Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Dior-esque “17

Quite honestly, I have no idea where this came from…there I was (almost) happily sewing up an Oska inspired winter collection and then I veered way off track. 51CSULc-dUL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_Oska and related designers leave out the feminine hourglass shape and go for comfort. I have totally adopted this aesthetic and find it both comforting and classy, yet, I still harken after a fitted look.

I have been reading, and I mean actually reading and not just looking at the pictures, The Golden Age of Haute Couture 1947-1957. A V&A book production that is a combination of history, academic research, fashion and insight. The principal designer covered in the book is Dior and his post-war New Look -full skirts and nipped in waists – a rebellion against austerity and rationing.

I have worn the same two dresses on the Big Day and accompanying festivities for about five years now, so it really is about time I updated. Mind you these two dresses are true classics and will survive for many more years yet.


Linton Tweed red and ivory boiled wool. Both are sewn from McCalls 2401 – a true classic sheaf dress with loads of variations and options. I believe it’s OOP but it shouldn’t be – if you ever get a chance – buy it!







Tartan/plaid/checks are always popular around the Christmas and the New Year period.

bobby-brown-red-grey-check-plaid-tartan-cotton-fabric-cudI found some non-traditional tartan at Croftmill in greys (my fav colour) with reds and orange and navy – all my other favourite colours in one cloth! Too good to pass over. This is a shirting cotton but in my winter muddled mind I envisioned a festive dress in lightweight wool: I truly and actually know it’s cotton but I can sew it to look like wool – Can’t I?



Skirt is the first major absorber of fabric as I opted for a circle. Best option is always Paco Peralta’s half circle skirt. This skirt feels and moves like a full circle but is much more manageable and uses half the fabric. You get the drape and swirl without the girth. il_570xN.271636588Honestly, let’s face it, hips that are hips do not need extra attention drawn to them.

A beautiful pattern – every sewer should have this one in their arsenal too. The original pattern includes two lengths, lining and personally, perfectly hand drafted. No sewing instructions but you only have to look online for real-life sewers contribution tips and finished versions and it is actually a relatively simple but deceptively well crafted skirt that it could be figured out by beginner-intermediate sewers and additionally you get the perfect garment. I’ve made it loads of times – cotton, jersey, linen.  This time, I also managed to include an inseam pocket and cut the longer length for holiday drama.


As swirly and drapey as this skirt is on its own, I then moved into the Twilight Zone and thought – what if I put a petticoat underneath? I am moving into an alternative universe at this point – I am a person who has always eschewed the full circle skirts of the 1950s and opted for the more slimline pencil silhouette. But Hey ho… I bought some red netting and red poly cotton and hacked together a puffy petticoat.


Using the same Paco skirt pattern for the petticoat, I get the same drape and fullness as the skirt. Even if I say this myself, I did some nice sewing on a garment that will (should) not be seen: ribbon trims on the netting seams and French seams throughout, just in case it does actually comes on show. The waist is merely closed with a tie which should allow for easy release after a Christmas dinner.

Shouldn’t everyone have a red petticoat even if it only hangs in the wardrobe??


Needless to say there was leftover fabric and you know I can’t leave well enough alone, so I made the bodice from vintage Vogue 1136 (OOP) . I added a few inches to the bodice length but that was the only alteration. I think we should all look a little more closely at dress bodices that can be made into tops.

A beautiful back neckline with cross-over back bands and generous sewn-on  cap sleeves.


In order to to be able to actually get this ‘top’ on, the zip is reversed and opens from the bottom. As I was working with leftovers, matching checks was random and I don’t mind in the slightest. It may not be acceptable in the haute couture houses in Paris but for a Christmas dinner in Belfast, it’s fine!

And….then there were more leftovers but we are down to scraps at this point, so I made a eight core corset belt from Burda (so old I have no record of the issue date or number). No chance of putting on weight with this one…..


The corset belt was stiffened with all my scraps of interfacing – iron-on, sew-on and every weight available – a bit like a patchwork of interfacing. It is firm but soft enough to sit down in without causing a loss of blood or oxygen to vital organs.

The belt is secured with true corset hooks and eyes purchased from the Aladdin’s Cave of Sew ‘n’ Sew in Belfast city centre. You want what?? Yeah we have that somewhere…..


Instead of a Christmas dress, I have Christmas separates that look like a dress.


Hopefully, I have paid homage to Mons. Dior with his revolutionary skirts and used Sn Peralta designs to make this idea a reality.

The skirt and top without the belt…..but with cat


An inordinate amount of space on the sofa is taken up with skirt and petticoat however…..


I do not have the hand-span waist (19″) that Dior designs demanded but perhaps some 21st century Spandex might help.


My apologies to the perfectionist but I find interest in a certain amount of originality and uniqueness in mis-matched checks especially for the minor pieces in this ensemble.


