Category Archives: Dressmaking

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!


SOS LBD: Colette Patterns Laurel saves the day

OK, so when you are really busy at work & have built in an additional early morning exercise routine into your already busy week, do you usually sew spontaneous next-day projects or do you maintain a degree of calm in your home life & keep to a plan? Yes, I usually keep to a plan, maybe cutting out projects on a Sunday night in front of the TV, with a couple of options to sew during the week.

Laurel dressBut last week, the week that had a massive work event organised by me occurring in it, what did I do, but go rogue.   This event had a theme that meant we were going to dress up a bit (even though it was the afternoon, we were putting an effort into it at all levels). I thought that I could wear my trusty scarf back top & velvet skirt. At the eleventh hour I suddenly realised that the other female members of my team were wearing black dresses. Doh! The perfect opportunity for an LBD. Of course. But I didn’t have one (isn’t that shocking? Someone who makes her own clothes does not have a little black dress). This was on the Tuesday & the event was Thursday afternoon. When I could find some thinking time I was desperately listing the potential dress patterns:

For my instant LBD I had to make something that I’d already made & knew fitted. The girls at work said slim fitting was best, & therefore I knew for so many reasons that it was going to be the Colette Patterns Laurel (sleeveless)- you can’t go wrong with a shift dress, can you? And I love that vintage vibe.  But I wasn’t able to sew until Wednesday evening nor go out fabric shopping until Wednesday either.  On top of that when I could make it out I had only 20 minutes, therefore I had to brave the shop “that looks like it needs a good tidy” as someone recently observed, as it was closest to where I work. You would think that a city centre fabric shop would have an array of black fabric in the lead up to party season, wouldn’t you? I asked for crepe or even some silk – nothing. I didn’t want linen, I wanted something a bit more glam than natural.


The shop assistant managed to find me this cotton that almost has a burnt out look about it.   The pic is weird – it’s actually very black, but at least you can see some of the pattern.  It’s thin, transparent almost but I was always intending to line my shift. Scooping up just over a metre of the black cotton with poly lining came to the grand sum of £10.98, then with the addition of a zip, it all came under £13. At the same time I had in mind a chunky set of pearls to set it off, & popped into the vintage jewellery stall in the Guildhall market- finding what must be the perfect set- all for £5!! I was stoked.

Colette Laurel dress

So this was my Wednesday evening- got home about 6:45, cut the dress out whilst my dinner was warming up then a quick bite to eat before embarking on the sewing. I think I finished it at 10.30pm.

Marking all of the darts in both lining & dress seemed to take a long time & there I was itching to get the sewing started.  I had no intention of sewing anything by hand & managed to find some great tutorials for inserting a lining into a sleeveless dress all by machine at the Slapdash Sewist (thank you so much!!) as well as checking out the instructions for machining the lining to the zip also.   I overlocked all of the raw edges & used my blind hem stitch (aka heart rate monitor !) for the dress itself. I felt as if I was on one, to be sure.

Colette Laurel dress

So the dress is perfect. I loved wearing it. It was so comfy & I felt smart & badger-stylish. I haven’t got any more pics of it than were taken at the event itself by our official amateur photographer (a member of staff who happens to be a friend). He thought I was helping him out get his settings sorted in advance of the photos, but I had ulterior motives ;-)  (And I did remove all that ID badge paraphernalia- just a bit later than these photos unfortunately.)

So, after an adrenaline fuelled Wednesday night, I can’t say I have sewed that much since – I needed a break. I have started to handsew a tie and have also started some knitting as a Christmas gift. But I think the break has done me good. I cut out a couple of things on Sunday night, plus have a man’s shirt on the go. That’ll be this week sorted!

