Sunday, 30 March 2014


As we were on an all inclusive full board holiday we took all our meals in the hotel restaurant which was split into 2 areas and very busy at peak times.  We tried to start a bit later and arrive in time to get a table by the panoramic windows looking out towards the sea.  At lunchtime we usually succeeded, helped by one of these charming waitresses who gave us a wave when they saw us coming if a table was about to come free.  They worked very hard serving wine and water and keeping the tables cleared, they really earned the tips Bob gave them before we left!
These palm trees were growing in the garden at the bottom of the waterfall thet tumbled down through the levels of the hotel to the lower pool.  I had to wait till nearly the end of the holiday to find the first sunbed in the row free before I could sit there to draw it.  Even though the hotel guide said that sunbeds were not to be reserved they were practically all taken by 10 in the morning with a towel laid out even though the occupants didn't turn up for another hour or more.
Another sarong from the market with a few more ideas on the construction.  I finished the red one yesterday and can't wait for some warmer weather to wear it.
Everywhere in the area there are these fabulously bright bougainvilla flowers tumbling over fences and climbing up walls in all shades of red and pink.  The pink pepper trees are used a lot too in the streets as well as the gardens, the berries are piquant and spicy like a juicy peppercorn.
This tree Bob was sitting under had been trimmed and trained into a solid cone shape and had wonderful shade underneath for when the sun was very hot.
I captured this lady sitting by the pool as she waited for the aquagym to start.
Another 'waiting by the pool' sketch, I'm not able to sit and read for hours in the sun, much preferring to be sketching in my book and the subject matter is usually what I can see in front of me! We had a lovely relaxing holiday, walking and swimming in the morning and taking it easy in the afternoons.  As we have been to Tenerife several times now we didn't feel the need to go off exploring and the coach tours were very expensive for what you saw, according to our Belgian friends.

Friday, 28 March 2014


This banana plant was growing next to my sunbed by the pool so I spent a while drawing it, I think the flowers ended up a bit on the large size but I love the shape of them, similar to the bird of paradise flowers. Funny to think how these flowers end up as a bunch of bananas!
The Saturday in the middle of our holiday was a carnival day and entertainment was put on all day by the hotel animations team, who dressed up in suitably wild costumes. At 1230 we were enthralled by a team of acrobats by the lower pool followed by this group uf slim dark ladies doing the samba and other exotic dances.  They encouraged the guests to join in too, cue Bob trying to hide!  The music and fun carried on in the evening and fun was had by all.
We met a charming Belgian couple, Robert and Christiane who always sat in the same place by the pool.  One day we were on the opposite side so I could secretly draw them as they read their books. Later I showed them what I had done and they were quite pleased to be drawn, especially Robert who was a great card trick and joke master and Christiane said I made her look slim!
I'm always on the lookout for wild flowers when we go away and these were everywhere in the pavement cracks and growing on the open spaces.  They gave a lovely spot of colour in what would otherwise have been barren places. The plants are similar to sorrel but the flowers are much larger and brighter in colour.
Of course I was on the lookout for more sarongs to convert and I was not disappointed when we visited the market on the first Thursday. I acquired a lovely red and orange cotton and viscose one for 10 euros and designed this dress which I planned to make with a bra type top.  When I got it home I found there was enough fabric to make a proper sundress with short sleeves and it's cut out now ready to sew on the table in my workroom so as it's raining this afternoon I'm off to get stitching right now!
So I'll see you later!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Our hotel was called 'Jardines del Teide' named after the volcano that formed the island millions of years ago.  It lives up to the garden theme too with fabulous gardens that stretch down the hillside interspersed with all the stairs and walkways dropping 6 levels from the street entrance.  Many of the rooms were situated on these levels, each with their own terrace to catch the sun. Fortunately there were 2 banks of lifts to get back up the hill although we didn't find them till the second day after climbing all the way back!
The Spanish have a very good way of developing their resorts and there is always a 'paseo' or coastal walkway joining up neighbouring places. In the south of Tenerife you could walk all the way from Playa los Americas to La Caleta (if you had the stamina!) passing all the hotels, bars and restaurants along the way.  The areas vary considerably with the cheaper end (Playa l A) being overrun by ticket touts and people accosting you to eat in their restaurants, go on their boats etc. Costa Adeje where were is a bit more upmarket and far more pleasant for a stroll.  It took us a good half hour to walk northwards to La Caleta, a small fishing village just beyond Costa Adege but well worth the effort as we found some very pleasant little restaurants and bars for a coffee or lunch.
Every evening the hotel put on some sort of entertainment and I was looking forward to seeing some traditional flamenco dancing. I was not disappointed and the 3 ladies really put in a lot of effort with their stamping feet and swirling dresses.
Many years ago my parents had a holiday in Spain and brought back some castanets which we never managed to master but these dancers were clacking away all the time in different rhythms.
We used the swimming pool on the 5th level as it was nearer to our room on the 8th floor.   The other, larger, pool was at the bottom of all those steps so I guess we were a bit lazy but it was quite nice not to have to go too far dripping after our exertions in the aquagym!

