Category Archives: Dressmaking

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!


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!


Pussy Bow Blouse

Sew Not Over It! Pussy Bow Blouse and Ultimate Trousers

It has to be said that I have taken a long time to photograph my last pair of Ultimate trousers, despite them being more successful fit-wise than the previous pair.  The fabric was given to me by the resourceful Claire (Sew Incidentally ) many moons back at a Birmingham meet up.  It’s gorgeous quality, a suiting in what I call a mole colour & it is sleek to the touch and has some stretch to it as well.  Not my usual colour, but I just love browns with turquoise.  Another winning combo, but then anything with turquoise goes as far as I’m concerned.

Pussy Bow Blouse

Let’s just check out those Ultimate trousers shall we before we move swiftly on … they caused me no trouble sewing them up, & were a whizz bang pair of Ultimates.  Do they look summery to you?  I was wearing them last week – OK with turquoise shoes – & was told that I looked very summery – in November!

Ultimate trousers

OK that’s enough.  They’re useful, comfy & I love them….let’s get onto the turquoise.  And hey, this is not just any ol’ turquoise.  This is a dream of a fabric, with polka dots and shiny silkiness, from Sew Over It’s Islington‘s remnants bin.  It’s a polyester and feels like a light crepe de chine, but what do I know?  It could be similar to this, but don’t take my word for it.

Just because it was a remnant, doesn’t mean that it was junk, it was a quality 2 metre piece & had my name all over it.  When I visited Sew Over It’s parma violet painted shop, I have to say I reverted to “child in sweet shop”, such was the temptation.  I confess to spending more than I should, but it felt like Monopoly money, & I lost any sense of self control, snapping up the Pussy Bow blouse pattern too (& some fabric for my 1940s tea dress & another jersey remnant too.  Shhh.  Don’t make me feel any more guilty!).

Pussy Bow blouse

Now if you’ve read previous posts you know I have a thing for the Pussy Bow, & had just been inspired by how a Pussy bow blouse, made of the right fabric, can be dressed down with jeans & is not necessarily strictly for the office.  Karen & I got to fondle one of Lisa’s blouses that she had made up as a sample, out of navy georgette or chiffon.

Pussy bow blouse

It was upon spying the details – the rouleaux fastened slimline cuffs for example that we swooned a little, then both caved.

Pussy Bow Blouse

So this fabric and pattern were burning a hole in my consciousness.  If I didn’t make it up soon, I was in danger of becoming an unrequited obsessive, even though it so did not feature in my current sewing plan (which is quite heavily gift oriented at the moment).  So selfish urges were satisfied & I just got on with it.  It’s designed with plenty of ease, & I cut out the 8- according to my bust measurement & went for version 2, the v neck version.  This turned out just fine, fit-wise.

Pussy bow blouse

It must have taken a few hours to make, so my selfish streak did not last too long.  There are no fastenings, you just pop this pop over your head, so that makes the bodice come together nice & quickly.  Before you know it, you are attaching the tie neck.  The pattern instructions were very clear about how to do this if you haven’t done it before.  The fabric being silky (but with a slight crepey feel to it) did not cause me any issues sewing, (I always use a walking foot though) & I took my time sewing the neck facing & cuffs down by hand.  I could have sewn French Seams throughout, but  after having recently made a gent’s shirt & French seamed it to then make faux lapped seams I just couldn’t be bothered.  Lisa’s sample had been overlocked so that convinced me & I do not regret it- my overlocker gives such a nice finish anyway.  There are times when a French Seam feels the right thing to do, & times when you just lose the halo.

Ultimate trousers

Little discussion on this blog post about the Ultimate Trousers, but I am pleased with them

What else do you need to know?  The sleeves have gathers at the cuffs at the top (so cute) & also to ease them into the arm hole – but they are not overly pouffy at the sleeve head – the kind of sleeves I like.

*Something I have added since writing – check out the Pussy Bow blouse Sewalong over at SewOverIt’s blog here.*

Pussy bow blouse

This blouse has been down to London town and worn with jeans to see Morrissey.  Of course I had noodles & managed to splatter soy sauce amongst its polka dots.  But I LOVE it.  I did not feel “Dog Toby” as Jane would say.  It was a wise purchase, one of those investment buys that feels naughty at the time, but that pays dividends in being a firm wardrobe favorite.   And I can see some future blouses in solids using this pattern.

