Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Sewing the 70s Today

Thank you very very much for all the lovely comments on my Sewing the 70s dress. It was wonderful to hear that so many of you had made this dress first time around and even more wonderful that you are still sewing 40 years later. I hope that seeing the pattern brought back happy memories for you and isn’t it surprising that we can remember each and every pattern we ever sewed? I think this shows the level of emotional involvement we put put into our makes.

Welcome to all new readers and followers too. Lovely to have you join us and thank you.


Today is the showcase of the third and final dress made from my Craftsy rayon haul. I dscn6881loved the Simplicity 5728 so much that I made another, this time in a rust coloured rayon with stylised cream sprigs and twigs. Instead of just showing a few photos of me in a dress, I’ve detailed the method I used to create the single welt pockets in the skirt. NB: this is what I do and is not necessarily the right or best method available.

I’ll intersperse the instructions with a few pics of the dress too.

This version of the dress has a decorative button at the neck, a fitted belt with a heart-shaped fastener and I moved the centre back zip to the side so that I can get dressed all by myself.

I read and noted every comment made on version No 1. Wendy gave a little tip on adding height to those gathered sleeves – thank you, I got the height I wanted.

Mrs Mole mentioned platform shoes, so here’s me in my new Trippens – a modern nod to platform shoes. Thanks, I’d forgotten about that particular style of footwear.

The pattern has instructions for adding lace around the collar and some of you mentioned contrast collars and trims to showcase the Italian collar. I didn’t add trim in this version but I wish I had – maybe next time??

dscn6870A few asked about the stays in version 1.  These are strips of fabric stitched between pockets at centre and from pockets into side seams. Just keeps everything smooth and flat. The top of the pockets are stitched into the waistband.

Thanks again for each and every comment. I truly appreciate your time and effort and only sorry that I didn’t reply to each one but life’s been a bit hectic recently and meant that I had a lot of time spent away from keyboard……..and sewing machine.


These pockets can be inserted into any skirt or trousers.

You will need:

Fusible interfacing – 2″ strips at least 6″ long, 4 in total

Ruler, pencil, pins

Fabric for pockets or 3-4″ wide strips of self fabric if you don’t have enough left for pockets or your fabric is bulky.

  1. Decide on the location of the pockets – close to the centre seam will produce small, shallow pockets or closer to the side seams for a ‘whole-hand’ pocket.
  2. Pocket opening will always be 51/2″ . This is a golden rule.
  3. Pockets can be vertical or horizontal, or as in this case, slanted. Slanted is an old couture trick to visually create a narrow waist and flattering the figure. They are also easier to actually use. Generally, with a slanted pocket there is a 2″ offset from top to bottom but this is personal choice.

Side zip that doesn’t require endless turning and twisting to get it up or down

  1. If there are two front pieces in a skirt then sew the centre seam. If not, mark the centre line and use this as a guide. For trousers, keep both fronts separate but constantly check that the pockets, left and right, are at the same height and width from the seams.
  2. Drape the skirt front upon your body or mannequin and mark your chosen pocket placement with some chalk or pins. Practice pretending to use the pockets to confirm the location. When happy,  tidy up with a ruler for precision on a table top.
  3. On two of the fusible interfacing strips, draw out the pocket opening: the centre and 1/4″ either side of this. Remember, always 5 1/2″ long. Iron to the inside.dscn6871

5. On the inside of the skirt, machine stitch along the outside pencil lines (not the centre). Start in the middle of a long edge with 1mm stitch length, change to normal stitch length and at corners and ends revert back to 1mm: go all the way around and finish off with more 1mm stitches. This does 4 things; holds the interfacing in place, prevents fraying, strengthens the pocket opening and clearly marks the pocket on the right side.



6. Prepare the welts. Take some leftover fabric, about 4″  x 6″. Fold on the long edge and use some more fusible interfacing for extra strength. Press well. Mark 1/2″ from the fold and you can even stitch this in place. The pocket opening is 1/2″, 2 x 1/4″ = 1/2″. See I can do maths!


7. Pin the 1/2″ line marked welt to the lower stitching line on the outside, making sure they line up. Have the folded edge away from the pocket opening, so raw edge is towards the side seams.


8. Stitch the welt in place from the wrong side over the same row of stitching.  Stitching should start at the top of the rectangle and finish at the end.


