Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.


Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.


Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.


All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.


Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.


If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.


But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.


And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.


I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.


So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?


This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?


I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?



Patternless Skirt

As part of our sewing day away the ladies all brought fabric, patterns and notions for the donate-swap table. As I don’t have much of a stash, I had to dive deep into the blanket box to see what lengths and leftovers were lurking there. I came up with a few serviceable pieces, one of them being this, which actually stayed home with me.


Navy distressed wool pinstripe from The Cloth House, London; the bulk of the fabric having been used to make culottes a few years back.


Enough to make a pencil skirt, roughly 50″ X 25″ (127 x 64cm). So the fabric was wrapped around Doris while I went off to locate a suitable pattern. However, I looked at the draping on the mannequin and thought – that looks interesting as it is – let’s make a skirt without a pattern. I mean it’s only leftover fabric anyway that had been long forgotten, nothing to lose.

Here’s how to make a skirt without a pattern. It helps if you have a mannequin but if you don’t then just use yourself and get a little help from someone with the pinning for darts.


This will be a lined wrap skirt with an asymmetrical hemline.










Pin the fabric to the mannequin, overlapping the fronts at an angle. Pinch out the excess at the back to make two darts and do the same at the sides. Four small darts for shaping.


Cut a waistband facing (I used another fabric) the same width of the ‘skirt’ and sew to the top edge. Cut the lining a little smaller than the skirt’s width and sew to the facing and the two sides, leaving the hem open.


Turn to the right side and press well, especially down the short edges. As the lining is smaller the edges should turn under neatly.


Fold up the raw edge of the hem lining a little higher than the skirt hem and sew.


The lining is not edge to edge therefore and should not be seen from the outside. You may have to make a few folds/pleats in the lining to make it fit within the confines of the skirt.

Make a buttonhole on the right hand side at hip and sew a button to the left side. This will hold the skirt up.


Recently I bought a few zips from Minerva and there was this brilliant deal for £1 – a bag full of assorted zips. Most are open ended chunky plastic type zips. I took a black one of these and sewed it to the wrap edge of the skirt.


No attempt to hide the zip was made because it’s a design feature! This keeps the wrap wrapped.

When you look at a piece of fabric and think it’s not worth keeping – think again.



One Thing……

…..leads to another, and possibly another and yet another.

Paco's Skirt - Finished

Once upon a time, long, long ago there was a lady (and I use that term advisedly – those who know her might well chose an alternative nomenclature) who sewed her own clothes.

Quite happily alone she bought fabric and patterns; cut and sewed and wore the things she made. Sometimes when making these things there were techniques and skills which she didn’t know how to do nor understand, so she researched and learned these things the old fashioned way by reading books.

One day, under advisement from her partner, she trawled the Internet to see if there was any information on making welt pockets.  He, apparently, was adept at making scale models of ‘things’ and was already a member of many well known Internet forums who specialised in such details. Not really expecting to uncover anything of much value to home sewing, the lady was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of sites that seemed to be in existence solely to help her make some pockets. What was most amazing was that many of these sites were written and photographed by people who seemed to be just like her – sewing at home and wearing their makes with the exception that they were freely sharing their experiences and clothes with the rest of the world. The lady obsessively read, devoured and scoured all the blogs and posts she possibly could and learned so much more than just how to make welt pockets.

After a little while, the lady began to feel slightly guilty about all this taking from others and not giving anything back, so she started her own sewing blog on the off-chance it might just help and inspire someone else – just as she had been helped and inspired by others’.

Like life, the more you put in the more you get out and over time other sewers contacted the lady via comments and email. This made her feel vindicated about the earlier guilt and additionally reassured her that she was not alone. Until this happened she erroneously thought she was a sewing Robinson Crusoe, isolated on her island home. She was really happy when a sewing lady from the same island made contact, then another and another.


This little band of lady sewers and crafters met each other in real life and had occasional outings and cups of coffee together and everything was fine. They went home afterwards and sewed.

One day a New Lady arrived from France via England.  She had magical powers.



The New Lady was motivated and organised…. for years and years the individual island sewers sewed solitary in their separate dining rooms and kitchens but now they were presented with A New Way.

The New Lady used Instagram (janeinireland) to weave her magic spell.

castle-ward-6The isolated island sewers were enchanted. Under the direction and experience of the Lady Jane they negotiated and discussed and planned and one day, equipped with the special tools of sewing, they gathered together at a Castle by a lough.


