Tag Archives: Sewaholic Renfrew

Genealogy circle skirt of awesome tartan

tartan 9Apologies in advance as this is going to be picture heavy.  It deserves to be you see because this is possibly the MOST EXPENSIVE fabric I have ever sewn.  Or very close to my Harris Tweeds at any rate.  And once again this is as a result of my Dad’s tremendous generosity & love of quality.  Yes, he has struck again & for my last birthday in February, after checking with me & finding how much I wanted, my Dad bought me a length of proper Scottish 10oz wool tartan.  But not just any wool tartan, this tartan, as you have probably guessed from the title has family connections.  This is the Kincaid clan tartan, which relates to my great great great grandma, Jessey Kincaid, born in 1807, dying just 30 years later.


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My Dad had actually asked me if I wanted some tartan (to make a kilt perhaps!) after the adventures on last seasons Great British Sewing Bee.  I politely declined, not really seeing that the cost of this type of fabric would be justified in the amount of wear I would get out of a kilt.  But then half a year or so later, he must have thought of it again & found some Kincaid tartan on the Scotland shop.  Sending me the link, I was able to check it out, make sure it wasn’t lilac (or other colours I really wouldn’t wear) & then do some visioning.  The good news was that it was a tartan that I really liked & that would be compatible with my usual colours & style.  But knowing that I would never make tartan trousers or anything that involved too much check matching, I was thinking along the skirt route.  Did I really want to repeat the lovely Harris Tweed pencil skirt?  It was an option.  However, having rediscovered circle skirts back in January, I started looking up inspiration.  Lauren’s plaid circle skirt was all the convincing I needed, & I sent the link off to my sewing Guru mother for her opinion, having also calculated the yardage required using the By Hand circle skirt calculator app.


tartan 1

We had a bit of an email debate about weight of the fabric & how it would hang… & I did not want to rush into the decision because this was expensive fabric & I wanted to get it right.  In the end though, I needed 1.5m for the full circle skirt which would give me plenty for a different kind of skirt should the fabric arrive & not be suitable.  The website did have plenty of information about the different weights of tartan though & what they can be used for, so I felt reasonably confident.

My Dad conjured up delivery on the day arrived last time I visited.  I think we were all really excited.


I was determined to make this skirt for wearing this season, not to let it linger, so I got stuck in last month.


tartan 2

This precious fabric needed as good a finish as I could muster.  But I needed not to be scared of it.  I used the skirt pattern from the Sew Over It Betty dress (slightly adapted to give me a quarter piece), placing it on carefully folded fabric, using the vertical & horizontal lines as right angles to then flip the quarter over to cut the mirror image, thereby cutting a complete circle.  I had cut a separate circle according to the waist curve I wanted to cut out.tartan circle skirt

Unlike the knit circle skirt I made, this skirt needed a zip & despite being cut out as a whole circle with a hole in the centre for my waist (slightly smaller than my actual waist measurement to allow for some natural stretching along the bias) I did need to cut a single vertical seam- a centre back seam, so that I could add a zip. (I also stay stitched the waist seam).

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I finished the edges of this freshly cut vertical seam with bias binding, kind of Hong Kong seam, before inserting the zip, that way the edges are all finished neatly & in the same way.

Sewing a lapped zipper felt authentic & more easy to control pattern matching than using an invisible zip.  I think it might be a millimetre out in certain parts which is irritating, but not visible in usual wear.

I used waistband Vilene to create a nice neat crisp waistband.  I do love this stuff & always use it for skirts with waistbands.

I left the skirt to hang on my tailors dummy, Barbarella for the best part if  week I think.  I recognised that once I set the hem, I would need to devote enough time to actually sew it….there would be a lot to hem !  Once I had marked the hem I used my overlocker to cut & finish the new finished edge in one pass.  That way the wool fabric wouldn’t fray as I was working with it around the hem.  I liked keeping it under control!

