surf to summit top

Surf to Summit Top

My fave running top for winter?  It rapidly became the Surf to Summit top, Fehr Trade’s latest pattern.  I was actually a pattern tester before Christmas but what with Christmas and the laptop malfunction it’s taken me all this time to blog & retrieve photos.  And all the meanwhile I have been regularly pulling this top off the drying rack to use as soon as it is ready.  The red is my absolute fave & I shall now tell you why.

surf to summit top

Have you seen the surf to summit pattern yet?  It is another clever design from Melissa as we all come to expect, Melissa adds practical styling & very clever piecing.  This is a princess seamed, raglan sleeved, long or short sleeved top with options for fold-over hand warming mitts (long sleeve only of course hahaha), turtle neck, half zip neck, back shaped hem for cyclists, elasticated back pocket.   So far I have made a turtle neck out of some slinky smooth sports lycra from UKFabrics online (not sure if there is any of this left now) then I made the half zip version out of some apparently thermal wicking fabric I scored off eBay yonks ago.  (It’s rather fluffy, perfect ski base layer potentially, and so sorry I do not have any links to share)

surf to summit top

Now I was a tester & whipped these two tops up pretty quickly – they are a breeze to make with the raglan sleeves particularly.  Note the versions I am wearing are tester versions and since then Melissa has tweaked the pattern slightly to make the turtle neck facing behave better, she’s also altered the half zip facings, but I did not have any noticeable issues when I made it.

surf to summit top

As it was such a long time ago that I made these tops I am trying to remember how it was, apart from being swift.  The half zip top clearly takes longer to make, but there are some clever facings to make the zip insertion nice & straight forward.  This is one of the first times I’ve done this kind of zip, so at each step I was enjoying learning a new process.  I am sure my zip insertion can be improved!

surf to summit top

I had some strange quirk of a fit adjustment that was so easy – I found the armholes needed more of a scoop as they were a bit high under my ‘pits.  Accommodating deeper more scooped armholes was easy with raglan sleeves – no unpicking required.  Melissa advised me to stick the sleeve back inside the body, so that I could get at the seam that joins the sleeve all the way around, & take some extra off in a nice smooth curve from say mid chest around to mid upper back.  I eeked little bits at a time until I was happy with my armhole scoop.  If only all fit adjustments with an overlocker could be so pleasant!!

surf to summit top

What else did I learn making these tops?  Oh yes, the facings are top stitched in the ditch to keep them in place.  Being a raglan top there are four seams that can be used for this purpose.  I was concerned about sewing with a normal straight stitch on an area that could potentially be stretched so much- but no, the straight stitches have not ever given me cause for worry, they do not appear to give any rigidity to an area of stretch, have no fear & be brave!

surf to summit  top

The process for sewing the mitts is almost as genius as the wearing of them!  There are no awkward sewing manoevres required, honest.  And wearing – folded one way they are just part of your sleeve, fold the other way & they form a neat hand pocket.  Oh I love them!  I might feel a bit like I am in a morph suit, but they are a good thing to have on hand in case of emergency cold fingers.  At the moment I am beyond handwarming long arm mitts, I have to say.  At the moment I am wearing a pair of running gloves plus fleecy mittens, but come the spring, I know I shall be leaving mittens behind safe in the knowledge that my extremities will be protected by sleeve mitts- which can be folded back again when I warm up.  No future incidents of glove-falling from pockets & getting waylaid with these sleeves.

surf to summit top

The reason I am constantly wearing these tops is because it is cold, yes.  The fit is so comfy though, I never thought I’d enjoy wearing a turtle neck – I am funny about things around my neck you see, & would not normally choose it.  But in the winter, it’s ideal for giving a bit more coverage & keeping the draughts at bay.  I love the way the red fabric feels against my skin too.  I think it is 4 way stretch and silky so I could have used it for leggings, but as a long sleeved top, it feels luxurious.   Whilst I like the half zip, I prefer the no zip variety, just because it is less fussy to wear around my neck. If I hadn’t been so busy with Christmas gift sewing, I would have made more, and I have a few fabrics “waiting” by my sewing machines for that opportune moment.

surf to summit top


Lightwaves shawl

I knit a shawlette, but the observant amongst you may have seen that before Christmas, when I showed a poor photo here.

It’s the Lightwavesshawl by Susan Ashcroft and it’s made using Rowan Alpaca, from Black Sheep Wools.

