Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Sucker for Sales 2

And here we are again…… fabric sales purchases and what to do with them. This time it’s a fluffy, soft knit made with a remarkable combination of fibres such as cashmere, mohair, a bit of silk and a few sparkly threads and from – yeah, you know where – Joel and Son…..a cut length of 1.5m.

The fabric is sort of like a boiled wool; it’s a knit, like a proper knit with no fraying but softer with a right and wrong side. It’s primarily grey (my favourite) but has tones of violet/lilac – more of a heathered look that is not readily recognisable in my crappy photographs. The inside is sparkly and I suppose could have been used the other way round for evening wear. I choose day wear. Believe me, this is a complicated fabric.

I pressurised myself into making something that warranted the price: not sure I achieved that goal but I did get a very serviceable skirt and top: that can be worn together and also separately which stretches the serviceability.

Skirt pattern is Vogue, Katherine Tilton 8837 (OOP). This skirt has four seams with a hip yoke, elasticated waist(!) and curved hemline with small splits. The instructions are for lapped over side seams but I ignored that bit.

Easy to sew up and easy to wear. I serged the seams for extra strength as it’s a pull on skirt and it looks nice in the inside too.


The top pattern is based on Burda 0521012 /101, cut short due to fabric limitations and whatever serviceable piece was leftover was used as a pocket.


I had a bad experience with this dress pattern previously but I’m learning to love it and see the potential in many other ways apart from a sack-like shift dress.


I just used the selvedge edge of the fabric as the top’s hem. The deep V neckline was stabilised with some black satin ribbon to keep it from stretching any further. It is not a top to wear on its own….


This little outfit has a relaxed, yet ‘pulled together’ look, I think. The skirt is very comfortable and worn with the top, it creates an outfit. Best worn with a white shirt underneath for contrast and to break up the solid grey. Perfect for wearing under a coat as it keeps me warm without creating bulk.

It may not be the most flattering combination for my body, but sometimes (often) practicality and comfort are the priorities.


So, elasticated waists in trousers was first and now in skirts! The real benefit of elasticated waists is that you can wear either the trousers or the skirt high up at actual waist level or pulled slightly down to hips, which changes the length.

The other day, one of my students asked if she could ‘touch’ my skirt – such is the tactile, fluffy and comforting appeal of this fabric – just like being wrapped in soft, delicious natural fibres. I let her……..


Well, the winter holidays are finished – back to work tomorrow and half-way through the academic year. Marking papers will intensify from now on and hence, sewing time is reduced. Blogging will also therefore be restricted but I’ll do my best, after all, sewing keeps me grounded, sane and clothed!


I often think that I could survive wonderfully on permanent holiday – like retired – but I am actually looking forward to going back to work. I love my job, I’m lucky. I like the routine, the pressures and even the stress – it pushes and challenges me. Sewing is my escape. Without the constraints of employment I don’t think sewing would mean as much to me as it currently does. We are constantly learning about ourselves – see Felicia’s honest assessment of herself, her 2016 review of sewing and her developing style to get you thinking……..


Special Days

Honestly and truly, every day is special – there’s absolutely no doubt that we all have bad ones but somehow we wake up tomorrow, pull on our big-girls’ pants and deal with it. I’ve been lucky and very recently had the most amazing few days away with some very special people, so let’s start with Day 1 and move on from there.

Day 1

I’ve known for ages that one of my students won Outstanding Student of the Year (Public Services), an international competition organised by Pearson with nearly 1000 nominees and over 1,000,000 possible entrants. There was a media embargo until after the actual ceremony.

Alarm set for 5.00am. I already packed the night before and my outfit sewn and ready for the awards ceremony in London, hosted by Baroness Garden of Frognall in the Churchill Room in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

Arrived in London and headed straight to Cosmetics a la Carte for a professional, last-all-day make-up. Cost a small fortune but this is definitely a time to treat myself.

Whirlwind day of receptions, awards, ceremony, fun and networking. So many talented and inspiring young people. Mine is called Clare and we wore matching dresses.



