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simplicity 2444 Sew Dolly Clackett

Happy Ever After dress: Sew Dolly Clackett

This is the story behind my “Sew Dolly Clackett dress”.  The mind bending journey.  Join me if you dare ….

simplicity 2444

I love me a pretty frock. I love being delighted with Roisin’s latest inspiration as she sews herself a beautiful frock mountain. It has been said more than once before that people who sew are lured by the attraction of a pretty frock, which often as not (except if you are Roisin) gets brought out for a few occasions in the summer if you are lucky, & if you are like me, you might create occasions just so that you can wear your dresses!? . When fabric shopping there are a few practical sewsters who check out the solid coloured fabrics, but it’s the prints that get us going, right? And the truth is that most of us sewsters love what you can do with a perfectly patterned fabric – and it usually means it’s got to be a dress.

simplicity 2444
Only once we have accumulated a number of pretty dresses do we recognise the other truth – the icing versus cake debate- & decide that if we do want to develop a hand-made wardrobe, and unless we can build frock wearing more into daily life, then the time comes when separates & knits become the epiphany of your sewing experience – and then comes the “capsule wardrobe” quest! I recognise my journey here & I suspect that it might ring true for some others out there.
So I have been sewing a handmade wardrobe – I only tend to wear RTW sportswear – & even that is being overtaken with my Fehr Trade makes. I have a practical balance of tops, knits, blouses, trousers, skirts & some knit dresses that are easy to care for, require minimum ironing (because I only seem to use my iron for construction!). They  just about all fall within my chosen colour palette: reds, turquoise, purples, greys & a bit of black. OK, I have tried to give most of them a *badger twist* with some interesting detailing that makes them unique – ric rac my first port of call, of course. But, still, how very organised & *practical*.
I’ve just about got there now though. And my inner diva has come back from her sojourn in the tropics. It’s time for pattern! Its time for frivolity! It’s time for some awesome frocks that beg random passers by to pour compliments at one’s feet – or at least look on enviously.
People – The frock – is- back.

simplicity 2444
I have all sorts of excuses for breathing life back into my frock-wearing existence- as well as the Vintage Pattern Challenge we have until tomorrow (!)  to contribute to the global sewing phenomenon that is Sew Dolly Clackett, organised by Sarah at Rhinestones & Telephones so that Roisin’s sewing friends pay tribute to her forthcoming marriage to her mister. This has to be the most perfect collaboration ever. Such an immense idea.

simplicity 2444
There are already a fair few “SewDollyClackett” dresses in evidence, check out Flickr here.
Now Roisin has a signature style – very much in the vintage camp – often full skirted dresses with sleeveless or short sleeved bodices, sometimes a wiggle dress & even an occasional Anna dress at maxi length. She has a fondness for retro inspired prints, gingham, & bold unpredictable prints also. I must say that I had a few choices of suitable fabric in my stash & was leaning towards either a knee length Anna dress or Simplicity 2444. But which fabric? I gave myself a few walks to work in the morning just trying to work it through.

tulip fabric(The colours in this photo are pretty true to life btw- unusually!)
In the end the lightbulb illuminated my vision – I had bought some tulip fabric last year as a result of a link Roisin used for an online shop I hadn’t seen before – Fabric Inspirations. And how. (What a great shop – reasonable postage & a great selection of fabric).  I was modest & made it out with just this tulip fabric, although could so easily have bought more.  But do you know what?  I never fully appreciated how absolutely fabulous this fabric was – clearly I thought it was pretty awesome to be lured into buying it – & out of all of the fabrics on sale, this was the one that I chose.  BUT it wasn’t until I had made it up & was wearing it that I was totally smitten.  This fabric is just beautiful – it’s soft to sew with (not a starchy craft type cotton) but that pattern is queen of red florals.  Official.
But, let’s get back to the shaggy dog story about this frock!  Folks, you wouldn’t believe what a relief it was to have finally made my decision & how difficult it had been! How ridiculous is that?! So the cutting out & sewing was straight forward by comparison.
I had already made Simplicity 2444  (here & here )& so had just about got the fit right on the bodice/ neckline – both front & back. If anything this time I was a bit over exuberant in taking out my customary centre wedges & could almost feel as if my boobs have been bound into *boy shape* torso, but mind over matter & it’s just *snug* (& maybe suitable for running?!?!).

simplicity 2444
The invisible zip was a veritable pain in the bum too. It seems as if invisible zips either work first time or it takes at least three unpickings later to get the alignment at waist seam correct. And I basted & it still slips. Mega frustrating that the zip can often take longer than constructing the bodice and setting in both sleeves. It’s still a very obvious to me 2mm out!
I have to say that for the skirt I just used rectangles & pleated them, not having enough fabric to use the shaped skirt pieces of Simplicity 2444. That meant I had to set my own pleats & by making the skirt out of a rectangle there is more volume at the waist than the pattern pieces. (OK, I did have enough fabric to use the pattern pieces then, didn’t I? ). I sat pleating my dress whilst watching the London marathon on the TV. It was brilliant coverage anyway & I was there thinking how cool it would be do be there & in it, knowing of a few people who were doing just that. Even that was pretty emotional, but then all the stories of participants who were sharing the personal reasons they were running got to me & there were a couple of instances where I had to stop pinning & measuring because the eyes were just a tad waterlogged. Oh my. What amazing things people do.

simplicity 2444


Look at the infant wisteria!  It’s in its first year & is producing blooms – my parents are so  enjoying it!
Other influences for this dress clearly come through MadMen which I am watching from the start. I don’t get the fancy channels so have never been able to watch more than the first two series, so treated myself to the box set of the first six and have been known to be all aswoon in the evenings – whether it is the dresses – or that oh-so-handsome Mr Draper. And random smile – I am loving the food styling – all the meals that are brought look exactly like the photos in style (& colour) as my first hand-me down cookery book from the 60s – Marguerite Patten’s.  Also, how weird that when I was sewing it there were times I felt I should have a fag in my hand (& I’ve never been a smoker!).