I now have to move to another project to show you the final stages as I forgot to take photos on the dress. Same process though.


9. Time to cut!!!. Slit through the skirt only along the pocket centre line. Stop a good 1″ or so from each end and clip to the corners, creating triangles. Push the welt and raw edges through to the inside. Manhandle this and don’t let the fabric take charge of you. Press very well.


10. On the inside, flatten out the little triangle tabs at each end and stitch them to the ends of the welt. Go over this line two or three times, just to make sure.


11. Nearly there. Now just to add the actual pockets to the inside using the raw edges. Bottom pocket piece should be the shell fabric. I didn’t have enough left, so I patched some remaining scraps to lining. It just means that if your pockets gape a little bit then they match the outside.



12. Stitch remaining pocket to the other side and join the two pockets together.


Press well again. Job done. If you like you can always add a few hand stitches at the corners to doubly make sure that nothing will unravel.


You should end up with a couple of pockets that are practically weightless and invisible but so useful, even if it’s just for posing! This method has worked well in this flimsy rayon and is just as effective in the heavier wool tweed shown above. Change the weight of your interfacing to suit your fabric though.


You know, I love dresses and it’s obvious, from the number of comments posted on my dresses rather than separates, that you do too but I actually rarely wear them. It’s a shocking admission, considering I make so many and fantasise about making many more. Must try harder – must wear more dresses.

I’ve kinda/sorta been a wee bit promoted at work. It’s a posting that takes me away from my students for one whole day a week –  a desk job!  I’ve decided that henceforth and until this contract finishes, Wednesdays shall be Dress Day. Now there’s a weekly blog post idea – want to join in? Even if you don’t work outside the home, you can still wear a dress for one day of the week, or maybe you already do and it’s just me who doesn’t.


I liked the photos of my reflection in the wardrobe doors – that’s why there’s two of me. There isn’t really, thank goodness.



You Want Two Sleeves?

Most of us have two arms and therefore our shirts generally require two sleeves. When Vogue 9162 asks for 2.4m and you only buy 2m and then use some of it for pocket linings or a waistband facing or some such then you’re left with 1.7m or thereabouts, fitting the pattern onto the fabric can be a bit of an issue. Added to which this Kathryn Brenne pattern is for an oversized shirt – and I mean oversized! The model in the Vogue picture has clothes pegs used for fitting the shirt and jacket at the back! Def sure of that as I used to work in advertising. Anyway, back to real life…….with a pattern that is too big for your fabric.

So you start to edit the pattern to get the pieces to fit onto the meagre amount of fabric – maybe lose the front pocket, perhaps shorten it a bit, maybe narrow the width, instead of concealed button closing just make it normal – and so on until it doesn’t resemble the original pattern at all. Ultimately, I managed to fit the fronts and back on without any editing, the pocket hardly took any fabric at all and the concealed button closing was part of the front anyway. The real problem lay with the sleeves. It never fails to amaze me how much fabric sleeves need – quick guess at 1m?

So, here’s what I did to get two sleeves for both my arms – and you can do it too even if you need to or not…..

Fit the top of the sleeve pattern onto the remaining fabric and cut to suit the available length. We now have the shoulder seam and armscye and when sewing sleeves they are the Very Important Things and demand capitalisation.


I folded the pattern up for the first cut, then unfolded and repositioned on the crossgrain  scraps for the lower (and generally less important) half. Remember to allow for 1-1.5cm seam allowance. There are no cuffs in this pattern so one less thing to worry about. Join these two pieces together and lo and behold – a whole sleeve! With added design features!

To keep the inside sleeve neat and tidy I actually sewed these two halves wrong sides together! Then I cut a bias strip from more scraps, which is always impressive in a striped fabric, pressed the raw edges under and edge-stitched this onto the right side to hide the wrong side seam. Still with me?

And now it looks like a deliberate and well thought out design element that hides all raw edges.

Recently I’ve been following some French sewing blogs – I say following but I really just look at the pictures as French is not my first language – and they have this wonderful thing called De-Stocking! Nothing to do with bedroom antics but in English (specifically North American) it means de-stashing and the pledge is to sew at least one thing a month from your stock / stash / hoard / treasure / investment or whatever euphemism you choose to describe the metres and metres of fabric you own. I haven’t pledged anything primarily because I don’t know what my school-girl French might be translated into by Google but this grey and white striped poly-cotton was delivered over a year ago and I’m only getting round to sewing it now. So I count this as a positive de-stocking!

