Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



Good news from the sewing room this week! In fact two good news, maybe even three!


Susanna (local girl) of Sea Salt and Stitches found a new online fabric shop and negotiated reduced postage fees for us UK residents to enjoy .  I went perusing and thought it just rude if I didn’t take advantage of the hard won efforts of Susanna and bought two 2m lengths of wool.

Fabworks have some lovely fabrics and all at very reasonable prices. It was hard deciding what to buy; I settled on a raspberry twill wool and an indigo/denim-look wool.

The raspberry is actually called by a much more romantic name of Winter Cyclamen but I thought more of you might be able to visualise raspberries than winter cyclamen and is fine enough for skirts and dresses. The denim-look wool is suitable for jackets and coats

I ordered late on Wednesday night and my purchases arrived by Friday afternoon. To sum up: brilliant fabric selection, brilliant prices, brilliant delivery. The fabrics are categorised by colour groupings which is an ingenious idea in my book as it makes it so much easier to fond stuff. This might just become my new go-to fabric shop. The only downside is that they don’t do threads or notions – maybe soon……..


For 10 years now Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress has graced the bodies of the rich and famous and has been the most coveted frock in mankind’s existence. At a very reasonable £1,595 it just might be out of reach for the majority of the world’s population but not for us sewers.


The dress is famous because it makes a woman look like a woman, celebrating her curves and shape – the short gathered sleeves balance out the hips, the waist is well defined, the length covers unbecoming and knobbly knees and visually lengths the body, and there are 1Galaxy dress, Petrol Blue_F-200 variations to suit every individual taste and preferenv8280coverce.







Vogue Patterns realised the potential and released 8280 and it was snapped up instantly by women who wanted their very own Galaxy. The pattern is now OOP and is like hen’s teeth. Sometimes it comes up on Ebay but is sold immediately or else it is in extra large or extra small sizes. I’ve been searching for alternatives for years but

nothing ever really came close.


Have you heard of Bootstrap Fashion?

This is an online PDF pattern company who produce patterns to fit your measurements. Based in USA they have been going for a few years now but are running out of money and have started a crowd funding exercise on Indiegogo. Bootstrap do an awful lot more than just making patterns with a  full range of services and products available when you register as a member free of charge.

BootstrapFashion was founded by Yuliya Raquel, a four-time award winning fashion designer, who in the past revolutionized the contemporary plus-size fashion industry segment….. Not only does Yuliya have a passion for innovative fashion design, but she also focuses on empowerment: she wants to transform the way we consider beauty and democratize fashion. 

Yuliya from Bootstrap contacted me a little while a go. I have never bought a Bootstrap pattern and I always turn down offers of pattern testing, endorsements and so on. Although, Mood, if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting on your call! Anyway, I thought I might try out Bootstrap – why? I needed my Galaxy dress, that’s why!

I also like to encourage innovation and independent companies whenever possible, so I also donated to the Indiegogo scheme.

I searched the available dress patterns on Bootstrap but nothing hit the mark close to Galaxy and then I noticed the ‘Create from Scratch” feature. With a quick registration procedure I was in my own design page: choose the garment type, select the style from a collection of basic blocks and then add your preferred sleeves, skirt, darts or princess seams, length, bodice shape and neckline, and throw on as many extras like belt, peplum, frills and ruffles as you want. You can even colour in your finished design.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 13.23.59

Here’s mine – Saturn, not Galaxy.


The hardest part of ordering the pattern was the actual taking of my accurate body measurements! Insert your measurements into the table in either inches or cms and a few descriptions about your body type; balance and tummy shape etc and that’s it! And, even better,  it’s not very expensive at all.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 13.26.10.jpg

Before I had negotiated my way out of the website, the PDF was waiting in my email – instant! You can order with or without seam allowances. Note: the seam allowances and 1cm – industry standard.

OK OK, you’ve got all that printing and tiling and sellotape but my goodness, if you ever need a personalised, custom design and unique pattern in a hurry  that fits like a glove – this is a mighty fine way to get one – facings and all!


With my pattern ready to go and my fabric arriving quickly, I paired Saturn with raspberry wool and have made a start. My version is not a replica of the original Galaxy dress, I opted for 3/4 sleeves instead of short gathered ones but it’s pretty damn close otherwise.