Betty dress

80% Betty Dress

During the spring you may have seen the appearance onto the sewing scene of sweetest dresses sporting rather a lot of skirt under the cover of the Betty Dress by Sew Over It.   My first peek was via the impeccably stylish Jane as she was pattern testing the Betty & even though such testings are secret I think I was staying with her *just as* the pattern was being launched, & couldn’t help but notice rather a spectacular swish swoonworthy skirtsome Betty dress adorning her dress form during an overnighter before a trip to Goldhawk Road.  I think we all agree that this is so perfectly Handmade Jane, wouldn’t we?   Rachel was with us too whose Betty in all its swishing glory was making itself known – that skirt!

Betty dress But I left it at that for then- I had so many other things to sew, but I did carry on doing some serious admiring.  And then Jane & I met up at the end of the summer with a few friends with the intentions to do a few swaps, among other things.  Jane brought a cut out Betty dress with an underlined skirt (yes – the hard work had all been done for me- what a veritable sewing saint).  She said she was on the verge of dispatching it to the recyclers, but thought some opportunist (like me ;-) ) might be able to do something with it.  Plus she brought an untouched copy of the Betty dress pattern with it.  I mean it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Betty dresss

The fabric is a delicious linen floral with a beige background & rich red flowers.  From Goldhawk Road apparently. (as well as Jane’s clearly).  Jane had made some kind of mistake when she cut it out.  I have no idea what kind of mistake, but it was irredeemable apparently.

Betty dress

But from someone else’s disaster, this Badger was able to profit.  Our long late summer created the ideal conditions for me to get stuck in to this rather pronto.   I could see it having quite a few wearage miles with a cardi.

Betty dress

So having a little less up top than Jane I recut the bodice, keeping the higher back that Jane had also cut for (True Betty has a lower ‘v’ back). I  tried the skirt against my waist & being a circle skirt, assumed that there would be enough volume for my hips.  I then began to sew.

Betty dress

Gee I love that neckline in a very crazy kinda loving way

But I was bugged.  What was the problem?  Why had Jane not been able to complete it?  I felt it might have had something to do with the skirt- there was only one piece.  So in moments of paranoia I kept measuring it against me & against the bodice.  Somehow it all fit together.  Don’t ask me how!  I had quite a bit of adjustment to get the centre back the right size – (nothing new there for me – I always have to do this) sculpting out some strange wedges out of the centre back.  Luckily I sewed with a lapped zipper, which is heaps more easy to install/ try on/ unpick/ adjust/ sew again …& again a few times.  Well I think it’s easier doing it with a lapped zipper than an invisible one….but that might just be personal preference.

Betty dress

Sorry, back view photos are a bit lacking! 

Betty dress

So, once I had finished it, I recognised my skirt had quiet a lot less swish swoo than an original Betty.

Betty dress

I think I have made a half Betty skirt, hence calling this “80% Betty”.  See? It works, don’t you think?

Betty dress

But isn’t it just perfect for autumn?  The linen fabric has just a little more to it, giving structure & warmth.  And with the underlined skirt, this is still very seasonally appropriate.      Initially tights were not even required, such was the ambient September/ October.  These pics were taken once we were in November- & even my arms show that I haven’t seen a suntan session for a number of months – legs are equally in tan-blight.  I should have worn natural tights, as I usually do with Betty, but this was a weekend wearing, & I was wearing booties….

Betty dress So a massive thank you to Jane – your rubbish is someone else’s (namely moi) treasure!


Making ties at the Makery

Remember in series three of the Great British Sewing Bee, how May and Patrick threw a tie in as the item the finalists all had to tackle as their pattern challenge? How such a small seemingly innocent accessory caused consternation and more than just a bit of frustration? I was intrigued. What is it about tie making that is so tricky?
I tucked that question away for a rainy day. But when my youngest son graduated I had thought that it was a shame that I hadn’t given him anything to mark the occasion. And if I’d thought I could have made him something special. Like a pair of posh boxers. Or a tie. Too late this time, but in the future, my eldest son will hopefully be getting his Masters degree, and so the need for a tie could well occur again ( if he works hard and gets even more gleefully nerdy than he already is!). I am resolved that they will have the choice of a Mum made tie. But for that I need to practice. Therefore when I saw a tie making workshop was being run at the Makery in Bath, I paid up and registered straight away.
This was the first tie making workshop held at the Makery and I recognised Emily, our tutor from the machine embroidery workshop Id previously taken. She was supported by Katie – that’s two experts to attend to any queries the six of us apprentice tie-makers may have.
So the Makery is very comfortable in its new premises right in the centre of Bath in a glorious town house extending over four floors, filled with different spaces for making and being creative. Then there’s the shop to buy makey provisions.
A lovely space to relax and feel good crafty vibrations…



