Bag making – a wonderful new discovery. Bit dangerous though…

I’ve always loved a good handbag. I am lucky enough to own a couple of nice ones that my lovely husband bought me as birthday presents, but with all the life changes over the last decade or so, I just don’t always use them as much as I really should.

I used to live in London and travel daily in and around that great city, so a fun, stylish and formal looking handbag worked well. I had the time to swap things from one bag to another and choose the one that suited best for the day’s activities and outfit choice. Oh the luxury!

Then life changed, with a move out of London and after that along came our little poppets. My commute to work became a longer, rushed slog of commuter trains, the Tube, as well as the usual walking, all book-ended by mad dashes to get to nursery drop off / pick up in time.

Added to that, having young children meant I now needed a vast bag that I wasn’t too precious about, to lug all the paraphernalia around with us. Easy-clean bags also became pretty vital as I found squished kiddie snacks and leaked Calpol at the bottom of my bags on regular occasions and smeared, sticky, small finger prints on the outside pretty much always!

My lovelier handbags languished in place of ones that fitted a more grab and go lifestyle.

Now my children are a little older and life has changed again, including a bit less work commuting but more school runs.

All of that is a bit of a long-winded background to how I came to decide I would give bag making a go. I realised I could try to find a pattern for a bag that met all the things I wanted it to be and then make it in fabric and colours I really liked.

My first foray into bag making was with a Pattern Scout pattern, the Luna bag. I made one from leather chopped from an old jacket of my husband’s and I was super pleased with it. I really like the smaller size that fits just my (current lifestyle) essentials without being too big, and is easy to wear with its cross body design.

I then made some more for my sister in law, my children and some of their friends.

Made in the matching fabric from a denim jacket I also made my sister-in-law, (that was the Atenas from Itch to Stitch)

That really piqued my interest in trying more complex bags, but I was a little intimidated by all the hardware, strange new interfacing and stabilisers that seemed to be required. I had no clue what I would need and where to get it from.

Enter Wattle & Slate, who are actually a wonderful pre-order fabric site about whom I will definitely write a separate post soon. But it was on their Facebook page that I saw a picture of a gorgeous looking bag from a company called Country Cow Designs, made using some of the Wattle & Slate fabric.

I sought out the Country Cow website, found a glorious selection of bag patterns and realised the owner Jo does a full YouTube video for each pattern showing you, step by step, how to sew them.

Jo also has incredibly clear instructions and gives you the commonly used names of the hardware and interfacing etc. needed for each bag, with information on where to get it all from. Furthermore, Jo sews the bags on a domestic machine rather than an industrial one and hence her bags are designed with fabrics – and have sewing techniques – that most domestic machines should be able to cope with.

This was just the help I needed to feel ready and able to dive into the scary world of bag making.

Little did I know how much I would love it, how addictive it would quickly become. And how much you can spend on hardware and tools, if you are so inclined 😂. A wonderful discovery for my enjoyment, excitement, love of a challenge and satisfaction from envisaging and then creating something lovely. Not so much for my bank balance though!

My first bag was the Teloujay. This pattern is only £2 and is intended as a beginner / starter pattern. Jo has a few optional features you could leave out to make it even easier, but I decided to go for all the bells and whistles.

I also made the Nasyow pouch, which one of Country Cow’s free patterns and a lovely little make, also really good for a first project.

After that I decided to try the Kelzjon Bag as a little gift. This is a multi purpose sort of bag or storage option, including uses for crafts like knitting and crocheting, which is something the recipient does.

It was between making the Teloujay and the Kelzjon that I bought a proper press machine for installing rivets (details and link at the end of this post). I can’t tell you how much easier and more fun it is installing rivets with this press, instead of battling with the little handheld tool and a hammer. The rivets go in like a dream and feel so much more secure. These presses aren’t particularly cheap, especially as you need a separate die set for each size / thing you are installing, but if you get into bag making and are in a position to treat yourself I really do recommend getting one.

My latest finished bag is actually a back pack, the Cornish Backpack. This is a bit more involved but still absolutely achievable if you have a bit of general sewing experience and follow Jo’s YouTube video sew along.

I can’t wait to use this on a summer holiday and fervently hope we can go on one this year!

From comments and recommendations on Jo’s channel I then came across other bag makers on YouTube and through them, other bag patterns.

This is the Carissa Clutch from Huff ‘n Cuffs, a wonderful little free pattern.
I made this using more Wattle & Slate canvas fabric and some leather remnant pieces I bought from Ebay.
This gorgeous little thing is the Card / Cash key ring from Moments By Liz. If you join her Facebook page you can access several free, terrific patterns, of which this is one. It is fantastic as a little carry case for a bank card or two, or a few notes. So handy as something you can switch from bag to bag. I plan on adding a D ring into all my bags so I can clip one in and out with ease.
Another one. Because why not?!

Just a note in relation to sewing leather and with particular reference to the Clarissa Clutch shown up above, don’t look too closely at the top stitching on the front band or strap! My machine did not like top stitching through this leather, despite using a size 100 leather needle, increasing my stitch length, having the built in walking foot thing on my Pfaff machine and going slowly. Let’s just say many strong words were spoken… I then discovered (somewhat belatedly) that increasing the pressure on my presser foot up to around 8.5 or 9 seemed to make things work much better. Ah well, at least I worked that out eventually, even if not in time for that bag!

Three YouTube bag making channels I am now subscribed to (in addition to Country Cow) are Seams Legit, Jess OklaRoots and Siah Swag, who are all excellent and give so much helpful information as well as links to hardware, helpful tools and other supplies, although these three are based in Australia and the US respectively so their supplies links are not quite as handy for UK viewers but great for people in those two countries.

(I have put a few links below to some UK suppliers I have been using, in case that helps anyone.)

Through the OklaRoots channel I came across the Backyard Caddy from Sallie Tomato, which I bought and plan to make up soon, ready for some fun, summer bbqs.

It has reinforced to me though, just from comparison with the couple of other patterns I have now made or read up on, how great Jo of Country Cow’s patterns and instructions are. Some of the other patterns weren’t so clear with specifying e.g. what size zip to use, or what sort of interfacing. I can see that when you have more experience you might know this yourself and even have your own preferences that you know how to accommodate. But for a beginner dabbling their toe into this addictive world I highly recommend starting with Country Cow. Which isn’t to say their patterns are only for beginners, not at all. Experts and newbies alike – plus anyone in between – will have a whale of a time sewing any of the Country Cow patterns.

I will just add by the way that I have no links or affiliation with Country Cow Designs or Jo herself! I just really love and am impressed with her patterns.

I am currently sewing the latest release from Country Cow, the Momexa Bag. I’m using another piece of Wattle and Slate fabric (the same as the one in the Clarissa Clutch up above – it’s amazing how many bags you can get out of half a metre of 150cm wide canvas!), with some beautiful, royal blue, textured leather from Pittards for the accent features.

Now I just need our part of the world to start opening up further from lockdown, so I can actually go places – and take my lovely new, me-made bags along for the ride!

