Thursday, 31 March 2011

A bit of dressmaking in the offing...

Many years ago, I used to make most of my own clothes.  But marriage and motherhood, combined with the closure of all the decent fabric shops I knew, knocked that out of me and I don't think I've made anything for myself since my wedding dress.

I have done odd bits of dressmaking since then - mostly bridesmaids outfits for  friend's weddings, nightdresses for Miss U-t-B and some of her friends, and a couple that I'd like to think are heirlooms of sorts, namely a christening robe (from the remnants of my wedding dress) and this...

Miss U-t-B's First Holy Communion dress, which was in the wardrobe that got dismantled to make way for shelves I put up the day before yesterday.  I loved making this!

 Cotton organdy oven cotton pique, with tiny daisy trim.

French seams and tiny button loops (yes!  I did turn those!) with pearly buttons down the back.

And a big bow at the back!
She did look lovely in it!

It has to be said that it turned out that cotton organdy is not very comfy to wear, and though it looks lovely when newly pressed and on a hanger, about one nano-second after putting it on, the dress comes to look like a piece of mad origami - not quite the look we had imagined!

Anyway, I digress...
As I was saying, dressmaking has not been a big part of my life these last twenty years or so.

But a fellow blogger's posts a few months back about her stylish creations got me inspired to have a go again.  Finally, on Sunday, I googled 'dressmaking patterns' and stumbled on Jaycotts, an online shop where you can peruse dressmaking patterns from Butterick, McCalls, Vogue, Simplicity, Burda and New Look, amongst other sewing paraphernalia.

The first thing in my virtual basket was this...

McCalls 5431
I thought of getting this pattern last summer, when some fabric I'd bought on ebay arrived looking perfect for a Boden-style skirt, but never got round to it!  I just need to find some fabric for the contrasting band and I'll be off on this one!

Then I noticed that all Simplicity patterns were 50% off!
So into the basket went this one...

Simplicity 2322
...and this one...

Simplicity 2696
And then, with the new babies in the family in mind...

Simplicity 2625

Simplicity 2392
All the images are from a brilliant website I have discovered - 
It allows you to read reviews and see photos of the items made by others from a given pattern.  Very useful and well-worth a visit if you fancy a bit of dressmaking but are uncertain about which pattern to choose.

The patterns arrived on Tuesday - good service that - so now I've been spending odd 

moments browsing online fabric shops such as 'Favourite Fabrics' on ebay (who I have 

bought from several times before) and Shaukat

 who have a vast and tempting range of Liberty 

fabrics at reduced prices (but who I haven't used before).

(Sorry - spacing's gone all peculiar!) 

Oh!  Decisions, decisions!

And thanks to the blogger who inspired me to get back in the dressmaking saddle, so to speak!  

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Drum roll please!

Well, finally, the bathroom-across-the-road is (to all intents and purposes) finished! I can hardly believe it!

When you walked in before, there was a 'champagne' coloured basin and a radiator on your left...

...and the bath right in front of you, so you had to edge round the door, closing it as you went, to reach the loo, which was behind the door.  The bath was underneath the window, so showers wet the woodwork all the time.  At the other end of the bath was a wasted space - I can't imagine why it was designed this way.  To add insult to injury, the previous resident had decided to paint the tiles and it was all peeling off. Grim, it was!

But now...Ta-Dah!

As you go in the bath is on your left, taking up the whole width - no useless wasted space.  There is an empty area in front of you - you don't have to shuffle round the door any more.  The radiator needs to be put back next to the bath - the plumbing is all there but we need to get a new radiator.

To the right, under the window, is the basin and a nice big cabinet, and the loo is where it was, to the right of the shot.  The only 'problem' is that with all that light falling on the mirrored doors of the cabinet, I was able to see the ravages of time on my face (and in my hair!) in rather too much detail!  But as it isn't my bathroom, I won't worry about that!

So now we have been turning our thoughts towards our own house.  If you are reading this, you may well have seen the daybed yesterday...

The more observant amongst you will have spotted the awkwardly placed shelves at the right, perfectly positioned for bumped heads!

Well do not worry, dear readers!  For last night, I armed myself with one of these...

...some of these...

...and some of these...

...and, whilst Mr U-t-B lay on the daybed, chortling away, I did this...