For this workshop we were asked to bring a 75cmx75cm piece of fabric with us to make our tie, but everything else would be provided. I brought a piece of lawn that Tamsin had swapped with me, I’d been saving it for something special as it is gorgeous …….both the delicately coloured florals, and hey, it’s lawn! As with the knicker making workshop, on arrival, everyone is given their own pattern that they take away with them after the workshop so it doesn’t stop here! Our tutors chatted through everything we needed to know to get cutting. And so we did….


All the pieces are cut on the bias. Each piece needs a corresponding piece of fusible interfacing. There are also a couple of lining pieces needed for the pointy tie ends, I found these scraps that matched the floral lawn perfectly.


Now what surprised me is that we sewed our ties primarily by hand. (Yes! Get that! Me, who uses the machine for just about everything! ) the only machining was to join the three tie pieces together to make one long lovely bias tie shaped thing that at this stage had true kipper tendencies. Pressing the seam allowances and mitring the corners helps create a nice neat finish before hand stitching all the way. First the linings at the pointy ends.


Then stitching along the length. (And that’s a long piece to handstitch!)

Look that’s proof I do handsew!

I don’t do a lot of workshops, but wish I could do more- it’s always a joy to learn as a group, spending a few hours with new people. I loved seeing everyone’s different fabric choices, and it’s probably not a surprise that some of these ties ( or potential sequels) are likely to end up under the Christmas tree :-)


Look! Class ties!! With Emily and Katie too. I loved tie making ( even though it was by hand ! Actually I have been converted, and enjoyed the precision and slower pace). I will be making more. Guaranteed.
Check out the finished neck attire



Now I quite fancy keeping this one for myself….but that all depends on future tie making exploits and success.


So the verdict on tie making, apart from enjoyment and personal satisfaction? Well, if you’re ever stuck for a perfect gift for a special someone, making a tie out of some gorgeously wondrous fabric ( Liberty or silk) could create something that stands out from all the usual stripes and Homer Simpsons. I would love to have made *that tie * that is kept for special occasions. ( in the case of my sons, it may actually be the sole tie they ever own, not being corporate types). And one last thing on special ties. I will always remember being impressed by a friend of mine in my early twenties who came to a wedding wearing the most beautiful vibrant pink tie that his mother had made for him, out of small silk patchwork pieces. And making a tie by hand, somewhere as inspiring and cosy as the Makery is a great place to start.
Making a tie by machine though? I reckon that must be the root of the problems faced by the Great British Sewing Bee contestants and I for one am going to research that approach, even if I still choose to hand sew away in front of the TV.

Any machine tie making stories to tell? Good places to check out?

Ultimate trousers

The Contingency Pants: more Ultimate Trousers

“It’s about time”!  Another pair of Ultimate Trousers. Yes, these trousers were made way back in September & I have only just got around to posting about them.    That’s mainly due to not having taken photos of them in action – as you will see they crease a little following a day’s wear- & so any post work photos are just plain out of the window since I am highly unlikely to feel the urge to iron straight after a day at the office & a two mile power walk uphill.

Ultimate trousers

OK, rewind.  The Contingency pants were born for OWOP (One Week One Pattern), when my pattern of choice was the Ultimate Trouser pattern.  The only shortfall I had was trousers for work.  But why did I call these the Contingency pants?

Ultimate trousers My deviation from the pattern – lapped zipper, not an invisible zip.

