My best December present and what you can learn from it

Last year at the beginning of January, while thinking hard about what I wanted to achieve in the year 2014, one of my intentions was to take time out to sew more. As my business has gotten busier, I have sewn less and that was bugging me…

My sewing habits did increase last year – as they say, that when you set an intention, it tends to get done. And they are right.

But there are/were two things I was struggling to get started/finished…I started a single sized quilt in August that in soooooo close to finished  (if you followed my visit back to Vermont on Facebook, you will have seen my Mom and I working on it),  as well as a lap quilt for my nephew, born in May, which I started weeks before his due date by designing and cutting out a nine squares. I didn’t want to use a pattern so was just kind of making it up as I went along but according to my maths, I was going to need alot more than the nine squares, but hey, I had loads of time before the baby came along.

And  sure enough, Jack came in to this world a bit late but pretty much around his due date. And there sat the squares in a nice neat pile. And they pretty much stayed in that pile, bar a few times I spread them out to see what they looked like. And then scooped them up and put them back in the pile…and the guilt from not having sorted the quilt out started to eat at me.

So I made a decision...better to be late than not at all….and maybe not quite what my good intentions created.

And a week before Christmas, I delivered Jack’s quilted cushion:


Here is a close up of one of the squares:


And when I decided to add the blue trim around the squares, and was spending ages trying to figure out how much fabric to cut for the fabric (and a fair bit of swearing! , my clever husband whipped up a spreadsheet that does it for me… all I do is add some basic numbers….and out spits my necessary requirements!


So, with all of us rolling in to 2015 with intentions of being better at whatever we think we need to be better at…maybe just go a bit easy on the expectations, deliver them when you can and high five yourself when you do it?

Anyone else agree?




Let me and my Dad give you a lesson on perspective


You must be wondering what this photo of my Dad’s tomato has to do with perspective?  More than you would imagine and that is what I want to share with you.

At the tail end of my month back home, my Dad’s tomato’s started to get ripe and were teasing him with their “almost readiness”.  And for those of you that tend to a garden, you will struggle to find more joy than when everything starts to need to be picked. I would say “fruits of your labour” but really in my Dad’s case, it is “vegetables of his labour”.  And this beauty was the first one off the vine.

I suggested we take some photos as it was such a source of pride for my Dad and as I am slowly finding confidence in trying to take better photos,  I thought the tomato was a good subject. So we started to snap away and I showed him my first few attempts which were okay but not great.

So we both wondered what would happen if we turned it this way, shined it up a bit (like you do with an apple - rubbing it on your trouser leg) and that helped a bit. But as we got better at making the tomato look like the perfect tomato by hiding the blemishes and shining it up, we decided to see if we could make it the biggest tomato as well.

So in came little Addison and his small hands  - and suddenly, my Dad’s first pick of the season looked like the size of pumpkin and was perfect in all aspects.

But it just looks perfect folks. Trust me (sorry Dad!) there were loads of dings that you are hidden and well, if it WAS that big, I would be on the horn to Guinness World Book instead of writing this post.

And it occurred to me that it is important to remind people that this tomato is a good lesson in perspective.  

And reminding yourself that what you see isn’t necessarily what reality is.


That parent who has perfect children? No they don’t – they just know how to behave better in public.

Dang – their house is always clean. No it isn’t – everyone has a junk drawer and we all know it.

Your business is floundering while your competitors is flying. Nope – everyone has peaks and troughs….they just show you the peaks.

Her ass looks so much better than mine!  One word – Spanx.

You can let that distorted vision of perfection make you feel less….well, just less.

Be vulnerable and truthful enough to not be afraid to show the imperfection in your life.

It will make you feel more human and real.

And stronger.

Here’s to imperfect tomatoes!



It’s all about the number of heartbeats…

son_number_oneIn amongst the preparation for our trip back to the mother land, son number one, who is 15, is making a quick trip to Germany for work study.

I dropped him off early Sunday morning, the first light rain in what seems like ages, misting the windshield as we drove to the airport. Everything about the morning was telling me to  go  slow and be present – this was his first trip on his own and my first of letting him go.

I also had to be conscience in not taking the lead  - it was, after all, his trip. So I explained the importance of checking the flight board and then let him stretch his wings.

