Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Navy Daisies

I’ve used so much solid navy in my A/W ’15 wardrobe that it needed a bit of a lift. There’s a small hint with the small neck scarf……..


clothhouse-swatch-0347183001441879350849210776The fabric is from The Cloth House, London and was purchased in real life when I there a few weeks ago: it’s a Japanese hammered polyester with a genuinely silky drape and hand – just lovely. Presses well, slight fraying but not excessive and wrinkle free. Black background with navy, cream, lilac and amethyst flowers, all outlined in matt gold. This can be worn with black, grey, navy, cream and purple.


spiral_blouse_patt_image__76239_zoom_grandeThe pattern is an old favourite but I’ve not sewn for quite a while – The Centre for Pattern Design Spiral Blouse. There’s just one piece.


I’ve previously made this with and without centre back seam; with a front button opening and a sewn closed front; lengthened, shortened; long sleeves and 3/4 length. The original pattern comes with a simple round neckline but you can add any shape of collar you like – and I have – pointed, mandarin, funnel, ties, scarf and scooped out for a lower neckline.

The version presented today has been lengthened 3″ with a centre back seam, enlarged all round by simply cutting 1/4″ bigger than the pattern; scarf-style collar (so as to use all available fabric), and a “design feature” of pointed sleeves. I’ll explain later.

Worn today with cotton navy twill Jeanius jeans, rolled up for styling but in reality they fall slightly over the foot to wear with boots and other shoes. I’ve lost count of how many pairs of jeans I’ve made using this Craftsy class and drafted pattern but certainly way more than I could afford or bothered to buy.


The scarf ties can be worn in lots of different ways too, depending on mood and outer-layer jacket: pussy bow, wrapped around and tied at back, casual and loose.


This little blouse also goes with existing wardrobe staples – the cream and the navy Chanel-style jackets – respectively Vogue  8804 & 8259 (OOP) with modifications:




The pointed sleeves are due a cutting error while trying to lengthen them but failed miserably. The sleeves are sewn with a spiral seam and I just kept sewing until I got to the end. However, I kind of like the origami-nature of the point and the slit hem – like an exaggerated elbow dart – so it stayed. It also fits with the natural bend in my arm, so as long as I stand with my arm bent, it looks fine!


The blouse is cut on the bias and drapes/folds/puddles/ drops quite attractively at the back to create an uneven hemline.


I sewed all French seams within and hand rolled all outside hems using this super quick, absolutely magic and easy method.


I think I need to alter my Jeanius pattern a little bit to eliminate those back thigh wrinkles using this method – The paper pattern has been used so much that I may need to make a new one! At the same time, these jeans have been worn for two days in a row, so a bit of stretch and wrinkling is to be expected. I just keep thinking…better than RTW!


And most importantly and significantly …. no-one in the whole wide world has a blouse like his or jeans like these. So pointed elbows and wrinkly thighs – all part of the “look”. You couldn’t do it if you tried!

PS: the neckscarf is made from all the savable leftovers, sewn together into a length long enough to go round my neck and tied in any way that I can. No pattern, no rules, no respect for grainline or pattern – just do it!




End of Years

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

There was a time when it was exciting for children to stay up past midnight to see the New Year in, nowadays, most of the parents we know (and are) are in bed long before their children. Our traditional NYE’s celebration sharing with friends changed this year too. Instead, we had a evening with different friends – some we have known for more than 30 years – reminiscing, remembering, celebrating……..and the children go off and do their own thing.

On the other hand, my end of year sewing antics never change. Instead of a review of 2014, I’m doing a review of my end of years’ creations. I seem to go a little crazy by mid-December and sew things that I would otherwise never even contemplate at any other time of the year.


On the first year of blogging I sewed a head to toe ensemble…


One pair of pleather Clovers, one fake fur coat and a matching jersey cowl neck top.



On the second year of blogging, I sewed a full-length skirt:


One Vogue Ralph Rucci, one Kwik Sew blouse…and a little black and blue Chanel.



On the third year of blogging I changed from black to red…


One 1980s backless wiggle long dress.



In my fourth year of blogging I really sewed a storm…..


Golden Jeans


Two pair of trousers, two sleeveless tops, one long skirt, one fur coat, one long dress and a matching handbag!



No partridges in pear trees though – Mmmmmm, maybe next year……….Oooops, this year!DSCN4905





Are You Bored Yet?

Indulge me.

The next Alabama Chanin outfit.


No applique on this set – all plain – except for thousands of glass beads on skirt hem, T-shirt neck and sleeves. It weights a tonne and could easily be used as a weapon – one swipe of that hem as I sashay by and some innocent bystander would have bruises!

