Hipster Shopper

I’ve been a lazy blogger lately. I’m *never* lazy when it comes to crafts though 😉 so I actually have many new things to show off on here that I made over the past months. I thought I’d begin with a specimen I decided to call Hipster Shopper, mostly because it’s vaguely inspired by the hipster fashion I see a lot where I live.

The silver plastic-y fabric is from my trip to Walthamstow Market and the lining from one of the amazing African fabric shops near Petticoat Lane (which I hope to write more about soon – they’re incredible). You better get used to the blue and red pattern – I got more than 5 metres of this fabric which means that it will probably end up as a dress, skirt and potentially a jumpsuit (I got ambitious plans!) once I start sewing for the summer again.

I have a very particular taste in bags and the great thing about making your own is that you can let your imagination run wild and include all the extra details and pockets you want. This one was modelled on an old ‘work’ bag of mine that served for many years, schlepping about my laptop, lunch-box and books until it eventually broke apart. In the silver version, I added a few extra centimetres at the top, so it easily fits both my laptop, my chunky dslr camera, and a lot of other stuff. It has an inside pocket that is essentially hidden thanks to an invisible zip, as well as two open pockets for phone, pens etc.

I made the bag early in the summer and it came in handy on several holiday trips. It is the perfect size for a carry-on on flights and, as you can see in the pictures, has already travelled widely.

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Here it is, enjoying the Lisbon sunset.

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Walthamstow Market

Every UK-based sewer and sewing blogger has been to Walthamstow Fabric Market. Every single one of them! So last week, my sewing-buddy Red and I made the trip out to E17… and we were not disappointed.

To sum up the experience in one picture:

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This is all the fabric I picked up on the day. Guess how much I spent? Just over £30!!! And this includes a number of zippers, threads and trimmings that are not in the picture…

The fabric shops in Walthamstow are really miraculously cheap. Most fabrics are £1 per metre, some £2, but I also picked up a couple for 50p. Whereas you can expect to pay at least £2 for a basic zipper in John Lewis, there they cost 20 to 50p (£1,50 for the really long, divisible ones which would easily be a tenner elsewhere). In return, you can’t expect the fabric to be of great quality or to able to find specifically what you’re looking for. The selection is pretty random, so it’s rather an opportunity to pick up unfamiliar or unusual types of fabric and think of something exciting to make with it. For example, I ended up with 2,5 metres of a skin-coloured stretchy fabric which will become who knows what…
As there are so many great descriptions and reviews of the market on other blogs (let me refer you to this, this, and this), I’m not going to bore you with another one, but just add a few things I learned on the day which might be helpful for future visitors:

  • The best idea is to start near St James Street Station as the concentration (and quality) of fabric shops and Haberdasheries is highest at this end of the market. St James Street Station can also be conveniently reached on the Overground from East London. If you’re coming from elsewhere, Blackhorse Road station is only a 10 minute walk away and the Victoria Line (as well as other branches of the Overground) go there. You can then work your way down the market and head home from Walthamstow Central :).
  • I’m not sure if the famed ‘man outside Sainsbury’s’, praised by many of the other bloggers, is still there. I didn’t see him. Perhaps he’s only there on certain days? If someone knows anything about this, please feel free to leave a comment. I went on a Thursday and there weren’t many fabric stalls in the market in general and we made all our purchases in the permanent shops. I remember one blogger saying that Saturday is the best day to visit the market, so perhaps I’ll try going on that day next time (though I imagine it probably also gets incredibly busy then)
  • It might be helpful to know that there is one fabric shop that is slightly more ‘up-market’ than the others: Saaed’s Fabrics. It’s still extremely cheap by wider UK standards, but fabrics there cost up to £15, there is a wider selection and the staff are also more knowledgeable than in most of the other shops (I usually received rather vague answers when I wanted to know more about the fabric I was looking at)

All in all, I’d say that Walthamstow Market is definitely worth a visit and especially thrifty sewers are guaranteed to have a great time shopping there. Once I’ve worked through he stash I picked up this time (or probably much earlier…), I’ll be back!

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Red, with some of her buys, about to go into another haberdashery…

Summer Crochet Bag

Summer has arrived! Inspired by the lovely weather this week, I made this summery crochet bag. All the materials were leftovers or random things I had lying round the house and it barely took me two nights to make it – quick and inexpensive projects are just my favourite :)! I’m relatively new to crochet and this was a chance to experiment with different stitches. To make the bottom part, I started to crochet a circle, using a single crochet stitch and two stands of ribbon yarn, a dark orange and a slightly wider light orange. The combination of this rather tight stitch and the two different yarns allowed this part of the bag to become quite firm so that it can ‘stand up’. In the middle, I continued with two strands of the thinner dark orange yarn and switched to the woven stitch, which is nice and easy but looks quite pretty, I think. For the final top section, I used only one strand of the dark orange and switched back to single crochet stitches. I also decreased by two stitches on opposite ends. I happened to have a perfectly matching orange zipper in my stash and the strap is just an old belt. Voilà!

