Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Linton Pink – Complete 1

This is a bittersweet moment. I have really enjoyed the slow sewing and the self-imposed tailoring construction processes of Paco’s Vogue 1527. This coat has given me joy, a little heartache too along the way but I am unashamedly declaring, it is a thing of beauty. I am just a little bit sad that it is finished.

On the other hand, a finished garment is always an achievement. Luckily, I have a tonne more Linton tweeds to sew through and if they all go as well as this one I shall be one very happy sewer. Jinx!

I left you the last time showing the insides and as a work in progress because that’s where the lion’s share of the work is and I also wanted at least someone else to see and acknowledge it. Which you did – thank you!


Since then, the hand made shoulder pads and sleeve heads have been inserted and the remaining lining slip stitched/fell stitched and otherwise hand sewn to complete the body. The sleeve underlining is wrinkling because the coat is inside out and bunching up.

DO NOT follow the pattern instructions at this point: insert the sleeves, THEN insert the shoulder pads (Step 27). DO NOT sew shoulder pads in when your coat is inside out. They will not fit when you turn everything right way round. Just tackle the fabric from the right side and get on with it.

The shoulder pads were made with six layers of thin cotton wadding – the same type as used in quilts. Each layer is gradually smaller than the top-most semi-circle, which is covered with a patch of canvas. The whole lot was then pad stitched to form the curve to fit the shoulder. The sleeve head is the same cotton wadding; rolled and hand sewn to the inside of the sleeve seam allowances.

DO NOT trim the arm hole seam allowances – you need these for shoulder pad and sleeve head positioning. DO NOT press this seam; gently steam from the outside only. Yes, it looks really messy on the inside but only you will ever see this but everyone else will only see the outside – choose your battles.


I do love to see a hand stitched sleeve lining with all its genuine wrinkles and slightly uneven gathers – it definitely demonstrates a passion for honest hand sewing and provides true flexibility in the sleeve/arm-hole that is wholly lacking in RTW.

Buttonholes and vintage buttons have been sewn on the sleeve vents and centre front. And I have yet another gripe about the instructions.


So…… you take the time to cut and construct a sleeve vent – doing your very best to make the two symmetrical, make a buttonhole and sew on a button and then the instructions (Step 42) tell you to sew the sleeve lining over the whole lot so that the vent won’t open. There may be times in the wearing of this coat that I want the button open and to fold back the cuffs – by this stage I just ignored the instructions and went with what felt right and what would work for me.


If you buy an original Paco Peralta pattern, it is always beautifully drafted but it comes without instructions.


They are expensive, I’ll grant you that but they are all hand drawn, not printed, and of course designer. No instructions provides a certain amount of freedom and opportunity for individual ingenuity but may not be suitable for the faint hearted or inexperienced sewer, nor those who like a step by step construction process.

To compensate, there are loads of online tutorials and reviews to support you along the way. Personally, I relish the jigsaw puzzle aspect of sewing a pattern without pre-set instructions and often find a new method of construction during the process.


This coat is part 1 of a set of three;  I find it is remarkable on its own and I just want to wear it with jeans, frocks and even jammies – I love it that much! It is a mighty weight on its own, what with all the underlining and canvas and what have you but the tailoring makes the coat fit like a glove: it literally drops over my shoulders and remains in place, perfectly draping my irregular frame and making me stand taller.


I make no apologies for my personal pleasure in just looking at the set in sleeves. This was a slow sewing process and it certainly paid off – exact tailor tacking, basting, fitting and then, only then, sewing. Added to which there was a considerable amount of pressing. When you press wool to tame it into shape, and I mean press not ironing,  leave it to cool and dry in shape. That means you might have to walk away from the ironing board for a wee while. Get a cup of tea and surf the net for inspiration for your next sewing project…..


I read books to help me along the way……..

And watched Craftsy classes…….


Front and back – can you tell which one is which?

