Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Do Ya like Dawgs?

There’s sewing for yourself, which is the best: there’s sewing for others, which is nice: then there’s sewing for dogs!


Brad Pitt in Snatch: “Do ya like dawgs?”

Now, I’m not a dog-person; I like the things well enough but having never owned one, I suppose I don’t truly appreciate the two-way love, affection, friendship and inter-dependability that goes along with ownership. However, I do understand the bond between owner and animal.



A few lengths of polar poly fleece (machine washable!) and some fat quarters of Kaffe Fassett quilting cotton and  you too can make the dog-lover in your life very happy – not to mention the dog!

Four dogs and a cat…..


A dog lover recently told me that dog blankets should coordinate with the colour of the dog so that cast hairs are not so obvious. And that they get dirty easily, so that machine washable requirement is a necessity.

These are really useful items to protect your sofa, other people’s sofas if you’re visiting, car seats and a soft, comfy base for any basket, carpet or fireside mat.

Here’s Luna’s –


Luna is not actually blue and magenta but her’s was the prototype and made with fleece that was already in the house.

Then Pedro – a golden labrador and while only a pup right now will grow much larger, so this is the biggest at about 75cm X 100cm.


Then a double dog blanket for Bella and Lulu, in natural colours.


And because I have a cat – one for Eddie


Take some quilting cotton, cut into 5″ squares and draw the letters for the dog’s name. Cut around the letters with pinking shears; place upon one layer of fleece about 3″ from the edges and zig-zag in place. Personally I like my random mix of capital and small letters and the somewhat wonky placement. You could always take more care if you wish.

Cut another layer of fleece same size as the first; right sides together, stitch around three sides. Turn right side out, fold in the raw edges of the fourth edge and sew closed. Job done!

You could always add some large hand made blanket stitches around the edges for that extra finishing touch. Even add a layer of batting for extra comfort but be sure to catch the batting in the side seams to hold it in place.

DSCN7469And don’t ever forget your label because although the dog may have a personalised, couture and unique blanket – you made it!

Orders taken………… and make of dog, size and colour. POA.




Pattern Whisperers Wanted and a Bag

Our kid wants a bomber jacket to match his Big Bang quilt. Must be navy, in quilted fabric and look like this –


Apparently, no other variations are tolerable.

I have 3m of navy, quilted poly (yuk) with a % of spandex, a very long zip and matching thread – all I need is the pattern.


So off you go….a men’s jacket pattern please that doesn’t cost the earth and your recommendations and advice if you’ve already made it. Teenage son is 6’6″ (1.96cm), very broad shoulders and extremely fussy!  Much appreciated in advance.

Now something for us girls……

For my recent trip away which was only for four days and i carried only cabin luggage my packing and luggage had to meet the restrictions of security and EasyJet.

Cabin luggage must not exceed
Maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25cm including handles and wheels or else they’ll charge you an extra ££ for hold. Imagine having to pay £30 because of a couple of extra inches!

All cosmetics and liquids etc must be under 100 ml and stuffed into a plastic freezer bag.


You can bring liquids in your cabin baggage as long as:

  • they are stored in containers no bigger than 100ml and;
  • carried in a clear, re-sealable plastic bag with maximum dimensions of 20 x 20cms.

Each passenger can carry a maximum of 1000ml (e.g. 10 x 100ml). You’ll need to present your bag at security and you may be asked to dispose of liquids that do not meet these requirements.

Does anyone else see the futility of this rule? I mean, a beautiful hand sewn quilted, double walled cosmetics bag with a zip is obviously much more secure and pretty than a flimsy plastic bag which can be ripped as easily as, well, a plastic bag.


Who would want to destroy such a thing of beauty, that someone (maybe your mother) took the time to choose the right fabrics and then sew them all together? A plastic bag – who cares? Anyway, I needed to fly, so I complied with the plastic bag aesthetic, but rest assured, with intense indignation.

In our house we have suitcases –  a giant sized one that holds enough for a family of three for a fortnight, a weekend sized one adequate for two, even my mother’s 1960s honeymoon blue Antler;

$_86We have carry-all bags that are great for weekends away when you drive to the destination;

523ce8381f35266423b62f75bb609675We have one night only sized bags – enough for a toothbrush and pair of knickers. But did we have a bag that is big enough but not big enough, for a few days away? No.

Best solution then was to make one.