I have been researching and reading about Galaxy dresses – the inside construction, the design elements and scrutinising every image I can see. Mr Mouret was on a TV show Objects of Desire and he admitted that the secret to the dress’s success was in making the waist 1″ smaller. I can find no information about the use of Powernet or shapewear as being part of the dress’s construction although it is widely rumoured and is like a national security secret – any down and dirty info you may have will be gratefully received and shared….

I made a small alteration to the Saturn pattern by lowering the front neckline by 3″ to have it more in keeping with the original but still daytime appropriate.


The pattern doesn’t come with instructions but I find this somewhat liberating as I can make as I want and place the zip at back or side. Which brings me to my current status – I have no zip or suitable lining but I have got as far as I can without these


The bodice still needs to be attached to the skirt (it’s only pinned here) but I did not have to lengthen or shorten it one mm. The shoulders are a perfect fit, the darts and princess seams line up. So far, so good. I have been in joy this week with sewing.

And maybe the best bit is that my Saturn design is also available for you to buy from Bootstrap but adapted for your own size and measurements – so you too can have your own Galaxy dress. I don’t get a penny only the satisfaction that I may have enabled a few other women to celebrate and showcase their curves.

We sewers have the power and skills and tools to take over the universe – one planet at a time!visata

And what’s even better is that no one has to be killed, tortured, extradited, alienated or left out. Aren’t we brilliant?




Jinxed Jamie Jeans

I think I’m going to have to find a new hobby and knock this sewing thing on the head. Ultimately I did mange to sew a couple of pairs of jeans but the journey was hard and the road difficult and I made many mistakes…..

While still believing I could follow through on my Sewing With A Plan without a plan, 69_poso_h15_311I had purchased this wine/burgundy/mulberry/pink coloured stretch cotton twill (although, I’m calling it denim) from MyFabrics with the intention of making jeans as one of my wildcards in the Heather colour scheme. One side of the fabric is deep burgundy and the reverse is pink (not sweet or sickly, just pink). First decision to be made was which side of the fabric to use and secondly, which pattern. I trolled sewing blogs and Goggle images, pattern companies and RTW. 011-Jamie-tasoHow about skinny legs so that I can wear my boots on the outside? I settled on Jamie jeans.

Except, every pattern reviewer of Named Jamie jeans is at least a few sizes and, in some cases a few decades, well below mine – would this style look OK on me?

One way to find out, huh? Read on and freely express your views and opinions.

PDF purchased and tiled, cut out, marked and sewn. There is a sew-a-long site that is a great help in construction and techniques, although I didn’t follow it faithfully.


Jeans 1

Using the dark side first (ha ha ha), I cut out a 12, one size smaller than usual, as I wanted a tight fit and hoped the Lycra would compensate. These ones are tight, chiefly because I forgot about the 1cm seam allowance and used the usual 1.5cm (5/8″). Very tight around my calves and there’s a bit of bunching at the ankles – design feature, don’t you know?

If you have seen pictures of these jeans or read any reviews or have a pair yourself, you might be able to spot a large difference between any Jamies that have gone before and the ones I present here – the front pockets!

The front legs are made of two pieces with a centre seam (nice little detail). One piece has the pocket and the other has the fly. What did this overly confident and rash sewer do? Only sewed the left side to the right fly and vice versa, so my pockets are slanting the wrong way. Still quite wearable but honestly! I did wonder why the notches didn’t line up when sewing the seams – now I know.


However, the original purpose of making skinny jeans has worked – I can pull on my knee boots and I don’t get the bagginess and bunching around my knees.


The pattern calls for 1.4m. I had a total of 2m but squeezed Jeans 1 onto about 1.1m by facing the curved waistband with cotton, not self fabric. A curved waistband is a thing of beauty but it does take up an awful lot of fabric. This left me with close on another metre, so I flipped it and made a second pair using the pink side of denim.

Jeans 2

This second pair are cropped due to fabric limitations. I managed to get the fronts right way round on this pair and I remembered to sew 1cm seams but I sewed the wrong pocket linings to the wrong pieces and instead of having useable pockets that are hand-sized I have these tiny wee things about the size of a credit card. Well, I suppose that’s all you need isn’t it girls? A credit card and lipstick and you can go anywhere!