Links to UK based places I have bought bag making hardware bits from (just to clarify that none of these – or any others in this post – are affiliate links):

Wattle & Slate – gorgeous fabric with several different designs released each round, all available on a variety of bases. I used the canvas base for my bags. It is a pre-order company (rather than having fabric available to buy all the time), so you will have to look out for when they next have a round open for pre orders. There is a great Facebook group that is well worth joining.

Sewhot is a great online shop for loads of bag hardware, interfacing, continuous zippers and pulls, faux leather as well as a lot of very tempting fabric.

Pittards is a treasure trove of meltingly soft leather in so many colours.

Tania Fabrics is another great site for hardware, interfacing, fabrics, zips etc.

The Trimming Shop is where I bought my green press and first couple of rivet die sets. I told you how easy it is to start spending on all the fun gadgets and kit! I have also got rivets from here.

Plus the usual eBay and Etsy searches will bring up all sorts of bag making goodies like D Rings, lobster clips and so forth.

A new release from Pattern Scout and another giveaway!

No this isn’t a glitch in the Matrix. My last post was also about a new Pattern Scout release and giveaway – and so is this one. Just keeping you on your toes 😁

When Casey sent around another email shout out for pattern testers I replied immediately, for all the same reasons as I mentioned in my last post.

And this one is another corker. The Comfi Lounge Tee and Pants Set gives real bang for its buck, with both the top and bottoms included in the one pattern.

Each comes with options for short or long sleeves / legs (as applicable) and there is a scoop neck or crew neck version for the top, meaning you could get a whole variety of wardrobe essentials from this one pattern. It could be anything from a pj set, home lounge wear, staple tee, yoga type pants, even slightly smarter work type trousers, if made from a suitable stretch fabric such a ponte roma.

The pattern is designed for stretch knit / jersey fabric, with light to medium weight recommended for the top (I used a lightweight viscose jersey) and more of a medium weight for the bottoms (I used cotton lycra), although you could still use lightweight for the bottoms if you want a light, drapey, flowy pair. Sweatshirt and french terry are also suggested fabrics for the bottoms.

And glory be, the top comes with cup sizing. It has a lovely fitted, shaped design and with the addition of the cup sizing it means you really can achieve that holy grail, the perfect fitted tee shirt. It isn’t skin tight round the middle, just nicely skimming as you can hopefully see from the photos on the pattern and my own ones (insert usual apology here for the less than professional skill level of my own photos…).

However, if you wanted the tee shirt a little looser it would be straight forward to size up a little, especially with the benefit of Pattern Scout’s size range of 0 – 30.

The body measurements and finished measurements chart that Casey provides for all her pattens means I can always work out what sizes I need to blend between, in order to get the right fit for my shape and aesthetic preferences. I can’t tell you how much I love this, especially in comparison to Big 4 patterns.

Turning to the bottoms, I went for the shorts version as I would really like to perfect an easy, breezy, comfy but stylish shorts pattern for the summer.

This one certainly ticks all those boxes. I made some fairly standard (for me) adjustments to the pattern based on my own rise measurements compared to the measurements I took from the flat pattern, which resulted in a pretty decent fit on my first go at these.

The length of the shorts here is as per the pattern markings, no shortening involved. For reference I am 5’5” and the drafting height for Pattern Scout Patterns is 5’9”.

The pockets are an excellent shape and size. The construction is satisfyingly neat, with no separate waistband – instead you attach the elastic to the top of the shorts waistline, fold over and top stitch down with a stretch stitch, catching the top edge of the pockets as you do so, making everything nicely enclosed and secured in place.

You can easily make this pattern on a standard sewing machine, so long as you have a zig zag or other stretch stitch. No serger / over locker required, although you can use one for a lot of the sewing if you have access to one.

All in all, this is another Pattern Scout pattern that I highly commend to you. The tee shirt will now be my go-to, gold star, perfect tee shirt to be used forever after. I have never had such a wonderfully fitting tee shirt before, with just the right fit and ease over my shoulders, bust, waist and hips.

In my next version I will come in just 1 cm at the shoulders but that is the only change I feel I will need to make.

So, to the giveaway. Casey has kindly given each of her testers a PDF copy of the pattern to giveaway. If you would like to win my copy, please leave a comment below. I will draw a random winner next weekend (18 April 2021). Please keep an eye on this post if you enter, as I will add a further post after the 18th to announce the winner and ask them to email me so I can send the link for the free pattern.

Disclaimer bitI was given a copy of the pattern and a contribution of US$45 for the materials etc used in the pattern test, as well as the free copy I am giving away here. I was under no obligation to write this blog post and the views here are very much my own. I do not have an affiliate link with Pattern Scout and was not paid to write this post.

The new Cozi Jacket from Pattern Scout – plus a giveaway!

(Please see the note at the end of my post regarding the consideration received in relation to this pattern. The giveaway information is also at the end. Please note it is a PDF copy of the pattern as the prize, not a paper copy.)

Pattern Scout is a newer indie pattern company that I first came across last year – I cannot now recall if I first saw the Lulu cardigan via Karina from Pins and Needles or the Sew My Style challenge, but a big thank you to whoever it was!

As I mentioned in my last post, I love the style and aesthetic that Casey – the owner of Pattern Scout – creates. To me, Casey’s patterns are stylish, fun, modern but with a touch of the classic, bursting with clean lines, interesting details and sometimes with a slightly sporty-chic look .

The fact that most of the patterns come with cup sizes is my kind of brilliant and the design lines and wearability of Casey’s patterns are spot on. I always find the finishing methods suggested to be really clever and well worked through.

The patterns are actually designed for a height of 5’9” (I’m 5’5”) but other than that I find the block used is a pretty good one for my body. That’s not to say I don’t have to make adjustments, but just the same ones I would do for any pattern company (and not as many as I have to do for some) – I blend between three sizes, do a high round back adjustment, sway back adjustment, shorten the sleeve – then away I go!

(I haven’t made a trousers pattern yet although the Nellie joggers are planned for Spring, but I imagine a bit of length shortening may be on the cards for those.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought all of the PS pattern range over the course of two of their sales last year, after the great success I had with the Fern top and the Lulu cardigan.

I’ve made seven of the Luna bags since then, which I highly recommend as a small sized, cross body bag. Just to clarify, only one was for me, the other six have been presents. Even I don’t need that many bags…

Then just the other week I received an email from Casey at Pattern Scout with a call out for pattern testers for her new pattern, the Cozi Jacket. I have pattern tested for Nina Lee and Megan Nielsen before but not Pattern Scout. I love the line drawings of the pattern, so I immediately applied and was really pleased to be accepted.

Casey offered a $30 payment to her pattern testers as a contribution towards the costs of materials and notions used, which I think is really excellent and no doubt widens her testing pool.

The pattern testing experience was fun, as always. From my job background, I really enjoy reading through instructions and checking for sense, any typos, errors or improvements that could be made from a language front (or any sewing construction suggestions). It’s always so much easier to spot typos etc. in someone else’s work, harder when it’s your own!

Casey also set up an online collaboration group for all the pattern testers, which is a lovely way to connect with other sewing folk, get some great pointers and see other people’s amazing garments coming to life.

