Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


You Want Two Sleeves?

Most of us have two arms and therefore our shirts generally require two sleeves. When Vogue 9162 asks for 2.4m and you only buy 2m and then use some of it for pocket linings or a waistband facing or some such then you’re left with 1.7m or thereabouts, fitting the pattern onto the fabric can be a bit of an issue. Added to which this Kathryn Brenne pattern is for an oversized shirt – and I mean oversized! The model in the Vogue picture has clothes pegs used for fitting the shirt and jacket at the back! Def sure of that as I used to work in advertising. Anyway, back to real life…….with a pattern that is too big for your fabric.

So you start to edit the pattern to get the pieces to fit onto the meagre amount of fabric – maybe lose the front pocket, perhaps shorten it a bit, maybe narrow the width, instead of concealed button closing just make it normal – and so on until it doesn’t resemble the original pattern at all. Ultimately, I managed to fit the fronts and back on without any editing, the pocket hardly took any fabric at all and the concealed button closing was part of the front anyway. The real problem lay with the sleeves. It never fails to amaze me how much fabric sleeves need – quick guess at 1m?

So, here’s what I did to get two sleeves for both my arms – and you can do it too even if you need to or not…..

Fit the top of the sleeve pattern onto the remaining fabric and cut to suit the available length. We now have the shoulder seam and armscye and when sewing sleeves they are the Very Important Things and demand capitalisation.


I folded the pattern up for the first cut, then unfolded and repositioned on the crossgrain  scraps for the lower (and generally less important) half. Remember to allow for 1-1.5cm seam allowance. There are no cuffs in this pattern so one less thing to worry about. Join these two pieces together and lo and behold – a whole sleeve! With added design features!

To keep the inside sleeve neat and tidy I actually sewed these two halves wrong sides together! Then I cut a bias strip from more scraps, which is always impressive in a striped fabric, pressed the raw edges under and edge-stitched this onto the right side to hide the wrong side seam. Still with me?

And now it looks like a deliberate and well thought out design element that hides all raw edges.

Recently I’ve been following some French sewing blogs – I say following but I really just look at the pictures as French is not my first language – and they have this wonderful thing called De-Stocking! Nothing to do with bedroom antics but in English (specifically North American) it means de-stashing and the pledge is to sew at least one thing a month from your stock / stash / hoard / treasure / investment or whatever euphemism you choose to describe the metres and metres of fabric you own. I haven’t pledged anything primarily because I don’t know what my school-girl French might be translated into by Google but this grey and white striped poly-cotton was delivered over a year ago and I’m only getting round to sewing it now. So I count this as a positive de-stocking!

I’ve already made the Vogue 9162 trousers and this is the matching shirt.


Told you it was oversized although I might have made a bigger size than I needed. Anyway, I added a few ‘patches’ around the shirt either to compliment or disguise the hacked together sleeves and balance out the rather large breast pocket. My sleeves in the end product are longer than necessary and are usually worn pushed up or folded back.


My label was sewn in and I only do that on things I really like or that I am inordinately proud of.

The neck buttoning is stylish with a loop and not a bog-standard hole. I have worn this shirt open-necked and it is just as wearable.

Personal style opinion: such a large shirt looks better with narrow trousers or skinny jeans.

And as the camera was running out of battery, and we all know that feeling, I snapped a few out of focus pics that at least illustrate the overall look.

The remaining garment to be sewn from this single pattern is the jacket and yes, I do have a de-stocking fabric that is most suitable – a raspberry boiled wool – yum. I know it’s officially spring and the sun may break through the clouds on occasion but our temperatures are low and I might just get a few wearable weeks during May.

Talking of which – Me-Made-May launches this weekend. It is an online celebration of hand-made and home-sewn clothes. Personally, about 90% of my wardrobe is now home-made so I don’t have a choice for May or any other month for that matter but you can pledge and promise to wear your unique and beautifully crafted wardrobe every day of May, or every other day, or once a week – whatever suits you. Isn’t that the whole point of making our own clothes – suit yourself!


A Day in the Life of a Dress

A little while ago, I clued you off on the Vivienne Westwood Challenge and my antics with draping.



Thanks to Marianna of Sew2Pro for starting the ball rolling and sending me down the rabbit hole on this one.


There’s a lot of skirt going on there



Got a pocket too

















but wait…. that’s not all it does…


Gathers at the front


A side split


Wrapped around the back


Bussle at the back


Short front


With matching shrug and wrapped skirt


Off the shoulder


Wrapped the other direction


Wrapped with pleats on one side


Half wrapped skirt with gathers at back


Shrug and straight skirt


I sewed a couple of hooks at the side seams on the hem and sewed four loops under the selvage edged waist – by hooking the hemline at various points around the waist I can change the shape and drape of the skirt. The left shoulder is secured with a button so it can be undone and buttoned under the arm for an off the shoulder look.

The skirt seams are Frenched so that when I lift the hem for gathers and changing shape there are no raw edges showing.

And the shoes…. Vivienne Westwood, of course… Lady Dragon Sky blue with shiny red lips.



And what’s the first thing my hairdresser said to me this morning?