Well, I had actually cut out another pair of Ultimates in work appropriate autumnal suiting, however, when I came to sew them up, discovered I hadn’t the right coloured thread.  This fabric – a mini dogtooth check (100% silk remnant from Mandors in Edinburgh) was always tucked away at the back of my mind as a potential pair of ultimates, & when called on for OWOP, therefore became the “Contingency Pants”.  I might be doing myself no favours referring to them as “pants” because I really don’t want you to confuse with “incontinence pants” .  But there you go.  Please do not be confused.

Ultimate trousers

So, you know by now that I love the Ultimate trousers by Sew Over it. My OWOP adventures this year chart their versatility & my love of their cut & style.  The sewing of these Ultimates is a cinch- as I always say- once you get the fit just about right.  But I have made quite a few pairs of these now (5 pairs) & I  have to say that allow for fabrics to behave differently.  Do not assume that because your last pair was body perfect that you have no need to try on as you sew – different pairs have given me a different fit experience.  These are made in a silk that behaves almost like a light weight polyester (I have the label though to prove that it is silk!), these, came up huge.

Ultimate trousers

I had to wear them, realise during the day that they were not snug enough & take some more in afterwards.  I think I altered the CF & CB about three times.  I still feel when I look at them in these photos that they are not the most flattering  on me. (I mean it would help if I wore better underwear – apols about that! Just pretend that you can’t see any vpls please, for me…)  But even still I am not 100% sure that I have finished them…I may take the lower leg in a bit more ….but then I do need enough calf room to be comfy & tasteful (!)….what do you think?  I mainly wear these with flat shoes & am not after a skinny look, but maybe they could look better a bit more skinny than this?

Ultimate trousers

I don’t tend to wear them with tops like this – I have just pulled this together for the photos since this is about the trousers & how they fit.  I don’t actually like tucking tops into trousers – I always wear things untucked on the outside unless trousers have belt loops & are pleated.  (Like my Vogue Baggy trousers). And this is my first Pavlova top that is too short unless I wear a cami/ vest underneath.  I’m always fussing with it – too much gappage even though I lengthened it from the original pattern.

Ultimate trousers See those post wear creases?

But I do wear these often.  It’s the time of year for trousers like this – t-shirts & cardigans, socks & flat lace ups.   Can’t wait to show you my next pair!  They are a huge success too :-) (Dare I say *even* better than these??)


Londinium and an orange cocoon cardigan

So I said in my last post that I feel like a cardigan experimenter, & here’s another!  Well more of a cloak-igan.  This is my October Minerva make & I gave it a test drive on a recent trip to the Big Smoke, so I’ve chucked in a few snaps about some sights I saw at the end.  If you are at all interested.  No obligation as always.

So let’s talk cardigans.  Or cocoons.  It started with the fabric, this burnt orange knitted mohair blend. Brought to my attention by the lovely Manju at the Minerva Meet up way back in the summer. You might know me by now to realise that I could not pass this up. OK, so orange is less my colour, but a sweater knit fabric for me equals cardigans that I don’t have to knit.

I had a few ideas about what to make – perhaps another Julia cardigan or even the new Jenna by Muse patterns. But in the end I had enough fabric to make this beauty from Burdastyle- the Cocoon Cardigan 11/2013 #107.

cocoon cardi

It’s a simple raglan sleeved cocoon style cardigan of cloaklike proportions. It’s HUGE. It has inseam pockets too. Easy sewing though. I used my overlocker for practically all of it – even attaching the neck/ hem band as if it was a t-shirt neckband – sewing the band into a circle, then folding in half wrong sides together and stitching it on that way o the body of the cardigan.

cocoon cardi hem

The fabric is very light & could really stretch out of shape. That’s why I think it worked pretty well with this pattern because the hem/ neckband is interfaced & therefore forces the cardigan to behave & keep its cocoon shape – it even serves the function of slightly pulling the cardigan’s body in a bit.

cocoon cardigan back

At times it felt that there was almost too much cardigan for attaching to the hem /neck band without gathering – however, this fabric is mega forgiving in that respect & allowed me to manipulate it into place.

cocoon cardigan

I had to do the same with the cuffs though – this is not part of the pattern. The pattern just gets you to make a hem at the sleeve hems – but you can see that this did not work very well at all for this type of fabric. After hemming with a triple zig zag stitch on my regular machine, I hated the trumpet splayed effect & cut it off.

