Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


A/W ’17 O Collection Add-ons

It’s all very well having a few well sewn and well fitting trousers as part of my O collection (check out the last few blog posts for an update) but they are quite useless without tops. I am in Hemlock T-shirt overload…..


Enough…….. Blue, grey, mustard, brown, forest green, dark green and I have some burgundy jersey in the waiting room but I don’t think I can face another one just yet.

I can sew up one of these tops in under one hour so please don’t think I’m mega prolific – it’s much quicker than going to the shops or trawling the Internet for a long sleeve T-shirt –  but I got a little bored and sometimes I added a centre front seam, sleeve cuffs, hem band, added little seam details etc etc etc. anything to ring the changes.


Each one has a complementary scarf (a signature look of Oska) made from leftovers. Some are dip-dyed and some are bleached and some are as they are. Keeping the scarves relatively narrow ( 8-9″) means I can twist two together to create different look.


Sometimes I cut the Hemlocks large and sometimes I cut them close to get different drapes, fit and looks. It also means I can wear one over another so that the neckline, hem and sleeves show below the top layer. Fabric properties also contributed to the finished look and fit. I’ve used organic cotton jersey, poly knits, poly jersey and practically any other fibre that has been transformed into a knit fabric.

I made a little cropped cardigan (middle pic) with more leftovers just in case I need another top over a top.

However, I do have to say that while I have made a plethora of Hemlocks and ennui is setting, these are the best ever, easiest and most versatile tops I’ve ever sewn.

Out the other side of sewing – I have really and truly completed another knitting job and this time it’s for me.


Using Knitting Without Tears ; an Elizabeth Zimmerman yoke jumper in moss green with bright green highlights and the blame lies fairly and squarely at the feet of Kate. Drops Angora yarn which is soft and stable.

The sleeves are unshaped because I started with the recommended finished number of stitches and hence I avoided having to think about increasing every 4th row and all that stuff: they sort of resemble a gentle bell-shaped sleeve and one, I personally like.

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a cowl/high neck or a low/round one so somehow I managed to get both!

The jumper is finished with a simple round neck in the bright green wool. Afterwards, I fired up the round needles again with twin yarns of the dark and bright green and knitted a 2 X 2 rib cowly sort of thing. I started with the number of stitches that the neckline finished with (top view), ribbed a few inches, increased a few stitches to create a flare (bottom view), ribbed a few more inches and cast off.


I can wear the jumper in its natural state


I can fold the addition in half and add a Polo neck


I can add a cowl neck, wearing the looser edge on the outside.


And when every other bit of my body is warm enough except my ears I can have a head band


With a little bit of green wool leftover (sorry, I can’t help it) I’m now attempting socks! Honestly though, there are times when buying RTW makes a lot of sense……

In other news, please check out my long distance sewing friend’s brand new website –

Wendy takes custom orders for outfits and clothes, makes all her own, of course and develops her own designs. She is now ready to sell some of these unique creations to a very select few lucky people.

I met Wendy in real life last September when she visited her sister who lives in Donegal. We had a very enjoyable afternoon wandering around L’Derry. We had the same lipstick, both shade and make, we ordered the same thing for lunch and we liked the same clothes, styles, colours and everything else. How wonderful to meet someone so like me!


The Trouble with Knitting

I love sewing: we all do – that’s why we’re here ….the pairing of pattern and fabric, the choice of garments, trying on and (almost perfect) fitting, the construction techniques, the uniqueness. But knitting! I could swear here %***!*&

When I sew something, I try it on halfway through its making. If it’s too loose I sew a wider seam allowance, if it’s too tight I sew a narrower seam allowance. Simple.

But knitting – honestly – you have to get practically to the end for trying on purposes and if it’s not right then there’s only one thing to be done – swear repeatedly and loudly, stick the whole lot in a plastic bag, hide it and go back to sewing. And it takes soooo long to do.

