Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Clothes for Camping

Home again, home again, clippity hop!

Thanks so much for all your comments and critiques on my most recent posts.

I’m back home after a fortnight in the depths of Mexico (more to come later) – I have a lot to show and tell but first I’ll cover the Scotland holiday camping trip wardrobe. This camping trip, tent and all, occurred the very first week of July with two girlfriends. We journeyed all the way to Durness and if you get the weather that we had, I would strongly recommend this as a destination. However, if the forecast is four days with gales and pouring rain – I would definitely not suggest you go there. I guess you take your chances with Scottish weather and we got lucky! The sky was really and truly that blue – these photos are not Photoshopped.


Our half acre camping site: tent, camper van with awning, outdoor kitchen, fairy lights, lanterns, candles, solar lighting, sitting area, wind break and views out to sea – perfect!

Now, I know you’ll be thinking: what on earth do you sew at home for a camping trip iin the most northerly town in the United Kingdom where it never got dark at night and the weather was extraordinary?  This is our beach…..IMG_0391While packing, I was preparing to experience all seasons in one week, as is customary for UK holidays, but ultimately we had Mediterranean weather for the whole week – which was nice and my homemade wardrobe fitted in perfectly. I did purchase some cheap RTW long sleeve T-shirts to add to the rotation and provide some protection from the sun but otherwise this is the packing rundown.

Gather together the following patterns:

Pirate Skirt pencil skirt

Greenstyle Sundance Jacket 

Vogue Paco Peralta 1550 trousers

Marcy Tilton Vogue 8837 pants (OOP) but any legging/jogging bottoms are suitable.

A few tops / T-shirt patterns that in my case incorporated : Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; Centre for Pattern Design bias cut top: Drape Drape 2 asymmetrical top; basic long sleeved T-shirt from whatever pattern you favour.

Slide1Choose co-ordinating fabrics and sew at will. What you can end up with is at least a five day wardrobe……..

I looked at specialist RTW clothing  before I started sewing – outdoor activity sites, camping gear, mountain rescue clothing and the like but everything was in the colour range of black, navy or khaki. I most certainly didn’t want to wear these on holiday. There’s a gap in the market there somewhere…..


Pencil skirt and white T: eating an ice lolly and carrying a bag of ice for cocktails back at base camp.

My primary colour was the lime green flowery scuba from Fabworks. It has pinks, greys, black and white incorporated, which then became the co-ordinating colours for the extended holiday wardrobe.


One thing that is of ultimate importance for camping clothing is comfort and flexibility, lack of wrinkling is also a benefit so this wardrobe is wholly comprised of man-made fibres – no I tell a lie, a few items are cotton jersey: all that bending down and stretching and sitting and fixing things and walking, putting things up and taking them down and what have you requires clothes that move with the body but don’t shift. The ability to layer is also useful for evenings when it might become a little chilly.

Mostly I wore trainers during the vacation, in the following photos I wore pink flats.

The photos are taken at home after the holiday but hopefully you’ll get an idea of the interchangeability, co-ordination and range of looks, style and most importantly, wearability of this little wardrobe. And just because you’re sleeping in a tent, doesn’t mean you have to look like you are during waking hours.


As always, with a little bit of left over fabric, I made a little sling purse and a narrow neck scarf – just in case I felt I wasn’t totally co-ordinated enough.


Slide2The Greenstyle Sundance jacket proved to be indispensable: I made a full sleeved, hooded, pocketed outer layer in the flowery scuba and then made a sleeveless, non-hooded over/inner layer in heavy pink cotton jersey for layering purposes. This relaxed front zipper closing sports jacket incorporates a drop back hemline, optional hood, zippered side seam pockets for extra security and an additional pattern alternative for a pleated back which I didn’t use. Because I made both a sleeved and a sleeveless version, the two could be worn together, either on top on underneath.

The pattern includes a long cuff with thumb holes for those of you who run on the streets in winter and for those of us who don’t, it’s a little design feature to keep your hands warm should the need arise or else provides you with the style ability to mimic your teenage children by being slouchy with an attitude.


If you don’t want to look like this on a fabulous, truly memorable camping/outdoor holiday….choose your clothes to reflect the experience.


Sew your own……….

No, I will never wear the two together but it was fun to show you.

Next time, it’s Mexico……


Sweet Home Alabama

Every summer when the exam marking is finished and payment is received, I treat myself. This year I bought Alabama Studio Sewing and Design book and I may just have found my spiritual sewing home, albeit 2 to 3 years after everyone else. DSCN4383Between the book, blogs and Flickr – I have been scouring every source for images, techniques and ideas of this gloriously homemade rustic look. I appreciate that Alabama Chanin may not be everyone’s idea of chic but personally I think it is fabulous: the clean simple lines of the clothes are highlighted with the the sewing techniques and applique methods, the beaded embellishments are staggeringly beautiful and this is coming from someone who does not like bling! I could wax lyrical for hours about Alabama Chanin……it’s obsessive.

a5 images-1 images

I’ve always enjoyed hand sewing as part of a project – pad stitching a tailored jacket collar or adding trim to a Chanel style jacket, fell stitching lining to a coat- but to construct an entire garment without the machine, that’s new and slightly daunting.






White on White

I had some ivory jersey 100% cotton and some pure white jersey cotton with lycra lying in the box and used these as a test of AC: to see if I could do it; to see if I liked it; to see how long it would take; to see if it fell apart after one wear.

