Making my own wardrobe: The Mustard Emery Dress

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I have another Emery dress to share with you this evening which I wore today for lunch with some of Michael’s very lovely friends who came to visit, and accidentally matched the colour scheme of the restaurant we went to! I cut this out a little while ago but I’ve been waiting until I felt brave enough to sew it up as I wanted to add a collar for the first time and I was a little nervous of how it would turn out, but fortunately it went smoothly.

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Outfit details: “Cut the mustard” dress – made by me in Cotton & Steel Zephyr Citron Breeze (Metallic) fabric with contrasting collar and bow in Cotton & Steel Sprinkles fabric (both from Miss Matatabi) using the Christine Haynes Emery dress pattern /  Camera bag – Accessorize (last year) / An Affair to Remember Brooch – Erstwilder / Orla Kiely Angelina Shoes – Clarks (last year)

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This is another Cotton & Steel fabric and it is so charming. It’s a gorgeous shade of mustard yellow with silhouettes of figures flying kites, holding umbrellas or throwing confetti into the wind. The background is a uniform polka dot, but it is overlaid with sprinkles of silver metallic. As with all of the Cotton & Steel fabrics, it has the tag line for the Zephyr collection printed on the selvedge which reads “leap and the wind will take you.” When I was endlessly browsing through fabric websites earlier this year Michael kept pointing this print out as it caught his eye so I had to buy it. I chose a black spotty print from the Cotton & Steel basics range to make a contrast collar and bow and it really draws out the black silhouettes. I like how the colour palette is a little more sophisticated with a retro vibe.

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For this version I made a combination of View A and View B as I added both a collar and a bow. I lined it with a mustard poly cotton and used a black exposed lace zip as this has become my trademark in all of my dresses.

I will write a more detailed post with my experience of sewing the Emery dress soon as I am hoping to take part in #memademay this year and I am lining up a few sewing blog posts to coincide with this. Now I have to crack on with some more sewing so I have lots more dresses ready to wear handmade for a whole month!

Lucy x

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#growsunflowersformichael

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Today marks 2 months since we lost Michael. As time starts to pass I have been thinking a lot about his legacy and how to keep his spirit going in everything I do.

I’m going to start a sunflower growing challenge in his memory using the hashtag #growsunflowersformichael and I’m hoping you might join in! Sunflowers were Michael’s favourite flower as they are so cheerful and uplifting. They are also the perfect representation of his positivity and courage – I found a quote on Pinterest recently which read “I want to be a sunflower so that even on the darkest days I will stand tall & find the sunlight”, and this is exactly what Michael did.

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Michael loved gardening and it was a hobby and passion we shared together. When we left London in 2012 and moved to Nottingham, we rented a huge 1930s house with a beautiful but slightly wild garden. As with everything he did, Michael approached the garden with a boundless enthusiasm and soon had a vegetable patch cleared and dug over and a greenhouse full of seeds ready to plant. In every house we moved to after that, Michael’s first priority was always to plan the garden. He was happiest with his hands in the soil and dirt on his nose.

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By and large, Michael grew vegetables and I grew flowers, but there was one exception to this – sunflowers. He loved sunflowers, and last year we made a dedicated border to grow as many as we could. When Gardeners’ World gave away some free sunflower seeds last summer, we applied and received a few extra varieties giving us an abundance of seeds. Seizing on this opportunity, we popped some in the post to Michael’s Grandad (from who he inherited his love of gardening) and started a competition to see who could grow the tallest sunflower. We thought we would likely be at a disadvantage due to our more northerly climate, but Michael was determined to win. Our tallest sunflower was 9 foot 3! It was great fun and a lovely way for Michael and his Grandad to connect.

Michael had ambitious plans to grow even more varieties this summer, and so now I intend to carry them out and do him proud. Since he enjoyed our sunflower growing competition so much, I thought it might be fun to turn it into an annual event. To start with, I gave out packets of sunflower seeds at Michael’s funeral to carry on the competition and encourage all of his friends and family to grow sunflowers in his memory. My aim is for everyone who knew and loved Michael to always think of him and smile whenever they see a sunflower. As all of my IG friends and lovely blog readers have been so kind and supportive, I’d like to open it up and see if anyone else might like to take part?

The idea is simple – buy a packet of sunflower seeds, plant them, look after them, and see if you can grow the tallest! And I’d love it if everyone who would like to take part in the challenge could use the hashtag #growsunflowersformichael to share their progress on Instagram. It would be so wonderful if we could use the hashtag to create a virtual field of sunflowers, all grown for Michael.

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I’m also very willing to share some of the wide variety of seeds we have collected, so if you would like to take part but don’t have any sunflower seeds to grow you can drop me an email at smileandmake@gmail.com with your name and address and I will pop a few seeds in the post to you.

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Happy growing, and may the best sunflower win!

[Sunflower brooch by Hello Sunshine]

Lucy x

 

Pins and patches

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I love the current trend for enamel pins and patches and I’ve been building quite a collection recently, starting with some I’ve received in my Lucky Dip Club subscription, and further fuelled by all of the awesome designs I’ve seen people share on Instagram. Michael was always a collector of badges and wore them pinned to his bag, hoodie, cardigan, hat, or just about anywhere and I’ve adopted a few of my favourites to mix in with my collection.