Now, I like to try to add a little bit of a scruffy badger touch when I’m taking part in something like this.  I looked for a cute redhead bobbed wig, but couldn’t find anything that was  in the right kind of styling.  I got my very willing Dad to take my photos with his super camera (thanks BG!).  And they are deliberately shot outside the front door.  (Not quite Georgian steps & railings).  So all I could think to do was this ….

sew dolly clackettI think Roisin will get it….

Which leads me onto the name of this dress. Because in reverence to Dolly Clackett, it has to have a name. I thought I had got it then, & was about to call it my “All aswoon” dress but that’s lame. This dress is covered in scarlet tulips.  Apparently, red tulips symbolise belief and  declaration of love.  How appropriate to make such a dress to celebrate the wedding of two Morse-loving peas in a pod – therefore comes the name, “The Happy Ever After Dress”.   Roisin & Nic, Wishing you all the very best for your exciting & fun life together :-) xx  This dress is for you.  BUT the good news is that I am so enamored with it there is a good chance that it will be my goto dress this summer & may even be my “Mother of a new graduate” dress.  It will certainly have lots of happy associations for me as well.

Lotta Lady bag

Potty for spots – Lotta Lady Bag by Maria Denmark

Have you seen Maria Denmark’s new website?  Very smart.  She’s also been releasing some gorgeous patterns – & spreading tips for customising them to make them look unique.  I’ve bought the Olivia tee and love it – will be posting more on that shortly.  However today is all about accessories.  At Christmas/ New Year I think, Maria released this cute pattern to make a perfectly wonderful every day handbag.  The Lotta Lady bag.

Lotta Lady bag

It is “just the right size” to load up with ipad, book, water bottle, other ladylike essentials plus that imaginary wad of cash that is too big to fit in your back pocket.  It is lined, has an all round gusset which houses  a long zip (longer than a dress zip people, be equipped), and I have to say looks adorable with its graceful curves & shoulder straps (x2) – there is something that feels just a little bit vintage about its style & proportions.

Lotta lady bag

This is the Lotta Lady bag.  You can add your own inside pockets to help organise your effects (& make it easier to lay your hands on that imaginary wad of cash), but pocket pieces are not specifically part of the pattern – you make them to suit yourself (or not).

Lotta lady

So I bought some “oilcloth” not long after downloading this pattern & had it waiting patiently for the bag-making urge to hit me.   It arrived with the onset of spring & the prospect of being out & about more & wanting to look more “like a lady” rather than rely on coat pockets.  Plus, what better reason to adopt a new bag than a trip to London?

Lotta lady bag

Cutting out was simple, lining & outer fabric done quickly.  I used a tip from Dave (Sewing Bee) to use the odd bit of scotch tape to secure pattern pieces to the waterproof oilcloth instead of pins.  Nice one.

Lotta lady bag (6)

I contrived pockets based on phone & wallet & was ready to sew.  It felt like it should be a quick Sunday afternoon’s project.  Maria’s instructions are laden with photos & explain the construction very well.  But guys.  Manipulating *oilcloth* around those curved edges was a beast.  Not only did it pucker but there was absolutely no ease in this awful “fabric” & that meant unpicking & that meant unwanted permanent puncture marks.  So I did the best I could & didn’t swear too much.  On the plus side, I absolutely love the zip insertion steps of the bag-making process- especially when there is a lining.  So neat.  So sharp.  Love it.

Lotta lady bag (5)

Anyway.  Apart from a few dodgy corners, my bag came together fine.  The acid green polka dot lining provided some tang to the sky blue polka dot exterior.  Spring colours.  I was looking forward to using it.

So come the morning of my trip to London I loaded it with my bits & pieces & a whole lot more.  You can fit a lot in- for information!  I’d just put it onto my shoulder when I heard an unmistakable tearing sound

Lotta Lady bag

& saw that the bag’s seam where the straps are inserted & stitched (although reinforced) had shredded – the “fabric” literally split.

Lotta Lady bag

It has taken me a while to realise what went wrong.  You see the fabric that I used is not real oilcloth, but more like tablecloth PVC.  It has no strength, no fibres.  It is plastic.  Oilcloth contains a woven element & would be strong enough to cope with weight.  This “fabric” was not suitable – my poor choice.

Badgers bag

I had to make a quick swap on that morning for my trusty shopper (made using a “White Stuff” carrier bag as a template many moons ago.)

Badgers bag

I am not giving up on the Lotta Lady bag though, the design is lovely & in email chat with Maria, (to try to understand where I went wrong) she’s said how much she uses hers & it has withstood all sorts of wear & tear.    So the good news is that this bag does not use a lot of fabric and I have a couple of long zips, bought especially , waiting for inspiration to strike, plus allsorts of fabric in my “too big to throw away” scrap pile.