I did not do this in one week, so no comments about productivity  please – I had already started many of these pieces in the summer holidays and alternated between stitching, beading, seaming, cutting:  I had at least 5 garments on the go all at the same time! The benefit of this method is that each item moves forward little by little and then all of a sudden, one weekend, it only takes a few seams, a little washing, pressing and voila – all’s done!

I present to you for critical feedback and commentary – the plain brown and dusky pink beaded ensemble……mid-length skirt, T-shirt and bolero.


I added a 1″ strip of jersey and sewed the beads through both the sleeve and the strip for added strength.


For the skirt I sewed the beads onto a strip of jersey first, then stitched the beaded band to the skirt hem.




Bolero sleeves are folded back to show off the T-shirt sleeves beading



Mid weight cotton jersey for the skirt. Light weight for the T shirt and bolero

All patterns are from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design and made entirely by hand. There is a definite softness to hand stitched seams and once again very comfortable to wear. I’m not 100% convinced about the colour of the T-shirt but the original intention was to for it to be worn under a dress…..


One panel almost completed – only another three to go………………and if I still don’t like the colour it’s easy to change – as the fabric is all cotton – just dye it!



Black and Blue, and worn all over

If you know anything about Alabama Chanin or have seen the clothes, then I really don’t have much to add to your knowledge and exposure, so this post is really all about me and showing off!

First outfit finished! Yeah FINISHED……..



Everything is so tactile and soft


I lengthened the bolero to cut just above the waist rather than just below the back bra strap


Not so fitted tunic and skirt


Close up of 10,000,000 stitches – I counted!

DSCN4459 DSCN4466 DSCN4471


OK, so now a little bit of detail.

The bolero has a plait made from cotton jersey ropes around the edges, slipped stitched in place.



It is a wee bit reversible in that the black side has a band of jersey to cover the stitches on the navy side.


All the patterns are from Alabama Studio Sewing book: fitted tunic, mid length skirt and bolero. All the seams on each item are hand sewn and felled to the outside. The stencil pattern is Anna’s garden.


I underestimated how long it takes to cut out the stitched pieces – each skirt panel (4) took 3 hours in cutting! So now on my next pieces I stitch, then cut as I go. Probably still takes 3 hours but at least it’s interspersed with something interesting.

All the items are incredibly easy to wear, so comfortable and really surprisingly robust. I did think that hand sewn clothes would be fragile but they are very sturdy. I love the simple shapes of these pieces too. These are all double layered so I think they will last into winter and all the way out the other side.

I did a rough guess calculation, based on amount of embellishment and prices of similar things on AC website

Tunic – $1,300

Skirt – $2,700

Boler0 – $300

Scarf – $ 60

That’s a whopping $4,360, which I made for about £25 (excluding the book) and had a fun time doing it too. Now surely that’s reason enough for those of you still on the fence……


Time to sit back in the old deckchair where most of this work was done, relax, enjoy the early September sunshine and bask in the comfort and pride of sewing this all by hand…….. except…..



While I was in the garden taking the photos, look what DHL delivered

DSCN4481Another ten thousand metres of cotton jersey!


Not White Stuff Skirt

The title here is referring to the shop and not the colour. Some days I just want to be the girl who wears White Stuff:

409064_MULTIwhitesttufflovely muted, hellishly co-ordinated colours in cotton and linen, perfect for light summer days; easy style yet casual and reminds me effortlessly of rural France – picture Juliet Binoche in UnknownChocolat or Irish villages when the sun shines, shopping with wicker baskets hooked on suntanned arms filled with fresh herbs, waving at neighbours and friends while the sea gently laps at the harbour walls.Marine_Parade,






The clothes from White Stuff aren’t that expensive but when you want an outfit head to toe (with matching scarf) then the cost mounts up. I bought a willow green linen cardigan recently from The White Stuff, looked at the scarves, the skirts, T-shirts and tops but didn’t buy the matching items.  So now I have a cardigan and absolutely nothing to wear with it! Time to head to Quilters’ Quest.……..


Those devilish quilters really have all the best designs. Sometimes I just go to the shop to revel in colour and pattern. I’d be useless as a quilter – I can’t match colours and patterns they way they do, but I gave it my best shot, with a little help from the assistant. She admired me for being able to sew clothes and I admired her for being able to patch together little bits of cotton. We had a moment of mutual admiration – nice.

Anyway, back to today’s sewing project…….

A simple “White Stuff-ish” skirt – made in cotton and to match the afore mentioned cardigan with matching scarf – except this one has a secret……………



A Wonderwoman moment later and……


Here’s how to do it.

