Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



We are getting towards the end dear friends ……..Thank you so much for all your very positive and encouraging comments over the last few weeks; they have really helped me slog through this – what a great bunch of folks you are! The almost last item is now complete.

The pattern is one of my favourites Vintage Vogue 1137 with some minor modifications. V1137Shortened to match the length of my dress, I also reduced the ‘swing’ from the back and didn’t line it. So all the seams were either flat felled or Frenched – well there are only two either side and one down the back.


I used the crepe side of the fabric for the outside as the satin side was just a wee bit too shiny for my liking but I used the satin side as highlights and features. I didn’t add the front facings either just turned back 1cm along each front and slip stitched this in place.

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The almost the last of the lace was added to a hem band and turn-back cuffs.



The coat should now make the dress into ‘An outfit”.



I have no more fabric left so there won’t be a short jacket – the 1m I had set aside for this very purpose was used up in making the flower for the hat – unbelievable! I do however, have one little last treat…. ’til next time….




There’s a whole other world out there and it’s called HATS!



These things are expensive – and to wear for just one hour at a wedding ceremony seemed an extravagance too far. I do have a budget for this outfit. You can hire hats here, but really they’re just half the price of buying one and would I ever get the colour and style I wanted?

I tried on fascinators (an item of unknown purpose) and the lady in the shop sidled up behind me and told me discretely that it was on back to front! So that went back on the shelf. Anyway, they only came in black, grey and cream and nearly cost the same as a hat.

So, while at the coast this week we went to Hope and Gloria, a most delightful shop that sells vintage clothing, accessories, homewares: you can get your nails painted and hair styled; a cup of coffee and a bun; and they organise craft and sewing classes too. In a old leather suitcase was a collection of hats for £3 each. The one I really wanted was too small but I managed to select this one – almost Audrey Hepburn and totally the wrong colour.


DSCN4195While having coffee with my teenage son and the teenage son of my friend I wore the hat – just thought I’d embarrass them to maximum effect.

I figured I could dye it or spray paint it to match, wrap a matching fabric band around the brim,stick a few feathers in and I’d be done. However, I had envisaged a large hat – wide brimmed and saucer-like – it’s not everyday you get to wear a hat, so you may may as well go for it.

Royal Wedding - Wedding Guests And Party Make Their Way To Westminster Abbey

Princess MIchael of Kent at a royal wedding

I researched fabric paint, sprays and dyes but colours weren’t right. I was after a particular shade of red – more crimson / wine than pillar box to tone in with the lips on my shoes.



So I did this:

Materials – heavy duty interfacing, 1m fabric of crimson taffeta, grosgrain ribbon, old hat that fits, needle and thread

Measure around your head (mine’s 11″) and cut a strip of the ribbon to comfortably fit around your head with a little leftover for overlap.

Decide on the width of the brim and draw a circle on the interfacing marking the centre point. Do some complicated geometry stuff and draw a smaller circle to fit the ribbon ie. a circumference of 11″. Measure in 1cm from this inner circle and cut it out.

I had bits of corners and strips of interfacing so I machined these to the first circle for extra stiffness.

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Lay the brim on to two layers of fabric and trace around it including the inner circle. Cut out with seam allowances. Sew around the outer edge, trim, turn and press. Wrestle the brim into the fabric making sure edges are aligned and it’s lying flat. Pin excessively to avoid shifting; top stitch the outer edge and around the inner 11″ circle. Clip the excess of the inner circle out to the stitching line.



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Take the old hat, dismantle it and cut off the brim so you are left with the crown. Cover the top and wee bit down the sides with fabric, either gluing or hand stitching.

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Slide the new brim over the crown – glue or hand stitch together. I stitched my hat as I didn’t have fabric glue. Stitching hats is hard!


Make a band to cover the edges of the brim, pleat and stitch (or glue) in place. Position the join where you intend to put embellishments later so it will be covered up.


Sew the ribbon on the inside of the hat to cover the join and make it comfortable to wear.


Now the fun begins –

Make flowers, buy feathers and ribbons and decorate to your heart’s desire. Sew the decorations in place or glue. I’m in favour of sewing them on because then later you can easily cut them off and replace them with new colours or styles.

I used up nearly 1m of fabric to make this flower – using this method – so be prepared.



It’s big!