Here’s the coat, admirably modelled by Doris – front, back, left and right. Sometimes I hate that mannequin, my clothes always look better on her than me!

There are faults in my coat which I’ll document at a later date, for now, I just want to smile every time I see it and turn a blind eye to the picky problems.

The skirt is cut and ready for sewing. It’s going to be made with the coordinating herringbone that is on the coat collar. Stay tuned.









Beautiful Life

Goodness, here we are again so soon and all is well….

Recently I lost my right hand…, no, not really,  but my sewing machine is in for service and it kinda feels like it – what purpose do I now serve?

_The+Curated+Closet_+A+simple+system+for+discovering+your+personal+style+and+building+your+dream+wardrobe_Recently, one day in town I was a little early for an appointment and I went to a bookstore and bought The Curated Closet to read in order to fill in the time.  Think of Me-Made-May for people who buy clothes and you’ve got the idea……there are a lot of ‘exercises’ and ‘things to do’ and ‘lists to make’ and ‘photos to take’ in order to achieve your individualised curated closet. Personally, I couldn’t  be bothered with all that palaver but it was an interesting read regardless.

Then, as if by serendipity, Kate sent me a PDF version of her newly released book to review and that has certainly helped filled the not-sewing time. Making Life More Beautiful is also an interesting read. You really have to admire FabricKated – she never seems to sit still and when she does, she’s knitting, writing, thinking, plotting and planning the the next project. Unlike myself, Kate’s blogging has remained consistent and regular. She writes and researches everything, from what other people wear and how they wear it to what she sews and knits and then throws in the odd post about family and exhibitions. You never know what you’ll be reading about from one day to the next. And such is the content of her book. Here are the chapters and what a variety they are:






Make your own textiles 


Based primarily on her blog posts, Kate has enhanced, elaborated, edited and added to her prolific writing to independently produce a book that is beautiful to look at, fascinating to read and with a few added projects, an activity book too. The photography is refreshingly natural and real. Kate completed a photography course (one of many artistic classes she has completed) and the evidence of her learning is evident in the book.

The photographs are of ‘real people’ in natural settings and are simply inspirational on their own. Kate includes her own images and garments which certainly elevates this book beyond the commercial and sets it into everyday and real life.

Maybe a coffee table photography book is next, Kate??

Kate’s book was launched at a grand London location with much festivity and many activities. I wasn’t there in person but if I could I would have. I was certainly there in spirit.

51O173L4ixL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Making Life More Beautiful is not so much a set of rigid rules to dress by but a guidebook that gently guides the reader to better and more refined dressing and styling, using examples from real life and the all important advice on how-not-to-wear. It is also Kate’s personal journey through her own life and significant eras and hence, this book is somewhat biographical. We learn from Kate’s mistakes!

I’ve met Kate IRL (she’s one of my favourite blogging friends) and a more hospitable and welcoming host I couldn’t hope to meet. Here’s our night of Six Napoleon dresses 20161028_205233 which Marijanna (on the left) organised.

In her own inimitable style, Kate says it as she thinks – she is a truly no-nonsense girl.

“Isn’t it amazing? Today the democratic medium of blogging allows anyone to communicate with many, freely and easily, turning the old publishing model completely on its head. I wanted to write about a subject that would inspire me. I work in housing, I have a family, I enjoy travel, architecture and good design, I love London, and at least three times a day I think about food. I might have landed on any one of these subjects, and sung like a canary.”




So while I can only try to emulate Kate’s candour on style, colouring and life, I simply feel compelled to make my own reference to the inconsistent misuse of the apostrophe throughout the book.  From the front cover and inside fly page, to dates and otherwise scattered throughout, the apostrophe seems to have been inserted at random with no thought (knowledge?) whatsoever to meaning or grammar. Please tell me I am not the only person still alive who knows how and where to use the correct punctuation, including the elusive colon and its cousin the semi-colon, not to mention brackets?

