Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


A/W ’17 O2

Sewing like a demon for the last few weeks has produced another outfit for my intended A/W ’17 O collection. This one focuses on navy and mustard but, of course, not limited to these two colours.


Reversible jacket can be found here.

45wTrousers and Top: Fabric is from Fabworks – a fine checked wool predominantly navy and biege. The pattern is Vogue 9193, Marcy Tilton. The matching top is made from leftovers and is the free Sorbetto. 



The T-shirt is yet another Grainline Hemlock in mustard/straw coloured viscose jersey from Minerva Crafts.  Honestly, this pattern is perfect with lots of room for versatility and adaption, place any original touches you like and is so easy to wear and sew.


The scarf is leftover jersey, trimmed and sewn together – all raw edges. Boots are Clark’s, as usual – I hardly wear any other make.


Hardly any alterations or modifications are involved in this outfit. The only thing is a few belt loops added to the trousers and a thread-through belt for when I want to tuck a top in, provide a little bit of visual interest and disguise the elasticated waist.


When viewed from afar, the navy check has the appearance of grey, so the reversible jacket can be worn one way or another and still work. I do like the combination of grey and mustard, so I’m thinking this top will go with loads of other items already in my wardrobe.


You will forgiven if you fail to notice much difference between outfits O1 and O2, apart from colour. This is becoming something of a nagging issue with me in choosing these designs – will my A/W wardrobe just be lots of the same thing? More like a uniform rather than the original and slightly offbeat clothes I thought they’d be.

Anyway, I’ll carry on for a bit longer and see what transpires. Greens next


Better get stuff cut out and keep sewing then…

Would you prefer to see a complete head to toe outfit or individual pieces, bearing in mind that a lot of the tops are just T-shirts and the trousers are repeats of the same patterns?

Thanks so much for all your encouragement and comments and a big welcome to new followers : I hope you find some little bit of inspiration for your own sewing.




Half ‘n’ Half

My goodness, but you girls love a dress, or two!

Today, however, I’m showing separates: versatile, impartial to season (think layering), casual, dressy and no limits on the colour spectrum.

Rarely do I buy factory made clothes. I’ve never sworn off RTW with pledges or promises so sometimes I succumb to the instant gratification of shopping.  I’ve become very fussy about fit since making my own clothes – a downright snob actually – which accounts for my limited shop purchases. I try something on and my first instinct is to examine the drag lines, the wrinkles, the gapes at neck and waist. I look at it and ask “If I had made this, would I be happy with fit?” Inevitably the answer generally is “No”.

I discovered Finery earlier this year – RTW with an edge. I enjoy looking at their use of fabrics and colours and slightly unusual shapes – a great inspiration. I admire the nonchalant styling – I’m wearing this because I want to, not because I want to look like my colleagues or because it makes me look sexy, but it makes me feel good.  I bought stuff………

Let’s stAZ-005_CHARTERIS-TOPS-BLACK-FINERY-LONDON_170_2art with trousers: same style, one cobalt blue and one chartreuse. 7/8 length, side pockets and small front pleats. The pic on the left is the same style in magenta (tempting…..). The trousers do not have the fit I would demand if I’d made them myself but they’ll do. Considering almost everyone else wears RTW, I can’t look any worse than the general population.


You all know that I love my colours as much as greys and what a basis these two pairs of trousers gave me to expand upon.

I made just a few tops and now the option for outfits is endless. A perfect travel wardrobe; which it was earlier this summer. This is what I packed and I didn’t have enough days to wear all the combinations.

Cobalt with butterflies and Chartreuse with butterflies

Vogue 1247 (OOP) in poly satin

Chartreuse with pink and Cobalt with pink

Yes, it needs ironing! Pink silk chiffon, pleated blouse free pattern from Sew Easy


Cobalt with cobalt

My own Three Bears T with added side pocket, ribbed viscose jersey


Cobalt with blue/green peacock feathers.

McCalls M6078, viscose jersey so old I’ve forgotten where it came from.



Chartreuse with turquoise.

Modified McCalls M6078 to fit fabric, viscose jersey from My Fabrics


Chartreuse with orange

Bootstrap Blouse With Button-Decorated Back, not quite made to pattern specifications, Merchant and Mills Indian orange cotton with yellow stitching

And I haven’t even ventured into the other classics of black and navy, and any other colour that coordinates with these colours. Surprisingly, khaki green is also a good colour with both the cobalt and the chartreuse. I love a bit of clashing. Think of this post as a very amateur attempt at the Vivienne Files for non-RTW coordinates to wear with RTW.











Special Days

Honestly and truly, every day is special – there’s absolutely no doubt that we all have bad ones but somehow we wake up tomorrow, pull on our big-girls’ pants and deal with it. I’ve been lucky and very recently had the most amazing few days away with some very special people, so let’s start with Day 1 and move on from there.