Not quite Holly Golightly at Tiffany’s more like Eliza Doolittle at the races











Close Cover before Striking….

It’s finished well in time for New Year’s Eve – smokin’!


Actually, I’ve made a total of 4 bodices and 2 skirts trying to get the right size, which was my biggest headache with this project and all my own fault. So firstly I want to acknowledge some people who pointed me the right direction and made me try harder and improve…..

Marysia – I never even thought about the sizing of the pattern when printing it out. This could have been the problem all along – maybe the computer ‘shrunk’ or ‘fitted’ the pattern to A4 instead of printing ‘actual’ size. That would explain a lot. After tiling and taping all the pieces together I graded the pattern rather than printing it all out again.  Note to V&A: put a 10cm square on your downloadable patterns so we can check accuracy of printing.

Elle C – I liked your comment the best: that a 12 in 1980 is not a 12 in 2013. I do believe there is something in that ’cause one day a man told me that one night Marks & Spencer’s re-labeled all their women’s clothes, swapping the size 16 to size 14, a 14 to a 12 and so on.

Mrs Mole – always right as usual! Measure the paper pattern, measure yourself; if the pattern is smaller than you – then it ain’t gonna fit! It’s that simple!

Tanya and Marysi – advice and links on backless bras – many thanks

Sheree – that I’m not the only one who rushes into a sewing project and lives to regret it.

Scarlett, Rhonda, Jean and many others – for encouraging me to try again and do better.

Thanks to you all. And now to the gory details…..


I had to abandon centimetres as a measuring unit and move back to inches – the grading was that dramatic! I cut the skirt pieces in two right down the middle and added a 3″ strip to both front and back. This kept the lines of the side pleats intact while providing the extra girth I obviously needed. This means I added 6″! It also gave me the traditional 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance instead of the 1cm provided with the pattern.



For the bodices I made brand new ones. I traced around the originals to get the basic shape and draped this on Doris, marking out new side seams and adding 3″ to the bodice length. I marked up some extra darts too thinking a bigger bodice would require extra fitting. I scooped out the front neckline by an additional 2″ because I like a slightly lower front and don’t suit a boat line neck. As for the glorious single French dart on the bodice front I included the dart in my cutting out and then pinned it out to fit me getting the ends of the darts to hit exactly (or nearly) on the breasts.

All facings then had to be recut to fit the new bodice neckline and wider skirt.

Sleeves were re-drafted to fit into the ‘new’ armholes of the bodice and widened down the arms. This was really a hit or miss affair – I have no skills in drafting sleeves. I did read a lot about sleeves and how they work though.


I rethought the fabric. Something with a bit more stretch was needed. While the red crepe is a lovely fabric it wasn’t right for this dress.  So I bought a whole new batch of red jersey and put the crepe away for another dress sometime in the future. This new fabric is fairly robust, a ponte knit and a slightly deeper red. It’s not your obvious  party frock fabric but it’s what you need for this dress.


The dress itself is fairly straightforward: sew bodice darts, sew shoulders, sew sides, attach facings, under-stitch and hand sew down: sew sleeves and insert: tack side pleats, sew skirt seams, make pleats, join the skirt and bodice, hem.

I did however veer off the basic construction:


1. Added a side zip (right side as the pleats are on the left). Bit tricky in a jersey and yes, I should have stabilised before sewing in….

2. Lined the main dress (not sleeves) and hand sewed the lining to seams and shoulders.


Added a waist stay for extra security and to keep the dress in place during wearing. This is just a casing of the dress fabric attached inside at the zip seams, a length of 1″ elastic threaded though and secured and a couple of hooks and eyes to fasten.

The lining gave me a substrate to hand sew the facings to so that the stitches wouldn’t be seen on the right side. It does also add an extra layer now that I am no longer the lithe 20 year old I was in the ’80s.


All the hems – skirt, sleeves, neckline are finished with facings rather than just turning the fabric back – nice couture touch I thought.

I searched the attic for my costume jewellery but couldn’t find it anywhere – mind you there’s a tonne (or two) of stuff in our attic and finding anything is nigh impossible  – so I made do with what I had to hand…

A gold chain worn backwards at the neck and the same gold chain worn frontways at the waist. A large gold cuff, red court shoes and a stick-on bra!