Cocoon cardi cuff

I cut my own cuff bands with the grain running vertically to keep the stretch in check, & applied them as I did the hem/ neck band.

cocoon cardi cuff

Worked a treat.

So my cardigan did me well in London when I went visiting last weekend – just got a couple of pics. You can see it is REALLY LONG!

cocoon cardi

But as a layering light weight jacket it is perfect. I felt snug but not overly hot.  Works the day to night styling too!

cocoon cardi

If you want a blanket-type cocoon – this fabric would be too light weight.

I can see it’s going to work well with skinnies as well. It really isn’t my usual type shape to wear, but I love it! And I might be an orange convert- it looks so fantastic with navy. And it must be the colour for October don’t you think? Although I notice this fabric also comes in yellow if you fancy another kind of citrus!

So these photos were taken on location.  The very first one, in the thriving spice-scented…

brick lane We wandered around, but it was too early to eat & too late to shop- I did notice the odd fabric shop there which appeared to be Aladdin’s caves crossed with the wardrobe from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Brick lane

I have come across tips for “fashion bloggers” to find interesting backdrops &  graffiti to base photoshoots around & around this area there were so many examples of incredible street art.  But I was too bashful for those that were in reach.  This plainly was not within reach!

My reason for visiting was to go to the Globe with my school friends, something that was a brand new experience for most of us.  We scoffed first of all at rather a cool brunch at Kings Cross – Caravan. I had no idea it was right next to St Martin’s.  The photo with the fountains was taken right outside.  And the brunch has not managed to disappear from my consciousness, such a wonderful taste treat – some kind of spicy cornbread combo , eggs, black beans.  Set us up right good & proper for the hilarity at the Globe.


Now I studied a few Shakespeare plays at school & am not a complete heathen, however, I had no idea that a Shakespeare comedy could be laugh out loud funny.  And laugh out loud funny without having studied it to know the “in jokes” or cleverness of the Bard.  We saw “A Comedy of Errors” & it was genuinely one of the funniest plays I have ever seen.  Slapstick & silliness.  Great acting & the intimacy at the Globe allows  facial expressions to play a real part in the performance for everyone.  There were times when it felt as if Fawlty Towers had taken a step back into Elizabethan time.  We sat in the posh bit ;-)  We had no way of knowing that it wouldn’t be raining on an October weekend when we booked it 6 months ago!


Yes, up there.  So after a rollicking good time at the Globe we wandered along the River, noticing that the Golden Hind was sitting on a filmy sea of green

Golden Hind

then taking tea with an amazing view at HMS Belfast.


Our goal was to check out the Poppies at the Tower of London – the Bloodswept Lands and seas of Red. 

Poppies at the Tpwer

Marking 100 years since Britain’s involvement in the First World War, this installation of ceramic poppies takes your breath away in its beauty & poignancy.  Each poppy represents a British life lost on the battlefield during the war.


Work in progress, it grows.  I thought it was beautiful.  Find out more here if you are interested.

London is just so exciting.  Every time I visit I see something new, yet feel ever more comfortable – even if I am the Country mouse.  And guess what?  I shall be seeing London’s sights from a whole different perspective next April as I run around them in the Marathon!!!!!!!!  Yes.  I was freaked out to get a place in the ballot.  Guiltily so.  This is my first time entering the ballot.  I consider it to be a sign …. but more of that another time.

muse Jenna cardigan

Call me the cardigan experimenter, The Jenna Cardigan by Muse Patterns

I admit it, I had a stroke of luck when Kat approached me & asked if I would like to sew the first of her patterns, the Jenna Cardigan.  I mean,  we all know how long it takes me to knit anything, especially a cardigan.  (Answer: about a year) How else am I going to satisfy the warm’n’wooly aspects of my wardrobe with a no-buy RTW pledge?