And then we were at that moment where we were stood by the mouth of security and he wanted to go and I couldn’t think of any more words of wisdom to impart to him. And in typical man/boy fashion, he turned and started to walk towards the security gate….I had to call him back for a hug and a kiss. He laughed at his mistake, bent down and gave me one of each.

And then as he strolled down in to the sea of people, my tears came out of nowhere. The kind and volume where the security lady looked at me, smiled and said “he will be alright”.

The assurances that he would be “alright” wasn’t really the reason for my tears (okay – maybe just a few!) it was about the fact that I get a reminder every once in a while, that life is a finite amount of heartbeats. Nobody knows how many but you will have some – hopefully many. But watching son number one stroll away made me realise just how many heartbeats had passed since he first came in to my life and how quickly they grow up and leave.

Enjoy this summer with your family and friends – be present as much as possible.

Take that time to remind yourself about the number of heartbeats….and make sure you spend them making memories…




Travel tips for the nosey: what is inside my travel bag

Two weeks from today and I will be clutching my passport with almost youthful glee at that thought of getting on Mr British and Mrs Airways for our early afternoon flight to Boston. I have been doing this journey for over 21 years now and I still get that “clappinghandsaren’tweexcited” feeling about this time in the pre-trip run up. Our dinner conversations are now wrapped around swimming holes the kids want to invade, shopping that they want to do (they love Target-how high class!), people and family we are going to reconnect with and the easy comfort that going home brings me.

Having done this journey so many times, I thought I would share with you what goes in my bag when I get on the plane and also a few things not in my bag but worth knowing about (seriously, some of these are lifesavers!):

Tech, smells and meds for easy travel

Tech, gear and app stuff  (because we all use our phones as our third arm):


: fully charged iPhone with earphones.  I also have a real good sweep on my phone of all the apps I don’t need (delete!) or need upgrading (upgrade!) to free any memory that I might need for later.

: I have discovered that my iPhone seems to practically sprint through its battery life compared to when I first got it. I thought at first it was the battery just giving up the ghost but then I did a bit of research and it is do with with all the stuff that is going on in the background while your phone is just sitting there.  You don’t always need these things to be running so you need to shut them down – here is a list of what you can shut down and how (and you can use this list even if you aren’t travelling to get the most out of your phone).

: it goes without saying, if you are travelling anywhere outside of the UK, check your data and roaming charges for your phone.  Here is the master Martin Lewis and his input on how to make sure you get the right package for where you are travelling and what your usage is.  Me? I know that in the States free WiFi is everywhere so I plan to just ride on the back of that as much as possible and there are websites that show you where the wireless spots are to help you plan your data usage around that. It involves a bit of discipline in NOT checking my phone all the time but I am on holiday so I just switch gears and use my phone as a camera and not a distraction.

Potions. Lotions and Meds

: a spritzer water bottle (regulation size!) of water with a bit of rose water, bergamot and ylang ylang (thanks Sue Lacey for introducing me to these luscious smells!). I use it to keep my face from drying up like a prune when in mid air (someone mentioned forgoing alcohol mid flight to keep your moisture levels up – I would rather use my spritzer thank you…) plus the smell is lovely (mine are from  Neals Yard in case you are wondering).

:Vaseline as you can use it for dry lips, dry bits and everything in between.

: aspirin or ibuprofen – ever been somewhere with a headache (or a neck ache from the oh-so-comfortable seats in cattle class) and no pain relief at hand? Not nice so get the pain relief (only a few pills are needed for keeping your bag from getting overfilled) and be smug in your preparation.

:anti sick meds for my kiddos…no need to explain that one!

:toothpaste – I am a stickler for dirty teeth and stale breath so I pack a regulation size tube of toothpaste. If space allows – a toothbrush as well – but if not, a finger will do (come on, it reminds you of it what as like to have a night out at a place other than home where you got up, fixed your hair, gargled with toothpaste and walked out like you didn’t care!).

Comfort things

:spare pare of ped socks as I hate cold feet in flight

:a Pashmina given to me many moons ago  - it is a great blanket, light-blocker-outer and even classes up my in flight outfit.

:my latest crochet project

:a small paper notebook (this one is from the Lyndsey James photo workshop I took last Autumn) for taking down ideas of moments of inspiration. And my Bic pen of choice for flights.

: my Kindle fully charged and downloaded with some holiday  literary goodness.