Knitting – it’s a demon. About three years ago my husband asked me to knit him a sweater. I sent him off to hunt around Ravelry and thought that’s the end of that. Ha! However, he found a pattern and ordered wool – expensive stuff like alpaca and silk. I started the sweater five times! I’d knit up about 10cms then lose my way in the K1,P2,YO,K2,P3, K1 (that’s made up BTW) complicated rib; rip it out and start again, and again, and again. Then one day I did the only sensible thing and the whole lot ended up in a plastic bag and hidden from sight.

downloadKate got us all started on knitting over the summer with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting without Tears. I remembered the luxurious yarn that was sweating in a plastic bag so I bought the book and the circular needles and got stuck in.

Kate has knitted some stunning jumpers herself and is a real inspiration. See some other sewers whom she has encouraged and enabled to knit and their finished versions here.


eks-1-2The yarn that was purchased many years ago for the doomed jumper is Drops alpaca in indigo with a second yarn of Drops silk in a lighter blue, knitted as one strand. It produces a lovely mottled/marl effect. It really is the softest thing. If I remember correctly it was bought from Purple Sheep Yarns – really quick dispatch and the cheapest, even though this is not cheap yarn.


The pattern is the mock raglan sleeve jumper from EZ book with the only bit of sewing being under the arms.


But look…….

Only joking!



It’s not for me, it’s for him….


The sleeves are a little long but not too bad. I just left the edges to curl – as per my customer who wanted something loose and relaxed. I didn’t cry. I didn’t swear. The plastic bag is empty. He got a jumper.

My confidence with knitting has risen slightly. EZ has a lovely, friendly way of writing that makes you feel that everything is OK. One extra stitch is not a disaster and I love her instructions for ‘approximately’ 10″ – my kind of rules. Of course, Kate has demonstrated many times that knitting is not the black art that I thought it was and that I Can!


I’ve started my second and this time it is for me.

I’m enjoying shopping for yarns – the colours, the thicknesses, the options……

It still takes me ages and ages to knit but at least now it gets finished and there are no tears, no stuffed plastic bags out of sight, nor swearing!

(Well maybe just a wee bit @*#*!)




Firing up the Machine

I so enjoyed the hand sewing and stitching of cotton jersey but it was time to move on, plug the machine back in and get sewing things that take a week to make not a couple of months.

I ordered some corduroy during the summer from MyFabrics in prep for A/W 14 with the intention of a pair of jeans. A most unusual fabric, it is batik dyed in shades of brown, rust, blue, brown, olive – it sort of looks like I stripped down the car engine and wiped my hands on my clothes; subtle but interesting. I love it. It is also so soft as it’s 100% cotton and very finely corded. As with all internet fabric purchases I tend to buy in full metres and 2m were ordered.



I made the jeans (not round-a-cords this time). Made these a million times (Craftsy Jeanius) so not much to say about them.  Straight-legged and a wee bit shorter than normal for wearing with flat boots. More later…








But I did have about 0.8m of the cord left over. I downloaded and taped together Grainline Moss skirt ages and ages ago and never made it, so a perfect opportunity to use up the surplus. This did require a certain amount of ingenuity as the pattern actually calls for 1.2m and I like my skirts a little longer! I made the version with bottom band and added 1″ to the skirt length before hand.

All the inside bits were cut from scraps of quilting cotton and the waistband was hacked out of two bits of cord.

12001ViewBFrontDespite steam stretching, there’s very little shaping and it is a bit big, so belt carriers were added and I’ll wear it with a belt – problem solved!


I topstitched in a pale blue and added the bottom hem band – I like this extra detail. The instructions tell you to sew the skirt’s side seams, make the band and then sew the two together at the hemline. To me that’s just asking for trouble, I’d never match the side seams with my non-accuracy of sewing, so I sewed one side only on both the skirt and the band: stitched these together and then sewed the other side seam all the way through the band – perfect seam matching and no worries about the band being too big or too small.


