Made Up Quotes – Dodie Smith

I Capture The Castle

Revisiting this novel has made me quite emotional. When I say emotional, I mean it’s left me sobbing. If you haven’t yet read I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, I insist you buy or loan a copy immediately because a life isn’t worth living that hasn’t read the opening line, ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’

I exaggerate. But this is a beautiful novel written by Dodie Smith, best known for 101 Dalmatians. Dodie turned to this story in her 50s when she was living a successful life in California, and missing Britain terribly. She wrote this gazing over the Pacific Ocean.

Ostensibly a children’s novel, it speaks to anyone who has ever gone through the pain of growing up, falling in love and understanding that there are no happy endings in life – or even endings. The BBC produced a gorgeous and loyal adaptation, if you can get your hands on it.

It goes without saying that the same author who created Cruella de Vil understood the power of clothes. As far as I can see, there’s only one small sewing scene in I Capture The Castle but it’s a key scene:

All week we were getting ready for the party. Topaz bought yards and yards of pink muslin for Rose’s frock and made it most beautifully. (At one time, before she was an artist’s model, Topaz worked at a great dress-maker’s, but she will never tell us about it – or about any of her pasts, which always surprises me because she is so frank about so many things.) … It was fun while we were all sewing the frills for the dress; I kept pretending we were in a Victorian novel.

I Capture The Castle ii

Fabric is Isle of Wight Liberty Tana Lawn, featuring Carisbrook Castle

Rose and her sister, Cassandra, are getting ready for a party that will change their lives. It’s a small but telling detail that Topaz buys pink muslin. The family is poor and muslin is cheap.

At the party, Rose will convince the rich American, Simon, to fall in love with her and soon she’s to be swept out of the poverty she craves to escape. She moves down to London and starts to prepare for her wedding. From the city, she writes to the sister she’s abandoned in a crumbling castle…

You are to have the most beautiful bridesmaid’s frock – you are to come up to be fitted for it – and I think the ready-made clothes I am wearing now can be altered for you, once I get my trousseau. And when I am married we will shop like mad for you.

Rose is a fast learner when it comes to the fine art of self-improvement – or, at least, acquiring a better wardrobe. A few chapters ago, she was thrilled to have a homemade dress sewn for a party. Now, even the luxury of wearing shop-bought threads has become outre as she visits couture houses to have her trousseau made. Poor Cassandra is expected to be grateful from afar for the hand-me-downs and for the bridesmaid dress that she will be fitted for on Rose’s orders. Oh, big sisters! Oh, shallow, vain, self-serving big sisters! (I was one. I’m allowed to say that.)

There is no neat solution to I Capture The Castle. Plans and love affairs are going to unravel, ravel back up, get knotted, loosen themselves. The final diary entry doesn’t feel like a happy ending necessarily, but it feels like an ending written for today’s brooding weather:

A mist is rolling over the fields. Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad? There was mist on Midsummer Eve, mist when we drove into the dawn.

He said he would come back.

Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you.

And now I’m crying again.

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Made Up Tote Bag Winners

Made Up Tote Bags ii

We’ve broken the £2000 barrier! As I type, we’ve raised £2109.59 at the Justgiving page and I now can’t help wondering if we can squeeze past £2500. But, more importantly, this means we have three tote bag winners to announce.

Who was the person who got us to £2000? Well, he or she made a hexagon beanbag but they left their pledge anonymously. Reveal thyself, hexagon beanbag maker! Either in a comment below or by emailing me at didyoumakethat[at]fastmail[dot]fm. If I don’t hear by this time next week, the bag shall go to someone else.

I also promised two randomly drawn people from donations made up to 26 August. Drum roll, the two pulled from 178 Made Up Makers are…

Box Pleat Skirt Sew Over It

Siobhan, who’s vowed to make the 1950s box pleat skirt from Sew Over It Vintage.

Alison of Stitches Of Time who’s going to make a Christmas ornament. That’s organised!

If Siobhan and Alison would like to leave a comment or drop me a line, I’ll organise postage. I’ve been carrying my bag everywhere with me. Remember, there’s a tantalising fourth tote bag to be won.