If I didn’t have other plans, this would be a perfect make in a few spare hours in the Easter break …..

duathlon (10)

Summer runners: Duathlon shorts

It’s about time I posted my latest runners – the Duathlon shorts by Fehr Trade.  Yes, Melissa is nothing but full of unique designs for crafting your own running/ workout kit- the ideas keep coming!  Hot on the heels of the PB Jam leggings and XYT top here are some more togs for sweating in.  I was lucky enough to be a tester and these shorts/ leggings were once again right up my street.

duathlon capri

Have you seen them yet?  I’m sure you have.  Leggings/ shorts for your running or cycling legs.  Or the gym.  They come in three lengths & I went for the extremes: the capri length (in time for spring) & the woo hoo!  booty shorts for an experiment!  There is also an above the knee length.  Their clever piecing together creates two phone (or gel & key ) sized pockets in the contrast side panels.

duathlon capri pocket

The simplest of designs, which allows some fab use of left over fabric to pack a punch plus a brilliant pocket construction that’s easy to sew.

duathlon (8)As a bonus- if you cycle & want to avoid saddle sores, Melissa has designed in a padded piece specially shaped for a comfortable yet ultimate workout.  Now, I don’t do the cycling thang, so I avoided the padded crotch, but what a brilliant option to be able to sew your own padded cycle shorts – technical genius.  Of course there is lots of advice for fabric choice & construction included in the pattern.

duathlon So I’ve raved about the sewing & design. These leggings are a very simple make & incredibly wearable.  I used my overlocker for practically all of the construction, except the hems which my coverstitch machine is now much better at (thanks a lot again to Melissa who gave me a couple of steers for the basics that make all the difference!)   I made the capri length first in some left over random non-sports bottle green lycra, sneaking in yet more of my leopard lycra to add a dash of the wild side.


I wish it was “Meow” I’m saying here, but I took authentic post run photos & was still recovering!  I have worn these leggings many times now.  The length is spot on, the fit – well there’s probably room in their for me to take some more in, if I wanted to look as if I had been poured into them, but in my mind they are ideal.  I’ve used the pockets for keys & my phone once (plenty big enough & it doesn’t feel in danger of popping out unexpectedly).  They are a total hit & I would not hesitate in making more.

duathlon booty

So much so that I gave the booty shorts a trial.  I am rubbish at seeing a pattern for shorts (any shorts -not just lycra shorts!) & picturing where the legs finish on me – always in fear of “too short shorts” I usually end up erring on the side of caution & needing to take a massive hem to the “bermudas” I’ve almost created.  It seems I can get it wrong both ways – I was never going to be any good at merely eyeballing the cutting line for these booties – I had to make them.  I thought that in the summer it is great to have a shorter pair of shorts – do they call them boy short length?  Now boy short length is probably a bit longer than booty (why didn’t I just stop & consider the name!) shorts.  They hug your buns babies!

duathlon booty shorts

I love them, really, but at the moment I am not sure how brave I would be to go out in public with them this short…but in the hot summer ( am I wishing for the impossible?) …maybe I would change my mind.

I made them using some wicking lycra with a strip of burgundy – which I’ve also used to make a top – I will show you soon, once pics are taken.

duathlon booty shorts(Worn with my XYT top -  I wear this soooo much it’s untrue and my running bows)

Tell you something though – I would make them just a couple of inches longer & then they would become what I have in mind as “boy shorts”.  Now making them that length & wearing in public is a distinct certainty.  But even if you are as unbrave as me, the booty shorts can be worn under skirts for your cycle commute – they are an ideal modesty saver.

All in all a great pattern.  You can get the download  here - & once again I should say that  Melissa’s instructions lead you through the construction excellently.  If anything, these leggings are easier to make than the PB Jams, just because the piecing is all in straight lines.  What do you think?  Are you convinced yet?

And while we are on it, have you been inspired by marathon season?  I’d like to congratulate Melissa here too – she got such an amazing time for her London marathon – decode this!

(Or visit Melissa’s site for the answers & post race photo)  The very next day I entered the Bath Half 2015- that means I’ve got the Manchester 10k in May (when I shall be running in me made running kit for Me Made May as well as it being the race that I join in with the  Spring Race Challenge

I’m in taking part in…

Spring Race ChallengeAfter May’s 10k I have the summer to train for the Great North Run, and the winter to train for the Bath Half.  Sorted?  For me, it’s good to have races to be aiming for & to keep running as I still find it the easiest thing in the world to never leave my home/ garden, so happy am I and so busy can I be within badger burrows (set really) .  Running is a good way to get upright, active & out in the fresh air.  Plus I love how it makes me feel when I am exercising & covering distances.

And what other incentive to run & to just get out there, than making new running kit?  Love it.

Everybody loves a do, especially if you sew

Anyone who follows me on Pinterest could be confused by my rather eclectic pinning of late, but it may have given you insight into a couple of occasions I’ve got coming up.  And with occasions comes the eternal (but exciting!) question, “what shall I make to wear?”


 One of the exciting dates in my diary is a posh works do.  Well, I am calling it my red carpet do, but it’s not really.  There’s never any work dos in my general existence, but for once this one is a goer.  Funnily enough we haven’t even decided who will be invited yet, but my thoughts immediately turned to a new sewing project with exceptional novelty potential & I will make something even if I don’t get invited!

I could always wear my 80s “ballgown”, but why would I want to do that when I could be making something else totally unlike my usual sewn fare?  If I am honest I am not a floor length gown kinda gal.  I mean, what if I turned up (once I’ve been invited of course) in a floor length gold lame vision, only to find everyone else in cocktail dresses & knees showing?  If I was it would be this one though.



The kind of outfit I would feel most comfortable wearing is not even a cocktail dress, but something that can be understated enough to fit in with men in sharp suits as well as holding its own with ladies in cocktail dresses or even a summer floaty maxi dress (because there might be some of those around too).   I mean, I’ve no real idea what other women will be wearing.  Some might totally ham it up, others might think, “it’s just a works do” & pull out a Top Shop frock from 2011 (not that there’s anything wrong with either option! – I’m just unsure of the habitat I could find myself in – should I get invited of course).

I’d started looking at vintage style evening dress patterns, some sheath style, others more of a full on early Betty Draper.  I’ve saved some to this board here on Pinterest (It’s a general dumping ground for inspirational clothing that I can’t see myself making for a while, but dig deep enough & you’ll find them).  Some of the 60s sheath dresses had tie back details, which makes me swoon.  But after using my drive to Cornwall last month to think options (yes – I can report that for the full 3.5 hours I went on a mental journey through outfit variations & sewing preferences as well as as travelling 170 miles south.  It was much like the state that you get in when doing a very long run- your mind literally travels …)  So by the end of the journey I had it all figured out.

