FO: ByHand London Victoria blazer


I’ve been meaning to make the Victoria blazer in a soft drapey linen but it took an age to find fabric in the right colour and weight. I eventually found some lovely teal linen from Simply Fabrics in Brixton but it felt wrong to be making a summer jacket at the end of September. So I cut up some brown needlecord for a trial run. It’s been in my stash for a while as I was really stuck as to what to do with it. I just didn’t feel inspired. There were many times it nearly ended up in a fabric swap bag. However, once it started to resemble a garment, I started to feel the love. Do you get that sometimes, where you end up liking a fabric that was a bit meh, once you start sewing?


If you want to make a jacket and are a beginner, I’d recommend going with this pattern. Sewing up was easy peasy. The only head scratching moment was the bit where you sew up the darts and collar all in one go but after consulting the sew-a-long pics on the BHL blog everything became clear. It was so quick to sew and the instructions were excellent. They come in a handy booklet, which works much better than a massive sheet of paper.     SAM_5055

I didn’t make a toile for this, as it was a slouchy design and I guessed it would be more forgiving. I shortened the jacket by 2 inches as I’m 5’ 3” and sewed up a UK size 10. Although I like the length, I think the style calls for that extra length in the back and I’ll make my next version straight up without any changes. I decided to fully line the jacket by cutting a pair of sleeves to add to my lining. Not sure why the pattern instructs you to partially line the jacket, leaving the sleeves unlined as it’s not complicated to do.


I made sure I cut all my pieces in the same direction, as corduroy has a nap. I checked the nap on the collar, lapels and cuffs were all facing the right way when sewing up so it was all matchy matchy. I chose to have the nap face up (if that makes sense) as the corduroy appears darker this way. Basically when I stroke the fabric downwards, the nap feels rough.SAM_5048

I did quite a lot of extra hand stitching to finish off the jacket which I did in front of the telly watching Downtown. To ensure the lining didn’t poke out I made tiny prick stitches all along the opening of the jacket. I also tacked the seam allowance of the collar to the lining to stabilize the collar. I preferred the lapels to lie flat too so tacked them as well. I also tacked the cuffs ups rather than top stitching them and added a sweet butterfly button to stop them from flapping about.

SAM_5059    SAM_5055

The jacket is so comfy and I love it. The needlecord is supersoft and ideal for nippy autumn days. My favourite feature is the super sharp collar and the lining. I went to town on the lining which is Liberty tana lawn. Although it’s from Liberty’s remnant bin it still cost more than the fashion fabric but I thought I’d indulge myself. The unfastened style means lots of flashes of lining so it’s good to use something a bit special.

Isn’t it just lovely. I want to have a whole set of Victoria’s. One in linen, one in wool, one in a print, one in plaid….

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Me Made May week 4 and 5

Me Made May 14 is officially over for another year. Didn’t it go past so fast? I came unstuck on the home stretch and haven’t got photos for days 22 and 24 but did wear handmade on those days. I’ve managed to exceed my original goal to wear 5 home sewn garments a week and ended up wearing handmade every day in May!

Here’s a run down of what I wore during the last two weeks. The sun stayed out and I was able to get in a few more dresses and wear more summer clothes. Most garments are pre-blog with the exception of the Vogue 9668 dress, Renfrew and Plantain tops and Sewing Bee skirt. You’ll notice I have a soft spot for Liberty prints. The Port Elizabeth top is a brilliant stash buster and you can download the free pdf pattern from Burda here.

I’m glad I got to wear my New Look 6494 fuchsia linen skirt. It’s very special as it’s the first handmade garment I ever made. Yup I still wear it. The skirt is a bit faded but the seams are still holding up. I made it at a sewing class and we spent a whole term making the one skirt. It doesn’t have a zip and it’s fastened with a draw string. Do you still wear your first ever make?

I’ll post more musings on Me May May 14 in another post. Happy Sunday everyone.