I’ve already made the Vogue 9162 trousers and this is the matching shirt.


Told you it was oversized although I might have made a bigger size than I needed. Anyway, I added a few ‘patches’ around the shirt either to compliment or disguise the hacked together sleeves and balance out the rather large breast pocket. My sleeves in the end product are longer than necessary and are usually worn pushed up or folded back.


My label was sewn in and I only do that on things I really like or that I am inordinately proud of.

The neck buttoning is stylish with a loop and not a bog-standard hole. I have worn this shirt open-necked and it is just as wearable.

Personal style opinion: such a large shirt looks better with narrow trousers or skinny jeans.

And as the camera was running out of battery, and we all know that feeling, I snapped a few out of focus pics that at least illustrate the overall look.

The remaining garment to be sewn from this single pattern is the jacket and yes, I do have a de-stocking fabric that is most suitable – a raspberry boiled wool – yum. I know it’s officially spring and the sun may break through the clouds on occasion but our temperatures are low and I might just get a few wearable weeks during May.

Talking of which – Me-Made-May launches this weekend. It is an online celebration of hand-made and home-sewn clothes. Personally, about 90% of my wardrobe is now home-made so I don’t have a choice for May or any other month for that matter but you can pledge and promise to wear your unique and beautifully crafted wardrobe every day of May, or every other day, or once a week – whatever suits you. Isn’t that the whole point of making our own clothes – suit yourself!


Plain and Simpler: Avoid Baggy-Thighed-Pants

This is my method to avoid baggy-thighed-pants (acknowledgement goes to Miranda for that title)

I’ve had loads of requests to explain what I do to avoid wrinkles at the back thigh on trousers. Firstly, a big thank you to you all who contacted me via e-mail, Pattern Review, personal messaging, blog comments etc etc etc. and your inherent trust in my abilities. I started replying to each one and then I got overwhelmed so Instead of replying to each and every one, here’s a post about what I do. Absolute disclaimer: this is what I do for me – I have no idea if it’s right, acceptable, taught, recognised or standard fitting procedure – but it works for me so why not try it – it could work for you too.

I’m now acknowledging those brave sewers who have publicity shown the world what what baggy-thigh-pants look like:

Tasha, Stephanie, Jennifer – thank you from the bottom of my ****

Trousers are notoriously difficult to fit because there are so many points of contact with the body – waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf, length and worst of all crotch! My advice – make a skirt -LOL! Just kidding, but really take your time, trace your pattern alterations (I know it’s a pain but think of the long-term gains), do not intend to make a pair of trousers, take a weekend and work on the fitting. Please believe me, it is time well invested and you will have a perfectly fitting crotch pattern for only YOU and it didn’t cost you a Craftsy class.

I’m starting from a toile that has good fitting crotch curve. Sorry I’m leaving this bit to you but here are some resources that you might find useful – my crotch experiments, Colette’s pant fitting cheat sheet, crotch measuring.

You are now going to be subjected to many images of my backside: if you want to see the original post then click on my bum!


Back thigh adjustment on jean-style cords


Early days of development – Here I moved the crotch curve. See how it rides up and there are still wrinkles on the back thigh


Similar to pic 1. Reduced the depth of the back thigh only and pattern based on RTW Armani .


No adjustments made at all and wrinkles galore!


New trouser pattern with now almost automatic back thigh adjustment. Vogue 1204


Wide leg trousers show much less wrinkling, so this could be an alternative option for fitting.


Tapered trouser legs still need an shortening on the back thigh for me but not as much as fitted trousers maybe just an 1″ (2.5cm).

Here’s my method of removing those wrinkles that are so evident in RTW and many of my early hand made trousers. It happens at the cutting stage so I’m afraid if you have already cut and sewn – it’s too late! Do it next time.

First off, be brutally honest. Stand sideways in front of a mirror and measure or mark your front bit (know what I mean?) then mark or measure your back cheek crease.


In my case the difference between the front and back is roundabout 4″ (10cms). Gosh – see that sway back? That’s another post just on its own!