Pussy Bow blouse

I think this could be something I try harder at next year – making investment buys to sew *just right* garments.  And making sure I sew them, & don’t leave them shrouded in tissue paper in my “special” drawer.  What do you think?  More investment pieces?  Maybe that’s how you sew already?  If so, do you have a mantra that could help me shift my fabric buying & sewing behaviour??  I’m interested to know what works for you?!  It’s time for a change!

Peg bag

Papa’s got a brand new Peg Bag

The title’s showing my age, but this is something that I made as a gift earlier this autumn, and thought to take photos as I did it, to make into a photo story tutorial.    I made it specifically for the friend who has everything…it seemed….except she was using a poly bag for her clothes pegs.  Inspiration struck & I sourced fabric that I thought she would like.  IMG_1994

So my design was heavily inspired by this peg bag & how to at Better Homes & Gardens.  There is even a downloadable template (which I ignored in my ignorance & need for speed- resulting in a peg bag that could do with a bit more depth – learn from my mistake!).

Peg bag back.

I was fully intent on following the instructions, but when I came to read them I got too lost, so just made it up as I went along, taking photos to record my process.

Peg bag suppliesFor my pegbag I gathered supplies: outer fabric (using this Robert Kaufman Owls fabric which I bought especially) and lining – I had some polka dot in my stash, which I thought might look like starry night sky peeping through the hole.  Of course I had to use ric rac too.   I think you can get away with half a metre of each fabric- lining & outer for making a peg bag.

You will need a clothes hanger as well.

Peg bag templateI drew my template out freestyle, using the coat hanger as a starting point for the top & width, making it symmetrical, adding seam allowances.  The back & the front are exactly the same, except the front has a hole in the centre for accessing your pegs.  But why not use the template already available at the link already mentioned.  Then your bag will be deep enough ;-)

Fabric piecesCut out a front & a back for the outer fabric and the same for the lining.

Cutting the circleThis is how I cut the central circles out.

Basting seamlineUsing a long stitch length, sew around the circular hole at the seamline – this is to mark where you want to place your ric rac.  If you are not using ric rac, then ignore these next steps.

Ric rac placementBaste the ric rac around the hole over the top of your basting stitches.  At the ends (see at the top) bring them in to the inside with an overlap.

Sewing the lining to the outer Putting the lining front right sides together with the outer, pin then sew the two together at the circle, stitching on top of the stitches that are basting the ric rac to the outer fabric.

Clip curvesClip all around the curved edge.

PressTurn to the right side, admire a bit, take out the basting stitches, press, then admire some more.  Then get back to it.  You’re not finished yet.

Clip topAt the top of the back, in the centre, make a neatly finished hole for the hanger to poke through.  I made a hole in both the back lining & the back itself, to make it neat with no raw edges.

Backs togetherNext you need to treat the lining and the outer bag as two separate entities, even though they are joined at the ric rac circle.  Putting the lining back & front right sides together, stitch all around the outside,

GapBut leave a gap, about 5″ long at the bottom so that you can turn it later, and get the hanger in!  And you will also need to leave a small gap at the top.

HoleNote though that for the top of both the lining and the outer bag you need to leave a gap where you have already left access for the hanger.

StitchStitch the outer bag to front bag right sides together all around the outside – no need to leave a gap except for the top.

Insert hangerTime for some hanger gymnastics!  Insert the hanger, in between the lining & the outer fabric & get it into place.

Pin the gapWhen you are happy you’ve got the hanger in the right place, pin the gap in the bottom lining closed, then edge stitch by machine close to the seam edge, but making sure you keep the outer bag out of the way when you sew.

Closing the liningI found that my lining was at the mercy of gravity and wanted to bag out & not stay where it was supposed to!

Stitch the gapMoving the hanger out of the way, I attached the lining to the outer at the “shoulders” or the top of the peg bag by pinning them together at this seam & “stitching in the ditch”  (ie sewing a straight seam in the channel created by the existing seam) through the layers – both the outer fabric and the lining.  This keeps the lining in the right place, but also in an inconspicuous way.

