Time to move on

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Readers, friends, countrypersons, I have both sad and happy news today. (As you can see I am attempting to soften the blow with some really cute otters that I met on holiday).

As you may have noticed, I’ve been loosing my ScientistChic/What Elisabeth Said mojo recently. Not my blogging mojo – I still write copiously – but none of my brain blurb ever gets published because while the neurons are stillfiring in all directions at once, the willingness to photograph outfits is weak and disinterested.

I still love clothes, and I still savour and enjoy getting dressed in the morning. But the thought of writing one more post about something I bought is just not that appealing. I don’t find enough inspiration in fashion to be able to write about it in the way I used to or want to.

So I have decided the time is right to bring this blog to a close. It was a decision that I took along time to make, because even though fashion has lost its pizazz for me blogging definitely hasn’t. I won’t pretend it isn’t a sad moment, because ScientistChic changed my life in so many ways and all of them for the better. But the time has come to move on and give the old gal a dignified passing.

But (time for the good news), I have found a new mojo. Anyone who keeps up with my insta-antics will be aware that I am more than a little obsessed with sewing at the moment. Correction, I have been obsessed with sewing for my entire life, but in the last few months I have begun to focus my energies on some serious dressmaking. And oh my, am I as happy as a duck in a puddle. Every time I roll out a new piece of fabric and begin to snip I get such a tingle of excitement, every stitich is a new adventure.

So (I bet you can guess what is coming)… I have a brand new blog! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my new baby, Song of the Stitch. It’s up and running right this second, with some of my favourite blog posts from the final months of ScientistChic along with shiny new content all of its own! Please swing by for lots of sewing and crafty chatter, things what I made (both good and bad), and all delivered with my trademark helpings of irreverence and wit (ehem).

ScientistChic will continue to exist until 14th July 2014, while I make sure everything is backed up in triplicate. And from 15th July 2014 the url www.scientistchic.com will automatically redirect to my new site www.songofthestitch.com. For RSS subscribers I honestly don’t know what this will mean, so if you would like to keep up with my continued antics in stichy-land please update your reader with the new url! You can also keep in touch via the usual means – facebook, instagram, twitter – or drop me a line at lizzy@songofthestitch.com.

Thank you all for riding the ScientistChic/What Elisabeth Said train with me this far. Your support, comments, emails and general awesomeness have made this into such a rewarding, energizing experience for me, and I really hope that you will come and join the good ship Crazy Lady as I embark on a new heap of adventures.

See you on the other side!!!

Just sew stories

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Continuing the sewist theme of this week, today I wanted to share some of my favourite sewing (and one knitting!) books. When, like now, I have run out of decent lengths of fabric and payday is still a few days off, I love to delve through my stash of sewing books and start sketching ideas for the next month’s sew-nanigans. These are a mixture of new and old favourites for your delectation that inspire me, that I use all the time, and that I find enormously amusing!

 


Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes

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The sewing blogs have been buzzing with reviews and raves about this book, penned by Sewing Bee series one contestant and blogging sewist Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons. I love Tilly’s blog, but our personal styles are very different so I wasn’t sure whether to buy this book or not to begin with, thinking that I might not actually want to make any of the patterns. What won me over was the concept: teaching dressmaking techniques through a series of projects with increasing difficulty. My approach to dressmaking could easily be generously described as ‘making it up as I go along’ (and less generously as ‘slapdash’), so the idea of a sewing class in book form to help me formalise my skills was very appealing.

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When the book arrived I curled up in my (homemade) pyjamas and started reading. And around two hours later I realised that it was dark outside and I hadn’t eaten any dinner. No other sewing book has made me chuckle quite like this one, thanks largely to Tilly’s conversational and friendly writing style. And despite my initial scepticism, there is a lot of scope for making up Tilly’s patterns to suit my own style. Once payday rolls around (come on Friday) I will be stocking up on fabric to make a start!

 


How To Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns by Lea Hollahan

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This book was a recent impulse purchase. I went into Waterstones during a sunny day out in Chichester with Chris’s mum and Chris’s brother’s girlfriend, and we spent a happy hour or so browsing through a mountain of cookbooks. I went in planning to buy another book entirely that turned out to be quite disappointing in the flesh, but after foraging through the fashion and crafts section I emerged with this one. Thanks to this book I have not only drafted my own bodice blocks, but also used them to create my very own jacket pattern. I yearn to create my own patterns, and this book took all of the fear out of the drafting process. There are also detailed instructions on altering commercial patterns to get the perfect fit, and a technique that I am dying to try that involves using yarn to mark out designs on a dress form.