Monday, 24 March 2014


We've just come back from a fortnight in Tenerife where the sun shone every day with varying degrees of warmth having had a lovely relaxing time.   I took a new sketchbook with lovely earth tinted papers in it as well as my Museum watercolour pencils with the intention of drawing a variety of different subjects.  This parrot is my favourite drawn from memory after an evening of entertainment at the hotel.
I also took my slim handbag sketchbook with the pale tinted papers to use out and about. This was drawn on the first day during our morning stroll along the seafront. I had bought a multicoloured pencil and was itching to try it out.  It's lead is quite hard and to get the effect of all the colours I had to twist the pencil as I wrote but quite easy to use on the relevant side for specific colours.
On the first afternoon we sat by the pool to read and I started on the plants in the gardens. The wind was a bit fresh and it started to cloud over by the time I finished so we went in for a warming cup of tea.
The hotel is built on the side of a hill with fabulous views over the hotels below and far out to sea. Our room was on the top floor, level with the top of the palm treees growing around the pool where we had sat for the previous sketch.
The hotel bar on the 5th floor has a seating area all around the balcony overlooking the gardens as they descend through 10 levels down the hill to the lower pool.  It was wonderful to sit in the sun level with more palm tops growing from lower down.

Saturday, 8 March 2014


I started looking out my holiday things testerday and came across another sarong I bought in Skiathos at least 22 years ago, hardly worn since I acquired another one from Justine.  Aha, I thought, just right for another conversion so early this morning I made the sketch and set to with my scissors.
I laid another beach cover up over the top and cut around it leaving the bottom as it was because the pattern finished rather nicely with a black stripe. It was a piece of cake to stitch the shoulders, sides, bind the neck and turn up the hems and now I have a new loose top to wear over my swimming costume.
Here are a few more of my college sketches.
I made this coat to go over the skirt with the scalloped waistline I posted yesterday.
And finally a portrait of me copied from a 1966 photo proudly sporting my Vidal Sassoon haircut.