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I have two denim jackets, one traditional denim from Gap which I customised last year with some ribbon, bias binding and ric rac trims, and a pastel mint green jacket I picked up at a bargain price in the Next sale last year. I decided to roughly theme my collection to each jacket, and so my mint green jacket has all of the pastel and food/drink related pins, and my blue denim jacket has my brighter coloured pins with a sort of adventure/hobby theme.

Here are some close ups with details and links where possible:

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Clockwise from Top Left: Society of the Crossed Pencils pin – And Smile Studio / Michael’s Dreamland Margate pin / I’m a Good Girl badge – Hope & Greenwood (from a set Michael bought for me in Covent Garden in our London days) / Rainbow Camera pin  – Hand Over Your Fairy Cakes / Michael’s Legend pin / Michael’s vintage I-spy badge / Michael’s DFA pin / Khaki Scouts of North America patch – Jennis Prints / Craft is in my Blood brooch – And Smile Studio (no longer available)

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Clockwise from Top Left: Acrylic bike brooch – Rock Cakes / Michael’s lego badge (made for our trip to Legoland) / Ceramic heart button from a lovely shop in Dartmouth / Seek adventure patch – And Smile Studio for Lucky Dip Club / Next Stop Sweet Shop brooch – Hope & Greenwood / You’re Doing OK patch – Samantha Eynon / Michael’s Grape Soda badge / My original Blue Peter badge! / Girl Gang pin – Lucky Dip Club

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Clockwise from Top Left: Cocktail Cat brooch – Lucky Dip Club / Ceramic party ring brooch – from a craft market in Cheltenham / Flamingo pin – Birds in Hats / Sunglasses badge – Dreamland Margate / Strawberry Rabbit pin – Lucky Dip Club / Floral patch from Cath Kidston pop up shop at Vintage at Goodwood Festival / Cupcake badge – Jilly Jilly

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Clockwise from Top Left: Cupcake badge – Jilly Jilly / Pot of Magic – Lucky Dip Club / Cool Ice Cream badge – Lucky Dip Club / Ice Lolly patch – Peas & Needles / Rainbow Unicorn pin – Lucky Dip Club / I Donut Care patch – Mel Stringer for Lucky Dip Club / Dreamland Margate pin / Birthday Kitten badge – Lucky Dip Club

And because clearly I don’t already have enough pins (!) I’ve also put together a little wish list of some more I have my eye on:

Clockwise from Top Left: Hotdog pin – Lemon Freckles / Succulent pin – Finest Imaginary / Beans and Cola pin set – You Make Me Design / Rainbow pin – Punky Pins  / 10p Mix pin – Hand Over Your Fairy Cakes / Come Rain or Shine pin set – Scout Editions

Lucy x

Keep Going

Michael

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a little while now and it feels like the right time to share some of my thoughts.

I lost my husband and the love of my life in February at the age of only 35. Michael was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour 2 years ago and after bravely facing many rounds of surgery and treatment, ultimately his condition could not be cured and became more aggressive. He was my entire world and without him I am only half of a whole.

The bravery and strength Michael showed throughout his illness was truly inspirational, and I am so proud of my incredible husband. He refused to be defined by his illness and to let anything stop him from living his life as he wanted, and even on the hardest of days he always made me smile. He lit up a room and his energy, enthusiasm and sense of fun were infectious. It is simply impossible to think about Michael without smiling as he gave us all so many happy memories. I have been lucky to hear so many wonderful tributes to Michael from those who knew and loved him, and the common theme is always that our lives are richer for having Michael in them as he was the kind of guy who brought people together, made every moment more special and brought out the best in all of us.

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The loss I am feeling is devastating and I simply don’t know what to do without him. We had so many plans to achieve our hopes and dreams, and I am adjusting to the reality of losing my husband and the life we dreamed of. But whilst our time together was too short and we should have shared our entire lives, I know how rare it is to love someone as completely as Michael and I loved each other and I am grateful for every moment we had together. And so now what I want most of all is to carry on living the way we planned, and to do it for both of us. These are the darkest of days for me, but I must keep going for Michael.

I have written before about how despite Michael’s diagnosis we both chose to live positively and this is something I hope to continue. For me, part of that was being creative, engaging in the wonderful community I have discovered on Instagram, and by starting this blog. I used to be a solicitor, but put my career on hold when Michael was diagnosed to care for him as I didn’t want to miss a moment by his side. Whilst things like sewing and taking part in social media might seem trivial, they provided a positive distraction at a time when we were transitioning to a different pace of life, and provided an outlet so that I could stay strong and positive for Michael and be everything that he needed me to be and a little bit more besides.

