Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.


Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.


Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.


All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.


Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.


If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.


But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.


And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.


I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.


So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?


This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?


I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?


The Ponte Club

Donna’s Vogue pattern 1440 was still sitting about the sewing room after her uninvited visit so I thought I’d might as well just use it to save me rifling through my very untidy, uncategorised and unKondoed collection. I rely on memory as a filing system, although it has let me down previously as I’ve actually purchased a Vogue pattern that I already owned!

I’ve never sewn with Ponte before but found some on offer somewhere on the Interweb a month or so ago and bought a goodly amount of their stock: a pale grey, magenta, dusky pink and obligatory black. It’s probably too late for this query – but does ponte have a right and wrong side? It is a great fabric to sew with – no fraying, stable and behaves well, it stretches and recovers, no wrinkling but presses well. Details about what ponte is here.

I’ve had my eye on a few StyleArcs for absolutely ages…… although delivery from Australia can take weeks and weeks and weeks. I ordered a skirt and along with this pattern came the free monthly one of a coat- in the meantime I patchworked and quilted instead. I’d obviously ordered just before the container was full and I only had to wait 3 weeks for the patterns to arrive. BTW – StyleArc have an Etsy shop for instant PDFs and I’ve been availing of this facility a lot recently. …..

A marriage between StyleArc and Vogue and Ponte, even if some of the patterns are for wovens!

Skirt is Zoe

Coat is Mason (knit fabric)

Jacket is Vogue Donna Karan 1440

Top (plain grey) Donna Karan Vogue 1282 (knit fabric)

Top (patterned grey) McCalls M6078 (knit fabric)

Shoes are Vivienne Westwood



The Mason coat has raw edges but is trimmed with the selvedge from the pale grey on cuffs, pockets and round the neckline and lapels. Real easy to put together just watch your fabric choice as the wrong side shows at the fold back lapels. I serged all internal seams for a more finished look and the collar has a flat felled seam at centre back. The selvedge trim was sewn with a fancy wiggly stitch and ties the weird no-colour coat to the pale grey skirt for a ‘set’.


The Donna Karan jacket is fab and I have another planned in a linen woven which I anticipate will be more difficult to sew as in this case I just pulled and stretched the ponte to make the notches match especially round the curves. I didn’t bind every seam, just serged again, and I raised the shoulder seams by 1″ and left the shoulder pads out.


The jacket is waterfall and loose at the front but shaped and fitted through the back. This one is trimmed with a strip of magenta ponte – sewn on with a fancy stitch – and goes all the way around the whole jacket and cuffs which are folded back (extremely long sleeves).


The magenta trim then ties the pale grey jacket to the magenta Zoe skirt for another ‘set’.DSCN5260

The Zoe skirt is an unusual pencil: two huge open darts at the back from hem to bum, and a front that is narrower at the hem than waist to pull the sides seams forward. The back also dips down a little to create a curved hem. There is an invisible zip at the side and no waistband, just facing.

My first one was a muslin in the black ponte (not shown). It ran a little big. StyleArc’s patterns have 1cm (1/2″) SA so the magenta version was sewn with the usual 1.5cm (5/8″) SA and the zip was ignored. I can just pull the skirt on thanks to the stretch and recoverability of the ponte. And the fit was better.

By the time I got to the pale grey Zoe, the seam allowances had increased to 2cm (closer to 1″). The fit is much better although the ponte shows every knicker line, lump and bump, so robust undergarments are in order (or none at all!) And I can still just pull it on, so no zip required.


Seams were serged and the hem just machined. None of the skirts is lined but I would like to do this soon. The ponte clings to tights and a lining might help smooth out some of the body flaws.

The McCalls drape top still remains one my favourite one-hour sewing projects: front and back, two side seams and just narrow hems on armholes and hem and it can be cut from the narrowest of fabrics.

I have mixed emotions about the Donna Karan draped top. All the Pattern Reviews raved about it and when it is sitting perfectly, it is fab. But, every time I move the drape un-drapes. The pattern calls for a weight to be inserted in the inside to hold the drape in place – well, the weight went in, the weight came out; the drape was stitched in place and then ripped out. I might even be using a good ol’ safety pin in these pics!


The Pattern Reviewers stated that the armholes were large and low, so I sewed mine tighter from the outset. This alteration for modesty’s sake had an effect on the drape. The armholes were then ripped out and cut larger. OK, bad selfie below – but you can see the drape on one side with the larger armhole falling all the way from the breast and the ‘fitting’ on the other side with the smaller armhole.


Not my proudest moment in sewing……

DSCN5228 I ended up cutting all that mess off and adding a band. So much effort and time, adjustment and agony over a top that will now only ever be worn (if at all) under a jacket or cardigan. It does have a lovely drape and if I don’t move it hangs beautifully.


