Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


The Letterless Letterman

Pay attention now, today we are going to learn something about men’s fashion……There is extra information and learning resources in the links below and I expect you all to do your own research and independent reading in preparation for your assignment due next week.

A bomber jacket:
typically made in leather or shearling with a collar, two front pockets and sometimes a zipped pocket on the left sleeve.

81DNbhWN8kL._SL1214_A Harrington jacket: usually cotton twill traditionally with a tartan lining, two front pockets and collar.


A Letterman jacket: often made in wool, sometimes with raglan sleeves; two front pockets and collar in rib knit.


All jackets have common features – rib knit around the hem and sleeves, pockets, length just above hip/below waist and were created for practicable menswear: bomber jackets for WWII pilots, Harringtons for golfers and the Letterman (also known as the Varsity Jacket) closely linked to Harvard University’s baseball team.

Easy now girls – here are some pictures of movie stars in jackets.


Mmmmmm Steve…..        Right, where was I? Oh yes…

Thanks to your previous knowledge and expertise you recently directed me to a range of patterns suitable for teenage son who requested a jacket. I ended up selecting Burda 09/2014 134 as it is downloadable (almost instant) and cheap £3.99.

134_flat_large 134-092014-M_large

All tiled, taped, seam allowances added and cut out; for your information, there are no separate pieces for the pockets you have to trace these off the front pattern and the waist and sleeve bands are just measured rectangles. The jacket has an applique letter, single welt pockets, separating long zip and is fully lined. The instructions were written in a language that I have never encountered before so for a simple looking jacket this was a major learning project. When all else fails, slip stitch the lining!



My son is very conservative in his colour palette – navy. I chose a navy quilted poly and a navy cotton/silk lining. His preferences lie in the plain and unadorned: absolutely no logos on his clothes, I have ripped out the Nike tick from sweatshirts and Hollister T-shirts are relegated to sleepwear only. After some consultation, we arrived at the final design – he refused to have the letter on his Letterman and wanted a Harrington collar instead of the rib knit version and most definitely not tight or fitted. In readiness for the next four years of learning, discovery and fun we proudly present the Letterless Letterman…with a rather reluctant model…








Action shot

For those of you who had to wear school uniform do you remember all those woven name tags that had to be sewn into shirts, skirts, trousers, socks, pants, shoes, blazer and anything item that was not tied down? Well I found a few left over from primary school days and of course one had to be sewn into this jacket – just in case there is another one exactly the same at uni!


Leftovers were made into a scarf (with name tag too).


Fully lined


I always have a problem joining front facings to the hem. I have to ‘patch’ the join in nearly every jacket I make and this one was no exception. Any suggestions about what I’m doing wrong or better still, how to do it right, will be gratefully received.


Over the next few weeks children who once were little will be heading off to university.


Good luck, work hard, enjoy yourselves, phone your mothers once in a while and do your own washing before you come home!


M&M Work Wear

RYE5506-816x1024I didn’t complete the Merchant and Mills Workbook this summer – yeah, yeah  – bad girl!

There is one pattern that I know with absolute certainty that I will definitely not like:  ievet will not suit me and I will never wear – so why make it?

The last and unmade pattern is The Saltmarsh skirt. This is, in a nutshell, a rectangle (with some darts) with a drawstring waist. To its credit the skirt has pockets and you could make it any length you want. Just not for me so I skipped it. Certainly for many others, this might just what you’re looking for.

I have come the end of a torturous, enforced (it’s in my contract) six week vacation and I now have to start thinking of ways to intimidate and scare the new students who will walk through my classroom doors in a couple of weeks. Apart from my irascible personality and well practised scowl, one of the best methods is clothing.

I have loved my wrinkled linen and cool cotton M&M garments and they came in really useful for our one day of summer which happened last Tuesday but I turned to the Workbook once again in preparation for the upcoming start of term to make some workwear.

The fabric is institution grey in a fine cotton chambray: a gentle drape with just the right amount of wrinkle-ness to soften the severe look and is gorgeous to wear against the skin. Found at Cheapest Fabrics UK (which is the most unbecoming of ebay shop titles) in spite of some of the loveliest cloths I’ve found this summer. Most of my M&M wardrobe was supplied by this shop.

I made another pair of Strides and another Heron wrap top for a complete, serious and “Don’t-Mess-With-Me” look from the students’ perspective and will equally take me to the boardroom when The Management rely upon my wisdom and experience to advise and help them through the upcoming tumultuous year of yet more restructuring and budget cuts without offering me a bonus or pay increase.

So, instead of casual linen here’s the professional version and hopefully shows how a simple change of fabric can change the look and appropriateness of the same garment.


The grey chambray had a darker wrong side and I used this on the reveres of the Heron to try and break up the uniformity of plain grey from head to toe.


