Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


The Ponte Club

Donna’s Vogue pattern 1440 was still sitting about the sewing room after her uninvited visit so I thought I’d might as well just use it to save me rifling through my very untidy, uncategorised and unKondoed collection. I rely on memory as a filing system, although it has let me down previously as I’ve actually purchased a Vogue pattern that I already owned!

I’ve never sewn with Ponte before but found some on offer somewhere on the Interweb a month or so ago and bought a goodly amount of their stock: a pale grey, magenta, dusky pink and obligatory black. It’s probably too late for this query – but does ponte have a right and wrong side? It is a great fabric to sew with – no fraying, stable and behaves well, it stretches and recovers, no wrinkling but presses well. Details about what ponte is here.

I’ve had my eye on a few StyleArcs for absolutely ages…… although delivery from Australia can take weeks and weeks and weeks. I ordered a skirt and along with this pattern came the free monthly one of a coat- in the meantime I patchworked and quilted instead. I’d obviously ordered just before the container was full and I only had to wait 3 weeks for the patterns to arrive. BTW – StyleArc have an Etsy shop for instant PDFs and I’ve been availing of this facility a lot recently. …..

A marriage between StyleArc and Vogue and Ponte, even if some of the patterns are for wovens!

Skirt is Zoe

Coat is Mason (knit fabric)

Jacket is Vogue Donna Karan 1440

Top (plain grey) Donna Karan Vogue 1282 (knit fabric)

Top (patterned grey) McCalls M6078 (knit fabric)

Shoes are Vivienne Westwood



The Mason coat has raw edges but is trimmed with the selvedge from the pale grey on cuffs, pockets and round the neckline and lapels. Real easy to put together just watch your fabric choice as the wrong side shows at the fold back lapels. I serged all internal seams for a more finished look and the collar has a flat felled seam at centre back. The selvedge trim was sewn with a fancy wiggly stitch and ties the weird no-colour coat to the pale grey skirt for a ‘set’.


The Donna Karan jacket is fab and I have another planned in a linen woven which I anticipate will be more difficult to sew as in this case I just pulled and stretched the ponte to make the notches match especially round the curves. I didn’t bind every seam, just serged again, and I raised the shoulder seams by 1″ and left the shoulder pads out.


The jacket is waterfall and loose at the front but shaped and fitted through the back. This one is trimmed with a strip of magenta ponte – sewn on with a fancy stitch – and goes all the way around the whole jacket and cuffs which are folded back (extremely long sleeves).


The magenta trim then ties the pale grey jacket to the magenta Zoe skirt for another ‘set’.DSCN5260

The Zoe skirt is an unusual pencil: two huge open darts at the back from hem to bum, and a front that is narrower at the hem than waist to pull the sides seams forward. The back also dips down a little to create a curved hem. There is an invisible zip at the side and no waistband, just facing.

My first one was a muslin in the black ponte (not shown). It ran a little big. StyleArc’s patterns have 1cm (1/2″) SA so the magenta version was sewn with the usual 1.5cm (5/8″) SA and the zip was ignored. I can just pull the skirt on thanks to the stretch and recoverability of the ponte. And the fit was better.

By the time I got to the pale grey Zoe, the seam allowances had increased to 2cm (closer to 1″). The fit is much better although the ponte shows every knicker line, lump and bump, so robust undergarments are in order (or none at all!) And I can still just pull it on, so no zip required.


Seams were serged and the hem just machined. None of the skirts is lined but I would like to do this soon. The ponte clings to tights and a lining might help smooth out some of the body flaws.

The McCalls drape top still remains one my favourite one-hour sewing projects: front and back, two side seams and just narrow hems on armholes and hem and it can be cut from the narrowest of fabrics.

I have mixed emotions about the Donna Karan draped top. All the Pattern Reviews raved about it and when it is sitting perfectly, it is fab. But, every time I move the drape un-drapes. The pattern calls for a weight to be inserted in the inside to hold the drape in place – well, the weight went in, the weight came out; the drape was stitched in place and then ripped out. I might even be using a good ol’ safety pin in these pics!


The Pattern Reviewers stated that the armholes were large and low, so I sewed mine tighter from the outset. This alteration for modesty’s sake had an effect on the drape. The armholes were then ripped out and cut larger. OK, bad selfie below – but you can see the drape on one side with the larger armhole falling all the way from the breast and the ‘fitting’ on the other side with the smaller armhole.


