Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


St Paddy’s Day Blues

Right you lot, stop distracting me with your Kantha coats and Japanese draped tops and patchwork quilts – I’ve a SWAP to finish.

Today is St.Patrick’s Day and I usually wear something green but today I’m in blue.

Three more items done for SWAP ’15 and likely two that required the most work (at least I hope so, or else I’ll never be finished in time!).


Corset top and pencil skirt, reverse applique with leaves, and a long cardigan/coat, single layer with applique strips around hem and sleeves.

DSCN5105The top and skirt are relatively small items to sew in that they are fitted and there’s not a lot of fabric involved and so hand sewing round all the leaves didn’t take as long as say a flared maxi dress.



The corset top pattern comes from Alabama Stitch Book and I love it – form fitting, flattering and wears really quite like a – corset. Bit of structure with just a few running stitches; hard to believe this is possible in cotton jersey.
















The skirt is self drafted pencil skirt – essentially two rectangles wide enough for my hips and curved at the waist and hem. No darts or waistband, I rely on the cotton jersey to stretch and fit.


The cardigan is Burda suit coat because I liked the piecing and thought this would show off the stitching better.


So a recap on completed items:

1 pair of trousers

1 long sleeved T-shirt

1 maxi skirt

1 cardigan/coat

1 corset top

1 pencil skirt

1/2 a bolero

2 tops/3 bottoms and a wildcard – good grief, I’ve a lot to do. Only 6 out of 11 and I have to figure out a refashion/reversible item yet.

I need 5 tops/3 bottoms/ 2 wildcards/ 1 reversible by end of April.


I may have to instigate radio silence until then…..



Sew Small World

DSCN5083Once upon a time there was a designer (and still is) called Mieko Mintz (originally from Japan and now works from New York)  who found some Kantha quilts (India) and made some jackets.



Heidi wore this (New York) and Margy (California) found the shop.




Joy (Stitchers Guild) first showed the Heidi pic and a whole lot of us were hooked (obsessed?). Manuela (Hong Kong) seemed to be the first to the interweb but I will stand corrected if  anyone thinks it’s important to acknowledge who was first.

Then the next thing I knew was Shams (Los Angeles) with this. Then Rhonda (Chicago) with this and this.(perfect timing, Rhonda!)

I was miles away (Belfast, Northern Ireland) and way behind. I found eLcrafto an international Etsy source for kantha quilts both vintage and new.


A kantha quilt is made from fine cotton or old saris; two layers of fabric quilted together by hand with large conspicuous running stitches. Light in weight and vibrant in colour and made with happiness and joy which makes it all the more worthwhile to wear and use.

Now I’ve caught up with the rest of the world using a pattern from Paco (Spain).

From India, via USA and the far east, Europe to Ireland – it really is a small world…..


And I don’t care what you say out loud – but I know, we all want to look like Heidi. So if I have a jacket like hers then I’ll look like her too. See…. told you so. I just left my Ray Bans in my pocket and didn’t happen to be in NYC at the time the paparazzi caught me………



I started with this –

il_170x135.639693017_folm Then agonised for ages on a suitable pattern. DSCN5034I wanted a shawl collar and I wanted it to match the outside fabric so that meant a separate piece. I wanted pockets. I wanted reversible. I wanted hip length. I wanted kimono-style wide sleeves. I wanted to keep it simple – not too many pieces, no darts or Donna Karan type tucks and pleats.


I settled on Paco Peralta’s Unique jacket.

dscn0625Lovely simple lines and I’ve made it twice before so I know the construction order and its perfect fit. I did however, steal the collar from Donna Karan Vogue 1263.  A bit of fixing, shortening and narrowing: folding pattern bits out of the way and I had a shawl collar that fitted the jacket.













The original jacket has in seam pockets on both sides but I made welt pockets more towards the front on the patterned side and patch pockets with covered  button closures on the plain side. I bound each patch pocket with patterned fabric. I didn’t make the original single button fastening either; my jacket really just lies open but I did put a large covered snap at the hem, just in case.


The inspiration kantha quilt jackets are single layer with binding or overlocked seam edges. The quilts are as beautiful on both sides, sometimes with many different patches. My version has a patterned side and a plain side – I say plain, but the running hand quilting stitches are a pattern in themselves. To save the effort of binding every seam and raw edge I just made another jacket! Put one inside the other and all the seams are covered, and I got the reversible jacket I wanted. A bit heavier and more substantial than a single layer version but then we don’t often have Californian or Indian summers here in Ireland!


The plain side has little snippets of the patterned side. The hem and sleeve hems were slipped stitched together – this method means you can control the two layers much better – stretching and easing them to match each other. That’s not binding on the sleeve but the other sleeve just slightly longer.