I added 1″ to the trouser length and this way I can wear flats (as in these photos) as well as a slight heel for extra intimidation appeal. With flats the trousers have that slouchy Great Gatsby look and with heels they take on a more tailored appearance.


At the armholes on the Heron wrap top I sewed the gap much closer this time so it’s perfectly respectable to wear without a cami underneath – people of any age or gender just won’t take you seriously when your old off-white bra is on show! However, the armholes are not tight enough that I can’t wear a long or 3/4 length sleeved top underneath.


Remember, these are waist-high trousers and so the pockets are also higher than you might be used to. Waist-high trousers are lovely in my view – good coverage, no muffins or thongs on show and at my age, much more comfortable and reliable – my tucked in shirt stays tucked in!


My first pair of Strides were cut, sewn. made and worn exactly from the pattern and I found the back was a tad roomy, even for baggy trousers. This pair had the back crotch dropped by 3/4″ for a better fit at the back. I made no alterations to the front apart from grading into the new back crotch line and there’s still plenty of room there. But these are intended to be baggy trousers – that’s their style – too much tinkering will take away from the original aesthetic.


Should I ever wish to go along the Churchill WWII look or join the impractical jumpsuit following, then all I have to do is tuck the Heron top into the Strides; but I can still use the Ladies room without completely undressing.

While the public view is school grey bland, the inside tells a different story.


A bit of quilting cotton not used for teenage son’s quilt found a perfect home as pockets and fly guard. See how that chambray presses into a perfect crease?


Didn’t have a flat trouser hook and loop in the notions box so to close the front waistband  I extended it and used a button instead. Use what you have, adapt and change and don’t let a pattern intimidate you.

The only thing you want to see the backside now though don’t you? I must admit, this is one view that is missing from the M&M workbook, so here’s mine instead.


Draglines – don’t you dare!!!

And uneven hemlines – that’s merely my posture – carrying shoulder strap handbags on my left side has made me droop. Note to self-do more yoga.

I intend to continue my workwear wardrobe using M&M Workbook as I have already purchased and sitting waiting some navy wool/alpaca/linen blend (imagine!) for a second Haremere jacket which will be a coat, and some navy-denim-ish wool/linen/cotton blend for another Curlew dress. Wouldn’t it be really nice to make the coat the same length as the dress and the dress hem just right to cut the top of knee-high boots? The Boardroom Boys won’t know what’s hit them and the Boardroom Gals will just be spiteful of my erudition because I’ll be better dressed than them. Oh the perils of sewing your own clothes!

Of course, this is just planning at this stage; I have a jacket to make for teenage son yet and in a fit of generosity the other night (might have been the wine talking though) I offered to make jackets for my son’s two lifelong friends from primary school who are also heading off to uni this year. One mother – you know who you are! -pushed her luck and wanted one for herself instead, in fact she asked for a Chanel first! – we’ll see…………

Thanks so much for all your pattern suggestions for this jacket – I have already started so just wait a week or two for hopefully the finished item.


Was this summer? And is it over?


Pattern Whisperers Wanted and a Bag

Our kid wants a bomber jacket to match his Big Bang quilt. Must be navy, in quilted fabric and look like this –


Apparently, no other variations are tolerable.

I have 3m of navy, quilted poly (yuk) with a % of spandex, a very long zip and matching thread – all I need is the pattern.


So off you go….a men’s jacket pattern please that doesn’t cost the earth and your recommendations and advice if you’ve already made it. Teenage son is 6’6″ (1.96cm), very broad shoulders and extremely fussy!  Much appreciated in advance.

Now something for us girls……

For my recent trip away which was only for four days and i carried only cabin luggage my packing and luggage had to meet the restrictions of security and EasyJet.

Cabin luggage must not exceed
Maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25cm including handles and wheels or else they’ll charge you an extra ££ for hold. Imagine having to pay £30 because of a couple of extra inches!

All cosmetics and liquids etc must be under 100 ml and stuffed into a plastic freezer bag.


You can bring liquids in your cabin baggage as long as:

  • they are stored in containers no bigger than 100ml and;
  • carried in a clear, re-sealable plastic bag with maximum dimensions of 20 x 20cms.

Each passenger can carry a maximum of 1000ml (e.g. 10 x 100ml). You’ll need to present your bag at security and you may be asked to dispose of liquids that do not meet these requirements.

Does anyone else see the futility of this rule? I mean, a beautiful hand sewn quilted, double walled cosmetics bag with a zip is obviously much more secure and pretty than a flimsy plastic bag which can be ripped as easily as, well, a plastic bag.


Who would want to destroy such a thing of beauty, that someone (maybe your mother) took the time to choose the right fabrics and then sew them all together? A plastic bag – who cares? Anyway, I needed to fly, so I complied with the plastic bag aesthetic, but rest assured, with intense indignation.