Day 1

I’ve known for ages that one of my students won Outstanding Student of the Year (Public Services), an international competition organised by Pearson with nearly 1000 nominees and over 1,000,000 possible entrants. There was a media embargo until after the actual ceremony.

Alarm set for 5.00am. I already packed the night before and my outfit sewn and ready for the awards ceremony in London, hosted by Baroness Garden of Frognall in the Churchill Room in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

Arrived in London and headed straight to Cosmetics a la Carte for a professional, last-all-day make-up. Cost a small fortune but this is definitely a time to treat myself.

Whirlwind day of receptions, awards, ceremony, fun and networking. So many talented and inspiring young people. Mine is called Clare and we wore matching dresses.



She is very special, battling illness while studying and then achieving the highest grades possible. A truly humbling experience to teach a student like this and so proud of her.

My dress is Burda 04-2016-119 worn with a light weight bright pink coat, which is a Merchant and Mills Haremere jacket made long. It’s unlined to cope with London city heat so all the raw seams had to be Hong Konged.


I actually wanted to go for a ‘This old thing? I just threw it on” look: sort of understated, not obvious but still part of an outfit. To achieve this I half-lined the sleeves with dress fabric so that when the cuffs were folded back the cuff lining matched the dress. and when I don’t wear the two together, just unfold the sleeves. It’s a smarter alternative to a cardigan and more relaxed than a jacket.


I actually got more compliments about the coat that I did my dress – perhaps the colour did it – it’s not easy to overlook. It’s looking a little the worse for wear after a full day wearing in London heat and humidity and then being unceremoniously stuffed into my travel bag.

20.30 Took the train from London to Preston for an extra few days of relaxation and enjoyment with my long-time friend Caroline. Did a bit of hand sewing on my Six Napoleon corset on the journey. Caroline and I re-connected last summer after 20 odd years apart and we haven’t looked back since.

Stayed up to 4.00am Friday, chatting and laughing like we were teenagers.

Day 2

Relaxing, lazy day at Caroline’s home  – I’d been up and on the go for 23 hours. Time to unpack, settle in, finish some conversations from the previous day ( same day). Watched Wimbledon and made plans.

Caroline is a photographer. Recently, we took one of her images and had it digitally printed onto silk. I hand rolled the edges and we both now have scarves that no-one else in the entire world has – that’s special.


It’s not upside down – it’s a reflection!

Day 3

Darwen –
Day out to meet Mags at Minerva Crafts.

Such lovely people there: a family run business who were more than welcoming, friendly and very patient with us.

49ebbdc43fe9f5e69ec693ba019dd0afWe pulled bolts of fabric from the shelves, mixed and matched and generally created a little bit of mayhem on the cutting table. We advised other shoppers – only when they asked mind you – and had a lot of fun. We all bought loads: Caroline got some grey/taupe jerseys in animal-like prints; Mags got a stash and I got enough for an autumn outfit. We had a light lunch followed by a wander around the speciality food market.

Mags is fabulous; honest, stoic, funny and very, very stylish. I’ll be honest, I was getting a bit fed up with blogging and taking photos and all that stuff but meeting her has re-invigorated me and has made me grateful for those special Internet friends who become real ones.

Day 4 & 5

Hanging out, day trips and shopping – just lovely. Then home again.

Day 6- 9

Hooray, back into the sewing room. I love travelling and going away but there’s nothing like coming home either and doing what I love best. Sewed like a mad woman and before the end of the week I had sewn all of Caroline’s Minerva stash. I did add the odd bit of lace and cotton jersey but from 2.5m, I managed to get three tops and 1m ponte made a perfectly coordinating pair of trousers.

Caro Tsv9193-a

Mainly the top pattern is Tilton’s Vogue 9057 (first and last) and the trousers are Vogue 8837 , another Tilton.

Caroline wore her first incarnation of this top at our day out at Minerva so I know it fits and suits her. The black and animal print (second) is Vogue 9193, another Marcy. Dead easy to sew as the sleeves are cut on but the pattern pieces are cut single layer and are therefore huge.



DSCN6354I was on a roll so I just kept going and added a few bonus but coordinating items to Caroline’s wardrobe.


The light grey knit is a layering piece (the fabric is from my Minerva stash) and is actually the top half only of Vogue 9193. The pattern doesn’t actually tell you to do this but it works really well. So well in fact that I think I need one myself.V9193

The knit top will also go over any of Caroline’s other tunics too. It wasn’t easy to sew though,  the fine silky knit fabric had a mind of its own. I did my best not to stretch it out and used some leftover animal print jersey as a stabiliser around the neck, sleeves and hem. The ‘underneath’ tunic is made from other leftovers and here you can see where the top and bottom meet. There’s a built in pocket on the left hand side. If you sew this top, just watch out – the side seams on top and bottom half do not line up, the bottom half is offset (see the tech drawing). Ask me how I know this because I’m so smart I don’t have to read the instructions….!

