Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Jungle January

Here we are again at that time of the year when all my good taste and style goes out the window and I embrace the gaudy (tacky?) world of animal print fabric. It’s always Prttynpnk’s fault and she knows it! I never use this fabric at any other time of my sewing year.

In recent years I have always joined in Jungle January as it pushes me way outside my comfort zone but my use of prints has generally been well out of sight, like underwear for last year and a dress lining a few years back, or else the fabric itself is a muted and discreet print. This year I have embraced the animal print aesthetic and it’s in your face and out there!

Before we get to the finished garment and I only got this finished so quickly because the weather has been dreadful that I’ve been forced to stay indoors and sew and also because it is very easy and quick to make.

mini-panda-m-(product-photography)The fabric this year comes from Croftmill -bunch of headers them but they do stock some lovely fabrics! They describe it as a panda footprint but I’m more inclined to associate it with a snow leopard ’cause they’re sexier instead of cute. Snow-Leopard-Blue-Eyes-Wallpapers.pngOstensibly a black and white repeating pattern. It is a coarse weave cotton suiting but stable, takes a good pressing and doesn’t wrinkle. Has a slight tendency to fray and pluck though.

V8841Paired with Vogue 8841, now unfortunately OOP. This coat pattern was perfect as it has minimal seams so that I didn’t have to do much pattern matching. I eliminated the centre back seam and instead of inseam side pockets made some welt ones, that are perfectly camouflaged in keeping with the true purpose of animal prints in the wild.


I was aiming for Parisian chic at Fashion Week and not Cruella de Ville managing to get her hands on the dalmatians, I’ll let you decide ………

This one is me….BTWDSCN6014

I modified the coat pattern to a round neck instead of a collar, revers and lapels – simpler to do and more Chanel-like.


The length was purely determined by availability of fabric as I had only bought 2m not knowing what I was going to do with it. The pattern requires 2.4m.

I wanted the darker spine strip to run along centre back so the fabric was folded off-centDSCN6020re. This created a long extra strip of single width left over which was sewn into a wrap-around tie belt. This can worn to close the coat as there are no buttons or snaps or hooks and eyes, or as a belt for coordinating whatever is underneath.




And underneath is a red dress in a poly crepe with the tiniest amount of stretch made into StyleArc’s Cleo dress, which is supposed to made from jersey.


A lovely simple design of a dress with two darts front and back and pulls on over your head. Mine’s a bit tight because there’s hardly any stretch and every lump and bump shows up. My fault. I found the fabric in my fabric box and I think it might be leftover from the Scarlett dress. I had about 1.2m.



I didn’t do a sway back adjustment and this is the result, so in future I’ll just pinch out a horizontal fish-eye dart at the back waistline and add the difference to the length – that should fix it.

The coat is fully lined, hand sewn edge to edge. I drafted some neck facings and interfaced these for a bit of shape. I didn’t have a set of shoulder pads so I used two padded bra cups instead! Worked a treat.

Thanks, as always to Anne who organises and collects all manner of animal print garments from around the world – a veritable menagerie.


Right – that’s out of the way now, back to tweeds and solid colours! Phew!





So the whole Christmas/New Year shebang is over and the first item of 2016 is sewn and complete, and it’s the first garment for SWAP ’16!


MASON-JACKETI picked an easy one to start with, StyleArc’s Mason coat – no lining, raw edges, no fastenings, one piece sleeves and not a strip of interfacing in sight. I chose a bright pink fleece which was cheap as chips and it brightens up the most dismal of dull, wintry days. Funnily ecolour,motion,colors,swirl,wallpaper,color-b56ebd20797d4bf238e5f5fe3530d371_hnough this colour goes with so many others. You wouldn’t think so would you? But it does lift any colour – white (as in the following photos), jeans, grey, black, navy and hopefully the mossy green of the other items in this SWAP pack A.

Slide1Pack A is based around the colours of heather on moorlands – pink and mossy green. The other items will be a moss green top and a checked pink and moss green skirt.


As you can see, I have already changed my plans and only one garment in! I ditched the short jacket for the longer length and more relaxed coat. I do sometimes wonder why I even call my Sewing With a Plan, a plan at all….

