So onto the Cozi pattern itself. As you can see from the line art, it is a semi cropped, slightly boxy jacket with options for a hood or a collar. I chose view A as I love that sort of collar and wanted the more nipped in look with the elastic at the waist and cuffs. However, you could easily mix the hood of View B with the elastic options as well.

The Cozi comes in a wide size range from 0 – 30. Funnily enough, despite me raving about the cup options of Pattern Scout’s patterns, this one doesn’t actually have cup sizes due to the boxier shape and intended ease of the bodice, but the instructions note that the bust sizing covers sewing cup sizes B – D. (Just adding my usual note here to say bra cup sizes are not the same as sewing cup sizes).

Because of this I decided to sew one size up starting from the bottom of the armscye down to the hem on the front bodice compared to the back bodice. This gave me the exact ease I wanted for the circumference but is perhaps a touch short on the length I need to go over my bust. Next time I will lower the centre front by say 3/4” until in line with the side edge of where the pocket sits and then blend back to nothing at the side seam, which should do the trick.

Fabric recommendations are for either medium weight wovens or medium weight jersey – yes it is that rare bird of a pattern you can make in either 😊 .

I chose a medium weight viscose twill that has good body and drape, probably on the lightish side of medium and it worked perfectly.

I looked carefully at the body measurements and finished garment measurements given, as well as the excellent notes Casey includes within her patterns to describe the intended fit. I also did my, now usual, measuring of the flat pattern vs my body.

Based on all of the above plus the designed height of 5’9” vs my height of 5’5” I shortened the bodice by 2” and the sleeves by 1 1/4”. This gave me the perfect sleeve length and the bodice hits right just below my natural waist. The pattern notes state the hem will hit about 4” below natural waist but because of the shortening I did and my bust, mine hits just below it, which is perfect for my shape and proportions.

I also shortened the collar piece by 3/4” as when I folded the pattern piece as if sewn and held it to my neck, I could tell it would be too tall for my neck height.

I used my favourite Vlieseline 180 interfacing on the collar. I did wonder whether it would be firm enough for a stand up collar, but I’m glad I went with that in the end as I wouldn’t want it too stiff in comparison to the rest of the jacket.

The jacket came together really well. Casey suggests a few options for finishing your seams depending on your fabric choice and I went with flat felled seams for the shoulders, armscye and sides (having basted the sides first to check fit). I love the finish that has given the jacket when you see flashes of the inside.

Casey has also now added a section of how to sew flat fell seams into the instructions. On that note, I find Casey’s instructions to be excellent, full of tips and explanations of the processes, along with clear diagrams and well laid out steps.

The zipper was a bit of a pain to insert only because my zipper was a tad longer than the pattern called for. Shortening an open ended zip is frankly a pain, as you end up having to catch the (metal, in my case) zipper teeth into the top of the collar seam so the zipper pull won’t fly off when doing it up. You don’t end up with such a neat finish at the top as you would if the zipper length were perfect (or at least I didn’t!). And you risk breaking your needle. Go on, guess how I know that… But now that I know the final length measurement of my jacket, with all the various mods I did, I can order the perfect size next time. She says, hopefully!

(Casey has added some tips on shortening open ended zippers into the final pattern instructions, which are super helpful.)

The zipper and centre front bodice edges are then covered together with bias tape to finish them, with the ends caught in the collar and hem seams before turning out, again giving a beautifully neat finish and making for a nice detail when you see inside the jacket.

I absolutely love this jacket. In my fabric choice it is the perfect Spring and Summer time cover up / extra layer. Made in a snuggly french terry it would be a terrific warmer piece for other seasons. Suffice to say I’ll be making one of those soon!

Hmmm, have I unintentionally made a tribute to the Pink Ladies jacket of Grease fame?!
You can see here that the pockets sit too high on me. Their height and width has now been reduced by 1” in the final pattern itself but I also need to reduce mine down further in my next version, to match the reduction I made to the bodice height. I did do this when prepping my pattern pieces but somehow managed to cut the actual fabric from the original, unaltered, pattern piece 🙄

And so for the giveaway! Casey has very kindly given each of her testers a PDF copy of the finished pattern for themselves and also one to give away.

Hence if you would like to win my giveaway PDF copy, please leave a comment below saying which is your favourite view and whether you would be team woven or team jersey if you were to make this. I will draw a winner on Tuesday 9th March (UK time) and then make contact with the winner to send the download code for their free Cozi Jacket PDF pattern from Pattern Scout’s site.

The information / disclaimer bit:

I received a free PDF copy of the Cozi Jacket pattern for the purposes of pattern testing, as well as a contribution of USD $30 towards the materials used. I also received the free additional PDF copy that I am giving away here to the lucky winner. I was not required to write this blog post or promote the pattern as part of the pattern testing, nor am I being paid or otherwise sponsored to do so. All of the views expressed here are very much my own. I would only recommend a company or product of which I have already established my own favourable opinion. The links to Pattern Scout and the pattern are not affiliate ones.)

Musings on sewing in a lockdown plus ten recommended patterns

Looking back at my last post in May 2020, I have spotted a slight pattern. It seems we get a couple of months into a lockdown and I get a random burst of inspiration to write a blog post.

All I can say is that I fervently hope:

A. This is the last lockdown we go through for this pandemic and hence no further opportunity arises for me to test this nascent theory; and

B. I manage to do more than one blog post for the rest of this year!

Another common feature I can identify between the first lockdown last year and this present third lockdown, is that I really struggle to fit in the same amount of sewing I usually do. Basically because my spare time outside of work is taken up helping my children with home schooling, cooking what feels like never ending meals and constantly cleaning and tidying (far more that I like, but sadly necessary with all of us at home 24/7).

After not sewing a single thing during January (the first time I haven’t sewn for a whole month since I started sewing over three years ago) I’ve come up with the new approach of not expecting to have long chunks of sewing time, instead I just fit in 20 minutes here, half an hour there, with anything more being an unexpected bonus.

Clearly my sewing productivity has gone down a bit as a result, but it’s also been interesting seeing the changes in the type of garment I’ve been sewing.

Like all of us, life has changed so much over the past year and the clothes I now need have changed alongside this. I have always been a fairly ‘dressy’ kind of person. Other than gym / workout clothing I’ve never worn much in the way of tracksuits, hoodies etc. COVID-19 has changed this for me. That’s not to say I’ve completely changed my preferred aesthetic, rather I’ve been drawn to patterns that have comfort as a clear factor, but still with a nod to some shaping and design features that feel like me. Whoever ‘me’ is…

So whilst any thoughts of workwear / suits / cocktail dress making have been unceremoniously thrown out the window, my favourite patterns in this new world of comfy / stylish / perfect for home working / lockdown are:

(As always, apologies for the photo quality! Not something I’ve got better at in the intervening period, I’m afraid.) (Just to add, none of the the below links are affiliates.)

1. Lamma hoodie from Itch to Stitch

This is a joy to fit, sew and wear. Plus you get to bash away with a hammer to add the grommets 😁. I made one and after the first day of wearing it I immediately cut out and started sewing a second. Nuff said.

2. Sabrina Slim trousers from Love Notions

I made this darker pair first and tweaked the fit a little further in the second, grey pair above.
My attempt at showing the cute, split hem I did for this first pair.