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You can probably imagine that sewing a round hem would bring all sorts of challenges, not only the distance.  Early on I decided that the best way for me to sew the hem would be with a bias hem, attaching bias binding by machine, right sides together, then turning the bias binding to the inside then hand sewing this as the hem.  And this would also look neat with the honk Kong finish on the centre back seam.  Of course I chose satin bias binding for something a bit swish!  I bought far too much because I couldn’t be bothered to test my maths out …I should have exercised the grey cells though, shouldn’t I?

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I am not saying it took a long time to hand sew the hem, but two beers & two episodes of Game of Thrones later, it was done.  And I am pleased with the result.  The bias binding was easy to manipulate around the curved edge & I think I can get away with such a shallow hem because the fabric is heavy enough.

Now initially I had thought I would line it.  But after a while I realised that even if I line it, I would still wear it with a full slip because a wool waistband is too itchy not to.  And so I didn’t line it.


tartan circle skirt

It really has a feel of luxury to it – the volumes of beautiful wool….

I think that because this fabric is so very expensive and makes this skirt the most expensive skirt item of clothing I have, I want it not to be hanging idle & reserved for special occasions, but something that can be worn out & about in every day life.

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And I have now rejoiced in wearing it on a blustery Spring day.  It felt so good.  I had lots of swish, but it was not toooo flashy for lunch with friends  & for an evening meal in a local country pub.  It looks cute with heels, but in everyday life I wear it with my boots this time of the year.tartan 12

I love this skirt & that it has family history behind it.  ANd this makes it even more special as it combines my passion for sewing with my Dad’s interest in tracing our family history.  He’s done decades of work on it & I am expecting this skirt to give me decades of pleasure (or is that a little optimistic?  Better keep the moths away & keep the running going!!!)

Outfit notes.  Also appearing with my tartan circle skirt are my Fleece Renfrew top and a new essential black SoZo Dolores batwing top (as yet unblogged).

what do you reckon to a bit of everyday luxury or would you keep it for specials?

Awesome tops!

This post is going to show off two new tops – one made by me, & one a wonderful gift that took me completely by surprise.

I shall showcase them in the context of the fun weekend we’ve just had in London going to the BoatShow.  Oh how I was tempted to don full nautical style, (you know, wide leg trousers, stripes, sailor’s cap & all) but I’m afraid the main reason that I didn’t was that it was too cold & I was trying to travel light.  (Stop booing from the wings you lot!) Oh how tempted was I also to make Gary a matching Breton style top so that he could also look the part.  Well, I tried, but that is another story and he was saved from having to turn me down by it not fitting & looking not right.  (But as an aside I had used Cal Patch’s instructions using two of his t-shirts to self draft a pattern as a surprise.  More work required, will show & tell when complete!  Rather a learning curve, in a good way)

So, the Boatshow was held in Docklands area, & involved some venturing near some iconic landmarks, (not visited by us before so that was exciting).

The O2 from above

The O2 from above

Very exciting indeed was taking the cable car across from the south to the north bank of the Thames, dropping us minutes away from the Boatshow itself.


So, using the backdrop of London here are some new tops that are getting plenty of wear.  First up my cosiest Renfrew to date.  It’s only made out of polar fleece!  Yes you heard me, a fleece Renfrew.


That’s the Millenium Bridge with a smidgeon of St Paul’s in the background

It supplements my Merino Renfrew which by comparison is the smarter older sister & can be worn to work as well as for play.  This fleece version was conceived to satisfy fleece-sewing curiosity and also because I wanted to make something for my ski holiday that was cuter than the predominant half-front shapeless zip fleece.

st paulsAnd I think it is.  It looks super cute with my leopard mini.  In these shots I was trying the ninja/ James Bond look by being dressed only in black.  I’ll have to leave the next scene to your imagination as I abseiled out over the balcony of Tate Modern, reaching the ground with a parachute roll then maintaining a guarded position as I looked all around for potential foes.