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Pattern Magic 2 by Tomoko Nakamichi

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This book, and its predecessor Pattern Magic take pride of place among my collection of Japanese pattern books. While not all of the patterns are what I would call ‘wearable’ necessarily (skirt with a crater in it anyone?), these books exemplify dressmaking as origami, engineering, and high concept art. One of my favourite sections of this book revolves around wearing different shapes – circle, triangle and square – and I have had endless fun creating a pattern for a ‘square’ jacket/pullover that I have now made up in navy blue neoprene. I am still adding the finishing touches but watch this space for the completed garment.

I would also recommend the Drape Drape series of books for fans of the Pattern Magic style. The garments are far more wearable, but still focus on the important details of the pattern and the behaviour of the fabric to engineer a fascinating garment.

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Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha

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Yet another Japanese book, and this one is far more typical of the genre, featuring gamine models in layers of simple linen garments who like leaning against walls and looking at their feet – no doubt where many fashion bloggers (guilty!) have taken posing advice from. But that said I really like the patterns in this book. They are simple, they are pretty modern, and the steps are easy to follow. Another benefit is that the sizing is pretty generous for a Japanese book. I say generous, I still have to take the largest trousers size they have going, but considering that the standard size in Pattern Magic is super teeny tiny the fact that the existence of size 12 is acknowledged in this book is an improvement. I find with many books by the same author or in the same genre that you need a bit of imagination to look past the ‘kawaii’ (unless that is your thing) to see how to make a garment work for you.

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Knitting Wildlife by Ruth Herring and Karen Manners

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A bit of classic 80s comedy to finish, this lovely book was a gift from Michaela of Michaela Knits. Produced for the WWF Knitting Wildlife contains instructions for creating a range of vibrant jumpers sporting images of tigers, polar bears and pandas, along with slogans like ‘Save The Whales’. I wouldn’t have the skill/outrageous fashion sense to make one of these jumpers, but the absurd fact that they exist and that someone probably has made a bulky purple cardigan with ‘Extinction is Forever’ emblazoned across the back and worn it with pride gives me a warm glow inside. By far and away the best part of this book is the celebrity models, all looking so young and sporting amaze-balls 80s hair. See if you can guess who!

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A far cry from Versace and safety pins!

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“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.

 


It was hard enough choosing just five books for this post, so maybe I should save the rest for another time. Does anyone else hoard sewing books? I’d love to hear which your favourites are!

My new laboratory

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Oh, you found me! Well come on in, welcome to my new laboratory. Actually not that new – Chris and I created our joint study/guest room at the end of last year – but I have more or less got my sewing space set up just perfect, with everything I need within easy reach. And come the weekend this little corner of colour is where I spend the vast majority of my time. Inventing, designing and playing. I’ve been sewing and knitting my entire life, but there is nothing like having a designated space for it to focus the mind and encourage me to hone my skills.

My fashion choices are very simple and minimalist these days, but somehow this taste memo didn’t get through to the interiors half of my brain. I love white walls, white furniture, bright chrome and plain wood that I can use as a background for colourful fabrics and bright patterns. The basic overview of my side of the room is a white desk from IKEA (the now defunct Expedit line) with attached shelves, with my dress form Gladys scaring passers by from the window bay. She does have to be moved when the room is used by guests! My sewing machine now lives on the desk under a quilted cover to keep the dust out.

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The top two shelves house the sewing library and my sketchbooks, and the bottom two all the tools. Like every self respecting sewist I have a growing collection of Kilner and preserving jars for keeping buttons and notions in. The shelves under the desk house a basket of yarn and all the documents you could need to steal my identity and set up an avocado farm in Guadalupe. If that’s your thing.

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A vase of knitting needles is far better than a vase of flowers right? I inherited most of these from my Grannies, hence a large number of seriously old Bakelite needles as well as wood, metal and plastic.

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I have to keep my pins in a little pot to try and get around my worst sewing habit – putting pins in my mouth. Does anyone else do this? Gut-puncturingly irresponsible and yet I always do it.

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So if I vanish of the radar for long periods in the future you know where to find me. Elbow deep in thread snippets, swearing at wonky seams, and creating garments out of scuba fabric. Oh I didn’t mention that part? Thanks to a moment of temporary insanity in a fabric shop a couple of weeks back I now have six metres of the stuff to play with… Watch this space.