All of Caroline’s Minerva fabric has now been sewn, posted and quite possibly already worn as Mr Postman was especially swift this week.

That’s you all up to date until next time…




Vote For Me

Let’s pretend that you have a really important thing to go to and you can have my clothes………

You have to look good, so choose clothes that fit and suit you and the colours are highly complementary to fair hair, blue eyes and pale skin tone. Appearing thinner that you actually are is also a benefit.

You have to demonstrate your own style, so the clothes should reflect your personality and make you feel good.  You want to stand out but not look ridiculous and you want to be unique but not weird. Think classic, Chanel, timeless (I hope).

You will be in front of many people, you will be questioned and scrutinised and you must remain calm and collected at all times, so nothing fussy or distracting.

You have to wear these clothes all day, from 6.00am to 11.00pm, so comfort and ease are essential and no wrinkling would be an advantage.

You need a coat to get to the really important thing but will probably remove it once inside, so the coat has to be complementary to the outfit but the outfit underneath also needs to stand on its own.

I have saved you the bother of rummaging through my chaotic wardrobe and pre-selected some possible candidate outfits. For speed, I’m wearing the same pair of red shoes throughout and there’s little or no styling in the following photos. For the real thing (I’ll) you’ll have scarves and sparkly things and matching footwear, bag and gloves.



1 – Coral wool 1960s style with patterned sleeveless blouse.

2 – Pale grey ponte DK jacket and StyleArc pencil skirt

3 – Same as 2 but with coordinating magenta skirt



4 – Ivory boiled wool sheath, fitted with darts and Merchant and Mills navy coat


5 – Navy wool crepe Vogue 1121 dress with same coat as 4.


6 – Vogue opera coat in petrol and gold with Vogue 8825 in petrol poly


7 – Same opera coat as 6, with DK skirt in pale blue and gold zig-zag pattern with pale gold satin tie neck blouse.

Please vote for which one you think is best – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 – offer suitable alternatives and additional advice. I mean, there’s lots available  –

DSCN4532DSCN5013DSCN5599DSCN4008DSC00596More than a Dress

Many, many thanks






Rhonda’s Skirt

I’ve had this fabric for about a month, ostensibly bought with a winter dress in mind but never got round to deciding on a pattern let alone sewing it up. It’s a loosely woven wool in black and ivory which gives the overall colour of grey. It has wavy lines woven with different patterns, each one has frayed edges – really unusual and a shame not to use it.


Then I saw this on Rhonda’s Creative Life. Looked at the fabric hanging on a hanger and a match was made.

I didn’t draft a skirt pattern, I used Vogue 8604 (might be OOP) which is for a high-waisted straight skirt. I just added the 1/4 circle flounce following Rhonda’s drafting advice to the centre back seam on both sides. I could have put the flounce to the side but I’m wide enough! The pattern is graded as Very Easy and I must admit – it is. One front (on the fold) with two darts; two backs, a dart apiece, centre zip and a split,  Facings for the waistband. I shortened mine by about 4″.




It looks normal from the front but it’s really a swishy skirt that adds a wiggle to your step and a high waist that makes you stand up straight – a skirt that improves posture.

A word of advice concerning high waists: I’m a little ‘soft’ in the middle so I interfaced the facings twice! Once with fusible to help stop fraying and a second layer with hair canvas – it’s practically a corset but holds most of the softness in check.

The skirt is not lined but I did finish all seams on the serger and while it was running smoothly with red thread I didn’t want to upset it too much and change colours so I just left the red in. It creates a little colour to the monochrome skirt.


She’s amazing, that Rhonda! Such a simple modification and the skirt takes on a whole new personality.


Took about 3 hours yesterday to knock up and worn today at work. It would take me 3 hours just to go shopping for a skirt and probably come home empty handed. Styled today with StyleArc Ziggi biker jacket in black and a white cotton shirt by Connie Crawford, Butterick 5365. Colour came from a cerise scarf.



















As I’ve started the week with grey/black and white, I shall continue that colour scheme the rest of the week. This is how I answer  What will I Wear Today?. I’m very lucky that in my job there is no dress code (I could wear jeans everyday if I wished) but I do like to be a little professional and polished and where else would I wear all my makes? So my work-wear-week will look a little like this:

Monday – Rhonda’s Skirt, white shirt, black Ziggi, black suede boots

Tuesday – Grey wool trousers (Vogue 7881) , white shirt, black Ziggi, grey ankle boots

Wednesday – Grey wool trousers, red wrap cardi, red courts

Thursday – Grey vintage dress (Vogue genuine vintage 9818), Burda suit coat, black courts

Friday – Rhonda’s skirt, red wrap cardi, black courts or maybe red!

Last week it was orange. And next week isn’t here yet but I’m already tending towards blue……….