That's the shelves, in a new position!  Solid and level too! My first ever attempt!

It has to be said that this was done out of impatience really, as poor 
Mr U-t-B has a very bad back at the moment, and so I either had to wait till he's better or get on with it whilst he gave advice from the daybed!

Then in place of the shelves...

 ...a mirror to brighten this darkish corner.

And then a little rack to hang things on...

Both the shelves and the pegs need painting but I was on fire by now - this had to be done!  Sorry about the fuzzy photo - Mr U-t-B and I were having a jolly good laugh about all this.

Then some tidying...

Hmm...just need somewhere to put my sewing machine now. And maybe somewhere for the cutting mat?  We have lots of wood (all of it salvaged), but I don't think I'm quite up to the next stage myself! 

Patience is a virtue, they say,  Though impatience gets you new skills!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


We have a new day bed in our spare room!  It's a well-known model from the flat-pack champions, Ikea. 

Image courtesy of

We treated ourselves to it with the vouchers we got for buying the kitchen-across-the-road from them, because with the room only having a single bed, it was impossible to comfortably accommodate multiple visitors.  Or, as Miss U-t-B would say, teenage sleepovers. 

This day bed has a truckle that rolls out, turning it into a decent-sized double bed.  But to make it comfortable for lounging on, it needs a mountain of cushions.  The ones that used to be on the bed in there (which had been masquerading as a day bed for a while) were trendy, modern ones - beige faux suede with stitched circles and 'shag pile' ones in cream.  Not quite my style, but purchased when one or other of the older girls was resident in there!  So time for some new covers!  

    So Sunday morning saw me gathering piles of favourite fabrics.
I was seeing this as an opportunity to make sure I held onto at least some bits of the fabrics I love the best. 

I ended up with the dining room table covered with a mixture of mostly vintage florals...

... a couple of monograms, some gingham and Vichy check...

...and some ticking (mostly modern).

 Then I played around to find pleasing combinations.

 Vintage ticking bought at 'VIntage at the Village', monogrammed napkin from a vide-grenier,  modern Scandinavian-style print bought on ebay a long time ago.

The polka dots and posies fabric is a Sandersons piece.  I would love to find more of this because it is sooo lovely!  The white floral was a charity shop find, and the monogram came in a bundle of fabrics from ebay.  It's got a couple of holes, but I've reinforced it from the back with some Bondaweb and another piece of fabric.  Anyway, it's for us rather than to sell.

More 'Vintage at the Village' buys - next sale Monday 9th May, Pamphill, Dorset!  Can't wait!

Blue floral and white - fresh and clean!

Vichy check, old linen tea towel from a vide-grenier and some fabric bought at the 'Vintage and Handmade Fair' in Chipping Sodbury some time ago.  I never seem to be able to make it, but the next sale is on Saturday 9th April, and I think I'm free that day!


Some pinking, piecing and pressing ensued, followed by a brief but ultimately successful skirmish with the buttonhole programme on my sewing machine and then...

The 'Keep Calm' ('And carry on sewing!') one was from a while back.

The PM one is my favourite!  
Our daughter's classmates have decided that she is going to be Prime Minister one day (am not sure what this says...) so I may have to keep this for her then.  (I wouldn't wish that job on anyone!)

A couple of reverse views - I was pleased to be able to include the edging that was on the Vichy check, and to use the crochet lace panels from a tatty tablecloth.

The rest of the room is a work in progress, but at least the daybed is beginning to look more like I want it.  More revelations soon!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Bogged Down

The title is a pathetic attempt at a pun, given that we are STILL working on the bathroom across the road, and it is one of the many reasons I haven't been sitting down and blogging much lately.  It is so nearly there now - but not quite ready for the statutory 'Ta-dah!' moment of Blogland.

First of all I'd like to welcome new readers! I am really pleased to have several new followers over the last week or so and have really enjoyed reading lots of comments recently.  New followers and commenters mean new blogs discovered!  I so enjoy my daily catch-up with other people's blogs, which is getting longer day-by-day...

So what's been occuring at Used-to-Bees HQ?

Aside from work in the bathroom-from-hell, there's been a little trip to the local car boot, which produced this stamp album (for 50p!)...

