Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


A/W ’16 Mustard

My husband, before he became my husband, used to tell a very rude joke and the punch line was “mustard, custard and you, you big sh***!”  Anyway………he doesn’t tell the joke anymore and my next outfit for autumn/winter is complete.

Same trousers as the burgundy ones but this time with added inseam side pockets and turn ups at the hem.dscn6753

I like cropped winter trousers: they remind me of plus fours and country living, and I can wear either boots or shoes. Worn today with the shirt you’ve seen before.


Johnny Rotten as an English country gentleman


All fabrics are from Fabworks – I’m Fabworks head to toe today! (Not sponsored by them btw).

18 TwistThe trousers are Donegal tweed: Warm, mellow, sunflower, saffron and turmeric tones weave through this gorgeous Donegal Tweed herringbone, evoking memories of relaxed autumnal strolls and the resting evening sunshine. Woven with the ever-present charcoal warp to form a reassuring background of chevrons; the Donegal yarn sitting in the mellow sunflower and mustard warp has pale straw, saffron and honey coloured flecks. This 100% new wool has a reassuringly soft texture, but remains a medium weight with a great handle and drape.

I mean, really, how could you not not fall for that?


An easy method to elasticate a waist is this:

  1. Measure the elastic to your waist, stretching a little, and sew the ends together to make a band.dscn6678
  2. Quarter this band with pins and then match each pin with the four seams, front, back and sides.
  3. Serge or small zig-zag this band (yes, that is bra strap elastic) to the inside of your garment, lining up edge to edge.dscn6679
  4. Fold the elastic over to the inside and zig-zag in place to form a waistband.dscn6683

Neat and easy

The trousers are lined too. The lining is slip-stitched to the ‘waistband’ and hides the serged edges.

Even neater.


As Sunflower Chunky Ribbed Knit is a beautiful knitted all wool fabric from Avoca, it’s a superb, brushed fabric with a medium weight soft drape and handle, and due to being knitted rather than woven it has a good natural lengthwise stretch with some stretch on the width too! The beautiful sunflower coloured yarn with darker and lighter tones throughout, has been knitted in a double row ribbed construction that has alternating fine black bands knitted in between to create the chunky rib affect.

See what I mean? I fell for that one too.

The jumper is hacked from a Burda pattern for a cardigan. I prepared the pattern many, many years ago before I understood and realised that patterns require an organisational system  of their own. I can’t bring to mind the actual pattern number ….It’s the one with the girl standing in front of a barn door……..

I used the raglan sleeves and the back yoke and front (with a centre seam) but I just made up the V neck front and added a small patch pocket. I also made front and back different lengths and put small slits at the sides to mark the step.


It was fun mucking about with the stripes on the pattern pieces creating some interest and directional movement. The sleeves are bias cut, the back yoke and pocket on the horizontal, the fronts and lower back on the vertical.



To keep the V neck as a V, I faced it with some cotton bias binding as a stabiliser. The fabric doesn’t fray but I thought that narrow cuffs would be a nice finishing touch on the sleeves. All seams are serged just in case.


And of course there were leftovers and cut-offs. I used these up in the form of a beret and a couple of scarves in preparation of anticipation of a cold winter.


Other things….

The postman brought some lovely things recently, mainly courtesy of a Vogue pattern sale. Fabworks also sent me the checked cotton shirting (far right) after I ordered and paid for it.


One plus one together makes this, not 2.

The selvage was too good to cut off and throw away so it was used as a trim on all edges; cuffs, collar, button band and hem.


I had fun with the stripes on this fabric too and I do hope you notice the almost perfect alignment across the fronts!


Life’s been quite busy recently including a very pleasant weekend spent in London, England. A few weeks ago I flew out early on Friday with plans afoot to spend a lot of money and spend a lot of money I did! The fruits of these purchases to be revealed soon. The highlight of the trip was dinner at Kate’s. Marijana was there too and we all wore our own individual, handmade, couture and unique versions of the Six Napoleon dress. We had a 6Nap party!


