Anya bag

Anya bag in Harris Tweed

I have made a few bags in my time, but never have any made such an impression as this one.  Partly due to pattern, but also thanks to the fabrics, it has to be said.  I felt it was time to make a new day bag & had heard how deceptively roomy the Anya bag by So Zo is.  Zoe had kindly sent me the pattern as a housewarming gift (so kind!) & with Spring in the air & a few free hours in the afternoon I tried to bring together some suitable fabrics from my stash.

anya bag

I had initially thought of using some of the pleather I had left from my Madrid tote bag made last year.  But then I remembered I might have enough Harris Tweed  left for some of the bag, if not all.  Excitement raised, I hunted it out & gleefully discovered there was enough (just) to make the whole bag out of the Harris Tweed & use one of the genuine labels too.  Don’t cheapen it, I thought & discounted any use of a contrast yoke.  Keep to the Harris Tweed.  Line up the checks.  Find a lovely lining.  I looked through my Liberty remnants thinking that a Liberty lining would be classy enough for such a fine tweed.  Nothing really zinged though.  Especially when I found a piece of pink satin lining.  Oh my, the shine!  The pink that took out the pink lines in the tweed!  It was a match.  Cutting & sewing started.

anya tab

I was going to add to the pattern slightly by including an inner pocket (in bird print cotton ) & instead of a button tab, use one of those magnetic clasps.  As long as I could remember where I had stored it.  Luckily I did.  Considering my flaky memory, the list of ‘things I can’t find after unpacking’ is very short.  And now does not include magnetic clasps.

anya tab sewing

So the thing to remember is that if you are using magnetic clasps, they need to be added / installed early on to both the tab & the yoke piece before you really start sewing.  It’s fine though, just use the markings on the pattern & they will meet up once the bag is constructed.

anya pocket

The same with a pocket.  I sewed the pocket & attached it to the lining, once the lining yoke was attached to the bag lining piece but before sewing the two linings + yokes together.

Everything else carries on like usual & Zoe’s instructions are mucho comprehensive.  There is also a one page quick sheet if you don’t need all the detail.

The Goy-jus Handmade Jane remembers my fondness for Harris Tweed & had bought me some genuine Harris Tweed covered buttons as a birthday present last year.  The perfect gift & I am glad to say, I have added two to this bag as a classy finishing touch – they are not exactly the same Tweed pattern, but the colours are spot on.  And I still have four buttons to embellish something else 🙂

anya buttons

I am absolutely smitten with the lovely shape & soft pleats of this bag.  But it’s the use of this my last  last piece of Harris Tweed that fills me most with joy.  I know my Dad, who bought it for me, will be so pleased.

Tweedy to the max

Will I wear it with my skirt?  I do not know….what do you think?

Let me tell you though …this bag is roomy…I was able to fit my usual stuff PLUS my DSLR without any particular strains – tab closed nicely & bag’s pleats accommodated it all without any fuss.  What a star bag …. Its only shortcoming is its owner …insisting on using it on rainy days when perhaps she should have been looking after the precious tweed a bit better (It’s OK, nothing ruined !)

So if you’re on bank holiday today you could find some beautiful remnant in your stash to breathe a new lease of life and productivity into? Making a bag can be such a rewarding project for a rainy day! 

orla top

Orla in chiffon

Way back when I made my first Orla top, fresh from Tilly and the Buttons, I imagined how it could be in a chiffon.  I am a huge chiffon fangirl- pick the right design – I usually go for polka dots (Link to my Sarah shirt, Simplicity 2154) or vintage florals (link to my anti-climax top’ Butterick 3082) – & it can be conjured up into the most special looking of tops, suitable for dressing up or down.  I mean it is ethereal, willo-the-wisp type fabric, yet it has all the benefits of a polyester – easy care & easy wear.  I must sound like a broken record, but I know that making something that can be easy care easy wear (ie no ironing) extends the usefulness & wear of this garment exponentially in the badger wardrobe of lazy style. 


Let me reveal to you just how much I wear my chiffon tops mentioned above.  My Sarah shirt, barely a month old has been worn weekly – particularly underneath a grey v neck sloppy jumper & my grey ultimate pencil skirt.  This is the most cosy of outfits & has seen me through various occasions – going to the theatre, going to a kind of informal job interview, looking a bit country chic at home & also going to see my very first 20 piece ‘Big Band’.  My my anti-climax top’ (read the link to find out why it has that name) is a semi smart & going out stalwart.  I wear it with an office skirt, tucked in with cardi when needed.  I wear it untucked with jeans & my faux suede jacket to gigs, or same top combo with a denim skirt.  The secret for me is the retro styling matched with the retro floral.  Sometimes there is a place for a simple blouse that has a reasonably high neck.  It sits at just the right level not to be uncomfortable & strangling.  Just the last time I wore it, I was complimented (by a bloke- for real!) on how nice my top was.

orla top  

I have bought my chiffon at various times from the Birmingham Rag Market, & after using this piece, have only one more length left.  It ‘s red & floral is likely to be a So Over It Pussy Bow blouse in case you are wondering …watch this space…

orla (4)

So the Orla top, by Tilly and the Buttons, has joined the wearable & desirable chiffon league in my wardrobe.  Without the collar it has a similar neckline to my anticlimax top- also having those lovely neck darts (I adore neck darts, they always seem to work so well on me & get such a snappy fit!). 

orla top (3)

Remember Orla also has the suavest set of bodice darts ever – back darts plus curved French darts in the bodice front.  They might be showing up just that little bit more in chiffon – great excuse for tidy seams & finishing.  Speaking of which, I sewed all seams as French seams- both because chiffon can fray & produce irritating whiskers but also because the seam finishing would potentially show through the garment’s sheerness.   I also took advantage of my overlocker for sewing the first part of the French seam as this trims off all of those pesky whiskers to create a lovely even thin seam for enclosing inside the second part of the French seam.