Not many stamps, but I wanted it for the old maps inside, which will be appearing on fabric at a blog near you sometime soon (when I get round to ordering more ink for the printer).

There were two of these egg cups...

...which matched two I had already, which came from a charity shop.  All four have already been topped with an egg and bunny or hen cosy.

This brass pitcher, chosen by Mr U-t-B.  I love its shape.  And its aged patina.  Won't be ruining that with any polishing! ; )

And finally, a bit of 'King's Speech' memorabilia...

There was more sewing for Saturday's Spring Market.  Mostly little drawstring bags...

These were made from rescued traycloths, embroidered napkins and precious scraps of vintage feedsack and lined with other pretty fabrics - bits of old pillowcases, vintage remnants and some 1930s style reproductions.  I have finally come up with my best yet method for making them - will add this into my 'Makes' section soon, before I forget!  

I also came up with the 'brilliant' idea of buying some delightful old German lithograph eggs...

...and making little bunnies and bedding to put inside.  When Miss U-t-B was smaller she made a little bunny called Rabbit-y, and a bed for it in a tin, and loved to take it around with her.  So I thought my 'brilliant' egg idea would be a cute Easter pressie.

Well, that was before I spent an entire afternoon making this bunny.  
So maybe not such a brilliant idea!

I think I will call her 'Fleur'. She's made from some lovely fabric from 'Sal's Snippets'.  Small she may be, but even she has to curl her toes and ears slightly to fit inside the largest of the eggs I have, so I need to go smaller still!  Undeterred, I intend to have another go this afternoon - prototypes always take way longer than the next one along, so I am hoping the lessons learnt making Fleur will help me speed up!

Mr U-t-B and I have also been spring cleaning, or rather spring tidying, trying to reclaim our home from the chaos caused by nearly three months of neglect, whilst we worked on his daughter's flat.  He launched an assault on his tools (of which there are an enormous number), sorting them all into categorised boxes, and I tidied up my ribbon and lace hamper!  We dismantled an old divan bed that was in our spare bedroom and in true 'reduce, reuse, recycle' fashion, have kept some of the wood to help make new shelves to house my sewing stuff, which seems to have migrated to every corner of the house. Oops, sorry Mr U-t-B!

Anyway, there's a paintbrush with my name on it...time to crack on!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Remaking an old classic - good idea or not?

Listening to Chris Evans this morning, I learnt that there is to be a new series of three books based on Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, written by the brilliant Frank Cottrell Boyce.  

Straight away I was swept back through the decades, to my childhood.
I can't actually remember seeing the film at the cinema, though I'm fairly sure we did have a family outing to see it.  My memories may have been erased due to the trauma of the child-catcher scenes!

What I do remember are the two Chitty Chitty Bang Bang jigsaws which my Mum bought me to while away the time when I was stuck at home convalescing from one of the childhood illnesses we all had to suffer in those days.  I think it was mumps.  I have a brilliant couple of photos of me taken at this time looking rather like a hamster...

One of the jigsaws showed the car and Potts family, plus Truly Scrumptious of course, cut off by the tide.

Image courtesy of

Lots of devilishly difficult water to piece together!

The second showed Truly Scrumptious as a doll on a giant musical box.

Image courtesy of

The musical box and its reflection were a real challenge!

I loved those puzzles, maybe because I secretly wanted to be Jemima  Potts, what with living in a windmill, that amazing breakfast-making machine...

...and all those adventures in a pretty and pristine white dress, or maybe because I wanted to grow up to be Truly Scrumptious with that beautiful hat...

Image from

...and didn't her Dad own a sweet factory?

My brother had a very covetable Chitty Chitty Bang Bang model car, with pop-out wings and removeable figures, which I'd sometimes borrow.

So, fond childhood memories!  

The new trilogy features a modern family and a souped up VW Camper Van.  So it's a sequel rather than a remake, which I'm glad about.  There may be some things get better with repetition, but I can't help but think that any ideas about remaking such a classic film would be a mistake.  If a film has been a great success, let future generations enjoy the original with a re-release or DVD edition, not a remake.  I would hate to see the following tampered with...

It's a Wonderful Life
The Sound of Music
The Great Escape
Doctor Zhivago
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Gone with the Wind

What film would you hate to see re-made?