Capital chic logo

Stop press! Check out Capital Chic – New Indie pattern company’s first collection!

Do you know what?  I had another blog post lined up for you today of a totally different nature & that will have to wait because in the meantime I am just so excited to have been given a sneaky advanced notice that there is a new Indie Pattern Company on the block!  Launched today, Capital Chic is the sewing style emporium of Sally (aka CharityShopChic) who I had the pleasure to meet at the Minerva meet up.  Not only was it amazing to meet her in real life – at last!  But my eyes were transfixed by her “self drafted” evening ensemble.

First glimpse spotted here….

Martini glimpseAnd then revealed in all of its mock two-piece glory here:

Martini on the dancefloorIt reminded me (& Karen) of my long lost black tie outfit pattern from the 80s, which is why I think I coveted it from afar.  And I mean, Sally looked stunning, the choice of fabric, the lines, the clever design that can be two piece if you want, but doesn’t have to be is just genius.

NB This is my old fave  Vogue pattern, not one of Capital Chic’s patterns.

So when Sally emailed me with details about her new pattern company, Capital Chic, & I read the descriptions of the first collection of six cocktail-named patterns I couldn’t wait to find out whether it was actually the “Martini” that I had had an early glimpse of – & it was!!!

So, what kind of pattern company is Capital Chic?

Well, the six patterns in the first collection are available by PDF and feature work wear, cocktail wear and day-to-night looks for ladies. I think the patterns certainly deliver on their intention to have a modern, fashionable feel, with clean lines and excellent attention to detail.  And there are some corkers here my friends!  They are designed for intermediate sewists and above,  and include interesting twists on basic shapes by incorporating panels for using contrasting fabrics; interesting dart lines; opportunities (encouraged by the designer) for embellishment, quilting (yes!!) & modern hemlines & takes on the traditional.  Can you tell I’m a fan?!

Let’s have a look at three of my faves, & then I recommend you go & look for yourself at the other three.

Let me show you the Martini first- in a different colourway than that above….


It is described thus:

Martini is a cocktail dress with a twist. In today’s crop-top shape with an above-the-waist skirt, the silhouette helps create the illusion of a narrow waistline. It comes either as separates, so you can show as much or as little skin as you like, or as a lined dress that looks like separates but without the risk of showing any midriff. The top has a slightly sporty look with the armholes cut with a hint of racer.

And then there is the Bellini blouse with its capped sleeves & choice of collars – & get this – embellishment is actively encouraged!

Described as:

Bellini is a loose fitting, cap sleeved blouse with either a cutaway collar or a scalloped collar. This blouse is designed to be worn with the top button closed but can easily be worn with the neck open. It is a versatile basic that will add options to any wardrobe. The blouse closes with buttons at the centre front and features bias-bound armholes, a machine rolled hem and french seams throughout. Full illustrated instructions for these techniques are included.


And picking my third fave, it’s a tough one to narrow down, but I do really LOVE the choice of colours in this skirt- & the design looks so amazing by making the most of the contrast.  This is the Champagne skirt.

It’s being worn with another version of the Bellini top btw & just might be the first one that I make myself ….

This is a skirt that,

 is a basic, versatile pencil skirt design that’s perfect for taking you from the office to after-hours drinks.

There are two options, both with a coordinating or contrasting hem band. The band for View A is straight at the front but party in the back with a small flounce taking the place of a vent.View B has more of a trumpet shape with a circular flounce front and back for a flirty feel. Both versions lend themselves to colour blocking, or to fabrics with two good sides/two different textures, such as satin backed crepe.

So, head on over to Capital Chic to see for yourself – check out the line drawings & see that there are two variations per pattern.  And if you get enthralled you can always snap yourself one up!  And I’d like to wish Sally the best of luck with this very exciting enterprise.  I love your patterns!!  Can’t wait to make my first one up :-)

Source for all non-Badger generated photos are from Capital Chic.

Cheong Sam

Minerva Make: My Cheong Sam and jacket- now in 3D

There is nothing left to be said about my Cheong Sam that I haven’t already said here except what it was like to wear, but let’s start with one of the few jokes I can ever remember – something I always remember when thinking of a certain kind of feathered trim:

“What’s a marabooboo”

“Why, nothing, Yogi”

Cheong Sam

The jacket: the Built By Wendy Bolero, but with long sleeves.

Fabric: Cotton velvet & lined in turquoise, edged with marabou (geddit?) trim.

Cheong Sam

The dress: Burda 8438.

Cheong Sam

Fabric: some Cotton Sateen with the biggest boldest turquoise flowers, with pops of black satin piping to highlight the details, with some faceted almost jet buttons as embellishment.

Cheong Sam

Putting it through its paces:

Travel: Both jacket & dress easily survived the journey being folded in my suitcase & neither needed anything more than a hang once I arrived.

Sitting down: good – there is plenty of give in the fabric with it having a lycra element.

Cheong Sam

Eating a three course meal: good – plenty of comfort for generous portions.