These are just brilliant. Enough stretch to be comfortable, enough shaping and right amount of ease to feel a bit put together. I have three pairs made already and there are two cuts of fabric sitting in my sewing room ready for making more.

3. Stacey dress from Designer Stitch

I lowered the height of the neck band a little for this one and also shortened the ties by an inch, to sit at a better position for a top rather than a dress.
Look! Bust darts (and waist darts for that matter) in a jersey top! Such a massive improvement to the fit for these sorts of tops on me. No more dartless FBAs for me – I’m converted.

This is actually a dress pattern but I have made two out of merino jersey (from The Fabric Store, New Zealand) where I adjusted the pattern to end at about high hip level, turning them into the perfect top. I used the turtle neckline for both, so they are beautifully snuggly for the cold weather here in the UK. The tie front is an interesting detail to sew and elevates it from other staple polo / turtle neck patterns out there.

4. A hybrid top of the Josephine from 5oo4 and the cowl neckline from Freya by Tilly and the Buttons

I made this top from a superb and fairly unusual fabric from Higgs and Higgs. It is soft, warm and so tactile. Not cheap, but well worth the price for a top that looks a bit different to your average.

5. Somerset top from Maven Patterns

Hopefully you can see in this picture how much better the neckline sits at the back. It also doesn’t keep choking me at the front too, which is rather a bonus…

I love the neckline of this top. Or at least I do now that I have worked out I need high round back adjustments (see my post on this unwelcome fact here in my previous – oh so long winded – post). I also love both the full bishop sleeves with long cuffs and this version here with the straight sleeve. The shaping and comfort of this top is the perfect blend for me.

7. The Southbank from Nina Lee

This pattern has been a favourite of mine from well before the word “lockdown” meant anything other than something from a prison break movie. My latest reincarnation of the pattern is so soft and lovely to wear. You might have spotted that the second Lamma top at the beginning of this post was made using leftovers from this make.

8. A copy from a RTW top I own.

I haven’t done much of this ‘rubbing off’ thing previously (I really hope that is the right term) but I bought a RTW top from Fabletics and was surprised by how much I liked it. I wanted to see if I could copy it with a bit of measuring and tracing. Happily it turned out well and I have really enjoyed wearing the version I’ve made so far.

In fact as I came to write this post I was convinced I’d made two. I can’t find the other one for the life of me though so I am either imagining the second one or have put it somewhere currently un-locatable…

9. Lulu cardigan from Pattern Scout

Pattern Scout is a fairly new to me pattern company, but since discovering them – and their cup-sized patterns hooray – I have bought all of their current patterns. First up I made the Fern top, which is completely brilliant and a perfect, easy breezy, stylish summer top. Then I tried the Lulu cardigan, which is just as fabulous. The princess seams, the neat, cropped fit, the sporty but stylish look. All big ticks for a lockdown experience and beyond.

I now have ready and printed out the Romy dress / top and the Nellie trousers to try next, so watch this space for my thoughts on those.

10. Butterick 6385 coat

Ok so you may spot this is a bit out of sync with the patterns above. It’s not jersey / stretch woven for a start. But I loved making this coat at the end of last year. It felt such a different game to when I made my first coat (that was the Rumana from By Hand London). And that is just because of where I am now in my sewing progress. When making this latest coat I had that magical feeling of know what I was doing. Of understanding the process. Of spotting the mistakes in the pattern (how that happens in a big four pattern I have no idea). Of knowing different ways and extra techniques to add to the garment. Of knowing to flat pattern measure galore and baste fit throughout, to get a decent fit without doing a toile. It was fun and even relaxing to just potter away over a week or so, making a coat. And then having the joy of it fitting well and looking just as I’d hoped.

It also made me realise the benefit and joy of coat making for a UK lockdown winter. Basically for many of us, our only outdoor experiences are getting out for walks and occasional supermarket etc trips (and commuting, for those who still have to work out of the home). So being able to put on a coat, in which you feel great and of which you are quietly proud of having made, is one of the simple pleasures we can indulge in at the moment.

A silver lining – or glass half full moment, perhaps – in all of this.

All wrapped up for a walk to the supermarket 😂

Ahem, well hello

(Weirdly, I posted this in May 2020 but it didn’t seem to upload properly – a fact I only noticed in February 2021 🙄. So here it is now, 9 months later…)

Well it’s safe to say it’s been a while since my last post. And gosh, hasn’t the world changed in the meantime?! Multiple gold stars on the psychic front for anyone who saw this coming from how our lives were in 2018.

I’m not sure I can say what triggered me to finally write this post after such a long absence. Reflection? Contemplation? Gratitude for the role sewing plays in my life? It certainly isn’t extra time, as – like so many others – my time is pretty comprehensively taken up with juggling working from home, attempting to provide consistent and useful schooling for our two children, cooking every meal under the sun, sorting the shopping for making the aforementioned meals and trying to make the house look slightly less like a tip. Oh, and drinking what may possibly be a bit too much wine…

I think I can have a guess though at why I stopped writing blog posts. And it’s a bit of an uncomfortable truth for me. Put simply, I gained weight. When I started this blog I was in the middle of losing weight, after years of fairly unsuccessful dieting. My weight was finally consistently going down on the scales and I was really enjoying seeing my body gradually get back to where I wanted to be, hopefully heading back to round about how I was pre-children. However, my method for weight loss was a pretty restrictive way of eating (super low carb, no sugar, no wheat or in fact any starchy carbs, no processed foods, no artificial sweetener and no alcohol at all). Now I knew this wouldn’t be something I could keep up long term but it was working in terms of weight loss and I felt healthy. I just planned to eat that way until I got down to the right weight for me and then I would transition back into a slightly less restrictive way of eating. It all seemed very sensible to me. I was in the right mindset zone. It was all good. Ha!

So of course what happened was, before I got to that “ideal weight” I had a wonderful, supremely special, family wedding to attend overseas and after about seven days into that magical holiday the low carb no alcohol went out the window. Never mind, I told myself, I’ll get back on it again once I’m back home.

But when I got back home I found my previous ‘in the zone mindset’ had simply vanished and I struggled to get going again. That’s still a journey I’m pushing forward with, taking a less restrictive and more ‘normal life-friendly’ diet approach. It’s working, or at least it was until Covid arrived, but that’s another story…

The real point of my rather lengthy post so far, is the uncomfortable realisation about how that all affected my sewing and my blogging.

Now I didn’t stop sewing. I still do a lot of that (current time-pressed circumstances allowing). But I had more fails. Things didn’t fit as nicely, even though I regularly remeasured myself and used those measurements. The garments I made just didn’t look on me the way I envisaged them in my head when planning them.

Even for the ones that didn’t go in the ‘fail’ category I found that I just didn’t want to take photos of myself in them and share them with the world (well, the very small part of it that reads these blog posts anyway!).

Embarrassment at how different I looked compared those earlier blog photos, anger at myself for yet again failing at this continual weight loss battle, annoyance that the newly made clothes just didn’t look the way I wanted (whilst the ones I’d made before hung forlornly in the wardrobe). These were the feelings that kept coming up whenever I thought about blogging something I’d made. Which is ridiculous given that I don’t notice or care about these sorts of changes in anyone else. Or see other people in terms of their size at all. Just myself.