I would have ripped them out and done it again properly, but between seams, understitching, overlocking and topstitching – that’s a lot of ripping out and life really is too short for that malarky.

Apart from the pocket linings, the right pieces were sewn in the right order and to the right pieces on this pair. DSCN6072.jpgFly zip went like a dream with a perfectly matching zip. I tried them on to mark a hem. I rarely wash my fabrics before I sew – especially denim – as I know the ‘fit’ will be fitter after I sew then wash – allowing for 10-20% shrinkage. Now, don’t be telling me off and criticising my methods – I like fitted jeans – that tight fit that you have to lie on the bed and use a shoelace through the zip-pull for extra leverage to get it up and then the thrilling but slightly scary moment to test if the seams will hold. Well, my seams held – the zip did not!


Unwashed denim with broken zip

Of course, I had used a double row of stitches on each side of the zip for extra security, so double the ripping out! There comes a time when it is best to walk away. However, I knew that if I didn’t fix it right now then it would never be fixed.

Jilly showed me how to replace a jeans zip. The only zip I had at hand was white – so I used it! Yes, my friends you heard right – a bright white zip in deep pink jeans!


Washed denim with replacement (and rather scrappy) zip but it holds!

This coloured denim was over-dyed; my hands, nails, ironing board, even my sewing machine turned pink! Perhaps another reason to wash the fabric first…..I know I couldn’t wear either pair and sit on a white leather sofa before washing them both. Into the machine they went and quite uneventful it was. Out they came and dried.

Both pairs have faded to well-worn denim and I like it. The seams have that rippled colouring that only comes from years of wear and washing, similarly on the pockets and fly. Achieving this look would have been impossible if I had washed the denim before sewing, so the pink hands were worth it.


Needless to say, the white zip tape is polyester and stubbornly remains white even after the wash but the fly is a pretty good construction and covers it completely. Anyway I’m unlikely to be wearing my cropped bra tops with these jeans – LOL!

I did shorten a dress/tunicdsc01127.jpg I’d made a few years ago into a T-shirt/tunic because the colours match perfectly.


Construction details for those of you who are interested: I focused on the fronts first as this is where all the hard work is – pockets and fly. Made back pockets with a strip of reverse fabric for added detail and top stitched in place. Jeans 1 – sewed inside leg seams and top-stitched, then outside leg seams, crotch, finally waistband and hems. Jeans 2 – sewed outside leg seams and top-stitched, inside seams, crotch, waistband and hems. I attached the waistbands as per Strides method: overlock one edge, sew as usual and stitch in the ditch on the outside to catch the overlocked edge on the inside. I didn’t add belt loops. All internal seams are overlocked which does create a neat and extra strength inside.


The verdict: Love ’em! They’re like leggings with muscle. A little bit of stretch so I can at least sit down and walk up stairs but they hold an awful more in place than a four-way stretch and, of course, I’m wearing ‘proper’ trousers, not thick tights.

Back pocket placement – perfect

Fly zip – perfect (and relatively easy!)

Tightness and fit – perfect (when you sew 1cm seams)

Little details – perfect – two-piece back pockets that you can trim, top-stitch or do anything else your heart and artistic inspiration takes you.

Apart from the wrong-way round pockets and the too small pockets and the white zip….


I don’t usually wear crimson lipstick – blame the auto-correct in iphoto.

I know I’m middle-aged, not a size 10 and have curves and dips and valleys -if you have these things also, then hopefully you can see that you too can wear skinny jeans. Just leave the cropped bra top at home and chose something more becoming or at least, covering……


A final word on advice for dressing and undressing: put your socks on before the jeans as you’ll never roll the sock legs up under these tight legs to straighten them; the only method I’ve discovered to get out of these jeans is to turn them inside out on the way down, stand on the waistband and pull! Then you’re left with this –


Hey – if you feel young enough to make and wear skinny jeans then you’re young enough to leave them in an unkempt, inside-out pile on the floor for your mother to pick up tomorrow!









SWAP A1 (again) & B2

I asked, you answered, I acted….

SWAP Combination A, first garment looked like this



I listened and contemplated your very appreciated comments (thank you), then I got to work……….

Method: Lob off a wack of fabric from the bottom and remove patch pockets.


Put on Doris and pin out two shaping darts at the back

and two fitting darts on the front – sew.