Day 19 New Look 6774

Day 19 New Look 6774 dress

Day 21 Simplicity 2931

Day 20 Simplicity 2931 top

Day 22 Passport jacket and Port Elizabeth top

Day 21 Passport jacket and Port Elizabeth top

Day 23 Vogue

Day 23 Vogue 9668 dress

Day 26

Day 25 – Stripe Renfrew and NL 6494

Day 26 - Plantain top and NL 6494 skirt

Day 26 Plantain top and NL 6494 skirt

Day 27 Liberty New Look 6871

Day 27 Liberty New Look 6871

Day 28 - Sewing Bee pencil skirt

Day 28  Sewing Bee pencil skirt

Day 29 - Liberty Sorbetto

Day 29 Liberty Sorbetto

Day 30 Simplicity Liberty 2931

Day 30 Simplicity Liberty 2931

Day 31 Gingham Port Elizabeth top

Day 31 Gingham Port Elizabeth top

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FO: BHL Anna dress


In honour of Sewing Indie month I made the Anna dress from By Hand London. This is my favourite dress to date. I think my favourite dress is always the last one I’ve made. I’m a big fan of BHL’s sassy patterns and was inspired to make a gathered version after seeing Paunnet’s and Dolly Clackett’s gorgeous creations. I learnt a lot about my body shape and posture in the making of this dress. I discovered I have rounded shoulders, probably from hours of toil at a computer screen, a hollow chest and narrow back. It took three, yes THREE toiles to get the bodice right.


Toile 1 Markings show fabric to be removed

I went for the size closest to my bust measurement and cut a UK 14. My first bodice toile had a lot of excess fabric around the chest but fitted perfectly around the bust. The back was a mess too with fabric pulling from the back neckline down to the arm hole and I had a gaping neckline. What to do? For some reason I thought I’d be able to sew this straight off with few alterations. Doh! I consulted the web looking for answers and was given hope by Sew me Love’s efforts in fitting her Anna bodice. So I wasn’t the only one having a bit of a mare with the fit. However her suggestion to fold out the excess horizontally across the bodice didn’t remove fabric from where I wanted it.

Toile 1

Toile 1

After more googling, I came across a post from phat chick designs whose pattern alteration seemed to be the solution to my excess fabric problem. What’s more her description of her upper body matched mine exactly. Although I needed to pinch out 3.5 cm from the front neckline I used method one. I probably should have used method 2 as I was removing more than the recommended half inch but I was feeling reckless. Here’s a run down of the alterations I made to toile no. 2.


Toile 2

Bodice front

  • Removed 1.75 cm (half of 3.5cm) from neckline, tapering this at the waistline
  • Pinched out 2.5 cm excess from shoulder to bust apex. I made a slit down from the apex to waist between the 2 sets of pleats in order to do this. A bit like a full bust adjustment in reverse
  • Added .5cm to side seams tapering up to the arm hole syce to add back what I had removed at the waistline (see above)
  • Lowered front neck line by 2.5cms
  • Added back 2.5 cm to sleeve at shoulder seam so that it matched length of original pattern

Toile 2 – Shoulder seam in wrong place

Bodice back

  • Added .05 to side seams tapering up to arm hole
  • Removed 1cm at neckline following tip from Ginger Makes
  • Re-drafted sleeve to match adjustments made to front

I think I have broken every pattern cutting rule in the book but what the heck my second toile fitted much better. I noticed my shoulder seam was sitting too far back so made a further adjustment. I removed 1 cm from the front shoulder seam and added the same amount to the back bodice. I made a third toile to check these alterations. Everything looked ok so finally I was able to sew.