DSCN4061Choose a simple, straightforward A-line skirt pattern.

I used New Look 6762 but I think this is no longer available. Take a look at  this to make your own pattern or there’s lots of drafting advice out there. Some suitable patterns you might be interested in are here and here.

What you really want is a front and back cut on the fold with two darts apiece for flattering shaping and fitting and  a side zipper opening. If you have an A-Line that fits perfectly then it will make the following process so much easier but if you are using a new pattern please try on as you go as alterations will be nigh impossible later on.

Does anyone NOT suit an A-Line?

Remember, quilting cotton is only 45″ (115cm) wide so you don’t want a skirt that is too full and swishy – cutting on the fold then leaves enough scrap to make the scarf.

You need  1.5m of two different but co-ordinating cottons. This is for a size 14 and slightly lower than knee length, about 25″ or 84cm. So choose your length of fabric to fit


Press your cloth well matching selvage edges and making sure the grain is straight. If you wash your fabric before cutting, then do that. I don’t and I have to admit that I’ve never had a issue with shrinking. I think because I press with copious amounts of steam it sorta has the same effect.

Lay one cloth exactly on top of the other – folded edges on one side.


Cut your pattern as usual. Cut both skirts the same length including hemming.

Then take one skirt and cut 2″ – 3″ off the front and back pieces – you now have one short shirt and one longer. Keep the cut offs. In fact, keep all scraps, they will be used later.



Sew the darts. Now sew the left seam on one skirt and the right seam on the other.

Pin the waists of both skirts together, wrong sides; smooth the fabric down matching the sewn seams and darts and open sides.



One skirt hangs down below the other – perfect!

Now press the longer skirt up over the shorter one, overlapping by about 1/2″ – this will be your seam allowance on the hem. Cotton is brilliant for pressing. This will be the finished length of your skirt, so fold more or less to change the length at this stage.




If you wish to add embellishments such as an extra band, use the cutoff or cut another. I made mine 2.5″ wide to give a finished band of 1.5″. Sew the short edges together to make a long strip. Press the edges of the long edges over and sew about 4″ up from the hem line, matching side seam lines. I also added patch pockets to one side trimmed with the contrasting fabric. Heck, just do what you want………




Sew up to the zipper mark on both skirts. You will have mirror images with openings opposite each each other – don’t worry this is what it should be.


Put one skirt inside the other with right sides together making sure the openings are together and stitch the hems to one another. Turn the skirt right sides out and join the waistbands together again with pins. Smooth the fabric down and press the hem firmly. You should have a band around the hem on the shorter skirt. For extra security you could sew a row of top stitching around the hem but it may not be necessary.

Now it’s time to deal with the opening. Make a fly of both fabrics the same size as the recommended zipper length – one side each of both fabrics. Flip the skirts wrong side out again, align the fly with the raw edges of the open zipper space on the skirt fronts. Stitch the two skirt fronts together, along with the fly.  On the back edge, stitch the opening closed down to the fly opening.

This fly will allow you to wear the skirt inside out as it flips to the  inside or the outside as required.


Turn the skirts back out the right way again, press well and stay stitch the waistbands together.

Make button holes on the fly. Sew buttons on both sides of the back skirt keeping stitches loose and long.


Cut a strip of one fabric and stitch over the waistband, either slipstitch or stitch-in-the-ditch on the other side, ending the waistband exactly in line with the fly at the front and the back side seam.

Make a button hole in the front waistband and sew buttons on both sides of the back.

When you wear the skirt with fabric A showing the opening will be on the left; when you turn the skirt inside out and wear it with fabric B showing the opening will be on the right.

With any left over fabric, sew the edges of both fabrics wrong sides together and don’t be too precious about this – just stitch it, leaving a 4″ gap for turning. Trim, turn and press and sew the 4″ opening closed. Wear twisted and wrapped and it doesn’t matter what width it is!

So, you have one skirt and a scarf, but actually you have two skirts and a scarf that matches both! A cotton skirt with built in lining – perfect for holidays, pack one to get two and when you spill coffee over one side, just excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, reappearing a moment later in a clean, new skirt.

So I’ve made two new skirts – or should I say four?DSCN4074



Tips for choosing two fabrics include:

1. Keep tones similar, doesn’t matter so much about the actual colour so long as the shades are similar.

2. Choose a large print for one side and a small print for the other.

3. Pick one colour from one fabric and match the other one to this.

4. On the other hand – disparate patterns and colours might just work together too……….. let me know.

If any of this is unclear – just ask me questions in the comments and I’ll try to clear things up. Enjoy!