Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



I’m always far behind with the fashion trends – this particular one by 4,000 years!

The Japanese have kimono, the Americans have poncho and the Northern Europeans have Bog Coats – all of them are the simplest of shapes, straight line cut, easy sewing and minimal waste. I suppose in the days when you had to weave your own fabric you certainly weren’t going to cut it up and throw most of it away like we do today.

aw15libe1041000bI picked up a few metres of vintage Varuna Liberty at a craft fair recently – a fine woven wool in a long ago colourway. The design is still available but not in wool although in new and now up-to-date colours: called Deborah.

My particular colours are  maybe not something that I would necessarily choose right now but at a very cheap price and with the Liberty pedigree I couldn’t resist.  I didn’t want to use it all in one go, so some went on the bog coat, some went to a sewing friend and 1/2m leftovers went to stash box.

I could go into detail here about how to make a bog coat but quite honestly loads of other people have done it before me and probably much better than I could. Here’s a few links to what I picked out as the easiest and best –

Threads PDF with clear instructions, tips and ideas –

Video with construction technique –

How to weave your own (if you have a loom) –

Mine turned out to be more dressing gown than coat so that’s what it became – a lightweight gown for early autumn mornings.


I added two ties at the side for a wrap-around and cut off 2″ from the hem for a binding at the open edges.


Front seam that is the extension of the sleeves and edge binding – sewn with the overlocker.

V8888And the Buy one get one free? – Two nightdresses, one to match the bog coat and one to match the other one.

Vogue 8888 made with some ‘beige’ cotton jersey that never got dyed or made into an Alabama Chanin masterpiece. There comes a time in a woman’s life when only natural fibres will suffice for sleep – and when you have to throw the duvet off in the middle of the night you at least want to keep some decorum while tossing and turning all sweaty and hot.

One nightdress has some spare Liberty fabric, cut on bias, for bodice and straps, the other has some brown lace left over from my foray into bra making.



All the seams are machine sewed and semi-flat felled, in that I just pressed the seam to one side and top-stitched it in place.


I finished both with picot edging around the armholes and back. And both have extensions on the hem to lengthen them and continue the colour trim theme – Liberty edge on one and brown lace on the other.

The thing about the bog coat is that not only being easy-peasy to cut and sew, and leaving no detritus in its wake, it’s as versatile as it is old. You can make it in any fabric, add trims, embellishments, fastenings, pockets; you can make it any length depending on your fabric availability and the sleeves can be as wide as you want. It is generally made on the lengthwise grain of the fabric so try to use one that is 60″ wide to give yourself the full width to play with, this should be enough for full length sleeves.





Balenciaga dipped his toes into bog coat philosophy in the 1960s with his one seam coat and this Patrick Kelly pattern for download (thanks to Pattern Vault)  for a 1980s version.

Issy Miyake also developed the one seam, straight cut coat into his famous cocoon coat 1976.



If this idea takes your interest I would also encourage you to take at look at Well-Suited and the Erte take on the kimono.

Just goes to show you – there’s really nothing new….


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!




Jungle January 2

1f86b6cc_Majestic-Cheetah-gattoWith just a few days to go until the gates on the great savannah close for yet another year and the animals can sleep peacefully, stalk, hunt and kill each other knowing that at least they are safe from errant sewers, I have bagged the best beast in the jungle.




imgresEver since Anne put up this pic of Mrs Robinson, it has been my inspiration for this year’s safari. Six pairs of knickers and two bras later I cut the Dolce & Gabbana cheetah print into a slip and French knickers.



While I am million miles away from Mrs Robinson (both in style and shenanigans), there’s always make-believe.


Fabric from Chrysalis Winter 2011. Pattern Vogue 8888


















don’t call me pussycat – call me Mrs Robinson!



Literally, head to toe –


With the itty-bitty bits left over, I’ve now got matching underwear! Now, what boutique in the world could offer you that?

Pattern is Fehr Trade’s Lacy Thong, once again, downloadable and free.

I really am indebted to all the sewing sisters out there who give their time and designs for us mere mortals to abuse and misuse – from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU.



Knits Only – Yeah Right!

I must be getting soft in my old age – actively volunteering to sew for others! The mother of my niece and nephew, SIL, asked for a pair of jammie bottoms and I took this challenge as an opportunity for more practice on the overlocker (serger). I bought the fabric from Ikea; 100% cotton and soft with it, in a pale pink with small red polka dots. It’s funny how the colours I was told should never go together are now commonplace and they look good!

Red and pink – No

Red and green – No

White and cream – No

Black and navy – No

Any others you can think of?

The bottoms were made using Vogue 8641 which is supposed to be made in a knit but I just cut a bit bigger over the hips and waist. I’ve made these bottoms numerous times over the summer in wovens, even good quality linen, and this amateur alteration has worked just fine for me. The waist is elasticated, but gently so they just pull on. I’ve noticed the pattern is now OOP – shame, all the really useful ones generally are. Here’s all the versions I’ve made: takes an hour, it’s really just two tubes joined at the top.


And the completed PJs – DSC00350 I’ve also had the Sorbetto PDF downloaded for ages now but have never even got round to printing it out. As I always buy in whole metres, I had left over fabric so I got my act together and tiled the A4s. SIL got a top and now she has a complete pair of PJs to sleep well in not just the bottoms. The red cotton was discovered in my mother’s stash and it filled in the gaps very nicely. For the Sorbetto top I cut the centre front open and added a panel of contrasting polka dots, pressed and sewn into the pleat. The neck and arms are finished with bias strips – more practice for my abysmal stitching-in-the-ditch.  I also had to add an extra band at the bottom as there wasn’t enough red to make the full length. To balance it all out I added red cuffs to the bottoms.DSC00353


The first of the new labels was sewn in – you can’t have a pair of couture PJs without a label to prove it!

I made a dress that was designed for wovens in a knit and I made trousers that are designed for knits in a woven – bit like the colour combinations – just do what feels right.

And K – you know who you are!  You still haven’t given me your true measurements!