Friday, 7 March 2014


When I lived in England I knew the location of practically all the dress fabric shops in the south-east of England as my job as a rep took me from Kent to Oxfordshire, down through Hampshire and everywhere in between.  I always popped in to see what was new and was able to make some lovely things to wear.  John Lewis was and still is a favourite when I can get there but sadly many of the small individual shops have disappeared now.  Maybe with the renewed interest in needlework engendered by the Sewing Bee we may start to get some new shops opening up. 
 Here in France there are 2 fabric shops not far from my home but the choice of fabrics is very limited and I struggle to find anything I really like, maybe only one or two things a year. 
When we were on holiday in Corsica a couple of years ago I spotted a rail of sarongs and wow! I had a eureka moment.  The patterns were lovely and summery, the fabric light and there was enough to easily make a tunic or blouse.
I bought 2 sarongs and got started as soon as I got home;  Above is the layout I used and depending on the length you want you could cut the facings out at the top of the bodices which would leave enough in the middle for a longer sleeve.  The possibilities are endless really as long as you remember to reverse the sleeve pattern piece so you get a pair and if it's floral keep all the pieces going in the same direction.
This is the third one I made after buying another sarong last year in Tenerife.  It has pretty keyhole details on the neckline and sleeve, sorry they are not too easy to see in the photo.
This one looks great with a suntan and white trousers.
This and the turquoise one cost only 10 euros each which I think is amazing when you see the same things ready made in the shops here for at least 30 euros.
And finally a few more sketches from the college notebook .  This was a gorgeous pink herringbone tweed and I'm sure I made the suit and the trousers.
You can see I was crazy about jumpsuits!  I made quite a few over the years, now the only thing I wear of that style is the overall I wear for gardening!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Inspired by the Sewing Bee on TV I searched through my wardrobe for some clothes to remodel and found a couple of skirts that must be at least 15 years old that I used to wear for work.  I've hardly worn them since moving to France because life here is much more casual and tops and jeans are my usual attire. Both skirts were calf length, one in a loosely woven lineny plain tobacco brown and the other a cream and brown georgette.  I set to with my sketchbook and soon came up with some ideas.
I carefully unpicked the skirts, keeping the zips for future use and pressed the pieces flat.  I've made a diagram of the cutting layout so you can see how it works.  There was enough of the stripy fabric to cut out facings for the plain brown top but I had to use some of the brown skirt's lining to make the neck and sleeve bindings for the stripy top.
Isn't it fortunate I had such a well co-ordinated wardrobe, in fact there is also a matching plain sleeveless top that went with both skirts.
I stitched the stripy facings to the outside of the top to make a contrast and there was just enough to line the side splits too.  I'm really pleased with these and they're definitely coming to Tenerife with me next week!  All I need now is a nice pair of natural linen trousers.....
Here are a few more of my 1960s designs, the one on the left was one of my final exam pieces.  I made life very difficult for myself by cutting that diagonal up the front, I think my tutor made me unpick it at least 3 times.  Anyone who saw the sewing bee last night will know what I mean, the contestants were given stretch fabric to make wrap dresses and most struggled with the front crossover.
I made the one on the right here in a pretty cotton lawn and used shirring elastic for the midriff, much easier to wear than the pintucks I originally designed.
I made both of these, the jumpsuit was a favourite for a long time and the skirt had a collarless coat with a cutaway skirt at the front.

Monday, 3 March 2014


The Great British sewing bee has started a new series and I'm hooked!  Last Tuesday's programme had the contestants re-modelling 2 men's shirts into a new garment. Some of the results were spectacular and some were pretty dull.  I spent most of the night awake with my head buzzing with ideas and in the morning a rummage in my fabric box produced a length of black cotton and some scraps from a top I made last year.  I got out my black sketchbook to jot down some ideas and this is what I came up with. I was undecided at first but finally settled on the one on the left, a copy of a favourite blouse that's worn out.
I decided to cut the back, skirt and sleeves on the cross to give it a bit of drape and interest with the woven check and there was just enough of the cherry to cut out the front.  I made tiny rouleau loops and bought some red bobble buttons to finish off the front.  I'm quite pleased with the result and looking forward to some warm weather now to be able to wear it.
I thought I might start to add some of my 1965 dress designs from my art college days to these sewing blogs.  I only have one sketchbook and a book of pattern cutting notes left from that time so there isn't a lot to see but I can remember trying to develop my own style of drawing the models and clothes.  Don't they look skinny with their stick legs!  I did actually make several of those bonnet hats and wear them to go out, I can remember a pink one that matched a woollen baby doll dress in particular.