Peg bagAdd clothes pegs & enjoy!

Maybe you know someone who has everything apart from a cheerful clothes peg bag?  Possible Christmas gift?

Duathlon capris

Funki runners #2

It’s more funki runners! Enter the peacock pair and matching sportsbra (read on below, you think I’m showing that at the top of this post?)

Duathlon and OliviaAnyone remember the Green Goddess?

I did warn you back when I shared my first pair of Funkis that there were more delights to come, and here is part two. Again, disclosure- Funki Fabrics sent me this fabric to review.

Again, I made the Capri length Duathlon leggings by Fehr Trade since, as you know, it’s such a damn fine pattern- pocket for iphone & keys. Dead quick sew. Love them ordinarily but in PEACOCK feathers? Adoration!!


I have been running & done workouts a few times in the pair of leggings I made first & they have been excellent in terms of comfort & get lots of comments! And I wore these this week for an early morning 7am “assault session” (kind of circuits, different every week), having got them out the night before did not really think about them as I blearily put them on at 630am & headed down to my group.  It did not occur to me how others’ bleary eyes would be assaulted by my peacocks hehehe!  They got noticed!  I think it was before I had even got a “hello” there was a “wow”  they’re cool!  You made them, right?!”

I don’t know about you, but when I make exercise wear I am interested in using performance fabrics that wick moisture away from your bod.   I have not yet put my roseskin pair to the test in temperatures other than our mild October temperatures we have been experiencing, so do not feel qualified to have any observations about how they perform in heat or even in colder conditions.


Melissa is happy to wear non technical fabrics for anything up to a half marathon, so that’s a good rule of thumb for me. I am considering making exercise wear in different lengths for different conditions – so am planning to make a short pair of running leggings for the summer (thigh length), whilst also planning a long ankle length pair for the winter (my next make!).  The two pairs I have made so far, including this pair, are capri length which is ideal for autumn.

Duathlon (7)Using that flash of solid makes it easier to find the pocket!

 I am told that the Funki fabric is not technically wicking (which I thought anyway) – however, it is superb quality- it feels so nice & soft against the skin & its stretch and recovery is superb. They’ve recently got a blog post on exercise wear, here.  The fabric is printed on demand & from what I’ve seen & how it’s worn to date, the printing is quality printing- it doesn’t stretch out & doesn’t fade (so far). So just as a tiny technical update on the fabric from the suppliers, it’s ultra chlorine resistant, pilling resistant, excellent UV protection, shape retention with two way stretch.   Interesting – makes me think this would be superb swimsuit fabric. Hmmm.

Jalie 2563 It could be a swimsuit, but why does it feel so exposing?

And there was enough left over to have a go at making a sportsbra using Jalie 2563. I tried it on as I was making it so that I got as snug a fit as possible to squash them bewbs down (& I think it’s successful). This is a good shaped top with a racer back so it’ll be interesting to see how it performs in the field as it were.

Jalie 2563

I meant to give it a go before writing about it, but sadly didn’t get around to it, just been jumping around in the house to test the bounce. It’s true. But may I stress….this will not see the light of day – it is purely underneathies that could reveal a bit of strap, not more, under a baggy vest perhaps. I am definitely not going cropped out in the big bad world where I cannot crop out the bits I’d rather leave out.


Now what about the green top? Well that’s another Olivia oversized tee from Maria Denmark patterns. I have made this quite a few times as I find it a really comfy exercise top – dolman sleeves, baggy enough with a waistband. Its’ made out of wicking “mock eyelet” that I bought from UKFabricsonline. Good price.  This week’s training I wore my magenta Olivia with these peacocks & I have to say it looked even more awesome than the green combo.

This fabric makes me so happy, can you tell???!

And thanks for the advice on the overlocker blade change – it appears it takes two screws.  I shall be on it!