It took me nigh on a year to knit it not because there is a load of knitting ( a load of stitches, yes, all on a long circular needle;-) )

But it took me a long time due to my ‘omg I don’t know how to do that’ inertia.


It’s knit over circular needles with a combination of stocking stitch and garter stitch. Nothing particularly scary there, except keeping accurate count. And even the pattern advises of a mid way stitch marker. But the complexity comes through the creation of the waves which are formed using short rows. This clearly was my first short rows experience but hey, I am not phased by them now. The short rows enable you to knit each colour block almost in one continuous row- short rows are deployed for going backwards and forwards to knit the deep parts of each row, to create a wave effect.

The pattern was really good with extra links for knitting short rows. I cannot fault it, more my knitting ‘L’ plates. I probably almost followed the pattern, but it will not be the most polished rendition on Ravely I bet. But then, despite the appearance of a couple of knitted things in the space of a month that might lead you to think the contrary, I do not knit a lot.

So, despite this being unpolished and with plentiful flaws, I am really pleased I tackled something that felt like a steep learning curve for me. I love the colours and the softness of the yarn. Although if I made it again ( and I do have a quantity of yarn left that could be used) I would change the order of the colours to be more rainbow like and blended… Thanks Dad for braving the wind and being my beach location photographer supreme!


Madrid tote for the sewist

Ok so the verdict on my laptop is not good. After a few hours of diagnosis over the kitchen table it had been referred to a specialist, with a corrupted hard disk partition. I am devastated, naturally, but know it will be in good hands. I am crossing my fingers, toes and eyes for a speedy recovery.
But in the meantime I am not able to blog about any of my makes that need a photo of me wearing them, (from my camera) nor the makes I’ve already photographed, but that’s not the end of the world. I have a few ideas about how to get around that and spread some sewing delights.
Like today’s. I made the Madrid tote from Colette Patterns’ online magazine, issue 1 last weekend.

I had some proper oilcloth ( not the cheap PVC that I was taken in by last time ) bought from a local shop – it’s Vintage Happy by Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet and it is covered with, yes, vintage snippets from dressmaking catalogues. It’s a fascinating read! Garment descriptions, gorgeous line drawings of day dresses, the shape of a paper pattern as well as the lady drawn in her foundation garment glory. I have lots left too, so am thinking about making a set, maybe make up bag, travel set….
Anyway, onto the tote. Supplies. I bought some ready made handles which are made by Prym and seem to be available from a lot of online stockists. And if they sell bag handles the likelihood is that they will also sell the magnetic clasp too. And that’s all the hardware that I bought in. I bought from Jaycotts, but Minerva also sells all sorts of bagmaking stuff too. My lining was a stash find- Some left over gingham that was so off grain I am too embarrassed to show much of the off non pattern matched seams.

The Madrid is one of the patterns included with Seamwork if you pay the subscription, but all of the articles, as you probably already know, are freely available online, and in issue 1 there are articles to help you get your head around sewing bags- with extensive tips around bag hardware and sewing leather ( or similar ) for example. I found it really helpful as I have never sewn leather nor have I ever used hardware in bag making and it’s quite daunting, isn’t it? So with a reputation for demystifying techniques that could be perceived as complex, I knew I was in safe hands and not risking too much, by following Colette Patterns’ Madrid bag pattern and attempting a few firsts:
– using a magnetic clasp
– successfully sewing oilcloth
– using ready made bag handles

And there, look, magnetic clasp and bag handles

So as you’d expect the pattern consists of different sized rectangles, and you can use contrasting fabric for the top part and bottom. As I had such fab oilcloth I didn’t want to break up the design so went for the even easier approach and used the lining pattern to cut my outer bag pieces too. I also cut two interior pockets, knowing that a big tote is a cave of abandon when keys / phone / a pen/ purse are required to be found.

I cut the strap that comes over the top so that one of the fancy ladies in her day dress would be centred.


Isn’t she lovely ?

The patterns with Seamwork are also all put together with the premise that they are quick makes and relatively easy sews. I made mine using a couple of hours on a Sunday. It is straightforward. I was prepared to deploy countermeasures for sewing my oilcloth, should my foot stick, but surprisingly I had no problem on that front.


I was careful using pins, but did use pins ( minimally) along the stitching line.
The bag handles are sewn on by hand and this was easily the longest most time consuming step. The only word of caution I would offer on using the bag handles like this, is about where you attach them. They have a certain amount of bulk and you need to allow enough room for the top bag seam allowance as well as a little wriggle room to get your sewing machine foot through for top stitching. If you wanted a double line of topstitching just plan ahead with where you put your handles.