The pattern is designed by my quilting class teacher – Yvonne. It’s called the Aomori Bag which is a city in Japan. On the Quilter’s Quest website the patterns are not listed but if you really want this then just contact Yvonne and I’m sure she’ll be more than pleased to post it to you.

Measuring a perfect 15″ X 21″ X 6″ it is within an inch of the current limits and because it’s fabric and soft, can be squeezed and moulded to fit the cabin luggage requirements.

This is genuinely the first ‘real’ bag I’ve ever made. I have sewn a few others  here and here – but this one had to withstand the rigors of travel along with the so-called traditional female efforts of over-stuffing and so-called traditional male efforts of airport security. It has metal feet, a reinforced bottom with gussets and straps, a zip and loads of pockets.



I was surprised by the number of pieces: most of which are lined and so doubles the cutting and fabric and sewing. I choose LIme Twist fabrics from Henley Studio Collection simply because I wear so much grey that I hoped this would travel well with me anytime and anywhere.

As I was intending to walk through any international airport in the world with this bag and I would no doubt probably be distracted by duty-free shiny things  (me being female and all) I included a zip for personal security (not in the pattern) so I had to make a gusset. I just used the bottom pattern piece as a template, added some seam allowances for the zip and voila, a zip closure. Best advice I can give is to not overthink this – it’s not complicated, unless you make it so. Same size as template plus 5/8″ for the zip in the centre and the L and R seam allowances on the edges.


As usual, I hate to not use leftovers, so there was a bit of editing involved with the original pattern. I added pockets inside and out and even used the cutouts from the bottom corners to make a zip pull.

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One side has elasticated pockets to hold bottled water etc and the other has plain, straight versions to hold folded over Burda magazines.

I also added two lengths of straps – a short and a long for variation, primarily to use up the scraps and secondly to make me look stylish, no matter what the fashion – low slung or under arm – I’m ready!

DSCN5591 DSCN5593

The result is that my bag made it through security although I was subjected to one degree less than full body cavity searching.

Really? I look like an international terrorist to you? I actually want to carry hand-made quilted cosmetic bags instead of plastic ones – doesn’t that tell you enough?


Whoops! that’s not actually me….but I dress really well.

BTW –  Just finished summer reading of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – so might just be feeling a little bit trod upon and need to re-assert myself.


Edited to add: I forgot to mention what I managed to pack into the bag – mostly from the Merchant and Mills Workbook:

2 pair trousers (Strides and grey linen pair)

2 jumpers

1 cardigan

4 sleeveless T-shirts (Bantams)

1 long sleeved T-shirt (Curlew)

1 pair shoes

1 jacket (Haremere)

1 shawl and 1 scarf

6 pairs of knickers (in case of emergencies), 2 bras

2 pair of socks

Plastic bag of makeup and cosmetics


What Do You Think – Style?

Personal sewing is in progress but not much to show and tell and I’ve been working on a secret project which I can’t reveal yet………. so I’ve been thinking……….

Style icons and icons who have style.

Recently on a girly weekend away and I mentioned to my best mates that I’d love to have “A Style” – one that as soon as you saw it you would think – Ruth!

Partly it’s down to dressing for your shape but then certain dressing styles can also change or disguise your shape; a good tailored jacket can minimise round shoulders. Looking your best also means dressing for your colour but as home sewers we are free to select our own palette whether we suit it or not; it is gorgeous fabric after all!

FabricKated has always good and forthright advice on style – what suits and what doesn’t and sits very comfortably in her own classic and couture 1960s style. Margy with her distinctive monochrome and dash of red that somehow on her looks colourful. Gertie with the 1950s vibe but is still up to date. Twotoast with her recent layered look that is both simple and comfortable yet well thought out and put together. You know what I mean?

I want that! It is so difficult to choose which style is MINE.

Sometimes I like sloppy; sometimes I like couture; sometimes I like RTW; sometimes I like dresses and sometimes I prefer jeans; sometimes I wear high heels and then again I like flats; sometimes I like whatever is clean and ironed! At the same time as wanting a defined style I don’t want to be limited to only wearing (and making) one shape of dress with slight variations.

So far this summer I’ve been collecting patterns in an attempt to narrow down and define “my style”. I haven’t sewed anything much yet as I keep flitting from one idea to another. I started with Alabama Chanin – cotton jersey, comfy and totally wearable all day: have moved to Drape Drape 2 with a couple of asymmetrical Japanese tops: made a Style Arc top: have Donna Karan Vogue 1440 still in circulation with the intention of making another shirt and jacket. Now, just look at all those different styles and shapes – Do you see a common denominator because it’s escaping me?