Fold over the big collar to narrow it and do some stuff with trims and topstitching along the hem, darts and other edges

Make a buttonhole and sew on an almost coordinating button found in stash. My little Janome’s buttonhole contraption won’t sew a hole for a button this big so I just cut a rectangle and small stitched in place for extra reinforcement. The fleece won’t fray.

So almost back to the original plan. I should have stuck to it the first place and not try to be smart.


Worn today with the first garment for SWAP combination B (slate greys).


The most delicious Italian finest fine wool in tiny herringbone bought from Joel & Sons in their end of year remnant sale. Made into Vogue 9162. I am planning on making all three items from this pattern for SWAP B. The pattern includes a loose-fitting, lined jacket with welt pockets, an oversized shirt and these wide-legged pants.

Slide3The wide legged trousers have in-seam side pockets and an elasticated waist (honestly, I really did type that and I made them and I wear them!).

Let’s have a word about elasticated waists – the good things are that you don’t need a matching zip, buttons, hooks and eyes to finish; easy to make; easy to fit; easy to pull on and off. The bad things are that it’s an elasticated waist! Gathering, bunching, I can’t help associating them with women of a certain age……and it feels like I’m not sewing a ‘real’ garment and taking an easy way out.


Anyway, the trousers are actually quite good. They are supposed to worn with loose shirts on the outside to hide the elastic, so nobody but you and me will ever know. Just in case I ever decide to wear a short top or tuck in a shirt I added belt loops and made a button belt for a more polished look.


The trousers are unlined so I always wear my trouser-petticoat to prevent bumming and kneeing in the fine wool. These are always excellent for extra warmth in wintery weather.

BTW – just look at the difference in my colouring when I wear just dark grey and how much warmer I am wearing the pink jacket, so I might now have to rethink the solid grey combination for SWAP combo B!


Only second garment in and once again a possible change of plans.


SWAP will have to be put on hold for a week or two while I go on safari for Jungle January. Actually, my contribution for 2016 is heralding from the frozen heights of the Himalayas rather than the heat of the savannah ….


As always I’m in two minds about wearing animal printed fabric. This is the 5th year of me joining in and every year so far my efforts are inside, under or otherwise somewhat discreet. This year I’ll either look devastatingly Parisian or else a very poor imitation of Cruella de Ville.

101 Dalmations - Live Action Remake.Copyright: Disney.

101 Dalmatians – Live Action Remake. Copyright: Disney.

Just for fun – spot the snow leopard






Culottes and Tops and etc

I have not been idle – I’ve been sewing.

To make up for a week or two lack of blogging here’s a basement bargain post with not one, not two, not even three, but many things! Everything piled on top of one another, so get ready for a strip-tease. I would have put that in this post’s title but just knew I would garner unwelcome visitors – and on that subject but not quite – many welcomes to all new followers and supporters’ club members – hopefully you might get an idea or two that you can use in your own sewing…. and that obviously extends also to my long-term readers and dedicated followers: without whom this entry in my sewing diary would not have been possible.

Let’s start at the top: StyleaArc Mason coat in navy 2X2 acrylic rib; edged with sparkly denim cording and closed with a homemade contraption using two buttons and a bit of string. Scarf made with leftovers [see below].



The buttons look brown but they’re not – they’re blue/black. Just sew a bit of coordinating string onto one side and make a loop for the other button to “loop” through.




Underneath, same fabric as cardigan made using Vogue 7876 (OOP) but not as a wrap shirt but as a jumper with sides sewn closed and asymmetrical front hem.



Underneath the jumper, Namedclothing Fran shirt, cut without front button closure, so front piece all-in-one cut on the fold; scooped neckline with three cowl necks. Fabric is a printed panel from myfabrics – fine cotton voile in navy and white print with yellow border.


The pattern pieces were placed carefully to position the border print on the hem and sleeves.



Cut rectangles of fabric to fit neckline, fold and sew together. Treat as one piece.

Underneath that, Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; made in same fabric from a second panel but longer than Fran and so creates a double border hem look. Hemline was squared off and side splits added. Hand rolled hems.


Below waist, the actual star of the show – the Vogue 2807 Montana culottes – without your help would probably never have been made.