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Flower Power Dress

Last weekend’s creation. I don’t have much to say about it other than I think it’s pretty awesome! I bought the fabric in Britex Fabrics in San Francisco which is one of the most impressive fabric shops I’ve ever been to – it stretches over five floors (…and one of them is dedicated entirely to remnants). Turns out the amazing fabric design is by the Brooklyn-based designer Alice Kennedy – I’ll certainly be looking out for her prints in the future. The dress pattern is from a random sewing magazine from the early 2000s – I wanted a relatively simple cut in order to keep the focus on the fabric.

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While we’re at it – here’s the cotton jumper I knitted a few weeks ago. Thanks to Josh for the photos 🙂

Natalie’s Skirt

My friend Natalie shares my love of colourful floating skirts and always compliments me on my home made creations. So for her Birthday this year, I decided to finally make her her own exclusive item ;)! We spent a delightful afternoon fabric shopping together and eventually settled on a beautiful cotton from John Lewis.

Sewing for someone else was a new experience for me. Thankfully, for a ‘circle’ style skirt, all one needs to get the fit right is a waist measurement and an approximate length. Natalie’s skirt has an invisible zip that can be worn either at the back or on the side. I also decided to surprise her by using the leftover bits of fabric to make a little matching bag.

I think she looks lovely in it!

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Watermelon Skirt

This weekend I turned another of the wonderful patterned fabrics I brought back from California into a 1950s style summer skirt. It sits on the waist, has an invisible zip at the back and pockets with bright green lining in the side seams. Now I’m just hoping for the right weather to wear it soon…

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The pocket

Update: look what I found… http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/gallery/2015/may/19/tutti-frutti-10-of-the-best-watermelon-prints-in-pictures

Update No. 2: Maybe I should attempt to make something like this next?!

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Baby “Owl” Jumper

I’m SO in love with this baby jumper! A friend recently drew my attention to the amazing patterns by Kate Davies (her ravelry shop is here). The owl jumper seemed the perfect 1st Birthday gift for a little friend of mine and it was lots of fun to knit it, taking only about three days to complete (thankfully my new sewing machine has a button sewing foot — sewing on 32 tiny buttons by hand would have probably driven me mad!). The little girl luckily seemed to love the jumper as much as her Mum and everyone else I’ve shown it to – it really is the cutest thing. I’m quite tempted to make one for myself next!

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This is what the adult version is supposed to look like.

New Sewing Machine & Weekend Sewing

I finally treated myself to a new sewing machine! The Janome Sewist 525S came highly recommended because it’s allegedly “impossible to break” and also exceptionally quiet – the latter is the reason it was the main machine used on the TV show The Great British Sewing Bee. I bought it from “Sew Amazing”, an excellent little shop on East London’s Roman Road. It’s a family business that has existed since the 1950s and the owners really know a thing or two about sewing machines (in addition to selling and servicing both new and second hand sewing machines, they also sell knitting and sewing supplies at strikingly cheap prices!). When I picked up my new machine they showed me how to use some of its specialist features like the one-step button hole which my previous machine didn’t have, and so I was ready for a weekend of sewing!

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The machine is really a joy to use. It sews incredibly smoothly and I already managed to try out some of its more advanced features as (unlike many machines) it comes with an excellent instructions books.

The first thing I made with it was this apron-style summer dress from a fabric I picked up in California over Christmas. It has a lined top, buttons all the way down the front and pockets in the side seams. A little thrifty confession: the lining and the buttons came from an old man’s shirt – it provided exactly the amount of fabric I needed 🙂

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Josh’s “Map” Satchel

This is certainly one of my proudest creations! After I’d made the ‘Map’ backpack, my husband Josh asked if I could make him a work bag out of a similar fabric. It took weeks of research and planning, since I didn’t have a pattern to follow and had to make it all up myself, but in the end we were both very pleased with the result! Thanks to this project, I also discovered London Trimmings, which sells a huge variety of metal buckles, fastenings, zips, webbing and whatever else you might need to create your perfect bag…

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King’s College Chapel

About two years ago, I took an entire week off writing my PhD to… knit my college! I wanted to make it to scale and it ended up being much larger than originally intended. It won a prize in the King’s Rylands Art Competition that year, was infested with moths while being exhibited in college (a typical King’s experience in many ways…) and, having been successfully treated by pest control, now adorns our living room. The other day, I took it for a photo shoot in the park.DSC_016320130808_Kings_College_Chapel_01DSC_0166

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