I did make a bit of an effort by adding fold-over flaps on the patch pockets and simulated cuffs on the sleeves. To fasten, I cut narrow strips, made a loop and a couple of ties. The same strips were sewn all along the edges, so while un-hemmed they are ‘finished’.


Fleece is a wonderfully easy fabric to sew with and I would strongly recommend it if you are new to sewing: it stretches slightly so it’s a breeze to ease into place if your cutting out isn’t perfect; it doesn’t fray so you don’t need to finish seams, you don’t even need to hem anything or turn raw edges under; it’s very forgiving on a lot of fronts – doesn’t wrinkle, is incredibly cuddly and keeps you warm.  The slight downsides are that there is a nap, much fainter than velvet for sure but for cutting out you do need to fold the fabric selvedge to selvedge (long and narrow) and place all pattern pieces in the same direction (ie. all tops facing the same way). It is made from polyester and all the disadvantages that entails: non-renewable raw material (oil), can create static electricity, it does not wick sweat but ironically, this hydrophobic quality can also be an advantage in the rain; additionally, cheaper fabrics are prone to pilling.

Most of my other SWAP garments are planned in natural fabrics like silk and wool, so this one item is the renegade rebel of the bunch.


As the coat is un-lined, it is kinda nice to have the inside a little refined just in case you meet a fellow sewer in the street and they want to inspect your clothes. For this coat I sewed faux-felled seams. I don’t know if that’s a real seam finishing technique or not but this is what I did….

Sew a normal seam, trim one side away close to stitching (always the seam allowance closest to the back – all seams should fold around the body towards the back, just a little bit of couture info there.

Flatten the untrimmed allowance over the trimmed edge and stitch down with a longer stitch – 3mm or so. On the outside the seams look like they are proper felled and it creates a little bit of interest but because of the wonderful non-fraying and stable quality of the fleece on the inside the seams are relatively tidy too.

Of course there were leftovers that were just begging to be used up instead of taking up space – Rhonda provided the inspiration and I sewed up a scarf/hood thingy.

A scarf when it’s cold and a hood when it’s colder.



….there is something akin to a dressing gown about this coat when made in fleece and hanging on a hanger. I sort of like that I can wear this outdoors (and I have) and yet still keep it on indoors like a cardi. Honestly, what do you think? Only over jammies or also over a tweed skirt?


Do I need to revise my SWAP again!? ? Even before I’ve hardly even got started.

The coat does cover the butt which is always a good thing but is that a huge iron impression on the back? Another disadvantage of fleece that I forgot to mention before…

Welcome to 2016 – may you sew to your hearts’ content and within your own time-management limits; I sincerely wish you no ripping out, no iron marks or burns on your precious fabrics and wishing you a perfect fit every time.


More M&M Workwear

Still enamoured with my Merchant and Mills Workbook I am continuing to sew garments using these patterns but attempting to elevate them to professional autumn/winter workwear status rather than soft and wrinkled summer linen.


I started with another Curlew dress. [Photos have been lightened and are slightly blurred so that you can see the garments.]


This one is made in a wool/linen/cotton blend in dark denim blue. Not too much to add to the first review except this time I lengthened it considerably so that the hem cuts exactly at the top of my black Salvatore Ferragamo boots which were picked up for a song in a charity shop. See, you can make things any length you want when you sew your own clothes!

I also came across an error in my initial tracing of the pattern. My front was too long for my back – the armholes didn’t match up, and completely my own fault …..this fabric was not as forgiving as the linen/cotton used in my first dress which I eased into place but this one wouldn’t budge.

Therefore I added a new design feature (we all use those, don’t we?). I folded the excess at the front into a ‘new’ seam and I now have extra shaping over the bust!


The pattern is now fixed. Although I do kinda like this little extra detail.


Over the top of the dress is a coat – Haremere jacket once again. This time lengthened absolutely loads but wait – the hem of the coat cuts exactly at the hem of the dress and hence also at the top of the boots. See, you can do things like that when you sew your own clothes!DSCN5698

Don’t mind the hair, I’m going to the hairdresser’s tomorrow.

This fabric is gorgeous – linen/wool/alpaca – about 33% of each. In navy blue, it’s soft, like a knit but robust like a boiled wool. It is lined with a navy/black silk and viscose mix, same as used in son’s bomber jacket.