Cheong Sam

Dancing: good too – no split seams despite some twirling. The lycra element also made for comfortable movement across the back & shoulders (although what kind of dancing involved those kinds of movements I don’t know!!)

Cheong Sam

Taxi home: the jacket was just what I needed to stop me from getting a bit chill.

Cheong Sam

Verdict: a cute outfit with a jacket & dress that can be mixed up with other things- or brought together as the designer (that’s me!) intended.  And it feels special & a bit unique. Love it!!


Minerva meet up evening






VNA top

The VNA top by Fehr Trade

Folks I was mega excited to be asked to test another of Melissa’s patterns. Her patterns are never “run of the mill”. They always feature clever design features & interesting processes to achieve a unique workout garment at the end.

VNA (3)

The VNA is no exception. You have probably seen from the launch that it has been named in reference to a 1930s Vionnet evening gown  –  due to its interesting angles & lines.

VNA (5)

It is a sleeveless top that is made in 3 pieces (plus added bindings). The back is in one piece with a semi cut-away racer back feel around your shoulder blades. The upper front has a v neck & then there is a lower front that curves under the bust & sweeps around the side to come together at the back in a clever coming together of three pointy ends. Arm edgings & neck edgings are completed using self made bindings & joining at right angles, then sewing around them at right angles. A good chance to learn some precision sewing if you haven’t done this before. Nice & technical! Many opportunities for colour blocking & playing with fabrics. I made three versions in my testing:

-          To get even better at sewing the right angled bindings at centre front neckline as well as at the shoulders;

-          To understand how different stretch fabrics behave using the same pattern;

-          Because I loved it & knew it would be very useful as we come into summer running!!


My three versions then used fabrics of different qualities:

-          A slightly thicker lycra (non wicking) with hologram dots all over it- yellow & pink colour blocking (above – fabric was clearance in the Abakhan shop)

-          The drapiest lycra using slinkier crazy lady lycra with some wicking fabric of similar weights; (I have yet to take pics of this one- soz!)

-          Some wicking “mock eyelet” lycra – mid drape out of the three, less stretch, think some kinds of sports tee-shirts.

VNA (2)

I had no issue with fit- it seemed to work well for me three times, although if anything, the fabric with less drape shows that maybe there is a bit extra room in the arm area & upper chest/ neck edge – maybe? The other two versions fit just fine for me though.

VNA (6)(I didn’t realise the binding on the left had tucked itself inside)

The instructions were very clear & I am always amazed how technical illustrations can be made to look so clear! The trickiest bit is sewing the right angles & Melissa advises sewing them first separately to fix them in place, then attaching the rest of the binding. I used my straight stitch machine to get in there to make a nice accurate finish. I can’t say I hit the mark every time. That was one of the reasons for making more than one – I was determined to get a better right angle finish!

VNA (7)

Constructing this top was a delight- again. I am so loving Melissa’s patterns- they are like jigsaw puzzles & the first time you make it you are wondering just what happens next! I used my overlocker for most of it – using my straight stitch machine for setting/ machine basting. My coverstitch & I fell out big time while sewing one of the hems so I reverted to twin needling ….

VNA (9)

The design, as I said, inspires customisation big time, & as well as colour blocking, I also made a single colour VNA top, but a lot of binding out of the yellow hologram lycra & used some of it as faux piping along the lower front. I have to say this feels the most sporty bit of clothing I’ve ever made!

VNA (8)

And I’ve worn two out of the three tops so far – the crazy lady version (sorry to tease you, but I will take pics soon – promise!) & the blue piped version. Both are functional & comfortable as well as “just a little bit different”!  I haven’t worn the (almost headache inducing) orange/ yellow version as the fabric to me feels a bit warm for our current heatwave!  It’ll be brought out though….

And Melissa is offering a 10% discount until June 30th using this code -  LASEREYES

Available here for download.

A new direction

Some exciting news for this blog –have you noticed my new header & slightly more badgeresque blog style? I’ve been settling into it for a while now, having been helped by Katie at KRCreative Designs (via Etsy).

It’s an interesting exercise, thinking about how you want your blog to look – what personality you want to shine through & for me it is all about colour – epitomised by the simple rainbow.   (aaah! everyone loves a rainbow don’t they?!) And of course, it goes without saying that the Badger stays.  So having sharpened up my look, I’m extremely happy to offer affordable sponsorship & I have some lovely sponsors already!