Anyway, if you can read beyond the punctuation errors this book will happily fill a summer’s afternoon and you will find yourself delving in and out throughout the autumnal days and long winter nights for inspiration, advice, happy images and the knowledge that it was written and produced by a very accomplished sewer/knitter/blogger/writer/photographer/shoe-maker/critic/jewellery-artist/ weaver/mother/art lover/CEO/daughter/wife/home-maker/friend/blogger. Have I left anything out?

To me, this will will be henceforth be known as Kate’s book, until she publishes another that is……







I had intended to create a new Alabama Chanin collection this summer but my desire for instant gratification triggered a flurry of machine sewing and I’ll be lucky to get one AC skirt finished at all. I had a tonne of cotton jersey that was ordered in prep DSCN5343for hand sewing but it was crying out to be made into something to stop me feeling guilty about not meeting my own goals and objectives. There now follows a collection of stuff that has no skirt to match……..

First, Drape Drape 2 asymmetrical top. I received the book as a birthday present – lovely, and traced off the eponymous top immediately. Ironically, this was hand sewn, AC style. Reading reviews, everyone said that the sizing is small so I graduated the pattern up, especially around the hips for me, but I think the neckline is now too loose. Small adjustments to be made on the next (and there will be) one.


The body is pale grey with dark grey neck and hem bands attached with embroidery thread using a slightly stretchy back-stitch. The single side seam and the sleeve hems are hand sewn too.


Next,  Alabama Chanin’s corset top. This pattern is included in the new Patterns book but I had it already traced off from one of the earlier books. Except this time the serger was employed and not a hand stitch in sight.


The top is double layered with a neutral coloured cotton jersey as this is a very fitted top and it needs a bit of strength. No embellishments apart from a little strip over the back neckline; the armhole bands are machine stitched with a large zig-zag.


I do like how the back is dipped lower than the front in this top – means when you sit down there’s no flesh on show.DSCN5404

Finally, Alabama Chanin’s classic jacket from the Patterns book except my version is a little weird. A simple pattern with front, back and one-piece sleeves but I cut a load of 1″ strips and sewed these onto the jacket to resemble a check or a convict?


I serged the side seams and then sewed the strips sort of straightish onto the ‘flat’ jacket.


And the benefit of sewing your own stripes on is that you can be sure they match across the seams…


It’s a great wee jacket – cardigan-like, easy to wear yet finishes a very simple outfit. Mine is the length it is because of fabric limitations but the pattern comes with various lengths including a long version. The edges are finished with a handsewn band. I didn’t add pockets and I miss them.DSCN5396I did make a fundamental mistake with the stripes though – I sewed them with a straight stitch and some rows have broken. If you are mad enough to try this for yourself – use a small zig-zag or lightning bolt stitch to allow for natural body stretch and movement. I’m going to have to go back and mend the broken bits before the stripes start falling off!

And finally a scarf and brooch. The scarf is what’s leftover from the dark grey and I’m being bold calling it a scarf – it’s a bit of fabric! The brooch is beaded and slightly resembles a flower.


Gather your bits and pieces together – strips of fabric, brooch pin, beads and thread: start with a circle of fabric and I put a bit of batting behind mine for a bit of structure. Turn under a hem and you’re ready to go.


Start on the outside edge and sew on one of the strips. This one was gathered first but it’s easy to pleat as you go.

DSCN5371The next strip covers the raw edges of the first and so on until you reach the centre.


I beaded the centre but another little circle of fabric works too.

DSCN5375The back is a mess, so cover this up with another circle of fabric and sew on the pin. I used larger circles that show at the front of the brooch too.You’re not aiming for perfection here – merely the hint of a bloom of some sort – a hybrid.



Pin to your scarf or lapel and wait for the compliments! In my experience, people always comment on the brooch and not the clothes beneath!


So, there you have it – Alabama Chanin patterns made on a machine and a Japanese pattern made in AC style. DSCN5410DSCN5398