She is very special, battling illness while studying and then achieving the highest grades possible. A truly humbling experience to teach a student like this and so proud of her.

My dress is Burda 04-2016-119 worn with a light weight bright pink coat, which is a Merchant and Mills Haremere jacket made long. It’s unlined to cope with London city heat so all the raw seams had to be Hong Konged.


I actually wanted to go for a ‘This old thing? I just threw it on” look: sort of understated, not obvious but still part of an outfit. To achieve this I half-lined the sleeves with dress fabric so that when the cuffs were folded back the cuff lining matched the dress. and when I don’t wear the two together, just unfold the sleeves. It’s a smarter alternative to a cardigan and more relaxed than a jacket.


I actually got more compliments about the coat that I did my dress – perhaps the colour did it – it’s not easy to overlook. It’s looking a little the worse for wear after a full day wearing in London heat and humidity and then being unceremoniously stuffed into my travel bag.

20.30 Took the train from London to Preston for an extra few days of relaxation and enjoyment with my long-time friend Caroline. Did a bit of hand sewing on my Six Napoleon corset on the journey. Caroline and I re-connected last summer after 20 odd years apart and we haven’t looked back since.

Stayed up to 4.00am Friday, chatting and laughing like we were teenagers.

Day 2

Relaxing, lazy day at Caroline’s home  – I’d been up and on the go for 23 hours. Time to unpack, settle in, finish some conversations from the previous day ( same day). Watched Wimbledon and made plans.

Caroline is a photographer. Recently, we took one of her images and had it digitally printed onto silk. I hand rolled the edges and we both now have scarves that no-one else in the entire world has – that’s special.


It’s not upside down – it’s a reflection!

Day 3

Darwen –
Day out to meet Mags at Minerva Crafts.

Such lovely people there: a family run business who were more than welcoming, friendly and very patient with us.

49ebbdc43fe9f5e69ec693ba019dd0afWe pulled bolts of fabric from the shelves, mixed and matched and generally created a little bit of mayhem on the cutting table. We advised other shoppers – only when they asked mind you – and had a lot of fun. We all bought loads: Caroline got some grey/taupe jerseys in animal-like prints; Mags got a stash and I got enough for an autumn outfit. We had a light lunch followed by a wander around the speciality food market.

Mags is fabulous; honest, stoic, funny and very, very stylish. I’ll be honest, I was getting a bit fed up with blogging and taking photos and all that stuff but meeting her has re-invigorated me and has made me grateful for those special Internet friends who become real ones.

Day 4 & 5

Hanging out, day trips and shopping – just lovely. Then home again.

Day 6- 9

Hooray, back into the sewing room. I love travelling and going away but there’s nothing like coming home either and doing what I love best. Sewed like a mad woman and before the end of the week I had sewn all of Caroline’s Minerva stash. I did add the odd bit of lace and cotton jersey but from 2.5m, I managed to get three tops and 1m ponte made a perfectly coordinating pair of trousers.

Caro Tsv9193-a

Mainly the top pattern is Tilton’s Vogue 9057 (first and last) and the trousers are Vogue 8837 , another Tilton.

Caroline wore her first incarnation of this top at our day out at Minerva so I know it fits and suits her. The black and animal print (second) is Vogue 9193, another Marcy. Dead easy to sew as the sleeves are cut on but the pattern pieces are cut single layer and are therefore huge.



DSCN6354I was on a roll so I just kept going and added a few bonus but coordinating items to Caroline’s wardrobe.


The light grey knit is a layering piece (the fabric is from my Minerva stash) and is actually the top half only of Vogue 9193. The pattern doesn’t actually tell you to do this but it works really well. So well in fact that I think I need one myself.V9193

The knit top will also go over any of Caroline’s other tunics too. It wasn’t easy to sew though,  the fine silky knit fabric had a mind of its own. I did my best not to stretch it out and used some leftover animal print jersey as a stabiliser around the neck, sleeves and hem. The ‘underneath’ tunic is made from other leftovers and here you can see where the top and bottom meet. There’s a built in pocket on the left hand side. If you sew this top, just watch out – the side seams on top and bottom half do not line up, the bottom half is offset (see the tech drawing). Ask me how I know this because I’m so smart I don’t have to read the instructions….!