My weekend plans are to sew as much as I can of my Made Up Make, go on a big old long walk with Ella and … that’s about it. I fleetingly considered a spontaneous couple of days away but then remembered – Bank Holiday. Traffic. Queues.

What are you up to and how are your pledges coming along? And any gorgeous walks in the London orbital that you recommend?

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Made Up Prizes Just Got Better

Made Up Tote Bags ii

Here are a few fun Made Up Initiative figures for you:

  • We’re at the halfway point to our deadline
  • We’ve already raised £1852.75 via Justgiving
  • With 168 donations
  • And one thank you email from the National Literacy Trust

But, yeah. That halfway point. We all know what it’s like. Energy flags, ideas disperse, diaries fill and… What’s that thing you said you’d do by 10 September? It’s easy to get distracted. Really, we need the Mistress of the Jar to keep us on track, but last I heard she was dancing the rumba in Cuba. So I need something else to keep us all motivated. I need bribery!

I’ve had five exclusive Made Up Initiative tote bags made. Come on! You know you need another hemp tote bag in your life. I’m keeping one for myself, because I love them so. I have four others to give away. Here’s the plan:

Two shall be sent to randomly selected people who have already donated – you deserve to be rewarded.

One shall go to the person who makes the donation that takes us up to £2000. I absolutely know we can get there.

The last shall go to a fourth person randomly selected out of the people who donate after today.

Enough? No? I guess I’d better announce our second prize, then. Quadrille Books have kindly donated a sewing library to make your heart skip a beat. Check these babies out.

Quadrille Sewing Library

Now, you have four chances to win something. The grand prize, the second prize and a runner up tote bag. All you have to do is help someone learn to love reading. Maybe you’ll show them how great sewing is, too.

Keep tuning in for the two first winners of a Made Up Initiative tote bag. What better way to spread the word than to carry it over your shoulder?

Made Up Tote iii

A British August

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Made Up Quotes – Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests

A longer (abridged) quote today, dear readers, from The Paying Guests, set in 1920s London:

Oh, Frances,  you look lovely. Oh, the colour suits  you. You’re lucky. If I wear green it makes me look like a corpse. But, yes, it suits you. All it needs is a bit of work.’ Coming close, she began to tug the frock into shape with brisk, professional fingers. ‘The waist wants lowering, for a start. It’ll be quite a different gown, then. It’ll show how lovely and slim you are – oh, I’d give anything be slender like you! – but the line will be softer…’

She spoke without a blush, quite unself-conscious, as if it were perfectly natural that she should have been studying and forming opinions on Frances’s ankles, Frances’s hips, the style of Frances’s underwear. But then, of course, women like Lilian gazed at other women all the time. They gazed at them, really, far more often than men did. They noticed, they judged, they admired and damned, they coveted bosoms, complexions, mouths … She was drawing up the hem now. ‘This ought to be raised. See how it’s better?’

‘But I don’t want it raised.’

‘Just an inch or two, for the party? I should have thought you’d like ladies to have shorter skirts. You don’t want us to go out hobbled.’


‘Stay just like this, while I fetch my pins!’

There was no resisting her. She ran for her work-basket and returned to measure and mark, moving Frances’s limbs about as if they were those of an artist’s dummy. She loaded the frock with so many pins that when it was time for Frances to remove it she had to inch herself out of it, afraid for her skin.

There is SO much going on in this extract. I love how Sarah evokes the quite business-like intimacy of fitting another woman’s dress to her body. In my experience, any concern about personal space disappears when I need help with a bodice fitting. I’ve happily climbed in and out of clothes in front of fellow sewing students.

Also, the assessing way in which Lilian inspects Frances’s body – partly with a technical gaze, but partly because that’s just what other women do. My ex-boyfriend’s mum always says, ‘Women dress for other women.’ Is this true?

And then there is the subtext. (Look away now if you don’t want a spoiler!) This re-fashioning of a tired party dress is part of an intricate preamble to seduction. Lilian and Frances are soon to become lovers. Never has the danger of a piercing pin prick been more emblematic, as Frances worries for her skin. Skin about to spring to life under a very different touch.

