Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



Feeling a little flush from being paid for the examiner work completed in July, I went internet shopping and would like to share with you the new purchases and some super links so that, you too, can spend a tonne of money on really useful, beautiful and necessary things.

The Overlocker (Serger)

I have been hmming and haaaing about getting one of these for years. My sewing machine does a zip-zag and an overlock stitch, so what’s the point in having another machine? Everyone I talked to, who has on overlocker, says they couldn’t do without it.


This isn’t the all singing all dancing overlocker that retails at £1000 and upwards (I don’t get paid that much!) – too scary anyway for a beginner like me – but it isn’t entry level either, just a few steps up. DH is a wiz at finding bargains on the net, so I primed him of the model number and off he went.

He sourced this at John Lewis with free delivery in the UK. The price JL were charging for this model was the same price as everywhere else was charging for the model below. So it was ordered on Tuesday and arrived on Thursday! Almost instant!

Within 10 mins of unpacking and testing, I’d broken it – I lost the chain! I rethreaded and rethreaded and managed to make a chain with 3 not 4 thread. Then I joined the Janome forum, watched a hundred YouTube videos and after a few hours got the thing working again. Not the best start and certainly did not endear the machine to my heart. But I have learnt how to rethread and I do understand a little better about the internal workings.

Still not convinced of the value of an overlocker I have purchased Threads Serger Techniques. This thing is costing me money! I have not had time to sit down and watch throughly but I’ve already learnt how to do a hem.

The Fabric

In premature anticipation of the overlocker I enrolled in the Tilton sisters’ Ultimate T-Shirt class on Craftsy. Got the pattern but held off sewing. Just up the road from our hotel in Salisbury (literally, 100m) was Fabric Land. A veritable medieval shop of hundreds of fabrics – I was in awe! I’ve been on the internet site and it’s absolutely barmy – but the shop and the girls were amazing. Such good prices too!

A whole wall of jersey and knits. I bought 1m each of the following and cut the T-shirts on my return home. Two navy and oatmeal stripes, one broad the other narrow; a pink and a dark grey. The actual pattern calls for .75m (3/4yd) of three contrasting fabrics; that equals over 2m per shirt and I’d only a meter of each. A bit of manipulation around the grain line and a bit of squeezing on every last scrap, four full T-shirts have been cut out.

All cut out and waiting for the overlocker


DH wants me to make him a jacket – fully tailored – oh yeah, Welcome to Saville Row! Like I don’t have enough to make for me… Anyway, I also bought 4m of suiting for his jacket from Fabric Land. It’s a poly/wool mix but it’ll be grand for a muslin and lots to play with. He has been checking out Ralph Lauren fabrics at $60/yd – no pressure in cutting into that then!

The Thread

Even though the overlocker arrived and was working and the T-shirts were cut out and ready to go, I had no overlocker thread. I sourced some at BSK and got three colours best suited to my intended future projects – red, grey and navy. Once again, a very pleasant shopping experience, quick delivery and excellent communication. BSK is now in my bookmarkers for haberdashery and supplies.


The Tailors’ Ham

In all my years of making tailored jacket for myself I’ve used a rolled up towel for pressing the shoulders, collar and lapels.  I thought it was about time to get a tailor’s ham – DH’s jacket being a valid excuse. I suppose I could have made my own, there’s loads of tutorials out there but I found an adorable site and couldn’t resist.

Sew Happy makes commissioned hams and other bits and bobs. Caroline was friendly, communicative and produced exactly what I wanted and all within 5 days. I like to support independent craft workers when my time is short and funds allow.


Cotton barcode on one side


Wool on the other

Stuffed with sawdust I just know this will be invaluable in the sewing room (unlike the overlocker!).

The Patterns

Vogue patterns extended their recent sale so I was able to sneak in a few new pattern purchases too. The new patterns aren’t much to write home about but these three tempted me too much and only one of them is from the new collection!



From the left, V1254 Anne Klein – reminds me of Prada off the shoulder dresses this season; DKNY 1362, super sexy; and Catherine Tilton stretch pants 8837 (for overlocker ha ha!)



Still on the quest for the perfect dress and not wowed by Vogues offerings recently I have been reading about By Hand patterns, specifically the Anna dress. My mum is called Anna, so it was fated by the gods that I should have this pattern. Actually, all the reviews have been super positive and results are just as stunning – see this and this and this and this and this.

Not the cheapest patterns on the market at £12 but compare that to the usual price for the Vogue Anne Klein pattern above $32 (£19). Now let me show what’s inside….