Fleece Renfrew

SO it was snowing in London ( that is not massive flakes of dandruff I’m carrying).  I can tell you that this cowl necked Renfrew allows wrapping the cowl closer around your neck to become more snuggly which I had to do on the train home….Nothing much more to say, except it works!  Try it!

Next up is a top I didn’t make but was sent by Zoe (sozowhatdoyouknow).  She had seen my nautical holidays board on Pinterest & thought I’d like this top.  Did I?  Absoutely!!


Check out the gorgeous batwing sleeves, a bit like this one she made.  It is such a sweet yet jaunty top.  It was photographed here as I reclined in the back of the top deck of the luxury yacht we did not put a deposit on.  I was dreaming of sun, turquoise seas & cocktails (quite a lot of that going on at the moment with desert island sewing thoughts!).  Thank you Zoe, I am so chuffed, & will make plenty of neat looks with it, definitely a cheeky playtime top.

Now I’m hoping to finish my Jungle January make this weekend – not much to do- it’s almost there, but it deserves a special photo shoot.  Thing is, there’s lots of white stuff outside, hardly jungle scenery, & very cold!!

Simply Renfrews, PJs and Vintage Blinds

So I have to admit to feeling subject to implosion.  I seem to have started many things, indeed there are 5 UFOs gracing my sewing room upstairs (& only 1 dummy, so you can imagine my sense of order, tidiness & control is under threat).   Out of the things I showed as W.I.P in my last post, I can record that just the bamboo knit Renfrew is completed, and as it is a present I have not taken any pictures.  The lucky lady who will be receiving it has no idea what a Renfrew is, unless she continues to read the rest of this post….but I sincerely doubt she is dipping in at the moment.  Mum – don’t read any more, OK?!  I know I should be organising Christmas makes, but am finding it hard to start (apart from the aforementioned).  I am experiencing a weird case of prevarication, opting to start many projects for myself, & then not quite finishing them out of guilt.  Or that’s my analysis, any way!

I have been also “taken up” mentally & creatively with work & ensuring that my commitment to getting better at running & all that entails stays on track.  It’s maybe meant I’ve found it harder to visit & comment, but I’ll get back up to steam soon, promise.  Let me tell you, it’s the most serious I have ever been – running-wise, I’d better get a personal best next March or there’ll be trouble!  Anyway, thank you to everyone who wished me well in my race – it was so kind & unexpected, one of those almost throw away comments & I hadn’t been fishing for wishes.  BUT, even if you don’t give two hoots, the 10k trail race was ace – my perfect race – a beautiful autumnal day, running across fields, through woods with fallen leaves underfoot accompanied by one of my running buddies.  What a way to spend a Sunday morning.  Unfortunately there are no newsworthy pictures as it was just my shoes that became mud-carriers.  I seemed to escape unscathed.  Oh well, there is always next time (this is one of a series of 4).

So, onto a few pics, taken in this dire indoor artificial evening light.  I have not been around to take pics in daylight, & I’ve noticed others out there have said the same thing.  Never mind, these are indoor cosy shots showing off some indoor cosy things – as the title suggests, a Renfrew for me, some new flannel PJs and those vintage blinds.