What I also envisaged when I first made my Orla in chiffon decree, was that I would change the back opening from the exposed zipper to a single button opening – keeping the back as one piece if I could.  Working slightly on the fly, after I had cut out most of the pieces, including the single back piece, I had to design the button opening.  As a design feature, I thought a nice keyhole opening would be cute & also be the simplest to manage on a single back bodice cut on the fold.  I redrafted the back facing to be cut on the fold with a circular hole in the centre.  I made a rouleau loop to pin into place between facing & bodice before sewing. I did not cut the back bodice keyhole until after I had sewn the facing to the back bodice, thus using the new facing as the template. 

orla top

Everything else was as per Tilly’s clear & beautifully photographed instructions.  I do like the hem facings for such a shaped hem as this – it really makes for a satisfying solid feeling finish.

orla and circle skirt 

So I was able to pair this top with my easy black circle skirt for the special birthday party I told you about.  Wearabilty of chiffon is enhanced with an under layer!  It would be too transparent to wear without the defence of a camisole or vest.  Not having a black camisole or strappy vest & not wanting to rely on my only black slip, I hastened to make a Savannah camisole vest, a Seamwork pattern, out of black tricot. 


I thought about embellishing it with lace, but did not have enough black stretch lace in my stash.  Besides, something like this that will be a little on show will be best plain.  Classier.  Savannah can be made from woven fabrics cut on the bias. 

I figured that using a stretch fabric I could get away with cutting it straight grain, which is what I did.  I used my twin needle for sewing any of the horizontal seams- the hem & the top edges.  Side seams were sewn using my overlocker.  I made straps out of folded fold over elastic which I also stitched using my twin needle.  By far the fiddliest stage is sorting out the straps, but all in all a perfect make.  I’m very pleased with the end result & the fit is more roomy than SoZo’s camisole vest (which I had also considered, knowing what a great pattern that is).  The fit, in this instance, was what I was after as in a manmade fabric like this, gives a bit more breathing space.

orla and circle skirt

Wearing the three together, predominantly three black garments, did make me think about colour.  It has been a while since I have made black clothes.  But strangely enough, it is still so wearable, despite thinking that navy is the new black, somehow, there is always black, isn’t there?   

circle skirt

Possibly the easiest circle skirt in the world…

Happy Sunday everyone!  Hope you have been doing a bit of what you love (even better if it’s a lot of what you love 🙂 )…

I have had a glorious Saturday afternoon of sewing, prompted by an urge that I just possibly could make a whole new outfit for a special birthday party this afternoon.  Having just some finishing touches to make for a top (one that I will reveal properly  in another post, but it’s peeping out in today’s pics….) I got it into my head that I could actually conjure up a new skirt, & cami to wear underneath this top (that will also be revealed separately).  Because this is about the circle skirt.

circle skirt

I have a bit of a thing for circle skirt exploration at the moment as I shall be making an AWESOME one very shortly – I just need to complete my supplies before I can start sewing, but it is cut out ready.  I am being such a blimmin awful tease so far aren’t I?  All promises of things to come, & not much else.  OK, I was trying to complete the backstory for making a circle skirt this time.  Since revisiting this circle skirt , & just how wearable & cute it is with cropped tops & even heels, I have been drawn to making more.  This one today is a full circle skirt.  Like, all one piece, no seams.  For real.  Spread it out on the floor and it’s like a donut.  (one that’s decidedly more dough than hole).

circle skirt

That is one of the joys of making a circle skirt.  It doesn’t have to have seams as long as you make it with an elasticated waist.  And gone are the days of elasticated waists being frumpy.  When you have a swish circle skirt & combine it with some deep elastic, the elastic itself takes on a role as part of the design- almost a built in waspi belt, but without the buckle.  Mix it up a bit with an elastic in a feature colour or you can even get patterned elastics.  What’s stopping you?  If I wanted I could have made mine more cinched by making it a bit smaller – a bit of guestimating going on for my elastic.   However, the skirt succeeds at staying on my waist, nice & comfy.  I reckon I could wear this for days on end, the kind of thing that would also be very comfy to travel in.  It’s that easy to wear.

I made the skirt using a length of jersey that I got from Croftmill before Christmas thinking that it would make a nice skirt for a gift, however, I did not get enough for the kind of skirt I wanted to give.  Classic ordering fail on my part.  It’s got swirls & flowers embellishing it – in relief, like ribbon embroidery but with strips of he jersey.  But for all that prettiness it is still a basic black skirt so will be super mixable with other garments & for different occasions.



So making it.  I already mentioned that I cut a circle – folded the fabric into quarters to make it super easy & used my Pavolva skirt pattern as a basis, but had a bit of squaring up to do.  There’s explanation for how to cut your circle skirt in one piece here at Donna Carol’s blog.  And don’t forget the By Hand circle skirt app that helps calculate yardages & what the radius of your waist circle needs to be for the kind of circle skirt you want to make to fit you.


Right side and wrong side of waistband.