I am going separates.  Are you surprised?  Now the keystone will be shoes.  I have one pair of smart shoes in black suede (a special pair from Hobbs that are not only the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve ever bought, but are gratifyingly the most comfortable kitten heel sling backs I have ever worn).  My next step was revisiting this scarf  top on the Burdastyle website that got me.  I had spied it well before this “do” came up, but with no reason to add it to my sewing priorities, it would have stayed in my dreams.

It’s subtle, yes.  Stylish & slinky.  The “scarf” neckline gives a drapey –almost-cowl at the front & an alluring dangle of sash from the back neck.  Gor-jee-ous.

To complete the outfit I thought it needed a slim skirt & my thinking developed along the lines of velvet & thigh split.  Hmm.  Clearly skirt length has to be considered with care to avoid the 70s lady of the night look.  Something a bit like this silhouette but without the knotting (this skirt is actually jersey) & with a more modest split.  (Source)

I shall draft it myself.  I have it worked out in my head & don’t think it’ll be rocket science.

Armed with a plan, come Goldhawk Road* last week, I knew what I was looking for- some silk for the top & some luscious velvet.

And this is what I bought –

Rainforest fabric

This is not silk but I immediately felt deep love for this fabric!  It was everything I could have dreamed of & in colours that are vivid yet lush.  A veritable tropical paradise with rainforest overtones to drape for.   I don’t think the photo does it justice.

rainforest and velvet

And to complement it I found the most awesome silk velvet that I could drown in.  It’s a cross between teal & bottle green.  There is no way you can even begin to see its beauty & intensity through this photo – it wasn’t happening.  But I had to show you something.  Even if your imagination is closer to the mark than what I have put before you!Take my word for it.  It is the dogs (& I don’t use that phrase often do I?)

I am overjoyed with my fabric – all in all this has cost £20 so far.  I have some lining I can use for the skirt, so for  my “red carpet” my bank account is feeling chilled.

I’m planning to make it next month.   Seriously how crazed must I have got to ?  I spent the weekend project planning the things I feel I have more of a commitment to make & have now allocated weekends & sewing projects.  Will I respond well to that kind of discipline?  Or will it take the pleasure away?  We shall have to see.

Want to know about another of my four “dos” this summer?  One of my best friends is throwing a party for a “special”  birthday on 4th July – so her theme is – America.  Nice & broad so that guests can justify any kind of outfit- even if it is red, white & blue!

Pinterest will have given you a clue as to my chosen outfit.  Oh this will be funny & so not becoming of a woman in her mid 40s.  But I shall laugh.  “For the 4th of July, Matthew, I am going to be a cheerleader”. Here’s my pinboard Cheerleader Chic….

As well as an outfit – I am tending towards a version of the Lady Skater Dress – at this stage- although I do like the idea of a skirt & tank top too (don’t worry – I promise you no midriff!)    I clearly have to make pom poms, find an awesome wig & make up a routine!  Any places you know I could look for help, please let me know!  I’m new to this. But would like to provide a more authentic kind of routine than this …

YouTube Preview Image

My research will of course include watching “Bring it On”, “Bring it on again” & “Bring it on some more”- & I know my son will have no complaints about that when he comes home!


* Please don’t ask me which shops they came from!  The rainforest fabric came from “the shop that also sells Liberty”.  And the velvet was from a shop along the same side of the road, with a downstairs full of velvet, fleece and other concoctions.

Minerva Make: April Rhodes Date Night Dress & Simple Slip

When I saw this dress released, courtesy of MisForMake I was captivated.  I can’t put my finger on the precise reason why, but I kept returning to it, just mulling it over in my mind.  I am not a habitual wearer of loosely shaped dresses – I need to emphasize my curves & find the “tunic look” does nothing for me.  But there was something that kept pulling me back to the Date Night Dress.  Was it the fluttery sleeves?  The graceful sweep of fabric around a cinched in belt?  Was it the added extra of a simple slip?  Who knows.  What I do know is that when MisForMake offered a special offer on it I was in like a very hungry badger to a slug.    Because you see these patterns are not cheap.  Any small discount shaved off helps.  You can also download the pdf directly from April Rhodes here which is likely to be a bit cheaper than the physical pattern.

I made the slip up pretty straight away, and felt pleased already with my purchase.   It felt that a potential Minerva April make (April Rhodes – geddit?) would be fitting so my fabric quest began.

Date Night dress

Now this dress is designed to be made with fine drape inducing fabrics, voiles, chiffon, silk too I expect.  I had other ideas.  I fancied making my version out of jersey.  I’d been *almost choosing* this jersey on the Minerva website for a while now & its print reminded me of one of the examples used in the Date Night Dress pattern itself (scale, use of colour).  Lack of imagination on my behalf there – but balanced by the added danger factor of going *off piste* & using a stretch fabric for a pattern that was designed for floaty wovens.    Listening to my inner May Martin, I was thoughtful about pattern placement when cutting out- wanting balance & nothing falling in unfortunate LOLworthy places…

date night dressI’ve been wearing it with a long sleeve top underneath & leggings for the winter.

The Date Night Dress is a simple design: no fastenings – a neckline scooped enough that whatever the fabric you use will allow access over your head.

date night inside

Its front & back are single pieces though- so you can imagine that this is a quick make.  It has a box pleat at the centre back, just to add to some volume.  And the sleeves?  They are sort of crescent shaped bits of wisp.  I wondered if I was being too risky here as well – would butterfly sleeves be too frilly even for me?  But hello!  I Love them!