Hope that helps those of you going on your travels this summer…..if you want to post any travel hints that have been helpful to you, feel free! signature

Who wants to join me this summer in my travels to Vermont?

I am not sure if it is the warm summer nights, driving with the windows wide open on a dirt road or the abundance of lakes and rivers to cool off in. And then a stroll down main street for an ice cream (yes, that really is the High Street of Bristol – the town I am from).

Sierra Exif JPEG

Or the State and County Fairs that celebrate things like the largest ear of corn. Or the most prefect zucchini (go on – ask me what a zucchini is!).


Or my favourite bakery and cafe…ever.


Or the craft beer on tap at our local bar (and the fact it is called a bar not a pub!).


Or the fact that I get to spend time with the people who know me the best and have loved me the longest…on the most beautiful porch overlooking the most bluest of lakes.


Or the fact that I am taking my camera with me to document my time away in such a beautiful place.



But going home makes me excited in a way that is too hard to describe….in words anyway.

In exactly one month from today, I will be boarding a flight with all of my family in tow to spend some much needed time back in Vermont – the place I still consider home even after having lived away for over 20 years.

And I don’t think it is any coincidence that the same day I was thinking about writing this post, in my FB feed this popped up:

Vermont is the best state in America


So I have decided – that as my confidence in taking photos as well as video’s have grown – I would like to share with you the most beautiful state in America with you as well.

So starting on the 24th of July, when I dust off my passport and try to remember to drive on the other side of the road,  you can join me too in my trip back to Vermont – albeit digitally – by following me on my travels via the blog as well as Facebook and Instagram. I will post when the mood strikes me so don’t make me commit to a publishing schedule but I promise to try and do it as often as I can.

Looking forward to sharing some of the magic with you!


PS – We have the core of our workshops for the Autumn up on our workshop listing – we have more being added over the next month so keep an eye out for announcements.

Want to be a better dressmaker? Here are my 3 go-to hints that work!

I have just had two weeks of solid sewing and dressmaking workshops. Like as in living, breathing, cutting, and sewing.  Wash, rinse and repeat.

As we near the end of our workshop, and their garment has taken shape – the one question that always comes up is “can you suggest another pattern for me to try”.

Success is all about the pattern that you chose!

So instead of sharing my words of wisdom (feel free to insert a laugh here!) with a chosen few, I thought it would be worth a short blog post. Sit up straight, dust off your lap and prepare to take notes:

Tip Number One:  Do your homework!  Chances are you are looking for a pattern on-line (the days of having a store that had all the pattern catalogues are long gone…plus they tend to only carry the top 4 pattern makers which I can’t say I find the most inspirational..).  Unless it specifically says ‘for beginners” or “easy” it can be a bit of judgement call (remind me to tell you the time when I had a private booking of  beginner sewers who wanted to make a vintage ball gown – true story!). So if you see one that takes your fancy, take the pattern manufacturer and the number (so in this case it is a Simplicity 2305) and I just google it with the word “review beginner” added to the search.

back_of _pattern_ImageChances are someone will have posted images of the pattern, and you can see their write up on whether it was suitable or not. If you struggle to find a review, you can either be a trailblazer, make the pattern and write a review….or you might want to give it a miss.

Tip Number Two: There is a great website originating from the States called Sewing Pattern Review -  and it does exactly what it says on the tin  - people submit their own reviews (with photos) of patterns they gave sewn.  They review a wider section of patterns – both independent and mainstream – and it is from the horses mouth as such. They also give you good hints like if the fabric suggested for the pattern is really what is best and if there is an error in the pattern. Saves you a bit of the hard work!



And Tip number three: If you have tried to get a skinny on your pattern via the two tips above and still now joy – I tell beginner sewers to look at the images on the back of the pattern and if your garment looks like it has a lot of detail (you can see this better without the distraction of the image of the fabric on it), or you can see that it requires alot of piecing, you may want to think again.

And look at what they suggest you use for fabric (my guide for any one that wants to know more about the fabric they might want to use  - get it here) – there are certain fabrics I think anyone just new to sewing should avoid – anything super slippery and silk.



The Zen of Dressmaking – or how to stay in the moment when you are sewing

Last night while I was finishing off the last in the series of Dressmaking Isn’t Rocket Science workshops, I started out the session by talking about my more modern take on sewing and how to enjoy it.

