Crafty Sunday: Intro To Sewing at Sew Over It

For my birthday last year, Nick super-generously bought me the most beautiful red sewing machine. However, to my utter shame, it has sat in its box in the spare room gathering dust, because I simply haven't had the time - or been brave enough - to break it out. However, the latest series of The Great British Sewing Bee has re-sparked my interest in it, and I decided to hunt out a sewing course to give me a little boost to crack on with it.

Nick was away on a stag do last week so I thought I'd take the opportunity of a free weekend to do the course, and as luck was have it Sew Over It was running their Intro to Sewing class on those dates - perfect timing! So on a bright Saturday morning I trundled off to Clapham full of nervous excitement and trying to remember as much as I could from my GCSE Textiles course.

Our first project was to make a cushion cover. We learnt how to thread the sewing machine, which seems fiendishly complicated at first but by the end of the weekend we were doing it so much it felt like second nature. I ended up thinking of it like driving and all the things you have to do before you can 'set off', so to speak - winding the bobbin, threading the needle and bringing the bobbin thread through, then putting the foot down and the needle into the fabric. I opted for a sunny yellow fabric with a polka dot print as I'd been after something similar for a while, but people chose all sorts of things including penguins, cows and teacups with images of London icons on them!

The cushion cover was actually fairly easy to sew due to its square shape but it was a really great opportunity to get used to the rhythm of the process, such as remembering to backstitch to secure your seams and pattern matching (getting the pattern the same way up on both sides of the fabric). It's definitely a good beginner's project and I'm already trying to hunt out some similar fabric in duck-egg blue to make a matching cushion (we got to keep the instructions and make a paper pattern for everything we made over the weekend).

Next up was a tote bag, where I opted for the penguin fabric. Although lots of the techniques and shapes were similar to the cushion, meaning we had a chance to practice what we already learned, it also taught us some new techniques like zigzag stitch (used to secure raw edges as an alternative to overlocking, which is what's used on most shop-bought clothes) and how to sew straps. I did find this harder going and have to admit that the stitching on this bag wasn't my finest hour, but looking back now I'm actually really pleased with it. I've even bought some gorgeous Eiffel Tower print fabric to have another go!

We returned the next day for our third project - making a makeup bag. This was definitely the hardest challenge of the weekend for as it involved putting in a zip, which requires an absolute shedload of pins to hold it in place so it doesn't move when you're sewing it. I ended up sewing mine quite far in, so it ended up being more of an accidentally concealed zip, although it looked fine in the end. Then I had a minor disaster when I was pressing my lining, didn't pin the corners together properly and ended up cutting a hole in my lining! *insert monkey covering eyes emoji here* Thankfully a bit of speed sewing saved the day and the bag ended up not looking too bad, although I think it might be one for filling with sewing accoutrements at home rather than taking out in public...

Finally, we spent the afternoon working on our own projects. One of the main reasons I wanted to learn to sew was to alter my clothes - the issue with being short is that nothing ever really fits me properly - and this was definitely my favourite part of the weekend. I managed to fix the hem of a favourite skirt and took in a T-shirt I'd loved but that was a bit too baggy on me (although when I got it home I realised it had a hole in it so needs going over again).

Our teacher Ellen was absolutely lovely - I must confess that I was very slow and needed her help with quite a few things, but she was so patient and kind and enormously helpful so thank you Ellen if you're reading! The class also had a really nice relaxed atmosphere with everyone chatting to each other throughout and partaking of the utterly yummy tea and cake. I really want one of the 'Sewing soothes the soul... or something like that' mugs because although I enjoyed it when I was doing it there were a few points when it was hugely frustrating. Such is life with all creative projects though I suppose...

Overall I really enjoyed my first foray back into sewing - I feel like it really helped to refresh the things I knew from school but has also fired me up to start trying new projects. In fact, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I liked it so much that I'm planning to start a new, semi-regular 'Crafty Sunday' series to show you what I've been making (not just sewing I should add - there'll be embroidery and possibly some other things too) and how my sewing journey unfolds. Next project: a new invisible zip for one of my skirts...

Have you ever learned to sew? Would you be interested in taking a class like this?

Dragon Quest Adventure Golf

When we were backpacking in New Zealand, Nick and I had a thing about going to every crazy golf course we could find and playing a round against each other. Highlights included Caddyshack City in Queenstown (possibly the best mini golf course in the world*), a downhill course in Kaikoura and one that was located on a random residential street in Wanaka. We dubbed our travelling tournament the 'Nose Cup' and, at the risk of sounding braggy, I won.