I did use my zip foot too, but with the layers of oilcloth and lining plus seam allowances, it did not like it that much.
So the bag ? A delight. I’ve used it for work on a non gym kit day and it fits all the usual crap without busting at the seams.


I got a few positive remarks ( everyone is used to seeing me with a beaten up old Berghaus rucksack!) and it also started a conversation about sewing, which has to be an excellent thing?

Here it is stuffed to the gunnels. So now I know my ay around Madrid, maybe there’ll be another ….. Has anyone else enjoyed Madrid-making or even exploring Valencia? (the extra clutch bag pattern in issue 1)

Goldhawk road

2014 to 2015 : a summary

First of all thank you all so much for your comments & objectivity, support & sympathy about my “Young” Burdas in my last post.  I felt so vindicated when you left honest feedback that supported my own feelings!  It was like a sigh of relief.  No pleats for me next time!  Anyway, I will be responding to comments more specifically later on…but need to get this post out – at last…continuing my Top 5s of 2014, (hosted by Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow)  here is the review & look forward.

I needed time to think about this post, afterall it’s the kind of thing that could be reaaaaallllly long & navel gazing had I written it before I’d come to the end of my own conclusions.  Thankfully for you I drafted something that acted as a kind of purge, that then enabled me to do my own real review to end up with my own personal headlines.  Much more useful & interesting I hope!

So let’s get nerdy.  Fancy seeing some sewing stats?

2014 makes

I made 97 garments / accessories for me in 2014.  That is *rather a lot* even by my own rating, considering a mere handful were made in December as that is when I was concentrating on sewing gifts for Christmas.  In bullet form then, I made (some are yet to be blogged):

  • 10 skirts
  • 19 dresses
  • 10 pairs of trousers
  • 1 pair of shorts (but by golly I love em)
  • 2 bikinis
  • 14 tops/ shirts/ blouses
  • 7 cardigans/ jumpers/ hoodies
  • 5 pairs of knickers
  • 21 things for running in ( from leggings/ shorts/ tops…bras)
  • 3 coats/ jackets
  • 1 pair of PJs
  • 7 accessories (scarves, hats, bags)

On top of this I also made 20 gifts for others including 5 shirts for my men boys, 5 ties & a cardigan & skirt for my Mum.  That has reached new levels of unselfish sewing. (For me)  Now that is an achievement !!

How did this compare to previous years?  Well in 2012 I made 59 things and 2013, 66.  Oh, alright, you want to see that in a fancy chart?

wardrobe growthThis shows number of things I sewed for me each year

Is this reaching danger levels?  Fear not.  As part of my sewing over the last year, believe it or not I am getting a lot better at making every day wearables, although, some might say that the number of dresses has once again reached levels of frivolity, & they might be right!  I do not wear all my dresses a lot, but some are in pretty solid rotation (particularly knit dresses).  And some of my makes from earlier years are worn lots – still.  Others seem to reside in my “ironing pile”.  Hahahaha!!

Another comparison between years…..because I like charts …

2012 2013 2014 comparison

New category this year – running clothes, previous years I would have recorded them amongst leggings & tops, but there are so many that I thought they deserved their own space this year.  It looks like the only things I made more of the previous year was skirts & PJs …

So what surprises me about 2014 productivity levels is that it felt like a non stop year for me in all ways.  Doh! That’s an average of 2.25 makes per week  (albeit different levels of complexity).  So it seems sewing was part of that non-stop merry-go-round.

And alongside this I tried to keep my running ticking over, with 4 half marathons, a 10 mile race and a 10k with 674 miles underfoot.  Now that’s not nearly as much as the previous year, in part due to there being no marathons in the mix.  However, running became overshadowed by too many other lovely things to do.  Seriously though, 2014 started intentionally & ended as my *party year* – in that it was a year of fun & friends with lots of trips away & so many more to London than usual that I feel it’s become my second home ;-).


However, as a result I reached the end of the year burnt out.    And it affected my running – it meant that I put in the bare minimum (& sometimes not even that) resulting in 3 half marathons that were just so hard (far less enjoyable when it is such a struggle) & so much slower than I am usually able to run.  My learning from this – you only get out what you put in.  So true for me.

