Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Mystery Blogger

awardThanks so much to everyone who nominated me for this award.

My blogging days were floundering and this was just the kick I needed to get going again.



I couldn’t respond immediately because I might have been a wee bit busy at the time either camping in Scotland or preparing for a journey to Mexico but I’m getting around to it now.

The award description: “Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious post. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.” Created by: Okoto Enigma

I was nominated by two of my favourite bloggers – Kim and Coco. What I’ve done is answer all their questions in a row. Thank you ladies, much appreciated.

I have interspaced this overly wordy post with some pics…..

Kim The Material Lady

  1. Do you read, and if yes what is your favourite book?

I read every single night of my life: even if it’s very, very late or early, this is always part of my bedtime routine although sometimes I don’t always remember what I’ve read, so I have to read it again the following night.

Desert Island choice of a single book though is extremely difficult –

  • 13th Valley: Vietnam War, to remind me how futile war is.
  • Handmaid’s Tale: how not to treat women
  • Prayer for Owen Meany: there is some spiritual element to all our lives
  • A Confederacy of Dunces: read it and then tell me what’s is about….but it’s brilliant.

Funny, that these are all American novels – that may surreptitiously say a lot about me and my opinions and preferences. I do like the English classics too and to be quite honest if there are words on a page, I will read them!


Some Book Club members in San Miguel

  1. What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Vanilla – I can then add whatever flavours I choose.

  1. What is your favourite season, and why.

I love all four seasons because I am a child of the northern hemisphere and enjoy the changes and because I can wear lots of different clothes. However, if I had to select one in particular it would be Autumn/Winter. I can wear my beloved boots ( I have A LOT) and hence more skirts than in summer as I don’t need to shave my legs, and I can always look forward to summer again.


  1. Do you prefer to sew in silence or with entertainment of some sort.

I always sew with BBC4 radio on. Sometimes it’s a drama of any genre just because I love a good story. Sometimes I play a Craftsy class as my computer in is the sewing room but I  hardly ever get to watch the whole video and just hope I’ll learn by sheer osmosis.

  1. Would you sing karaoke, and what song?

Any chance I can get I sing and dance and this is definitely not a pleasurable experience for any listeners – I can’t carry a tune in a bucket! I always stand up and sing my little heart out at any blues, rock and roll but especially Stand By Your Man – go figure!

Coco’s questions:

  1. Whose sewing or style most inspires or influences your sewing?

Easy peasy – your name’s sake – Coco Chanel. Oh, I love my jeans and weird-out gathers and pleats but ultimately, I like tailored and fitted clothes – if only my real life and figure reflected my ideal wardrobe……


  1. How often do you bin a garment and throw up your hands in defeat?

Hardly ever. What I will do however is sew that bad thing up to the very finish but I might never wear it. What I will hopefully learn from the process is how to do something and more importantly, how not to do something. No sewing time is ever wasted nor a defeat – there’s always learning to done.


  1. How often do you pull the latter out of the bin and keep going?

Only once. A Vogue dress I’m truly glad I did.


  1. What is your favorite thing about your sewing space?

I used to sew in the dining room but there were complaints from other family members about ‘stuff’ lying about so I moved into the spare room. It now means that the dining room is clear but we cannot accommodate overnight guests, however I have my own space.  I have a large window that looks all the way to the road at the top of our lane where I can view the traffic and activity and this makes me realise that I am not alone. I like my beat up old wooden sewing table that was bought in a charity shop for £10 and that I’m sure many people would throw out. I sometimes like the clutter and mess until it gets too much and I have a clear up and then everything is right with the world again.

  1. How many sewing machines do you own?

I have two. The stalwart and every day is Janome TXL 607. It is not an especially sophisticated machine; forwards, backwards, zig-zag and buttonholes are all I use but then I don’t mind hand sewing at all. It is computerised which can have its benefits with such features as: needle down, cutting thread, threading needle, sewing knots, and a multitude of sewing feet to cover every eventuality.


The other machine was purchased by my mother in an auction a couple of years ago and is practically industrial in its weight and construction. A German engineered Frister Rossmann 45 Mark 11 circa 1970s. I’m always slightly worried that my poor wooden gate-leg table will not support its weight when placed upon. It takes two arms just to lift it! This machine is great for leather, heavy textiles and for those occasions when you really don’t need a computer telling you what you can sew or not.