Right, back to the topic for today. Now, following conventional fitting methods  you will be instructed to do all sorts of things with the crotch curve – see my pin stripe jeans above – lengthening, shortening and changing the angle of curve but my method is simpler and easier. I half the measurement taken from real life and fold this out of the way on the back pattern piece, close to but not at the crotch line.


Take the back pattern piece and fold up half the difference of your measurements. In my case it’s 2″ (5cms). Make this fold below the crotch line that’s marked on the pattern piece. We are not altering the crotch curve but working below it.

At the side of the pattern there will be uneven edges – when cutting the fabric, gently curve this to join with your already perfected crotch. Please check your crotch point before doing this alteration see my crotch experiments above for how to do this.


Edited for clarification: All the notches and marks on the back pattern piece will not line up with the front now. Either reposition the back notches or as I do, ignore them. Lengthen the back piece at the hem by the same amount you folded out.

I’m just at the beginning of making New Look K6231 trousers in a woven cotton with no stretch. In my previous post I recommended using a fabric with a bit of Lyrca so stay tuned for an update on how I totally ignore my own advice and how it all turns out in the end.


OK, maybe I don’t heed my own advice all of the time – or is it just the nature of the fabric?


The Dark Side

I have plenty of clothes but I love sewing – Carolyn has had the same thoughts as me on this but expresses them much better.

What’s a girl to do?

Sew for others? But that entails arranging fittings and meeting expectations and sewing things that I possible don’t like or want to sew.

Sew slowly? This I am already doing with my Jersey Blues SWAP ’15. Hand stitching every garment really takes time but I miss my machine and I’m making more clothes.

Move over to the dark side? Yep, I’ve signed up for a quilting class – Shock! Horror! Gasp! Turncoat!

I reckon this way I can still sew but not clutter my over-stuffed wardrobe with anymore clothes. Anyway, I need to learn about pattern coordination, fabric matching and clashing and most importantly, accuracy. It’s not really quilting – it’s patchwork and my first class is this week. I’ve always had a secret admiration for quilters, the way they sew a few squares of fabric together, slice them up, twist and turn and a kaleidoscope of colour and pattern simply emerges. Actually it’s just pure envy.

When I went to Quilter’s Quest last week to book and pay, Claire said to me’ “You’re not wearing any of our fabrics!” . I did have to explain to her that although I have often bought many fabrics, they are all cottons and this is the middle of winter! What can I say – Quilters! Huh! She is lovely though and while I might learn about patchwork, I’ll make damned sure they all learn a thing or two about making clothes.

I’ll be bringing my own machine and tools to the class. I thought it would look a little amateurish to turn up with stuff in a Tesco’s plastic bag so I made a ‘pouch’ to hold them all together in one place.


I found scraps and bits of cotton in my fabric box, traced around each tool and sewed a made-to-measure holder for everything I think I might need.

Tool kit

There’s a piece of wadding sandwiched between the inside and outside to cushion scissor points and add a bit of substance. The top third folds down and is secured at the button with a loop to stop anything falling out and then it rolls up and its tied with a ribbon.


If you’ve ever done patchwork/quilting is there any tool or item I’ve left out and might need?


Garlic, crucifix, silver bullets and a wooden stake?



imagesThe only word in the English language that has a full rhyme with orange!

A sporange is botanical terminology for the part of a fern that produces the spores.

Yeah, but you all knew that!




Burda – a confusing collection of lines on paper that when cut out in fabric and sewn by people who know things produces clothes (sometimes).

On the whole, I really like Burda designs and styling but the thought of tracing, or tiling and tracing, or tiling, tracing and adding seam allowances just makes me reach for my Vogues every time. If you feel the same, then this might help or read on.

However, since I was voted onto Burda’s Top 50 blogs, I am feeling an obligation to make more of an effort despite the fact that I’m ranked in the 40s and just made the cut by the skin of my teeth. Thank you to those who nominated and supported me anyway. If I had known about this beforehand I would have done much more to support your efforts. Anyway I’m towards the 50s in real life so it’s a relatively precise mirror of 20th/21st century life and times.

One day while sitting on the veranda of my holiday hardwood timber log cabin by the coast with a coffee and Danish within reach, instead of just perusing my collection of BurdaStyle magazines in an armchair and living in fantasy land of youthful slimness and sunshine, this time I really and truly selected a few designs to seriously sew, or sew seriously?

My fabrics are this – an orange mohair mix knit and a multi-coloured poly chiffon.