Not my proudest moment in sewing……

DSCN5228 I ended up cutting all that mess off and adding a band. So much effort and time, adjustment and agony over a top that will now only ever be worn (if at all) under a jacket or cardigan. It does have a lovely drape and if I don’t move it hangs beautifully.


Three skirts, two jackets, two tops and a multitude of outfits!






A really big thank you for all your suggestions about what to make with the patterned silk. I think we’ve covered every garment possible and even DH suggested trousers! I’m still considering but might have settled on a pattern, if I don’t change my mind again that is! We’ve got a Bank Holiday weekend here, lots of sewing and wardrobe sorting planned. Hope you have too.


The Day Donna Came to our House

I was futtering about the house the other day, still in my jammies, with no definite plans for the day when the door bell rang. DSC00676Our front door swells when it rains and it sticks and I can’t open it, so I go out the back door, walk round the side of the house to see who’s there. Would you believe it? It’s Donna Karan herself!

She said she was in the area and thought she’d call just on the off-chance that I was home. Well, I had to invite her in didn’t I? – her having made the effort and all. I made her a cup of tea and then she asked to see my sewing room.

“It’s a mess” I say

“Oh that’s OK” she replies, “all the best ones are.”

“But I’m not sewing anything at the minute; there’s nothing to see.” I try to squirm out

“I’ve a few hours to kill” she insists, “Maybe I’ll help you tidy up.”

Geez! So we go the stairs to the messy sewing room and what’s lying on the table but Donna Karan Vogue 1440. That was convenient, methinks silently. She notices it straightaway and asks what fabric I have.


“I don’t have a stash” I admit a little sheepishly.

“Well, let’s see what you do have.” says Donna. “You must have a few bits and pieces.” I’m thinking – there’s just no dissuading this woman.

So I managV1440-2e to drag out  a bit of pink and white cotton gingham just to keep her happy. If she messes it up, it’s no big loss: I wasn’t that convinced of its wearability anyway. Donna decides to make the blouse.

“Brilliant! Fabulous! Darling colours! So on trend! It’s perfect!” Donna gushes. And I think “How long is this woman going be here?”

Within an hour, she has the blouse cut out and tailor tacked and the main pieces pinned together. Yes, Donna tailor tacks!

As I subsumed the role of Donna’s apprentice in my own sewing room –  I made more tea, threaded the machine and picked up the scraps of gingham off the floor. DSCN4969

Off she went sewing like a demon – demanding endless cups of tea (and I believe toast at one point but I lost track). I got bored and went to have my shower at long last and get dressed. Do I wear some DK stuff that I’ve made I wondered or is that a bit too sycophantic? I opted for Alabama Chanin instead – at least it’s American I convinced myself.

I’m doing my make-up when I hear the call “I’m done! Come and see!”

With a silent sigh and a false smile, I go back to the sewing room to find Doris wearing a genuine Donna Karan blouse.  And oh my gosh, now it’s my turn to gush and squeal. It’s lovely, fabulous, summery, unusual – so Donna Karan!


“I should have told you this before” I say to Donna, ” But Doris and me are actually completely different shapes. She’s a girl from the ’60s and I’m a middle-aged, overweight woman from the late 20th century.”

“Don’t worry about that.” replies Donna, “I could see the differences and I adjusted for them.” At this point I’m impressed but I still haven’t tried on the blouse.

“Take off that hand made stuff and try it on.” she commands, “Do you have some plain black or white jeans?”

“Emmm, perhaps” I admit, again sheepishly. This woman can make me feel like I’ve nothing to wear! So I go back to the bedroom and change; despite all that thinking about what to wear when Donna Karan is in your sewing room!


I try on the blouse and really, it is fabulous. The fit is perfect. I love the long length, almost tunic but not quite: the covered buttons: the shirt-tail hem with a little back split: loose but not billowy: the detail at the back shoulders. V1440-1The only gripe I have is lack of sleeves but there’s always cardigans for cover up and really, sleeves would be impossible on this blouse with the very specific shoulder details. I might just get over my sleeveless hang-up with this blouse………There’s just one little problem and the back shoulders are cut so that bra straps are visible – racer-back bra needed. And for Mrs Mole, the dart points are are in the absolutely perfect place!