So once I had cut my circle with a hole in the middle, I then measured my elastic (waist + seam allowances)  & joined it into a circle with a narrow zig zag  seam.  I also used a zig zag to stitch the seam allowances down.  (You might want to stay stitch the skirt’s waist before attaching the elastic but I didn’t, doesn’t mean to say what I did was right!!  NB if you do stay stitch with a straight stitch it really will only be a temporary stitching line and may actually snap in several places if you leave it in when you wear it as it will get stretched.  Why staystitch you ask?  Well, it might make it easier for you to control the application of the elastic to this edge….) soooo….

Right side showing how I zig zagged the seam allowances of the elastic

Right side showing how I zig zagged the seam allowances of the elastic

Marking the elastic into quarters I also marked quarters along the skirt’s waist.  With right sides together, bottom edge of elastic to top waist edge of skirt I matched elastic markers to waist markers.   It was then a case of stitching the elastic to the skirt with a suitable stretch stitch – in my case using my overlocker, but a zig zag will do just as well.  I had to stretch the elastic to match the skirt’s waist which results in the elastic bringing the waist to the right size as this edge will probably have stretched out.


Handmade Jane has got a great tutorial for attaching elastic to a waistband here….slightly different to mine & better if you want to see every bit of your elastic if it has a pattern on it.

OK, so nearly with a finished skirt, I let it hang overnight as there is a lot of bias action going on here.  Next day I measured up from the floor (using my dummy, Barbarella which has a chalk marker- this is the singular most useful thing about having a dressmakers dummy in my opinion) I marked the same distance from the ground all the way round.  I then used my overlocker to finish the edge & cut off the excess all in one go.  Pow!

Hem & cut all in one go

Hem & cut all in one go

It was just a normal overlock stitch, using the chalk markings as a guide to get an even hem.  You could use a rolled hem, or with a regular machine cut the hem evenly then finish with a zig zag perhaps or just leave the cut edge as I did here.  (And it’s still absolutely OK!)

The finished hem

The finished hem

So, a super duper easy peasey circle skirt.  Super duper easy photos too….

You will next see this skirt when I tell you about the rest of the outfit.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend folks x


Minerva make: Rachel Wrap dress by Maria Denmark

I took a  sojourn from the Minerva Blogging Network & my usual mega obsessive sewing, & replaced it with all things moving house etc but am pleased to take up where I left off now that life in the country is in a steady state & sewing is very much back on the agenda. Whoopity whoop!!

Rachel wrap dress

I’ve made the Rachel Wrap dress by Maria Denmark & for my full write up visit the Minerva Blogging Network here.  Photos are taken by my very own David Bailey father, can you tell ? 😉

phoebe feature

Phoebe in blue (& a discount!)

I had no immediate urge to sew the Phoebe dress when it was released by Colette Patterns.  I liked the look of it, & thought the styling was cute, but I did not fall over myself to acquire it & make it.  It was not one of those love at first sight patterns, I’ll admit.  But there is something about sewing a Colette pattern that still feels like a total treat – the spa experience of sewing.  Relax, sink into new depths of peace whilst you focus on the detail as guided in the signature little instruction booklet.  You know you are sewing something stylish.  You know it will be a quality garment.    You don’t have to print out reams of A4 sheets depleting your ink & then tape together on the rug in front of the TV.  You pop the envelope, reach inside for the crisp tissue paper folded as it will never ever be again & unwrap your next sewing adventure.  There is something very experiential.  It’s worth taking your time over.

phoebe dress

Phoebe dress is described by Colette Patterns as

A modern A line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped with princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.

There are two versions – a straight plain fronted dress & a double breasted dress with buttons. I chose the latter as why not get some button interest going?!Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.

phoebe dress

Sew Essential provided me with the Phoebe sewing pattern (they stock so many of the Independent pattern companies’ sewing patterns now along with all of the bigger brands) and some fabric to make it up in.  I was taken by the crepe dress making fabric, & figured a royal blue Phoebe would be super playfully chic if I made it as a pinafore.  Yes, I can wear pinafores, it doesn’t have to be something for the youngsters.  I felt could make it work.

I am not the standard Colette Patterns bodice shape so I had to make a toile, then another, then another.  I think back on that afternoon & remember I was watching episode after episode of the Great Interior Design Challenge on iPlayer through this experience.  Do you remember things like that?  What you were listening to/ watching when you sew something?  For my Joan dress, for example it was the new series of the X Files…..the Rhys Darby episode particularly sticks in my mind.


My version is the white paper – the original is tissue paper behind

So the bodice took some work to get it to fit my (clearly odd ) non standard shape.  It was an effort, as always, because the area that was so wrong for me was behind me.  I pinched out the excess as best as I could & then kept making new versions up with each set of adjustments until I came as close as I was prepared to.  Comparing the original piece with the ‘badger body’ back bodice I was surprised to see that it was in the upper shoulder area – my adjustments to the Laurel dress have a much smaller adjustment taken off at the back shoulder, but the rest of the dress fitted much more easily.  Just interesting.  And I felt I was toiling like a pro when I was transferring the adjustments to the pattern pieces & then remembering to make compensatory adjustments to the armsyce.  Gosh I have learnt so much from the online sewing community.

During the evolution of the toile I was able to see where the bodice waist seam was going to fall – it is higher than my natural waist.  I had the opportunity to lower the waist if I wanted, but as you can see, I was happy with the higher waist (good camouflage for those bloaty days) but could squeeze a sway back adjustment into the final version.