Both fabrics are from MyFabrics. I had a short business trip to London a few weeks ago and headed directly from Heathrow airport to Berwick Street via Liberty’s with £100 burning a hole in my pocket. Too much choice!!!! However I did pick up 2m of Japanese hammered polyester (more later) and a card of vintage navy buttons from The Cloth House, which were promptly put to use on this coat.

BTW – I’m back on Friday 16 October for one night only. Any of you Londoners want to meet? I saw a fab navy ribbed knit in Misan that I intend to buy next time round but need advice on seaming techniques and pattern choice….I’ll be wearing this coat so you’ll easily recognise me.


I Hong-Konged the seams again: nowhere near perfect but better than the first time. So I just need more practice and a very good excuse for another Haremere….if only I could justify the cost of the wool tweeds in Misan’s basement


I fretted aDSCN5679 little that the back of the coat would seat due to the softness of the fabric and so I fully lined the back, kept the original shoulder and sleeve linings and left the fronts unlined.

I’m planning on sewing a navy A/W ’15 collection and this is the start but I have still a few items to make and others to fantasise about.

ReAnn came to visit and she brought me a hat. We had great craik. I took her to the local Folk Museum for a local craft day and then back to our house for hearty Irish food and hopefully, good company.


I just had to wear homemade clothes to meet her so I wore my mock Vivienne Westwood dress to impress. I’m admitting this only to you, but this is only the second time I’ve actually worn this dress! I love it: I always get compliments when I wear it and yet the poor thing mostly languishes at the back of the wardrobe. Do you make stuff that you hardly ever wear?

ReAnn is an amazing woman, truly. My life is better for having met her. A traveller, a sewer, a fabric stasher, an unique stylist; independent, strong, funny and lighthearted, enthusiast for life and extremely interesting. I want to be like her when I grow up.



The Ponte Club

Donna’s Vogue pattern 1440 was still sitting about the sewing room after her uninvited visit so I thought I’d might as well just use it to save me rifling through my very untidy, uncategorised and unKondoed collection. I rely on memory as a filing system, although it has let me down previously as I’ve actually purchased a Vogue pattern that I already owned!

I’ve never sewn with Ponte before but found some on offer somewhere on the Interweb a month or so ago and bought a goodly amount of their stock: a pale grey, magenta, dusky pink and obligatory black. It’s probably too late for this query – but does ponte have a right and wrong side? It is a great fabric to sew with – no fraying, stable and behaves well, it stretches and recovers, no wrinkling but presses well. Details about what ponte is here.

I’ve had my eye on a few StyleArcs for absolutely ages…… although delivery from Australia can take weeks and weeks and weeks. I ordered a skirt and along with this pattern came the free monthly one of a coat- in the meantime I patchworked and quilted instead. I’d obviously ordered just before the container was full and I only had to wait 3 weeks for the patterns to arrive. BTW – StyleArc have an Etsy shop for instant PDFs and I’ve been availing of this facility a lot recently. …..

A marriage between StyleArc and Vogue and Ponte, even if some of the patterns are for wovens!

Skirt is Zoe

Coat is Mason (knit fabric)

Jacket is Vogue Donna Karan 1440

Top (plain grey) Donna Karan Vogue 1282 (knit fabric)

Top (patterned grey) McCalls M6078 (knit fabric)

Shoes are Vivienne Westwood



The Mason coat has raw edges but is trimmed with the selvedge from the pale grey on cuffs, pockets and round the neckline and lapels. Real easy to put together just watch your fabric choice as the wrong side shows at the fold back lapels. I serged all internal seams for a more finished look and the collar has a flat felled seam at centre back. The selvedge trim was sewn with a fancy wiggly stitch and ties the weird no-colour coat to the pale grey skirt for a ‘set’.


The Donna Karan jacket is fab and I have another planned in a linen woven which I anticipate will be more difficult to sew as in this case I just pulled and stretched the ponte to make the notches match especially round the curves. I didn’t bind every seam, just serged again, and I raised the shoulder seams by 1″ and left the shoulder pads out.


The jacket is waterfall and loose at the front but shaped and fitted through the back. This one is trimmed with a strip of magenta ponte – sewn on with a fancy stitch – and goes all the way around the whole jacket and cuffs which are folded back (extremely long sleeves).


