Adventures in dress making – the Gertie bombshell dress

Adventures in dress making – the Gertie bombshell dress

One of the very first Craftsy classes I ever joined was the Bombshell dress making class by Gertie. She wasn’t as big a name then as she is now, none of her books had been published then and initially she still interacted with the class as she was supposed to as a tutor with Craftsy. I loved the look of the dress, with a fitted, boned bodice and I loved the idea of all the new techniques I would learn.

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Alas my life became hectic just like Gertie’s did and I didn’t get very far then, four and a half years ago. I got as far as ordering thee boning and attempting to make the fitted bodice but it all ended up in a box, tempting me on occasion and mocking me at others.

With a wedding in Barcelona to attend I wanted to make a cool looking dress and decided to restart the class. This time I sped through it all and found having been making and fitting my own bras for a good 8 months stood me in good stead for fitting the bodice. Or so I thought.
I kept googling other bombshell dresses and kept looking at how the dress fitted Gertie. Something wasn’t right with the cups, I thought it would work itself out in my much bigger cupsize, and I put my doubts about the odd elliptical look of the cups down to Gertie’s much smaller chest. I mean, the muslin still looked a bit like that on me but I thought with padding and proper stitching it would all look ok. I had a lot of gorgeous cream and red cherry print fabric at my disposal and about a week to do all the hand stitching, padding out and adapting a 3/4 circle skirt to fit.

IMG_1408Well. I learned a huge amount. I went lots of couture techniques such as working with just the pattern pieces without any seam allowances, using contrasting stitching to mark the stitch lines. What a lovely way to work. I learned more still about the size and shape of my own boobs. I learned all about cutting steel spiral boning (with blunt cheap cutters this was no joke!) and using quilting wadding to pad out the bodice. I learned to use a synthetic horsehair braid to hem the skirt with, making for a hen that stood out and accentuates the 3/4 circle. The skirt went in like a dream and the dress felt amazing on. But what had looked merely slightly off when the bodice had just one layer of fabric looked heinous by the time it had a lining and padding. Elliptical boobs rather than nice round ones. Major fail.

By this time it was 11pm the day before we flew out to Barcelona for my old friend Steve’s wedding to the lovely Sabrina and I didn’t have time to make another bodice. So the dress was left behind, I attended the wedding in a doctored (in the cab on the way to the wedding!) dress from Sainsburys and put it all down to experience.

The class has been retired by Craftsy as not long after I joined Gertie’s first book was published and she barely interacted with her students anymore. The good thing about Craftsy has always been the tutor-student interaction, you can ask questions and get answers, talk about problems you’ve encountered and share your progress. Not so in this class and for a while it became a student led class, with people helping each other out. I’ve definitely been helped a lot by the other people on the course and will go back and ask for advice when I come home. But I understand why the class was taken off the schedule as it did not measure up to Craftsy’s very high standards   Still, I’m glad I did the class and even if I never get a functioning dress out of it I still think it was fantastic value for money. But fingers crossed I will finish it and when I do I will post the pictures up here!

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cheekyhandmades is 5!

cheekyhandmades is 5!

Cheekyhandmades is five!

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On 11th July 5 years ago I left my job at Whipps cross hospital. I had handed in my notice in April and by the time I left not only was I without a proper job, I had also just separated from my partner of 8 years, the father of my youngest son. All was up in the air. What had seemed like a viable idea when there was still a breadwinner in the house, to give up work and spend more time with the kids whilst making the odd bespoke quilt, now with me being a single parent of three boys, a huge mortgage to pay and no business plan, or even much of a plan full stop, seemed madness.

I spent that summer making some stock as I had a stall booked fort first e17 art trail event at the end of the summer holidays. It was a tiny table in my friend Sarah’s back garden. She was an established artist, drawing astonishingly beautiful and detailed pencil drawings of insects. She always drew a respectable crowd to her open studio event but it was hard to predict how they would take to me and my colourful fabric wares. As it was I made some pocket money, and met some lovely people and felt very encouraged especially as there were a few people who had come to Sarah’s garden specifically to see my wares.

E17 Art Trail quilt

E17 Art Trail quilt

Never having got round to writing a business plan, free wheeling and improving all along, never forgetting how fortunate I was compared to my colleagues still at the hospital, never forgetting how much I cherished being my own boss and being to just do rather than endlessly talk about doing, I somehow made it work. I added teaching to my repertoire in January 2011, cutting my teeth in the lovely Create Place, where I found my feet as a teacher, as a fixer upper of sewing machines and where I made some lifelong friends. Fast forward to July 2015 and I now teach from my gorgeous bespoke studio in my sunny e17 garden, I still do the art trail each year, I still make and sell bespoke quilts in my Etsy shop, and I still love my job. Not a day goes by where I don’t appreciate not having to ever sit in another stifling meeting room taking minutes (now my meetings are with great creative people in cafes over coffee and cake!), not ever having to sit on my hands not being able to implement changes, having to deal with power crazed managers and a behemoth of a system, having to beg for days off to be with sick kids and never being able to go on school trips. I cherish my days alone sewing and planning and doing admin, I even love doing my accounts, I love being able to go into school to read with my 7 year old, I love downing tools at 3pm for the school run. I love writing this blog post in a sunny park in Barcelona under a palm tree with parrots playing overhead, I love meeting new students who are nervous and excited about their class and go away full of joy and pride in what they’ve achieved. I love keeping in touch with my old students, a great many of whom have become friends. I love interacting with other amazing women running one women businesses and exchanging skills rather than money to pay for each others’ services. I love working in my fabulous garden studio with the baby foxes streaking past and the cats keeping me company. cheekyhandmades' studio

My kids have got older, I’ve met a wonderful new partner, I’m as happy and fulfilled as can be. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m grateful to everyone who has joined me along the way. I’m even grateful to Whipps cIMG_8841ross hospital for being such awful place to work that I just had to leave and try making a go of cheekyhandmades!