Three skirts, two jackets, two tops and a multitude of outfits!






A really big thank you for all your suggestions about what to make with the patterned silk. I think we’ve covered every garment possible and even DH suggested trousers! I’m still considering but might have settled on a pattern, if I don’t change my mind again that is! We’ve got a Bank Holiday weekend here, lots of sewing and wardrobe sorting planned. Hope you have too.


Catch up Chanel

A piece of Linton tweed is a precious thing and I had some left over from the summer Chanel jacket, so it was kept wrapped in cotton wool and in a secure area until I could think of something to do with it. After trimming off the scraggly bits I had two pieces 20″ X 40″. What ya reckon ? Just enough to make a pencil skirt?

My hips are 40″ and I need a length of 29″ so there was only one direction these bits were going to hang. I took the extra few inches off the length, cut them up into 5″ pieces and sewed them together, added this panel to the right side seam to give me a skirt with a finished hip size of approximately 42″ – just fits! And there’s nothing left of the Linton either – all usefully used.


Close up of added side panel, made up of even smaller scraps of Linton.



I didn’t use a pattern.

Make your own couture pencil skirt using two rectangles: half your hip measurement and add 3″ to each rectangle; choose the length you want the skirt plus 4-6″ – 2″ for hem and 2″ for self facing waist band.


  1. Machine tack the two rectangles together using regular seam allowances leaving an 8″ gap on the left for the zip
  2. Try on. Pin the gap closed and keep the side seams at the sides – pin to your knickers.
  3. Pin out the excess at the waist into 2 or 4 darts on the front and the same at the back. They will be different lengths on the front from back. This is normal.
  4. Take the skirt off and check the darts are evenly spaced. Sew the darts. Try on again just to be sure.
  5. Rip out the machine basting.
  6. Make lining using same measurements as the skirt but instead of darts just pleat the fabric to fit. Put the shell and lining together and sew as one.
  7. Sew side seams, leaving a gap for the zip on the left.
  8. Fold under 2″ (whatever you can spare) for a self facing waist band; finish the raw edge and insert grosgrain, interfacing or wide elastic. Hand sew down to the skirt or lining if using.
  9. Insert zip with the pull right to the top of the skirt.
  10. Hem.
  11. Wear

Needless to say – press well at every step.

I had a meagre amount of the cream silk dupion that was used to line the jacket. This was transformed using Sorbetto into a sleevless top, with the neck trimmed in Linton selvedge edge (also stashed from when the jacket was cut out – see how precious, and useful, the Linton is?)


I now have a complete suit, jacket, skirt and top. I’ll never wear all three together in real life but the jacket and top look great with black trousers and the skirt and top look great with a black cardigan. Please excuse the paparazzi-style photos – something went wrong with the camera.

DSC00385 DSC00396DSC00387

I never did a separate post about the jacket as all construction details are the same as this one. But here’s a montage of close up details:


Chain sewn round the hem to the side seams only as the four front pockets provide enough weight to balance the jacket.

Selvedge edge used as trim on neck and fronts, pockets and the Sorbetto top neck edge.

Quirky wooden buttons ( a gift from Prettynpink). Sleeve vents left open without buttons or closures.

And the moral of this story is – Never throw anything out!


Almost Done on a Global Scale

Part 2 of the Watermelon (1960s) suit.

First of all I am extremely pleased with myself for managing to get a skirt and jacket out of 2yds of fabric. This is all that is left from the 2yd piece and I’m feeling very self-righteous at my lack of waste. Just enough to add two patch pockets to the jacket if I want and cover those buttons (?).
However, I do not like stashes. While I love being surrounded by fabric, having to choose a pattern or garment that only requires the yardage I possess was a troublesome thing. I don’t want to make just a skirt for example, because then I have too much fabric left over that can’t be used for anything else and so is wasted and this goes against the grain (!) In future I shall resort to my previous plan of choosing a pattern and buying exactly what I need. Sorry fabric stashers, maybe there’s a learning curve involved here that I haven’t mastered yet. Enlightened me if you can…..
 I took all your advice on board and hope I’ve satisfied everyone with my choice. I couldn’t decide on whether to go for fabric covered buttons or big and fancy and I think I’ve hit the middle ground. These mega beauties are winging their way to me from Australia at this moment via Etsy. They are described as being “watermelon” colour and a whooping 36mm in diameter. So colour matching (covered version) and elaborate enough for fancy. I just hope they’re not too pink against my fabric.
So here is the almost finished suit – just waiting on buttons. In the following pics I am holding the jacket over, so just try to imagine it buttoned. The collar can be folded down as in these pics but is also stiff enough to stand up as in the original design. I like versatility.