My biggest running achievements in 2014 therefore were not speed related, but the races I enjoyed the most. I loved running the Great North Run again but with my friend this time. He was totally lapping up the atmosphere and my abiding memory is his delight at the crowds and the things they did to cheer people on (my fave is the Elvis singer stationed about a mile and a half away from the end). It was also a particularly awesome last mile, turning to run along the coast and being played “chariots of fire” music and the recorded commentary from an hour or so earlier letting us know that this year Mo Farrar won the race!


My other top race experience this year has to be the Weymouth 10 miler. I ran with my running ladies, who had trained hard over the September to get their mileage up from the usual 6 miles or so. The race route was brilliant – lots of sea views, and even the hills were not as bad as we were imagining. But what was best was running to support our group achievement, (we are the Run Ragged Runners !)  helping each other along and keeping the motivation going. I usually run races on my own, (just because no one else is foolish enough to do them with me) so this was the best kind of novelty for me.

So I  can apply this learning to my sewing too.  I have had a whirlwind year & 2015 is all about slowing down & putting more effort in. I can see I have become more confident at tackling harder projects, requiring greater levels of precision and skill. Yes, I need quick makes, I love racing things up in an evening on my overlocker, but the things I am most proud of are those that look special and have taken more time You don’t know yet that my last make of 2014 is my most proudest make- ever.  I shall be able to show it off next week.  It’s my Anise jacket & I sewed it after Christmas over a number of days.

Cherie boot

So my focus this year?   I feel strongly about going down the quality route – spend on quality not volume.  Take fabrics that scare me and make a much higher proportion of garments that are “high hitters“, that is things sewn from expensive fabric that involve more careful planning, thinking and sewing perfection. I saw a programme on TV recently – the finalist of British Portrait Artist of the year, Christian Hook  (who was incredible- super talented,  creating the most incredible paintings and for the show I watched, painted a portrait of Alan Cumming). And I noted the two things he said he brought to every portrait – “risk and learn” – this resonated with me. I shall try to incorporate that more into this year.

Running in the summerRunning shot with the ladies last summer

And slow down.  This applies to sewing and running as I have done something crazy.   I have a ballot place for the London marathon!  Funnily enough I hold nostalgic memories about marathon training. Good job too as one of my running friends shocked us by announcing that she was going to run in the first Bristol Bath marathon in October! We were all so shocked! And I just couldn’t let her train alone – so have signed up for it myself!!   I am still in shock after my first & only marathon experience.

And of course more wigs and even more fun.

So that’s 2015 planned out for me!

I hope it’s a great year for everyone x

miette skirt

Miette skirt of fabulousness

So happy new year one & all! No I have not fallen off the face of the earth at all, but was in danger of doing so -I was in desperate need of a break from all things over Christmas which means I have absolutely loads to catch up on now that I have had loads of good family fun, friend fixes & sleeeeep! I feel rested & fresh for the joys of 2015.

I do plan to write my mini review of achievements and goals for 2015, but do not have all the facts to hand & as I am dying to get blogging again, and have been very tardy blogging a lot of my 2014 makes, I will dally no longer and show you something groovy.

miette skirt

I’d been inspired by this version of Tilly’s Miette skirt, and so when venturing out into Goldhawk Road recently with the ever  wonderful Jane, had some checked/ tartan fabric on my shopping list.

miette skirt

By the time I had satisfied many of the other things on my shopping list (I had put lots of planning into this pilgrimage to Goldhawk Road, as you do) I was extremely pleased to discover a fetching collection of plaids in one of the last shops we visited.  Don’t ask me which shop I purchased this from, but I also purchased some navy viscose with amazing drape to make a 1940s tea dress  ( a snip at £2 per metre).  Anyway, this fabric is some kind of nice polyester mix suiting and I was instantly drawn to the colours: magenta and bottle green. The decision was easy, and I think this fabric was about £7 per metre. I bought two metres, planning to make a Miette skirt with a wrap but not ties. The ties can take up quite a lot of fabric, and in the winter, I felt that this skirt will be layered upon & so ties and bows would become squashed/ lumpy/ compromised (despite my original inspiration rocking ties big time).

miette skirt

It was important think about pattern and matching when I was cutting it out, so I cut each piece individually, laying out cut pieces against its pair to work out how the pattern would align. the Miette skirt has some cool chevron opportunities with diagonal centre front seaming. This check is a rectangular check, like many , and as a result you are never going to get each row forming perfect chevrons, but I did manage to conjure it up so that the green ones match.