Have you read any Sarah Waters? I love this historical novelist who brings her own interesting twist. I wish I could ask if she’s ever sat at a sewing machine.

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How Does It Feel To Be An Over Achiever?

Made Up Toile

What a week it’s been. As I type, we’ve had 150 donations to the Made Up Justgiving page and we’ve raised over £1600. 60% more than our goal. Hey, how does it feel to be an over achiever? I’m fascinated to see what we can accomplish by 10 September.

And what have we been making? There are already some fabulous sewing projects coming in, such as this one from Sewing With Kate. Isn’t it gorgeous? Lots of people are linking to Made Up (thank you!) and I’ve really enjoyed reading blog posts such as this, this and this.


So, you’ve all been busy and what have I been up to? I’m thrilled to say I’ve completed a full toile of the Vogue 5098. If you can remember as far back as April, I’d already made a first toile of the bodice. Step two was making a full toile, incorporating adjustments. I took this version seriously. Not just as a process for checking fit, but for learning construction. The great thing about calico toiles is that you can scribble all over them!

Toile Collage Vogue

I tend to baste a zip into a toile. I can’t judge fit otherwise. I added facings, because I wanted to properly assess the neckline, I trimmed the hem to the length I wanted and I pegged the skirt as I hope to with the final make. You need to be sure you can walk in a pegged skirt. Don’t know what a pegged skirt is? You should check out Erica Bunker. She is the queen of pegged skirts. I hope to achieve something similair in this make.

complete toile

Aren’t toiles disgusting? That’s kind of the point. There’s nowhere to hide and fit adjustments can’t be avoided. Largely, I’m very happy with the fit. I would like to tweak the princess seams. I do this by pinning, and then marking the adjustments on my calico – a trick learnt a long time ago now, at Morley College.

Princess Seam Collage

Can I finish this dress by 10 September? Ambitious. There’s a bound buttonhole involved and I suspect that final fitting of the bodice will involve a lot of subtle tweaks. Plus, when I set my deadline I overlooked the fact that I actually have a social life over the coming weeks! I’m up against it. But, then again, we all are.

Good luck, everyone! How are you getting on?

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Made Up Quotes – Dorothy Parker

As part of the Made Up Initiative, I thought it would be fun to dig out sewing-themed extracts from books I’ve enjoyed. I’m going to embrace the whole spectrum of books – from children’s novels (oh yes please!) to non fiction, high literature to beach reads. Clothes say a lot about us, and people’s observations of clothes say even more.

vogue bedside

First, an essay written in 1919 by Dorothy Parker, the queen of satire:

Do you ever stop and wonder what has become of the old-fashioned girl, the heroine of the sweet romantic love-story? Surely you remember her, the before-the-war heroine. She wore checked gingham frocks that she made herself, and she used to go around the house all day long giving it little homemade touches. When evening fell, she put on a simple little white muslin dress, modestly, not to say uninterestingly, high of neck – this gown, too, was her own original model – and tucked a single rosebud in her hair, just over the left ear, where it used to drive the hero wild. Thus attired, she would run down to the garden gate – that was as far away from home as she ever got through all the story – and wait there, in the sunset’s rosy glow, for the hero to come home from his day’s work at the factory.

            Gentle reader, that heroine is no more

The Vogue Bedside Book II, Edited by Josephine Ross, Century Hutchinson 1986

What do you think? Do you agree with Dorothy? Are the days of gingham frocks and standing at the gate far behind us? And when we sew a gingham dress in 2015, what does that say about us? I found it ironic that on the same day as I read this essay, I’d just bought several metres of gingham flannel.

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Laundering Silk Organza

Laundering CollageWhen I blogged about my dress lined in silk organza, there were a few anxious comments. How would it launder? Wouldn’t the silk organza be ruined? But Susan Khalje says… Would the world as we know it come crashing down around our ears?

I’d pondered these questions myself. Not enough to stop me plunging ahead with the make – at the time, I was in the zone. When I saw these comments, I set out to make a test swatch of silk organza attached to a test swatch of the lawn cotton. It would go into the washing machine and be carefully analysed when it came back out. This was science, people!