Late in the afternoon Donna left and I was left with a very wearable, summery blouse that did not waste my gingham fabric. I now own a genuine Donna Karan blouse – she sewed it herself! I’m missing a label and a £XXXX price tag so I’m the only one who actually knows it’s genuine.

If you sew a DK pattern, or any other designer for that matter, can you say that “This is a Donna Karan”? What makes a RTW item DK or yours?


Elaine, you can tell your students that you read it on the Internet, so it must be true!


What would YOU do?

Imagine this:

Somehow (the actual facts are unimportant) someone sent you a length of Italian print 100% silk satin.


You know it’s expensive and precious but in your eyes, beautiful. It has 1% Lycra so a slight stretch, otherwise it’s a “roll around naked upon” type of fabric and taking a pair of scissors to it brings you out in a cold (or hot, depending on your age) sweat.

So what do you do with it?

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The fabric has pagodas, flowers, swirls and leaves: it is multicolored but if waterboarded, you’d admit to pink and green.

So come on – you’re all brilliant at sourcing patterns and style, get your thinking caps on and send me answers.

Here are your Herculean hurdles:

Nothing above the knee – if it’s a dress or skirt

preferably with sleeves of any length

And you only have 1.8m (1.5yds) and 148 (55″) wide

I’d thought of StyleArc’s Lea but I am perfectly content to be proved wrong.LEA-DRESS


And edited for Mrs Mole: (god bless her meticulous attention to detail) – pagodas are on the sides and a swirly thing runs downs the centre – no archetypal architectural constructions on my ass! (if cut on the fold, I may add).

DSCN5244 DSCN5245


Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

I have enough clothes but I love sewing so I turned to quilts to fill the gap. I thought I wouldn’t like it – too precise, too twee, too only for old ladies! Mostly brown or pastels with flowers and triangles that resemble china tea cups. Not my cup of tea. while I fully appreciate and acknowledge the skill and work that goes into sewing such a quilt – the style is not for me.ste-marie-aux-mines-1-795650b1117_g12

Except, I’ve fallen for patchwork! I was warned that it was addictive and I have to admit – it is. I suppose it’s like sewing your own clothes, patchwork can be whatever you want it to be – size, colour, design and pattern – you take control.

I started with a cushion cover, then a scarf and matching skirt, then moved swiftly on to a full size quilt that was so bad that I added a plastic shower curtain to the back,  a couple of ties, rolled it up and called it a picnic blanket!

The next attempt was supposed to be for my son, who, DV, is going off to uni in September. I ordered fabric online and when it arrived the first thing he said was “Is there no material without flowers on it?” Mmmmm

One night I couldn’t sleep so I got up and went into the sewing room where I pulled out all the fabric, the cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler and started cutting strips. After a few hours I had thousands of them! I had all this fabric that he didn’t like so I made a quilt to practise. Now the problem with this quilt is that there isn’t enough contrast between the colours and the pattern sizes are too similar and there’s no real block design and so what you get is a blurry, washed out, mis-matched heap of fabric roughly in the shape of a square. But I promised myself that I would never start a quilt without finishing it and so I kept going.


In the meantime I bought 2 books: Kaffe Fassett and Improv Quilts and realised that what I have made is possibly a combination of them both! Fassett mixes colours with apparent abandon and Lucie sews with apparent abandon – nothing twee about either of these styles.


Fassett’s quilts are rich and deep; tropical fruit and equatorial flowers: his fabrics are luxuriously detailed, saturated and complex. He has the gift of colour. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s fascinating how colours, designs and patterns merge to become a cohesive whole. Fassett explains colour here.


Planning colours

Lucie Summer’s style is the polar opposite – pared down designs with plain and small print fabrics that create a clean and light quilt.




It doesn’t matter if the points don’t meet, or the strips are different widths, it’s the overall effect that’s important.






I like modern quilts and Google images has me drooling and planning in the most unrealistic way as there will never be enough time and in all honesty, it is rather expensive. I also think that patchwork and quilting has to be the most futile of pastimes –  you buy perfectly good fabric, cut it up and sew it back together again! Nevertheless, I’m hooked.

