Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Pattern Magicians

In August, which only feels like last week, I picked up on a post at Sew 2 Pro . She had the same thoughts as myself – you buy a fabulous book; look at the pictures; read and try to decipher the instructions but never actually MAKE anything.

But Marianna’s idea wasn’t Burda or Gertie but Pattern Magic! Nothing like making life a little bit more difficult. I happen to have Pattern Magic 2 and have sat for many hours day dreaming about the fantastic creations I would make and, of course, never made anything. Then Marianna set a challenge –

Calling all adventurous, experimental and courageous sewists!

The Challenge
If you too have had enough of looking at the pictures and feel ready to try out one of the ideas in the book, then I’d love you to join me. Your project can be as simple or as complex as suits you. The only requirement is that your creation is inspired by what you’ve seen in one of Tomoko Nakamichi’s books.
Back in August I had plenty of time, then all of a sudden, it was October! The deadline was mid November. Then Paco sent me a couple of patterns, I was struggling with sewing leather, I wanted some autumn clothes and joined in Stitchers Guild Autumn 6PAC and so on and so on: was I putting off the PM challenge? Emm probably, but at last I settled down and focused on the immediate task
I’d left it too late to do a spectacular creation with knots and wraps and points – not that I am proficient enough to try this anyway – so needed something fairly easy and simple. I had a baby blue lycra jersey in the stash – a poor internet purchase, but I had 4m! It was taking up too much space and I couldn’t think of a suitable project to use it up and so it languished in the stash box. I noticed that my nightwear was becoming rather shabby and worn and decided I needed a new nightdress and this fabric would be ideal to sleep in. So dug out the Pattern Magic book and settled down to see what I could come up with.
I choose a square and a triangle – no darts, no shaping, no curves, no closures, interfacing or anything remotely connected to traditional sewing. A couple of seams and hems – that’s all.
Fold and cut the fabric.  No straight of grains, not much measuring – I just used the entire piece of fabric. The only waste was three little triangles left over from the square.

Drape over Doris to mark arm holes, fix the triangle points at centre back and determine the height of the centre front seam for the nightdress.

Wear and sleep like a baby…

Thanks Marianna. I would have loved to be able to do pleats and disappearing pockets – maybe next time!

Sew 2 Pro is doing a collage of all entrants this week – so head on over to see what else has been inspired by Pattern Magic books.



 I’ve changed my mind about bra and knicker making – woman’s prerogative, and I’m sticking to it!

The cat even made an unexpected visit to the sewing room to support and encourage me.

The good thing about making bras and knickers (sorry, but I really can’t bring myself to use the term ‘panties’) is that they take up so little fabric that it’s a productive way of using scraps. Actually, that’s not technically accurate – my knickers need A LOT of fabric!

The pattern I’m using also has only a few grain lines and when working with stretch fabrics does it really matter ? The pattern pieces can be placed in all directions to make them fit the fabric scraps. Excellent.

Why have I had this change of heart?

Well, when I calmed down after the first attempt and rationally analysed my methods, approach and results, I came up with a few (perhaps hard learned) lessons.

1. I am not an expert at everything
2. Use the right presser foot

With stretch fabric left over from the French house dress, I set to work with a pragmatic approach. I read the instruction manual that came with the new machine and discovered what foot C was for. Overlocking!

Whoppee, the fabric no longer gets trapped in the dog feed and it sews up just fine.

We have a saying in our house when someone is not very good at doing something “You need more practice at that”. You know, teenage son’s attempt at grass cutting, DH efforts at stacking the dishwasher, that sort of thing. So I put more practice into bra making. I tweaked the fit on the paper pattern from the fit of the first attempt and I lined the cups and the back band with self fabric. This time round I don’t mind showing you a full frontal close-up of the inside. Oh yes, could be tidier and neater, but way, way better than before.
The bit between the cups remains a little scrappy, but cleverly disguised by a well positioned button. This bra would be almost perfect if I was left handed (hooks and eyes attached to wrong ends of back band). Need more practice!

I made two pairs of matching knickers, alternating the fabric.

Lesson learned from knicker sewing – don’t stretch the elastic too tight when sewing. Doesn’t matter what size they look like – for proper usage they need to be able to go up further than the knees!

Anyway, I test drove the black and lace set yesterday and it was surprisingly comfortable, secure and smooth. This version has no padding or wires and I thought it would be a little ‘unsupportive’ of my newly discovered Ds but no, just the opposite. OK, I wasn’t running a marathon or anything but I kept checking all day to see if the bra was still there – I could hardly feel it at all.

Wired is the next challenge.

Is it weird to wear this under the French house dress? Too matchy-matchy?


Heaven & Hell

Guess what they make here?

