Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


40 Shades of…….

Well, 3 actually.

One of the things I like about summer is starting to think about A/W clothes. I’ve gathered a few metres together already in greys and burgundy. I like Thornberry’s new approach to sewing – sew an outfit, not an orphan!

I took the Toni dress pattern and made it exactly as is but didn’t sew up the centre front seam.


What I have is a long, drapey waistcoat with a fab collar and pockets.

This time I added lead weights to the points of the drapes and they hang much better. The fabric is a stretch grey marl, actually quite stable and very good recovery, cotton and elastane blend from Fab Works.

But you can’t have a waistcoat without something to wear with it, like a skirt.


CC_FOLD_SKIRT__78680_zoom2_grandeThis one is Centre for Pattern Design CC Fold skirt. It’s mock wrap, one seam, waist tied. There’s space for a hidden zip inside the front fold but as this fabric is stretch I left it out.

My ties are also only half length.

I sewed the front fold halfway down just to keep it in place and the waist ties are also sewn together. So this skirt has no fastenings at all. It’s not even hemmed and I quite like the slight dip where the fold is.

Then, there’s fabric left over so you have to do something with it


This is Vogue 9193 by Marcy Tilton. It’s the top half of the top only.  The sleeves are patched with inside out seams; raw edge bands for neck and hem and finally a little side pocket.

DSCN6453 (1)

Altogether now –


V9193As the Tilton pattern was out and about, I made a full length version of the top in a light grey, almost silver, knit from Minerva.







This can now be layered with the dark grey top –

DSCN6462and when it gets really cold, just layer up again with the waistcoat.

But now you need something else to wear with the tops, like trousers. Same Tilton pattern this time made in the weirdest fabric from Fab Works: silk and linen woven into ripples. The trousers have a yoke and horizontal pockets; elasticated waist and ankle length.


Then the camera battery was exhausted, as was I. So I suppose there’ll have to be a sequel.





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.




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!




2 Piece Leftover Skirt

With little bits of leftover fabric I’ve made knickers, wrapped scraps around cheap bangles for matching accessories, made flowery brooches, sewn up scarves in all shapes and lengths, made belts and if I have enough (0.5 – 0.75m) then a sleeveless T-shirt / vest.



I hate to hoard cut offs and love to use them instead, so when I finished the latest Merchant and Mills outfit I had absolutely tonnes of fabric left over (well, relatively speaking, of course).

Because the Curlew dress is bias cut I had all the corners of the denim coloured wool/linen/cotton but only a little bit of the super soft Haremere coat alpaca – still, it’s too good not to use. But what to do?

One day quite recently I sat in Carnaby Street and watched the world go by.

What struck me was the confidence, individualist and independent dressing styles of the people passing by. Admittedly, some of the ‘styles’ would not suit everyone but on my return to provincial Belfast I noticed how ‘same’ we all dress: nothing shocking or unique; nothing that stands out. There’s not a Wow! factor. I also recently wrote about wearing a dress that I seldom wear because it’s ever so slightly ‘out there’ but have now decided I shall hereafter actually wear what I sew  – The Over 40 (50!) and not dead yet approach. So the other day I dug out a dress made a couple of years ago, hardly ever worn and put it on. It’s not an unusual or weird garment, just a dress and therefore, dressy and sometimes, I need a little bit of extra confidence to wear such an item.

V2401DSC00359Vintage Vogue 2401. The interesting thing is the skirt – a swishy back and sides that wrap over the front panel. Ah-ha! A front panel and separate skirt…….

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Maybe not, so here’s what I did…….

With total disregard for grain lines, nap and weave I patched the bits and pieces together of the cotton/linen until I had big enough bits to (almost) fit the dress skirt pattern – back and sides. The seams were overlocked to stop fraying. The alpaca scrap was squared off and extra panels in cotton/linen added at the edges.




Folded pleat in pattern piece to fit the fabric

I removed 3″ from the top of the skirt when cutting out and the length was dependent on the amount of fabric I had.

Sew the back to the sides and finish the front edges: make some shaping darts in the flat front panel: wrap the back over the panel and tack in place.

When I made son’s Letterless Letterman jacket I bought way too much 1X1 cotton rib so this became the waistband.


Sew the 1X1 rib to the top of the skirt and overlock for neatness and extra security. Now there are three different fabrics.


And the final product is a very wearable skirt that fits right in my navy A/W ’15 wardrobe plans.


The sides are longer than the front but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest – only adds to the wrap-around look.


I have to step into the skirt instead of pulling over my head because of the restriction of the woven fabrics at hip length but hey! it’s my skirt, I made and I know its flaws and weaknesses and I know how to put it on.