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Opinions about accessories required please! Less is more? Or pile it on?DSC00667


Move Over Scarlett…

Ladies, we have a dress……. it’s red, it’s 80s, it’s designer, it’s mine……..

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It’s not finished – bit of dinky-dooing to be done on the zip and lots of hand sewing on the facings and hems, bit of fiddling to be done on the side pleats – the finishing touches – but it now fits all the way around Doris and me too! And while it wrinkles on Doris, on me it sits perfectly smoothly (fat back I assume).

Further in-depth details of adjustments and construction next time – maybe even me wearing it. I will officially be the IT girl I always knew I was! Move over Scarlett!

I’ve got a black leather Gladstone bag (bought at Petticoat Lane market when it was good circa 1987 ) which is stored away in the attic and it is just brimming with genuine, (nowadays) vintage 1980 costume jewellery bought when I lived in London: you just know I have to uncover it and select the perfect era-appropriate accessories for this dress.

Thank you all so much for your very, very supportive and encouraging comments on my first attempt – without them (and you) I wouldn’t have tried so hard and wouldn’t have a nearly finished dress either – you’re the bestest friends in the whole wide world. Darlings I love you all! (air kisses, air kisses)

I was particularly touched when the IT girl herself left a comment – really appreciated it Scarlett but this is MY dress now!


Hi Hawaii


I love the seasons. I love wearing boots and jumpers and cosy woollens in winter and I love to take them off again in spring/summer. I would love to tell you that I’m spending the next 4 months in Hawaii, I’d love to tell you I’m going there for the weekend – but I’m not.

I also love things I get for free. Back in January, I took part in an international swap. I sent a blue paisley silky poly to Juliet in Australia and Anne sent me red cotton print from USA. And so we all got rid off, and got, what we wanted – win-win. Thank you Anne – lovely fabric; easy to work with and a unique twist to this vintage pattern.


The little bit of sunshine recently has made me long for colour and summer and so without further ado I dug out the festival red cotton, put all other sewing aside and delved into Vogue 8875. You know the one – gorgeous dress and riding coat – greatly admired when first released and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one not to resist the impulse purchase. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one? Many thanks to Pattern Vault for collecting and preserving these beautiful designs.

I will admit that the ensemble looks much better WITH the coat, but co-ordinating fabric notwithstanding and a SWAP to finish and a summer Chanel jacket to make, some things just have to take their turn!



I haven’t got any red in my wardrobe apart from a T-shirt or cardi so this is a really big step for me.

In traditional Hawaiian prints I believe the black flower pattern is supposed to cross horizontally on the chest; I went for slimming and elongating asym

metrical vertical. I don’t actually know if pattern placement is elongating or slimming, but that’s where mine ended up. I also made a belt to try and replicate the pattern placement but it didn’t quite work out – oh well! I’ve seen worse in the shops!


I was a little worried about the pleats in the front of this dress as a rounded tummy does not sit well with anything that makes it more rounded, but if you too are concerned – don’t be – the pleats are tiny and don’t stick out at all. If you’re still not convinced – turn them into darts when sewing the skirt. That was my back-up plan.Image


The dress is fairly straightforward to make – kimono sleeves but they have that sew -pivot-sew thing that I hate and makes me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Kimono sleeves are a brilliant idea because there is no easing and gathering into the sleeve head, but I still fret about the gusset method and the ‘points’ required in vintage patterns. I will also admit to having to bring out the needle and thread and adding a hand stitch here and there to secure to otherwise crappy machine sewing at the pivot points.  A lapped zip at the side with instructions for snaps instead if you want. I like the length and wide neckline.


So all I need is the Hawaiian summer  – A hui hou kakou.

And just in case you were remotely interested – the Chanel is cut and hand sewing has commenced……..

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Good grief! Guess who supplied the buttons?

Anne from Pretty Grievances! Again! Maybe my whole sewing experience is based upon freebies from America. There is a saying we have in Ireland; 100 years ago or thereabouts when all our ancestors immigrated and sent their earnings home, we’d say money from America – in other words – easy money! Thanks again to Anne – her generosity and kindness knows no bounds and do not be deceived by the sarcasm or irony – she’s a lamb!

Unfortunately, none of my ancestors immigrated to Hawaii – but I’m willing to be someone’s great grand-daughter……..