Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


2013 Sewing Year in Review


Vintage Vogue 1137 made from teenage son’s old jeans – a dress made with memories and worn often this year – goes in the Good pile.


Cream French jacket, Vogue 8804 made in Linton tweed and lined in silk. Goes in the GOOD pile.


Vogue 1312 made in Dutch wax cotton – not good – relegated to the BAD bin.


Stretch cotton flowery jacket, Vogue 8887 – great favourite of late summer. GOOD and worn often


Most Proud – DH’s jacket. Vogue 8890


Vogue 8841 – a firm favourite coat of this winter season and worn a lot. GOOD


Scarlett Hobble dress – probably the most challenging sewing this year due to fit but I got it made in the end so into the CHALLENGING pile.


Vintage Vogue 8851 – wrong fabric, wrong style for me – BAD pile


McCalls 5938 – Rive Gauche jacket – I love this jacket – GOOD pile

Well, that one went really quickly didn’t it? If you want to know about the makes above just click on the pics for the original posts.  Overall, more good than bad in 2013. The really Bad Ones didn’t get photos taken but believe me there were quite a few:

My foray into indie patterns didn’t go well – Newcastle fleece for teenage son and Four Square dress by CfPD, to name some.

New to Me in 2013

Completing an 11 piece SWAP


Serging (overlocking)  – still having the occasional fight but we’re getting on much better

Sewing for others – DH, SIL, niece, nephew and giving away some things I made for me but looked much better on other people.

Grading patterns (up, always up!) – Anne’s MIL’s vintage Vogue dress (see animal print), Scarlett’s Hobble dress (see above)

Wearing animal print! Blame Anne.

Making and wearing sleeveless tops and dresses.

Move to WordPress in April. Some things are better and some are worse than Blogspot. I think I lost a few followers along the way but I’m here now.

What I’ve learned in 2013

The fabric is all important! Wrong fabric and right pattern don’t make a good combination. Wrong fabric and wrong pattern are even worse.  It’s lovely to work with natural fabrics – cotton, silk, wool etc but they are expensive and extremely wasteful if paired with a bad design. Most of my failures this year were due to poor fabric choices not lack of sewing ability.

That my sewing confidence and skills are not where I sometimes think they are: I rush into sewing projects without proper planning or thinking time. My seam ripper was probably the most used item in the sewing room this year.

Which leads nicely onto to a shift in attitude that erupted this year – “if it’s not right, rip it out and start again”. Previously, I would have rolled the whole lot up and hidden it somewhere, now I try to figure out the problem and fix it.

I learned a lot about my body shape this year too: I think I suit skirts that are knee-ish length; I look better with a defined waistline; V-necks and scooped are best for my short neck.

What you’ve given me in 2013

Good advice and support. All those comments really mean something to me, so thank you for taking the time and effort. I may not answer every single one but that doesn’t mean they aren’t read or considered – sometimes life just gets in the way.

Encouragement to complete – when I am hitting a brick wall, you have made me carry on and climb over it.

Compliments – nothing makes you feel better than if someone else likes what you do.

Inspiration – without reading and looking at your sewing projects I’m sure half of mine would never have been made.

Impressive – when I see some staggeringly beautiful dress or meticulously made jacket, you raise the bar on my own achievements.

What I would like for 2014

To complete another  SWAP.


To sew with only good quality fabrics. This might mean buying less fabric due to the higher cost per meter but even if I sew less, then maybe what I make will be better too.

To improve my knitting ability – or at least get one thing finished!

To consider my sewing projects a little more before I start – Do I need this garment? Would I look good in it? What is the best fabric?

And of course, that all your sewing adventures will be plan sailing and successful in 2014.

Go on – impress me!


One’s Better – One’s Worse

Gosh, you wake up one morning and all of a sudden nearly four weeks have gone by!

Thank you all so much for the honest comments about the dress. There are so many that I haven’t replied individually but I read every one at least twice and took on board your advice and criticisms. Most of you were absolutely right about the bodice and that was the one thing that threw the whole balance of the dress off, apart from Sally, who is a little weird (I know her in real life) who loved the dress just as it was – there’s always one huh?