Then, I spilled food down the dress. Greasy food. Not once, but twice. There goes my science test, I thought. This dress is going in the washing machine, results be damned.

I put it on a fast wash at 30 degrees. I left it to air dry. I ironed the dress. I climbed into it. Nothing. Nada. Zero ill effect. I needed my iron really hot to press out the creases in the silk organza, but that was it. The world was still turning on its orbit and I was wearing a pretty and clean dress.

But not all silk organza is created equal. I’ve bought some really coarse stuff that I’d never use as a lining. Mine is light as a feather and comes from English Couture, a supplier I rate very highly.

The moral of the lesson is: sometimes it’s okay to break the rules. It’s only sewing.

Simplicity 2215

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Mind-Blowing Made Up

I don’t mind admitting, I’m a little underwhelmed by the reaction to the Made Up Initiative. It’s only taken you 48 HOURS to blow our goal out of the water. Two days to raise £1000, when the deadline was four weeks. I can’t wait to see what else we’re capable of achieving, and now I have to hastily reassess how best to use my mini-goals and incentives! Talk about a super-achieving and generous bunch. And people have been noticing…

The Bookseller

We’ve been retweeted by the NLT, Guardian writers, by NIACE, and the Sewing Directory. What are people pledging to make? Included in the 104 pledges are a bikini, a galaxy print shirt, a unicorn blouse, PE shorts, jeans, pyjamas, a baby quilt… The list goes on and is inspiring. I’ve started my own work on the Vogue 5098 dress, but am really struggling to settle on a fabric choice.

Vogue 5098 Collage

If you haven’t pledged yet, you can find the Justgiving page here. If you want to support by adding a blog button to your blog or website, here’s the code:

<div align="center"><a href="" rel="nofollow" title="didyoumakethat"><img src="" alt="didyoumakethat" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

And if you want to give yourself a big pat on the back, go ahead. You’ve just blown my mind.

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The Made Up Initiative Launches


Ever bought a sewing pattern during a lunch hour, only to be surprised when the envelope drops onto your mat? It’s easy to spend money without thinking. Ever wondered if that £5, £10, £15 or £20 could be put to better use? Welcome to The Made Up Initiative!

Made Up logo iiLast December, I retreated to the Isle of Wight for a week of rest. I should have been switched off, zoned out and concentrating on myself. But as I tramped the beaches with a small dog, I thought a lot about sewing. There’s a palpable, almost physical ball of energy in the sewing community. This has been put to a lot of good use to connect with each other, build businesses, launch projects, raise profiles. I felt that this energy could be put to an even greater use, and that’s why I’m here today.

NLT_SupportingBadge_60Together with Love Sewing magazine, I’m launching the Made Up Initiative in support of the National Literacy Trust. Did you know that one person in six in the UK lives with poor literacy? Some children never have a parent read to or with them. Many households can’t afford books. Literacy can be a game of luck, and it’s a game with high stakes. It can make or break lives. With the help of my fellow creatives, I’d like to sway the odds.

I’ve set us a simple goal – to raise £1,000 in a month-long fundraiser, hosted at a Justgiving page. To give us some context, if less than half of my Bloglovin subscribers each donated £10, we’d raise over £40,000.  A person could easily spend £10 on a metre of fabric, that might go straight into a bulging stash cupboard, and probably end up donated to a fabric swap. Food for thought, eh?

So, let’s have fun! We have until 10 September to show the world what we can do.


How does The Made Up Initiative work? People can visit the Justgiving page here and donate an amount of money. (Two friends already have!) When you donate, leave a comment stating your self-set challenge. I don’t care how big or small it is. You can pledge to make a napkin or tailor a jacket, knit bomb your street or bake a cake. There’s no limit to what you make – it doesn’t have to be sewing or knitting. The point is, you’re making something to support Made Up.