It was easier just to put the blog out of my head. Ostrich-style.

So that’s just all a bit glum, bleak and navel gazing-esque. Which wasn’t actually meant to be the point of this post!

The positive view I’ve now reached is that it feels good to acknowledge to myself why I stopped writing posts, to face up to it and move on from it. Because I am able to see things from slightly older eyes and with the mental distance you get from looking back on things. Not to mention from a present world which is providing a stark reminder of priorities and what is truly important in our lives.

I’m making peace with my body as it is now, whilst continuing to put effort into losing weight and getting healthier – just with the acceptance that it will be a long process and that’s ok. Small incremental improvements are still a good thing and can be enjoyed and celebrated too. Sustainability is a big and important word in today’s world of environmental considerations and so too can I apply that to my health and weight.

So enough of that. On to the sewing bit!

Rather than retrospectively try to record all the things I’ve made in the intervening (nearly) two years, I thought I’d dip my toe back into the blogging water by covering a few of my favourite recent makes.

And so, in no particular order (and leaving aside making NHS scrub bags and masks, which are important at the moment but probably don’t fall under anyone’s definition of ‘favourite makes’):

Shelby – True Bias

As someone who spent her most of teens and and early 20s growing up in the 90s, this dress leapt out at me the moment I saw it released. I had a dress just like it when I was about 19 but in a cream colour with small print flowers in various other colours that are equally unflattering on me. Here was my chance to make the dress again in a much better colour palette for my skin tones.

I hit the Stitch Festival back in February (when the world still included things like sewing shows) with a firm plan. Buy a nice, drapey, woven viscose in my colour range with a floral print that isn’t too ditsy print looking (it’s just too small a scale on me) but sort of ditsy-esque whilst not being large scale. Happily (possibly miraculously, now that I type out my oh so specific list of criteria), almost at the end of my visit to the show I found the exact type of fabric I was after. I’m pretty sure I got it from the Textile Centre but if not it was M Rosenberg & Son (aka Stitch Fabrics, my all time favourite stall holder at these sewing shows).

I also picked up these perfect buttons at the show too, from Italian Buttons:

The Shelby pattern is excellent and came together very smoothly. I muslined this one, something I am doing a bit more now after the sewing fails mentioned at the start of this post. It gives me a chance to check all the ‘standard’ pattern adjustments I’m now realising I need to make (in addition to the full bust adjustment and sway back adjustment I’ve known I had to make since my early days of sewing). It also means I can get an idea of whether the style itself actually works for me, before I lose the time involved in sewing up the full garment.

Just for illustrative purposes, here is the full list of the adjustments I made to this pattern (in addition to the grading between sizes that I did based on the pattern’s size and finished garment measurements):

    Lowered the bust apex by 2cm
  • Did a 2cm full bust adjustment
  • Did a 1.2cm sway back adjustment
  • Did a 2cm full bicep adjustment
  • Sewed the mid part of some seams at 3/8 seam allowance to give a bit more swingy room through the waist and hips
  • And, a new adjustment to me, a high round back adjustment.

I’ve known for a while that I am proportionally smaller in my shoulders and neck area than my bust etc. I had been dealing with this by cutting the size for my high bust and then doing the FBA, which is unquestionably the way I need to approach things. But it wasn’t solving the problem completely. It showed up most obviously on patterns with higher necklines at the back neck and even more so in patterns with high front necklines. I don’t make a lot of these latter kinds hence it hasn’t been as obvious to me what the problem was.

It was making the Maven Patterns Somerset top that really brought it home. I had previously been making forward shoulder adjustments to patterns, which had helped a bit, but the Somerset top involved a facing with stretch percentage factoring so I tried to further adjust the neckline size in my second version but that still didn’t sort things.

I then did a bit of reading about high round back adjustments, as some recent blog posts I read which referred to these started to ring notes of familiarity as to the fitting problems I was having.

So I tried it out with the Shelby muslin and it noticeably made a difference. The neck sits nice and closely at the back. The front neckline / bust line doesn’t keep wanting to riding up towards the back. Hallelujah. Although it’s yet another standard adjustment I apparently now need to add to my list. Sigh.

And on that point, I undoubtedly fall into the camp of “will make a pattern far more than once”. Or at least successful patterns anyway! Because I most certainly can’t just whip up a pattern as drafted. Even the ones that come with cup sizes (and blessed be the pattern companies who do those) I still need to make further adjustments to most patterns. I’m faster at doing that now than I used to be, but it all takes quite a bit of time. So if I have a pattern I’ve worked on to that extent, it fits well, I like the style on me once made, then hell yes I will make it in all the versions / hacks / colours / possible varieties of substrates!

Alcott – Cashmerette

I love this dress so much. The cut of it fits me so well and the style lines are right up my street. The fabric is something I got from Hobbycraft, of all places. Not usually a store with great dress making fabrics but this is a lovely quality cotton Lycra jersey in my favourite cornflower blue colour. From the approx 5 metres I bought I’ve made this dress plus a Somerset top from Maven patterns as touched on above (with the bishops sleeve, my favourite sewing trend ever, long may it last) and a Givre vest top from Deer and Doe.

I also did this new-fangled high round back adjustment as mentioned above (1.5cm this time) and again I could see a clear improvement in how it felt at the back neck, better than anything I’ve worn for a good while, even with a jersey pattern and their theoretical forgiving fit.

Safe to say I have dug out some suitable jersey fabric from my stash to make another one of these as soon as I can manage 😁

Dylan trousers – Designer Stitch

Let’s just start this off by saying I don’t suit elastic waists. Ever. My waistline isn’t my favourite feature. I am hour glass-ish, but my narrowest waist part is much higher up than average, which means combined with my large bust I don’t have a very long look to my torso and elastic waists just want to ride up to this very high ‘small’ point. Plus my hips mean the gathering you get with elastic is deeply unflattering on me.

Nonetheless, I love the idea of a pair of trousers that have a bit of give and don’t dig in, but still give the sleeker look of fitted trousers or jeans. I’ve been tempted to try a few in recent times, such as the Mountain View jeans by Itch to Stitch, or the Pietra by Closet Case Patterns but it is the Dylan trousers I bit the bullet on to purchase. I think because the style lines and lack of fly details made me feel I could use these to get the different looks of sleeker cigarette trousers as well as jeans, not just one of the two.

I made a wearable toile using some very loud and not very me fabric from my stash. It had the right weight and stretch woven requirements for the pattern and I thought could be a very summery, holiday resort (in the back garden, natch) sort of trouser.

With a bit of body vs pattern measuring and using the excellent amount of measurements that you are given with Designer Stitch patterns, I was able to pick the size blending I needed with reasonable confidence, including the height of the rise I thought I’d need and knowing to do an increase to the back rise straight off the bat.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the fit. For my proper pair I will add a little more to the back rise, shorten them by 3cm and perhaps come in a size at the waist and also from the calf down, but otherwise I’m quietly happy with these. Which makes up for the loudness of the fabric.