Hudson Pants

Arctic Hudson Pants

Oh my, I cannot believe that it’s been over a week since I last posted anything on my blog.  You know that means that I’ve had serious stuff taking me away from fun.  And it’s true.  I always knew November was going to spawn a monster (to quote the Moz – who, incidentally I shall be seeing later this week- oh yeah!!  For a few hours on Saturday I shall be a head over heels obsessive) And yes, the monster was just a heavy work month which impacted my energy levels & time to be creative, but is now behind me.  Go monster, back to where you belong, a hostage to kindness and all that.  So let’s have it.  Let’s get this show back on the road.  And what better make to showcase than my successful winter version of the Hudson Pants.

Hudson Pants

You see I’m feeling a bit lazy (& tired, or should that be tired & as a result lazy? ) at the moment, and seem to be grabbing the same clothes to wear at home. And as I am working from home more these days, that also means that my sartorial elegance during the week has taken a nose dive, but still rather a handmade nose dive & one that could be argued still has elements of style & colour for all that I am favouring my Jamie jeans and “joggers”.

Hudson pants

It’s these new “joggers” that I am going to share here , since I made them aaages ago. Of course they are going to be more stylish than your usual sweat pants as they are the Hudson pants, neat design, tapered legs with a cuff & cute front pockets – all crying out for use of contrast to perk them up. So I started with some extremely warm fluffy fleece backed sweatshirting from UKfabricsonline (very reasonable price) & wanted to try out some of the ribbing at Plush Addict, as I had never used it & had seen people put it around neckbands & was rather curious.

Hudson pants

(And there are sooo many colours to choose from folks!)

Hudson cuffs

So grey sweatshirting already bought, I opted for the turquoise ribbing. Of course. When it arrived I was immediately captivated by how soft it is, but that’s by the by.  And when you’re using it for cuffs & waistbands, a little goes a long way, so I think I ordered a metre of this lovely stuff & have plentiful supplies now for other neckbands & waistbands, cuffs, the lot!

Hudson Pants

So having made the Hudsons before in floral jersey, (which were also my go-to come home from work change of clothing) I felt optimistic about making a longer length version.   Due to limited stretch with the jersey I was careful to sew smaller seam allowances, wondering if I should have gone up a size (which I didn’t & it was all fine).  Foolishly I managed to sew the pockets wrong (too cocky by half) & had to unpick & watch my notches. But that was all that emerged as an issue …until I got to the waistband. You might think it looks a bit uneven & dare I say lumpy & shoddy? Well, my overlocker really didn’t like dealing with the many layers of thick fleecy fabric – sewing the waistband ribbing onto three layers of sweatshirting at parts of the pockets was not its idea of fun, & it told me so in its deeds.

Hudson pantsIt really did not like sewing through all that.  It was not pretty.  And is still not particularly pretty.

I almost looked into changing the blade, but that would have been extreme serger maintenance, although possibly it’s time by now. It has seen many thousands of serger miles. Any advice on serger / overlocker blade sharpening?

Hudson PantsAs for these Hudsons, gee whiz, but they are cosy & comfy. I don’t feel as if they are particularly flattering, but who cares. They wrap themselves around my legs & I feel fully blanketed up. This is thick sweatshirting & it feels as if I am wearing tights plus trousers, that’s how warm my legs are, when snuggled in these narrow legged trousers. I love the turquoise details, even though I can’t bring myself to look too closely at the waistband. I think turquoise lifts what would otherwise be too boring a pair of sweats, I mean grey deserves to have some fun, doesn’t it?

So, how many pairs of these do I need if I am relying on them to see me through my autumn/ winter evenings, that is the question!

And, any thoughts on overlocker/ serger blades, please let me know! Thank you….

clemence skirt

This is a Clemence skirt

Such a simple skirt, the Clemence from Love at First Stitch.  In theory I’ve already plenty of almost-Clemences under my belt since it is essentially a gathered skirt with a waistband & side seam pockets.   But being part of the Love at First Stitch programme for developing confidence in your sewing skills, a skirt like the Clemence skirt was bound to feature as a good way to learn gathering, mastering waistbands & side seam pockets as well as putting in a zip.

clemence skirt

However, whilst I have made plenty of almost-Clemences in my time, this is the first with the personality of Clemence, owed to that ultra wide waistband.  That is what makes Clemence stand apart from the usual gathered skirt, & that is the feature that makes my skirt a true Clemence.  And I used the pocket pattern piece, because why not, when it is there for you?  But the rest of the pattern is defined by measurements & cutting the right sized rectangles for a front & two backs, which I didn’t follow.