Date Night (2)

The pattern directions assume that you will use French seams in your woven version & the instructions are pretty comprehensive if you haven’t used this approach before .  I should say that the instructions are all accompanied by fantastic colour photos & this could be a good make for a beginner.

date night dress (4)

Making it up, as hinted above was so quick I think I did it in just over an hour.  Using my overlocker of course.  Shoulder seams first  (as an extra & in recognition that I was using jersey I used some clear elastic to add support to the shoulder seams), then the flutter sleeves, then side seams.  The neck band was like a tee-shirt neck band – I cut a non-bias strip 1.5” wide that was  85%  the measurement of the neck edge  (for jersey it doesn’t have to be cut on the bias as there is plenty of stretch already).

date night dress

Then you’ve got just the hem to do.  Bam.  Quick or quick?  I cut my hem straight rather than the high-low hem that it is drafted with.  It suits me better.  But it wasn’t until I tried the Date Night Dress on, with belt that I got hit sideways & was struck dumb with absolute undying love.  Oh. My. Word.  How can a *jersey dress* feel elegant, flattering, comfy, feet-tucked-up -on-the-sofa-goddess awesome all at the same time?  I think that deep down my inner goddess-pattern-spotter recognised there was something special about the Date Night Dress.  Beauty in simplicity.  And I am telling you, the pattern envelope needs to add “jersey” to its list of fabrics to use as it maketh the dress even more elevated in my humble opinion.

date night dress (2)

So let’s get onto the slip too.  Having a simple slip pattern is a beautiful bonus.  This slip is not cut on the bias, so it doesn’t take up too much fabric.  It uses bias binding for its straps & has the most useful photo-story to guide you through the process of getting nice bias points at the pointy bodice ends.  It is genius made simple.

date night slip

The choice of fabric for the slip is a lovely slinky lycra that feels lovely to wear but also slips against the jersey dress – performing the vital function that of a slip slipping!  And the bias is super cute floral bias.  Love it!

Date night arm

Now why the slip + dress in one pattern?  Well the inner minx suggests some kind of link with “Date Night” – ensuring that your undies are as pretty as your outfit? ;-) I mean this is what April Rhodes uses to describe the pattern:

The flutter sleeves flatter arms and the open armhole can be slightly sultry, offering a teasing peek at the Simple Slip or perhaps a lacy bra underneath.

But it is a practical reason for me – the dress’s underarms are quite low.  You could drive a bus through the gap.

date night arm 2Flashing your simple slip

I have so far wore my dress with a long sleeved top & leggings as it was still that kind of weather, but come warmer times you might not want to flash your lacy underneathies & the slip would be a great modesty saver.  I am also thinking that my next version will try a chiffon for the dress & there the slip will most certainly be needed for even more of a modesty cause.  Now, all I need is a date ….

Oh and just an after thought for Kate… It seems as if there is shirring mentioned on this pattern after all, as a design option for the waist. You aren’t going crazy. And nor am I. It’s mentioned in the description, not the instructions….

So, yes, the April Rhodes pattern is an independent pattern & might seem quite expensive…but…I am already delighting in the quality drafting which far surpassed my expectations – both slip & dress.  However, the Minerva kit will give you enough of this fabric to make a similar dress plus a slip.  The slip fabric could be used to make any kind of slip – I even found this free pattern here that would work.

Now unfortunately for me (well, actually the reverse ) I misread the yardages or else the yardages given are very generous & I’ve got some of this lovely jersey left & have already made it into something else lovely ….coming soon!


Oh tweedy!  I hope I have done you justice.

tweedy (3)

I asked my friends, from all corners of the globe how I could revere you in the manner you deserve.  I listened to all my counsel & recognised that less is more: let the Tweed do the talking.  Create a lifetime garment not subject to the whims of fashion, but to the tenants of classic style.


I resisted my more outrageous design temptations and instead reflected personality through accents of carefully chosen lining & notions, not flaunting other options tweed brings such as in your face ruffles, pleats or clever use of bias.


It’s all about simplicity (yes really – Simplicity 2154 hahaha) of design and the very best I can possible sew – using my  TNT pencil skirt pattern.


Investing time, understanding the cloth (did you know that for Harris Tweed the right side shows when you hold it up to the light & the twill should run from left to right? – thank you to Natalie,  who left me a comment).


Expending effort  in ensuring fabulous check matching & placement.  Cutting everything in single thickness & with attention to the sewing lines & how they would be fall in the tweed checked pattern.

Attention to detail:


Finding the colours in the tweed & matching the less obvious ones: orange lining & a purple zip.


Crochet lace on the lining hem.


Inserting the waistband three times to make sure front pattern matched & was the right way up (not that the right way up actually mattered at the end of the day since waistbands fold over, don’t they?!  The fold over would have hidden evidence that it was the wrong way up- der!!)


5 star finishes:

  • Bias finished seams.


  • Waistband Vilene for a really crisp & non slouchy finish.
  • Lapped zipper with checks in alignment

tweedy (Waistband and every bit of the zip & top CB does match before you sympathise – I just hadn’t fastened it)

  • The official Harris Tweed label.



This very special fabric was a gift from my dad.  It is only right and fitting that he takes the blog photos.  (Oh it’s so nice having a photographer !)

tweedy A humungous “Thank you ” BG!

(My Tweed skirt is being worn with my Merino Coco – what a perfect match!)

Yet another Named make: the Andy Coat

Yes, it’s official.  This is the fourth Named pattern that I have made & I think that makes me a Named Groupie!  Before I even consider my next purchase let’s talk about the Andy Coat, since this is what this post is all about.

Andy coat

The Andy coat is one of those patterns that grew on me the more I looked at it.  Having made the extravaganza of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat, with ric rac which has become my “occasions” coat, I recognised the need for more of an every day coat, and since I was often drawn to gazing at the Named website for long stretches of time, the ability of the Andy coat to fit my lifestyle requirements became clear.

