Chardon skirt hack

SAM_6612 I was determined to make a skirt out of this wool remnant bought from Guthrie and Ghani and chose to go with the Chardon from Deer and Doe. I only had 0.8 metres of wool to play with but being stubborn, ploughed on despite being about a metre short.


I had to sacrifice the number of pleats, pockets and facing due to lack of fabric but I’m pleased with the end result. There are 3 pleats at the front and 2 at the back rather than 5 and 4.SAM_6627

I fully lined the skirt and used some African wax fabric to fashion a waistband. I didn’t have enough wool to cut the facing but this works better as wool would be itchy against the skin. The skirt is meant to be high waisted but my version sits below my waist. I love the deep bottle green wool and it goes well with my Mimi blouse.



I’ll definitely make this again with the right amount of fabric next time! I forget about making skirts for the colder months and it’s nice to have a handmade skirt for winter. I’d say my handmade wardrobe is definitely biased towards spring/summer such is the draw of pretty cotton prints.

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GBSB woven shift dress v.2


Recently I’ve been re-visiting patterns soon after my first make as it’s easier to fix any design or fit issues whilst construction is still fresh. If I go back to a pattern after a few months, I’ve usually forgotten if changes were needed.


For my second GBSB woven shift I scooped out the neckline and used some bias binding to finish it rather than the suggested facing. I also lengthened the dress as my original alteration was a bit on the short side. I still found sewing the hem tricky. The pattern uses bias to finish the hem which splits at the side seam. Getting the bias tape to merge into the side seam is fiddly and involves a bit of hand sewing. I top stitched my hem and chalked my stitch line at the side seam to get a nice finish. The print is lighter than my first iteration so any wonky top stitching would show.


I used a cotton poplin that had been in my stash a while. I love this abstract print and have been saving it for a shift dress. The cotton has just the right amount of body and is the perfect weight for a summer dress. I’m obsessed with shift dresses at the moment. They are so easy to wear and can be smart or casual depending on fabric choice. There’s the added bonus of not being restricted around the tummy area.


This dress came together really quickly and is perfect for stash busting. Expect to see more iterations on this blog.


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Linden sweatshirt wins

Not to be defeated by my recent Linden fail, I jumped straight into making more. Thankfully my second and third iterations turned out much better than my first.


The blue Linden is made from some textured  jersey I found at the Knitting and Stitch show last year. It’s from Simply Fabrics and was a bargain at £5 for generous end of roll metre. SAM_6538

I cut the neck band, cuffs and hem band out of self fabric for a smarter look. As the fabric behaved more like a ponte, I had to stretch out the neck band to make it fit the neck opening. If you’re using a fabric that doesn’t have the requisite stretch it, I’d recommend adding a bit extra to the length of the neck band.


I sewed a size 6 again and made a few minor changes. I tweaked the pattern slightly and shortened the cuffs by 2 cms as I wanted a nice sleek sleeve. I also added about 1.5cm to the neckband and sewed a 1cm seam allowance to have a slightly wider neckband. I love how this turned out and have worn it several times to the office. It’s super snug as there’s polyester in there somewhere. This is definitely a wardrobe staple.


My third Linden is made from a fun bicycle terry I picked up at the Textile Centre in Walthamstow. I love this place, you can find some real treasures here. This time I used a contrast ribbing to break up the print. The only change I made to the pattern was to shorten the neckband slightly as it had a lot of stretch. I think the bicycles are a bit hard on the eyes and if I made this again, I’d use a plain jersey for the sleeves. However it’s a super comfy top and the Linden pattern has converted me to sweatshirts. Who knew that they’re perfect for lounge wear. I have plans to make an applique version. I’m gonna make a wardrobe full of Lindens.

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Linden sweatshirt fail


The Linden sweatshirt is such a classic wardrobe staple it seems obligatory to sew it sooner or later. I’ve had this pattern for over a year but it’s taken a while to find sweatshirt fabric that I like. I prefer light loopback knits over the fleecy stuff but it’s hard to find.


This was my first time using a Grainline pattern and I made no changes to the pattern. It’s rare for a pattern to fit perfectly straight out the envelope. The sweatshirt has a sleek modern fit with tapered sleeves and close fitting bodice. I made a size 6 and didn’t even have to shorten the bodice, an alteration I almost always have to do.


But despite all this, my Linden was a big fat fail. Why? Cos I ended up stretching the neckline whilst attaching the ribbing and it gapes. My ribbing is super stretchy too so with the benefit of sewing hindsight, I should have shortened it a little before sewing it in.


I tried steaming the life out of the neckline in the hope of flattening out the gape but to no avail. I have more jersey knits destined to be Lindens, so hopefully my next one will be a success.




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Floral Mimi blouse


Meet Mimi, my first ever handmade blouse. I’m so chuffed with this make as I’ve finally mastered buttonholes after 9 years of sewing. I didn’t purposely avoid them, I just never fancied sewing shirts or blouses. But when I fell in love with the Mimi blouse from Tilly’s Love at first stitch book, it was time to skill up.

I sewed a size 3 after hearing the pattern has a lot of ease and the fit was spot on. My normal size would have been a 4. I shortened the bodice by 3.5 cms and took 1 cm off at the side seams, tapering from the hem up to nothing at the waist line. I didn’t have any issues with the cuff being to narrow.


I was nervous when it came to sewing the buttonholes and practised first. It’s make or break time and shoddy buttonholes could ruin the whole make. Fortunately my machine does automatic buttonholes so sewing was a sinch. I used 5 x 15mm buttons and re-positioned the buttonholes as I was working with 5 rather than 6 buttons due to the shortened bodice.