All of Caroline’s Minerva fabric has now been sewn, posted and quite possibly already worn as Mr Postman was especially swift this week.

That’s you all up to date until next time…




Jersey Blues

Item 1 for SWAP ’15 is complete: a pair of cotton jersey trousers with Alabama Chanin style panels.


Not the most obvious choice for a hand sewn garment I’ll grant you, but with the serged crotch seam they are quite robust and durable. I also serged 2″ elastic to the waistband, folded to the inside and held in place with slip stitching to the seams and darts. Other details can be found here. Pattern is Vogue 8837 Katherine Tilton.

I didn’t make these trousers fitted like a pair of leggings or tailored like a proper pair but left them a little loose as the cotton jersey does not have the stretch of lycra, nor the recoverability of a poly-blend. So I’ll admit they are rather less than flattering. I am also a little concerned that over time they will become saggy and baggy at knees and bum – but we’ll just have to wait to see if this is the case. I will report back in a month or two with the results. See Marcy Tilton’s blog for more advice and tips on suitable fabrics for these trousers.


Great length – cutting just shy of the ankle with turn-ups is a good way to show off shoes .


They are really comfy to wear – PJs for daytime. No pockets are included in the pattern but I reckon you could easily add a set in the side panels.


The AC panels are made up of two pieces (as per pattern). V8837A fairly simple leaf stencil that hardly took no time to sew. Once these were AC’d, I just made up the trousers as usual. The back darts are hand sewn, as are the side seams and the turn-ups. I’d say the pattern ran large but that could be down to my choice of not very stretchy fabric and 5/8″ seam allowances that were guessed at rather than meticulously measured.

I SHALL NOT be wearing these IRL without a long jacket/cardigan that comes down to at least mid-thigh. The backside is just too ugly……


It took a lot of courage to include the above image – not a nice sight!

Luckily I have a long cardigan included in my SWAP, so these trousers will have to wait until that is sewn before they see the light of day out in public.


I spent Saturday making new stencils that may or may not be used for this set of AC.


Just let me warn you of the perils of AC sewing – sliced left thumb!


I’m also losing my fingerprint on the middle finger of my right hand due to all the needle pushing and pulling. There’s a little callous developing there. The left thumb knuckle has a multitude of puncture wounds as it always seems to be in the way of the outcoming needle.

In general, my hands are dry. Mrs Mole explained that this is because working with the cotton jersey and all that thread loving sucks the natural oils from the skin.

So always moisturise before and after sewing.

Pay attention when working with a bare blade

Use a thimble

Learn to hand sew without personal injury.

SWAP sewing averages about 10 days per garment. As I have most items already cut out I can spend the time sewing so I might just be able to make another 10 by April but I have other plans afoot too……until next time….







Wobbly Necks and Two Right Legs Leggings

I know I said I’d do the iguana skirt next but it’s gonna have to wait, sorry.  So in the meantime here’s the T-shirt and leggings.

I am somewhat abashed by the compliments and the comments about how I sewed 6 items for Jungle January – but I’ll let you in on the secret – the T-shirts take 45 mins each and the leggings 30 mins! So that’s a grand total of 2 1/2 hrs for 4 things – not so impressive now, huh?


If I can do this in a few hours, then so can you. Both patterns are easy to cut out and sew and of course, sewing with knits makes them even easier. And while your machine is threaded with the same the colour thread you may as well use it!


Let’s start at the top.

Pattern is Katherine Tilton for Vogue 8793. Four pieces – front & back on the fold, sleeves and a neckband. The pattern comes with instructions for contrasts and bands and zip embellished necklines but you can keep it simple if you want to. I just used the front, back and sleeve bits.

