Sunday, 26 July 2015

Summer Sewing (And Other Activities)

It's always nice to indulge in a bit of sewing in the summer. Pretty cotton prints in summery colours. Nothing too big or that takes too long. Stitching in the garden, or inside while the summer sun streams through the open windows.

Very satisfying and soul-lifting. Even better if you have a friend to share it with too.

So, in the last few busy weeks, there has been a bit of the above.

A summer blouse - Butterick B5711 - charmingly old-fashioned in style with a little round collar and short, slightly puffed sleeves. Sadly, this pattern is discontinued now but you may be able to pick one up in a sewing shop which still has it in stock.

It's has a fitted shape and sits nicely on top of jeans or a denim skirt. I love the inexpensive but very pretty, flowery fabric I found for it, even though it took me by surprise and bled rather profusely on its prewash and dyed one of H's white T shirts a pretty, but distinctly unpopular, shell-pink colour. Oops! Nothing a good dose of bleach in a bucket of soaking water couldn't fix fortunately, or I would have been in the dog-house.

I don't make fitted clothing much - getting collars and sleeves to behave nicely and look "meant" is not always easy, I find. But this blouse appealed so much that I gave it a go and I am rather pleased with the results. I haven't worn it as much as I had hoped yet as (predictably) the English summer has been erratic in its presence recently.

My other recent sewing escapade was a joint one with my American friend Liz of Carolina Knits who, along with her husband, came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago. We popped into Oxford for a bit of sightseeing and to cover off some jet-lag-relieving punting on the river - thank you H and D for propelling all five of us, without mishap, up and down the Cherwell!

D has always loved punting and is very good at it, which is perhaps not surprising as Oxford is his hometown and he spent a good deal of his time growing up either on the Thames or on the Cherwell in one form of boat or another, but H has also taken to it, well, like a duck to water in recent years ...

... and it is not easy to wrest the pole off him to have a go oneself these days! Not that I mind personally - being punted along an Oxford river in the sunshine is one of life's great relaxations. Operating the punt-pole oneself is considerably harder work - harder than it looks and requires quite a deft hand and eye.

Anyway back to the sewing! Amongst our cultural and river-based activities, we made a quick detour to Oxford's delightful little haberdashery shop Darn It And Stitch for a couple of fat quarters apiece, to turn into homemade espadrilles.

This is a fun idea that I found while researching craft shops in Bath (where we also went for a little sightseeing). Bath is home to The Makery a wonderful emporium of fabric, sewing notions and inspiration.

The Makery has been having a series of summer espadrille sewing workshops and there's even a little video tutorial on YouTube that Kate has done for those who can't make it to a workshop but would like to have a go. You can find it here. We found it really clear and helpful.

You need a pair of espadrille soles in your size (either from The Makery here or John Lewis sell them too, here), a couple of fat quarters, and any other notions you want to use by way of embellishment as well as standard sewing equipment.

And ideally you want a friend to do it with because it's more fun like that!

The espadrille soles come with a pattern which you need to trace in the correct size, making sure you add on a seam allowance. Then you cut out your fabric pieces - we used contrasting fabrics for the top of the espadrilles and their backs and I used a third fabric for the lining.

You stitch the outer fabric and the lining pieces together on the sewing machine, clip the seams, turn and press them and then pin on to the soles and hand-stitch in place with blanket stitch.

It was a lot of fun!

You then persuade a couple of husbands quietly reclining in the garden and minding their own business over a glass of wine to get up again and take a few photos of you both and the finished espadrilles for posterity! Thank you D and D!

 It's a lovely project to mix prints and plains - the grey rain-drop pattern fabric and plain bright pink for contrast, that Liz chose, worked brilliantly.

Or you can use a pair of toning prints, perhaps with a plain lining, like I did: 

As you can see, I also included ballet-shoe-style ties on mine which I attached by simply adding a looped tab of fabric in the centre of the back of the shoe and threading some red twill tape through to tie up in a criss-cross style around the ankle. I like the effect of the ribbons and they also help the espadrilles to stay firmly on one's feet. 