I shall go backwards in this tale to go forwards.

I had a call earlier in the day from a lady who was asking my about private tuition.  I asked her what in particular she was interested in achieving if we did a session together and she said that she just wanted to get better at certain things – like invisible zippers. I asked her what specifically she meant and she said “well. for starters it isn’t invisible – I can still see it!” and we laughed.  She said she had put in two. maybe three of these and in her own words, she was getting better but you could still see the zipper. She said “When I look at the ones in the store, they are perfect”.

I had to stop her in mid sentence (politely of course)!.

I told her that the ones she looks at in the store are are made in a factory where one persons job will be to put in hundreds, maybe even thousands – of these zippers in a week.  They have to be perfect to keep their job! They don’t have much joy in doing what they do – it is just a job. A means to an end.

Here is a video that helps you see a bit about what making a pair of jeans in a factory is about   – take a look at the size of the washer!

The Making of WeSC Denim from WeSC on Vimeo.

What I really wanted to tell her but was afraid it would sound a bit to “woo woo” is that enjoying the process of dressmaking helps you get in a zen frame of mind about perfectionism. And this is what I started out last night by telling the ladies.

We have the choice to be joyful when we sew. We can stop, look at the beauty in the thing we are making, at our own pace and with our own taste.  Stand back and take a look at the table that has all the pattern pieces laid out and enjoy the view.  When you get your fabric out, really look at the beauty in the pattern you have choosen- I bet you when you really look at the warp and weft of the thread, you will see a pattern within a pattern. It becomes almost fractal in the way it looks.  

And as you start to piece it together, just enjoy the “piecing” process. I told the ladies last night it is almost like watching a puzzle come together – you piece it together in a  smaller bit and they become a larger bit…and the puzzle starts taking shape.

But most of all, don’t worry if it isn’t perfect when you finish. Each pattern you do is one step closer to a better version of the one before….

Zenfully yours!


This is why I don’t plan my blogging in advance…


blogging_by_the_seat_of_your_pantsYears ago, when I first started blogging, it was about sharing.  About taking an experience that you wanted others to know about and taking the time to write about it. In my mind, it was about letting you know that you were part of this collective thing we call life.  And that part of me that likes to connect with people, with life and its experiences, even if the blog was about Make and Do, really liked that.

But as time has passed, blogging from the seat of a small business became about your ranking on the internet (amongst a whole load of other things), publishing schedules and writing for your business. The spontaneity and pure joy of writing got watered down for the material gain of a digital one-up-manship. Blechh.

I made the decision that I wasn’t going to write to any schedule, other than the rhythms of my own life. It allows me to enjoy the process and hopefully, write from a place that is real and intentional.

And today is a good example of why this approach to writing works just fine for me.

I woke up early. Silly early.  Like 5:00 am.  And when I looked out my window at the very weak sun muscling its way through my glass, the green from the willow tree in my front yard literally made me pull my neck towards it to see the intensity of its beauty. In just one week they had turned from mud like clumps hanging off the end of the branches to green diamonds winking at me at this insane hour.

And I was overwhelmed with the feeling that Spring always brings – about regeneration, the chance to start all over again, a clean slate. Each year, without a doubt, it reminds me of the bigger picture.

Part of the joy of doing what I do is that while involved in workshops, people’s lips tend to loosen and you hear about the trials and tribulations of what they are experiencing. Ageing parents, babies not yet conceived but much longed for, unsuccessful marriages, financial woes, unbending partners – there is very few things that have not been discussed in the four walls of the Studio. You can see the pain that some people bring to the studio like the first opaque layers of onion skin – there but not there.

And when I see a morning like this, I want to write to remind folks that sometimes, the ebb and flow of the seasons is also a way of telling us that life is always moving underfoot and taking time to see how it shifts will remind you that everything changes. Good and bad. Ying and yang.  The bigger picture. The human side.

And if I had been busy writing my pre-planned blog post, I would have never noticed the tree in my front yard. And yes, the blog post might have helped my ranking and maybe meant that more folks would have seen the business side of what we do.

But I would rather they see the human side.




Is sewing in the genes? Maybe you need to ask my daughter….