When sewing with knits I always sew the shoulders first, then attach the neckband, sew the sleeves in – all while the garment is flat and then finish with a continuous side seam – all along the sleeve and down to the hem. Hem the sleeves and body and it’s ready to wear.

Nothing new there but does this ever happen with your T-shirt neckbands?


Too long and too loose? And the only fix is to rip it all out and start again – but wait……. don’t be too hasty with that ol’ seam ripper-outer.

Dig through your bits and bobs box and see if can’t collect together some sequins, small buttons, beads and other assorted glittery things. Failing that, spend 50p on a tube of such like at your local craft shop.

Let the neckband fall naturally where it is apparently comfortable, while you gently coerce it into folds and pleats all the way around. Secure these artistic flourishes with pins. Using old fashioned needle and thread, hand sew the pleats in place, adding the shiny things as you go.

DSC00775 DSC00776

Now you not only have a neat and well fitting neckband, but you’ve got embellishment too! Oh, and sew the shiny things ALL the way around the neck (including the back) – this isn’t RTW, you know. I hate that! You pick up a top in a shop and admire the embroidery or whatever on the front only to turn it around and the back is plain – plain cheap!

Pattern adjustments made on this version include:

5″ added to length to make more a tunic than a T-shirt

6″ added to sleeve length – the sleeves are really long but I wear them pushed up for a scrunched up (ruched) sort of look.

Neckline is lowered 1.5″ at the centre front.


For this one’s sister there were no fancy adjustments or embellishments but I did learn how to sew the neckband properly. Measure the neck opening, subtract 2″ and that’s the ideal neckband length!

I suppose this might vary depending on fabric and stretchability but it worked a treat on this version. My preferred method of attaching the neckband is to sew the ends, fold wrong sides together and either overlock or zig zag the folded band to the neck of the T-shirt. A good pressing turning the seam in works great.

I was running out of fabric by the time I got round to sewing this one, so the sleeves are somewhat shorter than they should be – heck – just an excuse to show off bangles!

OK OK I agree – a middle aged woman in leggings *%!&* but if you’re interested for teenage daughters (or sons) here it is…..


McCalls 6173 view B.


And what’s so brilliant about view B?

Well, there’s only ONE piece!

Yep, one. A whole leg with a fold over waistband.

Pattern reviewers recommend cutting a size smaller than usual – so I did. Don’t you just love it when someone else has made the mistakes for you?

My animal print ones were made from leftover scraps from the T-shirt. There wasn’t a lot to play with and that one leg pattern piece is fairly wide (at least my size is!). I twisted and turned and pulled and flipped and eventually I could just about place the single pattern piece on two bits of fabric. Hurray!

Got the serger (overlocker) out and whizzed up the single inside seam in about 3 mins flat. Turned one leg right sides out to stuff it down the other one getting ready to line up and sew the single centre crotch seam and then I realised………..can you?


Two right legs! In all my efforts to make sure I had enough fabric, I cut the two pieces of fabric both facing up. I carried on sewing regardless – but my centre seam veers off at an angle. Believe me, no-one is ever going to see these leggings without voluminous hip and thigh coverings, so I’m not that bothered.


Having learned this valuable lesson, the black pair sewed up just fine. The instructions tell you to sew the waistband down and thread the elastic though. I always seem to lose my safety pin though. This method is quicker and neater:

1. Measure your waist with the elastic, stretch gently as you do this (not too tight though) and add 1″ for overlapping the ends. Cut to the required length.

2. Fold the elastic in half and mark with a pin; fold in half again and mark the quarters with pins. Pin the overlapping ends at the centre back seam; the half-way pin at the centre front and the two quarters at either side.

3. Stitch with a zig-zag or overlock the elastic directly to the inside edge of the waistband, gently stretching as you sew to ensure the quarters are evenly distributed.


4. Trim off any floppy bits of fabric. Fold the waistband over enclosing the elastic and zig-zag closed.

Job done and no lost safety pins!

Next time, I promise without fail – the iguana skirt and manipulation to Vogue 1247. Until then…….. Roarrrrr on!