2017 in review

This year feels like it has been a turning point for me as I finally feel connected to a global community of makers and creative people through Instagram. I started the year with the aim of developing my sewing and photography skills and decided to do a Makelight course. I have posted about the course before, as it really helped me to understand what I needed to do to improve my lighting, composition, and focus on the colours and themes I find inspirational. Despite having lots of ideas I hadn’t been able to put them across in the way I wanted and wasn’t connected with a wider community, which was frustrating as I have been blogging for a long time now.

This is a review of most of the things I have made this year and some thoughts on what I’d like to achieve in the next year.

Sewing for Me

From top left: Jenna Jumpsuit, I am Cassiopee, Aime Comme Magellan, Kyoto Tee, Named Ninni culottes, I Am Cassiopee dress, Sapporo Coat, Named Kielo dress, Named Esme cardigan

From top left: Named Esme cardigan, Sapporo coat in black wool, Named Helmi shirtdress, Seamwork Almada robe, Kyoto Tee sweater in teal wool jersey and Sew Over It Lizzie skirt, Grainline Studio Driftless cardigan and Sew over it Ultimate Shift dress, Named Helmi shirt in mint cotton voile, Sewaholic fraser, Grainline Scout Tee

Grainline Studio Driftless With Hemlock tee, McCalls blouse, Grainline Farrow dress, Sew Over It Molly top, Colette Moneta dress, Named Imari dress, Sew Kate Sew dress, Grainline Studio Scout Tee, Anna Maria Horner painted portrait dress in Liberty print

What I learned: I got much more comfortable with sewing with jersey and heavier knits. I also used some lightweight fabrics like the silk sari I used for the Seamwork Almada, which was challenging to work with. I finally worked out that I need to do a narrow shoulder adjustment on most garments with a set in sleeve, and have had a go at doing them but need to practise more. I made trousers (not shown, the Tilly and the Buttons Marigold trousers and Hudson pants), and a coat (the Sapporo coat by Papercut patterns). Using Netprinter to print A0 patterns has been a gamechanger as I don’t enjoy sticking together PDFs.

Most worn: I wear my Driftless cardigan all the time as its a great layering piece. The fabric is a lightweight jersey which is warm but doesn’t take up much space. I also wear my I Am Cassiopee dresses constantly. Both my Esme cardigans have also been worn a lot this Winter.

Sewing plans for next year: I will be sewing with some favourite prints I have had stashed for a while, as well as trying some more trouser and coat patterns. I have bought the Jeans course from Closet Case Patterns so I need to have a go at those too. I’d like to make some bags and zip purses as well, and be more confident with setting zips and buttonholes. I am happy that I have managed to sew quite a lot of items that I wear regularly and will be making more basic cardigans and tops.

Fabric/pattern stash: I’d really really like to reduce my stash as it is ridiculous at the moment! I can easily make 30-40 items from fabric I love, so it doesn’t make sense to keep buying more at this stage. There are a couple of prints I would like but I am trying to hold out at least until my birthday… I have plenty of patterns too so am hoping not to buy more of those either.

I haven’t made as much for my daughter as I have done in previous years but I did make her some pretty dresses and clothes that have been worn regularly. Now she is at school there aren’t as many occasions to wear nice dresses! I will be making more for her and the other children this year. I’d like to make her a good wool coat for next winter.

A few other makes here, including some knitting and baking, as well as clothes for my boys. I didn’t knit as much as I’d have liked because I got stuck on the Find Your Fade shawl! Next year I’d like to make at least one sweater for me, and more accessories for the children.

I have really enjoyed styling homegrown flowers and telling stories through pictures on Instagram in the past year. I have grown flowers for a few years now but I enjoy planning and taking pictures and have missed not having any in the garden over the winter! This is one area in which I’d like to improve, as I’m not always satisfied with the quality of my pictures yet. I am considering learning Lightroom or some other editing software to help with this, but at the same time I’m aware that I don’t really have lots of time to spend on this at this time.

It’s also important for us as a family to do things together and I want to focus more of my time and energy on getting the basics right, like being organised, healthy and using my time well. I would like to use all the resources I already have rather than spending more time and money acquiring more in the next year, which is why I am intending to have a low spend year. It would be unrealistic for me to say I will spend nothing but I will try my best to consume less and be more mindful with my spending. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the new year!

 

Growing Flowers for Cutting

I decided to share a round up of my garden flowers this year, as I’ve really enjoyed growing them and using them in flower arrangements. There are lots of pictures in this post!

This year I grew quite a wide selection of flowers as I wanted to use them as cut flowers for the house as well as fill up a large empty border in our new garden.

First up sweetpeas. I didn’t plant these early enough so ended up buying some plug plants from the garden centre. They did fairly well at first but then the support fell down in strong winds! I enjoyed them while they lasted.

I found lots of Nigella in the allotment and decided to plant some directly into the soil in the garden, as well as Cerinthe and California poppies. All the flowers came up to my surprise, as I haven’t had much success with direct sowing in the past.

The majority of the flowers were actually grown in module trays and planted outside after first frosts. The ammi visnaga was one of my favourite plants for foliage as well as the frosted explosion grass on the right.