I took out about 15cm (6″) from the back – I made a massive dart that was trimmed down – so that the jacket would sit closer to the body than the original and shortened the raglan sleeves to 3/4 length for that retro 60s feel. I also fully lined the jacket, otherwise V1127 is unchanged.

The suit is teamed with a blouse V2912. This has a retro 1960/70 floral print thing that suits the era I was aiming for. I just love finding old things in the wardrobe that match new things – it’s like giving them a new lease of life.

When I made the blouse I also covered a few cheap bangles with the left overs – so I have bangles that match the suit too.

This darling suit has cost me the grand total of:
Fabric    £10
Lining   £5  
Thread  £3
Zip        £2  
Buttons £8
Total    £28   ($44 approx)   – NO WASTE – 100% wool and totally unique

What a good girl am I?

Unfortunately, my piousness was short lived. I mapped out where all these items originated or where sent from and just look below……

Fabric was made in Uruguay and shipped to the States, bought by me, so shipped on to N. Ireland.
Lining was bought in Belfast, but best guess is that it was made in China.
Thread is Gutterman, so came from Germany.
Buttons are in Australia and being sent to N. Ireland.

A truly global effort – but think of the transport and fuel costs etc etc etc.
Why is nothing simple?

Thanks for reading. Ruth



Chanel 2012 (JBB)

Doobee posted the other day about where she finds inspiration from – and boy she can not only find it at risk to her personal safety but also uses it. So I got to thinking about where the inspiration comes from. Mostly I pick ideas up from the Internet – other blogs, reviews and the like including a quirky French blog I follow – Folie de Mode – where JBB takes surreptitious photographs around Paris including the windows of the big designer houses. At the beginning of January she posted this image taken at Chanel. I fell in love with this suit, not just because it is Chanel though that’s a big reason, but I loved the skirt – that extra panel at the bottom just made a plain pencil skirt a little bit different.

Chanel 2012

Then lo and behold at Fashion Week, what walks down the catwalk (runway) but the same suit. Note the button changes for the fashion show compared to the window display.
This was going to be my next project. Now that I have a stash – I dutifully selected one of the Shetland wools called deliciously, Watermelon, and set to. Got a problem. I only ordered 2 yds (2.2m) and this is very limiting when you want to make a below knee skirt and jacket to match. Careful pattern selection, placement and cutting is essential. 
Burda 01/2012
Around the same time I purchased Burda magazine and they featured a 6 gore pencil skirt. It’s supposed to be made up in their lingerie section but when have I ever listened to advice? Looking closely at the Chanel skirt – it has a centre seam (which I don’t like) and a yoke (which I do). So using the 6 panel skirt pattern I looked for a yoke. This probably falls into the vintage era: a 1980s DKNY American Designer pattern, but the centre skirt has a yoke. And better still it’s 6 panels! Perfect.

 So the yoke from Donna, the skirt pattern from Burda – appropriately modified to allow for the yoke- and off we go.  I opted for a side zip instead of a back placement to keep the yoke intact.

While making up I decided to add a few extra touches. All the front and back seams are topstiched and just sit back and admire the matching of those seams. I added the bottom panel, just like Chanel, but put in a small kick pleat at the back so that I could walk.

The zip is an old fashioned non-invisible one so I put this in by hand and that’s when I went retro……
I needed a jacket that didn’t use up too much fabric but looked right with a straight skirt. So internet image hunting produced some further inspiration. I’ve moved a decade from the late 1940s (vintage suit) to the early 1960s

There’s Jackie O in nearly the same colour as my suit – must be an omen!  I like the Butterick pattern on the right, but I wanted to sew this weekend not wait around for a pattern to arrive via post. So I went to my pattern stash – oh yes I have one of those – and dug out Vogue 1127 for the jacket. The jacket is unlined apart from the sleeves in the pattern instructions but I line most of my clothes and this was not going to be the exception. 
To make a lining for a jacket without specific pieces is easy. Just cut the same pattern pieces in the lining but remove the extra for the front facings. Lay the front facing piece on the cut lining and mark in 1.5cm (5/8″) for seam allowance. Stitch the front facing to the lining and then sew the lining and the jacket together at the edges, right sides together. Do not sew the hem. Then turn right way out and voila! a lined jacket. You might have to put a small pleat in here and there but this helps with ease when wearing the jacket. I went for the 3/4 sleeve length again

The skirt is finished – ready for a final press but the jacket needs hemming on the sleeves and bottom. I’m at a dilemma about the buttons though. 
What do you think? Covered as in catwalk style or large and fancy for statement?
Thanks for reading. Ruth