I knew that I would not wear it without the belt, but with the belt it was cute.  I hadn’t appreciated the desirability of a collarless coat at first- but apart from the advantages in not having to sew a collar there was all sorts of scarf wearing potential, and I also meant to make a detachable collar in fur (yes, fake fur!) that would also glam it up a bit.  I haven’t done that yet however, since every time I wear this coat I LOVE pulling a scarf out of my proverbial sleeve (you know, like a magician) & wrapping it around my scrawny neck all chic & elegant-like.  I almost feel like I’ve stepped into the 60s with neck scarf & leather gloves & the belted waist.

andy coat 1

So shall I tell more about the make & start by introducing the raw materials?  The fabric, the fabric!  I bought this a couple of years ago from a local fabric shop  with the specific intention of making it into a winter coat.  It was *one of those fabrics* that felt too good to use though & was kept protected from moths sealed up in a plastic bag in the drawer.  But then the Andy Coat woke me up & the fabric was released.  Whilst it is sooo gorgeous with its lovely mini checking & evocations of vintage granny coats, it was a b*gger to cut.  I cut each piece on the single thickness fabric trying to get alignment across the horizontals. I had thought about the vertical placement too, but thankfully this coat had no particular perpendicular challenges (feel like there should be a Peter Piper in that sentence!).  I attempted to match the shoulder seam verticals, which is passable.

andy coat

Why this check was super hard to match, both cutting & sewing was a. due to its scale & b. due to the difference between front & back.  It’s quite a loose weave & trying to follow the same horizontal when it looks different on both sides of the fabric was tricky – but not impossible.  I found the best way to speed up on this was to always use the same horizontal in the pattern as the stripe that I would match- that way I became familiar with what it looked like on the front & what it looked like from reverse.

andy coatStripe matching

But I tried really hard to get this perfect – this fabric was after all one of my sacred fabrics & I had to honour it.  You know every time I sew one of my “sacred fabrics” I take much more care & attention which makes me think that I should buy more expensive fabric to ensure that I sew at my best.  OK, I’d have less to sew, but maybe the discipline would be habit forming?

To complement the granny chic fabric I had bought some nice satin lining a while ago in Birmingham’s Rag Market in teal.  Not much more to say about it than that!  If I have a preference for lining I do like a nice shiny finish- all lovely & sleek to put your arms into.

Andy coatNo belt is a no no!

So the sewing – I made this in some unneeded fabric (yes, I made a toile).   I found I did need to take a small wedge, as is usual for me, out of the upper chest/ neck edge.  So that made the toile worthwhile.  I did not bother with roadtesting the pockets in the toile – I just made a complete coat with sleeves to check on the pattern fit.  If I was worried, I would have also used it to practise the welt pockets on, but I felt brazen!  I would sew welt pockets on the real McCoy & not before!

All the prep for this coat seemed to take longer because I accidentally bought sew in interfacing which meant basting it to every piece.  Yawn.  *Top tip*  I found out that due to the nature of the fabric, its loos-ish weave – I overlocked all the edges of each coat piece (before sewing) to avoid fraying even though it was lined.  Why not use the overlocking to attach sew in interfacing instead of basting?  (I also overlocked the lining edges too as lining is mad for fray).

Andy coat

I also felt it took a long time to progress into making the actual coat because I opted to make bound buttonholes.  You heard – bound buttonholes.  And yes, it was my choice – the pattern lets you off the hook & allows you to make keyhole buttonholes using your machine.

Bound buttonholesNinja buttonholes- just where are they?

I have to say I am extremely proud of my buttonholes.  All seven of them.   In fact I was so satisfied with cracking these babies that it felt wrong even thought there really was no smugness involved.  Do you delight in getting something so precise & technical right?  And what about to the power of 7?  All thanks, again, to Karen’s E-book.  I feel almost familiar enough with the process not to look anymore – but I know I will forget & need reminding each time I revisit bound buttonholes, because let’s face it, I am not going to be making coats & jackets every month now am I?

andy coat pocket

What about the pockets?  Welt pockets too!  I felt that these could not be as complex as bound buttonholes but that they might carry some of the same rationale & approach.  I had made some before on my cardigan, but that was a long time back & they were also a slightly different layout.  These welt pockets are on the tilt.  I used elephant fabric as my pocket bags to make them more durable than using satin lining.  But having finished them, you can’t see the pocket bag fabric.  My secret elephants.  A less than secret fabric confession is shown by my facings.  Are you ready?  Ok folks, I just did not know which side of the fabric I liked best to use as the *right side* & left it to chance after cutting my fronts.  Because this is not a symmetrical pattern, there is a definite left front & right front.  Cutting the front pieces determined which way up was the right way up  & I followed this for the rest of the cutting out.  A kind of game of chance, because I did not spend the time working it through before cutting the fronts.  But I still really liked the other side of the fabric so cut the facings so that they would be “wrong side” out.  So there you see, the very obvious confession, for the lifetime of this jacket!

andy coat

Once the bound buttonholes & the pockets had been completed the rest of the sew could speed up.  The coat has a centre back seam which provides some good shaping & the rest of the sew was as you’d expect.

andy coat

I think you’d have to feel reasonably confident at making a lined garment to make this pattern as the instructions are adequate, but expect you to know what you are doing.   I followed the general principles for bagging the lining & sewing as much by machine as possible by digging out the Spearmint coat instructions as they are extremely comprehensive & I like it that you use the lining sleeve as the location for turning the coat right way out as opposed to the hem.  Lolita patterns has been hosting a sewalong for the Spearmint coat – it would be a good place to get some tips!

andy coat

I made this jacket is a tad shorter than the original pattern, but it is a good length on me.  There are no belt loops to my relief – I find locating your true waist for belt loops quite stressful so am happy that this belt is a floater & that works for me.  Can you tell that there are shoulder pads?  They are not monstrous & give the right amount of structure.