Truly, I thank you, one and all, for your support, comments, reading, encouragement, inspiration and for just being there in 2017.

I respect and admire the pattern designers and creators whose ideas we humble sewers try to turn into reality. Thank you.

I salute the coming year with positive enthusiasm and I hope you will come along with me too.


I wish you all a peaceful, restful Christmas (Holiday) break and the healthiest of New Years.

Let the sewing begin 2018!





A/W ’16 Mustard

My husband, before he became my husband, used to tell a very rude joke and the punch line was “mustard, custard and you, you big sh***!”  Anyway………he doesn’t tell the joke anymore and my next outfit for autumn/winter is complete.

Same trousers as the burgundy ones but this time with added inseam side pockets and turn ups at the hem.dscn6753

I like cropped winter trousers: they remind me of plus fours and country living, and I can wear either boots or shoes. Worn today with the shirt you’ve seen before.


Johnny Rotten as an English country gentleman


All fabrics are from Fabworks – I’m Fabworks head to toe today! (Not sponsored by them btw).

18 TwistThe trousers are Donegal tweed: Warm, mellow, sunflower, saffron and turmeric tones weave through this gorgeous Donegal Tweed herringbone, evoking memories of relaxed autumnal strolls and the resting evening sunshine. Woven with the ever-present charcoal warp to form a reassuring background of chevrons; the Donegal yarn sitting in the mellow sunflower and mustard warp has pale straw, saffron and honey coloured flecks. This 100% new wool has a reassuringly soft texture, but remains a medium weight with a great handle and drape.

I mean, really, how could you not not fall for that?


An easy method to elasticate a waist is this:

  1. Measure the elastic to your waist, stretching a little, and sew the ends together to make a band.dscn6678
  2. Quarter this band with pins and then match each pin with the four seams, front, back and sides.
  3. Serge or small zig-zag this band (yes, that is bra strap elastic) to the inside of your garment, lining up edge to edge.dscn6679
  4. Fold the elastic over to the inside and zig-zag in place to form a waistband.dscn6683

Neat and easy

The trousers are lined too. The lining is slip-stitched to the ‘waistband’ and hides the serged edges.

Even neater.


As Sunflower Chunky Ribbed Knit is a beautiful knitted all wool fabric from Avoca, it’s a superb, brushed fabric with a medium weight soft drape and handle, and due to being knitted rather than woven it has a good natural lengthwise stretch with some stretch on the width too! The beautiful sunflower coloured yarn with darker and lighter tones throughout, has been knitted in a double row ribbed construction that has alternating fine black bands knitted in between to create the chunky rib affect.

See what I mean? I fell for that one too.

The jumper is hacked from a Burda pattern for a cardigan. I prepared the pattern many, many years ago before I understood and realised that patterns require an organisational system  of their own. I can’t bring to mind the actual pattern number ….It’s the one with the girl standing in front of a barn door……..

I used the raglan sleeves and the back yoke and front (with a centre seam) but I just made up the V neck front and added a small patch pocket. I also made front and back different lengths and put small slits at the sides to mark the step.


It was fun mucking about with the stripes on the pattern pieces creating some interest and directional movement. The sleeves are bias cut, the back yoke and pocket on the horizontal, the fronts and lower back on the vertical.



To keep the V neck as a V, I faced it with some cotton bias binding as a stabiliser. The fabric doesn’t fray but I thought that narrow cuffs would be a nice finishing touch on the sleeves. All seams are serged just in case.


And of course there were leftovers and cut-offs. I used these up in the form of a beret and a couple of scarves in preparation of anticipation of a cold winter.


Other things….

The postman brought some lovely things recently, mainly courtesy of a Vogue pattern sale. Fabworks also sent me the checked cotton shirting (far right) after I ordered and paid for it.


One plus one together makes this, not 2.

The selvage was too good to cut off and throw away so it was used as a trim on all edges; cuffs, collar, button band and hem.


I had fun with the stripes on this fabric too and I do hope you notice the almost perfect alignment across the fronts!


Life’s been quite busy recently including a very pleasant weekend spent in London, England. A few weeks ago I flew out early on Friday with plans afoot to spend a lot of money and spend a lot of money I did! The fruits of these purchases to be revealed soon. The highlight of the trip was dinner at Kate’s. Marijana was there too and we all wore our own individual, handmade, couture and unique versions of the Six Napoleon dress. We had a 6Nap party!


I look like a giant in comparison to my petite and neat sewing companions. Additionally their dresses were so much better than mine. Both ladies are fabulous and I’m so pleased to have met them online and then followed this up in person. Thank you Kate and Marijana, it was so much better than sitting in a hotel room on my lonesome wearing a party dress with no party to go to.