In our house we have suitcases –  a giant sized one that holds enough for a family of three for a fortnight, a weekend sized one adequate for two, even my mother’s 1960s honeymoon blue Antler;

$_86We have carry-all bags that are great for weekends away when you drive to the destination;

523ce8381f35266423b62f75bb609675We have one night only sized bags – enough for a toothbrush and pair of knickers. But did we have a bag that is big enough but not big enough, for a few days away? No.

Best solution then was to make one.


The pattern is designed by my quilting class teacher – Yvonne. It’s called the Aomori Bag which is a city in Japan. On the Quilter’s Quest website the patterns are not listed but if you really want this then just contact Yvonne and I’m sure she’ll be more than pleased to post it to you.

Measuring a perfect 15″ X 21″ X 6″ it is within an inch of the current limits and because it’s fabric and soft, can be squeezed and moulded to fit the cabin luggage requirements.

This is genuinely the first ‘real’ bag I’ve ever made. I have sewn a few others  here and here – but this one had to withstand the rigors of travel along with the so-called traditional female efforts of over-stuffing and so-called traditional male efforts of airport security. It has metal feet, a reinforced bottom with gussets and straps, a zip and loads of pockets.



I was surprised by the number of pieces: most of which are lined and so doubles the cutting and fabric and sewing. I choose LIme Twist fabrics from Henley Studio Collection simply because I wear so much grey that I hoped this would travel well with me anytime and anywhere.

As I was intending to walk through any international airport in the world with this bag and I would no doubt probably be distracted by duty-free shiny things  (me being female and all) I included a zip for personal security (not in the pattern) so I had to make a gusset. I just used the bottom pattern piece as a template, added some seam allowances for the zip and voila, a zip closure. Best advice I can give is to not overthink this – it’s not complicated, unless you make it so. Same size as template plus 5/8″ for the zip in the centre and the L and R seam allowances on the edges.


As usual, I hate to not use leftovers, so there was a bit of editing involved with the original pattern. I added pockets inside and out and even used the cutouts from the bottom corners to make a zip pull.

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One side has elasticated pockets to hold bottled water etc and the other has plain, straight versions to hold folded over Burda magazines.

I also added two lengths of straps – a short and a long for variation, primarily to use up the scraps and secondly to make me look stylish, no matter what the fashion – low slung or under arm – I’m ready!

DSCN5591 DSCN5593

The result is that my bag made it through security although I was subjected to one degree less than full body cavity searching.

Really? I look like an international terrorist to you? I actually want to carry hand-made quilted cosmetic bags instead of plastic ones – doesn’t that tell you enough?


Whoops! that’s not actually me….but I dress really well.

BTW –  Just finished summer reading of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – so might just be feeling a little bit trod upon and need to re-assert myself.


Edited to add: I forgot to mention what I managed to pack into the bag – mostly from the Merchant and Mills Workbook:

2 pair trousers (Strides and grey linen pair)

2 jumpers

1 cardigan

4 sleeveless T-shirts (Bantams)

1 long sleeved T-shirt (Curlew)

1 pair shoes

1 jacket (Haremere)

1 shawl and 1 scarf

6 pairs of knickers (in case of emergencies), 2 bras

2 pair of socks

Plastic bag of makeup and cosmetics


M&M Story

Now, here’s another story…….this has been a summer of reconnections and reconciliations for me.

Haworth - The Bronte's home village

Haworth – The Bronte’s home village

I was making myself look better than I am on Linkedin a few weeks ago when, for some reason, I began to think about an old friend of mine from way back when I lived in London and thought she might be listed too. We lost touch – no fall out or dramatics – our lives just headed off in different directions. So I began to search for Caroline. Couldn’t find her but I did find her husband and I messaged him.

To cut a long story short: they have divorced but I did get an email for Caroline and I contacted her. A few emails later I booked the cheapest flight option possible and flew to Manchester, England. We haven’t talked or met in 20 years but I have just spent the most relaxing, chilled out and pleasant 4 days in Lancaster with a very dear friend. It was like we had only said goodbye last week. It’s good to be impetuous sometimes!


I packed my Merchant and Mills capsule wardrobe (sans dress) as I was travelling with only cabin baggage.

Four Bantams, one pair of Strides, one Curlew long sleeved top, one Haremere jacket and a few other items.

Caroline is a very talented photographer these days; she’s one of those people who is successful in whatever venture she tries. She kindly offered to photograph the remaining pieces in the Merchant and Mills Workbook for this blog. So most of today’s pics are in focus, perfectly lit and cropped.



First up is the trousers from the Workbook – Strides. These were made in a lightweight wool blended with cotton and METAL! The metal threads hold the wrinkles and creases and the fabric looks like linen.