I look like a giant in comparison to my petite and neat sewing companions. Additionally their dresses were so much better than mine. Both ladies are fabulous and I’m so pleased to have met them online and then followed this up in person. Thank you Kate and Marijana, it was so much better than sitting in a hotel room on my lonesome wearing a party dress with no party to go to.





SWAP A2, A3 & A2 Again

I’ve been away from blogging for a week or two so just to remind you that this is SWAP combination A.

Thank you all so much for such generous comments on Jungle January coat – it’s a welcome relief from forced coordination wardrobe planning.

In the silent weeks I made this.


It was part of SWAP and the cornerstone of combination A – 3 garments that make an outfit and based upon my colour scheme of heather.


Simplicity K1465 made in a ‘found’ mixed wool fibre tweed in pink and olive green houndstooth. The fabric came from an antique shop in Greyabbey and what you got was what you got. The pattern is a straight mock wrap skirt with a 360 peplum and a frill along the edge of the wrap. Fully lined, completely and utterly understitched, frill hand stitched down at crucial points; there isn’t a seam or join that isn’t sewn at least twice. The peplum and frill were laboriously hand frayed. The finished skirt length was totally determined by the amount of fabric.

Looked like this…



Along the way I sewed a Paco Peralta Draped Top (A3) in olive green wool crepe to wear with the skirt. il_fullxfull.292016701I’ve made this many, many times before. This time I added a little back neck opening with a button closure. Otherwise, nothing’ s changed and it’s still a very stylish and classic contribution to any wardrobe. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made a SWAP in the last 3 years without a Paco Draped Top being part of it. It’s a foundation and at the same time an embellishment.

I have another me within my head and sometimes (actually, many times) she is 100% right but I have developed the ability to totally ignore her. She had severe reservations while sewing this skirt but I carried on regardless of her little voice that kept saying ” No. This isn’t you. This isn’t your style. You will never wear it.”

And what do you know – she was right again! I hate that.


So, I unpicked and cut and salvaged and saved what I could and ended up with a straight skirt without peplum or frill or mock-wrap and too short.

Undeterred, or maybe foolishly, I couldn’t leave the blasted thing alone.

Also along the way I sewed a pair of winter Strides in olive green Donegal tweed – both pattern and fabric from Merchant and Mills.DSCN6064

As usual after every make I had a little bit of tweed left over; this was added to my not-peplum-anymore skirt.


I made some pleats like this:

Sew a big long ring of fabric, overlock the edges and hem. Hemming must be done before pleating. Mark out regular divisions – I used 1″.


Concertina the fabric to the marks and pin. Then tack securely.


Press extremely well with a damp pressing cloth and lots of steam on both side of the fabric.

I sewed the pleats to the lining and catchstitched the lining to the skirt.

The skirt’s side seams were rounded to reveal more pleats. And this is the ‘new’ skirt


Swishy hemline with an apron-effect top skirt….

that goes with my pink fleece jacket


as does the new Strides


I have absolutely no idea what part of SWAP is done or has to be done or even what part of SWAP I’m working on – I just seem to be sewing clothes in a couple of colourways and hoping that I’ll end up with 3 + 3 +2 +3 coordinating garments.

My first item, the pink coat, was cut down and altered into a short fitted jacket and now the peplum skirt has been completely refashioned using pleats. I’d save a lot of time if I just managed to sew it right first time!

I actually think I’m doing APWS – a plan with sewing rather than sewing with a plan.

With these four things plus the grey Vogue trousers I now have five garments – almost halfway there.




Don’t bother me – I’m Sewing Princess Seams

This week my little boy turned 18 years old and to congratulate myself for managing to keep him alive and also to legally relinquish my parental duties I bought new shoes and made a new dress.


The shoes are Vivienne Westwood for Melissa: nude (go with anything) with big tartan hearts.