I know, I know, these shoes look as if they aren't made for walking - just posing! But they're surprisingly comfortable and they're a lovely reminder of a happy summery week together. and once the sun returns, or if the sun returns, perhaps I should say, bearing in mind the appalling wind and rain and gloomy grey skies of the last few days, I shall be wearing mine a lot and hope Liz will be wearing hers too in North Carolina. 

Happy Summer Sewing, whatever the weather!

E x


  1. You two'. A pair of cuties paired with darling shoes made for an exciting summer post ful of color and fun. It looked like you had adventures out in the Engliish byways. A river adventure, too. What more could one ask for a bit of time away?

    Caroline and you will have your espadrilles to forever remember great times together back in that summer of 2015.

    So glad to hear of you after several weeks of missing your posts!

  2. Looks like you and your friend had a really fun time, those espadrilles are fantastic and you'll remember the fun you had every time you wear them. I hope the sun comes back soon for you. Hx

  3. Wow they are amazing, lovely lovely colourful shoes, looks like you had lots of fun, as for the Summer it all gone a bit wrong, if you find it send it my way, it's freezing here today.
    Clare x

  4. They are a real delight, reminding me of my youth when I used to wear them all the time. There is nothing like a craft project and someone to share it with.

  5. Oh my goodness the two of you look like you had the best time. Your shoes are a delight, great fabrics choosen by both of you. Love this happy post.

  6. What a fun visit and what fun shoes! Wish we could send you some of our sun! (just a little or the corn would be upset!)

  7. I envied your punting on the Cherwell - we haven't done it for a while and your photos made me long to go again. Amazing espadrilles too and I love the photos of you and your friend laughing as you happily sew. I haven't spotted The Makery in Bath - I'll have to have a hunt for it next time we go. Your garden looks great too. xx

  8. Dear Elizabeth, it is so nice to hear from you again. I always admire your sewing skills, the blouse looks lovely. And I guess you had a real good time with friends visiting. What a wonderful summer project sewing up some shoes. I had no idea that you could get the espandrilles soles somewhere to make your own. I will have a look for it, as well. The ones you made look so very pretty. I hope you have a nice summer. We are going to the Netherlands next week. Best wishes for you and a big hug, Viola

  9. Love your new top and the espadrilles are fantastic. I wonder do they do my size? I have very long but narrow feet so I'd probably need to do the ties like yours.

  10. What a wonderful time! I am sorry I haven't written anything to you beyond a quick text message. I slept and slept after our trip home, and am now working on a blog post now about our stay in Oxfordshire.

  11. Dear E - what delightful shoes!!! It looks like you had a wonderful weekend together and lots of laughs. I've got a sewing project in my basket that I plan to do this weekend. Am scared to death but hopefully will have something to blog about next week! Wish me luck!!!!

  12. Fantastic, I love your espadrilles!! How wonderful! The punting looks as though it was a lot of fun! xx

  13. Hello (me again) - I've just seen this post in another blog and thought of you instantly! I can just see you in this top.... Much love. x

  14. Well, I never realised you could make your own espadrilles. Definitely one to try, though I hope you get the weather to wear yours as it's more like October here at the moment.
    I rather like your workspace too.

  15. Excellent ! j'aime ces espadrilles ... je n'avais jamais pensé à les faire moi-même ! Merci ! et bon week end !

  16. Homemade espadrilles! It never struck me as an idea before! But the sewing onto the base must be hard? A lot of pushing through of needles? A real excuse to use a thimble again!

  17. It looks like you had a perfectly lovely time with your friend. I love the espadrilles you made!

  18. I am late reading this (the summer holidays got in the way). You and Liz look so very happy on your photos, it is a joy. My daughter made a skirt with the colourful drops material Liz chose for her espadrilles. Espadrilles always remind me of my younger self, carefree and full of spirits. x

  19. I am now left with a burning desire to 1. go punting and 2. make my own espadrilles. That looks like so much fun! I fancy doing some in denim. And how lovely to meet up with a friend from overseas and spend some quality crafting time together. x

  20. Hi,

    Really fun time for "Mrs Thomasina" with her incredible sewing creativity.


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