Finally look at the buttons.  For some reason the tan/ horn was the only colour I could conceive.  In fact originally I was looking to use piping with this fabric (before I changed course & went Andy coat) & the piping would have been a similar tan in fake leather.  I don’t know if it’s overkill but I bought a second set of buttons to use on the facing side to give extra durability to the buttons (like they do on RTW).  And I sewed the buttons on with a match in between the button & the coat to provide a long enough shank for the button to sit on top of all of those thicknesses.  Goodness knows where that gem of ancient sewing wisdom came from, maybe while I was still being carried as a baby as my Mum sewed herself a coat?

andy coatWhy hello !

Anyway.  I am loving my jacket.  As always a garment that can be worn for work & play is a winner for me.  I have worn this multiple occasions to work now & at the weekend just gone took it with me as my weekend away jacket for it to get some sea views.  It looks equally happy (as long as it is belted up) with a sharp skirt for work as it does with my Jamie jeans.  That is one big wardrobe gap I have finally filled.  Hurrah for my jacket!  (I do need a Minoru though….but will I get round to making it this Spring?  Too may other things on my list?  )

And as for my next Named make…the choice!  I have already bought the Laurie Striped Tee though…

PB Jam Leggings (capri length) with a hint of cheetah

I’ve been promising you these for a while now, haven’t I?  The PB Jam Leggings by Fehr Trade.  I was lucky enough to be involved as a tester & have been timing this blog post to fall outside the initial flurry of excitement when the pattern was released in case any of you have forgotten to go & get it !  You see they are an awesome design & I love them!

pb jam leggings(OK, so next door have a patio with a lovely large table …..)

My first pair are not worth showing due to poor fabric choice on my part (I chose fabric that was far too flimsy for being worn as running leggings.  Maybe as an extra layer in normal use under a skirt, but not for wearing outdoors with nothing to protect others’ eyes against my really visible panty line ! Classy!  )  This pair of PB Jam leggings are made using a magenta wicking fabric from the Sewing Chest which is rather lovely against the skin & has a lovely amount of stretch.  The leopard swishes are just any old lycra – not a technical fabric.  Well I say “any old lycra”  but in truth it just happens to be the same lycra as I made my XYT workout top in – so I now have a coordinating set of running togs that are flaunting more than a hint of cheetah.  Maybe the cheetah will rub off into my psyche & I shall run with grace and break my personal land speed records.    OR kick the pants off some bad dude who is thwarting justice?


Anyway, I had tested the pattern using the not-to-be-shown flimsy fabric & so had a grasp of how it all fitted together, along with any adjustments for fit.  I knew that making them shorter as capri length would suit me & the time of year I would be wearing them in, so I just shortened the PB Jams to that they stopped at the end of the back knee contrast – I didn’t cut out the lower back leg piece below this.  I shortened the front lower leg using the knee notches for measuring & comparing against – hem at the bottom of the back knee piece was several inches underneath the knee notch – I made sure the front lower leg’s new hemline was the same distance below its knee notch.

pb jam leggings( & the remains of a clematis which we know will resurrect itself)

As with other Fehr Trade patterns (ie the XYT Top) the instructions are well illustrated & guide you through the construction which just looks more complicated than it actually is.  I mean these leggings are a wondrous jigsaw & the pieces really do fit together !  It’s amazing!  The only step I would urge taking extra care with is transferring notches & matching notches with the swirls to make sure you get them set in the legs the right way up.  I have made that mistake – it’s easily done!

pb jam leggings

I haven’t taken photos to show you, but you do know that there is a canny pocket secreted inside the upper back of the PB Jams that is cleverly constructed don’t you? & just the right size for a phone, or some keys & a gel or two.

pb jam leggings(More of a nose next door – I know you are curious)

So what do you think?  I haven’t actually worn my “lycra suit” out as a pair in public.  I am not really into matchy matchy plus it has not been warm enough yet.  I also think it looks a bit more “Olivia Newton John” than I can pull off.  But guys, I think you’re worth the whole pose.

pb jam leggings

And  in front of the gap in next door’s fence?  I did that for you too.  I had considered drawing some funny stuff on the photo so that there was a rare view of the hanging gardens of Babylon , but in the end my photo editing skills would be far too basic & would look like something a 4 year old could do better at.

pb jam leggings

Anyway, back to the PB Jams.  They have been worn & work well.  OK, so the cheetah legs have not materialised just yet but I am sure it is a matter of time.  You can get them right now as a download!  And you should see other versions that are springing up- clever use of fabrics.  I am planning to make a pair out of the same coloured fabric but use my overlocker’s rolled hem to create faux piping along the swirly seams.  They’d look a bit special I think.