I went with the majority:  the scissors were brought out and the bodice has gone. I removed the zip altogether and just folded down 2″ to make a casing for 1″ wide elastic.

So now I have a pull-on full and swingy skirt.


Much better.

On the other hand, DH (who knows everything) washed my fancy pants (left) with the the red cotton top. Well, guess what happened there! My vibrant and colourful pants came out with an all over pink hue. So clever…….


I bought a thing to remove dye that was created for occasions such as this and soaked the pants overnight.

All the colours except the pink dye faded! Reds went to faded orange, oranges went to pale yellow, greys went to khaki, blacks went to grey and the white stayed pink!


Much worse.

I was moved and inspired by Shams and her posting about weight loss and health. Then Sarah wrote a little about it too and I followed it up. I’ve put on weight since the middle of May most of my clothes were no longer tight they just didn’t fit anymore. I realised that when you make clothes for yourself they are made to fit perfectly and any deviation in weight has a most dramatic effect on this tailored fit.  I purchased the e-book Eat to Live and started on Dr. Fuhrman’s  plant based diet a week before we went to Salisbury on choir tour. I started at a whopping 75kg (at least 10kg over my recommended ideal weight) – Within one week I’d lost 2.5 kg (5 1/2 lb) – the red line on the graph below.

[2.2lbs = 1kg]  Then we went away……


I’d no intention of sticking to the diet when we were in England – eating out every night, hotel breakfasts and so on, but I was a wee bit good and returned home with just a little weight back on. But I expected this and didn’t beat myself up about it. So this week I started again (purple line). Starting point on Tuesday was 74kg and by Friday I was down to 72kg and today it’s 71.5kg!

The diet is hard going, I’m not going to say it’s easy. I live with a carnivore and an omnivore and the Eat to Live diet is predominantly vegan. I did ask if anyone in the house wanted to join me but there were no takers, so I’ve been making a meal for them and a meal for me. The shopping trolley has a split personality – vegetables and fruit, beans and pulses at one side; meat, potatoes, bread and biscuits on the other.

I believe it’s also easier to follow the diet in summer, especially in a heat wave. I really can’t imagine eating salad with raw vegetables and a dash of balsamic in the middle of January when it’s dark at 4.30pm and 3 degrees celcius outside – just a hearty beef stew with lots of potatoes is the right thing for then. I also try to buy locally produced and in-season fruits etc. It’s not always possible but I don’t know where I’d get raspberries in February in Belfast.

I’m a girl who puts a shot of double cream in her three cups of coffee every morning: who always grates a bit more Cheddar cheese than is necessary so I can nibble it prior to dinner; who eats her sirloins blue and who cooks with salt and then salts her food: oh, I can also drink olive oil from the bottle. The frying pan is the most used pot in the kitchen arsenal in our house. To completely remove salt, sugar, meat, diary and oils from my diet was a BIG challenge. I have no underlying health issues (thankfully) so this was purely for weight loss but I can easily see how anyone’s general health would be improved on this plant based diet – there’s just no bad things in it! Every night I think – tomorrow I’ll go back to normal this is such hard work – and then I weight myself every morning and another 0.5kg has gone and I decide – just one more day. When I get to the 70kg mark I’ll have to make a new graph.

Much, much better.

I trust you and yours are all in good health, enjoying (but taking care in) the sunshine (northern hemisphere) and wrapping yourselves in wool and cashmere (southern hemisphere).



What do YOU think?

The Cost? Is it worth it?

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I recently completed a Vogue Donna Karan top and really wasn’t too happy with the result until I found the real cost of the exact same blouse in RTW.

My costs were:
Pattern $3.49 (Vogue sale)
Fabric €2.99 p/m – 3m purchased total €9.00
Thread £2.00

Total for my make = £11.50 ($17, €14)

Actual cost of RTW £2,000 ($3000, €2,500)

All of a sudden, I liked my blouse!