I was confident that I could make adjustments to the skirt in progress & not toile it.  It seems fitting that the bulk of the content in this write up is devoted to the bodice as that is where it felt that all the time went!  Once I had got to my final bodice I could not wait to get sewing.  It is a lined bodice, but I also lined the skirt as well.  The instructions of course are clear & carefully take you through the sewing process, including the bodice lining.  I opted to sew my skirt lining into waist seam & hand sew the bodice at the waist over the top.  I wanted the weight of the skirt to pull the bodice ever so slightly as it fitted better like that!


The Phoebe dress doesn’t have to have a centre back invisible zip but that’s what I chose.  If there is a faux double breasted front, let’s hide the real opening I thought.  (The instructions suggest using a regular zip).  Onto that double breasting.  Yes it is faux in that it doesn’t function as a way in/ out of the dress.  But it is made up of two separate overlapping lined bodice fronts so if you played with the skirt, you could make this into a suit dress hack with buttons going all the way down the skirt front too.   Hmm.  That could look pretty cool – pinstripe maybe over a plain white shirt?

phoebe dress

Back to this version though.  Call me lazy (but not too loud!) but I was not going to sew buttonholes just for the sake of it.  There are 10 buttons after all & with buttonholes, mo matter how careful you are, there are always stray tufts sticking out.  You could of course go full on & sew bound buttonholes making this rather a showcase of skill.  But not me, not this time.  I sewed the buttons onto the markings through all bodice layers.  This keeps the bodice where it needs to be & with the bonus of buttons.  I like royal blue & black so hunted out a couple of options.  Here are the two choices I gave myself – both plastic-  flowers & faceted jet-like buttons.  I had the fortune of a second opinion via my sewing guru (my Mum) & we concurred – flowers were more fun.

Here it is in action, photos courtesy of my very own David Bailey  father.  I took Phoebe with me on my last visit, handsewing still to be completed, but knowing that my family photographer loves to be called on for a photoshoot with a willing idiot….

phoebe dress

One thing I will say.  The fit feels good, the bodice has less ease due to it being kind of tailored.  The front is easy to fit with princess seams, but the back is where my problems were…never easy when you sew solo.

phoebe dress

If I was to wear this without a top underneath my bra straps show.  That could be down to my armsyce adjustments (pride comes before a fall afterall) or maybe they are more scooped.  Anyone else made Phoebe who can comment?

phoebe dress

Anyway, the gorgeous crepe dressmaking fabric  that I used is available from Sew Essential – lots of colours available  & this is an Orla top, made from the cream crepe, isn’t it fine?  You can get the Phoebe dress sewing pattern at Sew Essential too …and until the 29th March 2016 there is a 10% discount if you use the code BADGER10!  Tempted?

My Vintage pledge – you decide!

Another year, another pledge.  The Vintage Pledge as hosted by Marie of A Stitching Odyssey and Kerry at Kestrel Makes.  It was rather an adventure last year with all sorts of giveaways, vintage themed blog posts & of course many many Vintage makes.  This year it is here again & here are my thoughts about what I shall be doing. 


This has been in the various parts of my brain sometime now (some parts very cheeky & totally impractical, others pretty ephemeral- I need help here folks!) but in the end the great percolation allows some ideas to take life & a form of commitment here on my blog. 

I am a bit late in the game, with this year’s vintage pledge being firmly underway & acquiring momentum whilst I am the one scrappily running to the bus stop just as I see the brake lights come off. 

Don’t ask me what’s kept me.  Did I oversleep?  Was the cat sick on the rug?  You tell me, but I am here now with some vintage pattern candy.  Oh yes.  I am not going to promise to sew all of these patterns this year.   But maybe my delay indicates that there is more of a chance of these appearing in solid sewing plans than being just a wondrous wishlist of vintage style.  At the end there will be a voters poll – you can decide which of these I will definitelt make.  I promise to make the pattern with the greatest number of votes.

Here for your delight are some pictures & ideas.  Not too many words. Sit back & enjoy …

 style 4262

  1. I am actually making these as I type.  Style 4262- out of the magenta polka dot cotton.  OOOh .  Sadly I do not have enough to make them with all the works so let’s see how they turn out…

mccalls 75202. McCalls 7520.  That jacket.  I just have to make it this year.

simplicity 62623. Simplicity 6262 – a woven shawl collared wrap dress.  Yum.

butterick 66174. Butterick 6617.  I just adore the zip fronted A lined gorgeousness of the sleeveless version & what should I spy this week to rekindle adoration but Kat’s very own version on Modern Vintage Cupcakes (see how she handled the flyaway collar 😉 )

mccalls 69805. McCalls 6980 cries out to join the party.  Yes it is 1980s but I really want to take the sleeveless version & show what a stylish timeless dress this is.  Pussy bow.  Say no more.

vogue 30076. Vogue 3007 is a gem and has been cherished by me as I borrow it from the Vintage Queen, Handmade Jane.  Jane- I will make this jacket this year & that’s a promise.  But which one?

simplicity 11667. This is another promise, Simplicity 1166, a reproduction from the 1950s.  I *shall* be making the blouse with tie waist & the swishy skirt.  What a combo…

simplicity 13658. Another reproduction but this time from the 1970s.  Simplicity 1365 oooh, everything about these tops makes me squeal.  Surely I will manage one (or two) of these?  Surely there will be a summer holiday which will be impossible without a girly halter?

simplicity 11979. I have Simplicity 1197 here for its coat.  One of my most worn shop bought items is a coat from Boden that is much this style.  Time to make myself a replacement – in some kind of cotton canvas with a cute lining.  But this is wishlist fodder.  Will it come to pass this year?

daily herald 50s pattern10. Finally an original 1950s pattern which I’ve made before (my Rockahula Vegas top & high waisted shorts) .  It is glorious & I shall be making some more of the sleeveless tops I reckon.