I’m not passing this Mystery Blogger Award on because I think that most blogs that I follow have already been covered and I don’t really want to have to choose another 5 or 10 favourites as I constantly find new ones daily.  However, if you want to you can answer any of my questions on your own, see below……..

  1. About how many ‘friends’ (both real and virtual) have you made because of sewing?
  2. What opportunities has sewing offered or provided you?
  3. If you don’t have a sewing blog but sew – why not?
  4. Could you sew without the Internet?
  5. What’s your favourite fabric?

To finish the award, I’m supposed to now tell you three things about myself:

  1. I live beyond my means.
  2. I’m a wee bit superstitious
  3. I never wash my fabric prior to sewing!





Blog Hopping

Thanks so much to Sewing Elle who invited me to contribute to the world wide blog hop  – so a hop, skip and jump from Down Under to up here.

I am soooo behind in blogging that those who I’ve invited to take up the torch have actually posted their hops before me! So I’d better get a move on……

Why do I write what I do?

To be perfectly honest, a few years ago my conscience pricked me. At the time I was sewing solo and felt I was bleeding dry the good work and expertise of others – I’d hit a tricky bit of sewing and immediately went to sewing blogs: I devoured the information and never left a comment but bookmarked the pages. Then I began to secretly and regularly read a few blogs and then a few more and one day took the leap of “following” a few. And then I began to feel guilty – I was taking all this knowledge and not giving back. That’s when I took the dive.


Longish hair

I ‘came out’ and started commenting, photographing, styling, writing and sewing.


then shorter…

And I’ve been doing it for 3 years now, in fact November is the anniversary. I started with the notion that if no-one read my posts then I’d just pack up and disappear. I set an indefinite trial period and if it didn’t work, no big deal and maybe I’m still in my probation time……


And shorter…

I asked DH the other day if he ever read my blog and he said ‘No, I don’t need to I have the real thing.’ And that’s a little bit about why I write too … there are apparently so few of us who sew, especially in Belfast, that the Internet is a fabulous way of connecting with like-minded people and the very fact that they are half-way round the world is so unimportant and yet at the same time so appealing. I really never thought that I’d make such good friends without ever having met any of you!



Sometimes I crave approval, sometimes I want to share a new idea, style, fabric or pattern and sometimes I just want to show off – LOL! I appreciate comments – good and bad – at least it tells me that someone is reading!

Last and not least – it’s like a diary isn’t it? When I scrolled though all my posts so far I had a hard time believing how long ago I made some of my clothes. Many are still in circulation. I even use my own tips and tutorials when I can’t figure something out. And just look at the hair styles – like old photo albums!


What am I working on now?

Oh…. I have so many plans and patterns and fabric! In reality, I still have an Alabama Chanin tank dress to hand sew and I set myself the deadline of October 30th.

In the meantime, I’ve started a tailored jacket – Jean Hardy 875 already cut and partly started. I’ve made this twice before but as it’s tailoring and a lot of hand sewing involved, every jacket is like a brand new pattern.


There is nothing that make my heart sing so much as seeing the inside of a tailored garment – such beauty in the invisible.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I don’t know that it actually does (and I know everyone says that ) but it’s absolutely true. I love tailoring because I adore perfectly made jackets and skirts – they make you stand taller and make you feel really good  – so still striving for that, but I don’t do spectacular ball gowns or  drop dead gorgeous dresses. I just make clothes for me. I do try new things because it’s fun and challenging – I do like a challenge, and I’m a wee bit tenacious, so I won’t let things beat me.

I diversifier this year into Alabama Chanin cotton jersey sewing, but after a bit of consideration – this is really just haute couture using a cheaper fabric!

I sew all types – 1 hour T-shirts, Vogue is my favourite simply because their fit is best for my body, draping was a new diversion this year thanks to Sew2Pro, but I’m not convinced this is my singular route  I’d rather someone else does all the hard work and I just use their pattern!

I’d love to have a defining ‘style’: something you could look at and immediately think of ME. Just like Laura-Mae or Gertie. However, I like many different styles – sometimes casual, sometimes sloppy, sometimes dressy – everything really and that is hopefully reflected in what I sew and what I write about.


How does my writing process work?