I added a dangly thing on the back for absolutely no reason other than it brings a bit of pattern to the back. The DK shawl collar has shaping darts at centre back and on the plain side of my jacket they are on the outside – a deliberate design decision – of course! Though I will admit to getting a little bit confused between right side and wrong side during construction.


The shawl collar is pretty cool – it can be worn flat, em, like a shawl…It can be folded up to resemble a scarf and in the worst of weather conditions can even be worn over the head like a hood. Those few darts at the back add to the structure and create a soft stand-up collar instead of just a bit of fabric hanging round your shoulders.


















Just in case I didn’t provide enough links in this post for you to waste your time and provide  a valid excuse in the name of research not to sew – here’s another link that you could waste hours and hours of your valuable time.

As a consequence (all in name of research and self developement), this is the reason why I have short hair!

Long hair

Woe be me…..I’ll never be like Heidi, even if I have a jacket similar to her’s.





Plain and Simpler: Avoid Baggy-Thighed-Pants

This is my method to avoid baggy-thighed-pants (acknowledgement goes to Miranda for that title)

I’ve had loads of requests to explain what I do to avoid wrinkles at the back thigh on trousers. Firstly, a big thank you to you all who contacted me via e-mail, Pattern Review, personal messaging, blog comments etc etc etc. and your inherent trust in my abilities. I started replying to each one and then I got overwhelmed so Instead of replying to each and every one, here’s a post about what I do. Absolute disclaimer: this is what I do for me – I have no idea if it’s right, acceptable, taught, recognised or standard fitting procedure – but it works for me so why not try it – it could work for you too.

I’m now acknowledging those brave sewers who have publicity shown the world what what baggy-thigh-pants look like:

Tasha, Stephanie, Jennifer – thank you from the bottom of my ****

Trousers are notoriously difficult to fit because there are so many points of contact with the body – waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf, length and worst of all crotch! My advice – make a skirt -LOL! Just kidding, but really take your time, trace your pattern alterations (I know it’s a pain but think of the long-term gains), do not intend to make a pair of trousers, take a weekend and work on the fitting. Please believe me, it is time well invested and you will have a perfectly fitting crotch pattern for only YOU and it didn’t cost you a Craftsy class.

I’m starting from a toile that has good fitting crotch curve. Sorry I’m leaving this bit to you but here are some resources that you might find useful – my crotch experiments, Colette’s pant fitting cheat sheet, crotch measuring.

You are now going to be subjected to many images of my backside: if you want to see the original post then click on my bum!


Back thigh adjustment on jean-style cords


Early days of development – Here I moved the crotch curve. See how it rides up and there are still wrinkles on the back thigh


Similar to pic 1. Reduced the depth of the back thigh only and pattern based on RTW Armani .


No adjustments made at all and wrinkles galore!


New trouser pattern with now almost automatic back thigh adjustment. Vogue 1204


Wide leg trousers show much less wrinkling, so this could be an alternative option for fitting.


Tapered trouser legs still need an shortening on the back thigh for me but not as much as fitted trousers maybe just an 1″ (2.5cm).

Here’s my method of removing those wrinkles that are so evident in RTW and many of my early hand made trousers. It happens at the cutting stage so I’m afraid if you have already cut and sewn – it’s too late! Do it next time.

First off, be brutally honest. Stand sideways in front of a mirror and measure or mark your front bit (know what I mean?) then mark or measure your back cheek crease.


In my case the difference between the front and back is roundabout 4″ (10cms). Gosh – see that sway back? That’s another post just on its own!

Right, back to the topic for today. Now, following conventional fitting methods  you will be instructed to do all sorts of things with the crotch curve – see my pin stripe jeans above – lengthening, shortening and changing the angle of curve but my method is simpler and easier. I half the measurement taken from real life and fold this out of the way on the back pattern piece, close to but not at the crotch line.


Take the back pattern piece and fold up half the difference of your measurements. In my case it’s 2″ (5cms). Make this fold below the crotch line that’s marked on the pattern piece. We are not altering the crotch curve but working below it.

At the side of the pattern there will be uneven edges – when cutting the fabric, gently curve this to join with your already perfected crotch. Please check your crotch point before doing this alteration see my crotch experiments above for how to do this.


Edited for clarification: All the notches and marks on the back pattern piece will not line up with the front now. Either reposition the back notches or as I do, ignore them. Lengthen the back piece at the hem by the same amount you folded out.

I’m just at the beginning of making New Look K6231 trousers in a woven cotton with no stretch. In my previous post I recommended using a fabric with a bit of Lyrca so stay tuned for an update on how I totally ignore my own advice and how it all turns out in the end.