On the last Saturday in the month of the New Year only six months after she had arrived, Lady Jane arranged for the island sewers to have exclusive use of the stables at the Castle. A large, well heated room with long bench tables for each sewer, lots of power points and a kitchen was made available all day. Tea and coffee, scones and cake, buns and tray bakes magically appeared and just as magically disappeared.castle-ward-county-down

And what did these, until recently, isolated sewers do? They sewed. There was also a lot of talking and laughing; ohhing and ahhing; fondling of other people’s fabric and personal reviewing of patterns but that did not apparently interfere with the main purpose of gathering together.

They made tops and dresses and skirts and coats and home decorations: they cut out and sewed and overlocked and ate and chatted; they swapped unwanted fabrics and patterns with those they desired: everyone went home happy.


Picture via the courtesy of Jane’s IG

I’d like to tell you that they all lived happily ever after – but. of course, that’s not the end of the story…….


Armed with fabric from Fabworks and a pattern from Bootstrap, the lady taped and cut in readiness for assembly on the magical sewing day at the Castle. Just before the bewitching hour, about 4.00pm, the only thing left to do was hemming and a bit of hand stitching. A few days later a skirt was complete.

Not content with only one item, the lady had a little spare fabric leftover which was put to very good use by being transformed into a Paco Peralta draped top.


Worn together, the skirt and top could pass for a dress with a very slight Vivienne Westwood-esque vibe.

The skirt has folds at the wrap. a deep waistband that is practically a yoke and is fully lined, which provided no end of headaches involving mental rotations, inside out flipping and turning, to get right.


All of this was sewn because the lady’s partner bought her a navy blazer for Christmas….and she had absolutely nothing to wear to the ball….

That’s not end of the story either because the Fabworks fairies sent more fabric but we’ll save that for another day…….


@ozzyblackbeard, @ailz_, @seasaltstitches, @loridux, @stitchandink, @janeinireland

#castleward, #sewingtogether



Sewn, Worn, not Blogged

Instead of doing a review of my 2017 sewing; the good the bad and the ugly sort of thing, I’m showing things I made but never photographed (until now) and hence never blogged. I bet a lot of you do this too – make stuff, wear it but just never get around to taking pretty pictures and writing about them. I can’t promise pretty pictures here either……and fabric sources, exact patterns, modifications and alterations will be pretty scant as I can’t remember all the details. Additionally, please forgive me for poor styling, lack of shoes, un-ironed and creases – there were A LOT of wardrobe changes!

Self drafted Breton top and


Pirate pencil skirt and scarf


Vogue 9268 dress


Vogue 1410 dress: very kindly traced and sent to me by Kim the fabulous Material Lady


Bootstrap gathered halter top


Vogue 1477 twisted top tunic/dress


Vogue 1215 (Chado ralph rucci OOP) chartreuse spotty shirt without shirt tails













Vogue 1215 grey silk shirt, shirt tails and tucks


Vogue 1215 white cotton shirt without tucks


StyleArc Hazel brown wool flecked jumper with modified neckline and welt pocket


….worn with RTW brown wool trousers – altered to cropped and in-seam side pockets added.

Vogue 1550 fine wool grey trousers the final part of A/W O collection and my favourite so far.



I’ve been reading with interest all the sewing reviews 2017 and more importantly the plans and schemes for sewing 2018.

Make Nine 2018

SWAP ’18



Stashbusting, Competitions, Only sewing indie patterns, Only sewing Burda, Only sewing Marfy, Finishing UFOs, Resolutions to not-buy-anymore-fabric, Resolutions to use the patterns I already have (HA HA HA!) and loads of other challenges – all very inspiring and motivating. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll watch or stalk.

Finally, if you’re stuck for something to sew or need some ideas then I’d like to bring your attention to a French site – United Patterns. They bring together all the indie pattern companies in one place; Jeanne has done all the legwork, all you have to do is peruse the offerings. United Patterns does not sell the patterns but has all the links you need so that you can.

Thank you once again for your continued support and encouragement; your funny, complementary and critical comments; reading and writing and sewing.

A very Happy New Year to you all!

Health, happiness and lots of successful sewing













Dior-esque “17

Quite honestly, I have no idea where this came from…there I was (almost) happily sewing up an Oska inspired winter collection and then I veered way off track. 51CSULc-dUL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_Oska and related designers leave out the feminine hourglass shape and go for comfort. I have totally adopted this aesthetic and find it both comforting and classy, yet, I still harken after a fitted look.

I have been reading, and I mean actually reading and not just looking at the pictures, The Golden Age of Haute Couture 1947-1957. A V&A book production that is a combination of history, academic research, fashion and insight. The principal designer covered in the book is Dior and his post-war New Look -full skirts and nipped in waists – a rebellion against austerity and rationing.