Firstly, I’d like to start with with what I’m not – and thereby actually complimenting those bloggers to whom I aspire:

I’d love to have the rapid repartee and wit of Pretty Grievances, but I don’t.

I want to write (and sew) as prolifically as Rhonda, but I can’t.

I desire to to be as meticulous and accurate as Mrs Mole, but I don’t have the skills.

So what you read is what you get. A little libation sometimes helps. I know I am good with words – I teach so I hope I am! I tell stories to small children and they are often mesmerised but maybe this is the power of their imagination. I often feel like the speccy-spotty girl in big school, as opposed to being the cheerleader or the captain of the 1st II when I look at the stats on my blog. But, then again, I didn’t start this to compete on the popularity stakes (in fact it didn’t even occur to me at the time) I started this because I felt I was sucking so much out out of others that I was obliged to return to favour and give something back.

I’ll be sewing or driving or watching the potatoes boil and an idea will come to me: I like to link blog titles with garments or patterns – a little segue never hurts does it?  Thereby, perhaps, offering a small glimpse into my very normal life with a little bit of light entertainment and maybe a sewing scattered tip here and there.

The gaps between my posts is getting more and more stretched. There was a time when I posted twice a week, then that dropped to every five days and recently it’s down to once a week or less. Do blogs have a natural lifespan? Some of my favourites have stopped and I might just be heading in that direction too.  I look at my photos now and see a middle aged woman who has put on weight and is resembling her mother more and more – maybe it’s time for the next generation to take up the baton and carry it on with all their enthusiasm and freshness.

One genuine reason for not blogging might actually be SEWING! I really do prefer to sew than blog……..



Thank you so much for reading and for your support. I’ll leave with the very first photo I ever posted and I’m wondering now how I ever thought anyone would want to make a top like that! It’s Vogue 8616 if you’re interested.


I’m passing this blog hop honour to Coco who sews such perfectly fitted clothes in her loft and hasn’t put a single pound on since she was 17! She is so popular that she has been asked by 3 or 4 bloggers.

And to Marianna who sews everything from pencil cases to shark dresses and pushes me to try new things.Keep pushing Marianna…..



Ziggi 2

My mother is not exactly IT literate if you know what I mean? The absolute polar opposite of her fourth grandson (my teenage son). She’s a great baker, homemaker, carer, chatterer and mum but Anna and computers are an oxymoron.

She tries….she really tries….mostly our patience, God bless her…..She has completed at least one 12 weeks’ course on how to work e-mail and internet; my father’s endless patience has actually been empirically proved to Harvard mathematicians that infinity is NOT infinite, and she doesn’t read my blog because she can’t find it as HER version of Google doesn’t include “Corecouture” in its search.

So when I turned up at their house the other day wearing my fab Ziggi jacket I was met with two opposing points of view….

1. My own mother did not believe that I had sewn this jacket with my own fair hands and asked which shop I bought it from.

2. That I did such a good job that it would actually be impossible for me to have sewn it and so indirectly, it’s a compliment.

Hence, to literally to prove a point – if you ever see this Mother…. this is for you….. if your Google isn’t broken….

Fabric before it was cut


Half made Ziggi 2 on Doris; sleeves pinned on. Recognise the background?DSC01316


A sleeve

And for the rest of you….. I set up my own GNISB (Great Northern Irish Sewing Bee) in the sewing room over the last few days and quite literally got stuck in to sewing another StyleArc Ziggi biker jacket. Thankfully, I had all the necessary bits and pieces and so did not need to stop for anything. Mind you, the seam ripper is used a lot with this jacket!

Cut out on Friday night, all ready to sew the next day; 4 hours on Saturday, 3 hours on Sunday, 2 hours Monday, 6 hours Tuesday and 1.5 on Wednesday to do some hand sewing, finishing and final press. These are guessimates really as I sew in spurts but I suppose a good 20 hours would see this jacket completed. And it is my second one, so I knew what to watch out for. However, this sewing marathon has made me neglect internet reading and catching up on all your wonderful makes – so for the next few days, I’m not sewing anything and will be commenting prolifically…..

Main fabric is from Chrysalis No. 20 – a very interesting fabric, distressed leather-look jersey. No fraying, stretchy but yet stable, not quite black but not any other colour either. I used a ball-point needle in the machine for sewing this. It would make fab leggings and I have a little bit left over which I might turn into sleeves on a T-shirt a la Elizabeth from Sewn (scroll all the way to the bottom).