So now for the voting.  If you want to have a say in what youd like to see appearing on my blog as part of my Vintage Pledge, cast your vote now …

Which Vintage pattern shall I promise to make this year?

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As an exciting second part to this blog post, you must have seen that there is going to be an epic big vintage sewalong hosted by McCalls in aid of raising awareness of the Eve appeal charity.  Check out the information here.  There are some familiar faces taking part & you can too.  The good news is that I am part of it too & have chosen an amazing pattern to make up.  It will be a challenge, that’s all I am saying for now, but I have a few months before I need to complete it.  You will have forgotten about it by the time I have finished it ….

I think it is so easy to join in with the vintage pledge  as so many companies now offer reproduction vintage patterns that take away some of the difficulties an original vintage pattern might bring – ie multi sizing & printed patterns (as opposed to the punched dots of the earlier sewing patterns!)

Are you in the vintage pledge this year?  Why not join in the Big Vintage Sewalong? #BVSewalong

Schnittchen Silvia Coatigan in boiled wool

Hello peeps!  I’ve woken up early (not the fault of the cat for a change) & so am using this opportunity to get some writing done.  The wind is howling around the house as I write about a cosy addition to my handmade wardrobe – the Silvia Coatigan by Schnittchen patterns.  Making this is no surprise if you caught my post last month about my final decision about what to make with my bargainalicious grey boiled wool from the John Lewis sale.  And here ….drum roll….is the fruit of my labour.

Coatigan1A casual cosy jacket to wear with jeans & other things.  In fact I have found it also looks awesome with my denim skirt, above the knee, such as my Arielle, it also looks great with my grey ultimate pencil skirt when I’m wearing a longer length cardigan/ baggy jumper that would be too long for the matching Anise jacket.  It doesn’t however look that special with my custom block trousers, in fact those two silhouettes together look rather yuk.


So to recap the Silvia Coatigan is a cardigan type coat (doh!).  It’s mid thigh length, lined, straightish shaping with a shawl collar & lovely roomy  horizontal pockets – perfect for stashing bunches of keys & your phone (with plenty of room for cold hands) as you dash out, coatigan slipping easily on to fend off chills.  If you want a fastening there is marking for a single button but more on that later.  I have omitted any kind of fastening myself.

coatigan 3The Silvia pattern itself – be aware -if you are going down the pdf route – has lots of printing for coat and lining.  From memory I think it is delivered as two files which you need to print.    I had to double check that I had not accidentally printed duplicates but in different printing formats.  But no, necessity of making a long line jacket with lining results in a bit more printing than usual.  No biggies.

coatigan 4I’ll talk about the boiled wool in a but, but whilst I’m on the Schnittchen experience, let’s stay there a bit.  I found the actual instructions fine, but not super detailed- and there are not diagrams illustrating each stage of the construction process.  The patterns says it is ‘easy’ & if you are reasonably confident at sewing I would say that on the whole it is straightforward, however there are a few more challenging steps & with no illustrations + basic instructions  I would not suggest this pattern for beginners as your first jacket (something like the Victoria blazer would be a better first jacket in my view).  The printed instructions also alluded to more detailed tutorials on the Schnittchen website, but I couldn’t locate any for the Silvia coatigan – maybe it is something that will be added over time.  The more challenging aspects?  Got to be the bagging the lining – particularly the front facing / lining –  something that really needs a diagram to help.  Other steps that would benefit from illustrations would be the pockets and the collar.

coatigan 5But as I said, it is reasonably straightforward to sew – I’d say as an intermediate sewing project.  You can always look things up afterall…

I do love the way these kinds of shawl collars which are grown on to the front bodices as one piece (joining at the back neck) such sources of satisfaction to admire the end result – those angles…


Check out the pockets …(complete with cat hair trim)


I used cotton owl fabric for the body lining but a slippery polyester lining for the sleeves as it makes it much easier to put the jacket/ coat on.

Now onto the fastening, which really comes down to the fit of the coatigan.  There is a marking on the pattern for a single button, about here …

coatiganBut I found that the actual fit of the jacket, being straight down, would have resulted in some straining (well not quite straining, but some creasing shall we say) around my hips.

coatigan Or it felt like there would be.  Maybe I should have gone up a size at the hips like I usually do, but I am not convinced that it would be a shape that suits me anyway, done up.  I need waist definition, but with the coat open it is fine.  If I need extra warmth I hug it around me!

coatigan 6

So boiled wool & the joy of.  Something I had never sewn with or owned before.  I actually did some research to prepare myself & to help inform choice of pattern.  What did I need to know?  Well the benefits of it not fraying & therefore no seam finishing required were clearly there for the taking.  But why is this such a special fabric?  I am quoting Karen Rudman, Karen’s Kreations directly from Get Creative website that comes up very highly in the ‘sewing boiled wool’ searches …

Our Boiled Wool is a fabric that is machine knit, then shrunk. All of our fabric is a “Made in Washington” product created at our studios. Because it is a knit fabric, it has “give” both horizontally and vertically. A plain knit fabric has a “right side” (the knit stitch) and a “wrong side” (the purl stitch). When making boiled wool, the “wrong side” becomes the right side. As the fabric is shrunk, the purl stitch begins to bubble, creating the fabric’s texture. The yarns used are very fine, which results in a lovely medium weight fabric that is very comfortable to wear. It gives warmth without weight and is water and soil resistant. Yardage made from woven fabric would be much heavier.