The dress is Vogue 8648 and it’s the one Susan Khaljie uses for her Craftsy class on couture sewing. I had the class playing in the background while I sewed but I didn’t go all the way with the couture techniques – and anyway she just made me feel guilty. I gave in eventually and hand-picked the zip which I’d shifted from the back to the left-hand side. I had to do it this way because the bodice of my dress is a completely different colour from the skirt so at least my threads match now and it was so much easier to match the horizontal seams too.

I used a white cotton/linen nubbly weave fabric by Linton Tweeds mixed with a petrol blue silky poly with white horses and carriages on it for the bodice. I made the short sleeved version and kept the back neckline low. Always a little self conscious about arms and my scarred back, I do like a cover-up. With the leftover Linton I made a half of a Paco Unique jacket: ie. just the upper part and sleeves only. The fronts are faced with the same fabric as the dress bodice. And I made a belt too.


If you are wondering, “Is cutting out and sewing your own individual and personalised bunting satisfying and worthwhile?” – NO , it’s not! Just buy the fecking stuff.

And while we’re talking about sewing – the dress…….

Princess seam central. Two-piece sleeves (sort of princess seamed), back bodice – princess seams, back skirt (you guessed it) princess seams….Do it all again for the lining….Get the picture? I don’t mind princess seams usually but they can be tricky especially if your fabric doesn’t stretch at all and your cutting out of the slippery, silky poly is rather inaccurate to begin with. Princess seams allow a lovely fit on the bodice which is easy to alter and creates a much softer silhouette than darts. Just watch those notches and make sure they line up, hence the copious amount of concentration.


Slide1What do you think is better  – princess seams or darts?

I’ve actually just realised that I didn’t topstitch my dress as marked on the illustration, so I suppose the sewing police will be round in a moment or two. Better hurry this up…


We went out to dinner to a really posh hotel and brought the son with us – although he has been there loads of times before of course, while his mother and father haven’t so much as set our poverty stricken feet over the threshold.

Not so much as a new dress but a complete outfit – so I did all right out of that celebration, oh and the boy’s not bad either.



Sew Small World

DSCN5083Once upon a time there was a designer (and still is) called Mieko Mintz (originally from Japan and now works from New York)  who found some Kantha quilts (India) and made some jackets.



Heidi wore this (New York) and Margy (California) found the shop.




Joy (Stitchers Guild) first showed the Heidi pic and a whole lot of us were hooked (obsessed?). Manuela (Hong Kong) seemed to be the first to the interweb but I will stand corrected if  anyone thinks it’s important to acknowledge who was first.

Then the next thing I knew was Shams (Los Angeles) with this. Then Rhonda (Chicago) with this and this.(perfect timing, Rhonda!)

I was miles away (Belfast, Northern Ireland) and way behind. I found eLcrafto an international Etsy source for kantha quilts both vintage and new.


A kantha quilt is made from fine cotton or old saris; two layers of fabric quilted together by hand with large conspicuous running stitches. Light in weight and vibrant in colour and made with happiness and joy which makes it all the more worthwhile to wear and use.

Now I’ve caught up with the rest of the world using a pattern from Paco (Spain).

From India, via USA and the far east, Europe to Ireland – it really is a small world…..


And I don’t care what you say out loud – but I know, we all want to look like Heidi. So if I have a jacket like hers then I’ll look like her too. See…. told you so. I just left my Ray Bans in my pocket and didn’t happen to be in NYC at the time the paparazzi caught me………



I started with this –

il_170x135.639693017_folm Then agonised for ages on a suitable pattern. DSCN5034I wanted a shawl collar and I wanted it to match the outside fabric so that meant a separate piece. I wanted pockets. I wanted reversible. I wanted hip length. I wanted kimono-style wide sleeves. I wanted to keep it simple – not too many pieces, no darts or Donna Karan type tucks and pleats.


I settled on Paco Peralta’s Unique jacket.

dscn0625Lovely simple lines and I’ve made it twice before so I know the construction order and its perfect fit. I did however, steal the collar from Donna Karan Vogue 1263.  A bit of fixing, shortening and narrowing: folding pattern bits out of the way and I had a shawl collar that fitted the jacket.