I have worn the same two dresses on the Big Day and accompanying festivities for about five years now, so it really is about time I updated. Mind you these two dresses are true classics and will survive for many more years yet.


Linton Tweed red and ivory boiled wool. Both are sewn from McCalls 2401 – a true classic sheaf dress with loads of variations and options. I believe it’s OOP but it shouldn’t be – if you ever get a chance – buy it!







Tartan/plaid/checks are always popular around the Christmas and the New Year period.

bobby-brown-red-grey-check-plaid-tartan-cotton-fabric-cudI found some non-traditional tartan at Croftmill in greys (my fav colour) with reds and orange and navy – all my other favourite colours in one cloth! Too good to pass over. This is a shirting cotton but in my winter muddled mind I envisioned a festive dress in lightweight wool: I truly and actually know it’s cotton but I can sew it to look like wool – Can’t I?



Skirt is the first major absorber of fabric as I opted for a circle. Best option is always Paco Peralta’s half circle skirt. This skirt feels and moves like a full circle but is much more manageable and uses half the fabric. You get the drape and swirl without the girth. il_570xN.271636588Honestly, let’s face it, hips that are hips do not need extra attention drawn to them.

A beautiful pattern – every sewer should have this one in their arsenal too. The original pattern includes two lengths, lining and personally, perfectly hand drafted. No sewing instructions but you only have to look online for real-life sewers contribution tips and finished versions and it is actually a relatively simple but deceptively well crafted skirt that it could be figured out by beginner-intermediate sewers and additionally you get the perfect garment. I’ve made it loads of times – cotton, jersey, linen.  This time, I also managed to include an inseam pocket and cut the longer length for holiday drama.


As swirly and drapey as this skirt is on its own, I then moved into the Twilight Zone and thought – what if I put a petticoat underneath? I am moving into an alternative universe at this point – I am a person who has always eschewed the full circle skirts of the 1950s and opted for the more slimline pencil silhouette. But Hey ho… I bought some red netting and red poly cotton and hacked together a puffy petticoat.


Using the same Paco skirt pattern for the petticoat, I get the same drape and fullness as the skirt. Even if I say this myself, I did some nice sewing on a garment that will (should) not be seen: ribbon trims on the netting seams and French seams throughout, just in case it does actually comes on show. The waist is merely closed with a tie which should allow for easy release after a Christmas dinner.

Shouldn’t everyone have a red petticoat even if it only hangs in the wardrobe??


Needless to say there was leftover fabric and you know I can’t leave well enough alone, so I made the bodice from vintage Vogue 1136 (OOP) . I added a few inches to the bodice length but that was the only alteration. I think we should all look a little more closely at dress bodices that can be made into tops.

A beautiful back neckline with cross-over back bands and generous sewn-on  cap sleeves.


In order to to be able to actually get this ‘top’ on, the zip is reversed and opens from the bottom. As I was working with leftovers, matching checks was random and I don’t mind in the slightest. It may not be acceptable in the haute couture houses in Paris but for a Christmas dinner in Belfast, it’s fine!

And….then there were more leftovers but we are down to scraps at this point, so I made a eight core corset belt from Burda (so old I have no record of the issue date or number). No chance of putting on weight with this one…..


The corset belt was stiffened with all my scraps of interfacing – iron-on, sew-on and every weight available – a bit like a patchwork of interfacing. It is firm but soft enough to sit down in without causing a loss of blood or oxygen to vital organs.

The belt is secured with true corset hooks and eyes purchased from the Aladdin’s Cave of Sew ‘n’ Sew in Belfast city centre. You want what?? Yeah we have that somewhere…..


Instead of a Christmas dress, I have Christmas separates that look like a dress.


Hopefully, I have paid homage to Mons. Dior with his revolutionary skirts and used Sn Peralta designs to make this idea a reality.

The skirt and top without the belt…..but with cat


An inordinate amount of space on the sofa is taken up with skirt and petticoat however…..


I do not have the hand-span waist (19″) that Dior designs demanded but perhaps some 21st century Spandex might help.


My apologies to the perfectionist but I find interest in a certain amount of originality and uniqueness in mis-matched checks especially for the minor pieces in this ensemble.


Truly, I thank you, one and all, for your support, comments, reading, encouragement, inspiration and for just being there in 2017.

I respect and admire the pattern designers and creators whose ideas we humble sewers try to turn into reality. Thank you.

I salute the coming year with positive enthusiasm and I hope you will come along with me too.


I wish you all a peaceful, restful Christmas (Holiday) break and the healthiest of New Years.

Let the sewing begin 2018!