clemence skirtUnplanned to be out of focus – but I like it- sort of matches the weather

I was lazy & just maximised the pieces I could get out of the available fabric, which I have to say is glorious, isn’t it?  It was so kindly given to me by Hannah from Sinbad & Sailor & I reckon it’s silk.  So lush does it hang & swing & feel to the touch.  I know, I know, I should do a burn test to find out for real, but would knowing if it was silk or not make a difference to my love of this skirt?  You know the answer to that.

clemence skirt

I do not have much to say about this as the photos tell it all.  It’s fun & swirly, girly & with its polka dots has oodles of personality to add to that deep high waistband.  It’s another of those winning pieces that can be a work skirt or a weekend skirt.

You don’t have to look too closely to see that I took these photos & left the back zip open!  Doh!

clemence skirt

One error of judgement – the pockets are set a bit too low.  Left to my own devices, when not following pattern notches I always seem to get pocket placement either too high or too low.  That is my blind spot.  I can move them at some point.  But no point in being too explicit about that – take my word for it, they are pretty lowslung.

clemence skirt

I made this before Ozzy Blackbeard posted about the links she had found for sewing french seams with a zip (although I used a regular lapped zip)  and also with French seams with side seam pockets.  Wished I’d even considered looking that up as I do prefer French seams for fabric like this.  I just overlocked all my seam finishes.


That said, this was an unbelievably quick make & you have seen it appear previously as part of my Brick Lane/ St Martin’s photo shoot last month.

Clemence and Mimi

But I kept this one back for now – with a Mimi blouse too.  Double polka dots.  Double Tilly.  Have you made any Clemences?  Are you also a fan of the skirt’s personality & the waistband?

Julia cardigan

Cosy autumn layers

I mentioned a few posts back that I had not been a totally selfish sewer recently. I had a few family birthdays that I have been sewing for, & have decided to share a little combo I made for my lovely Mum in September.  (Yep, I am a bit late writing this up!)


First of all I had made her a cap sleeved version of the Julia cardigan by Mouse House creations. I knew my Mum would like the idea of an extra layer for autumn, that she could wear with her favourite long sleeve t-shirts. She used to wear waistcoats & has even crocheted herself a sleeveless bolero recently so I took the risk that it would fit into her current wardrobe. I’d snuck in a wear of my own sleeveless/ capped sleeve version in the summer to see if she would remark on it & I think she did, but it seems such a long time ago now that I can’t remember! This was a surprise, & I made it out of a blue cotton mix sweater knit (again from Abakhan in the rummage section, bought in the summer when I visited for the last time *sob* when my youngest graduated.)

Julia cardigan

As with my Jenna cardigan, I used the reverse of the sweater knit (reverse stocking stitch side) as the outside as I liked the texture & knew my Mum would.

What is there to say about it. I’ve written about making it up in earlier versions of my Julias. This is the capped sleeve version & I had enough fabric to make a double hem so that it has a nice neat & solid finish.


I tested it out for blog photos, but it turns out that I didn’t have to as my Mum bravely modelled it. Truly, this is a big thing, she absolutely hates having her photo taken & wants to remain anonymous, but knows how much better clothes look when they are modelled on real people. And it gave my Dad another opportunity to use his new camera with a willing victim subject! (As long as she could hide her face.)


But what is that she is wearing it with? Yes, the skirt is something she made recently, which brought her sew-jo back to life.  I think she sill prefers knitting & crochet these days, but it is good to see that my sewing guru can still be tempted to put her foot to the pedal & whip up something out of a remnant!


But the funny thing is that I’d heard her muse about making a pencil skirt & thought that I could make her a lovely knit version (like Mabel).   I’d bought her a metre of lovely charcoal ponte from my local fabric shop  I thought I could be irritatingly clever & combine a pencil skirt with a stable knit & create arguably *the most comfiest skirt* she could ever hope to wear. However when I consulted her, she liked the idea of a long skirt to wrap her feet in during sofa time & also liked the idea of it being a gored skirt.