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Process – a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

Here’s my tip on adding seam allowances to Burda patterns. You will need a Clover tracing wheel tool or similar and a soft lead pencil (at least a BB).

Trace the pattern onto tissue or pattern drafting paper as per normal but with enough excess around each piece to mark the SA.

Remove the second tracing wheel from the Clover thingy and with technical, LASER-guided precision, sticky tape the pencil at the 1.5cm (5/8″) mark (give or take).

DSCN4678Now roll the Clover wheel around the sewing line, making sure the pencil is always on the outside of this line and fairly level with the wheel. You might need to sharpen the pencil as you go along.

DSCN4679DSCN4681BTW – This specialist and highly secretive technique also works for marking SA on sew-in canvas interfacings that need removing from the seams: replace the pencil with a disappearing fabric marker pen. Shhhh…….


Collar stand for Burda Style Suit Coat

Take BurdaStyle magazine pattern 08/2012/117D.   








Round off the waterfall fronts and make a 2″ band all round.

Add cuffs to the sleeves and stabilise the loose knit with some left-over lining around the back neckline and band. Add lined patch pockets.










Cut the stabilising fabric at 2″ and the knit at 4″. Fold the knit over the stabiliser and serge to the outside edge of the garment.

The 2″ band was sewn on the reverse side of the knit fabric. Sew the entire band on the overlocker (serger) or else stitch and zig-zag the edges.


This is relatively straightforward make: raglan sleeves, two fronts and a back. The entire thing was sewn on the serger (overlocker) apart from the patch pockets.

Next, take BurdaStyle magazine pattern 05/2012-101B and totally forget the first attempt and remember the appeal.

101B_BS0512_B_largeTwo fronts and backs with centre seams and side in-seam pockets. Facings for the neckline, narrow hems on the cap sleeves. Remake in patterned chiffon, remove pockets and add ties at sides for a slight waist definition, soft gathers and variation of styling. Deep hem for a bit of weight. Also mostly sewn on the overlocker so that I didn’t have to do French seaming.

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There’s a very low V-neck.




Note to self – always wear a co-ordinating T-shirt! – You don’t live in the tropics, you don’t have a flat chest and you’re over 50!!!!










Result – a thing that is caused or produced by something else; a consequence or outcome. (Not always perfect!)


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Credit – publicly acknowledge a contributor’s role in the production of (something published or broadcast).

My initial jumping off point was Scruffy Badger making and wearing this. She’s brilliant, so I bought the same fabric, thank you Winnie for the inspiration.111_0913_B_sweater_large

I saw this  Burda Style 09/2013 UK cover but I’m just a little bit older, a little wider and I live in a city and work a proper job; modifications were needed.

Eternal thanks to Lynne from Ozzyblackbeard who told me to take my time and re-thread the serger in proper thread order because those machines have some preternatural ability to sense the scared and inexperienced.  Until this advice, the serger was in the dog-house again, now it’s currently contributing to my wardrobe and paying for its board and keep; 20 minutes of cajoling and wine induced threading and now it is fully trained. And,  I’m beginning to benefit from the genuine benefits of meeting real live sewists. Thanks forever Lynne.




Analysis – The separation of a whole into its constituent parts for individual study.

I’m still tracing Burda patterns at the wrong size – always too roomy. In this case it doesn’t matter too much but for anything fitted or structured I think I’ll stick to my trusty Vogues.

Should have lined the dress. I’m wearing a white slip and it shows through. But I know I won’t.

I still have the notion that Burda makes are  quick makes. I just can’t bring myself to spend the time doing things ‘right’ The hem on the dress is atrocious and it’s only the fabric design that is camouflaging the wobbly stitching line. The facings won’t lie flat despite under stitching and catching them at four points around the neckline, so I’m forever tucking them back in. A narrow hem here would probably do the trick.

The colours are great though – I can also wear teal tights and T and raspberry colours and the shift dress just acts as a cover-all. The orange cardigan lifts dark grey and is quite stunning against black and white.

So, there you have it: a ‘model’ who’s over 50, the other side of 67Kgs and wearing a chiffon shift dress in November in the northern hemisphere with a granddad cardigan. There are no limits!!  Or have I read the wrong rule book?

If you can,  watch this……

If you can’t – do what you need to do so that you can…..