You can see the shading in the fabric here


There are so many very good examples of this skirt for you to view and get inspiration from – from traditional denim to patterned cotton and some fabulous versions in-between. Just Google Grainline Moss and you’ll see….I’m sorry I didn’t make this sooner – but is it a replacement for Vogue 1247? I’m not going to do a pattern review as it’s been done to death and I’ve nothing much to add. We all have different shapes and bodies; we have different expectations of patterns and we all like different things.


The blouse/shirt was made to co-ordinate with the jeans but it is better with the Moss skirt.


Fabric is a drapey viscose from Chrysalis Autumn ’14 collection and reminds me of granddad’s pyjamas. So retro, yet so modern, with muted shades of blue and rust and ivory and as slippery as silk. Just lovely (to wear, not so much to sew).

If you want sleeves but don’t want to sew them in, then this is the pattern for you! Named Fran blouse has kimono cut on sleeves without the tonnes of fabric that makes it difficult to put a jacket on. Slim-line sleeves that have a deep but straightforward slit, fastened at the wrist with snaps and disguised with a button (no instructions for this BTW).


Downloading and tracing patterns is not without its tribulations, especially as the downloaded pattern is a Burdaesque contour map without the colour!  UntitledUntil I double check my actual pattern I can’t confirm that this is the pattern’s fault or mine – but one sleeve was a few inches longer than the other! I also noted on the website that the model’s version had very long sleeves (see pic above), so I’d already decided to shorten mine to normal length. It’s easy to fix but just a little bit annoying and somewhat puzzling at the time.











Pretty tie bow at the neck and shirt tails – so it sort of straddles the dressiness of a blouse with the relaxed fit of a shirt.


I couldn’t quite figure out the instructions for the front button band so I just went with what I knew. For a blouse that has no darts, mine is a wee bit ‘fitted’. You might also notice that I’ve been laying down a few layers of fat for the winter – that has taken at least 10 weeks of concerted effort BTW! I cut a 14 which matches my measurements but Scandinavian ease seems to be slightly more restricted than Vogue’s. I’ve had to add a snap at the bust line to stop the gap! Next time, I’ll cut a bit bigger.


And of course there was about 0.8m leftover of the granddad viscose but we’ll leave that for another day….this is getting too long already.

What’s better than making something you didn’t plan to make and finding that it also goes with items already in your wardrobe?


AC beaded T-shirt in dusky pink with boyfriend style cardigan in Noro ( I’m sorry, I can’t remember the colour-way or content) – pinks and olives and burgundy, knitted at the tale-end of last winter to wear with burgundy round-a-cords and back in circulation this year with a new lease of life.

And what’s next?


Well, I have a most sumptuous 2m of wool tweed (also from Chrysalis) that co-ordinates perfectly but not matchy-matchy with the jeans, skirt and blouse. A tailored jacket will definitely not be made in a week, so I’d better get cracking……..if I can settle on a design – any suggestions?



Teal’s Not in the Rainbow…

Having knitted up the hugest jumper in the world I realised that apart from jeans I didn’t really have much to wear with it. I skipped a SWAP sew and got side tracked into making clothes that I will wear now. This could well be the reason that I was still sewing SWAP right up to the last minute last year…


There’s quite a bit of teal and teal-type colours in the jumper and Croftmill had a great offer on teal moleskin and I have my Kenneth D. King’s Jeanius pattern rub-off and I already have a teal T-shirt, so I just had to really.


There’s nothing remarkable about the jeans. I usually make a boot cut leg but these ones were straightened and not made in denim. Emm, that’s about it …….except….. I now have ANOTHER knitted garment to wear with these.

Remember the purple kimono cardigan, well, it’s


finally finished! It only took 8 years to complete! I am not a skilled or quick knitter. It’s a cardigan of many stitches – knit, purl, moss stitch, rib and a bit of impetuous casting on and off. I kinda just made it up as I went along.



Fronts are both different, R-H side is moss stitch and L-H side is 1-1 rib. The left sleeve is ordinary st-st but the right sleeve is knit. All held together with a very sharp hat pin.

Sling on a go-with-everything-white shirt (from SWAP ’13), throw a coordinating scarf around your neck and you’re all set to go.