OK OK, the RTW was made in silk not satin poly, but even calculating the make in purchased silk I could well have made this blouse for well under £50. I didn’t add in my time, as sewing is a hobby, an interest that I enjoy, not work and hence, not chargeable.

What I did get however were sleeves that were shortened just a tad to fit MY arms and I could have made it in any colour I wanted not just what was offered at Harvey Nicks.

And talking of Harvey Nicks – Fehrtrade tweeted about this  – DKNY £900 and this one is made of a fabric that I use for lining!

100% viscose; fabric2: 83% cupro, 17% elastane

Is this top worth It?

Next, I’ve started making my third Chanel-esque jacket and I know how much time and patience and effort is involved in putting one of these things together. Chanel 1, Chanel 2, Chanel 3. Most of the techniques and hand stitching will never be seen by anyone and only I know it’s there – but would you spend $20,000 for a custom made jacket that is essentially a quilted cardigan?

I am in awe of the skills that the ateliers display in creating a haute couture item – it is truly mesmerising to watch and I really like that these sewing techniques are still being used and passed on. Flawless craftmanship, attention to detail, fitting to your exact body measurements and personal style. Isn’t this what we all, as home sewers, aim to achieve?

Oh yes, the fabric is delicious and only Chanel have access to it but all you have to do is wait 3 years and Linton Tweeds will release the fabric to the world. So, three years out of date? Is this a problem for you?

I mean, if you spend an average net annual salary on a jacket you would kinda like to wear it for at least a few years, wouldn’t you? See it as an investment sort of thing or at least explain it away as that to DH or partner.

You can buy a Chanel RTW suit off the peg for around  $8,000 – but wait! This is RTW, not couture, so what’s the point? You could be walking down the street and meet someone wearing the exact same thing as you! Horror!

In an honest confession, if I had a trillion dollars the first thing I would do is fly off to Paris and have Chanel make me a couture suit.

But the question at the back of my mind would always be – is it worth it?


What do YOU think?


We only like young, thin people – even when we are old and not so thin!

The second instalment in the open discussion forum – where you are free to speak your mind and comment how you see fit.
OK, a sweeping generalisation statement perhaps but pay attention – this is the science part:
Psychological research has shown that people who are perceived to be beautiful are given higher scores in job interviews; are generally more successful (financially) in life; receive more promotions than less attractive people; receive lesser sentences in criminal court; and so on. This is known as as the Heuristic Effect – beautiful people are good while unattractive people are bad. We look at the outward appearance and judge the character. It’s common, we all use it as a short cut to difficult decision making processes: risk, danger, financial investments, and people we don’t know.
Full size – Not plus size!

Now the not so scientific bit – anecdotal evidence (AKA my independent research of sewing blogs) has shown that those bloggers, who shall rename nameless, who are thin (size 4-10 both Uk & US), who are young (20-35) demonstrably have more followers than the more traditional, and much more common sewers – who are a more standard size 14-18 and over 35.

It’s worse. On Pattern Review, pictures of slim sewers in their clothes get more views and comments than regular sized people. Really. Go and check for yourself. Just pick at random a page of reviews and compare the skinny with the normal. Regardless of complexity or perfection of the sewn garment – young, thin girls are rewarded with more hits and favourable comments.
OK OK OK. There are always exceptions to any rule and I am making generalisations here – some people have been blogging for years and have built up their supporters; others are extremely talented and worthy of following – others???? I’m not so sure.

Wait… I’m not getting a dig in at young, thin sewers by the way, I’m merely using you as an example. It’s more a social comment on the acceptability of older, rounder women as fashion icons or role models for younger girls.

So why?
Two year s ago a German womans’ magazine – Brigitte – decided to use real models in their photoshoots. They did not employ models and every woman chosen was ‘average’ size and ‘normal’ looking.

The editor, Lebart,  said Today’s models weigh around 23% less than normal women.” The move was a response to complaints by readers who said they had no connection with the women depicted in fashion.