AC style


Japanese draped and asymmetrical


Loose and casual StyleArc


Formal and fashionable Donna Karan

To throw another ingredient into the mix most recently I bought Merchant and Mills Workbook – ‘a collection of versatile sewing patterns for an elegant All season Wardrobe’.

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I love to love this company with their brown paper parcels tied up with string aesthetic. From the introduction:

“..there was a simpler time when ‘clothing’ had clear and explicit tasks; to keep us warm and covered up.

As the population grew and our tiny brains grew exponentially…..what we wore became a statement, an overt visible admission of who we thought ourselves to be for all to opine upon.

At some invisible point in time, fashion grew a capital ‘F’ and became important.”

The book has six patterns printed Burda-style on paper which has to be traced off. The clothing is relaxed made best in natural fabrics like linen, cotton and silk which highlight the unstructured and simple lines. There are variations for some pieces which gives a total of 11 garments – of course you can make a skirt any length you want, so the variations are endless.


The straightforwardness of the designs belie the detailed instructions for construction and attention to finishing details. It is not a book for absolute beginners, you do need to know a bit about sewing techniques and tailoring for the jacket. I’ve just ordered a small haul of linen and when it arrives shall start making and report back. You can then critique this style on me!

So, I also like the unstructured and natural.

Is liking a style, enough to make you suit it?

I’ve just finished watching a marathon of House of Cards and my current style icon is the First Lady Clare Underwood. Her clothes are what I want! Oh I know it’s a TV programme and it’s not really real, but how I would love to wear Manolo Blanik for 48hrs. How does one wear a pencil skirt with a back centre split and it doesn’t crease when you sit down? How do you keep a wrap chiffon blouse from gaping in front of  the media?


Is a strong personality “The Style” and the clothes merely follow, or is it the otherway around – dress well and your confidence grows? Chicken and egg question.

So who is YOUR style icon? Do you have one? And why? Can you define your own style?



End of Years

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

There was a time when it was exciting for children to stay up past midnight to see the New Year in, nowadays, most of the parents we know (and are) are in bed long before their children. Our traditional NYE’s celebration sharing with friends changed this year too. Instead, we had a evening with different friends – some we have known for more than 30 years – reminiscing, remembering, celebrating……..and the children go off and do their own thing.

On the other hand, my end of year sewing antics never change. Instead of a review of 2014, I’m doing a review of my end of years’ creations. I seem to go a little crazy by mid-December and sew things that I would otherwise never even contemplate at any other time of the year.


On the first year of blogging I sewed a head to toe ensemble…


One pair of pleather Clovers, one fake fur coat and a matching jersey cowl neck top.



On the second year of blogging, I sewed a full-length skirt:


One Vogue Ralph Rucci, one Kwik Sew blouse…and a little black and blue Chanel.



On the third year of blogging I changed from black to red…


One 1980s backless wiggle long dress.



In my fourth year of blogging I really sewed a storm…..


Golden Jeans


Two pair of trousers, two sleeveless tops, one long skirt, one fur coat, one long dress and a matching handbag!



No partridges in pear trees though – Mmmmmm, maybe next year……….Oooops, this year!DSCN4905





Blog Hopping

Thanks so much to Sewing Elle who invited me to contribute to the world wide blog hop  – so a hop, skip and jump from Down Under to up here.

I am soooo behind in blogging that those who I’ve invited to take up the torch have actually posted their hops before me! So I’d better get a move on……

Why do I write what I do?

To be perfectly honest, a few years ago my conscience pricked me. At the time I was sewing solo and felt I was bleeding dry the good work and expertise of others – I’d hit a tricky bit of sewing and immediately went to sewing blogs: I devoured the information and never left a comment but bookmarked the pages. Then I began to secretly and regularly read a few blogs and then a few more and one day took the leap of “following” a few. And then I began to feel guilty – I was taking all this knowledge and not giving back. That’s when I took the dive.


Longish hair

I ‘came out’ and started commenting, photographing, styling, writing and sewing.


then shorter…

And I’ve been doing it for 3 years now, in fact November is the anniversary. I started with the notion that if no-one read my posts then I’d just pack up and disappear. I set an indefinite trial period and if it didn’t work, no big deal and maybe I’m still in my probation time……


And shorter…

I asked DH the other day if he ever read my blog and he said ‘No, I don’t need to I have the real thing.’ And that’s a little bit about why I write too … there are apparently so few of us who sew, especially in Belfast, that the Internet is a fabulous way of connecting with like-minded people and the very fact that they are half-way round the world is so unimportant and yet at the same time so appealing. I really never thought that I’d make such good friends without ever having met any of you!