The shoulder yokes, sleeve tops and sleeve gussets are black lamb’s suede – soft as velvet, a small hide that was purchased via ebay. And the left over suede was cut into strips and used as zipper pulls.

I quilted the shoulder yokes, the sleeve tops, the bottom half of the sleeves and the back peplum in Burberry inspired rows of single stitching. I did add one layer of cotton wadding and a woven cotton backing to all quilted pieces. I like the way this works on the shoulders as it feels like shoulder pads and just in case I ever fall off a motor bike, my ass is protected too! It also really surprising how effective a few rows of straight stitching actually are.

DSC01317 DSC01327 DSC01328



For this one I lengthened the sleeves by 1″ but sewed it up with 1.5cm seam allowances instead of the recommended 1cm – with this stretchy fabric I reckoned I could do with the extra fitting. I always nip in a the waistline too. Apart from that, it’s cut from the pattern.

Lining is a silky smooth patterned poly.



I have to thank Maris, from Sewmaris without whose excellent blog tutorials on Ziggi construction would have made this project twice as long. It’s always nice to have a friendly voice of experience in the background for reassurance and advice, just when you need it. Thanks Maris.

Maris was extra nice to me when she nominated me for a Liebster Award too. Thank you once again.

DSC01322 DSC01323






After all that colour sewing for SWAP ’14 I’m inclined now towards monochrome…

and Wow! the sun was shining today too (hence the squinty eyes). Perfect day.






Thank You Ladies

I’ve been very lax recently in my blog reading and commenting and replying – please forgive me – but you all know this time of year can be hectic.

So this post is a cover-all-catch-up to try and make up for my tardiness of late.


Let’s start off with a big thank you for all your thoughts for the next round of surgery. Really, it brings tears to my eyes and a lovely warm glow in my heart to read your good wishes to me.


Another big thank you goes to two special ladies – Sarah and Pauline. Both of these inspiring sewists nominated me for One Lovely Blog / The Very Inspiring Blog Award. Wow – two in one week!

The rules of this award are as follows:

Thank the person who nominated you 
Add The One Lovely Blog Award The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.

Share 7 things about yourself. 
Pass the award on to 10 nominees.
Include this set of rules. 
Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

Numbers 1 & 2 completed. Now on to number 3…7 things about myself – are you really that interested?
1. I live in the the same house we bought when we got married – we have done three building extensions in 18 years.
2. I met my husband at a wedding: my sister had snuck into the dining room and moved all the name places around on out table so she could sit beside someone she knew and DH and I ended up sitting opposite each other.
3. I thought he was funny; he thought I was sexy (of course!)
4. I get up early, even on days off but I love to doze in the afternoons when I can.
5. I still think I’m 19 but the image in the mirror isn’t reflecting this these days =/
6. I punctuate fully and correctly spell all my text messages.
7. I’d love to be able to knit properly but my head can’t keep count of the rows and stitches.
Now for the next recipients. This is difficult, as there are so many good sewists and bloggers around. I’m making a smaller than 10 selection but they are good ones.

Sally from While I do the selfish sewing only for myself thing, Sally sews for everyone except herself!
Mrs Mole at When I was lying in my sick bed a few weeks ago, this lady kept me in stitches (ha ha) at the antics in her alteration and sewing boudoir.

Elizabeth, AKA the Fabulous Dr E’s Fabulous Blog, Even though she has just had new baby and is moving to another country and already has a 5 year old she still sews and has a wicked sense of humour! Incredible.

Debra from Sew What One sexy lady who is fearless when it comes to drafting patterns and making clothes. 

Sandra, who thinks we help her but really she is the inspiration She knits, sews, crochets, crafts and probably does a million other things too. Sandra is relatively new to the blog world but it’s obvious she is not new to sewing.

Jo Lynn who also claims to be newish to sewing but this girl has dived in head first And she rides motorbikes – what’s not to like?

OK – take a look through these inspiring blogs for more inspiration, sheer awesomeness and a few laughs too. 
Another THANK YOU 3 to the above sewers – for making my life richer.
I’m off to tell all the above that they now have this award and they can pass it on to their own inspirational sewists.
Happy Sewing ……