Prizes! If you successfully complete your make by the deadline of 10 September, you’re automatically entered for a prize giveaway worth more than £300. All you have to do is blog about, or email me details of your completed project at didyoumakethat[at]fastmail[dot]fm. The winner will be randomly picked and the prize includes:

  • £50 voucher from The Village Haberdashery
  • Copy of the Aster pattern from Colette Patterns
  • A place on Tilly and the Button’s Learn To Sew Jersey Tops online workshop
  • All seven paper patterns from Sew Over It (for UK residents. For applicants outside of the UK, the patterns will be provided as PDF downloads.
  • Ten sewing books donated by Love Sewing. These will include Learn To Sew with Lauren Guthrie, Alabama Chanin Sewing Patterns, Sew Over It Vintage by Lisa Comfort, Quilt Me by Jane Brockett and Skirt A Day by Nicole Smith.
  • with more prizes to come!

Deadline? 10 September, 2015. We all have a month to make, starting today.

Oh no, I don’t have time to make anything. Hey, why not just donate some money anyway? It’s for a really good cause.

Stay Connected If you want to keep up on what your fellow Made Up Makers are doing, and behind-the-scenes details on how the Initiative is progressing, you can join my new Facebook page.


There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll save that for other blog posts over the coming month. Prepare yourself for blog buttons, surprise extra gifts, new mini-goals and prizes, inspiring interviews, thoughts around creativity and literacy and – oh, yes! What am I going to make? I’ve set myself the £10 challenge of completing the vintage Vogue 5098 I first blogged about over four months ago.


I have no idea if I can sew this dress in a month, but I’m darn well going to try. I want to help others love words as much as I do, and if I can do that with a sewing needle I’ll feel pretty darn proud of myself.

Do you want to feel proud, too? It’s easy. Become a Made Up Maker.

Justgiving page

Facebook page


You can see all the launch details in the August edition of Love Sewing magazine, available at all major supermarkets and WH Smith stores. With thanks to them for their support.

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Tilly And The Buttons Fifi Camisole Set

Tilly and the Buttons FifiLike many others, I couldn’t resist the recent bundle offer of a Fifi and Bettine – two new patterns from Tilly and the Buttons. For ages, I’d had some salmon polka dot fabric in my stash. I never could quite see myself wearing a salmon-coloured dress, but this drapey fabric seemed perfect for a trial run of the Fifi.

Unusually for me, I traced this pattern. Why? Because I think it lends itself very well to making gifts for others, and I wanted to retain sizing options.

Cutting Out FifiI didn’t make a toile. I plunged ahead on my first make. I’d advise everyone to just go ahead and make this pattern up with cheap fabric on a first version. It’s difficult to assess fit until the straps have been added. I’d also suggest that people resist the urge to over fit. This pattern is for lounging around on hot days, in the privacy of your own home. Comfort comes first. Beauty is a close second. And this is a very pretty pattern!

Fifi Top

Fifi HemI dutifully followed the instructions to French seam the top. By the time it came to the shorts, I’d run out of patience for my French seams and pulled my overlocker out. I did go to the effort of adding a cute little button at the bodice.

Button CollageAlthough the camisole is technically more demanding, it’s the shorts I really love. I adore the cut that sits two inches below my natural waist and the new-to-me and very comfortable elastic insertion. I even remembered to add a tag to the rear of the shorts to remind me which way on they go, for when I’m tired and sleepy. (I do this with all my PJ makes now.)

Fifi Details CollageAs expected, there’s some extra fitting I want to do on the next version of the camisole. A word to the wise – do listen to Tilly when she urges delicate handling of bias cut fabrics. You would not believe how much things can stretch out.

I’d also suggest making the insides of your make as pretty as the outsides. Those spaghetti straps are going to slip when you’re lounging in front of the telly. This is a make for your quiet moments! But if you can’t feel pretty when you’re lounging, what’s the point in life? If you’re looking for the perfect cover up to go with, I heartily recommend this kimono that I wear on a weekly basis.

kimono for fifiThe shorts – jeez. I could make seven different pairs for every day of the week. I’d happily tramp around a camping site in those and a T-shirt, clutching a towel on my way to the shower cubicles. Or maybe I’ve attended one music festival too many…

Fifi Set

Tune back in on 13 August for an exciting announcement!

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