Miette skirt

I wanted to experiment with the direction of the pattern on the pockets so also played around on position of grainlines as they would look on the cut out skirt pieces before deciding on how to cut them out. The pockets I also cut out individually to make sure they matched as a pair. The top of the pockets therefore are almost cut on the bias, and I considered adding a line of interfacing to stabilise the seamline here, but didn’t actually in the end, and it is OK as it the fabric is reasonably robust and not that drapey.

miette skirt

Out of sheer laziness I made the waistband half the width it comes up in the pattern. This was because I wanted to use that wonderful waistband vilene and it just happened to be this width.  All the foldlines and seamlines are incorporated into the vilene & it was just easier to go with that as it gives such a nice finish.  Due to the mechanics of making the wrap & tie waistband, the pattern is drafted with a six piece waistband – three pieces for the waistband front with three pieces for the waistband facing.  This is what the skirt looks like if you make the waistband by using only three pieces folded in half & omitting the facings.  (Apols if I have just lost you there in some waistband piecing vortex!  But you never know, someone might appreciate it!!)

miette skirtMaking the Miette skirt up is a quick sew. Very satisfying. It was a Boxing Day make.

miette skirt

I think making it without the ties saves a lot of time too, as I can remember they are very long pieces to turn the right way around.  I discovered these gorgeous vintage buttons in my button stash & made two buttonholes – both on the outside as i want to show them both off as a feature.

miette skirt

I’ve been wearing it a lot since. It’s a perfect winter skirt with tights and boots.  The first time I made it, I described it as “cute meeting utility” & have to say that I am almost taking the pockets for granted this time.  What this skirt does for me this time is to make me feel girly yet warm, which is often a challenge in the winter when you feel the cold like I do – trousers are often my first resort as I think they will be warmer.  It is so lovely to have a cosy swishy skirt to wear.

miette skirt

All I need to take me into deeper winter are some thermal tights ….M&S will be getting a visit :-)

Glad to be back blogging again – I will probably be appearing a bit more frequently as I catch up on some of the things I have been doing over December (& possibly even November! yikes)

Happy New Year everyone – hope it’s filled with sewing, fun & friendship x

….and breathe…..

Hello lovelies!  I need to wish you Happy Christmas before it’s too late!

I hope you all have a most wonderful time doing what makes you happy.  I am hosting this year and we are going to use our outdoor pizza oven to cook some of the roast!  Even if it’s standing under a golf umbrella with wellies on…or wrapped up with scarves & gloves.  Of course we won’t eat outside, that would be foolish.

I have to confess that I took too much on this year & upon reflection all those hand made ideas that in themselves seemed relatively simple & straightforward, all add up.  It turns out that I have made something for everyone I give to this year.  And for some (ie my men boys) they got more than just the one handmade.  I have felt like I have been on a mission & gift-sewing bossed everything else (apart from work & the odd run).   I have some makes still to blog about but couldn’t get the time in before now, so will have a couple to show you after Christmas.  I should either have started earlier, or considered taking some time off before hand.  But, without giving anything away, the final two gifts were completed today …& now the house is all prepared for hosting & an evening of cooking/baking awaits me.  I have some Christmas Crooners to keep me company.  Marvellous!

In terms of sewing, I am mega excited to be sewing for me again.  Want to see what I’m going to be concentrating on this holiday?

image 1

This is my December and January project for the Minerva Blogging Network.   I am making a *big project*.  Yes, at last I am making a jacket.  The fabric I chose is this blankety grey flannel, it’s quite thick & felty, a true charcoal grey, with a faint mottled tweedy appearance.   This jacket is going to be an everyday jacket, one for going to work, or wearing with jeans at the weekend or on an evening.   But because I want there to be some secret fun & jollity to something otherwise sensible on the outside, I’ve chosen a polka dot lining, a satin. This is rather a statement – these polka dots are a couple of inches in diameter!

Also in my bundle of materials is calico for the underlining, some interfacing and also shoulder pads.

image 2

Looking for buttons I thought these would look good with the grey- my chosen jacket is double breasted & so the buttons are definitely a feature. Have you worked out what I am making yet? I have plumped for the Anise Jacket by Colette Patterns.

image 3

I have had this for a year or so now & it’s about time it got made! I shall be making the full length sleeved version, and am looking forward to rocking the welt pockets and I feel I should really make bound button holes as well. I feel as if I have a mountain ahead of me.  It’ll be worth it though, and do you know, I am really looking forward to it.   It fits with my sewing ethos for 2015….but you’ll have to wait to hear about that another time.

Have a most wonderful Christmas everyone, thanks for all of your support this year, it’s been a blast!