The one thing that isn’t great is the waist area. I don’t know if it was me, the fabric or the elastic, the method in the pattern (I doubt it’s that to be honest, Designer Stitch patterns are very well drafted in my experience of them) or perhaps if I need a smaller size at the waist (happy days if so) but the waist facing and top edge don’t sit well. It is a tad loose, stretched out and all wobbly at the top edge. Despite understitching, top stitching and stitching in the ditch at the side seams, the back facing comes out entirely when I’m wearing them and rolls out a bit at the front too. Fine for this wearable toile pair if you cover it with a slightly longer top but I want to play around with this a bit in the next pair and see if I can do it differently. Or better than I managed this time at least!

I’ve got some nice stretch dark denim with a faint animal print pattern on it in darker navy planned for the ‘proper’ pair. I’ll keep you posted on my success or otherwise with the waist on this version.

And a half fail / half favourite is the Iris by Collette patterns.

The favourite bit to it is that I made these shorts in a navy lightweight denim last summer and loved them, they are comfortable, flattering, summery and go with a ton of stuff. So I wanted to make another pair. However, my first pair were getting quite loose. Hooray, I thought. I can make the size down. Turns out no, I can’t. I’m not sure whether it was just a difference between the stiffness of two fabrics, or that my first pair had stretched a lot, but the sized down pair I made – and which look beautiful and are perfectly sewn and finished (if I do say so myself!) – are unbearably tight. Although at least they do up, which is of some comfort. Metaphorically.

So I made a third pair in navy polka dot cotton sateen in the original size and these will be great for this coming summer.

And so for my next plans for me (with a couple of bits for my daughters planned too), I have a crazily long and probably unrealistic list at the moment:

  • The second Alcott mentioned above
  • A second pair of Dylan trousers with the tweaks mentioned above
  • The Fern top from Scout Patterns
  • The Lulu cardigan from Scout Patterns
  • The Whitney wrap top (first) and then wrap dress (second) from AK Patterns
  • The Cerra Alto jacket from Itch to Stitch
  • The Passiflore dress from Deer and Doe
  • The Rhapsody blouse from Love Notions Patterns
  • The Zamora blouse from Itch to Stitch
    And perhaps another Crystal Cove Cami from Itch to Stitch
  • Ooh and I’ve just seen the Romy dress released by Scout Patterns too…

Happily, all of the above patterns (that involve a bodice) apart from the Passiflore come in cup sizes. Allelujah.

Here endeth this meandering and lengthy essay. Thank you for making it to the end 😁

ps in the time has taken me to get this post ready to upload I have made another garment that I’m really happy with. None of the ones on the list above, of course. That would be silly. No, I randomly decided I wanted a new top to wear for home work outs, as you do. So I made a Valencia from New Horizons. I made one ages ago that I wear as an over-workout-gear sort of top and it occurred to me that a) another one would come in handy and b) I had some navy and white striped fabric in my stash that would be right for the pattern and which I had previously had no idea what else to do with (one of those online orders that wasn’t what you expected when it arrived). So a bit of fabric vs pattern tetris followed and a new top was born.

I even managed a small amount of stripe matching (cue random shot that looks like I’m trying to show you how well my deodorant works…)

Right, now it really is the end of this post!


My wanders down memory lane on the 1st of Jan, looking back at what I had actually planned – and managed to make – from my #MakeNine2018, has enthused me nicely for working out my Make Nine for the coming year.

I was a bit surprised to realise that (a) I have somehow, in an unconscious sort of way, managed to make most of last year’s Make Nine and (b) I feel inspired to plan out another Make Nine. Now just to explain, it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy or feel the purpose of the Make Nine last year, but it just drifted off my radar a bit in the second half of the year, hence I’d wondered whether I would plan it out in such a formal way again this year.

But looking through my original post again (my recent reflections on this are here) I realised how much I enjoyed the reflective, purposive approach of #MakeNine, and that I would equally enjoy the thoughtfulness of planning a Make Nine again. That process of choosing makes that coordinate well, fill gaps in my wardrobe, provide a chance to develop a new skill or tackle a new challenge.

And so without further waffle, here is my #MakeNine2019:

The patterns are:

Row 1

Butterick 6497 – I want to make the short jacket version in some lovely grey leopard print wool mix coating I have ordered from Fabric Godmother

Liesl & Co Hollywood trousers – to be made first as a wearable toile in some checked / plaid fabric I have in my stash and then, once I have the fit sorted, I’d love a grey wool pair

Closet Case Sophie Swimsuit – I have the online course for this and the fabric waiting in my stash, I just need to sort out all the many notions needed for a swimsuit. Which is why I have had said online course and fabric for about six months already…

Row 2

Closet Case Ginger jeans with the flare extension – I made the Ginger jeans as part of my Make Nine 2018 and love them. Why mess with perfection?! Hence this year I want to channel a full 70s vibe and make a flared pair in a blue-tinged grey corduroy. Just need to find actual blue-tinged grey corduroy with the required touch of stretch

Papercut Sierra Jumpsuit – I loved the first two Papercut Patterns I tried (the Bellatrix Blazer and the Coppelia Cardy) and as soon as I saw the new Sierra jumpsuit I ordered it in the Black Friday sale. I want to make the short version, with my current thoughts being a pale / china blue linen. One for the summer then!

Athina Kakou Abi jumpsuit – seems I have a jumpsuit theme going on. I’m not sure what fabric I want for this yet, although I suspect navy will play a starring role.

Row 3

Orange Marlborough bra – this falls squarely in the “expanding my skills / challenging” category” referred to above. A bit like the Sophie swimsuit. In fact I’m hoping these two patterns will be complimentary so that making one will help with the other.

Style Arc Cindi jean jacket – I’m keen to make a jean jacket that suits my style, and I think this one ticks multiple boxes. Possibly in a pale pink, pale grey or white denim. Rocking my 80s inner child, then.

Designer Stitch Jenny dress – I love so many of the Named Kielo dresses I have seen people make but just haven’t been sure whether that exact pattern would suit me. I think the bust darts and woven fabric combo of this Jenny dress might work well for my shape, hence its place on my Make Nine. I’ve also realised over the last year how much I enjoy and instinctively choose dresses over separates. In my book they are instant, easy, stylish and coordinated outfits. No worrying if the top is the right length / flattering with / sits nicely over the skirt or trousers. A day dress definitely needed to be included on my Make Nine.

Now for the same problem I remember from last year – stopping at nine.

I certainly made more than nine things last year (understatement, I can hear my husband thinking). But the grid looks so nice and neat with just nine things. Not to mention the clue in the name Make Nine.

So I’m just going to drop a Supplementary Seven here and saunter away, whistling nonchalantly.

  • A certain pattern I’m about to pattern test from one of my favourite indie pattern companies
  • Designer Stitch Harper trousers, which look to me like something uber comfortable whilst still being fitting, flattering and would work with a lot of my wardrobe
  • Itch to Stitch Beausoleil top, as this looks lovely and I am utterly sold on cup sized patterns
  • Itch to Stitch Beausoleil dress – the eagle eyed amongst you will spot this is the same as the above. Only the dress view. Once I get the fit right for this pattern I know I will want a dress version as well as the top
  • Hålla Patterns Madeleine top, which looks like my perfect cowl neck top
  • Hålla Patterns Madeleine dress. See above for my comments on the Beausoleil top vs dress
  • Deer and Doe Belladone Dress. Or the Zépher dress. Or the Chataigne shorts. Basically, after making and massively loving the Lupin jacket in 2018, I’m definitely going to be making another Deer and Doe pattern this year
  • My Lupin jacket in navy faux leather from Girl Charlee, worn with my Freya dress from Tilly and the Buttons’ Stitch book

    Let’s see how I go, shall we?!