The link above also has plenty of advice about garment choice and sewing process.  Two of our inspiring bloggers have also trodden this path before and offer their take on sewing with boiled wool – Flossie teacakes has some useful information in her discussions about her boiled wool jacket  (finished jacket here) & then Handmade Jane brings her insights into boiled wool after completing the most gorgeous classic coat.


So what did I pick up from these boiled wool muses? Well, it seems that you have to be very careful about stretch & pressing should be done very carefully (if at all – I tried to get away with finger pressing where I could).  But I did need to press & did so through my press cloth.  I was a little unsure what to do about my interfacing – this is added to hemlines & front facing/ collar.  I tried to locate some sew in interfacing in my supplies, thereby avoiding that conundrum, but was unsuccessful & compromised,  d oing a bit of a test first on some scrap boiled wool first.  Pressing gently & for a very short time through the press cloth to ‘slightly attach’ fusible interfacing before the boiled wool realised what I was doing to it & then hoping that areas that were interfaced would become attached to the garment once sewing was done …




I avoided  pressing seams with an iron by finger pressing & then edge stitching both sides of each seam wherever I could.  It has given a nice finish I think.   I think seams that I could not get to for edge finishing were just  the sleeve seams.


So as boiled wool has the tendency to stretch (its properties afterall) all curved seamlines need stabilising.  I hand basted seam tape to every curve I saw before me in advance of any sewing.

coatiganI also added extra stabilising to the pocket line (see ribbon used horizontally above) in addition to the interfacing already required & to the shoulder seams as I would if I was sewing a knit top – but used seam tape, not clear elastic!

Sewing?  I used a ball point needle but a slightly longer straight stitch on my regular machine ( a 3mm stitch length).

coatiganThere ! If you sew with boiled wool these are a few tips, but I urge you to follow the links in this post too so that you have lots of info!  And if your’re going to sew a coatigan, happy making & then wearing!!!

Outfit notes: BHL Sarah shirt & Ginger Jeans with store bought sloppy jumper

joan dress

How I made the Joan dress out of a knit

Hello again!  Are you tempted to make a Joan dress in a knit?  I used a ponte from Girl Charlee Uk which is lovely quality & a joy to sew with as well.  But what did I do differently to take the Joan dress pattern that is designed to be used with woven fabrics, to get an almost nice fitting version in a beautifully comfy knit?

joan dress

As promised I’m going to share the method & adjustments I used – I am not saying there isn’t an even better way to do this.  But it worked for me!!  Maybe it’ll launch you on your own journey to give it a go?  Coming up with your own adaptations & ideas?

First of all I prepared myself with this article (very timely) in February’s Seamwork magazine on how you can use patterns that are designed for wovens for knit fabrics.  It’s an excellent piece written by Christina Haynes & tells you what to consider about how adaptable the pattern is, how you can break the rules, how darts & closures are not always needed,   It gave me food for thought & prepared me.

joan dress

However, I think my best preparation, as already mentioned, is that I had seen how a tie neck bodice could be made in a knit with the Colette Patterns’ Moneta dress.    I also prepared myself to make the bodice as a toile & sew each seam in basting stitches to fit before overlocking.  And this I did (although why I did not get that sway back right irks me a bit as I will have to go back & adjust it).

Fitting – from woven to knit

So, after some thought I decided to make the Joan dress in my usual size & if necessary make it smaller.  I also felt confident that I would not need any kind of fastenings, so cut the back pieces (bodice and skirt) on the fold (minus the seam allowances) The ponte de roma is a reasonably stable knit with some stretch but not toooooo much.

joan (2)

I was going to make this pattern up with darts & all because Joan is a shapely darling & just because you don’t always use darts with a knit, doesn’t mean they are banned or wrong.  I think the first time I used darts in a knit was with one of Maria Denmark’s dresses, Audrey dress, which uses back darts for shaping).  So I felt that the ponte would behave positively if I stuck to the darts to make this dress super shapely.  And it did.  I just had to make the darts bigger & take much bigger side seams.  As I said, I sewed it all using a long basting straight stitch (with a ballpoint needle) to then work out what fitting I needed to do.

joan dress

Long straight ‘basting ‘ stitch – see the adjustment I am making from the original stitching line

Once I was close to the final fit, I then used my overlocker for the final seams.  NB I basted the side seams but did not overlock them until later, see below!

Here is how much I took the darts in by.  And the side seams.

joan dress darts

Please look closely – there are two lines of stitching, honest!

I plan to make more Joans in a knit, so made a copy of the bodice pattern as adapted for knits…will save me time next go.  All in all by my reckoning the side seams came in by a further 1cm each plus the extra shaping at the darts.

I also used this approach when the time came to fit the skirt – sewing with my basting straight stitch before using the overlocker when I had done the fitting to make the final seams.

So that is how I got the fit (almost, bar sway back.)

Stabilising seams – from woven to knit

You wouldn’t generally stabilise seams in a woven, but I always stabilise my shoulder seams in any knit tops/ dresses that I make by sewing clear elastic, seam binding, or even narrow ribbon in the seam allowance.  My overlocker has a special gap in the foot which allows you to thread through tape/ elastic (providing it is narrow enough) so that it becomes part of the stitching process as you serge the seam.

I also stabilised the waist seam – with clear elastic.  You wouldn’t be able to use non stretch binding or ribbon here otherwise you would not be able to get the dress on & off without a zip.  However I think it is needed & I sewed the seam attaching the bodice to the skirt, then used my regular machine to attach the elastic (not at all stretched, just flat) to the seam allowance.  This adds stability & recovery should the seam get under pressure with being put on/ taken off.  That’s my thinking, anyway, there might be other reasons that it is useful, it certainly will not hurt it.

