My first experiment with jersey: Vogue – V8792

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I probably should have given this a quick press before I took the photos

I wear A LOT of jersey. It makes up the bulk of my tops. However I’ve always been too frightened to have a go at sewing with it. I’ve been convinced that it would be super hard and end up looking rubbish. I had my mind changed when  I was staying with my lovely friend Dani who was telling me how easy it was and showing me some of the awesome things she’d made. She was so keen for me to give it a go she gave me her pattern!

yellow top

I made option B

When I got back to London I dashed over to trusty old Dalston Mill for some fabric. I found the most amazing bright yellowy green. I’m normally quite boring with my colour selection (grey, brown, cream….) but for some reason I was really drawn to this one. I think it might be because I’d been looking at the Grainline Hemlock Tee just before I left the house. To go with the yellow I went for grey, I really love grey…

As I was just borrowing the pattern it would have been rude to amend it for myself so I traced it off instead. This turned out to be easier said than done. I’ve always used good old fashioned greaseproof paper for tracing patterns in the past. However, since baking has got all popular all the products have got fancier…..and the fancy new greaseproof paper will not stick to sellotape no matter how hard you try! I spent rather a lot of time trying to stick bits back together and work out where everything was supposed to go….

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The fancy new greaseproof paper is also a totally different colour.

If I’m totally honest my cutting out for this pattern was a little slap dash.  We don’t have a table big enough to cut things out on (well we sort of do but it’s covered in stuff) so I had to cut the pattern out on the floor. My crappy arthritic knees don’t like it when I’m crawling about on the wooden floor so I ended up hurrying a bit to get it over with. Maybe I need some sort of a kneeler (or to actually clear the table)!

The fabric was lovely to work with and super soft. It was pretty easy to sew with (once I found the stretch stitch on my machine). I had to keep a pretty close eye on the stitches because somewhere between the machine and the fabric there was a tendency to get all knotted up and leave a huge hole.

I really like the effect of the two colours. Although I got super confused about what should go where when I was sewing together. I spent quite a long time pinning various bits to other bits to try and work out what to do. Vogue could really do with some clearer pictures in their patterns!

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Here’s the back

Because I am lazy I decided to see what would happen if I used bias binding for the neck rather than doing it out of jersey. I do love bias binding and I thought the colour looked good with the grey and the yellow. As you can see from the pictures it didn’t quite work out….. It’s one of those things that it totally obvious really; a stretchy fabric + a non stretchy binding = one stretched out neckline…. I decided that this is going to be a design feature and I’ll just wear it off my shoulders. I’m going to pretend I did it on purpose!

I really like this top. It’s a bit long (I couldn’t work out how the bits would fit together so I couldn’t shorten it) but that makes it a very good top for yoga and the brightness makes it even better for cycling to yoga. I think I’ll make another one probably shorter and wider but first I’m going to make a Grainline Hemlock Tee out of my leftover jersey (fingers crossed I have enough). I love a free pattern!

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Guest Post: Five Reasons to Start Practicing Yoga Today

This is my first ever guest post which is very exciting! It’s from Carolyn Fallon and it’s all about how awesome yoga is. Enjoy! 

© KK

Yoga is an ancient art of physical movements, techniques and mental exercises first used in India over 2,000 years ago. After centuries of refinement and development, Yoga began to spread to regions outside of Central Asia. Today, yoga is one of the leading disciplines taught in the West to help students foster positive mind-body interaction. Here are five of the top reasons why yoga is a great exercise for people of all ages and walks of life.

1) Yoga is a great exercise
When most people think of exercise, they think about pushing the body to its limit and working to exhaustion. Exercise, however, need not be as intensive as it is often portrayed in the media. Supplemented by a modest amount of cardiovascular exercise, yoga is a great cornerstone to a sustainable, enjoyable exercise regimen. Further, its ancient roots ensure that the techniques have been tested for centuries, and students will learn skills that have been constantly improved for thousands of years.