    Make Nine – looking back at my plans for 2018

    Happy 2019 everyone!

    One of the earlier posts from when I started this blog last year was about my Make Nine plans.

    It was relatively early in my sewing adventures (I started sewing in June 2017) so today, the 1st of January 2019, I was interested to go back and read my post from around this time last year. And to remind myself what I had actually put in my Make Nine grid! Turns out I didn’t really look at it again after sometime early summer and hadn’t a clue what was on it. Hmmm.

    But it turns out – more by luck than good management – I more or less made almost all of my Make Nine from 2018, or at least if you use a relatively flexible definition of ‘substitution’ anyway…

    Here is my original grid from last year:

    From this I made:

    Closest Case Sasha trousers in place of the Sew Over it Ultimate trousers, as I realized the Sasha pattern would suit me better. Blog post about my Sasha trousers

    Ogden Cami – I’ve made two of these. I haven’t got what I consider the perfect version yet, so I have some drapey georgette ready to make a further version in the summer, in the hope that this works better. Ogden blog post

    Thurlow trousers – these are the only ones I can’t really claim to have made. I got as far as making a toile of the shorts but never finished the main event. One for this year perhaps? However, I now have the Liesl & Co Hollywood trousers lined up, so the Thurlow may get left for another time.

    Papercut Coppelia Cardy – I have made three and a half of these. Half, you query? Take a look here: A bit of a fail

    Papercut Bellatrix Blazer – I made two of these and love them. The navy one in particular has had a lot of wear, especially as it goes so well with the Tilly and the Buttons Joni dress I made in navy stretch velvet. Bellatrix blog post

    New Look 6344 – another one that I substituted. I wasn’t sure if the shape and fit of this New Look pattern would really work on me, but I found a pattern from How to Do Fashion (a free pattern too, details in this blog post: Free patterns I want to try ) which looked much better for my shape, so I went with that one instead. I’ve made two so far and will definitely be making more when summer comes.

    New Look 6390 – a partial tick here. I made the cropped jacket and was very pleased with it as the first jacket I ever made, and a lined one to boot. First blog post about the jacket and Second blog about the jacket I didn’t make the dress from this pattern though as I found the Nina Lee Kew dress instead, which is awesome. Three of those made so far! Here is a post about three dresses, one of which is the Kew dress: Kew dress and others

    By Hand London Rumana coat – as predicted I left this till late in the year, so my sewing skills had improved a bit by the time I tackled this. And I am beyond thrilled with the result. I even added in a few more construction techniques, including interlining with cotton flannel, adding shoulder pads, and using more interfacing and stay stitching than the pattern called for. This has been my go to winter coat since I completed it and I love the fact that I made it! I haven’t blogged about it yet, nor taken proper photos, but here are some I took straight after finishing. Still wearing my gym gear. Not quite the look the coat calls for.

    Closet Case Ginger jeans – I made these following the online accompanying course that I bought from Closet Case during a 30% off sale. It was a fantastic course and helped me to make a pair of jeans that I love and fit pretty damn well for my first foray into the world of jeans.

    Ginger jeans blog post

    I have plans to make a pair of corduroy jeans, using the flare extension pack. I just need to find the perfect material, preferably a smoky blue / grey colour.

    So all in all, for my first Make Nine I’m pretty happy with what I managed to make.

    Looking back over the year I’m also really amazed and pleased at the other makes and developments in my sewing, such as tackling Style Arc and Burda patterns, making a men’s shirt with all the bells and whistles (including collar stays) trying new (to me) independent pattern companies and getting more confident with the instructions for the Big Four, getting to know the sort of pattern adjustments I generally need to make to patterns, taking part in a few of the sewing community challenges such as Me Made May and the Cosy Cardy Challenge, and doing some pattern testing for Nina Lee and Megan Nielsen, which I enjoyed hugely.

    Now, onto the fun of planning my Make Nine 2019!

    My new favourite dress – New Look 6000

    I should be writing about all the clothes I made to take with me on my recent trip to Australia, which, given it was winter when I was there, meant I effectively got in early with creating my autumn wardrobe (Audrobe, as Rachel from the Stitch Sisters brilliantly named such a thing).

    And I will get around to doing that, I promise. I just have to take about a million photos of it all first…

    But this dress has vaulted to the front of the blogging queue. I finished it yesterday, wore it last night and am pleased beyond words with how it turned out.

    It is the New Look 6000:

    Clearly a very popular pattern going by the number of reviews on the Pattern Review website and also numerous other bloggers who have made and posted about this dress, such as Sewmanju and Handmade Jane.

    I bought this pattern last year, but it only goes up to a 16 with fairly small measurements, which I wasn’t at the time and I didn’t feel confident with my grading skills back then. Now my measurements are a lot closer to the pattern’s ones and I decided if I made it in ponte roma with a bit of a bust adjustment it would probably fit ok. And it did! Hooray!

    It is a figure hugging, snug fit but that is what I was after. For this sort of dress (and dresses generally) they suit me better when fitted rather than a bit loose.

    I really wanted to sew it with all the trimming, hence I went for view C with the collar, the cuffs and the sunburst-looking pleats. I’m so pleased I did as I love the way they have all turned out.

    The pattern is for wovens, but it does list double knits as one of the suggested fabrics. The sewing instructions are decent, but they are aimed at the woven option so I made a few changes to take advantage of the easier nature of using ponte:

    • I knew I wouldn’t need the zip so I eliminated the back seam allowance and cut the back piece on the fold instead. The dress is fine to get on by pulling over my head. I also eliminated the back vent by doing this, but again, being jersey the dress is fine for walking in without it.
    • I sewed the back collar pieces together (straightening off the slight pointed edge as I serged) because of the above change, as I couldn’t work out whether it would sit properly with the separate pointed collar bits if the back seam wasn’t there. Next time I will probably just redraft the two collar pieces to be all one piece and smooth out the line around the back of the neck more.
    • I sewed it on my overlocker save for the darts and pleats, which I did on my normal sewing machine (using the stretch stitch for the pleats).
    • I added some stabilising ribbon to the shoulder seams to stop them stretching out wth wear.
    • I didn’t stay stitch the neck as I wasn’t sure if it would need to stretch to get over my head without the zip. Turns out it doesn’t need to stretch so I would probably stay stitch it next time, although being jersey I didn’t need to follow the instructions for clipping the edges when attaching the collar, so maybe the stay stitching isn’t needed anyway.
    • I sewed the sleeves in flat and didn’t need to do the ease stitching as I just pinned and then stretched the dress shoulder seam as I overlocked so the pieces matched up.
    • I then sewed each sleeve and dress side seam in one continuous line, like sewing any other jersey top or dress.
    • I didn’t use the neck facings in the end as I felt they would be too bulky, plus I discovered you can’t see the overlocked seam when the dress is on. I will probably get around to adding bias binding to the seam at some point though, just so it looks pretty on the inside!
    • The seam allowance edges of the pleats were a bit bulky when all pressed downwards as per the instructions, so I pressed the top 3 up and the bottom 3 down, which looked much better.
    • I used a twin needle to under stitch the cuff seam allowance, to help keep this in place. I also found the cuff edges (where they meet on the sleeve seam) didn’t sit together as neatly or closely as I wanted, so I put a few hand stitches there to hold everything in place. This also helped to keep the seam allowance tucked away inside the sleeve.
    • I used a twin needle for the hem.