I am thrilled to be working with

  • Ukfabricsonline, (my goto place for technical fabrics for sportswear & outer wear- very good for fleece & gingham too, just saying.)  I’ve just ordered some of the new wicking lycra & it’s gorgeous – you will be seeing what I make with it soon – in time with Karen’s summer sportalong.
  • Sewbox (known for an array of Liberty fabrics, amongst plenty more, but also such a wide purveyor of different patterns – the indie & less known companies as well- you can guarantee a quick turn around when you order) And the new Papercut patterns are available here. I am desperately tempted by the Soma swimsuit & the Pneuma Tank
  • Sew Over It, (whilst offering sewing heaven in the shape of a sewing cafe with tea, cake & classes, if I lived in London dare say I would be a resident! I’m a huge fan of the gorgeous Sew Over It patterns & the array of stylish fabrics available online to make them up out of- the online shop is genius – offering you a choice by garment no less, & I am dying to make the Ultimate Trousers …next month)
  • The Village Haberdashery (delicious & inspirational fabrics, quilting & embroidery ideas as well as gorgeous knitting/ crochet supplies. Just visiting makes me inspired to make! ) I’ve been tempted by these coasters.
  • Plush Addict – any business that gives you a #fabricgasm catches my eye for sure! And I can confirm that on this they deliver! I’ve got my eye on the chambrays …. & their rainbow collection. OMG. A definite for sure!!

I’m choosy about my sponsors – they need to be a good match for my blog and of interest to my readers. I like to have a nice friendly relationship with sponsors- get a feeling for the people behind the business- & also like to have had experience of being a customer. So if you have a sewing, fabric, pattern or crafty business, I’d love to work with you! Please contact me using this contact form if you are interested in finding out more.

Now I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone all commercial, or am selling out!! You see I have this sketchy plan but huge intention to change my career path next year which is scary when I think about the implications – and therefore need to diversify. Blogging, if anything, will become even more interesting (if you can believe that’s possible!) & hopefully inspiring, comical & any the other adjectives that are synonymous with being Scruffy Badger.

velvet skirt (2)

Love to hate my saucy velvet skirt

A final foray into my posh makes. The velvet skirt to go with the scarf top of extreme slinkiness. I bought this fabric from Goldhawk Road once I had bought the slinky top fabric. The greeny bluey hues make my heart flutter just a bit faster. There is something so delicious about velvet, don’t you think?   I feel I could drown in the pools of its colour intoxications.

velvet skirt

And then I sew it & it’s a cow.  It’s one of those makes that after the event I feel like adding to the saying “Never work with small children, animals …… & certain kinds of velvet”!

It’s silk velvet the man in the shop said. £10.99 per metre. I only needed one metre as I knew that’s all I needed for the kind of skirt I had in mind. I was thinking pencil skirt. Just above the knee. With a thigh split of sauciness. A bit call-girl-esque. This would need me to crack my knuckles & employ a bit of pattern cutting. I found a straight skirt pattern (From Burda 8438 actually – my Cheong Sam pattern) that I was never going to make up as it was (because I have other straight skirt patterns I already use.) This skirt pattern had the required front darts. Using my head a little (but not quite enough) I changed the darts into vertical cutting lines to create a centre front panel with two side fronts. The darts became seams – just needed to add on seam allowances. Quite straight forward really. I could have checked the placement of the seams better as they do veer to the side more than I had in mind, & I won’t pretend to you that it was a deliberate design feature. But it’s OK, I am happy.  I wanted the lining to peep through as the split moved around, but in actual fact, maybe it’s not as nice as having added vent extensions to the split.  But hey ho.  Too late now.

velvet skirt

I cut out some spare turquoise lining I had from my bolero of extreme happiness (giving the lining a bit extra width for ease). And sewing commenced. Ye gods. I sewed cotton velvet for my bolero of extreme happiness & it was a breeze – its only fault was the amount of velvet fluff it shed! This velvet was another challenge altogether. It is a seriously delightful fabric with amazing fluidity & drape. Arguably best used for a swirly drapey shaped skirt. The clue is in the reverse – it has a knit-like finish. I thought about underlining it, & maybe with hindsight I should have. But I didn’t, opting to make the lining separate so that I could finish the edges of the front split nicely. (I’d forgotten to cut extra vent extensions for the split out of the velvet so my options were limited).

velvet skirt

This fabric danced all over the pace despite many pins, parallel to the seam & perpendicular to the seam. Its pile seemed to be playing me around & creating extra movement. I got the measure of it in the end, but not without some less than accurate sewing! I think another approach could have been to edge all of the seam allowances with strips of silk organza or interfacing, as that approach worked really nicely for the invisible zip.  Would that have worked for the seams as well?


Speaking of which, the invisible zip went beautifully- & then I saw that I’d managed to twist the skirt pieces into some kind of infinity loop (anyone else ever done that?) So I had to unpick one side of perfect sewing….

velvet skirt

I had a fair few try-ons to get the fit how I wanted it. And even had to let out the side seams a leetle.  I regretted that as I am just about able to still see traces of the original stitching.  But I didn’t want to split it when sitting down!  Despite the knit effect on the reverse of the fabric, there is no ease at all.  Just movement.  And come the waist seam – I had to baste a line of stitching around where I wanted to waist seam to be, against my natural waistline whilst wearing the skirt. The moving fabric had squished around & I couldn’t rely on the cut edges as they were not straight!

velvet skirt Putting it through its paces – will it dance?

