Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


SWAP A1 (again) & B2

I asked, you answered, I acted….

SWAP Combination A, first garment looked like this



I listened and contemplated your very appreciated comments (thank you), then I got to work……….

Method: Lob off a wack of fabric from the bottom and remove patch pockets.


Put on Doris and pin out two shaping darts at the back

and two fitting darts on the front – sew.

Fold over the big collar to narrow it and do some stuff with trims and topstitching along the hem, darts and other edges

Make a buttonhole and sew on an almost coordinating button found in stash. My little Janome’s buttonhole contraption won’t sew a hole for a button this big so I just cut a rectangle and small stitched in place for extra reinforcement. The fleece won’t fray.

So almost back to the original plan. I should have stuck to it the first place and not try to be smart.


Worn today with the first garment for SWAP combination B (slate greys).


The most delicious Italian finest fine wool in tiny herringbone bought from Joel & Sons in their end of year remnant sale. Made into Vogue 9162. I am planning on making all three items from this pattern for SWAP B. The pattern includes a loose-fitting, lined jacket with welt pockets, an oversized shirt and these wide-legged pants.

Slide3The wide legged trousers have in-seam side pockets and an elasticated waist (honestly, I really did type that and I made them and I wear them!).

Let’s have a word about elasticated waists – the good things are that you don’t need a matching zip, buttons, hooks and eyes to finish; easy to make; easy to fit; easy to pull on and off. The bad things are that it’s an elasticated waist! Gathering, bunching, I can’t help associating them with women of a certain age……and it feels like I’m not sewing a ‘real’ garment and taking an easy way out.


Anyway, the trousers are actually quite good. They are supposed to worn with loose shirts on the outside to hide the elastic, so nobody but you and me will ever know. Just in case I ever decide to wear a short top or tuck in a shirt I added belt loops and made a button belt for a more polished look.


The trousers are unlined so I always wear my trouser-petticoat to prevent bumming and kneeing in the fine wool. These are always excellent for extra warmth in wintery weather.

BTW – just look at the difference in my colouring when I wear just dark grey and how much warmer I am wearing the pink jacket, so I might now have to rethink the solid grey combination for SWAP combo B!


Only second garment in and once again a possible change of plans.


SWAP will have to be put on hold for a week or two while I go on safari for Jungle January. Actually, my contribution for 2016 is heralding from the frozen heights of the Himalayas rather than the heat of the savannah ….


As always I’m in two minds about wearing animal printed fabric. This is the 5th year of me joining in and every year so far my efforts are inside, under or otherwise somewhat discreet. This year I’ll either look devastatingly Parisian or else a very poor imitation of Cruella de Ville.

101 Dalmations - Live Action Remake.Copyright: Disney.

101 Dalmatians – Live Action Remake. Copyright: Disney.

Just for fun – spot the snow leopard






Leigh’s Quilt

The single niece and granddaughter (not mine – my parents’) is having her 6th birthday this weekend. There’ll be 17 wee girls screaming and yelling and bouncing like headers in a bouncy castle on Sunday – so the more mature in the family are visiting on Saturday.

My very first ‘finished’ quilt was converted into a picnic blanket for my mum as a gift on Mothers’ Day by stitching a £ shop shower curtain to the back, adding a couple of ties and a re-naming ceremony. To her credit, she thought it was so good that it is now draped over a bed in her spare room. And who should come and visit, see the quilt and want to sleep in that bed, but Leigh?

This then gave me the idea of what to give Leigh for her birthday this year – her very own quilt – she has enough pink plastic toys and tiaras anyway.

The quilt has actually been finished and ready for a while now but I couldn’t show it any sooner in case Leigh saw it here. I think I might be safe – but Kerry – don’t show Leigh until Saturday!

The block is a windmill (I think) – eight triangles sewed together, but there are easier ways to do this. Of course, it’s pink and purple and turquoise with a bit of green and blue.


There actually is a plan in amongst all that pink and purple – you might just be able to discern the diagonal bands of colour across the quilt.


All the left over triangles were made into a little pillow for her little princess head to rest upon and a short length of bunting to coordinate her bedroom.

The rest were used to make the quilt bigger with a border.

The back is a lovely green cotton with roses and would look just as good this side up.


I free motion quilted (rather badly) the layers. I started out with a design but ended up just sewing any old way. Heck, it holds the layers together and that’s what quilting is suppose to do.

And of course, you have to label and date the finished quilt for posterity……..


It’s not a huge quilt, it will lie on top of a single bed but not hang down over the sides. I thought this size would be a lot easier for a little six year old to drag downstairs and snuggle under on a sofa while watching TV.


But that’s not all……..

Apparently when she grows up Leigh wants to be a scientist and every scientist worth their salt needs a lab coat. My brother gave me an old one of his to alter!!! No really…an adult male size lab coat altered for a six year old girl! My heart bleeds for Mrs Mole. My instructions were that all I had to do was take it up and take it in at the centre back seam – no allowances made for the collar or anything, or armhole depth or chest width – nah! none of that mattered.