Now the Renfrew surely is the star of the show as it is made out of, wait for it, some genuine New Zealand Merino all the way from Wellington, New Zealand.  It was sent totally unannounced by the awesome Mrs C aka The Hectic Eclectic who has now moved blog addresses to sentfrommyiron.blogspot.co.uk, somebody who I am sure you are familiar with, one who offers some great sewing advice when I’ve struggled based on her own extensive experience.  She has what seems to be a dream job, having taken over the ownership of a craft shop, Made on Marion .  Of course, I am sure it is not as glamorous as the idea, but this had been one of my dreams for years….& here she is living my dream, running classes, helping others to unleash their creative tiger (or insert your similar beautiful & powerful animal of choice if you have a problem with tiger).  Anyway, I was bowled over by her kindness & generosity, struck speechless if you can believe it possible- she’d picked a colour to coordinate with my sewing plans, can you believe it?!? & had my address from a giveaway I’d been so lucky to win (that vintage dress pattern is also itching to be made up still ).  She gave me some great advice for pre-treating it: wash several times in the machine (I did it at 40 degrees even though I usually use a 30 wash) & tumble dry it (gasp, tumble dry this precious fabric I thought?) Why yes, this gives it as much of a beating as it needs to behave for ever after, apparently.  So I did, & it was all there waiting for me to draw up courage to cut into it.  So it was through making the bamboo knit Renfrew that made me leap into action & attack my my Merino.   Even though it seems “more knitted”, it still behaves as jersey & doesn’t unravel (why should it?! Derr brain!!).  It’s beautifuly soft & I understand its thermal properties are second to none – perfect – I can make it in anticipation so that it is ready for our next cold snap.  It needed to be snuggly so the cowl neck version it was, however I couldn’t quite get a whole cowl out of the fabric, so went with as big as I could get (I perhaps had to miss about 6″ off the depth?)

I sewed it exactly as I would any other knit fabric on my overlocker, using tape in the shoulder seams & also mobilising my twin needle to secure the neck’s seam allowance (but none of the others).  No problemo.  I have a cosy sweater-type Renfrew.  I’m wearing it as I type (with the PJs in the pics too) – what fantastic evening slouchy wear which I know will double up as a useful warm & stylish sweater for work &/or play.  Mrs C, you are a star, I want to give you such a big hug for making this possible for me.  I have been reading about how you facilitate others’ fantabulous creations.  I think you & the lovely lady herself, Miss Joie De Vivre deserve some plaudits here for AWESOME dress creation of the year – blogged at CharmofMagpies.  Catch a look at this people & say you’ve seen one like this before:


You need to check out the rest of the post to see it in full dancing action & paired with the most co-ordinating partner (full flame theme going on) ever & to discover Mrs C’s enabling role ….

I’ve gone & exhausted myself with the excitement.  How can a pair of PJs compete with a dancing dress of flames?  Well, there are two things, no make that three things, that I can say about them.   Let’s keep it to the point:

  • They truly took an hour to make from cutting out to finishing them.
  • They are super cute & cosy as the brushed cotton/ flannel still has its cotton-wool like pile still
  • Check out this button so that identification of front & back is swift.

What you mean you can’t see it?

OK here it is- it’s actually two buttons, one on top of the other….

And the vintage fabric blinds?  Gary reckons that his Mum may have had curtains out of similar material.  It’s the kind that is a sort of brocade with lots of shine- very tactile.  The reverse of the fabric shows the reverse weave of its pattern.  I allowed what amounted to a long afternoon to sew these.  They then hung over the bannister waiting to be hung.

I’d snaffled some black out lining from a carboot sale, & as the curtains were from Ebay, they came out pretty cheap.  I have two windows side by side in my bedroom.  You’d think they were the same size wouldn’t you?  Well, big confession here, they are not.  One of my blinds is too big, too wide for the window.  However I made two the same size based on window #1.  But compared with the poor excuse of the blind that was barely hanging there before, from a thread, constantly closed for fear of the whole track coming down, it’s liveable.  Do you honestly think that with 5 UFOs I can be bothered to “go in” & alter my blind?  Looking on the bright side it does what I need it to extremely well – no gaps when closed for daylight to peep through.  And they look well enough.  Are you shocked?  Possibly not if you know my aversion to sewing for home furnishing ….

That’s me done.  Are you as ready for a snuggle up with a hot drink as I am?  Time to be off & catch you later xx

Work in progress…

As well as making ( finally) some bedroom blinds out of some lush vintage fabric ( promise to bore you when they are operational) I have been fiddling around in my sewing room….as a taster …

More ruby shorts and a sozo vest

Hmm, what can this be. Tell you what….über gathering to the max.