There’s the wrap or rather the overlap of side to front. In real life I’ll be wearing navy opaques.

The off-grain, not quite bias gussets at the sides. As with all half-circle, full circle or bias cut skirts, let it hang overnight before hemming to let gravity do her job and let the bias drop to get an even hem.


And with the matching coat….

DSCN5740The scarf is made, of course, from leftovers from a recently made blouse which is nearly finished – just have a few more buttons to sew on. Soon…….


The rib waistband can be worn high or folded down, depending on how fat I feel on any given day.


Don’t throw those scraps away



Alabama Cheats

Summer is here and work has finished so it’s time to do some slow sewing, sit in my deckchair in the garden and hand stitch some new Alabama Chanins.

AMZUTFor my birthday in June I received the latest AC stitching book and before we broke up for the summer, I printed out a couple of the new patterns and taped them together on the big sewing table in work – it makes life so much easier. DSC00610

I now have the wrap skirt and the classic jacket to add to my collection of AC patterns. In the latest book the patterns and stencil designs come on a disk which you can either print at home on A4 sheets and tile together or take to a printers who will print the pattern on A1 or A2.

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I had already purchased 12m of cotton jersey in anticipation of this moment arriving: two shades of grey, light and dark; white and stone. Three meters of each colour.

I know I’ve documented previously how I go about sewing a AC garment but today I’ll show you my cheats – things that break the rules and make life a little easier and the sewing a little faster.


I print off the stencil design onto bog standard printer paper and tape the pages together just like a regular pattern. Then I Spraymount this onto a manilla folder and using a scalpel (exacto knife) cut through the page and the manilla. However, I don’t use the whole stencil. I look at the shapes and the layout and make a decision on what is feasible to sew around and what can be eliminated. Sometimes I’ll duplicate a shape or mirror it – just depends. I use the original as a guide only.

On the left, the original design and on the right what I chose to use.




AC recommends fabric dye, either sprayed or painted onto the fabric. I’m a wee bit frightened by this as dye will not wash out – it is permanent and what if I want to change the design a little? To reproduce the stencil design onto the fabric I draw around the shapes with felt-tip pens – washable, of course. Even at this stage I will leave some shapes out, draw a few new ones in and will make decisions on where best to place the design. I am currently making the wrap skirt and know full well that it is very unlikely I shall wear this skirt with a short or tucked in top – so why bother embellishing the top of the skirt when it will be covered?


All previous AC garments that I’ve sewn were put together using embroidery floss for embellishment and seams. I do not use the AC recomm0170205_2006718-IMG_3480_01_400ended ‘strongest thread know to man’. I use a single strand of 100% cotton embroidery thread doubled over. This has been plenty strong to hold my clothes together and doesn’t twist and knot the way other threads do. There’s also hundreds of colours to choose from.


This time round I am using a single strand of Terko satin. It’s a heavy, stiff thread but doesn’t knot and a single strand is still strong enough to hold the garments together.


AC rules state that you have to tie a knot on the thread and then tie another knot exactly over the first one. This is really tricky to achieve and I usually end up with a string of single knots stretching over about 1″ of the tread. So now I just make a loop and thread the needle through it three times and pull tight. I get a large enough knot that won’t pull through the fabric and none of the hassle. I also do the same at the other end when I’ve finished sewing – just remember to leave enough length on your thread to be able to do this.



I’m the first to admit that my embroidery skills are dreadful, so I avoid any fancy stitching and stick to good old plain running stitch. If a stencilled shape is too small to run a few stitches round then I leave it out. Apart from that, all the shapes are stitched around. If a shape is too small or narrow to cut then I’ll sew it bigger and wider.



AC rules state that you must sew each and every shape separately, ie start with a knot, sew around the shape and knot off – start on the next shape. If my stencil design has shapes that are close enough to each other then I just carry on. I can get a whole section sewn with a single length of thread.



When sewing with the embroidery floss I use size 10 needles  these are very fine and slide through the cotton jersey like a hot knife through butter but the eye is small and threading them is a pain. I usually thread about 18 in one go so that I’m ready to sew and sew. This time I’m making life much easier and using a self-threading needle. It’s thicker than the 10 but is working out just fine and I only need one needle so my projects are easily carried about without risk of injury to anyone.


So far I’ve completed one front panel of the skirt, started on the second and then just the back to do. Assemble the pieces and wear!


Of course, when I started writing this the sun was shining and the sky was blue – now however, it is raining and the sky is grey! So when (if) the sun comes back out I’ll maybe get some sewing done……….

So I cheat on the Alabama Chanin rules but then again rules are there to be broken, and I want to wear my items this summer, not next.