Inserting the sleeves- from woven to knit

Of course you know that I am going to tell you that I inserted the sleeves flat, not needing to gather the sleeve heads, but carefully used the stretchy properties of the fabric to accommodate sleeves into armscyes.  (I had removed the basting stitches before being able to do this) The sleeves were then completed with the side seams of the bodice in one single seam.  (Which I knew would be OK, as I had already fitted the bodice by basting it together).

Process for attaching the collar & tie neck – from woven to knit

There were some adjustments I made to the process for adding the collar & tie neck.  I still stay stitched the neckline, front & back (with a long machine straight stitch).  I also cut the tie pieces on the bias, (as per woven pattern) as these pieces have to work hard to go around the curves & despite working in a knit, I think you need the bias to max out those curvalicious properties).  Next time I will remember that I only need to cut the collar as one piece too!  After all there is no centre back seam to allow for…But, here’s the main difference between the pattern for the woven & the changes I made- the pattern creates a lined bodice as a woven & this is how the collar’s finish is kept nice & neat, hiding the raw edges within the lining.

joan dress

Now although my raw edges would be nice & overlocked, I did not want them peaking out at unforeseen moments, so I took the route taken with attaching the collar to the Moneta dress, sewing the right side of the collar to the wrong side of the bodice neckline, then flipping the collar out to the right side.   This leaves the inside of the neckline, an area that I felt might come on show accidentally, super neat.

Attaching the collar - following on with the overlocker

Attaching the collar – following on with the overlocker

(Tip: To make sure I got the collar sitting in the right places I also basted the collar on first of all, with a long straight machine stitch, before passing over with the overlocker.  This is much easier than negotiating pins & the tie neck has some very specific match points needed & if they slip it would be more than a bit of a spoiler).    However, remember I mentioned how the bias pieces are needed to navigate the curve of the neckline?  Well I felt that even with a hearty press, the collar might not stay put on its own accord.  I took counter measures & actually slip stitched the collar edge to the neck seam, as that is how the collar liked to sit – kind of folded along its length to hug the curve of the neckline.

joan dress

That might not have made any sense at all to you, so here’s a close up.  The collar is permanently (well as permanent as my hand stitching) in this position.

The kick pleat

Now the woven version of the Joan dress relies on the lining to help with the finish of the kick pleat.  For a knit version, with no lining, you just have to make sure you create the same kind of overlap, securing where necessary to sustain it.

joan dress

I trimmed some of the vertical pleat extension off for the edge that would be underneath the pleat & turned the long vertical edge over & secured it with a regular straight stitch.

joan dress

The top layer of the kick pleat does not have any vertical stitching on it, but I have reinforced the diagonal top edge of the pleat with regular straight stitch.  This also holds the top edge in place.  The hem holds the bottom edge in place and together I think this is all that is needed.

Finally hems.

This is  a figure hugging dress which means the hem of the skirt could be subject to some stretch with a stretch fabric.  Sleeve hems are definitely areas of potential stretch stress.  So hem the Joan dress in whichever way you usually hem your knits- twin needle, coverstitch or triple zig zag.

What do you think?  Tempted?  Go on!

JOan  dress




Joan dress (by Sew Over It) in a knit!

Well hello Joan!

Joan 1

How many of you were in general swoon when you saw that the Joan dress by Sew Over It was released last autumn?  I Know I went into meltdown as it came out when I was camping sewing & I just desperately wanted to make one for myself ( but couldn’t for various reasons).  However let me tell you a secret…even when I saw it back then, I harboured a fantasy to make Joan with her sexy curves & drop dead gorgeous tie neck….in a knit.  The ultimate in style meets comfort & easy care.  And if you have followed me for a bit, you know that those principles are the ones I prize very highly for everyday sewing/ wearing.

joan dress

So the Joan dress is a fitted dress, with 3/4 length sleeves and a cute tie neck.  It has a separate bodice/ skirt & on me you can see that this seam sits above my natural waistline.  It has bust darts, waist darts (front & back – bodice & skirt), back neck shoulder darts & a kick pleat.  Clearly inspired by Joan Holloway from Mad Men, this is a very grown up dress & one that is super flattering.


Having made the Colette Patterns’ Moneta – a knit bodice with a tie neck I felt confident that I could adapt the Joan dress ( a pattern for use with woven fabrics)  to make in a knit.  Potentially I could lose the zip & the lining, sewing all of it (or most of it) on my overlocker.  The fabric needed to be a stable knit, and I thought a ponte de roma would do the job.

So over I went to Girl Charlee UK, specialists in all sorts of knit fabric to peruse their pontes.  And I have remarked before how extensive their range is.


Well, I shortlisted three and asked the lovely folk at Girl Charlee to send me samples & opted to make my Joan dress out of the houndstooth in black/ café.  (They were kind enough to provide me the fabric – thank you!)  This is not my usual colour, (I would have usually gone for a monochrome dogtooth had there been one) but I knew it would fit with my wardrobe & I think the café background is warmer & less severe than a white background so a cool discovery & more gentle for winter skintone.  I decided to go for pattern as I thought it would be a bit  more racy than the maroon which would have been a lovely Joan and a safe bet.   All of the samples felt delicious to the touch – lovely quality, & I have to say, this houndstooth was a delight to sew, but is so soft to wear.  It is lovely.

joan dress

To make it up, I had to do some serious fitting,& I think I could have made a bit more of a tweak on the sway back (& actually I still could since this dress has a separate bodice/ skirt so in theory I could review that back waist seam some more …)  I bet you could really get that Joan Holloway figure hugging maxed out even more, however this is the fit that I am comfy with.

joan dress

There were a few changes & allowances I had to make when adapting the Joan dress pattern for sewing with a knit, & I will write about those in the next blog post.

joan dress

So I am going to leave you with some photos of the finished Joan dress & the wear report.

joan dress

Folks, I felt strangely girly (Or actually it should be ‘womanly’ in the most positive sense) – & comfy – at the same time. Win!  And then  I washed it, hung it on the line & when dry put it straight into the wardrobe.  No ironing.  Score!  It’s got the perfect amount of cosy for this time of year too – worn with black tights & a cardi I am sorted.