The original jacket has in seam pockets on both sides but I made welt pockets more towards the front on the patterned side and patch pockets with covered  button closures on the plain side. I bound each patch pocket with patterned fabric. I didn’t make the original single button fastening either; my jacket really just lies open but I did put a large covered snap at the hem, just in case.


The inspiration kantha quilt jackets are single layer with binding or overlocked seam edges. The quilts are as beautiful on both sides, sometimes with many different patches. My version has a patterned side and a plain side – I say plain, but the running hand quilting stitches are a pattern in themselves. To save the effort of binding every seam and raw edge I just made another jacket! Put one inside the other and all the seams are covered, and I got the reversible jacket I wanted. A bit heavier and more substantial than a single layer version but then we don’t often have Californian or Indian summers here in Ireland!


The plain side has little snippets of the patterned side. The hem and sleeve hems were slipped stitched together – this method means you can control the two layers much better – stretching and easing them to match each other. That’s not binding on the sleeve but the other sleeve just slightly longer.


I added a dangly thing on the back for absolutely no reason other than it brings a bit of pattern to the back. The DK shawl collar has shaping darts at centre back and on the plain side of my jacket they are on the outside – a deliberate design decision – of course! Though I will admit to getting a little bit confused between right side and wrong side during construction.


The shawl collar is pretty cool – it can be worn flat, em, like a shawl…It can be folded up to resemble a scarf and in the worst of weather conditions can even be worn over the head like a hood. Those few darts at the back add to the structure and create a soft stand-up collar instead of just a bit of fabric hanging round your shoulders.


















Just in case I didn’t provide enough links in this post for you to waste your time and provide  a valid excuse in the name of research not to sew – here’s another link that you could waste hours and hours of your valuable time.

As a consequence (all in name of research and self developement), this is the reason why I have short hair!

Long hair

Woe be me…..I’ll never be like Heidi, even if I have a jacket similar to her’s.





Up & Down-a-Cords

My last make was a pair of jeans that used the corduroy on the horizontal, this time it’s a skirt using needle cord with some panels running up the ways and some running down.


The pattern is Paco Peralt apron skirt and is part of SWAP ’14 – for the indigo and violet end of the rainbow. This pattern is an almost perfect fit for me without any alterations whatsoever – so lucky!

The fabric is from Croftmill, bought quite a while ago in anticipation for SWAP and I don’t think it’s available anymore but I believe it’s Paul Smith and was lovely to work with.  The colour is described as plum, but it’s lighter than that, yet not purple and not violet and definitely not pink! Darker than mauve but lighter than grape. Perhaps amethyst or fuchsia, almost lavender or maybe wisteria?  Can anyone think of a colour I haven’t mentioned yet?


Just in case you haven’t thought of any more colours – go here a  comprehensive list. In fact it’s so comprehensive that this is only A-F, follow the links on the page for all other colours.

A few of us are having an interesting conversation about the direction that corduroy nap should lie: Shams, you started all this when you showed us Cord-a-Rounds! Anyway, on this skirt I mixed the nap deliberately. The apron of the skirt is running up, the skirt is running down and the added back pockets are running up to match the front. It is not so obvious in the photos here, but IRL there is subtle shading that almost indicates different tones of the same fabric.

I’m really interested at the moment in the shading that can be created with the nap of cord, and velvet for that matter. However, after a day’s wearing the nap on my clothes is all over the place anyway, so does it really matter which way it starts out? Is there a RIGHT way?

Apologies for the ‘worn-all-day’ wrinkles…….

DSC01136 DSC01138 DSC01141

I reinforced the back split with a little triangle of reverse nap cord and of course the skirt is fully lined.

Well, another item for SWAP ’14 completed! You may have recognised the top worn with the skirt – yes, it’s the tunic now tucked into the skirt!


I bought a cardigan to coordinate with the deep pink in the tunic’s flowers and just had to have a pair of raspberry opaques to match.DSC01165

Isn’t it lovely to say you have a pair of raspberry tights?