Strides are wide-legged, pleated in front and influenced by classic menswear. I haven’t worn pleated trousers since Bananarama! Slanted front pockets, front zip with inside fly guard and a waistband that sits at the waist.

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The pattern is easily adapted to make shorts or any other length of trousers you want. I traced and made UK 12 straight from the book without any alterations at all. They fit perfectly. I am so impressed with these patterns – really enamoured.


While pleated and loose, Strides are not overwhelming or baggy; the pleats are minimal. Worn in these pics with two Bantams, white cotton jersey and black muslin.

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Inside, the fly guard is buttoned. Roobeedoo pointed out that there is a mistake in the instructions and they are a little confusing about what’s on the left or right hand side. Take your time and figure it out and it will be OK.

DSCN5474An overlocker (serger) is useful when making M&M patterns but not essential – your zig-zag stitch will do the job too for finishing seams. I’m so pleased with these trousers that they get the ultimate accolade of my label!



The Strides are described as “probably the most advanced pattern in the book” but personally, I thought the Haremere jacket was.

The Haremere


14 pattern pieces with lined sleeves and quarter lined shoulders; patch pockets (lined), two piece sleeves, dropped shoulders and a rolled shawl collar. No tailoring for a casual, relaxed look.

© again traced and made exactly from the book. The Haremere comes in sm, med and large. I made the medium. My sleeves are a touch on the long side so I’ve adopted the folded back cuff look which shows off the lining.

© of overlocking the seams I Hong Konged them (rather badly) but it was my first time doing this technique so I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

This jacket is made in a grey/white striped linen with a cotton voile lining. I didn’t want to put a sweaty polyester on the inside. You could leave the lining out completely if you wanted a quick make but you do need to finish all internal the seams. The front facings and all the hems are interfaced for a little bit of structure.

© had a bit of trouble finishing the inside where the front facing meets the hem so I sewed a couple of triangles to cover the mess. Otherwise, it sewed up fine.

DSCN5548This pattern can be easily lengthened to make a coat and will work in both lightweight and heavier fabrics like tweed.

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Thanks again to Caroline for taking the photos and giving me a home from home for a few days. You can check out Caroline’s photography at – well worth a look!

PS: thanks to you all for such supportive and encouraging comments on my last post. I couldn’t reply to each one as I was away and couldn’t remember my own password! But I was, and continue to be, touched by your kindness.



I’m interrupting M&M Workbook posts for a different story. I could have titled this post – The Power of Sewing or The Happy Ending or Quilts For Forgiveness or Making Up – but in the end I settled on what I named my latest quilt. I have a sister; you will not have heard her mentioned on the blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, and a little bit longer, we haven’t spoken to each other. About 5 years now.

My sister is younger than me, prettier, very sociable and personable, fitter and slimmer, and life and soul of any party. But this is not why we fell out. My sister has three boys and they were born within a few years of my son; our boys grew up with one another. Every Saturday and bank holiday when the boys were young we would go to a park or the beach or just to one another’s house. We went away for days at a time to the coast and had a laugh – a truly wonderful childhood we provided for our sons.

Like all family fall outs it’s simple and it’s complicated.

A month goes by, then two and before you know it a year has passed. It gets easier not talking. Another year and another. It broke my heart. It was easier to not think about what we’d lost and still time passed.

My sister has been sick, I mean very sick. As she was dealing with chemo and radio and drugs and all the side effects, I wasn’t there and it just about empties my soul thinking about it. Guilty, yes but more like sadness, a profound and overwhelming sadness.

In June this year I texted my sister and told her I sewed and was now making quilts. I gave her this blog address as I’d just posted about my son’s Big Bang quilt. I asked what colours she liked. I wasn’t really expecting a reply.

However, I did receive a short answer – blues and turquoise.


Immediately I sought out fabric and spent many happy and involved hours deciding on a pattern.Every summer when we were children we spent months by the seaside, climbing over rocks, investigating rockpools and swimming. My sister loved to swim when she was young, she loves hot climates by the sea and loves bright, happy colours.

This is her quilt – Rockpools:


For the last 5 years we have given our nephews their Christmas and birthday presents through a third party – our parents.  However, if I make anything for someone else then there is one condition that must be adhered to – I hand over the item in person. A neutral location, a time arranged with a limit and the quilt would be given over to its new owner. I don’t mind telling you that I was nervous: What would we say to one another? Would she even like the quilt? How would it end?


And this is the happy part. My sister loved, I mean loved, the quilt. We talked easily and freely for half an hour, smiled and even laughed a little. I received more texts from her that same afternoon about the quilt and we were still texting each other well into the next day.


I’m not claiming that the last five years have all been erased or the hurt and pain has gone, but it’s a start. A very positive and encouraging start.


Without this quilt we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. It’s up to me to make the most of it…….


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