I cannot believe it has been a month since I last wrote my blog post about my two vintage weddings – I wish someone would grant me the wish to slow down time as it passes at such a rate as I am getting older, it scares me. And as my older two children go back and forth between my home and their Dad’s (husband number one for those who have read my previous post)- when they come back after an extended stay at his house,  I have to hold back my urge to cry just a little at how much they have changed in just a short amount of time.

I notice the passing of time most when I have that rare moment to just watch my children (as opposed to correcting, yelling or just being a bossy mother). My son who is now 15 has a girlfriend and spends most of his time in his newly forming social circle.  He still loves me but I can see that his needs from me as his mother are changing. And I am okay with that.

However, my daughter Sydney who is 13, still wants very much to have me around. She is both independent, sweet and needy at the same time. She often mills around in the background of the Studio while I am doing something Studio related….she tells me about her day and often asks about what I am doing. On many occasions, I have asked her if she wanted to join me when I was sewing and she usually looked bored and said no.

But this last week, she asked me if we could sew together and not only did she ask but she had a project that she has seen and wanted to do for her trip away with her Dad the following week.  It does make me laugh as she has no fears about sewing – no preconceived inabilities that adults come to the Studio burdened with – so even though she hadn’t been in front of a machine in ages, off we went. Here is the bag she wanted to make (no, not the one she made…this is what they call the teaser!). Prepared to be impressed:

Sydney's first sewing project

Sydney’s first sewing project

So off we went  - she could chose any fabric(s) she wanted and was in charge of tracing the pattern from the original, laying it out and cutting the various pieces which she did quite happily (these are the bits that I don’t like doing so it was quite a nice fit!).

And after three plus hours and a few cross words (she thinks I don’t pin enough!) this is what her bag looked like – she even took all the photos as she was so happy with it (it was her idea to fill it with some of her products in one of the photos which made me laugh as that is so her if you knew her). Her photos really impressed me as well – maybe she has not only my sewing gene but my curiosity about the camera as well?.


We didn’t have webbing for the handles (which was quite expensive) so I showed Sydney how to make her own….

And yes - it has a dreaded zipper!

And yes – it has a dreaded zipper!


This gives you an idea of scale.

This gives you an idea of scale.

Have a wonderful Easter! Make sure you take some time just to watch your children….



Two weddings, two husbands but both weddings were vintage


My first wedding was almost 17 years ago, in my parents beautiful wooden barn in Vermont on a hot day in July, back when the word “vintage” didn’t really apply to a wedding theme. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say, that DIY weddings were pretty rare.But I knew that I really wanted a wedding that was about me, my family and the beautiful part of the world I grew up in (and still think of as home) – Vermont.

So we set about using what we had on hand – my parents barn, my mothers wedding dress -

My Mum's wedding dress, quite a few years later...

My Mum’s wedding dress, quite a few years later…

(once we managed to get the 1950′s pointy-ness out of the boobs), flowers from the surrounding gardens (sunflowers in majestic full bloom), my sisters cake making skills and my Dad’s all around DIY craftiness – we created what to this day, was an absolutely gorgeous occasion.  I still have people that came that day tell me what a great day it was.

But with the greatest will in the world, this marriage wasn’t meant to be a keeper. So we divorced, I packed up my memories from my lovely first wedding and set about putting together a new life.

And then ten years later, I got the chance to do it all again.  I met my then boyfriend, who had convinced me, after years of dancing around the subject, that we should get married and he was ready to become my husband, version 2.0 (better and without all the bugs!).

And even though it was a different marriage and an entirely different set of expectations, I still wanted it to be about me, us and our three children. So this time, we had the ceremony in our neighbours garden and the party in ours….we made more bunting than I even thought any one singular event would require, got my Mom and Dad busy with erecting rain and sun shades (this is England after all!), my sister again came up trumps and made a croque-en-bouche which we were still eating days later.  And again, my vintage wedding number two was beautiful.

I think the singular, ultimate, intimate thing you can do on your wedding day is to at some small level, impart your own special uniqueness on the day. This is why I was so pleased when I was asked to be part of the Secret Vintage Wedding Fairtaking place the 23rd of March at a soon to be revealed location. I love the idea of the non-cookie cutter wedding that your passions are reflected in…and if you can make it about what you love (with the one you love!), then even better.

We will be there as well with our pop up crafting workshops - you can have a go at making bunting or paper pom poms.

If you can come along – please pop by and say hello!