Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Jersey Blue Any Way

At 10.03 this morning I sewed my last hand stitch for SWAP ’15 and for the first time in four months my needles are threadlesDSCN5160s. I have made 11 items in Alabama Chanin style from three shades of blue cotton jersey – but you’ll have to wait until the official finish date for a full reveal (30th April) when all who have participated publish their collections on Artisan’s Square.

In the meantime, if you are wondering what four months of hand sewing looks like – maybe something like this:


One of the items this year had to be reversible/recycled/convertible.

So this is my attempt………

Slide1Essentially a simple sun-dress, drawstring straps with stenciled circles on the diagonal front and back.

But wait…..


Gathered front, strapless, boatneck, draped, one-shoulder, halter (needs work or a pin!), low gathered

And then……


Waist length, hip length, long skirt, skirt with splits, tunic, tunic with pockets

So someone who can do maths – 7 necklines X 4 hemlines + 2 skirts = enough variations to be categorised as convertible?


Scrap Shirt

Back in January when I started the patchwork and quilting class, guess what? I bought too much fabric! Not tonnes and tonnes but enough to stash. While stashing I found an off-white linen, obviously bought for something in particular last summer and never made.

Put the two together and I got a shirt – Vogue 1274 to be exact. Lynn Mizono design: Very loose-fitting top with mandarin collar, low armholes, asymmetrical button closing and three-quarter length sleeves with button drape. Narrow hem. View B, what you see here, has back-buttoned drape and the front, back and sleeves extend into drapes.


The unseasonably sunny weather has brought out the lighter colours and lighter fabrics this week and for four months this shirt has waited patiently in the wardrobe for its first outing – today was the day.


A voluminous shirt indeed but I cut it smaller than usual and I was very limited on linen anyway. I wore straight legged dark jeans to counteract the tent-like top. The jeans are Hot Patterns Boyfriend pattern (which I wasn’t that impressed with but these turned out OK). I remember doing loads of fitting and alterations but they are made from rare selvedge denim so will hang about my wardrobe for years to come.


I’m constantly drawn to styles like this and follow Gayle Oritz avidly – her creations are fabulous and this is in poor homage.


The patchwork cotton with all its variations was used on the side ‘flaps’ and sleeve ‘flaps’ and then little bits and pieces were sewn on the back neckline and to make the front button closures. Stand up collar is lined with the cotton too.


The cotton is Moda Lexington in blue and white – used to make my patchwork scarf and skirt. 


Flaps buttoned to centre back for a less flappy look…


Wear it while you can……Scrap, not crap!



Jersey Blue Layer Skirt

Last week I had to pack up my one and only machine up and send it off to Barry to sort out. There was a squeaking, a groaning and a bobbin that wouldn’t stay in! No option really. I’ve had this Janome for nearly 4 years and I haven’t as much as cleaned or oiled it – so no big surprise that she stopped working. Bear in mind that she is used almost every day, I really took her for granted. Barry (the sewing machine magician) said there was so much fluff that it had been compacted into a brick but he managed to sort her out within 24hrs! And a day later she was back in my sewing room taking her well deserved place on the table.

All this is beside the point as my SWAP this year is hand sewn! Merely a cautionary tale for you…….. Take care of your machines.

Right back to the topic. SWAP ’15 is almost at a close and my needles and thread and have been running stitching like mad.

I have 1 more item to finish – a double-layered, reverse applique fitted top has been started but it will really be a push to have it ready to wear in 2 weeks time. Nevertheless, let’s look on the positive side and loads of things have been completed recently.

One of them is my layer skirt.


images-1The pattern is the swing skirt from Alabama Stitch book, merely two pieces, one for the front and one for the back! Except I cut two skirts, sewed two skirts and put one inside the other offset by about 4″.

There is no other embellishment. It’s a very plain skirt and very easy to make.

The inside skirt is held in place with some X stitches at middle front, back and sides.


I did cheat a little and serged some 1″ elastic to the back waist, folded it over and then parallel whip stitched the fold in place.


b2e6766197783e47fb444f1db8e3b150The third layer is actually the poncho from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I drew on some pebble circles, sewed up the single seam and wear it over the skirt for a bit of flare.



When it gets cold at night, I pull it up and over my shoulders – cosy.


With a rectangle bit of jersey leftover, I sewed the ends together, sewed down the seam edges and threaded a strip of cotton jersey through. When pulled tight, the jersey ruches up.

This can be worn as a scarf, a hood, a belt and even a boob tube for that instant Donna Karan look.


Drapey scarf


Ruched boob tube

My T-shirt used to be white but was dyed in the same bucket as the rest of this cotton jersey. Yet another item?

The poncho and scarf thing are extra to my SWAP collection but useful additions nonetheless.

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. We went away for a few days and I never got round to answering each one, but, as always, they are very much appreciated.



Don’t bother me – I’m Sewing Princess Seams

This week my little boy turned 18 years old and to congratulate myself for managing to keep him alive and also to legally relinquish my parental duties I bought new shoes and made a new dress.


The shoes are Vivienne Westwood for Melissa: nude (go with anything) with big tartan hearts.


The dress is Vogue 8648 and it’s the one Susan Khaljie uses for her Craftsy class on couture sewing. I had the class playing in the background while I sewed but I didn’t go all the way with the couture techniques – and anyway she just made me feel guilty. I gave in eventually and hand-picked the zip which I’d shifted from the back to the left-hand side. I had to do it this way because the bodice of my dress is a completely different colour from the skirt so at least my threads match now and it was so much easier to match the horizontal seams too.

I used a white cotton/linen nubbly weave fabric by Linton Tweeds mixed with a petrol blue silky poly with white horses and carriages on it for the bodice. I made the short sleeved version and kept the back neckline low. Always a little self conscious about arms and my scarred back, I do like a cover-up. With the leftover Linton I made a half of a Paco Unique jacket: ie. just the upper part and sleeves only. The fronts are faced with the same fabric as the dress bodice. And I made a belt too.


If you are wondering, “Is cutting out and sewing your own individual and personalised bunting satisfying and worthwhile?” – NO , it’s not! Just buy the fecking stuff.

And while we’re talking about sewing – the dress…….

Princess seam central. Two-piece sleeves (sort of princess seamed), back bodice – princess seams, back skirt (you guessed it) princess seams….Do it all again for the lining….Get the picture? I don’t mind princess seams usually but they can be tricky especially if your fabric doesn’t stretch at all and your cutting out of the slippery, silky poly is rather inaccurate to begin with. Princess seams allow a lovely fit on the bodice which is easy to alter and creates a much softer silhouette than darts. Just watch those notches and make sure they line up, hence the copious amount of concentration.


Slide1What do you think is better  – princess seams or darts?

I’ve actually just realised that I didn’t topstitch my dress as marked on the illustration, so I suppose the sewing police will be round in a moment or two. Better hurry this up…


We went out to dinner to a really posh hotel and brought the son with us – although he has been there loads of times before of course, while his mother and father haven’t so much as set our poverty stricken feet over the threshold.

Not so much as a new dress but a complete outfit – so I did all right out of that celebration, oh and the boy’s not bad either.



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…..



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