And just about to cut out as a Christmas gift, a cowl neck Renfrew out of the petrol blue bamboo knit….I won't say who for, just in case she's watching ( but doubtful!!)

Happy weekend everyone. I've got my first trail run race tomorrow ( 10k) and if I don't finish with mud all over me and twigs in my badger hair I shall be disappointed. I hope it's worth a picture!!


A Renfrew for Spring, and that’s really saying something

First things first, I, Scruffy Badger of scruffybadgertime, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’12. I endeavour to wear only clothes made by me each day for the duration of May 2012 (with the exception of undies & sportswear).  I shall up my game this time by pursuing better pictures and will try to take two thirds outside the safety of my own home ….

I have been feeling like a really bad blogger, I have a heap of blogs to catch up on, but everything has been so busy.  I hope you all had a great Easter.

So, back to business.  It’s been a busy weekend for everyone, and what better way to celebrate return to my sewing machine than by rustling up a Renfrew using my now near perfectly adjusted pattern.

Remember this is a franken pattern using my Built By Wendy Home Stretch basic tee for the upper body whilst retaining the shaping of necklines, sleeve lengths & side shaping of the Renfrew.  Had I been more patient I could have tried Vicki Kate’s FBA for the Renfrew as that is what I think I really needed.  Check it out – it’s a very clear description of how to adjust for a full bust where there are no bust darts – ideal for a knit like this.

Okey dokey, so here it is.  I LOVE this fabric, it was from Ditto and when I clapped eyes on it I just had to click “Add to basket”.  Not only does it have the most adorable pattern, it also has the most beautiful drape.  If I remember rightly it is some kind of poly viscose (but NICE!)  feels more like a bamboo knit.

Keep it simple, let the pattern do the talking I thought.  No flourishes or gimmicks.  Squeezed as much out of 1m as I could.  Not a snowball’s chance of eeking out for the cowl neck, but ¾ sleeves were in the bag.  Tell you what though – there were pathetic scraps of fabric left.  Remnants?  Only pieces large enough to fulfil the role of a rather colourful gusset in a pair of knickers.

I can imagine wearing this with red, with blue, with black even.  At the moment it’s a denim companion.

 With these over sized jeans I kind of went all Bananarama …

But clearly without the back-combing & shaggy hair

Or dungarees….

And as a final catch up, just to offer a glimmer into some of what’s been keeping me away, our Easter took us down to Cornwall.  We stayed with my parents and we got to spend some time with my dog nieces (who I adore…) And on Easter Sunday guess where I ran?

 You got it.  This is Perranporth, a 2 mile stretch of golden sand.  It wasn’t quite such a nice day for my run, but wow, to trot alongside the waves for 4 miles.  No music necessary.  Just me & the elements.    Still not fast.

I don’t know about you, (any runners maybe?) I admit I am a bit weird, but whenever we go somewhere I always assess the “runability” of somewhere.  Could I run here?  Would I want to?  I tell you the days when my running shoes are packed for a holiday but never get to see daylight are decreasing!   (Oh, the number of holidays with “great intentions” that I never delivered !)

I think this “could I run here” is something to do with my older age –  I like to be inspired physically by my environment.  However, maybe all I really need is a dog.

If we moved house, wherever we end up living, this will be one of my considerations.    Gosh, that is “middle aged” isn’t it?!

The Renfrew Wig Awards

When the Sewaholic Renfrew top was released I was there at the presale, just knowing that this looked like the perfect wardrobe staple, a basic, a multi-use perfect top.  To say I am obsessed with it is perhaps an exaggeration.  I have made five to date with more planned.  This pattern, let me tell you, just in case you’ve forgotten all of the other rave reviews, is a simple and quick make with wonderful design features and easy to follow instructions.  I would not hesitate recommending it to anyone wanting a knit top pattern.  The other compelling feature?  It can be cut and made up in an evening, I kid you not.  This pattern is becoming my trip down the chip shop of sewing – whenever I fancy something instant & satisfying I cut & construct a Renfrew.