Top 5 of 2014: hits and misses

I kind of missed the boat on this last year, a review of sorts, hosted by Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow. 

I did find everyone’s top 5s interesting reading last year, (lots of inspiration, temptation and honesty) and there are a few starting to pop up this December, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise for me to do too, before I get too overwhelmed with Christmas *stuff*.  If it’s not your thang, it’s not your thang.  I will condense mine into just two posts- today it will be Top 5 of 2014 – Hits & Misses.  The next one, probably some time after Christmas will be my highlights, reflections and goals.  As I start to write I do not know what my final lists will be – consider this a live experience….

Top 5 Hits of 2014

So I’m supposed to pick my top 5 makes this year.   And looking through my handmade wardrobe page was not the best idea as I have more than 5 firm favorites!

So I will vote based on wear as opposed to adoration, but mention a couple of the adored as well :-)  (I’d say that is a positive, wouldn’t you?  Maybe I am getting better at sewing for a working every day wardrobe?)

Most worn summer dress has to be my first Hepworth dress, from Sinbad & Sailor, with its sister following close behind.  It has been so useful for work – smart, pretty, great fit & very comfy to wear (plus pockets !)  I would also wear this out of work too, its style is just *me*.

Most worn autumn dress is my Hot Patterns Iconic Shirt dress- the fabric is so easy to wear & care for, & it tends to be the dress I pack in my rucksack for changing into at the office after my early morning exercise session.  You really can pack it up the night before – roll it up, stuff it alongside towel, other essentials & pull it out 12 hours later to look as if it’s come straight off the hanger.  Oh yes – I haven’t had to iron it after washing either, & condsidering things can languish in my ironing pile for seasons, it’s a quality I value!.  It also looks & feels a million dollars & I love the size of the collar (even though it might be on the large side of retro!)  (There’s still 10% off Hot Patterns at Sewbox up until Christmas if you follow the link above to my original review).

Most worn exercise item – duathlon shorts by Fehr Trade – in various shapes & sizes.  I was hooked on wearing the shorter (but not hot pants) version as much as I could.  Just love getting my legs out.  Such a floosie.  And since I love getting my pins in fresh air, I also love the Threshold shorts as well, but haven’t posted about my latest pair yet …

Most worn casual lounging wear – my Hudson pants!  The floral Hudsons are also in my adoration list, but got worn incessantly after work, therefore featuring firmly in my Top 5.  The grey ones are now in constant rotation now that it’s colder, but can never be as cute as the florals ;-)


Most worn combo (this is a cheat so that it looks like 5 top makes, but actually I am squeezing in two for the price of one!)  My Breton Coco top with my denim Ultimate trousers.

I could go on & on about Breton tops being part of my style history since I was 17, so making my own means that I can perpetuate that look and keep to my no-buy-RTW pledge.  The Ultimates are just the most wonderful royal blue & with that retro cigarette shape fit my aesthetic with the advantage that the element of stretch makes them super comfy.

Also on the adoration list, my tomato shorts and my vintage sari wrap dress – both part of my vintage pattern pledge this year, and my Laurel LBD –   I love wearing it, it makes me feel *just right*, a classic simple dress that fits my style.  Be prepared to see more Laurels in my 2015 life.


 Top 5 misses

Now it’s the misses that are most interesting, am I right?  What came to pass after the photos were taken?  How much of a feature in an everyday wardrobe were some of the things I made?  Do I really wear clothes like that in real life??!!!  You’re not going to get answers to all of those questions I am afraid!

This is hard.  I look at what I have made & I am pleased with most .  Therefore to get any value from this exercise I need to dredge my memory for those things that get worn less – or not at all.  This will also include things I am not 100% happy with and have identified remedial work.

Easiest to start with recent history – my red Bronte top – unwearable really due to being too small – wrong choice of fabric.  I do not want to feel like a mummy.

Next up, my Robe Sureau – beautiful pattern, gorgeous fabric, but it is too low in the neckline, gaping out also makes it far too exposed.  I need to shorten it by taking it up at the shoulders.  Future makes need a wedge taken out of the CF somehow.


This VNA top was a tester top & the fabric is just too thick & sweat making to make it a viable running top.  OK so it’s lumo & covered with millions of tiny shiny bits, but it’s just too plain clammy.   Luckily I have other VNAs that are made with better fabric.