I used waistband Vilene (fold a band or something like that?)  to stabilise the waistband & that was worth it, definitely. Not only keeping the waistband in shape for actual sewing, but also giving it some structure when finished.

velvet skirt

I let the skirt hang on Barbarella overnight before setting the hem, & sewed it up by hand. As with my bolero, I used velvet as a press cloth (the same velvet as the skirt, as its pile will be the same & this prevents crushing it out of existence when pressing).

So all in all I’m Ok about this skirt.  I was making it in the midst of a huge long list of projects with deadlines, & other posh makes.  I started it thinking it would be relatively simple & quick in comparison to what I’d just been sewing, & maybe it wasn’t as straight forward as I expected!  I wish I’d underlined it – all the seams that involved stabilisers worked out the nicest!.  I wish I’d added vent extensions to the front split.  It is not as perfect as I intended.  But I will get over it.  I mean, I am still enraptured by the velvet- just not the sewing of it!

And next, I have to put the top together with the skirt. Now I hope I get the look I was hoping for!  Oh I am such a tease.  Really milking this one….but it’s not everyday I sew for a black tie event….


Minerva Meet Up: A weekend of delights

It was the Minerva Meet up this last weekend & whilst I was going through my photos of the day & evening I was trying to work out just what to say about it.  What would you be interested in?

Minerva meet up itineraryAs a reader you might be interested to know what it is actually like to visit Minerva’s premises, to meet the family behind the online fabric & crafts emporium,.  You might also be curious about the day’s programme and doubtless be after a few funnies.    And the frocks!  You must be interested to see the outcome of so many teaser posts prepared by the Minerva Blogging Network - just what kind of a costume drama did we put on ?

As a fellow participant you are bound to want to check out the photos !  (Because you know already how great it was to see you all for real – longstanding blog friends & some new ones too)  But the question is of course, have you been papped?  Any compromising photos?  It’s at times like these that I wish my camera was a bit more powerful as I don’t think I have done it justice, but accept them as classic “excited & in the spirit of the moment- snooper shots” taken from the wings …

As someone who works at Minerva Crafts, you already know how much I (& everyone who I spoke to) enjoyed such a well organised, fun filled day & evening- & how wonderful it was to meet you all.  It has been described by many of us as a very special weekend, & a big thank you to you all & of course to Vicki for all her months arranging it.

There is a danger that this could be yet another Scruffy Badger Shaggy Dog story.  So I shall try to keep focus.  I will not narrate the course of my weekend- promise!  So I will focus on some specific delights.   The first delight was the first sighting of the legend that is the Minerva Crafts warehouse.  Seriously folks, the train is 5 seconds from making a stop at Darwen Station & a rooftop slides into view proclaiming “Minerva Crafts” about 10m from the platform.  Alighting the train & stepping from the station into Darwen itself you cannot fail to notice this.

MinervaBang right off the train.  I couldn’t help but mosey on over & say hello to Vicki & her family before I even worked out how to get to my hotel.  The shop is a festival of colour!  I was lapping up all the fabrics arranged by colour (& reveling in the anticipation of being able to peruse at length the next day), & the ribbons,threads & bindings – a glory of rainbow hues …

OK.  Next delight. I was going to be meeting Sam & Maria (all the way from Australia who was making an epic tour of Eurpoe with her husband)  & was really looking forward to that, but when Vicki told me that Karen had literally left 5 mins before I arrived I became even more hyper.  We all ate out in Darwen at a traditional Italian, Mangiamo which turned out to be an excellent evening, great tasty value.  You’d expect us all to have a great time in conversation (not just sewchat!) but Karen & I particularly I think continue to cry with laughter at memories of the waiters’ exuberant search for any excuse to celebrate.  Karen, this one’s for you.

YouTube Preview Image

So the day itself had a packed itinerary with workshops & guest speakers.  I was so busy gassing & fabric fondling I didn’t take pics of any of the other workshops.  But here  I rekindled my basic crochet skills & have to say that I have been hooked. [GROAN]

Crochet workshopHere Louise & I are, ably assisted by some Bucks Fizz starting our crochet market bag.  We are using cotton yarn that is flecked with sparkles!!  We joined other crafters & at times the concentration was palpable.  Our excellent tutor was Alex whose enthusiasm was contagious & she has a huge abundance of patience with us all asking the same kinds of hooky loopy questions.  I was expecting to be able to complete my bag to stuff full of fabric to take home with me, DOH!  I know crochet is quick, but it’s not that quick!!

I was thrilled by the guest speakers – all travelling up from London, all confessed to some form of pre-talk nerves but certainly didn’t show it.  Karen was very engaging,  & brought more than a few laughs from the audience when we all revealed the honest truth about how none of us are “perfect” sewists & have all skipped so called hallowed sewing steps (eg pre-washing, sewing over pins).  And I was tickled by the contrasting gasps & giggles over the use of fabric shears for cutting paper !