Sometimes I crave approval, sometimes I want to share a new idea, style, fabric or pattern and sometimes I just want to show off – LOL! I appreciate comments – good and bad – at least it tells me that someone is reading!

Last and not least – it’s like a diary isn’t it? When I scrolled though all my posts so far I had a hard time believing how long ago I made some of my clothes. Many are still in circulation. I even use my own tips and tutorials when I can’t figure something out. And just look at the hair styles – like old photo albums!


What am I working on now?

Oh…. I have so many plans and patterns and fabric! In reality, I still have an Alabama Chanin tank dress to hand sew and I set myself the deadline of October 30th.

In the meantime, I’ve started a tailored jacket – Jean Hardy 875 already cut and partly started. I’ve made this twice before but as it’s tailoring and a lot of hand sewing involved, every jacket is like a brand new pattern.


There is nothing that make my heart sing so much as seeing the inside of a tailored garment – such beauty in the invisible.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I don’t know that it actually does (and I know everyone says that ) but it’s absolutely true. I love tailoring because I adore perfectly made jackets and skirts – they make you stand taller and make you feel really good  – so still striving for that, but I don’t do spectacular ball gowns or  drop dead gorgeous dresses. I just make clothes for me. I do try new things because it’s fun and challenging – I do like a challenge, and I’m a wee bit tenacious, so I won’t let things beat me.

I diversifier this year into Alabama Chanin cotton jersey sewing, but after a bit of consideration – this is really just haute couture using a cheaper fabric!

I sew all types – 1 hour T-shirts, Vogue is my favourite simply because their fit is best for my body, draping was a new diversion this year thanks to Sew2Pro, but I’m not convinced this is my singular route  I’d rather someone else does all the hard work and I just use their pattern!

I’d love to have a defining ‘style’: something you could look at and immediately think of ME. Just like Laura-Mae or Gertie. However, I like many different styles – sometimes casual, sometimes sloppy, sometimes dressy – everything really and that is hopefully reflected in what I sew and what I write about.


How does my writing process work?

Firstly, I’d like to start with with what I’m not – and thereby actually complimenting those bloggers to whom I aspire:

I’d love to have the rapid repartee and wit of Pretty Grievances, but I don’t.

I want to write (and sew) as prolifically as Rhonda, but I can’t.

I desire to to be as meticulous and accurate as Mrs Mole, but I don’t have the skills.

So what you read is what you get. A little libation sometimes helps. I know I am good with words – I teach so I hope I am! I tell stories to small children and they are often mesmerised but maybe this is the power of their imagination. I often feel like the speccy-spotty girl in big school, as opposed to being the cheerleader or the captain of the 1st II when I look at the stats on my blog. But, then again, I didn’t start this to compete on the popularity stakes (in fact it didn’t even occur to me at the time) I started this because I felt I was sucking so much out out of others that I was obliged to return to favour and give something back.

I’ll be sewing or driving or watching the potatoes boil and an idea will come to me: I like to link blog titles with garments or patterns – a little segue never hurts does it?  Thereby, perhaps, offering a small glimpse into my very normal life with a little bit of light entertainment and maybe a sewing scattered tip here and there.

The gaps between my posts is getting more and more stretched. There was a time when I posted twice a week, then that dropped to every five days and recently it’s down to once a week or less. Do blogs have a natural lifespan? Some of my favourites have stopped and I might just be heading in that direction too.  I look at my photos now and see a middle aged woman who has put on weight and is resembling her mother more and more – maybe it’s time for the next generation to take up the baton and carry it on with all their enthusiasm and freshness.

One genuine reason for not blogging might actually be SEWING! I really do prefer to sew than blog……..



Thank you so much for reading and for your support. I’ll leave with the very first photo I ever posted and I’m wondering now how I ever thought anyone would want to make a top like that! It’s Vogue 8616 if you’re interested.


I’m passing this blog hop honour to Coco who sews such perfectly fitted clothes in her loft and hasn’t put a single pound on since she was 17! She is so popular that she has been asked by 3 or 4 bloggers.

And to Marianna who sews everything from pencil cases to shark dresses and pushes me to try new things.Keep pushing Marianna…..