My original problem was the vintage pattern was a size 10 and I wear a size 14. Kim and Natasha came to the rescue big time including providing me with actual measurements from the original size 14 pattern and detailed instructions about re-sizing patterns. In the end, it wasn’t as difficult or as laboursome as I’d thought it would be – add a cm or so to the pattern edges and reduce the pleats by a bit. I know this is not precise or scientific but hey, look! I got a pair of culottes that are sort of in my size range.

Fabric is from The Cloth House, London [see previous post]. With legs together, ladylike, the culottes look like a skirt from the front. The pleats on centre front and back act as distractors from the crotch.


However, in these I can ride a bike, straddle a horse and sit in the most unlady-like fashion should I so desire.


These are very low slung…they sit way below the natural waist, although my resizing attempt may have had an undue influence in that. But they do have fab side pockets with a single welt and no side seams! The pockets are created between two darts…..bit scary all that sewing and slashin and reinforcing corners etc.


These culottes aren’t full or cumbersome around the legs and I’m pleasantly surprised with the pleats both front and back in that they don’t add that much extra width to the widest part of my body. Of course, you may see things from a different perspective and I appreciate that. The pleats are sewn down about 5″ which keeps them in place; the remainder pressed with a damp press cloth to retain the creases.


The culottes aren’t lined, so underneath them is this little trouser petticoat – Vogue 8888 –  French knickers cut long and whipped up onimgres the overlocker with elasticated waist until it threw a tantrum and I threw it out the window!

I kept them narrow so that I can wear them under other unlined winter wool trousers.


To identify front from back – add a little bit of ribbon or tape when you sew.

















And underneath the trousers’ petticoat….


nah! only joking!




Desperately Seeking Sizin’

What a fab weekend I’ve had! Flew out to London on Friday morning, straight to Liberty’s where I met the devastatingly beautiful Marianna, debuting her StyleArc Mara dress (on blog now!). We shopped the fabric shops and we both bought: Marianna completed her haberdashery supplies and I bought 2m navy pinstripe wool from The Cloth House. I had to fight off another shopper for the same fabric – she’s going to make trousers and I was going to make Gabriola skirt.


Mostly navy with a random strip of brown/black/grey throughout


Distressed sections with frayed edges. Colour not accurate in these photos; the grey/brown strip is much more subtle in real life

My conference finished earlier than expected on Saturday afternoon which permitted another couple of hours browsing along Regent Street before catching the last flight home and my bank balance well exercised and exhausted!

While I was away the postman brought a little parcel all the way from USA (Pattern Hoarder) and inside was this little beauty – Vintage Vogue 2807, Montana proper culottes.


“Proper” culottes are actually a split skirt: should have pleats and look like a skirt when the wearer is standing upright. In other words, you shouldn’t see the trousers at all, rather an inverted pleat at centre front and back.

Wide legged trousers that have been shortened are NOT culottes, they’re wide legged trousers that have been shortened!


Not culottes


Proper culottes

I have 3m of a navy rayon which was earmarked for the Vogue Montana culottes; 2m of my London purchase, earmarked for Gabriola skirt because of the pinstripes to maximise the pockets, seen here at OzzyBlackbeard. However, the Gabriola skirt needs 3m and the culottes only 2m, so the decision had been made for me – swap the fabrics and patterns.

There is, however, another problem; the vintage pattern (uncut) was available only in sizes 6-10 and I’m a 14! Still, too good not to get my hands on it.

Vogue sizing for 10 – waist= 25″, hips= 341/2″

Ease= 4″

For me – waist=30″, hips-40″

So, adjusting for fit, I need at least 5″ all round

So…..I’m crowdsourcing advice from you: you lovely, kind, helpful, educated, experienced and skilled people.

Here is the main pattern piece and an intriguing piece it is. The front and back are all one one, so centre front and back seams only. There are pleats at front and back and the mock fly at centre front.


I have to keep the centres at centre front and back, I have to keep the not-side seams (and pockets) at the sides and I have to keep the pleats in proportion and in position.

So how do I add approximately 4 – 5″ keeping everything in place?

Can I just cut bigger at the edges? What happens to the not-side seams, pleats and what-have-you?

Do I need to do cut/slash to keep the proportions? And where do I do this on this pattern keeping pleats and everything else in place?

Do I totally abandon and make a simple A-Line skirt instead?

Looking forward to your very welcome advice. Thank you in advance, Ruth.