Knit Maxi skirt

Well, I brushed up on my maths & designed a six gored skirt that would fit my Mum’s measurements & would also be accommodated by just 1 m x 1.60m of fabric (there’s not much to my Mum!). If you are interested in how I did this, I will take you through my rudimentary drafting steps! (Apologies about the untechnical drawings!)

Key measurements to take:

Finished garment hip, waist, and finished length .   (ie body measurements plus desired ease. I made sure Mum sat down & we measured the “comfy” measurements in that way)

I wanted to make a 6 gore skirt and with it being an elasticated waist, the waist was going to be the same as the hip measurement, but gathered up when the elastic was attached. This allows enough room to get the skirt on over your hips without a zip or other closure. So the width of the top of my gore at the waist edge was finished hip measurement divided by 6 plus a seam allowance each side.

Then I measured the vertical length of the gore (at right angles to the waist edge)- the finished length plus desired hem allowance.


Finally to calculate the hem width I made it as wide as I could get it out of the fabric’s width, 160cm and divided 160cm by 6.  But to draw your pattern- easiest option is to halve your horizontal measurements & draw half of it on a folded piece of pattern paper like below.


I drew one piece- the gore- as for this skirt would be cut out 6 times, but you could make a 4 gore skirt along similar principles.


Cutting out in theory should allow you to cut three pieces with the fabric folded across its width.  In theory.  I am sure I had to finangle it a bit….

Elastic waist

Once I had six pieces I sewed them all together then attached the wide elastic (cut to the comfy waist measurement plus a small overlap) – using Melissa’s way. Then hemmed it. Apparently my Mum loves wearing it & it has survived the wash along the way.

Knit maxi skirt

Here is my attempt at styling it before I gave it to her & before I knew that she would brave the crazy photographer!

HP Iconic shirt dress

Hot Patterns – Plain & Simple Iconic Shirt Dress

Let me introduce the Plain & Simple iconic shirt dress by Hot Patterns using John Kaldor viscose jersey in navy.  This is my November Minerva make.  And your reward for reading on is a special discount being offered for a Hot Patterns pattern of your own….

HP Iconic shirt dress

This fabric is rather tasty. It’s got fantastic drape & feels as if it will do as it’s told- it’s got nice quality. But I have to admit I started with the pattern- & the concept of a knit shirt dress was too appealing to ignore, & looked as if it could be a wardrobe staple over the autumn/ winter season, with boots & tights.  Love the descriptions on all Hot Patterns designs too …this one’s “smokin hot!”

I liked its sleek A line skirt. I mean, a cosy shirt dress that might get away without ironing? This could be my goto office wear! The pattern advised you to use the best quality fabric that you can afford, & this viscose jersey does make it feel more “luxe” than my usual purchases from markets etc.

HP Iconic shirt dress

And truth be told I had been eying up a number of shirtdresses for making up this winter, way before Mary announced the “Fall of a thousand shirt dresses” which I eagerly sign up to & pledge further contribution.  This is just the first, oh yes.  I may indulge my greedy collection of shirt dress patterns with a small blog post in the future.  You have been warned.
Idle Fancy

So let’s get onto the pattern.

Now I don’t get many results when I search for Hot Patterns makes on the internets, and that’s a shame because the patterns are definitely different from the usual, with influences from different eras, & compelling names (eg Wong-Singh-Jones Sakura Bomber Jacket, Fast & fabulous jet setter poncho, Boudoir Of Bliss Trousseau Nightgown & Robe and the Deco Vibe Delano Twinset) . They are a little more expensive – but that is likely to mean your choice is based on something you truly adore and can see yourself making more than just the one. I have this pattern and the Metropolitan Tie Me Down blouse (OK I have only made one of these so far, but that’s due to programming, not due to dislike). The patterns being printed on white paper will also stay the course – they come in a larger envelope than is standard which makes it much easier to tidy the pattern pieces away afterwards, but doesn’t necessarily fit with your regular pattern storage systems!!  .. I’m interested in what you’ve made in Hot Patterns, and have started a Pinterest Board here as I want to see some of these fabulous patterns made up & being worn. Leave me a note in the comments if you have something you’d like me to see & share! Now onto that discount.  I am in cahoots with Susan from Sewbox (she kindly let me have this pattern to review) & she is offering readers a wonderful 10% discount on any Hot Patterns pattern bought between now & Christmas. Just use the discount code, “SCRUFFY10” when you make your purchase. And then let me know which pattern you chose- please!!