Minerva meet upElisalex & Victoria gave us an insight into the development of the By Hand London company, including the kickstarter campaign which was fascinating.  Even though we all know that starting your own business is not as  glamourous as it looks, but the BHL girls are the personification of the glamourous party lifestyle aren’t they?!   We got a sneak peak of the new pattern, learned which has been the most popular pattern (Anna dress) & found out even more about the pattern design process, something I thought was really interesting.

I was delighted by meeting people.  Not only the people behind the blogs, but also people who do not blog, but are crafters and stitchers, some of whom actually read this blog.  So hello to all of you who said “Hi” to me on the day.  And to the lady who said to me that she likes reading this blog because I make clothes that are everyday clothes that people might wear, that really resonated with me.  Thank you, because afterall, that is what I am trying to do – even if I need to divert myself with a bit of frockery every now & then!

Another delight.  (Just imagine how long this would be if I wasn’t only focused on delights!!) Being able to touch & scrunch the fabric I’d seen on the website.  And, being shown into *the warehouse*.  People, this is floor to ceiling stocked with fabric.  It is the fabric “Wall” (GoT reference).

Monerva meet upHere are Marie, Sam, Amy, Maria & Katie actually *in the warehouse* squee!  And yes.  I did buy some fabric.  But will save that for another post.

Want to see some evening pics now?  Well, you know that we were all making a special outfit for a special meal out?  And this is what I showed of mine.  As I watched the other bloggers reveal tasters for their outfits I’d worked out that I’d already given rather a lot of the game away with mine!!  The only thing you hadn’t seen was the fluff on the bolero & me wearing them!

Minerva ladiesLots of ladies in lots of gorgeous frocks.  (We couldn’t all fit in a line & I am so glad it’s not just me performing squats so as not to block out the person behind.)  I cannot start to describe this bevvy of beauties.  From full skirts with crinolines, to sequins, flounces, maxis & bare shoulders the DJ was quite right in spotting that “The ladies from this Minerva blogging network never turn up to a do & spot someone else wearing the same thing”.

Sam and LouiseThere was plenty of this going on.  Oh, & I forgot to mention the venue.  Blackburn Rovers!  How we loved saying, “We’re at Blackburn Rovers, because we sew”!

Minerva meet up eveningWe were treated splendidly to a wonderful meal- yet another delight!   And then there was dancing.  Frocks hit the floor!

Minerva meet up And our most glamorous hostess deserves a pic of her own.  Now, the question is, which Shirley Bassey song is she singing?

VickiSequin splendour!

I’ve run out of words.  Did I satisfy your purpose for reading?  I’ve lost track & there’s a banana cake in the oven & some washing to hang (including my fabric :-) ).

A great big thank you to Vicki & her family for such a fabulous meet up.  Minerva is a family run business & they put their heart & soul into it.  It was a privilege to meet the people behind such an award-winning company!  And to be there with fellow sewists just trumped it.  There are rumours that this might be the start of an annual event ….and I am loving having a crochet project during TV wind-down time in the evening before bed!

Oh, & my dress?  I’ll have to show you that in slightly better light in another post!!


burda scarf top 08/2012 #122

The Burda scarf top of extreme slinkiness

Feeling ready for some more posh? But this time not a teaser?!

I cannot believe that  I have a number of events this summer for which I can honestly say “I don’t have anything to wear”. Me. Someone who sews. Nothing to wear. Outrageous. But I don’t usually get invited to posh dos.  Let alone black tie.  But no more. Enter half of my outfit for a work’s do. I call it my “red carpet” event.   (The other half of the outfit is still “under construction”).

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122

This is a Burda top, Scarf Top 08/2012 #122, available online here. It’s a simple design: a front, a back (no darts, interestingly).  There are two pieces for a ginormous bias cut scarf, neck facings & bias for the armholes.When I first saw it I fell in love with it, & that was before I had any invitations to this summer’s festivities. SO clearly, it didn’t take me long to remember it when I had an outfit to create.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122

I went to Goldhawk Road with Jane & Rachel in May, with the objective of buying some silk for this top & some velvet for a skirt. Both successes, however, I didn’t need to go to the expense of silk, because I fell in love with the sumptuous “tropics on a roll” offered by a bale of this fabric. There were a number of colourways but I opted for emeralds & bright saturated coloured flowers. (Interesting that my only other black tie outfit – 25 years ago- was also emerald green shot taffeta …seems to be my preference).

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122Inside from the front

This fabric is also available at Minerva fabrics here for the same price as in Goldhawk Road – £5.99 per metre. Let me rave about it some more? Not only do I love the saturated colours, the bright against the emerald, the lushness of it, but the quality is bee-you-tee-ful. The drape! It is incredible.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122Stretched out doing the “child” pose

Being a super slippery fabric, I cut it out pinned to paper. I have never done this before – you basically lie the fabric on top of a sheet of paper – pattern paper, tracing paper – & pin the pattern pieces through all layers. When cutting you can avoid using your fabric shears to cut through paper if you are paranoid, but I was more paranoid about failing to cut the fabric nicely, so cut through all layers, paper included. Works a treat, I tell you.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122This is the back inside – can you just about make out the scarf?