2) Yoga helps with other physical activities
There was a time when many thought that physical benefits of yoga were limited. Stretching, for example, was viewed as only moderately useful for baseball or football players. Recently, however, this mindset is changing, and many are finding that yoga helps athletes compete in sports that seem wholly unrelated to yoga. It is not uncommon to hear about professional athletes in a wide range of sports taking up yoga to improve their performances on the field. Dr. Glen Axelrod of the Center for Orthopedic & Spine Care even claims, “Many professional athletic teams use yoga as an integral part of their training.”

3) Yoga helps ease the ageing process
Falls and poor joint health are two of the dangers of entering middle age and senior years (or your thirties if you are me! Lizzy). By helping improve flexibility, Yoga reduces strain on the body’s joints and muscles. Balance exercises help students learn to balance themselves and avoid potentially dangerous falls. The aging process has unavoidable effects, but many people are too quick to assume that everything they see in the media is unavoidable. By starting and maintaining a regular exercise routine, everyone can help themselves smooth this process as much as possible.

4) Yoga provides mental benefits
While most initially focus on the physical benefits of Yoga, its mental benefits quickly become apparent. Its techniques provide the benefits of meditation in a structured, enjoyable manner. Medical experts have been touting the need for relaxing and slowing down for the past several decades, and Yoga gives its students tools to accomplish this. Students all agree that the mental effects of regular Yoga practice help them navigate their day-to-day lives with grace in addition to improving their general mental state.

5) Yoga is a great social activity
Many students look forward to talking to others who are learning the art. The Yoga community is strong in the West, and there are local groups in almost every region of the United States and Europe. Taking Yoga classes gives students a group of friends with whom they can discuss Yoga and other healthy living ideas. Yoga students often share interests in diet, other forms of exercise and other techniques to improve one’s health, and new students will find a warm and inviting community.

Carolyn Fallon is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being. She is an avid spinner, healthy cooking enthusiast and lover of life. Check out Carolyn’s blog

New yoga mat bag

Sorry for the dodgy photos. It’s so dark here today it looks like the apocalypse is coming…..

I have been try to make myself a nice yoga mat bag since I began sewing. I don’t want to buy one as they fall within my personal classification of ‘things I can’t buy because I could make them myself’ (this also includes hats, scarves, most knitwear…). I’ve had a few attempts so far and now I am on version three. The first two where functional but they still looked pretty flimsy and home-made. I wanted to have another go as version two was starting to look tatty and also the strap was too long to be able to cycle with.

So I didn’t worry too much about bodging it up I used fabric I already had; a blue and white stripy cotton and a grey wool. While they aren’t natural bedfellows I rather like them together. I think it looks a bit 80s somehow but that doesn’t put me off

To combat the flimsy issue I used the grey wool as a lining and contrast colour for the strap, top and pocket. This was mainly because I didn’t have enough of the stripy fabric to do it the other way around!

I cut out two big rectangles of each fabric (75cm x 50 cm stripy and 80 x 50cm for the grey in case you’re interested) and then turned over the tops and hemmed them. Then I sewed the rectangles along the sides and bottom (right side to right side), cut the corners, pinked the edges (because I am lazy), pressed and turned the right way out.

Next, I hemmed the side of the draw string top, turned over the top and sewed that down right on the edge. Then I cut out the pocket (I was feeling a bit slap dash at this point so can’t offer you any measurements and I suspect it isn’t strictly square) and then hemmed along the top, ironed the sides under (again in a slightly slap dash way without my tape measure).  I got to use my automatic button-hole foot for the button holes (which I love and is my favourite thing about my sewing machine) and then I sewed it on to the main bag.

I cut out the fabric for the strap (12cm x 148 cm) ironed it in half, unfolded it, folded each side into the middle and ironed and then folded the whole thing in half and ironed again (if that makes sense?). I sewed it up along the side. This time I made sure that the strap was short enough that it would fit nice and snuggly across my body and won’t shift around when I’m wearing it on my bike.