Toile 3 It fits!

t7  t8 However my bodice alternations didn’t end here, oh no. I sewed up the dress but it was a little roomy at the waist. The bodice needed to be more fitted so I took in the side seams by 1cm at the waist line and tapered up to the arm hole. Luckily I’d sewn the skirt to the bodice with a long running stitch as I had a hunch further alternations might be needed. The skirt was taken in by 1cm at the side seams to match up with the changes to the bodice.  I lined the bodice in white voile to brighten the colours of my dress fabric. I wish I’d lined the skirt too as the fabric is a bit see through in the light so needs to be worn with a slip. The sleeve hems were finished with a slip stitch. SAM_4110 This is the first dress from a commercial pattern that I’ve made without the aid of a sewing tutor. I been sewing for a few years now and this pattern would have defeated me couple of years ago. I’m come a long way in terms of my fitting skills thanks to all the wonderful resources posted by the sewing community. BHL’s instruction booklet was really clear and the pattern was a breeze to sew once I’d sorted the fit out. Despite going through three bodice toiles, the bodice is my favourite feature of this dress. The double pleats cup under the bust and make a really flattering shape. The kimono sleeves are not only simple to do but really sweet.

SAM_4109 (2)

The fabric is from Ikea. I’ve seen other people sew from Ikea fabric and have always wanted to say to incredulous eyes, ‘it’s from Ikea’. It’s relatively light weight for furnishing fabric but perfect for dress making. I fell in love with the print the moment I saw it. It’s reminiscent of the abstract designs by Lucienne Day. See my post here if you like her textile designs. The finished dress with its gathered skirt has a 50s vibe to it. I washed it the other day and the fabric dried crease free. Who doesn’t love a drip dry dress? Anna is a great pattern and want to make more. I wore it to the NYLon 2014 meet up where I saw many Annas in lots of lovely fabrics. I’d take a punt it was the favourite blogger pattern of the day.

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Artists Textiles and Horrockses Fashions


Scarf designed by Picasso

Last week I combined a talk on Horrockses Fashions at the Fashion and Textile Museum with a visit to the Artists Textiles exhibition at the same venue. The show features work by major 20th century artists who leant their art to the textile industry. It was interesting to read many artists saw this as a way of making their work more accessible to ordinary people. SAM_3994

Artists featured in the exhibition include Dalí, Léger, Matisse, Miró, Picasso and Warhol. These skirts featuring Andy Warhol designs are so cute.


I’d love to own this apple skirt by Warhol. I hadn’t realized he was such a good illustrator. This sundae design is one of his.


There were gorgeous 50s dresses and skirts made from fabric by [L-R] Miró, Léger and Picasso.

SAM_3963  SAM_3965 SAM_3962Here are a few of my favourite pieces.

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SAM_3975  SAM_4008

The talk on Horrockses fashions was equally fascinating. It was given by Dr Christine Boydell who wrote the book accompanying the Horrockses exhibition from a few years back. Apparently it was the FTM’s most popular exhibition and having been, I can see why. Horrockses was a post war RTW label famous for their pretty cotton dresses and sumptuous prints. They worked with artists like Eduardo Paolozzi, Alistair Morton and Graham Sutherland whose designs can be seen on these dresses.


Although the dresses were off the peg, they were worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Vivien Leigh. Christine brought one along for a closer look. Isn’t the bow on the pocket adorable?


If you want to make your own Horrockses sun dress, here’s a free pdf pattern from the V&A. I remember seeing this when it was first posted and was put off by the crazy amount of taping this would involve. However I met a sewer last week who’d sewn this pattern and her finished dress was divine. I might just have to get the sellotape out.

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Me Made May week 3

Week 3 of Me Made May was quite eventful. The sun came out in London town and the temperature soared to 24 degrees. Finally I was able to wear summer clothes and liberate my legs from tights. I also finished my BHL Anna in time for the #NYLon2014 blogger meet up. Sadly no picture of me on Day 17 as I was too busy getting ready. The meet up was epic with attendance beating last years numbers. I had a brilliant time and met sewers from all over the world including Germany, USA, Canada and France. Rachel you are awesome for organising this and I hope it becomes a firm fixture on the sewing calendar.