All together now…


There is however one problem with the jeans – after a day of wear the moleskin stretches out and this is what happens…DSC01105

I’ll wash them on a high temperature to try and shrink them back down – apart from ripping out and starting over (which I’m not going to do) any other suggestions?

Still missing pictures?


SWAP’14 Yellow

I’ve started on my SWAP for this year – 11 garments before the end of April. This year the rules are to sew 3 X 3 +2: that is three outfits of three items plus two wildcards. I’m doing mine based on the colours of the rainbow – red/orange/yellow – blue/green – indigo/violet. I’m starting with the red end of the spectrum and have just completed my first item –


This was so easy to sew together that it only took a few hours to put together but the felting took days!


I have been doing a bit of simple knitting over the holidays while watching movies and BBC dramas on TV using Noro yarn. This stuff is just extraordinary – blends of wool, silk, angora, cashmere – just think of all the most luxurious fibres in the world twisted and rolled into one. The yarns are always variegated and are coloured with natural dyes and hence knits up like stripes.



Wonders of wonders but I have actually completed a jumper using this yarn!

From the leftover yarn I cut out the red/orange/pink sections to felt onto the jacket.

I bought some felting equipment – a brush and a needle stylus. You position the fabric with the yarn over the brush and stab like a mad woman until the two are blended together – then you move onto the next section etc. The needles are extremely sharp and have barbs along the shafts so that when you stab the fabric the fibres are mixed together and the embellishment is pushed through and into the base.

The line design comes with the Vogue pattern. You just mark up your pieces with tacks, pin the lengths of yarn to match and start stabbing until the two things become one.This was fun at first, then boring, then tedious and then just plain hard work – but the felting process itself is still fascinating. You’d think that you would do damage to the fabric by continuously sticking needles into it but a little steam pressing later and you’ve got a whole new and totally unique fabric. I didn’t follow the design meticulously; left off the circles and added a few more lines, shortened the ones around the neckline and lengthened some on the back – just made it mine!

Original Marcy Tilton Vogue jacket

Original Marcy Tilton Vogue jacket

My boiled wool is much finer than the pattern envelope pictures and so flops about quite a bit at the neckline. To secure the fronts together, should I wish to do so, I made a ‘brooch’ – more yarns felted onto a circle of the fabric. I think mine is more like a cardigan than a jacket but that’s OK.

DSC00721 DSC00722Because the boiled wool doesn’t fray you don’t have to finish any seams or hem or attach facings – this is why it takes hardly no time to sew up. You could also use any fabric that doesn’t fray, like fleece, neoprene or even leather. Just make sure your cutting at the edges is razor sharp and not wobbly like mine – perhaps a rotary cutter would be better than scissors to get a smooth, even cut.


The jacket is completely unfitted and very loose, which means it will fit over bulky jumpers with ease. There’s a nice little touch on the sleeves with a cuff dart for just a teeny bit of shaping.

DSC00739 DSC00740 DSC00741

This is the first item in my wardrobe that is yellow, so until I make the skirt and shirt planned for this colour spectrum, I’ve nothing but jeans to wear with it.

And the knitted jumper? Finished? Yep


Infinity scarf to use up the leftovers


Absolutely shapeless and constructed solely in a knit stitch – my kind of knitting! But cosy like a blanket and enough colours to brighten the dullest of days.

Finally…. here’s me playing charades at the New Year’s Eve party the other night.

Mail Attachment

I was given the song “Frosty the Snowman”, but in the all the fun and excitement I got my Christmas icons mixed up and ended up miming “Frigid the Reindeer”! Ever heard of that one?

But the dress looks good doesn’t it? And I had a matching red party hat! I took on board all the advice about the jewellery and went with one chain necklace, worn backwards, down the back. Thanks for that! 

So one SWAP item down! Six more colours to go and 10 garments to sew – I’d better get cracking on then – especially as I’ll  have to take a break from my rainbow to venture into animal print land for Jungle January 2!