Tune in next time if you would like to see what I did to make the  Joan dress in a knit.

PS Trying out different locations in my cottage as backdrops – this is the hallway that combines as a dining area (not that you get to see the dining area!)

Disclaimer I was lucky enough to have been sent a copy of the pattern by Sew Over It & the fabric was also provided to me by Girl Charlee UK in return for a review.  All views are honest & my own.


The ever developing trouser fitting story

Well hello!  Here is a progress report on my trouser block, started at one of the brilliant workshops at RayStitch in London last autumn with Jane.  My quest to understand how to sew trousers that fit is a long one with the Ultimate Trousers being the best out of the packet pattern that I have used.  But there is still this urge to rid myself of any uncertainties & I aspire to my own custom fitted trouser block.


OK, it’s a slow burner, but I feel I am making progress.  This was my first draft.  My puppytooth check straight legs in an unhelpful viscose mix.   Jane also made her first pair in this fabric & had fabric issues (preparing me as she sewed hers first 😉 ).   I made these without the aid of a full length mirror when camping sewing, & it was only at the photo blogging stage that I saw how the fit was not there yet.  And I mean really not there yet.   But I wore them a bit despite this.  Saggy crotch and dragging hemlines and all, telling myself they were ‘vintage fit’.trousers

But they weren’t.  I knew work was still to be done.  With a fabric though that was more compliant to give me uncomplicated fitting.  And that’s where this fabric came in.

trouser fabric

This is some kind of a viscose mix, warm, but not drapey & without stretch.  And guess what?  It was a jubilant purchase from my new discovery – a fabric shop 10 mins drive away from my new home.  I never knew it was there, secreted in a larger craft shop, Rose Crafts of Midsomer Norton.  (Yes, I live near a Midsomer !!  but no Inspector Barnaby 😉 ) It’s a well stocked craft shop, but I have to admit I honed in on the haberdashery & the fabric.  I will be well served.  The fabric section is pretty good – both reasonably prices, and good selection considering there is limited space & therefore a smaller stock & it is only part of the overall craft shop.  But I even saw fabrics I have bought myself (eg in Goldhawk road) at the same price  if not slightly cheaper!  And haberdashery is not the size of that purveyed by the Bath Guildhall Market (I have been so spoiled having that on my doorstep!) but pretty wide ranging.  Still, a car journey away, albeit 10-15 minutes.

So this fabric is a darkish blue with a faint stripe & nice & warm to wear.  I cut out my trouser block again & sewed them up, fitting them in front of a full length mirror this time with fabric that I knew would behave.  I feel I am closer to a perfect fit now.  The darts, side seams & crotch curve are not causing any obvious creasing.  I also took in the leg width below the knee as the width I drafted originally really is too wide.

trousers (8)

What I love about this particular trouser block, & it comes from the method used at the class I am certain, is the way that the waistline sits perfectly on my waist.  So often I have made things (& obviously lie to myself) with a waistline that does not correspond with my natural waist.  But this is really good now, sitting there all snug, in its natural dips & rises.


I repeated the grosgrain ribbon detail instead of a facing & it also has a nice effect of cinching in & stabilising the waist – & when wearing it feels really nice & secure.

trousers So do you like seeing the Sarah shirt under a V neck – it’s such an easy look …loving it!  Wear, wash, dry (no iron) wear, wash, dry …..

Inspired by this fit I looked at the original draft pair of puppytooth trousers with the saggy crotch & uber wide legs, stood in front of the mirror armed with pins, & pinned out where there was excess – mainly around the front crotch curve.

crotch seam

Playing around with pins (but oh so carefully around that crotch 😉 Tip – do it on the outside 🙂  ) I saw that taking some of this excess out would probably give me a much better fit, which would feel nicer to wear as well.  I translated the leg width changes to this pair also & raised the hemline.


I do think I may have rescued these now!  My tips for trouser fitting are to have a resource available to you such as Pants for Real People (I do think this is the trouser fitting bible!) as this helps identify enough of the issues to give you a reasonable understanding about creases, pulls & sagging to diagnose common problems.   But by going through this learning I believe you have a better chance of trying out your own adjustments, eg playing around with pins to tweak the crotch seam & darts / sideseams so that you can see when you’ve got it wrong & new creases appear, what they mean…what to try next ….

So I now have a trouser block which needs to be traced onto a more sturdy form.  In theory I should be able to play around with fastenings, leg widths, pockets, waistbands….the lot!


I am likely to use this block to create the pattern for my posh wool fabric – I want to make a straight leg pair of front fastening trousers with back pockets that have flaps.  Maybe narrower legs, almost cigarette style….

Are you on the never ending trouser fitting journey?  Do you think you are there, then discover more or find that a fabric throws such a spanner in the mix that you have to relearn everything you thought you had got through?