To finish it off I threaded the strap through (using the safety-pin on the end trick my mum showed me many moons ago), sewed it to the bottom of the bag, sewed up the bottom and the sides on the wrong side and sewed on the buttons. Finally I excitedly waved it under the nose of my boyfriend in triumph, luckily he is very skilled at feigning interest in things I have made. 🙂

I’m pretty pleased with it and will definitely be taking it on my bike to yoga next time I go. However there are a few extra modifications I would make:

  • Sewing on the buttons before I sew up the bag. It’s a right pain to try to sew them on the final bag.
  • Allow a double seam allowance so that there is allowance left for sewing up at the end. This time around I had to sew right along the edge. We will see if that makes it all fall apart really quickly.
  • Make a smaller pocket (and measure it probably). I think the pocket overwhelms the bag a bit and it would look better smaller. As I’m not entirely sure what I plan to put in the pocket anyway this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Use thinner fabrics. I had real problems convincing my sewing machine to sew through the straps and the sides of the bag. It wasn’t happy at all…..
  • Buy new thread which is a good colour match rather using thread I have hanging about which you can kind of see….
  • Try and make the strap stretchy (not sure how I plan on doing that yet).

Bad yoga day

I was in two minds about going along to my yoga class last week. My phased return to work is proving much more tiring than I’d anticipated and on top of that I hadn’t slept well the night before. I was very tempted to sit on the sofa eating biscuits and drinking tea.  Usually when I’m feeling tired or fed up a spot of yoga is just the thing to cheer me up. When I’m finished I feel much brighter and energised. That was enough to motivate myself to get there.

I arrived late to the class and missed my usual pre-class relaxation which is never a good start. I really relish my pre-class relaxation but sometimes I forget how important it is to calm down from the stresses of the day and get my head in the right place. My late start set the tone for the class and I very quickly realised that I was in for a bad yoga day. I’m hopeful that everyone has a bad yoga day from time to time… Suddenly it’s impossible to balance, remember a sequence, transition with anything approaching grace or indeed get your body to do anything very useful at all.

It’s all in the mind of course. There are so many things I have to learn about yoga. Somewhere along my journey I hope that I will learn how to switch off my busy mind no matter how tired and stressed I may feel.

Frame studio- Shoreditch

At the risk of stalking my yoga teacher I went along to a class she was covering at Frame in Shoreditch last night. I’ve heard a few things about Frame and I’ve been interested in checking it out for a while.

They are fairly new (as far as I know) and are dance and fitness studio rather than a dedicated yoga studio. This kind of approach worries me as I find that Yoga classes at gyms can be a very hit and miss affair. For me, yoga taken out of its context and used just for weight loss totally misses the point. Maybe its many years living in Brighton, or the hippy in me, but I believe that any weight loss or toning is a side effect of yoga and the real benefit is the balancing of the body and the mind and the sense of well being that brings.  If you’re selecting postures and sequences based on how  much weight students will lose, or where they want to tone up, you’re missing out the most beneficial part.

With the above in mind I was fairly apprehensive about what I would find. I was torn between wanting to check the place out because it looked quite cool and wondering how well yoga, a fitness studio and hipsters go together.

I shouldn’t have worried. The studio is a lovely space, high ceilings, lots of light and wooden floors. It was easy to find  and I was impressed with the friendly staff, the massive changing rooms and the overall feel of the place. While the class was only an hour long it was proper yoga rather than a soulless fitness version.

It was lovely to get back to Vinyasa flow after the Budokon I’ve been learning for the past month. It’s so much easier when you know what comes next and already have the sequences lodged in your subconscious. I was enjoying it so much that I totally forgot to worry about my forearm stand and got myself into the posture on  the first go. It was an assisted forearm stand but I found myself thinking that one day I will be able to get into, and hold, the posture on my own.