Since then, we've occasionally played one-off games (usually when we are on holiday - is it wrong part of me wants to go back to Hastings so we can play that course again?). However, Nick has recently taken up golf as a hobby and discovered that the golf centre where he has lessons has a crazy golf course called Dragon Quest. So of course the only thing to do on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon was get ourselves down there and play a round.

Giant plastic dragon outside the golf course. As yo do, like.
As the name suggests, Dragon Quest is themed around medieval knights, meaning that on the surface it looks like a family-friendly version of the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There's a dragon's tail atop a cave on the 12th hole (complete with roaring sound effect if you get a hole in one hitting the ball through a stalactite), artfully placed shields and rocky outcrops, a castle tower and an enormous waterfall effect that contains all the blue dye you can shake a stick at. It looks very impressive though!

Dragon footprints going up to the shop entrance.

One of the things that surprised me most was the mix of people there. I had expected it to be dominated by families with small children - and there were a few of those, as well as a kid's birthday party - but there were also several couples and groups of friends too.

Nick taking a shot in the cave.
The course itself is surprisingly challenging. I think a big part of it is the water feature, which dominates the course and means that the middle section is fairly risky as it's worryingly easy to accidentally knock your ball into the stream. There's also a fair few uphill shots and interesting corners, so it's quite easy to get to the six-shot limit. At least that's what I'm blaming our less than brilliant scores on:

Winner: Nick, by 54 strokes to 57 (on a par 40 course. Fail!)
Rounds won: Me 0, Nick 1
Accumulative scores: Me 57, Nick 54

Overall, we really enjoyed Dragon Quest - yes it is very child-friendly but to be honest it's so darn fun that you kind of don't mind. In fact we liked it so much that we've decided to revive our tournament by playing the crazy golf courses of London (of which there are a surprisingly large amount!). Nick is off to Swingers *awaits Blogger to block me* soon with a friend so will report back, but I think our next one is going to be Birdies as it's summer-only. Although if there's anywhere you'd particularly recommend please let me know!

Dragon Quest costs £8 each for adults (with a second game on the same day for half price) and also offers child and family tickets - find out more on their website.

* You can have that one for nothing, Carlsberg.

#BloggersFeast at Street Feast Dalston Yard

Regular readers will know that I really love street food markets; it's a great opportunity to try loads of different things without taking (too much of) a hit on the wallet. There are loads of different ones all over London but Street Feast is one of my favourites, as they always seem to have loads of great traders. I've been lucky enough to visit their Hawker House and Model Market venues already, and a few weeks ago I headed off to their Dalston Yard venue for the #BloggersFeast event.

Kicking things off right with an Opihr gin and ginger ale, which is my absolute favourite drink right now. (If you haven't tried it already, stop what you're doing and go make one. You won't regret it.)

I always try to go to new places whenever I visit a street food market and so, whilst everyone else made a beeline for Bleecker Burger (which is ace by the way) I opted to start with a pork bahn mi from Hanoi Kitchen. I'd become a bit obsessed with banh mi - kind of like a Vietnamese baguette - when we were travelling and this was just as delicious as I remembered them being. It had a great fresh flavour from the herbs and veggies and the pork was incredibly juicy, with just enough kick from the hot sauce at the end without blowing your head off.

Next up, sort-of sticking with the Asian-food-in-bread theme, I decided to brave Kimchinary. I am a sucker for a good burrito and Korean food has been on my to-try list for some time, so I opted for their beef cheek bulgogi. And it was everything I'd been led to believe it would be. The meat was amazingly tender and the vegetables gave colour and crunch, without the kimchi being overpowering (though I think the creaminess from the sesame slaw and sour cream helped with that too). It also paired very nicely with a Brewdog Dead Pony Club from Can Shack, which I think is my new favourite beer.

Shortly after this the heavens opened and, with all the covered areas taken, we beat a hasty retreat to the Tequila Treehouse bar as it was the one dry spot in the place! But not before I managed to make off with a salted caramel brownie from Bad Brownie, which was utterly amazing - sticky, gooey, rich and not overly sweet. If you ever get the chance to try one, do it (although their freakshake looked amazing too!)

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Street Feast and would definitely go back, if only to try all the stuff I missed out on - I really want to give Killa Dilla and White Men Can't Jerk a go in particular . It was also great to meet loads of lovely fellow bloggers, including Fran, Lauren and Jade. I completed the Street Feast set at Dinerama with work so there will be a post up on that soon too!

Do you like street food? What's your favourite trader or market? And have you been to any blogger events?