Starting point

As this is also a surprise I couldn’t fit the lab coat to the model so I asked for an item of clothing for fitting purposes. This is what I started with – unwashed I may add.



Mrs Mole herself suggested an personalised pocket, so paying attention to the master, that’s what I did and managed to rip the original coat while I was taking off the pocket. That’s life.


Alterted version

In the end, with armhole gussets and embroidered pocket and shortened and what have you, we have a small girl’s lab coat all ready for her to discover perpetual motion or what happens inside a black hole or the meaning of life or something quite significant like that and change our mundane lives forever.


Good luck with that Leigh – we’re all waiting for the breakthrough – no pressure, no pressure. I suppose if she changes her mind and wants to be an artist, she can still wear the lab coat as an artist’s smock.




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.






There’s a whole other world out there and it’s called HATS!



These things are expensive – and to wear for just one hour at a wedding ceremony seemed an extravagance too far. I do have a budget for this outfit. You can hire hats here, but really they’re just half the price of buying one and would I ever get the colour and style I wanted?

I tried on fascinators (an item of unknown purpose) and the lady in the shop sidled up behind me and told me discretely that it was on back to front! So that went back on the shelf. Anyway, they only came in black, grey and cream and nearly cost the same as a hat.

So, while at the coast this week we went to Hope and Gloria, a most delightful shop that sells vintage clothing, accessories, homewares: you can get your nails painted and hair styled; a cup of coffee and a bun; and they organise craft and sewing classes too. In a old leather suitcase was a collection of hats for £3 each. The one I really wanted was too small but I managed to select this one – almost Audrey Hepburn and totally the wrong colour.


DSCN4195While having coffee with my teenage son and the teenage son of my friend I wore the hat – just thought I’d embarrass them to maximum effect.

I figured I could dye it or spray paint it to match, wrap a matching fabric band around the brim,stick a few feathers in and I’d be done. However, I had envisaged a large hat – wide brimmed and saucer-like – it’s not everyday you get to wear a hat, so you may may as well go for it.

Royal Wedding - Wedding Guests And Party Make Their Way To Westminster Abbey

Princess MIchael of Kent at a royal wedding

I researched fabric paint, sprays and dyes but colours weren’t right. I was after a particular shade of red – more crimson / wine than pillar box to tone in with the lips on my shoes.



So I did this:

Materials – heavy duty interfacing, 1m fabric of crimson taffeta, grosgrain ribbon, old hat that fits, needle and thread

Measure around your head (mine’s 11″) and cut a strip of the ribbon to comfortably fit around your head with a little leftover for overlap.

Decide on the width of the brim and draw a circle on the interfacing marking the centre point. Do some complicated geometry stuff and draw a smaller circle to fit the ribbon ie. a circumference of 11″. Measure in 1cm from this inner circle and cut it out.

I had bits of corners and strips of interfacing so I machined these to the first circle for extra stiffness.

DSCN4202 DSCN4204

Lay the brim on to two layers of fabric and trace around it including the inner circle. Cut out with seam allowances. Sew around the outer edge, trim, turn and press. Wrestle the brim into the fabric making sure edges are aligned and it’s lying flat. Pin excessively to avoid shifting; top stitch the outer edge and around the inner 11″ circle. Clip the excess of the inner circle out to the stitching line.



DSCN4210 DSCN4213

Take the old hat, dismantle it and cut off the brim so you are left with the crown. Cover the top and wee bit down the sides with fabric, either gluing or hand stitching.

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Slide the new brim over the crown – glue or hand stitch together. I stitched my hat as I didn’t have fabric glue. Stitching hats is hard!


Make a band to cover the edges of the brim, pleat and stitch (or glue) in place. Position the join where you intend to put embellishments later so it will be covered up.


Sew the ribbon on the inside of the hat to cover the join and make it comfortable to wear.


Now the fun begins –

Make flowers, buy feathers and ribbons and decorate to your heart’s desire. Sew the decorations in place or glue. I’m in favour of sewing them on because then later you can easily cut them off and replace them with new colours or styles.

I used up nearly 1m of fabric to make this flower – using this method – so be prepared.



It’s big!

Not quite Holly Golightly at Tiffany’s more like Eliza Doolittle at the races












This morning it looked like this…..


DH’s Kenzo wool and cashmere jacket – rarely worn. Such gorgeous fabric just going to waste. Buttons have already salvaged

Then I just waved my magic wand, sprinkled some fairy dust, said the magic words and now it looks like this……


V1247 (yet again): the back of the jacket is now the front of the skirt and front of the jacket is now the back of the skirt and the yokes are cut from the sleeves.

Isn’t sewing magic?


And I kept the collar and attached a fancy hock and eye so that I now have a separate collar-like-scarf