I wasn’t so keen on the massive mirrors in the room where the class was held but I suppose you need to have those for the dance classes. Luckily I was quite near the back so avoided having to stare at my sweaty face for an hour! The class was much bigger than I’m used to but everyone was very friendly and I didn’t spot even one aloof  hipster.

Yoga classes can be very expensive in London (£10 minimum often as much as £12.00) so I was pleased that my trip coincided with an offer they have on at the moment for 10 days of  yoga for £10. As this is less than I pay for my usual weekly class I was very pleased. Even if I don’t go again I’ve still saved £2.00 – bargain!  After a good look through their timetable I’ve found various classes I’d like to try over the next ten days and I’m rather looking forward to it!

Overall I’m very pleased with my new yoga find.

Budokon- classes 3 and 4

As I missed one of the classes in my Budokon course my lovely teacher let me come along to the other course she is running at the same time. I’d never say no to a free yoga class but I was apprehensive about taking classes two days in a row.

The first class was at Yoganesh which is one of my favourite yoga studios in my corner of London. It’s bright and light with wooden floors and has a very welcoming feel. The only down side is that it’s a fairly small space  so trying not to kick anyone else in the face adds an extra level of challenge…..

For some reason my brain refuses to take in the dancing dog sequence so I had to keep checking the next posture. I was so focused on just trying to get the moves in the right order  that I didn’t have enough space left in my brain to concentrate on my alignment and transitions. I’d also managed to choose the spot with the creaky board which didn’t help me to feel any more graceful!

As the class progressed I didn’t manage to add much extra elegance but I thoroughly enjoyed getting my body moving. I find the Budokon style much harder work but the need for concentration on the sequences means that I don’t really notice how much effort I’m putting in until the end.

I arrived at the next days class a little achey but optimistic. The good thing about taking classes two days in a row is that you can see the improvement straight away. Most of the dancing dog sequence finally sunk into my brain and I was able to start working a little on alignment and aesthetics which I was very pleased with- although I have a lot of work left to do.

Now I’ve reached the end of the 4 week course I feel as though I’ve dipped my toe into the water with Budokon but have a whole heap left to learn before I feel anywhere near proficient! I’ve enjoyed myself though and hopefully I’ll get myself to some drop in classes in the near future. In the mean time I’m rather looking forward to getting back to my usual vinyasa flow class this week.

Budokon challenge – part 2

My head cold has now finally gone so I was able to get myself down to yoga this week. I felt particularly proud of myself for struggling through the rain (it appears to be monsoon season in London at the moment which is not helped by my apparent inability to buy waterproof shoes). I was looking forward to class not having done much yoga through the duration of my cold (I don’t think a few frankly half arsed vinyasa sequences really count) and I wasn’t disappointed as it was a fun class and even better I could really feel myself working.

With the rain beating down on the roof we got straight into our dancing dog sequence. It’s fair to say that I haven’t missed my calling as a dancer/acrobat as I find it really hard to remember a sequence of movements. Somehow all memory of the previous class had left me and me and my two left feet stumbled our way through the sequences with absolutely no hint of grace and a lot of stopping to look at what everyone else was doing. I think I finally have it now though and am determined to have a practice this week however tempting it will be just to run through my usual vinyasa.

One of the really interesting aspects of this style of yoga is the animal references. As part of the class one of the exercises was a series of animal walks; a money, a cat and dolphin (and some other things I have already forgotten). After my initial apprehension about looking silly this was both fun and liberating although hard on the legs! I can really feel it today.

Although many of the postures and sequences in this style are very similar to what I’m used to the subtle differences make it much harder work and much more tiring. I’m really relishing the chance to use my body differently and waking up muscles that I haven’t been using in my normal practice.

While I am finding the course a challenge there’s something very liberating about not being a natural to this style. I know that I’m never going to be brilliant so there’s no point in comparing myself to everyone else. I’m free to go on my own little journey.