DSC00279DSC00277 Beautifully packaged – just the way a pattern should be. Bit like Collette patterns, you know you are getting something special. A booklet with instructions and layout options and written with a bit of humour and personal touches; the tissue pattern pieces from every size UK 6 – 20; a little card for purse or handbag to remind you of the best types of fabric to use; and last but not least a woven label. All neatly tucked into a lilac folder.

Does anyone else remember getting a woven label with a Vogue pattern? You used to ask the sales assistant for one when you bought a pattern. There were lots of different ones, depending on the pattern. Now if a small independent company like By Hand can do it, Paco does it too and when you buy Linton tweed they include a label – why can’t a giant like Vogue? My own Corecouture woven labels ran out a long time ago – that means I’ve sewn them into 50 garments – so a new order has been placed.


Still another dress pattern is winging it’s way to me as I type and that is the incredible Centre for Pattern Design’s newest pattern and an absolute stunner – The Four Square dress. Four identical pieces cut on the bias, sewed together to produce this elegant and flattering dress. Can’t wait for this one and must go fabric shopping to do it justice.


The Freebies and Nice Links

I’ve found these sites via very circuitous and devious routes but very worthwhile sharing with you. There are lots of things to choose from – dive in…….

How to do Make-up really well – video tutorials by Lisa Eldridge

Full list of free underwear patterns (with pics) along with Deby’s own design free patterns for tops and dresses and an interesting read at So Sew Easy

Rhonda’s wonderful and unique designs – watch out for sleeves on Saturday and Fabulous Free Patterns on Friday (Not new to me, but maybe to you)

Fat free vegan recipes – yeah yeah y’all be hitting this one!

Classical Fabrics – the only shop in Southampton that had air conditioning on a day when the thermometers hit 32 degrees and the polar opposite to Fabric Land.

Doozle – hand made organic skin care. Met Jill at a craft fair in Salisbury and have been using her serum and Gardenia Smoothie since coming home. I can’t say I look 10 years younger but it’s nice to treat yourself once in a while.

The Glasses

And to top it all off I had my eyes tested and needed new specs – gotta see those small stitches!  You know how I like to intimidate and scare my students so a pair of full framed tortoise shell were selected, Versace no less! And with the right scowl on my face (I am practising)  and maybe having conquered the overlocker (practising that too),  I will be a formidable force to be reckoned with come September.


30 thoughts on “Goodies

  1. I hope you learn to love your overlocker – thankfully I have the baby lock with the air-feed system which is a dream, but I understand your reluctance to spend that much first time round (I had one of the original baby lock machines which still works and its about 30 years old now).

    I purchased some Vogue patterns recently had had labels in them???? I remember them from years ago, perhaps they were just in the designer ones but definitely there.

    nice glasses, and great teacher scowl

  2. Oh my goodness, it’s Christmas in August in Ireland. So many wonderful new goodies. I’m looking forward to seeing your take on all those patterns.
    Thanks so much for the shout out!!

  3. Congratulations on your new overlocker! Once you get the hang of threading it you will be sewing like crazy on it! I bought one last fall and smile every time I use it.

    I’d love it if more independent pattern companies would include labels with their patterns. If you ever purchase fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics, they include woven labels too!

  4. OOh I’d love to try a serger one day. Getting that better finish would make me feel better about my own sewing, less homemade, more handmade! And thank you for the mention of my site at So Sew Easy. Very kind. I’m an avid follower of your creations – oh and I’m going for an eye test too this week. I made a mistake, had to unpick black stitches from black fabric and in the end gave up and had to take it to my local sewing shop to unpick for me – how embarrassing…

  5. Have just found your site; love reading it so much, with the odd laugh or two. Now inspired to ‘carry on’ sewing even though my fingers are not as nimble as they used to be.

  6. I also am trying to make friends with my serger, a Brother 1034. They are so fiddley, and I can sew a tee in the time it would take me to learn. Still….

    Good luck, and great glasses!

  7. Even though the really expensive overlockers are fabulous, I traded one in for a less fancy one many years ago. My lower end Pfaff has been going strong since 1996, and I use it on almost every garment. It helps to have a good basic reference manual. Took a class and we worked through the ABCs of serging. Most stuff I don’t use, but it did teach me what my machine was capable of!

    Your new fabrics look fabulous and you’ll have such fun with them. Using the overlocker you should be able to make a tee in an hour or so. That’s really instant gratification! AND, lastly, I’m so happy you bought that pattern from Center for Pattern Design. I just know you’ll look fabulous in it, and do a fantastic job on the dress.