So as I said I’ve made 5 and am about to reveal them, but am wary that it might be a bit boring as some of them are stash busters, pretty plain, so I am embellishing them with the wig (from my limited fancy dress basket) that I feel each Renfrew best deserves.  Now don’t judge me harshly for my personal wig rostrum.  I have three:

  • Gold: The black bob you’ve all seen before
  • Silver: The “blondes have more fun” matted carpet of a wig
  • Bronze: the scarily curly ginger wig that belongs to Gary. (scary because at times it might even suit me).

I shall display in chronological order …

1. My first attempt, plain boring white jersey following the pattern to the letter, and then hacked off some of the length, as it is longer in the body than I need it to be.  Sleeves are also too long.  I used the twin needle approach for stitching the seam allowance around the neckedge as suggested by Lladybird.


Why this wig?  You may disagree, but hold onto your own judgement until you see the Renfrew +wig collection in its entirety.  This wig in my mind befits the most unremarkable of the tops.  Third place on the rostrum.  The warning that this top brings is that I made it from jersey with zero lycra & the waistband stretched out of shape.  It is OK tucked in as long as the bulk doesn’t show through.  But be warned – get nice enough jersey with lycra to make your Renfrew.


2. This one is a lot more successful due to the quality of the jersey – some nice lycra content.  I did not have enough to make the neckband out of the same, but am glad I didn’t because it would be BORING just made from red.  I used fold over elastic as contrast.  This one is quite good apart from the fit above my chest.  I think it needs some kind of FBA, & looking at LLadybird’s post about Renfrews & FBAs I see she graded up.  Pity I’d cut out number three before trying on number two.  But for all that it deserves a silver.  I can pass it off in normal wear.  Unlike the wig.

3. So onto the cowl neck version made with 3/4 length sleeves because I did not have enough to make longer sleeves.  This is made from flocked polyester that I couldn’t resist from Goldhawk Road.  I think of it as my “curry house” top, you know, flocked wallpaper?  I adore this style with the cowl – it’s fab!  I had to cut the cuffs on the crosswise grain, due to not having enough, but it hasn’t had a detrimental effect.


But the fit isn’t quite right , again tight over the upper chest.  It can go no higher than silver.  Try again I must.

4. By the time I cut number 4 I had slaved away on other-to-be-blogged about sewing and needed a quick fix.  I tried to make a bigger size at the bust & being prudent used some expendable unspecial jersey.   There was only enough of this teal jersey for the short sleeves.  I used black knicker elastic on the neck edge and the sleeves, again to avoid death by boredom.  Check out the twin needle around the neckedge (I’ve used this on all of the above versions – thanks LLadybird again).    The fabric has a nice lycra content which is reflected in the finish.  But I failed to get the elastic right around the neck – oops!  Too tight & therefore resulting in this gathered puckered look.

Why this wig?  It’s still not quite right – & I was getting bored being blonde.  The neck edge is a bit tight.  Is the above chest area right now?  I’m not convinced.  Maybe it’ll smooth through wash & wear.  I can’t help feel it’s like pajamas ….

5. Another trial.  I have franken-patterned the Renfrew with my Built By Wendy Sew U Home Stretch crew neck t-shirt to get a cut of an armhole/ upper chest that already fits me.   By taking the upper body/ armhole edge & upper body shape of the BBW pattern, I used the Renfrew neckline & sideseam shaping.  I also made sleeve adaptations so that I now have the shape & style of Renfrew’s three varieties that fits the new cut of the shoulder/ armhole edge.  And guess what?  It worked!!


Here it is in grey marl.  Boring I know, but I bet it will be useful.  Now that deserves gold.  And I am now ready to crack open my other special jerseys to create the BBW/Renfrew they deserve.  I think this may be my first ever “block”.  Took a while to get there though ….

Hope you enjoyed the silliness & it helped you get through a 5-garment post!