The book comes with traceable patterns for a long dress and skirt that is simply cropped off at various lengths to make a fitted top, a tunic, a short dress and skirt, a mid dress and skirt – ingenious. There’s also patterns for a T-shirt, a bolero and dimensions for hat, poncho, shawl and gloves – entire wardrobe, head to toe.


I choose the fitted top as my test. I do not have stencils, fabric dye, buttonhole threads and all the other accoutrements that are required to produce a genuine Alabama Chanin creation, so I just went with what I had to hand.









Having traced the pattern and cut out two layers of the ivory and the white, I took a felt tip pen and drew some random circles on the top (ivory) pieces.


I found some thick but cheap beige polyester thread in the notions drawer and started sewing.

I attempted various embroidery stitches, applique methods, adding sequins and glittery things – in fact, my fitted top is really a sampler of various AC techniques.


Reverse applique with sequiny things


Scrapy French knots (otherwise known as tangled knots) – I invented a new embroidery stitch! After a few washes the felt tip pen circles disappeared.


More tangled knots and some couching


Shiny things and stars and a fossilised fern leaf!


Neck binding


All the tops, skirts and dresses have four panels – two for the front and two for the back: no darts or closures, just shaping from the pattern and a good fit.


Felled seams on the outside, no hem treatment and all four panels are different and unique

And I love it! I love wearing it and I loved making it.

I love the fit and the surprising robustness; I love the white on white. It’s the perfect sewing project because it’s portable, just thread up a few needles and sit in the garden or on the beach slowly sewing in the sun or lounging on the sofa with one eye on a movie. My embroidery is atrocious and my running stitch leaves a lot to be desired – but practice makes perfect, right?

So I moved on to the bolero.


Two layers but plainer


Sleeve detail


Floating seams on the outside

Check out these creations: Julie, Annekata, Dr. Fun, Carolyn

And take a look at the Flickr site, there is such a wealth of talent out there that I feel positively intimidated (in a good way).

There are You Tube videos, full selection here

A Craftsy class (recently added to my wish list)

How can you not love a designer who wears her own creations?

How can you not love a designer who wears her own creations?


Sway back adjustment needed


The double layer of cotton jersey is comfy and helps hold in the wibbly- wobbly bits too


From a distance the white on white and crappy embroidery is very subtle


With bolero


OK OK, the circle placement on the front could have been better…..


And not a sewing machine in sight. I’m hooked. I may not sew any other way ever again…………….

Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to photograph this fitted top and bolero in the dappled sunshine under our tree, so let me leave you with the view from my sewing room window this morning – while many of you are moaning and wilting in the heat, spare a thought for those of us who live in Ireland.


My forlorn deckchair with a puddle in the seat where most of the fitted top sewing was done! Irish summers! I ask you


Stars and Stripes

Nothing looks neater and better finished than a garment whose stripes match up. I had a bit of red and white striped cotton jersey remaining from my foray into T-shirt drafting and quickly knocked up another kimono wrap top, designed by Stephanie of Three Hours Past… this is actually my fifth one. I love it so much – it’s easy to sew and easy to wear. In previous versions I’ve left off the centre back seam for speed but with this one I kept it in just so that I could get a chevron spine.

You can’t match up stripes in every direction and at every seam – this is one of the wraps, but no one will see that as it will be tied around my waist.

Look at the patterns the stripes make as they wrap around – oh dizzying! On the left – tied at the back and on the right wrapped all the way around and tied in front.

And here’s some super stars who took the time and matched their stripes too:
Mujerboricua with her ginger skirt chevrons
Frankie‘s dress

Thanks for reading. Ruth



You may remember my disaster with grain-lines over Christmas and the wasted rib knit fabric that didn’t make it into a long Burda cardigan.… but did make it to the bin! I salvaged a bit and had a bit left over – just enough for a more substantial kimono wrap top to suit this time of year.

I lengthened the sleeves all the way to wrist this time. As a bulkier knit than the first version tying the wraps in a knot also feels bulky, so I fastened the front with a decorative pin. Makes it into a dressier look too.

I’ve tried to brighten the pictures as much as possible so you can see the ribs in the charcoal knit and the lovely patterns they make when crossed over.

As this was the second time making the pattern, this wrap top was made in under 2 hours. I reckon if you are lucky enough to have a serger (overlocker) you could shave another 30-40 mins off.

You know, one of the best things about this pattern is you don’t need to wear anything underneath because the wraps are so ‘wrappy’.

It is mega secure too – no shifting about when you move either and no constantly pulling the wraps together at the front.

How many wraps tops can you say that about?

Thanks for reading. Ruth


Somewhere over the Rain……..

Now that I’ve subliminally planted that ear-worm here are some pics to go along with it.

McCalls 6247

Rainbow Missoni (not real) knit from stash

2yds but only 45″ wide – damn that stash!
So no sleeves, but nice yoke detail at the back.

Oh and I added a draped collar thing from another pattern. I didn’t realise how sheer and un-fluid this was until I saw these photos.

I don’t even know if this type of garment has a name…

Sleeveless cardigan?
Long waistcoat (vest)?
SF top? (stash fabric)

I would wear this on the yacht in the summer but ours is in the ship yard this year being remodelled and having a helipad fitted – bummer huh? Just when I have the perfect cover-up for my itsy-bitsy bikini?

Thanks for reading. Ruth