And I followed the instructions for making to the letter I think.   And even though this is not made of silk, I applied my care & attention as if it were silk, because firstly, I was prepared to buy silk, but this was better & secondly because actually the fabric & design deserve it.   Why can’t I think like that everytime? Maybe I don’t need to, but it was because the fabric is more difficult to sew that I was far more conscious about getting a good finish. So I broke out new sharp pins & a microtex needle. I sewed French seams to provide a special finish inside & as always, I understitched facings.   This kind of fabric does move around a lot, so stay stitching is essential for neck & arm edges. The scarf back is basically like a pussy bow, but sewn on back to front (& extremely large!!).  I did make little hand catch stitches to keep the facing tucked in, even though I understitched it, as I felt there was potential for it to become untucked, particularly at the back when I wasn’t aware.  I also sewed the hem by hand after overlocking the raw edge.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122

Its sleeves are bound with self bias (whoopee).  The whole scarf neck is floppy – I expect you can fiddle around with it, bringing it more over your shoulders for example, or a lower front drape, if you want – & then it’s bound to move while you’re wearing it.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122

I am really pleased with the finished result. It is luxurious.   Actually.  Rephrase.  I love this top.  I love its fabric, I love its cowly-neck with gorgeous tie at the back.  I love the way it makes me feel.  I love the way it moves – swinging that back tie baby!   I know for a cert that no one else will be wearing anything like this – & that’s important to me.

burda scarf top 08/2012 #122Super goofy

What do you think? I’ve just got to make sure I wear it with other things apart from its matching velvet skirt.  Because it would be a tragedy to keep it just for special occasions … I’ve tried wearing it with capris here….just to see what it feels like.  Jeans could work too?

xyt Fehr Trade

My Aqua XYT Top (Fehr Trade)

Let’s get away from posh frocks & formal wear for a moment shall we.  (Well, I am still sewing my velvet skirt so I am not completely out of the woods yet, and feel almost “poshed out” on the sewing front!  Just hem to do now though ;-)  And still the marabou to hand stitch.  I feel a massive hand sewing session approaching this evening! )

XYT(Sorry post-workout hair – bouffant factor 40%)

OK, I’m going to revisit the XYT top by Fehr Trade.  Remember I was a pattern tester & actually took a few tests to get a version I was happy with?  I had never sewn anything so close fitting as this  (with an inner lining) so it was all learning for me.  But I ended up with  *The* leopard print X back that I wear such a lot.  Well, having made it I felt confident that I could make many others now that I had sussed my own specific adjustments.

xyt top

Not the case.  I am learning such a lot about knits sewing exercise wear.  I think that due to its close fitting negative ease (a lot of the patterns seem to have a 90% finished size ) more fitting is needed {Doh}  And what I am learning the hard way is that fabric is all different & behaves differently- consequently fit varies!

xyt top

But I learnt that after I sewed this “T” back version up almost to completion.  Tried it on & I had a devastating sight of pools of excess fabric around the neckline & armholes.  The inner lining fit perfectly – nice & tight to keep the small girls in place, but it was the outer vest that looked a dog’s dinner.  I had sewn a top with ease.  Not negative ease!  Yikes.

xyt top

I’d used FOE to bind it with a triple step zig zag.  (Sorry I didn’t keep the photos- I know – bad move as they would maybe help explain better what went wrong).   If you have ever tried unpicking FOE with a triple zig zag you know it is up there high in the league of most unpleasant time-consuming stitch finishes to unpick.  And I haven’t kept the photos…sorry!

What I discovered, basically, is that this fabric, a wicking lycra from the Sewing Chest, is just a bit thicker than my ultra shiny slippy, drapey non wicking leopard lycra.  And it resulted in a much bigger fit – somehow.  Now whilst I cannot rationalise it, I have to accept that it just did.  There was just too much fabric in the front.  I needed to reduce the size considerably at side seams & around the neck.   And I did that by fitting the lycra to the lining/ my body.  Somehow!

xyt comparison

Consequently the straps & the neckline are quite a bit smaller & lower than the original design (shown above comparing with my trusty leopard XYT Top).  In the photos of me wearing it, you can see it’s almost cleavage-ville (if I had one – although the lining does squash ‘em together & cause some weird kind of definition ;-)  )

xyt inside

But it finally fits.  It is decent to run in – promise!  I still have enough support (& coverage ) when running even though the straps are thinner.  But I don’t think I will be wearing it to the gym & doing planks & press ups (badly) in it!!

So my lessons learned with this one.  I need to sew the vest first to check the fit before even thinking of attaching the lining.  I need to etch that onto my memory, because it is such a useful top to have – remember no sports bra- that is such a bonus!!!  And when it’s hot it is so fab to be running with your shoulders out.  Love it.

My Cheong Sam jacket- enter the bolero of extreme happiness

Hello ! Happy weekend everyone. So I’m still talking about the “evening outfit” – the glam June Minerva make.  So with a faux Cheong Sam to wear for a special evening, time to talk about the jacket now- although thankfully this is a much simpler & shorter story!