Where do you feel your most zen?

When I’m done prancing

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What I wouldn’t give to not live in London, and have a lovely home by the sea somewhere.

Chris and I would have a little study overlooking the cliff path where we could work from home and watch the world go by; I would wake up to the sound of lapping waves and seagulls; I’d cultivate my carnivorous plants on the kitchen windowsill and sit by a roaring fire on stormy evenings. I would drive my Nissan Figaro into the nearby village for groceries and then down to the beach to catch some surf; and any time I wanted I could shove on a pair of canvas plimsolls and head out onto the cliffs to admire the view.

Sure there would only be two, maybe three days a year when the weather would be nice enough for any of this, and given this year’s winter storms my lovely home could easily end up being a bit closer to the water than I planned. And getting about on rural roads can be nothing short of a nightmare.

But if you ignore all the practicalities, it is a perfect little dream. Such an existence would completely satisfy all my reclusive tendencies, but because I live by the sea there would be no end of friends and family lining up round the block to come and visit, dipping in and out of the hermit life and bringing me all the news from the big wide world.

Yep, I see no downsides to this plan.

(P.S. Can you tell I went back to work today?)

A really good day

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On Wednesday, we discovered what could be one of the most perfect places in the entire world.

Enchanted bluebell woods, a pebble beach with caves, cliffs, and some of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen in my entire life.

Having had our fill of surfing for the time being, I suggested that we take a drive to Hartland Abbey, a nearby stately home with pretty grounds, a walk to a nearby beach, and (of course) a tearoom. A gentle morning’s entertainment. Except we ended up spending the entire day there. I ended up taking so many photographs that I’m not sure my favourites will all fit into this post. And we didn’t even go into the house.

I want to live here!

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The house itself is nestled in the bottom of a valley about a mile from the sea, surrounded by green fields full of new lambs. It was built in the 1100s as a monastery, but after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries he gifted the Abbey to the Sargent of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, a Mr. William Abbot. Nice work if you can get it!

We arrived quite early in the day, but the kindly staff allowed us early access to the beach footpath, a magical little trail straight out of the children’s story book that wends its way through woods carpeted in bluebells. Every book I ever read as a child about a group of children going on holiday to a cottage by the sea and having all sorts of adventures immediately came flooding back to me.

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When we emerged from the woods we could see the sea. The path plunged down through the trees to the cliff edge, and on to the beach. Jane Austen fans might recognise some of the scenery from the recent Beeb adaptation of Sense And Sensibility, as a nearby cottage starred as Barton Cottage, the exile home of the Dashwood family. Also Top Gear pushed some home made motor homes off the cliffs.

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With rock pools like that, you know that there was some serious exploring to be done. I can’t get enough of these rock formations that look like books leaning up against each other. The shapes are so beautiful. And they form caves. Which is awesome.

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Once every rock pool had been thoroughly investigated, we wound our way back through the magic woods for CREAM TEA. Well, a savoury version with cheese scones, sour cream and chutney. Mmmmm. Also some chimping at the morning’s photographs.

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Re-fuelled, we set off to take in the gardens.

Now I’m not much of a botanist, despite the biology training. I can tell you the difference between an elephant and a stalk-eyed fly, but my ability with plants extends to “daisies” and “not daisies”. But even I can tell that these gardens were something really special. We started off in the walled gardens, which are south-facing and perfectly positioned to capture the sun. The first garden contained vegetables, organised into perfect rows. All I wanted to do was charge in amongst them and start sampling everything, but I restrained myself to taking only photographs (lots).

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Even the biggest veg hater ever would surely be tempted by this sexy row of Swiss chard? Check out those beautiful colours. Why have just green veg when you could have red and purple too!

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Through a not-so-secret door we came to the rose garden. Although at this time of year it was more like a tulip garden. So many beautiful, fat, colourful tulips.

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Finally we came to my favourite part of the gardens: the green houses. Don’t ask me why I love greenhouses, but I really really do.

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I spent the day in a blissful, disbelieving haze, trying to drink in as much of my incredible surroundings as I could. One of my favourite holiday experiences is the moment that real life and work dissolve away, leaving you feeling completely rudderless and blissed out. That happened today. And it was wonderful.

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Some of us even conked out before we got home!