We had a wonderful week away in Dublin on the choir tour: singing (listening to singing), laughing, shopping, eating, walking, sightseeing, more eating, sewing buttons on choir robes and and so on. A good time was had by all. The weather was fine and it was surprising how just a 100 miles further south can make a difference in the temperature – warm and balmy. 

A giant sized pint of Guinness made with aspects from all the advertisements and with hand made lace as the foam at the top. It was exquisite. The lace I mean, although the Guinness was fine too.

Christ Church, Dublin. One of the churches in which the boys sang

This is the back of Dublin Castle – just look at the colours and how well they compliment each other.

Ethereal in robes. It was too dark for my little camera to take a decent photo, but I like this one.
The whole trip was heavenly – not just the wonderful singing that the choir did but the company and the craic and the laughs. Can’t wait for next year’s!

So back to porridge, as my mother would say, meaning an attempt to return to routine and normality. I still have 10 days of holiday before going back to work so I really have to make good use of my time because come September – life will be manic as the new term starts.

I have so much blog reading to catch up on and already I notice that you have all been extremely busy and productive in my absence. Well done on all those finished items and works in progress – keep it up!

My bra making kit had been delivered while we were away, so while out collecting the cat from her cat hotel I picked up the package from ELingeriA at the Post Office. It contains all you need to make a bra and at least one pair of knickers – except for patterns. So I’d also ordered two patterns from them too – one for bras and the other for knickers –  all set to go on the bra making adventure.

ELingeriA is a Dutch company but the website is in English (which makes my life easier)  and they have a staggering array of fabrics, patterns, notions and potions. It makes the head reel at the choice and the endless combinations of colours.

I selected this pattern for the bra as it has 5 variations in the envelope so seemed good value and most importantly – it comes with an English instruction sheet. The pattern includes: 1 sports bra, 2 bras without wires and 2 bras with wires and underbust band. One of the wired bras is padded.

And this one for the panties. The pattern includes: 2 different panties with delicate lace insets. One can also be used as tommy control panty. Multisize pattern in sizes: S – M – L – XL – XXL and German or English instruction sheet

 Difficulty: Experience in sewing lingerie is required. This worried me – I’ve no experience of sewing lingerie and did feel a little overwhelmed.

I was daunted: I was terrified actually. Rings and sliders and other bits of hardware! What’s the difference between plush elastic and picot elastic and knicker elastic and some other kind of elastic? How can five little pieces of lace and lycra instil such an overwhelming sense of doom and dread? 

 I took things slowly – I measured (accurately) and traced the pieces rather than cutting the pattern – even colour coded them – purple for view C.

My sincere apologies go out to all of you who make bras and panties  – what you are about to see should be classified as 18 only. We are now entering hell………
It started out well enough. Upper cups (lace) attached successfully to lower cups (Lycra). 

 Cups attached to mid-band. Mmmmm , what do I do about that point in the middle? I’ll come back to it later and figure it out then. Good plan.

Sides attached. Not too neatly but it’s black and you have to look very carefully to see the wonky stitching.

However, at this stage I’m beginning to think about fit. When can I try this on to check fit? At the end? There are that many zigzags and overlock stitches that it would be a nightmare to rip out.

So I carried on in blind faith.

The machine felt my uncertainty and started acted up –  trapped fabric in the dog-feed. Not just once either!

Broken threads.

Fabric not feeding through the needle.

My frustration was mounting; my time was wasting away; I questioned my sanity and why didn’t I feel the addiction that all other sewers seem to feel when making lingerie?

I adjusted and twiddled and tinkered about and carried on – getting angrier and angrier. You know the feeling?

To cut a very long story short – the bra was eventually completed and a pair of matching knickers was hacked together. Now for the scary details……
Atrocious attachment of hook and eyes at the back. The hooks and eyes I ordered were the wrong size for the back bands so I cobbled together a clasp from a bra extender. The cups were a bit baggy so I made a scrappy dart-thing at the sides to pull them in a bit.

The seaming on the knickers is like something from a thing that’s so bad I can’t even think of a metaphor. But I had to complete the panties because I had to find out about their fit too and you have to wait until the final moment to check. The stitching on the inside of both items should remain totally out of sight of respectable human beings – it’s scary and would frighten little children.

Both fit. But I’m not happy about it.

Please tell me your first attempt was as horrendous as this!

I’ve been honest with you and admitted to all these mistakes and shown you the gory details. I’ve bared my soul and confessed.

I still don’t feel a sense of accomplishment or pride, nor an overwhelming desire to make more. Is there something wrong with me?

I’m off to make something easy like a tailored jacket in a check (plaid) fabric using haute couture and Saville Row tailoring techniques – matching all the checks and lines across the lapels and sleeves and fronts; bit of pad stitching; shrinking and stretching the wool for a perfect fit; underlining, interfacing, padding and lining. Oh look….

I’ve already started….