“Is that a Vivienne Westwood dress?”

Made my day!




MMM 2 Dress Week

The winter clothes are folded and packed away in the attic and last year’s summer stuff is scattered around the house – some for ironing, some for washing, some for giving away and some for wearing. I counted 13 dresses! I seem to make a lot of dresses but rarely wear them so……

This week for Me Made May, I set myself the challenge of wearing dresses. A different dress a day.


MONDAY Marfy 0303 free pattern with their catalogue, made in quilting cotton and worn with summer boots and I had a cardi on


TUESDAY: Vogue 8870 without the mullet hem, made in blue flowery chiffon, leather belt, summer boots and a denim jacket was worn on top



WEDNESDAY: Camera battery failing so sorry about the focus – Pattern Company (German), made in pink flowery chiffon with pink slip underneath for decency. Summer boots and denim jacket


THURSDAY: Brazilia dress made in polka dot cotton worn with long cotton jacket and scarf, summer boots




THURSDAY Brazillia Dress in polka dot cotton


FRIDAY Marfy 0303 in blue cotton and pale blue linen contrast. Worn with green cardi and sandals!

Some mornings I just wanted to reach for trousers and a shirt but I stuck to my promise and can now say, without guilt, that I have worn these dresses at least once! The weather has improved considerably since Monday, hence the removal of the boots and on with the sandals!

Here’s some extra details and links if you want to check out the patterns and fabric.

Marfy 0303: New this year.  I actually made the blue one (Friday) first and loved it so much I made the other one (Monday). The pattern comes free with the Marfy catalogue and as I’ve never made a Marfy before, this is a good way of testing the drafting and fit without having to purchase. Of course, you have to pay for the catalogue, but at €20 plus €9 postage, and 20 free patterns – it’s a bargain – and you get to look at all the pretty pictures. The main blue fabric is a robust brushed cotton from Croftmill and the pale blue contrast is a bit of shirt linen bought years ago from the now defunct Ulster Weavers. I made a drop down hem in the linen to sort of make it look like I had another dress underneath and to balance out the collar. Lined in blue china silk

The quilting cotton version is much the same, with a contrasting but matching pattern for the collar and drop down hem and lined in cream cotton. The extra hem also adds a little length. Marfy patterns don’t come with instructions so there is a little bit of figuring out to do but I love the results.

Vogue 8870: Tuesday – Made last year. I straightened out the mullet hem but should have lengthened the bodice by a couple of inches. I always wear this with a belt as I didn’t tighten the elasticated waist enough, and it covers the ‘high’ waist on the dress. It’s an Easy rated pattern but watch that bodice length! Fabric came from Tessu last year too, but I think they still have some.

Pattern Company: Wednesday – Made last year. Same fabric as Tuesday except in a different colour-way.  I made a pink satin slip to wear underneath which reflected the flash – it doesn’t look that shiny in real life and adds an extra layer and makes the dress decent for public consumption. I can also wear the pink slip under Tuesday’s dress. I can’t find the pattern this year, so it may have been withdrawn from the collection.

Check out Pattern Company patterns – they’re lovely. While the Italians don’t include instructions, the Germans do but they are in German (fair enough) so you either need to read German, translate them or make it up as you go along.

Brasilia Dress: Thursday – New this year. This is a free downloadable pattern from House of Pinheiro – thank you!  I wasn’t too sure about the size and the seam allowances so there was a lot of ‘fitting’ involved to get this dress to wearable status. I altered the neckline to include a sort of V thing similar to the Ralph Rucci in Vogue. It’s pretty when I’m standing upright with my shoulders back but as soon as I sit down there’s a wonderful view of everything at bust level – hence the scarf!

The fabric is a study cotton from Chrysalis, a lovely soft pink with creamy/ivory polka dots. On me it looks like the dress that wasn’t there – a little too similar to my own skin tones and so requires a stronger colour on top so I don’t look naked!

As for the Summer boots – these are the best invention ever!!! No need to wax or shave or apply tanning potion. The boots are usually unlined, perforated or punched with a design and made from thin suede. Look at these ones for some ideas  – Gido and Jessica Buurman for sandal/boots.

But the week is not over yet……..

More dresses to come. And just before I sign off for today – here’s a reminder of my Giveaway of your choice of uncut patterns. Entry closes on May 20th GMT. Good luck!



MMM Week 1


SATURDAY – Patchwork jeans dress Vintage Vogue 1137 with summer boots! What a brilliant invention! Sand RTW cardigan


SUNDAY – SWAP cardigan with straight no-pattern skirt made with leftovers from SWAP apple green jeans


MONDAY – Black 7/8 jeans (rub off), Centre for Pattern Design Bias top and matching infinity scarf; StyleArc black Ziggi jacket


TUESDAY – same jeans as Monday, patterned T-shirt Vogue 1310 Ralph Rucci , RTW cardigan


WEDNESDAY – rub off round-a-cords (fixed to fit!), Vogue 8641 ivory T-shirt, Noro cardigan (made up pattern)


THURSDAY – Same jeans as Wednesday, T-shirt and fleece jacket from SWAP