You see me being a bit of a chilly person (despite it being “summer time”) I felt the need to make a jacket to complete the outfit.  It was to be black velvet with a turquoise lining- to complement the turquoise & white Cheong Sam with its accent of black piping.  The design though was not finalised at the time of ordering the fabric, I just knew that it had to accentuate & compliment the dress, not hide its shape.  The jacket needed to be short & fitted. OK, so those are my design notes.

And by the time I had finished the dress I was in desperate need of a less complicated fit for the jacket.  Time was running out & after a bit of research on the ol’ internets & a conversation with my Mum, I decided that making a bolero would be pretty acceptable & as a reasonably authentic homage to match my faux cheong sam.

Bolero(Unpressed, but get the idea?)

Without a fuss I drew upon my Built By Wendy Coats & Jackets book & whipped up a pattern for the bolero – but with long sleeves.  I forget how much I love the Built By Wendy books – you take on a form of pattern cutting- tracing the basic & then making alterations to it. The bolero takes a princess seamed fitted jacket, shortens it, with a curved front. No collar, no facing, a simple jacket.

BBW Bolero pattern

I cut it out of the lining first – and let me also rave about the lining! It is a beautiful turquoise colour & will look fabeee with my dress. It feels light & silky too – not what I would describe as “bin bag” lining. I.e. it doesn’t feel like the kind of lining that will make you overheat & then feel really icky wearing it!!. I sewed the lining as a kind of toile to check on size & fit.  I think boleros are far more forgiving fit wise !  I needed to make no adjustments & cut into my velvet.  Wowowee this velvet is gorgeous- it’s a mid weight cotton velvet & a delight to cut & sew.  You do find the area around you, your clothing, your ironing board are strewn with specks of velvet dust.  You do need to make sure you cut with the nap going in the same direction.  And pressing – I’d heard that using a piece of the same velvet as a press cloth preserves the velvet’s pile- which it seems to have done.

Bolero liningWo!  Hold your horses lady!  It’s a bit early for that!  Put them away!

 I bagged the lining, using a gap in the sleeve to facilitate the turning.  No hand sewing here!  This really is a great starter for a lined jacket since the lining is a direct replica of the velvet- no facings to accommodate, just a straightforward simple lining.

Once I’d completed the machine sewing & the jacket was ready to press, I reckoned on another design detail.  Inspired by this.  I just have to show you …


CUTE!!! And Vicki at Minerva kindly obliged.  Marabou trim.  Talk about special.  Talk about girly.  This jacket feels like an investment make – I mean- I can see it being useful for *all* those future posh occasions I am bound to get invited to.  It will go with my posh black suede shoes.  It looks just how I wanted it to look with my faux cheong sam.  Can’t wait to wear them all together now!!

Bolero backStill unpressed & going to really enjoy getting all those specks off the velvet!

But I still have to press it & attach the marabou, which is why I have only shown you snippets. You will see the grand reveal either through social media on the 14th June, or on the Minerva blog (& my blog) sometime in the following week.

So, have a happy weekend everyone!  Check in again with you soon.  I have been making yet more glam wear for another posh do & have the skirt to finish this weekend.

Piped front

Cheong Sam- Scruffy Badger style

I know over the past month I may not have seen to be as productive with my sewing output as usual.  That is because I have had some secret projects – including this one.  This project let me say has been invested with quite a lot of effort, so I will be revealing it in parts.  Today is the beginning of the dress reveal …..

So last post I shared some pics of a couple of Cheong Sam Style dresses I have that I love, love love.  I described them as being the inspiration for my latest Minerva make.

Cheong Sam floralReal cheong sam

I’ve got a thing for  Chinese decorative art & am fascinated by Chinese & Far East Asian culture.   But I have never been there, apart from living in Hong Kong as a baby & that doesn’t count because I have no memories of that time.  I do have a huge desire to visit as an adult….maybe I can get all my ducks in a row & make it….one day…, needing to make an evening outfit, a glam outfit, I drew upon these two dresses as inspiration.  The floral dress is above the knee & has a cheeky waikiki vibe about it – just add a gardenia behind your ear.  The long genuine Cheong Sam is too special for words.  It fits like it’s poured on.  And let me tell you, it’s not the dress to be wearing if you have a skinfull.    I have had the pleasure to wear this to a couple of “dos” & let me tell you it is one helluva glamorous wiggle dress & requires almost complete undress should one require a visit to the ladies’ room.  And getting it back on after too many glasses of wine?  No chance solo- support needs to be enlisted (preferably before you need it rather than at the time of requirement).  So whilst having lived the dream of a proper Cheong Sam, I can also appreciate the practicalities of a “faux cheong sam” complete with zipper & a pretend side yoke opening.