The magazine did retouch the photos of normal women but then they do that with professional skinny models too and full makeup and styling was applied, as you would expect for a fashion magazine. However……..
In two years subscriptions to Brigitte have dropped by nearly 22 per cent while 35 per cent fewer copies were sold in shops since the ‘real people policy was introduced. This is Germany’s best selling women’s magazine by the way, not some little provincial rag. In September this year they went back to the professional model, but, at least, no size zeros.So while we do not like to be reminded of how physically imperfect we are, we apparently do not like to see it in others either. Darling Karl L called the move to real people as absurd as fashion was all about “dreams and illusions.”So, it seems we are still tempted by youth and a media reinforced ideal of beauty. We like thin. We like young. Regardless of culture or country.

Personally, I’m a UK 14. It has taken me a long time to accept that I will NEVER have Scandinavian thighs, Audrey Hepburn’s neck, Bridgette Bardot’s lips, Marilyn’s waist or Farah Fawcett hair. I’m over it. I dress now to suit my shape and possibly my age (most of the time, but that’s for another post…..). Making my own clothes has provided the opportunity to select better and better suited clothes than if I was shopping. It is the reason I went back to sewing in the first place, I just couldn’t find what I wanted in the shops.

What do YOU think?

Photo credits: all over the place on Google Images.


What do YOU think?

I’m starting a mini series of debates that hopefully will become a regular spot – topics that irk me and maybe cause a little controversy – but that’s the point – an opportunity to air views and opinions, to speak the truth and release some frustration. So use the comments section aplenty – open to anons as well.

We’ll start the series with a question that definitely applies to me and so I reckon (hope) also to others.

Are home sewers and their money easily parted?

Some sew so that we can have stylish, well fitting (!) clothes at a fraction of the cost of RTW: some sew for enjoyment: some sew to save money and thrift: some sew for others (nice): some sew because they can. We each have our reasons and justification for spending hard earned cash on fabric, notions, patterns, books, DVDs, trims and braids, retreats, classes, gadgets, attachments for our machines, threads, tools, magazines, etc etc etc…..

How many of you go to a fabric store for a couple of metres of lining and 6 buttons, only to come out with wool gabardine for a skirt, satin for a blouse, a bit of jersey because it looks nice and really anything and everything that catches your eye?

Pattern company sales! Buying three or four patterns because they are reduced not because you need them. I know it makes sense to buy in sales but do we buy more than intended just because?

Now this is not a question of usefulness or beauty but how easily we are seduced into buying stuff.  I mean we buy cotton fabric in winter thinking we can keep it to make something for summer and buy wools in summer keeping them for winter.

And gadgets are another thing altogether….

There are at least 30 different feet I can purchase for my machine – and yes I recently bought a super-glide foot for sewing leather and sticky fabrics. Do I have leather to sew?  No, but I’ve been thinking about it.

I want one of these


From Yanko Designs is the Leitfaden, and it is the world’s first sewing printer. What that means is that the machine takes white thread and then uses ink cartridges to die the thread to match the fabric, creating a professional look. The projector is mounted just above the needle and is used to project the desired pattern onto the incoming fabric. This allows the sewer to see the direction ahead of time and help keep a straight line. Unfortunately the Leitfaden is only a concept design right now, but if it ever was created, it would probably be an instant hit.


Colourful needle threaders anyone?

Or an automatic pin dispenser?
I have never accurately added up what I spend per month on sewing related stuff – maybe I’m scared to because while I know it’s loads cheaper than buying clothes, I also know that I have uncut patterns and a steadily expanding fabric stash; a few gadgets that I thought I couldn’t live without and have been used once, badly.  I’ve traced a grand total of three Burda patterns from a pile of 16 magazines. Each month I buy patterns, fabric, magazines and usually a ‘thing’ – little gadget, tool or accessory that might be useful someday. I don’t think there’s ever four weeks that go by without me buying something. Are you the same?
 A small selection of sewing manuals, pattern books and pictures of pretty frocks.
So, are we the marketing executive’s dream? Are we gullible? Do we just like buying stuff? 
Does anybody display self discipline in this field of perpetual purchasing?

Could you honestly say how much you spend weekly, monthly, yearly (daily!) on sewing stuff?

What do you think?