HP Iconic shirt dress

So upon starting to make this I discovered that the shirt dress’s front half placket has hidden buttonholes so that you can’t see them from the outside.

Never done one of those before, & I like to try something new, I braced myself & embarked upon my sewing journey & cut out all the pieces. And there are quite a lot of pieces- kind of comes with the territory making a shirt dress. This pattern uses plackets (two piece plackets) for the sleeves & for the front opening.

HP Iconic shirt dress

There is also a back yoke & of course the collar & collar stand & a great long self fabric tie belt.

HP Iconic shirt dress Now I think I need to offer a word or two of caution. This pattern is suitable for intermediates, it says, & I’d agree. There are brief instructions & I had a couple of challenges. I would suggest that you supplement the instructions for some of the processes, especially the plackets- & let’s be honest, there is always help on the internets.

HP Iconic shirt dress

Unless you are a dab hand at two piece plackets I would suggest that the instructions are not sufficient, but there is a great placket tutorial here on Craftsy. When you have three of these blighters to sew, I’d go straight there. Oh, & you must not underestimate the added dimension that sewing plackets with a jersey brings – the fabric wants to stretch around those blunt rectangular ends made up of the five layers of fabric at the confluence of both placket sides. Something I will do next time, apart from reviewing the Craftsy site, is not to interface the plackets – the pattern advises you that it’s optional – but I did use a light interfacing & this therefore made my placket square ends even thicker. This though was the trickiest part of the sewing, & my end result is not perfect by any means.

HP Iconic shirt dress

My other struggle – something I just had to give up on was the suggested “burrito method” for sewing the yoke & yoke facing. The yoke is actually not that deep & there was no way that I could roll up the front & back within this shallow yoke to perform this operation. I had to hand sew the yoke in place. No biggie.

HP Iconic shirt dress

But none of the sewing is beyond intermediate- it’s just a shirt with a placket front that is just longer in the length. For most of the detail sewing – sewing & attaching the collar, the cuffs & plackets I used a slightly longer straight stitch (3mm). I only used my overlocker for the garment seams – shoulders, centre back, sides & sleeves.

HP Iconic shirt dress Now looking at the pics there do seem to be drag lines, but I don’t think they are there all the time & aren’t telling me fit is wrong.  I don’t think,m anyway!  I think it’s the drape of the fabric & jersey friction on what I’m wearing underneath, cos believe me, there is plenty of room in there. 

It came together wonderfully & I have to say I rather like it. I have worn it to work & it took the supreme test (twice)– I rolled it up in my rucksack the night before, for changing into at work in the morning (I changed at work after joining an early morning training session). This dress, let me tell you, unfurled uncrushed, as if I’d just brought it out of my wardrobe. It was a lovely cosy dress to wear & I felt smartly retro – the collar has an edgy size to it.  (But remember to pack the belt!  I had to make a desperate sortie into town to purchase one to avoid looking like mama sack woman with the iconic belt left draped around the coat hanger in my wardrobe!)

HP Iconic shirt dress Hahaha what a geeky face!!

You’re seeing photos of me wearing it with a slim leather belt- which I actually think with hindsight, doesn’t look as good as the self belt, which I wore to work once). But you’ll have to take my word for it.

HP Iconic shirt dress

My camera remote seems to run out of battery after only a few shoots.  Any clues?  I haven’t bought Poundland batteries either.

Although I think it is meant to be blouson like, I think next time I might take it in a little bit at the side seams, just a tad. I like the idea of making a placket front jersey top with this as well, just by making it in a shorter length. I also like the idea of making the dress in jersey, but with a woven for the plackets and the collar & cuffs – that could look quite iconic!!

So remember, if you fancy a dabble with some Hot Patterns styling, you have until Christmas for a 10% discount at Sewbox using the code, “SCRUFFY10”.  And let me know what you buy!  (And when you make it)  I really find the styling so exciting on Hot Patterns!