This is cosmos ‘cupcakes’. I love the perfect bowl shape and frilly edge, so pretty. I couldn’t get these to last well in a vase but they are lovely in the garden. Any tips on keeping them alive once cut would be appreciated! 

I went overboard with the sunflower vanilla ice. They are about 8 ft tall and produced masses of flowers, and i think there are at least four plants! I got a little bit fed up of them after a while and will try another variety next year. I might plant one Vanilla Ice but not much more.

This vase is a combination of dahlias with annuals. I grew pink dahlias as well as red and darker colours, however the pink ones thrived and the others didn’t do as well!



I did manage to grow one pale dahlia, this stunning cafe au lait flower. It only produced three flowers though. 

These pink roses are from the front garden and are very pretty and delicate. I also have a David Austin rose I dug up from our last garden on moving day, which has really thrived.  The petals drop very quickly so they don’t do well once picked but they have a beautiful scent and are nice for styling. 


I love putting together little posies of different colours in assorted vases. They remind me of boiled sweets!

The cosmos are still going strong in the garden. The border itself is not as pretty as I’d like as the colours are quite distinct and separate, it looks a bit wild!

Next year I plan to grow fewer pink flowers (!) and more foliage plants. I’m also planning a tulip patch for spring time, just for cutting! Really looking forward to growing and styling my own tulips. I will also try some new varieties of dahlias too.

In My Garden

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The light in the garden in late afternoon was beautiful yesterday.

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These roses surprised me, we’ve lived in the house for over a year and I didn’t see any of these last year. They are beautiful, huge pillowy flowers with a beautiful scent.

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Perennial herbs – sage, chives, oregano and rosemary survived the winter and are flourishing again.

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This chard was also planted last year. I put a couple in the flower bed and the rest in the vegetable raised beds. They are pretty much the only vegetables that survived the winter, we did have a broccoli but it flowered before it grew much, as well as lots of purslane which no one was very interested in eating. We also had some of the leek today. garden3

I’m so pleased with the lupins. I have tried to grow these for years without success, mostly due to slugs. These were planted last year along with aquilegia, echinacea and verbena bonariensis which have all grown very well this year. I’d love to fill the bed with perennials and shrubs so its a little or no work garden. garden1

The colour is very striking, although I’m not sure it seems perfectly natural. It’s almost a royal blue.

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I’ve also started hardening off the seedlings (all ten trays!) but not everything looks ready to go out yet. Some plants don’t seem to have grown much in the last few weeks, but we haven’t had much sun really.

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I planted Little Leprechaun lettuce and Descartes from Sarah Raven, as they looked very pretty (as with everything from Sarah Raven!). There s also sweetcorn, squash, courgettes, cucumber, artichokes and various herbs. I also have seedlings for cut flowers – cosmos, cerinthe, sunflowers, zinnias, ammi majus, to name a few. There are just a few sweetpea plants (most didn’t germinate) which is a shame as I love them.

There’s plenty of work for me to do in the garden, and I am also trying to get our allotment in some sort of shape for beans and the big veg like squash. Are you growing your own plants from seed this year?

Makelight Course Review

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Despite a nasty bout of flu, I’ve had a good start to the year. I signed up to the Makelight ‘Beautify your Instagram’ course on impulse, with the idea of improving my photos and connecting with other makers. I didn’t have any real expectations otherwise, but have noticed a huge improvement in the quality of my images, because I’m thinking so much more about my lighting, composition and colours. I have always been drawn to bright colours, (think Rice Denmark ) but this hasn’t always come across in my photos, as I would not pay much attention to lighting and the background or composition. I found the Insights report provided very useful in focussing my attention on choosing colours I love. This can be challenging, as I do enjoy being spontaneous on social media and having to think about lighting for example, means that I can’t just post snaps of what I’m making at night!  Being patient has its rewards though, as I’m really pleased with how my photography is improving.

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One thing that has really surprised me is that I have been able to use objects I already have at home as props. I had always thought I’d need to go out and buy lots of new things for this purpose, but it turns out that I have plenty of bright and pretty things to use already. I also like having glimpses of work in progress in some of my pictures. I have also got to ‘meet’ many other people on the course, some of whom are very inspiring. qodqjwr2wh3rvfzunvq8Emily and Stef have created a friendly and eclectic community of businesses and makers and I was amazed to find myself in a Facebook group of 300+ members!  The Live Q&A sessions were extremely valuable as Emily answered individual questions on all kinds of issues – branding, lighting, equipment, styling, sojmetimes for nearly two hours. The amount of time given was much more generous than I had expected, and the Instagram feedback session (where individual feeds were reviewed) was particularly helpful, even though I wasn’t lucky enough to have been chosen.

Having been quite busy in the month with work and family commitments, I wasn’t able to go through every lesson or Live Q&A, so I’m very glad to be able to access those and the workbooks after the course finished. I’m sure I will be referring back to the lessons and continuing to build on the skills I’ve learned. The main benefit to me is that it has reawakened my love of photography and finding beauty in things around me – this is something I took great pleasure in a few years ago but had put aside for a while. I would really recommend this course to anyone who wants to develop their social media in a meaningful and enjoyable way.

The Makelight ‘Photography for Makers’ Course is due to start shortly or you can try the taster course for free.  Follow me on Instagram here .

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