Now don’t be too shocked – My elephant Jamie Jeans do not get chosen purely because I made them a bit too small.  Boo hoo.  I feel I am always “pulling” at them (in the wrong places!), they are more than a tad uncomfy.  Hopefully I will lose a few inches around those parts when marathon training gains momentum as I love the details on them …gold ric rac, elephants on my bum …

And this last one might surprise you.  I have only worn my Edith “Oona” blouse once this year.  I think I made it quite late in the summer, and had rather a selection of similar tops that got preference.  I hope it will come into its own again next year.

So there you are.  My top 5 hits & misses.  I am going to enjoy everyone else’s recaps.  It’s an interesting thing to do- it might just surprise you too!


manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

A Manly Scarf for #debsknittingchallenge

A few months ago I was asked if I’d like to take part in a knitting challenge – namely to knit something up for a special man in my life for Christmas.  Strangely the challenge came from Debenhams, a department store, selling amongst other things, all sorts of knitted things for men, & women, grown up & young, and not somewhere I associated with handknitting & crafting.   But I said yes, especially as they offered to contribute towards my supplies.   And especially since it gave me an idea about what to do for someone who is usually difficult to buy for, my Dad.  He seems to have everything he needs, and what’s even more tricky, is that it’s his birthday close to Christmas as well, a sure test of the well of inspiration.

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

Now I am not known for my knitting prowess, as recently mentioned.  So I was modest & realistic in my choice of project :  a scarf in something soft & *manly*.  The Manly Scarf #3  by Luise O’Neil caught my eye – an interesting stitch combo to give texture (it’s a kind of herringbone) – but not beyond the skills of the Badger.

Manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

It has a four row pattern repeat which I just about got to grips with half way in & found my own rhythm for remembering where I was mid-row.   Before this stage, if I lost my place, I tended to rip out the whole row as I really couldn’t tell by looking, what place in the row I had got to.

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

I chose a gorgeous brown/ grey tweed effect yarn, an acrylic, Caron Simply Soft Paints in ‘sticks & stones’ – a perfect choice for my Dad & his Tweed.  Being acrylic it’s soft  against the skin too, as it has to be if I have any chance of it being worn….

manly scarf

It knitted up as about 270 rows, and I have to say I really enjoyed the night time knitting on the sofa in front of the TV.  It also accompanied me on a few train journeys.  It watched a series of Breaking Bad with me & it  joined Man Men series 5 (got a lot of catching up to do!)

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

I loved blocking it in daylight & seeing the resulting textures brought about by the yarn combo & stitch.


manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

Hopefully my Dad will miss this post before he gets it wrapped up & presented to him for Christmas …I love the idea that I have made him something that he can get snuggled with (in a very manly way of course)!

I’m looking forward to seeing other #debsknittingchallenge offerings & there is some kind of surprise…& the name of Patrick Grant was also used to lure us in ….who knows?!  Anyway 14th December is the deadline for the reveal – just got my photos done in time…

Comparing three Bronte tops

I was a bit late to join the Bronte top brigade, but am I glad that I did?

The Bronte top by Jennifer Lauren, as you may be aware,is designed for knits, and its most defining characteristic is the cutest envelope neck – well that’s what I call it, reminiscent of baby vests. This neckline is so flattering!  But it is also a joy to sew (but more of that later).   The top is designed to enhance your natural assets, & is shaped to accentuate your waist, rather than a straight down tshirt.  Narrowish sleeves – I made the long sleeved version as this is a winter top for me, it was destined to provide some good solids for wearing throughout the season, and allow me to keep my print skirts in rotation.

Bronte topBronte topBronte top

I have made this three times, out of three different jerseys and what I found intriguing is how they all behaved differently.  Well of course that is not rocket science, but when I was choosing my fabrics online, I did not think about performance, I just assumed they would all fit the bill.   [Hint, they did not!!!]   I chose them all from Minerva, having made things previously out of Minerva jersey, which can be incredibly reasonably priced, the scrooge in me hunted out some more interesting looking jersey bargains.

I used this blue viscose jersey, a red jersey, and an ecru jersey with an interesting texture.

Bronte top

My first Bronte top was made using the blue & was a huge success.  The neckline is such a clever feature – not only looking darn cute but also if you are a tshirt newb, it’s a great way to get the neckband on without the hassle of “how much stretch” as the neck band is attached as one of the first steps – to the front & back separately.  My only frustration in sewing it, was in using my Coverstitch machine to top stitch the seam allowance down – my machine (OK, I shouldn’t blame my machine, but the person steering it!) did not want to keep straight & neat, so I have to say I avoided this step in my next versions, no topstitching at all, just a hearty press with the iron.