    Love the new glasses. You look SOOO intimidating. LOL

  8. What a fun post! I imagine you’ll love your serger before long. I did not touch mine for 6 months, I was so intimidated by it! Now I’m one of those ‘cannot live without it’ sewists. Fab fabric and patterns and threads and ham. And glasses. Wow. I need some of your self-indulgence, would feel good. BTW, I think Lisa Eldridge does beautiful makeup, found her video on ‘mature’ faces some time ago, she’s really good!

    • I’ve done her smokey eyes but I can’t decide whether I look sultry and sexy or just haven’t slept well in a week! I need to make friends with this serger….

  9. oh! I want that four square dress! Confession: I have an overlocker (came in a package deal with the regular machine) and I have NEVER used it. Intimidated? Too lazy to thread? Happy with my overlock stitch? All of the above I suppose.

  10. Congrats on the deal on the overlocker! I bought my first one back in 1980 and they were so new it cost $1600 and it only did one thing with one needle and 3 threads…but it was divine, then I bought a 3 thread with differential, and a 4 thread and I still have them along with another that converts to a 2 thread…I have 3 of them on the tables at all times, threaded up with the different colors I use every day. Everything is taken from the cutting table to the serger and edges trimmed and ready to be sewn. In the 30+ years I have never used 2 needles nor 4 threads..just seems too bulky and a drag to thread. Three thread is so versatile for going around curves and it is always ready to make a rolled hem with the flick of the switch. Yes I remember the Vogue labels…where did they all go? That four-square dress looks like it would require a pair of Spanx underneath to look good!

  11. Ah ha – insight! Thank you Mrs Mole – you cut, then overlock, then sew. I’m still on the 4 thread, 2 needle set up that the machine came with – give me time – 3 thread, 1 needle you say?
    Spanx?! With my svelte figure? Really…….LOL

  12. Enjoyed your post about the overlocker etc. Good practice to get to thread it from nothing – I now deliberately rethread until I get it right, an invaluable skill when you are in the middle of a project and a thread breaks. Like Mrs Mole I have a few as I have traded up and kept the originals it is so handy to have a 2, 3 and 4 thread machine available at once. I also bought a coverstitch recently and had to go back to school on learning how to thread and use the puppie! I cannot wait to see you Tshirts and envy your use of the Craftsy classes – I bought a few but my satellite connection does not allow me to watch them (time out all the time).

    • Thanks for the encouragement Jacqui. I think that it’s the fact that I have to learn how to use the overlocker and not sit down and be brilliant immediately that has been the problem – bit humbling!

  13. I got a Janome overlocker for my birthday in April (not such a swish model as yours!) and felt thrilled and intimidated all at the same time. I’ve predominantly been using it for finishing neatly and the neat seams make me very happy. I was lucky enough to be able to go back to the shop for a lesson and she too recommended 3 thread and single needle for just about everything. I’m now ready to tackle my first knit garment I think 🙂

  14. Congrats on the new overlocker! Once you get used to it you will love it! But can I tell you that I love that you pointed to UK stockists for your needs. As an American I’m always curious to see what fellow stitchers around the world use to stock their sewing rooms so thanks for sharing that and satisfying my curiosity. Finally, you are going to be stitching up some amazing pieces with your new patterns!

    • I added the UK stockist primarily to help out UK sewers – I’ve stopped buying from the US as the tax man seemed to directly target any packages with my name on them and I had to pay the import duty. America’s prices are way cheaper (even with postage) than UK and you have such a huge choice it makes us envious. But with a little effort and good bookmarking, most things can be sourced here too. Thanks Carolyn.

  15. I am sure you will be amazed at how quickly you wont want to be without your overlocker – I would be heartbroken if mine broke down. That said, they do have the mentality of a supermarket trolley. I have used them for years but recently bought (on sale) the Craftsy Beginners overlocker course. I was very ashamed at how little variation I used of this amazing machines capabilities.
    Like you I had a little surplus this year – which obviously had to be spent on something sewing related – so I bought a Coverstitch machine. The jury is out on that.

  16. Nice goodies! Thanks for the mention 🙂 I’m honoured!

  17. when i first got my overlocker i spent many hours frustrated with re-threading…until my mother told me that if the overlocker gets tangled or looses a thread or whatever, you must re-thread from scratch otherwise it will give you headaches! i tried that & ive never had a days trouble since. Im not sure if its logic or if the total re-thread just calms the mind but it certainly has worked for me.
    keep your machine well oiled (if its one of those that need oiling), clean of fluff & lint & she will give you many many years of joy.
    I am personally on an overlocker “diet” just because I came to rely on it too much & I wanted to learn new techniques on finishing seams (french, hong kong etc) but I will use ‘ol Ellie again soon.
    oh & those glasses are lovely…suit you 100%.

  18. Pingback: Indies 2 – Anna | corecouture

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