To celebrate my birthday I am offering a 3 for 2 deal on all classes booked before the end of August. Just book in for 2 and email me on [email protected] to let me know which 3rd one you want free.

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E17 Art Trail 2015

E17 Art Trail 2015



This year’s art trail is now finished and I feel a bit flat, empty and tired. It was again (but more so this year) a whirlwind of art, crafts, meeting new people, hanging out with old friends, lots of alcohol and skipped meals, a hive of activity for 2 1/2 weeks, a re-confirmation of why Walthamstow is the best place to live and work.

Check out the Art Trail blog to get the real low down on what has been taking place here and keep an eye open for the Walthamstow Garden Party on 18/19th July, another festival or arts, crafts, music (Femi Kuti, Ghospoet and Skatalites among others!), film, dance, circus, poetry and spoken word and yummy food. All a hop and a skip from my studio in LLoyd Park. Check out the website here.

I love living and working in e17!

e17 art trail

Anna Courcha’s cool stitched wall hanging


Sean reading from his novel ” I never did like the sound of bagpipes”


The Wool Kitchen’s sumptious hand dyed yarns



St. Barnabas Church

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Pygmy Cloud’s open studio




We love Lego, an art trail favourite




Howard Road House, always worth a visit, an entire knitted garden, this year’s entry was Roald Dahl themed!




Cris Thompson’s lovely 3D printed necklaces




Catboy’s show


Diane from Pygmy Cloud with her lovely cloud biscuits


End of trail party at the wildcard Brewery; Sean and I and new pal and neighbour Louise






Anna’s work in the studio


Improper Art Show

E17 Art Trail quilt

E17 Art Trail quilt


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Making a quilt – or two – foundation paper piecing

Making a quilt – or two – foundation paper piecing

About 6 weeks ago I was comissioned to make two quilts for Rosie’s little boys, Caspar and Leonardo. Rosie had used a beautiful fabric from Moda, “Simply Color” as bunting for her wedding and had kept it all and now wanted it used in quilts her children could use and keep. Great idea!


Rosie diligently washed and ironed all the bunting strips which must have taken her forever, and certainly made my life a lot easier. The colours were gorgeous, blue, orange, plum, ochre, pink, grassy green and greys.

I spent some time tinkering with ideas and came up with an alternative to a plain log cabin blog with one coloured and one white side for the corner blocks, and decided to strip piece the other blocks (going round a central panel with the boys’ names on it).


It looks lovely. It is just taking a VERY long time! Each block is constructed by foundation paper piecing it to paper so they are all the same size, using a very short stitch so I can tear the backing paper off easily when done. I need 56 blocks and still have about 20 to go! Its easy meditative work and I’m really enjoying it, I just resent having to stop all the time for food, the school run, teaching, etc 😉

I’m quietly beavering away and I hope Rosie is patient.


This is the lovely old Bernina I’m using to stitch the blocks


This is what the blocks look like sewn together. Well worth it!

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Perfect Pattern Parcel

Perfect Pattern Parcel

The amazing and super cool Jill from Made with Moxie has been running perfect pattern parcels for a while now. Every now and then (every month maybe? I’m not so good with keeping up on how regular stuff is!) a new bundle of patterns is released. They are grouped together, so there has been a kids one, and some women’s dress making for example, and they are usually great for mixing and matching too. 

PPP brings together ubercool patterns so you don’t have to scour the net for them, which is handy. They are only available for a limited time, which makes it very exciting, in my book. And best of all you can set our own price. Feeling skint? Feeling like you will only make one of the patterns perhaps? No problem. Feeling like you want to support the indie designers and the charity the PPP support (to help kids, what’s not to like?!) and can afford to do so? Pay full price, with the added bonus of getting a free extra pattern. 

In Jill’s own words:

Support Indie Designers:

Independent designers create patterns that are innovative, imaginative and in line with current style trends. Their patterns encompass a broad range of sizes and fabulous “out of the envelope” fit because they’re thoroughly tested by real people. Indie designers are approachable, providing support, suggestions, publishing additions to your favorite designs, and hosting interactive sewing events. When we are patrons of indie designers, we are supporting small businesses. We are developing the community around us. We are helping make dreams come true.

Support PPP:

We ask you to dedicate part of your purchase to support the mission of Perfect Pattern Parcel. Our mission is to support indie designers, give to charity, and expand awareness to further those two primary goals. PPP funds cover the cost of all hosting and payment processing fees so the designers and charities don’t have to. With any dollar we spend as a PPP expense, our goal is to earn that dollar back and then some. Every dollar that isn’t used to cover expenses is reallocated to charity.

Support Children’s Education:

Donors Choose is an organization that matches up the needs of teachers and their students for specific projects with willing donors. The funds raised from each Pattern Parcel sale will go to help K-12 students in minimizing educational inequality and encourage a community where children have the tools and experiences necessary for an excellent education. From pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria, your support will help address educational inequality and grow generations to come. To date, you’ve helped us raise over $13,000! 

Here is just one of the cool pattern in the latest parcel, the Bronte top. Comes with long sleeve option too.

I’ve just bought mine, buy yours now as it ends on Friday!  Here’s is the link: Perfect Pattern Parcel

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Blog move

Blog move

In ordeIMG_8043r to save some memory for my main website and stop it crashing I am moving my blog back to as of now. Please come visit me there!



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cheeky handmades