Jenna Cardigan

So I have sewn and compared two cardigan patterns prior to the Jenna.  Simplicity 2154 and McCalls 6708.   And my conclusion I think was that I would like a combination of the two in terms of fit & finish.  I also love the Julia cardigan, having made a couple of those now that get worn almost solidly.  But for a classic layerable & wearable under coats cardi?  Enter Jenna.  I must caveat this with the fact that I have *so far* only sewn one version, so my thralls might well be based on fluke, a full moon, or the ambient temperature on the living room rug as I cut it out.  But people I am seriously impressed.

Jenna cardigan

The Jenna cardigan, in case you have not seen other fabulous versions, gives you options: sleeve length, body length (waist or hip length) & it gives you the opportunity to include if you wish a cute gathered front yoke.  Coo.  I did.  Because I haven’t got a cardi with a cute pretty gathered yoke.  And it’s just too perfectly quaint.

Jenna cardigan

I found some grey “sweater knit” of some description that I had in my stash.  I thought it was some yukky acryllic but when I came to work with it, changed my mind, suspecting it has some cotton in it.  And probably a degree of synthetics, but no way as high as I had initially thought.  I sewed it with the wrong-side out so that the “garter stitch” finish was on the outside.  I’ve done this for something else I’ve sewn recently & will show you soon. I like the nubbly effect this gives & thinks it elevates the appearance from “dull” synthetic-cotton  mix  to “interesting & artisan” cotton-synthetic mix.  And cutting the waist length version does not need a whole load of fabric, which is another bonus- it’s quite an economical little make, even with long sleeves.  The deep waistband helps keep pieces (apart from the sleeves) from being that long.

Jenna Cardigan

So, once cut & started to be sewn I was enjoying the process.  I accidentally ignored notches & sewed the yoke pieces upside down (doh!)  so unpicking a top-stitched, yoke with gathering & almost perfectly matched thread in a sweater knit was not the easiest, but that’s life when you are over confident ;-)

Jenna Cardigan

Apart from that I had a simple sew & loved how it all came together.  I did have to narrow the arms a little bit once I had the chance to try it on.  I also shortened the sleeves a little too, but don’t you think that’s a good design principle as one of the worst things is to have sleeves that are too short?  I would much rather have sleeves too long & swaddling my wrists in layers.  But hey, when you are making it yourself, you can get the sleeve length the right length to suit you!  Score.

Jenna cardigan

So this is the first pattern by Muse Patterns, & it’s a very welcome entry into my sewing repertoire.  The cardigan is truly fulfilling my cardigan ambitions.  The only thing possibly I would even consider adding would be the welt pockets from McCalls 6708.  But this pattern has now officially usurped the other two.  As far as the instructions go, new pattern company & all that.  I found them just right (OK, even if I proved that I didn’t read them properly!  It is my fault, not the instructions’).  I think if you are comfortable sewing knits, you should progress to cardigans.  You don’t have to use an overlocker (although I always do whenever I get the chance).  The construction is very similar to the Renfrew in terms of hem bands & sleeve cuffs to provide a nice edge, but you also have to introduce the button band which is actually no big deal, even if you think it is going to be!   Before I made cardies I always imagined the button band would be where I faltered, I thought it would play up, stretch out of shape and drag under my buttonhole foot.  In this pattern, the button band is interfaced which helps a whole lot in terms of nice neat finish when wearing, but also when sewing buttonholes.  And if your fabric is thick, fluffy/ open weave or anything else that will cause you problems with buttonholes, then you can use snap fasteners, hooks & eyes, or even turn some loops.   But simulate it first and try a practice piece as it might not be as bad as you think.

Jenna cardigan

So this cardi was originally a tester if I am to be honest, before I bring in the wool jersey.  I had to make sure I knew what I was doing & what I had to be careful about next time (paying attention!).  But when  this cardigan came together & I had buttons to choose I thought it was the perfect backdrop for some ceramic buttons a friend had brought me, a while ago.