OK, maybe I don’t heed my own advice all of the time – or is it just the nature of the fabric?


Plain and simple

The other day I had a dental hygienist appointment and teenage son had the car so I had to take the bus and not wanting to be late I left the house early and when I arrived I then, of course, had a tonne of time to kill. I walked the local shops: bought a T-shirt, a loose cardigan, a pair of olive green jeans; visited but didn’t buy, the Textile Studio and bought a sewing magazine because it had three free patterns and thought I could look at the pictures as I sat in the waiting room. This, of course is all beside the point – the pattern is the point here. And, it turned out to be ultimately a very expensive trip to the hygienist!


Anyway, one of the patterns was New Look 6231 – the jacket’s not my style but I quite fancied the very plain but perfectly serviceable trousers. In fact, these might actually be the same pattern that was used for the British Sewing Bee series 3 ep1. Does anyone know what patterns they use? I wouldn’t normally blog about something so plain and simple, but I’m really impressed and thought you should know about this little gem too.

The pattern is actually good value for money if you’re buying it on its own as you get at least three garments in one envelope.



Two darts at the back, waistband, invisible side zip, narrow legs and finish at ankle length.


Boy, I am impressed with this little pattern!

I made this first pair – note first! – in a very fine plain black wool with just a touch of Lycra. I shortened the back thigh by 1″ and the next pair will be shortened another 1″, but these are perfectly wearable, no worse than RTW and I think will become a staple in my wardrobe.


Because the pattern is so straightforward, it can easily be adapted to include front pockets of all designs, add turn-ups at the hems, include back welt pockets, capri or cropped lengths- the options are limitless. This pattern is replacing Clover for me.

Photographing black clothes is notoriously difficult, so please just believe me when I say these are great!


The new cardigan


I was rather blessed that the crotch fitted perfectly straight out of the envelop which might go some way to explain my joy.  The only thing I would suggest is that any fabric you chose to use, consider 1% or 2% of stretch, just for comfort’s sake and recoverability. Mine aren’t even lined which is unusual for me but the seams were pressed three times and then overlocked.


I reckon I’ll be wearing these with a plain black top and a colourful cardi or jacket. They look equally good with high heels or flats and have slim enough legs that they will easily slip into a pair of boots.


This die hard Vogue girl is mightily impressed with a different pattern company.







Patchwork Clothes

When you hear that phrase, what do you think of?

Tree huggers and hippies? Charlie Chaplin and the Kid?

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Maybe the 1970s -

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Late ’90s flirt with bohemia -


YSL and Giorgio Sant’Angelo again 1970


6a01156f47abbe970c014e8be876b5970d-800wi1970spatchworkprinttietop1_grandeCertainly colourful, flowing, full skirted and wide bell-bottomed trousers – oh the things we wore!

Everything comes around and this year, patchwork is back! Albeit a little more refined perhaps and with a 2015 price tag.


Gucci patchwork S/S 2015



Gucci silk patchwork joggers














Gucci silk patchwork jacket $7,200

The late, great Koos van der Akker shared many of his design with us via Vogue but I have never been brave enough to try one.
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And catwalk trends this year are harking back to the 1970 vibe – which ultimately means patchwork and colour.

54bbdaf810064_-_hbz-trends-ss2015-70s-suede-01-saint-laurent-rs15-0147-lg trend-70s-patchwork











Now to my quilting class and my idea to sew a patchwork scarf. Scarf made, and a skirt, and a bag!


I believe this is called a French braid and the fabric selection is designed by Minnick & Simpson for Moda and called Lexington: the colours include whites, creams, tans, and blues.. Do you really want to know about strip sizes and patchwork techniques? Nah, we’ll just look at the pictures…….

DSCN5005 DSCN5006

I bought an extra 1.5m of the large flower design and made the best skirt in the world – V1247, lengthened, as always. I used up every scrap of my fabric: the skirt has a patchwork inset around the hem. It is lined with a heavy muslin and the patchwork bit is lightly quilted to it.


And with all the bits left over, you sew these together and create another 1/2m of fabric and I got a matching bag – Japanese Knot, downloaded from here.



So far I’ve worn the skirt and scarf with a big tough Ziggi biker jacket and navy boots to make it seem a little less twee and because it is winter and cotton skirts in February are really not such a good idea. So while Lizzy is making winter clothes in summer, I’m making summer clothes in winter.


Now, I know this isn’t actually possible…..but…..I buy little bitty bits of fabric, sew them together and end up with more yardage than I started with!?


See, I knew those quilters had the dark forces on their side and now I have the proof.





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