I really love and to do work to get experience that I might not have if I’d just had to take anything full time to pay the bills. It means I have home comforts, company (including the cats) and access to a car sometimes. Yet I crave my own space, my own home. Somewhere I can choose myself, in a town I have picked, working a job that I enjoy and that challenges me. A home I can come back to at the end of the day and know that is mine because I pay the rent or mortgage. I can choose what I eat that evening because I bought the food. I can decide what to put on the TV and what music to listen to; I can decide what colour I want the walls to be and when to put the dish washer on or do the washing up, when I want to have a bath, when I want to do some washing. I can bring a box of ciders into the house without thinking I am being judged, I don’t have to let her know if I decide to meet a friend after work… etc.

The thing is, there is the issue of what makes a house a home. Being able to choose all of the above helps, but I feel like people are a big part of creating a home. I crave the things I’ve listed above but they are also things that aren’t always going to be applicable. I realise that living with a significant other (which I hope to do in the not so distant future) also means having to consider their food, music and television tastes etc, quite aside from money issues and all kinds of other decisions… but I do feel like it would be different. Plus, as much as I feel my mum is my friend as well as my mother, living with someone who is not immediately related to you by blood is your choice and is new and different.

I don’t think I would want to live completely alone. At uni I lived with others, yet I still felt alone a lot of the time. I don’t want that to happen again, but I can’t grow and be an adult if I am constantly returning home to where my mum is.

I don’t really have a conclusion for this array of thoughts- it’s just some things that have been circling my brain for a while now in different ways. A couple of weeks ago an exciting chance to move out presented itself and I did all I could to grab it- on Friday I found out it had slipped through my fingers, so that has moved these thoughts to the forefront of my mind again.

I feel like it’s a bit like anything for a creative person; I love my home… I just want to be able to make my own.

Friday Night Fish and Chips

For the next Writing 101 prompt we are asked to write a ‘story’ in our own distinct voice about food- a favourite food from my childhood it seems, or a specific meal.

I am really struggling with these prompts for the blogging at the moment. I started this project with a lot of enthusiasm, really excited and raring to go. But I’m finding that they are way too specific. The story ones for example- I’m not trying to write stories on my blog. And as for this- I cant think of anything to write about food (and I even blog about baking!). I do understand that writing would be improved by trying different styles, and perhaps the challenge of writing a story will make my writing better because I am trying new things… maybe. But it’s not making me want to do the challenges any more, it’s becoming a chore rather than a challenge in a fun way.

Anyway. The best thing I can think of is that we used to have fish in breadcrumbs with peas (and occasionally chips as a treat) on a Friday night- my brother and I would get to eat off our laps in the lounge and watch The Simpsons, followed by Robot Wars on the TV.  We often had swimming lessons on a Friday after school and on the drive there I had a carton of juice and was told every time not to squeeze it (of course I took this as a challenge to see how much I could squeeze it without it going all over me). On our way back home it was a race to see if we’d get home by 6, if not we would peer out of the car into other people’s houses to see if we could see if it was on their TVs as we went past. Later, we’d pick which robot we wanted to win and watch avidly- this was in the first years of Robot Wars when Sgt Bash and Matilda were still terrifying and the contestants had to run the gauntlet. Road Block was the first robot with a ‘flip’ mechanism and I think it won the first series, much to our delight. I used to sit and cut all the breadcrumbed bit off my fish and douse it in vinegar, making sure that my peas were kept separate because they are horrible with vinegar- they needed lemon instead. I suppose the routine was good at time- I know I looked forward to it, and I enjoyed the family time. Unfortunately the memory also has a bit of a bad/sad edge to it as my Dad had a car accident on a Friday night, he survived but his injuries have affected him since and will do for the rest of his life, all because of a drunk driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road. I suppose we probably did still have the same meals after this time but somehow I don’t remember it.

I’m sorry that this feels like a bit of a negative post… I am feeling quite frustrated about a lot of things at the moment. I am still trying and want to try, I am reminded of my very first Writing 101 post about happiness and trying to find little elements of good in every day. Sometimes it is just harder than others!


Come For A Bike Ride With Me! 

Yesterday I went for a bike ride with my Dad. It’s the first time I’ve been cycling for a decent time in a long while and we managed about 36 kilometres- about 22 miles! Needless to say I am aching today! From this experience, being outside in the countryside is the public place that I have chosen to write about for today’s descriptive piece. 

The sun warms us as we cycle along the paved track. On our left there are a few wooden sheds and farmyard buildings with corrugated metal roofs, as we ride on a field emerges full of alpacas! Cute little fellows with curly fringes and fur that makes them look like they are wearing harem pants. The animals amble about, some frisky and playful, others having a sunbathe; they all look so carefree I can’t help but smile. As we journey on the smell of cattle and manure drifts into our noses and we discuss how it reminds us of being outdoors, walks in the countryside and happy memories. A dozen cattle look up from their munching to observe us with interest. Soon our only option in the right direction is a very steep stoney path- we shuffle down steps cut into the hillside, only to struggle up the other side of what feels like a ravine from the bottom! Our track becomes a sun dappled dirt path alongside the river through trees. Negotiating tree roots and a few dips and bumps we continue until we break out onto a tarmaced road, eventually leading to a small town dotted with independent shops and cafes. We make our way over the river by bridge and up to our destination; The Bull, where take a breather whilst sitting outside, chatting away, sipping cider and eating pub grub.