Who cares if one button cost more than the sum of all the other materials, these arty crafty buttons go down a storm on such a plain backdrop.

So, it has been worn a lot.  I don’t think it looks second rate (which I think my others do).  The next version of this is more than likely going to involve my special wool jersey that is *one of those* fabrics wrapped away for *the perfect* make.  I can’t think of anything better to do with it than to make a cardigan that will be truly practical & pretty.  Thank you Kat !  Here’s the link to the pattern where you can see a bit more about the design and other variations.

dolores top

Dolores top and dress- batwing perfection!

Oh Dolores! The most cute baby girl has given her name to rather a gorgeous batwing collection: dress, top and tunic.

This is the batwing top of dreams – the one. I have been lucky enough to have been gifted a SoZo original & wear it such a lot,

so that when Zoe hinted at producing it as a pdf sewing pattern, I was eager to say the least. And then when asked to be a tester I did not hesitate to squeal “oh yes, yes yes!”

The Dolores batwing can be sewn as a top, a tunic length (great for leggings) or a sultry dress- with short sleeve or long sleeve options. I gave it a whirl as a short sleeve top & the long sleeved dress. Zoe promised that it would be a quick make & she is right- I whipped up both of these in just a couple of hours.


I used some extremely light weight jersey – it must have some viscose content- it’s very thin & very drapey – for the top. In turquoise. It’s such a cool colour :-) And hold onto your seats- those of you with a nervous disposition, the fabric for the dress is rather……..


….floral!!!  It’s the same fabric I used for my rural Hudson pants bought from the Birmingham Rag market. It had less stretch than the turquoise & was pulled to its extreme when sewing the neckband – but it survived!  (Since me making this, Zoe has revisited the neckband grainline for less stretchy fabrics, so it shouldn’t be something you need to think about!)

dolores top

The pattern itself is space saving- only 12 printed pages of A4. How about that? The front & the back is the same- just add neckband & chosen arm finish (long sleeve or cuff).   I followed the instructions to the letter (as that is what I was there for- what I was testing – but with such logical instructions as these, how else could I have done it?)

dolores dress

Process follows these lines:

Attach neckband, sew shoulders, attach sleeves/cuff, sew side seams, hem.

dolores top

I used my overlocker for all but the hem- & in this case I followed Zoe’s recommended three step zig zag – just to see – & I liked the control you get for hemming right up to the edge of the fabric- & how convenient it is -no rethreading for a twin needle, & also no lugging of coverstitch machine onto table (oh my Gawd, that is so revealing! Just how lazy does that seem!! But if time is of the essence, sometimes you want to know what your options are & then choose accordingly.) But let’s get serious – my goal when making these was primarily to test the instructions so that included giving other methods a whirl that I’ve not tried before.

dolores dress

As with all SoZo patterns, this is put together well – it’s simple. But the styling says it all. Chic. Quirky. Retro inspired. I mean how could you not look at the dress length Dolores & not think “wiggle”? This is the ultimate jersey wiggle dress! But no sleeves to set in. The batwing sleeves are fixed flat either to the short sleeve cuff or to the long sleeve with gathers or pleats (I used pleats – you eyeball it & place them where you want them). Once the cuff/ sleeve is assembled you then sew up the side seams, whoosh. Jobs a good ‘un as they say.


And I love the boat/ slash neck. Now I have the pattern I can see a few more variations being added to my repertoire and have just purchased this, ahem, rather bold jersey.  I couldn’t help it, & it’s arrived and is such gorgeous quality but largescale & reminiscent of Dr Jacobi’s waikiki office (which is clearly a good thing in my book).

The pattern is available here for download. Woo hoo- now you too can make one (or lots)!

Now the photos – did you guess that they were taken in the summer by my very own David Bailey (my Dad)?  Thanks BG! I like the way that my floral Ultimates almost disappear into the privet, don’t you.  And yes.  I do have a thing for florals.  Didn’t you know?