So, my 2014 version of a cheong sam combined the essence of my Far East dream, but not using a Chinese brocade, but a stretch cotton sateen.   A large scale floral of turquoise on a white background shouted out to me – & with the addition of black satin piping I knew I was on to a killer combo (one that would look great with my only pair of posh shoes which are black).   It was also an unwittingly practical version, since it too is fastened by a back zip.  Now I didn’t know this at the time of ordering the pattern – Burda 8438.

I have to say that there was not very much information at all about this pattern (in the small space of time it took me to buy it!  Of course I could have gone online to research, but didn’t!) – I had assumed that the side yoke was real, but had to actually open the envelope to read the instructions to find out that it was indeed a fake.  It is sewn.  For effect only.  This is my first Burda pattern & I have obviously been spoiled by Indie patterns & the other Big 4 for the level of detail available.  Anyway – it all works out for the best as it turns out.


I made a toile first to check the fit & with a few tweaks it appeared to be OK.  I made it as a top – with the aim that it could be a fully functioning “wearable muslin”- where I could practice the construction, adding ric rac instead of piping to the collar & faux side yoke.

Toile loops

Here is the finished toile- & check out those rouleaux – I found the best technique thanks to Tanit Isis & Instagram chat – using a bobby pin/ hairgrip.  It works a treat!

So onto the real McCoy.  I’d ordered fabric to the specifications of the pattern, but hadn’t taken into account the pattern matching on the centre back seam.  {DOH!} Luckily Vicki at Minerva came to my rescue dispatching another metre for me to match my backs.  And even with a metre extra it was a challenge – at one point I thought I hadn’t ordered enough, but here is the evidence – it can be done – just think outside the box.  (I started by thinking that I was going to match the pattern along the CB by placing the left hand back to the left of the right hand back.  Logical but it didn’t work with the size of the pattern repeat & the need for seam allowances)

Cutting the back

This picture shows that I cut my backs with the centre backs to the selvage – the left back is actually sitting alongside that pattern piece, you just can’t see it, so well camouflaged is it.

So if I said to you that matching the pattern was my greatest challenge I would be dissembling.  Folks, this dress was a mountain of a challenge.  I don’t know whether it is the behaviour of the cotton sateen, the pattern, operator error or most likely a combination of those above, but getting this dress to fit my clearly “weird” shaped body had me cussing & fretting.  The shapes I ended up removing from the upper back are incredible.

And the worst thing is that I sailed away making it up as per toile, attaching collar, inserting invisible zip before being able to try on & then *oh horror of horrors* its fit was desperate.  Everything had to be unpicked.  I had to start from scratch.  the only way to get the fit right was to accept that I would be making this up temporary fashion without collar, but with a zip (I inserted a lapped zipper for speed) & basted the side seams.  Only then could I work out just what the heck was going on!

The numbers of times I had to try on, make adjustments, pin, sew, try on, make even more adjustments with some unpicking along the way seemed to take forever.  Was it even worth getting changed ?  No.  In the end I was sewing there in my undies.  But eventually I cracked it.  Eventually I could take out my temporary lapped zipper, take out my side seam basting & sew the collar on.

Piped frontBut even this was not entirely straight forward since my upper body adjustments meant that I re-cut the neckline & armholes – & I needed to make a new longer collar.  The neck is lower than drafted by Burda, but it is more comfy than a throat clutching genuine cheong sam.  But it’s a compromise I have been forced into – not a design detail!

Piped collar

I could then spend another *really long time* matching the centre back with an invisible zipper.  That is a trial in itself.  Manipulating the unsewn back to pin then baste to the invisible zip tape *&* match the pattern at the same time?  Forever.  And of course because my upper back is such a divergence from the standard (judging by the shapes I’d removed from it)- the centre back seam is not straight & therefore the upper back was never going to match.  But at least there are parts of the CB that do, & at least the collar seam matches nicely too.

Centre backFor real.  This is the lower centre back seam.

By the time I’d got the zip in I felt home & dry.  But would my sleeves fit after I’d had to recut the arms?  Thankfully they did.  To say that I was relieved is an understatement.

Piped sleeveI’ve had a bit of a piping hit recently & have taken pics along the way for piping the sleeve hem so will write that up & share.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.  Piping is so worthwhile!

So I have my dress finished now.  Hemmed & ironed.  I’ve also made a jacket to accompany it.  But that can wait for another day.

The June Minerva network outfits are planned to be revealed through social media on the 14th June, or on the Minerva blog (& my blog) sometime in the following week.  It’s part of the Minerva meet up which I have to say is so close my excitement is tangible.   The Brochure for the event is up there too (lower down the page), if you are still undecided & would like to see what’s being put on &/or when to aim to arrive.  All of the other bloggers are posting teasers about their outfits on the Minerva blog.  I’ve already shared some of what I’ve written here, & looks like I could have got away with even more of a teaser!  Poor Minerva readers get my shaggy dog dramas too!

Anyone else made a Cheong Sam?  Or in my case, a faux Cheong Sam?  Tell me you got hammered by the fitting?  (It’s the nature of the style of dress, I know …) but it’s good to share!