I wore two handmade jackets this week, my Lisette passport jacket (pre-blog) and my tweed Burda. I also wore two sorbettos (pre-blog). My Aztec plantain made its debut along with my Anna dress which I absolutely adored wearing on Saturday. It’s such a comfortable dress especially with the pattern hacked gathered skirt. Post to come soon.

Day 12 - Polka floral plantain

Day 12 – Polka floral plantain

Day 13 - Aztec Plantain

Day 13 – Aztec Plantain

Day 14 - Pinstripe Lisette Passport jacket and African wax print Sorbetto

Day 14 – Pinstripe Lisette Passport jacket and African wax print Sorbetto

Day 15 - Burda jacket

Day 15 – Burda jacket

Day 16 -

Day 16 – Liberty Simplicity 2451 skirt

Day 17 - BHL Anna dress

Day 17 – BHL Anna dress

Day 18 - Liberty sorbetto

Day 18 – Liberty sorbetto

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Love Sewing Magazine review

Love sewing magazine

I’m not a regular reader of craft or sewing magazines but thought I’d give Love Sewing a try. It’s just been launched and I was drawn to the dress on the cover of the first edition. So what did I think?

Love sewing loves

Love sewing loves

Love sewing is beautifully presented and is aimed at the modern dress maker. I think the content is spot on. There are topical interviews with Tilly Walnes, whose book Love at First Stitch, is flying off the shelves, a chat with May Martin from the Great British Sewing Bee, features on yummy new fabric collections, couture sewing techniques and a skills class on zips. I particularly liked the Love Sewing loves spread which featured all manner of sewing goodies and the make the look article on how to recreate designer cushions with suggested fabrics.

Make the look

There are plenty of inspirational projects that are split between dress making, alterations (how to shorten jeans), sewing for kids (see cute skirt below), quilting, accessories and home furnishings. The projects include construction photos and the instructions had the right amount of detail. What’s more the projects are achievable with simple craft projects for beginners to more ambitious projects like curtains for advanced sewers.

SAM_4047  Construction pages

The projects were the deal breaker for me as so many magazines include whimsical projects that you would never dream of spending your precious free sewing time on. I used to subscribe to Mollie Makes but cancelled my subscription shortly after. Whilst I loved the design and photography, there were far too many ads, not enough features and my reaction to many of their projects was WTF, who’d want to make that? I wanted more sewing projects, not felt donuts or miniature wool dogs.

Skills class  fabric

Love sewing does what it says on the tin. I was sold after reading the first issue and have taken out an annual subscription. Every issue comes with a free pattern and who doesn’t love a freebie. If you are lucky enough to get hold of issue one (I hear they are selling out fast) it comes with a 52 page Liberty project book, a free Simple Sew pdf pattern download of the dress on the cover and a fat quarter.

What sewing mags are you in to?

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Lucienne Day dress fabric

John Lewis dress fabrics

John Lewis haberdashery department London

I was in the habby department of John Lewis Oxford Street this week and saw this dress mocked up on a mannequin. When I say mocked up, the dress isn’t actually sewn at all but pinned into the style you see here. It’s quite an art isn’t it? But John Lewis do this all the time and this isn’t what caught my eye. What made my fabric radar go off was the print. I’m a big fan of textile designs from the 50s and this had mid century style written all over it.

Lucienne Day archive print fabrics

Lucienne Day archive print fabrics

On closer inspection, the design was an archive print from my favourite textile designer of the period, Lucienne Day. Her most iconic design, Calyx, was launched at the Festival of Britain in 1951. This is one of the products that John Lewis has brought out to mark the store’s 150th anniversary.

Serenade 1954 - Lucienne Day

Serenade 1954 – Lucienne Day

Abstract figures

Abstract figures

I’ve picked out a few of my favourites above. It’s £22 per meter, so not cheap but for a piece of design history, a bargain.


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