Tilly’s instructions were very detailed and included lots of helpful tips. I will now use 3 rows of gathering stitches in future as it does make for neater gathers. This was my first time using a Tilly pattern and her instructions were very easy to follow. I can see why her patterns are such a hit with newbie sewers.


The pattern recommends using fabric with lots of drape so I went with a floral viscose from my stash. It was a little tricky to work with and shifts when cutting. A few of my pieces didn’t quite match the pattern but luckily I had extra fabric to re-cut the really wonky pieces.

Mimi does require quite a bit of prep and is not a quick sew. Nevertheless I found all the processes fun, from creating the sleeve pleats to making the collar. I’m tempted to make more blouses in future. The patterns in the book are overlaid so tracing is unavoidable. To speed things up, I photocopied the smaller pieces and traced the bodice pieces.


I love how this turned out, it’s such a sweet little blouse. Next time round I’ll reduce the front bodice gathers as they are a little too full. I’ll also sew the top buttonhole closer to the neckline opening so the blouse buttons up better. I’m glad I’ve finally sewn something from Tilly’s book and learnt a new sewing skill in the process.

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Great British Sewing Bee woven shift dress


One of my sewing goals for 2015 was to make a shift dress. They’re so easy to wear and I love my RTW versions. My first choice was Colette’s Laurel pattern but when I saw this woven shift in the latest GBSB Fashion with Fabric book, I knew it was The One.

You might recognise the fabric. I used it to make a top for my sister and loved it so much, I went back for more. It’s a mid weight poly crepe with lots of drape. Perfect for a shift dress.


I made a size 12 and shortened the dress by a few cms so it came up above the knee. I also took off 4cms from the sleeves. Sewing was quick and I made this during the pre-Christmas madness. The only tricky bit was figuring out how the curved hem feeds into the side seams. The instructions in the book are hazy. It was not helped by me loosing my markings when I shortened the dress.


I was able to forgo adding a side zip which was a bonus as I’m all for sewing short cuts. The dress isn’t too roomy either and fits really well. I didn’t toile it so there are a few changes I’ll add for my next iteration. I’ll widen the neckline (I can just about get my head through it and no, I don’t have an abnormally large head)! I went with the round neckline of the woven tee which uses the same pattern, rather than the V, as I prefer this shape. I’ll also lower the bust darts and consider using binding as the facing doesn’t sit that flat.

I’m so happy with this dress. I love the curved side seams, the fabric and fit. I’m going to try more patterns from the Fashion with fabric book and want to make the casual trousers for summer. Anyone made any other patterns from this book?


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Highlights, reflections and goals

Highlightsuntitled (2)

Getting a new sewing machine was definitely one of my 2016 highlights. I had no qualms about spending some serious money as I hardly ever buy big ticket items and sewing gives me so much pleasure. I upgraded to a Janome XL601, a machine I could grow my skills with. It sews so smoothly and is easy to use. It’s worth every penny for the drop in bobbin alone. No more tangled threads or running out of bobbin thread mid stitch.


Joining Instagram was an unexpected highlight. I’m always behind the times with social media – it took me two years to start this blog.  Now that I’m on it, I’m seriously addicted and check in regularly to get my fix. It’s great for engaging with other sewers and is so easy to use. And it’s so, er instant! You post something and get feedback immediately. I used to look forward to my blog feed but that’s been usurped by IG and I dip into the #sewcialists feed most days. I also took part in #bpSewvember2015 which was great fun. I found so many new people and blogs through this. I still like reading blogs and they are invaluable for fit and construction tips. I hope they don’t die off completely.


I have an ArtFund card and go to a lot of exhibitions. I love fashion and costume shows and my favourite was the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. The show was truly breath taking in terms of content and display.  Another highlight was going to the Balenciaga museum in Spain. I spent hours in there, jaw on the floor staring in wonder at his designs. As you can see from the photo above, the dresses are extraordinary.


I also did a bit of re-fashioning, thanks to Portia’s re-fashioners challenge and Karen’s Made up initiative. They were both really fun to do and having a deadline meant that I finished my projects. The Datura top had a former life as a M&S mans shirt.


The first part of the year was spent tackling my numerous UFOs. It felt like a chore at times, especially towards the end but two of my UFOs ended up in my top 5 makes so it was worth doing. I’m pleased to say they haven’t built up again and the only piles I have are bags of cut fabric ready for sewing.

It’s been a productive year and I sewed 27 items, including one coat, 14 tops and a few pressies. I sew far too many tops and need more trousers and skirts to have a functioning handmade wardrobe. Not bad, given that I had to spend precious sewing time job hunting twice this year.

I achieved nearly all my 2015 goals: finishing UFOs, sewing trousers, a shift dress and a dressy top. I failed to ration fabric purchases and added to my stash big time. However I did use a lot of what I bought so I’m not being too hard on myself. I’ve finally catalogued my stash which I hope will curb my spendthrift ways.

Goals for 2016


Handmade bucket hat

After sewing up UFOs for the best half of last year, I want 2016 to be all about fun sewing. So my goals are:

# 1 – Sew a holiday wardrobe

What’s more fun that wearing handmade? Wearing handmade on holiday.

# 2 – Sew more skirts and fewer tops

Desperately need more summer skirts. I have a hunch I’ve worn the same RTW skirts on every holiday for the last 8 years.

# 3 – Casual dresses

I think I can incorporate dresses into my everyday wear. Just need to sew more casual styles like Inari, Bettine and Alder.

# 4 – More solids

I’m a print addict. Sewing more solids will give me more wearing options.

# 5 – Sew from stash and not buy fabric!

I can hope!




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