Minerva Make: Named Tyler Shirt in retro lawn

This month’s Minerva Blogging Network make is a style-me-up or style-me-down collared shirt using the most wonderful “retro” cotton lawn .  The pattern to me looks a bit Orla Kierly – it’s a veritable topsy turvey forest of cute trees on a black (or almost black) background.

tyler Shirt

I love the feeling that wearing a crisp & soft shirt brings & I like making shirts.  I like the precision needed to construct them, but it’s a precision that is not overbearing.  I can make a shirt in a day, easily.  And I am on a promise to make my sons shirts – no excuse now – this make counts as flexing my shirt-making muscles.  I *shall* be taking them both a Mum-made shirt when I next see them in May – it’s a promise.

tyler shirt

I have used the Tyler pattern by Indie design pattern company, Named.  (Gosh I am turning into a Named fangirl aren’t I?  Looking back over my recent makes you’d think I had some kind of style crush.  OK.  I have.  )  But back to the Tyler Shirt- I was intrigued by the raglan sleeves.  I mean we all love raglan sleeves, right, because they are so much easier to set in.  And the usual  place to find raglan sleeves tends to be t-shirts and some dresses.  But how do raglan sleeves and a collared shirt work together?  I needed to see for myself.

tyler shirt

I was not sure how much of the raglan sleeve lines would be lost in the fabric’s pattern, but actually wasn’t that concerned.  This blouse was ultimately about the fabric, the shirt pattern I chose was an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.

tyler shirt

So how did the raglan sleeves work out then?  The sleeves have two seams- one underneath & one along the top from neck to top of your wrist.  They are much easier to insert than the traditional sleeve with a gathered or eased sleeve cap.  Fit-wise I think the pattern has been drafted with more rounding on top of the shoulder than I need & in general I feel there’s just a smidge too much fabric in the upper back/ neck that I would take out next time (because I did not make a test garment I’m afraid to say!)  Looking at the way it sits on Barbarella, you would think there is something a bit *different* about the fit across the shoulders/ upper back – so next time I would go in & tweak that a bit.  But equally next time, it would be really cool to highlight the raglan sleeves & the lines created in the fabric you choose – you could use different fabrics / lace sleeves or just a sheer chiffon.  It would look really stunning.tyler shirt


As well as the raglan sleeves, it’s a fitted style with bust darts, waist shaping and a centre back seam for added shaping.  The collar is cute & small.  If you are sewing collars you might like to check this tip out for getting a nice sharp point.  I used it this time & it is genius!

tyler shirt

 In terms of sewing challenges, the trickiest part would be the sleeve/cuff placket, but if I said that it’s not as scary as you think it’s going to be, maybe you’d give it a go?  I for one accidentally missed the tracing of the sleeve placket from the pattern so instead sewed a continuous lap using a 1.5” wide length of fabric & the instructions from my Dressmakers’ Techniques Bible.  Sewing a continuous lap is easier I think than a placket.    The centre button stand is made my favourite way – using just one facing per front.  The facing (which becomes the button stand) is sewn facing right side to shirt front wrong side, & then flipped to the front & edge stitched down.  So neat.

tyler shirt

I’ve chosen little jet effect faceted buttons & they have worked really well with this fabric I think.  It’s sometimes difficult to choose buttons online, without seeing them & without your fabric in front of you & I reckon I got it right this time!

So far I’ve worn this with my Vogue baggy trousers – Interestingly enough – I see that Nicole made the trousers I’m wearing as her Minerva make this month too!

Tyler shirt Jamie JeansBut it’s great left hanging out with my Jamie jeans as well as wearing it with a cute simple black skirt for work.   And now you know why I needed to make the *plain black skirt*.

Tyler shirtButtoned up with an organza bow.

Tyler shirt Meringue skirt

With my new (not-so-plain) Meringue skirt is a perfect work outfit.

It’s going to be very versatile ! Even the spook in me thinks so …

tyler shirt ghost

If you fancy making a shirt, it doesn’t have to be this pattern, here’s a link to the kit which includes enough fabric, thread & the sweet jet buttons. Enjoy!!

Not such a plain black skirt: Colette Meringue skirt with extras

I’ve not had a plain black skirt for years & have managed along quite happily without feeling the need.  But then you’ll see soon that I’ve made another shirt which got me thinking differently.   And when you see the shirt (later this week, I promise) you’ll understand.

meringue skirt

A little black skirt can be soooo versatile, can’t it?  Easy to pair up with a blouse or sweater of most colours (& I know that Susannah & Trinny would tell you otherwise & not to wear colour with black, but I happen to like wearing all sorts of colours with black myself…blues, reds, cream – is that a colour?) So, an urge was born.


The idea of a black skirt grew, & I knew that I had a suitable piece of fabric residing in my stash bought from the Birmingham Rag Market a while ago.  This fabric was originally bought for some Clovers as it has some stretch in it, but it has the most gorgeous drape, even if I have no idea what its composition is.  The important thing is that it feels nice & not too polyester – ridden.

meringueWould you like to know what the grey dots are on the wall to my right?  Well….they are the result of us being *really bad* at darts!

My little black skirt though was not going to be *just a pencil skirt*.  If I was to make a plain black skirt, the design of the skirt had to give back a bit of detail.  It was either going to be a Charlotte (but not enough fabric for the ruffle) or the delightful Meringue skirt in the Colette Patterns Handbook.  I have lived in my pinstriped meringue & love it.

meringue skirt

I decided that I should make it again, in plain black, with polka dot lining & a waistband again (I like waistbands, although the Meringue pattern is drafted with a faced waistline).  I learnt a lot about how to line my first Meringue skirt  through trial & error,lining the full skirt right down to the scalloped hem (read about it here) & acknowledged that this is not the best way to line the Meringue skirt.     This time I would keep the lining free from the hem & use the pattern facing.

meringue skirt

OK, the plan was hatched.  Just one more detail occurred to me: velvet ric rac.  Oh yes!  Another way to bring some pizazz into a plain black skirt.  I would add velvet ric rac to the waist seam as if it was piping: an echo of the scallops below but in smaller form.

meringue skirtCheck out the almost polka dot button! Scoop!

So it all went without a hitch.  I followed Lladybird’s invisible zipper method which has an added safety measure of marking stitching end points both sides of your zip to get balance (genius).  Now that worked even better for me, & it will be a sure new technique added to my sewing armory now.  Thank you Lauren :-)

meringue skirt

How it’s possible to make a plain black skirt, not plain.

meringue (2)Happiness is ….turquoise shoes.  I’m telling you, it was confirmation that the Spring is coming getting these babies on!