When Michael’s illness became worse at the beginning of January, I put all of this to one side as it just didn’t feel right and I needed to focus on caring for my husband, but Michael wanted me to carry on.  It will come as no surprise to those who knew Michael that his priority was still to look after me and make sure I was happy even when he was so poorly, as kindness and love always poured out of him and he was the most loving husband I could ever have wished for. With his encouragement I actually made a few dresses back in January in the times while he was resting, and I started sewing again recently and it has been a wonderful therapy and distraction. He also told me how much he liked that I shared snapshots of our life on Instagram and my blog and wanted me to keep doing this, so I promised that I would try and carry on as soon as I felt brave enough, and now I am doing it for Michael. My posts may be a little sporadic for a while as I find my feet in this new reality, and I will not always feel strong enough to fully engage through comments etc. as sometimes I struggle to find the right words, but I will be trying.

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And so now I thought I would share some of the small ways I am already trying to continue living positively for Michael:

  • Talking about Michael, because as I said before you just cannot think of Michael without a smile creeping in. To start with, I have printed mountains of photos ready to be scrapbooked, and I am planning blog posts about his amazing lego creations. I have so many stories to tell and photos to share.
  • Trying to be more like Michael and to live by his example, whether that means channelling his irrepressible sense of humour, his shining enthusiasm and dedication to everything he did, his kindness and generosity, or some of his bravery and courage even in the darkest of times.
  • Continuing to find small ways to stay happy, sometimes by losing myself in therapeutic sewing and making, and by carrying on the hobbies Michael and I shared such as gardening. We planted an olive tree yesterday in Michael’s memory in our garden, and I have also chosen a new rose for my rose border called “Bright Smile” as the name just sums him up. I have also redecorated my bedroom which was a helpful distraction, and plan to share a room tour soon.
  • Taking the time to give something back, both through fundraising for the charities who have given us so much support and through fighting to protect and improve the NHS. My best friend Jo has already raised over £9,000 for Douglas Macmillan Hospice through some incredible fundraising. Jo is currently the associate choreographer on the tour of the brilliant musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and while the show was in Stoke the cast held collections after every performance for Douglas Macmillan in memory of Michael, and the stars of the show posed for pictures in exchange for donations. They all went above and beyond to raise money for an incredibly important charity, who gave us so much support throughout Michael’s illness and supported me in caring for Michael at home. The amount they have raised is so inspiring, and I hope to continue to support Douglas Macmillan and other charities who have helped us, and I already have lots of ideas!

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I would also like to take a moment to say a few thank yous. Firstly to my wonderful parents for their unwavering love and support and for never leaving my side. They have been there for Michael and I through every step, and there are truly no words to say how completely incredible they have been and how lucky I am to have them. To my brother and sister-in-law for constantly shooting up and down the motorway to visit and give me huge hugs, for always listening and helping us through, and for keeping me in supply of chocolate! To my friends and family for making me feel completely surrounded by love, and for making sure I keep going and keep living. And finally to all of the lovely friends I have made through Instagram who have sent me messages and comments – I have read every one even if I haven’t always managed to respond, and I am so grateful for all of your support.

Lucy x

Making My Own Wardrobe: The Picnic Emery Dress

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I’ve been doing lots of sewing lately as I’m finding it very therapeutic and an absorbing distraction. As I’m feeling brave today I thought I would share my most recent make.

It’s an Emery dress in a fabulous Cotton & Steel Picnic Basket fabric which I’ve decided to call the “Does Yogi Bear Like Picnics?!” dress as this was one of Michael’s favourite sayings when I asked him a question where the answer was obviously yes, and I’m certain he would have loved this print.

I wore it for the first time today at a tea party my friends arranged for me and it’s the perfect match with my Picnic Basket bag and Pin-up Picnic brooch. I’ve always been a fan of themed outfits but I think this might be my best yet.

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Outfit details: “Does Yogi Bear Like Picnics?” dress – made by me in Cotton & Steel Picnic Basket fabric using the Christine Haynes Emery dress pattern /  Picnic Basket bag – Accessorize / Pin-up Picnic Brooch – Erstwilder (sold out on their website but available in the UK here) / Orla Kiely Angelina Shoes – Clarks (now sold out) / Tights – eBay

I’m planning to write a separate post about the Emery dress pattern soon as I have already made 2 for myself, one for my Mum and cut out another 3, which tells you how much I love it.

For this version I made View A with short sleeves and a contrasting red polka dot bow, and used a cherry print cotton for the lining which looks cute against the picnic pattern. I cut the skirt a little bit longer to accommodate the pattern repeat, and I think it adds to the vintage look having the skirt finish just a fraction below my knee. I also used an exposed red lace zip instead of an invisible zip. Choosing these finishing touches is the part I am most enjoying about dress making; I love being able to add little flourishes like a pretty lace zip, contrast lining and polka dot bow.

I adore all of the detail in this print, like the thermos flasks and stacks of colourful pyrex sitting alongside the enamel picnic baskets. I’ve used quite a few Cotton & Steel fabrics so far and I’m fast becoming a bit of a fan girl. I especially love the little tag lines for each collection which are printed on the selvedge – this one says “I sewed something pretty for you!”

I know Michael would have been proud of me for this one, it’s definitely one of my favourite makes so far and will be worn lots.

Lucy x