Bronte top


If it wasn’t for my Coverstitch issues, my blue Bronte top would have been a very quick make.  The sleeves are inserted flat, then sewn closed with the side seams.  I forgave my Coverstitch machine enough to allow it to hem the sleeves and top itself, and it did that without fuss (thank goodness).    Apart from hems, I sewed all of it with my overlocker.

The neckline is secured using invisible stitches or buttons.  Any opportunity to add a pop of button would not be avoided by me.  Red in the case of the blue top, seeking suitable candidates from my button jar.

Bronte top

So feeling plumped up on how well the Bronte goes together, and how well it fits (nice length too, both sleeves and body will certainly keep me sung this winter), I cut out two more, the red and the ecru.  If they were closer in colour, I would have sewn them in parallel, such was the confidence I had in blasting through their construction quickly.  But overlocker threads were from two extreme colour groups, I had to sew in series.  The red was the next one to be made, and without the Coverstitch fuss proved that this really is a quick make – an hour and a half tops.    The fabric had a dense quality to it – I thought it would be nice & cosy as I was making it.

Bronte top

I then made the ecru version, and was really loving the fabric.  I used the wrong side as the right side, so that it’s got more nubbly texture on show.  Attaching buttons was the last step, and something I hadn’t quite got to when I took these photos (it was pre hem too).

So what I found was that the red Bronte top is like a straight jacket!

Bronte top

The sleeves are like plastercasts !  hahaha!

Bronte top

You see I made no reference to its stretch factor.  This fabric is pretty stable, or certainly stable enough to not want to give in the right places for a body flattering top like the Bronte top.

Bronte top

How I chuckled when I realised my mistake.  I have only tried to wear it for an afternoon, and then couldn’t wait to change out of it.  Maybe it’ll be better with short sleeves.

Bronte top

The ecru version though has loads of room & is very comfy to wear.

Bronte top

If anything it has come out slightly larger than the blue one.   It just goes to show that this thing I have about not all fabric behaves the same,  is something that I continue to fall foul of!!  I’m not the only one am I?

Cherie Boot, Cabaret Singer in the making

Bonjour mes amis.  Je m’appelle Cherie, Cherie Boot.  I ‘av ‘ad to sew the clothes for the party of my son, ‘e ‘ad a party of the Murder Mystery.  Tous le monde were zer, 1946 Casablanca.

We ‘ad far too much to drink, and not enough of the sleeping, mais un bon moment was ‘ad by all.  I thought you would like to see the costume de Cherie.

Cherie Boot

I had Marlene in my minds eye, as I was given instructions that my character was a French singer in the Cabaret, but with an androgynous styling.  My aim was to make an outfit that would pass for dress of the fancy, but did not have the time to get the finish perfect.

Cherie Boot

I found some 38″ waist men’s dress trousers and this size 18 ladies jacket in Shops of Charity.    I had an old 1960s shirt of the man of the dinner and made myself a flower from organza for the lapel.

This is what the clothes looked like at the start.

38" mens trousersThe jacket next, front and back

Size 18 jacketSize 18 jacket It wasn’t quite so huge as the men’s jackets I was trying on in the Shops of Charity.  Here they are together – I don’t think Cherie would get many gigs looking like this…

Jacket and trousersI have been so inspired by Sally from Charity Shop Chic, if it wasn’t for her I would have not unpicked linings,getting to the guts of the garments to make adjustments, new seams and so on.

My Maman she helped me pin the extra so it fitted me better.

Trouser adjustments

She showed me that I only needed to make a new back seam in the trousers of the man.

Trouser alterations

Trouser alterations

Trouser alterations

I could use the buckles to make it even smaller at the waist.

Waist buckles

And I did also narrow the legs in the seams of the inside leg- I wanted to keep the outside leg seams untouched so that the fancy stripe would remain.

The jacket, I took a grand pleat out of the centre of its back.

Jacket adjustmentsI made the sewing once I had unpicked the lining to get inside the seams.

Jackey alterations

I also moved the buttons across the body,

Buttons moving

Sewing bigger darts

and made the darts deeper and longer in the front.  There are pockets at the hips that make it difficile to get a fit more snug.  Also, I could only make the waist a little more smaller at the sides without affecting the sleeves.

But I was happy.  I also wore the tie I made.  The flower was the last thing I made using the candle to curl the petals of the flower.


The eyelashes were the last things I bought….


But just look at my roots!