I’ve bought equipment too…an extension table for the machine and a darning foot with bits for free motion quilting. This what a big quilt looks like when you try to machine quilt it, free-hand


I need a bigger sewing space!


There’s a lot of learning to be done but that’s why I’m enjoying it and it can only get better….



Jersey Blues – The Story of My SWAP

It’s hard to keep up with Kate… I’m often caught reading one post meanwhile she has written another 3 or 4! She posts every single day, works full-time, goes to the gym, tidies up and organises, attends craft classes, looks after family and, of course, makes her own (and others’) clothes which are fabulous. She wrote a lovely piece the other day about her SWAP ’15 and so with full acknowledgement to Kate I’m taking her title, her idea but making it my own story about my SWAP ’15. Thanks Kate.


Just a little reminder that SWAP is Sewing With A Plan and is organised by Stitchers’ Guild at Artisan Square; an annual event where people voluntarily plan 11 items and sew them from January to April. This year the challenge was 5 tops, 3 bottoms, 3 wildcards and one of the garments had to be recycled/convertible/reversible. There’s no prize or medal, just the joining in with a lot of encouragement and support from the Stitchers’ Guild members.

I’ve joined in for the last two years: (2014, 2013) I never stick to the plan, I change my mind half-way through but always end up with a neat little collection of coordinating clothes. I’ve also learned that most of the clothes will be worn in the spring/summer and while we start sewing in the depths of winter it is best to think ahead.

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I’m often waylaid along the way by Jungle January, impetuous makes and other glittery things that attract my eye and therefore take time away from concerted effort to complete the challenge.

dscn4481This year, or rather last year 2014, I said I wouldn’t participate in SWAP ’15. I have plenty of clothes and I started a quilting class which, to my utter amazement, is enthralling and possibly addictive. I had enough to sew. However, I caught the hand sewing virus last summer making some Alabama Chanin garments and stocked up on jersey cottons ready for slow sewing on those long winter nights.






Late in the autumn, I cut out about 8 items and packed them into freezer bags ready to be sewn as per my inclination. Then I realised that 8 is almost 11 and set about planning another 3 garments – I mean, I practically had a SWAP sitting ready and waiting. So I threw my hat into the ring and threaded up a thousand needles because all the items are hand sewn.


I’m now out the other side as SWAP, finished on the 30th April and all 11 items were sewn and many have already been worn, are stained and need washing and a good ironing!

Cheating or Finding Loopholes

I feel that I cheated a little this year: each top had to coordinate with each bottom but by using only solid shades of blue that was pretty easy so I didn’t have to think about colours, tones or patterns. Most of my SWAP is not hemmed and because it’s cotton jersey, there are not too many fitting issues either as it stretches to fit. Hand sewing takes time, obviously, but the items are casual, not tailored and if a hemline is slightly wonky that only adds to the imperfect perfection that is often strived for in hand made items.

The item that is convertible in my SWAP is also a dress that morphs into tops and skirts. I only sewed 4 actual tops, not 5 and added the dress as my 5th top to just about meet the rules.

Collection ’15

Make hay while the sun shines – last weekend the sun shone and I made hay. This weekend, it is raining, cold and windy so it’s just as well I took the time last weekend and took the photos because they certainly wouldn’t be taken outside today. Maybe this is how Kate maintains such a productive life…..

Here’s the final set.

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Let’s compare the original plan drawings with the actual garments made and submitted to the photo gallery.

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Slide5 Not too far out but not exactly following the plan either!


My continued gratitude extends to all the members of Stitchers’ Guild – who encourage, motivate, prod and push when you think “I’ve had enough.”, and also to all those who comment here to offer advice and compliments – it certainly makes a difference.

To Dragon Lady and all the admins at Stitchers’ Guild who volunteer their time and skills to keep the forum running.

To all the other sewers of SWAP: to those who planned and didn’t make a stitch, to those who planned and made a start, to those who planned and finished. Sure, it’s all good fun!

I’m stating here and now that I will NOT participate next year. You heard it hear first but then again, I said that this year  too – LOL


Links to specific SWAP makes:

Convertible dressLayered skirt & ponchoPencil skirt and corset top, coatMaxi skirt and long sleeved T-shirtTrousers , The beginning




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