The magenta trim then ties the pale grey jacket to the magenta Zoe skirt for another ‘set’.DSCN5260

The Zoe skirt is an unusual pencil: two huge open darts at the back from hem to bum, and a front that is narrower at the hem than waist to pull the sides seams forward. The back also dips down a little to create a curved hem. There is an invisible zip at the side and no waistband, just facing.

My first one was a muslin in the black ponte (not shown). It ran a little big. StyleArc’s patterns have 1cm (1/2″) SA so the magenta version was sewn with the usual 1.5cm (5/8″) SA and the zip was ignored. I can just pull the skirt on thanks to the stretch and recoverability of the ponte. And the fit was better.

By the time I got to the pale grey Zoe, the seam allowances had increased to 2cm (closer to 1″). The fit is much better although the ponte shows every knicker line, lump and bump, so robust undergarments are in order (or none at all!) And I can still just pull it on, so no zip required.


Seams were serged and the hem just machined. None of the skirts is lined but I would like to do this soon. The ponte clings to tights and a lining might help smooth out some of the body flaws.

The McCalls drape top still remains one my favourite one-hour sewing projects: front and back, two side seams and just narrow hems on armholes and hem and it can be cut from the narrowest of fabrics.

I have mixed emotions about the Donna Karan draped top. All the Pattern Reviews raved about it and when it is sitting perfectly, it is fab. But, every time I move the drape un-drapes. The pattern calls for a weight to be inserted in the inside to hold the drape in place – well, the weight went in, the weight came out; the drape was stitched in place and then ripped out. I might even be using a good ol’ safety pin in these pics!


The Pattern Reviewers stated that the armholes were large and low, so I sewed mine tighter from the outset. This alteration for modesty’s sake had an effect on the drape. The armholes were then ripped out and cut larger. OK, bad selfie below – but you can see the drape on one side with the larger armhole falling all the way from the breast and the ‘fitting’ on the other side with the smaller armhole.


Not my proudest moment in sewing……

DSCN5228 I ended up cutting all that mess off and adding a band. So much effort and time, adjustment and agony over a top that will now only ever be worn (if at all) under a jacket or cardigan. It does have a lovely drape and if I don’t move it hangs beautifully.


Three skirts, two jackets, two tops and a multitude of outfits!






A really big thank you for all your suggestions about what to make with the patterned silk. I think we’ve covered every garment possible and even DH suggested trousers! I’m still considering but might have settled on a pattern, if I don’t change my mind again that is! We’ve got a Bank Holiday weekend here, lots of sewing and wardrobe sorting planned. Hope you have too.


St Paddy’s Day Blues

Right you lot, stop distracting me with your Kantha coats and Japanese draped tops and patchwork quilts – I’ve a SWAP to finish.

Today is St.Patrick’s Day and I usually wear something green but today I’m in blue.

Three more items done for SWAP ’15 and likely two that required the most work (at least I hope so, or else I’ll never be finished in time!).


Corset top and pencil skirt, reverse applique with leaves, and a long cardigan/coat, single layer with applique strips around hem and sleeves.

DSCN5105The top and skirt are relatively small items to sew in that they are fitted and there’s not a lot of fabric involved and so hand sewing round all the leaves didn’t take as long as say a flared maxi dress.



The corset top pattern comes from Alabama Stitch Book and I love it – form fitting, flattering and wears really quite like a – corset. Bit of structure with just a few running stitches; hard to believe this is possible in cotton jersey.
















The skirt is self drafted pencil skirt – essentially two rectangles wide enough for my hips and curved at the waist and hem. No darts or waistband, I rely on the cotton jersey to stretch and fit.


The cardigan is Burda suit coat because I liked the piecing and thought this would show off the stitching better.


So a recap on completed items:

1 pair of trousers

1 long sleeved T-shirt

1 maxi skirt

1 cardigan/coat

1 corset top

1 pencil skirt

1/2 a bolero

2 tops/3 bottoms and a wildcard – good grief, I’ve a lot to do. Only 6 out of 11 and I have to figure out a refashion/reversible item yet.

I need 5 tops/3 bottoms/ 2 wildcards/ 1 reversible by end of April.


I may have to instigate radio silence until then…..