    Because of these various changes and omissions, this dress was really quick to sew up. As in, it took a couple of hours or so after cutting out the fabric. Not including the time it took for hand sewing the buttons, which I am not the fastest at doing!

    Apart from the above, the only changes I made to the pattern were to grade out slightly alongside the bust (curving it out only by 1cm (1/2″) or so) and using 1cm (3/8″) seam allowance on the side seams.

    I think I would probably need to make a formal full bust adjustment if I were to sew this up in a woven, and probably give a little more room at the waist and hips, but the above all worked great when using jersey.

    Ok, photo overload time:

    Please excuse all the different lighting! My usual spot for taking photos was too sunny and hence I toured the house trying to find other spots (that had vaguely tidy backgrounds!)

    And yet more photos:

    A close up of the collar and pleats

    The overlocked seam for the collar, which you can’t see when the dress is on


    The only other change I will make to the pattern is to take a wedge out of the back neckline (and collar piece) as it gapes a bit there.

    I love the slightly vintage nod of this dress. I feel like I am slightly rocking my inner 1960s air stewardess when I wear it!

    I very much want to sew more of these dresses. Can I make them all view C though?! It’s a pretty distinctive dress but I can’t help wanting one in every colour! I have this lovely stretch cotton sateen:

    that would be awesome in view C for wearing to a wedding. And I do have a wedding to go to next weekend…

    Ten free sewing patterns I’m keen to try

    I have added quite a few (ahem, possibly ‘few’ is not the right word…) patterns to my stash since I started sewing last summer. I’m gradually making my way through them, although there are undoubtedly ones I won’t ever make, including some that came free with sewing magazines but just aren’t my kind of look. And then there is the random dog jacket pattern that came with one magazine….

    But sometimes I can get a bit carried away with the excitement of buying a new pattern and need to reign myself in a tad.

    So when I come across a free pattern that is my kind of style, it is such a bonus! A guilt-free way to get hold of a new and exciting pattern to try out. Plus it is a great way to try the patterns from a new (to me) pattern company, to see how I get on with their fit, style, instructions etc.

    I thought I would share my list of ten that I am making my way through gradually.

    By the way, I am using the word ‘free’ to mean I also didn’t have to pay for an item with which the pattern then comes free. E.g. I’m not including patterns that come with sewing magazines (dog jackets or otherwise) as you have to pay for the magazine. Equally I’m not including the free pdf pattern you can get when you buy a Style Arc pattern from their website, as again you have to pay for the first pattern. (But how much do I love Style Arc for this freebie system?!)

    So here we go

    1. Danmark top from How to do Fashion.

    You need to sign up to the newsletter and then you get this fantastic pattern free. For the first five days after you have received it you also get a daily email with how to hack the top in different ways, including adding frill sleeves, a cowl neck and adding it to a skirt pattern to make a dress.

    This is the free pattern that just keeps on giving. Plus you can make version 1 (and probably v2 I would guess) with less than a metre of 150cm wide fabric.

    It is a beautiful top, wonderfully sculpted with fisheye darts at the back and front plus bust darts, a lovely boat neckline and no closures! I would say it needs a drapey fabric to skim the body nicely. It worked really well in the viscose material I used. It has facings for the neck and also the armholes, but you could choose to use bias binding instead, or for the grown on sleeves I think you could probably hem them similarly to the Anna sleeves from By Hand London.

    I highly recommend this pattern and have already made a second one of the standard version (tweaking my full bust adjustment a bit from the version in the photos), plus I have plans to make a cowl neck version and one with the frill / ruffle sleeves.

    2. Flouncy Bouncy Skirt from Sew So Easy

    This is such a fun and quick sew, made from jersey fabric and using elastic for the waist, but without creating a gathered style of elastic waist (these really don’t suit me).

    It has only two pieces and doesn’t take much time at all to cut and stick the pdf. Or to cut the fabric for that matter! You get a nice flat, flush waistline and a floaty skirt. What more could you ask for?!

    I added a little length at the back, grading to nothing at the side as a bit of a cheat’s full bottom adjustment. Seeing as how my rear does actually stick out more than my stomach!

    3. The Acacia pants from Megan Nielsen

    As with the Danmark top, you need to sign up to Megan’s newsletter to then get this free pattern (the link to do this is just below the pattern pictures and quantity box at the above link). And you also get further free patterns, including the Veronica skirt which looks great and will no doubt get printed and made up at some point too.

    I have the PDF all cut out ready to go for these and have high hopes that I won’t be needing to buy RTW pants in future!

    4. Mandy boat tee from Tessuti

    This is a loose fitting bodice / slim fitting armed tee shirt that comes as a one size fits all pattern . I assume this means it may not actually fit all as drafted but should get there with a bit of size grading. It will also fit with different amounts of ease depending on your own size and shape.

    This looks like a lovely pattern and great for making some wardrobe workhorses to go with jeans and pencil skirts etc. I have some grey and mauve / lilac stripey viscose from the Fabric Store lined up ready for making this one.

    5. Slim Dolman top from Hallå Patterns

    This pattern (plus several others) comes free if you join Hallå’s Facebook page (Link here)

    There are lots of options for sleeve lengths, cuff and lots of colour blocking opportunities.

    It has the same piece for front and back bodice, but as I am most certainly not the same in the front and back (understatement!) I plan to trace off a second copy of the front / back pattern piece) and do an FBA for this piece to make it solely for the front and then kept the original piece to use as the back.

    Hallå also has a free dress (again through signing up to their Facebook page) called the Agnes.

    6. Jessica dress from Mimi G

    This is free when you sign up to the email list and can I just say I absolutely love the style of this dress. However, I haven’t made it myself yet as it has a lot of similarities to the Nina Lee Kew dress, which I adore and have made two of already.

    As I usually need to make fairly time consuming full bust (and sway back, armhole position, sometimes forward shoulder…) adjustments to any pattern involving a bodice, once I’ve got a well fitting pattern working for me, I don’t tend to want to go through the same lengthy process again for a pattern which is reasonably similar. (Hence why I wasn’t going to be getting the Tilly and the Buttons Seren dress or the Closet Case Fiona dress, much as I love these two pattern houses and would normally be all over these two releases. And then the Seren pattern fell into my basket during Tilly’s sale…)

    So whilst I can’t yet speak for this dress personally, if you like the look of it I would absolutely give it a try! Mimi G does a sew along for it as well, also at the above link.

    7. Kimono tee from Maria Denmark

    This is free when you sign up to the newsletter. I have actually printed this out but haven’t yet stuck the pdf together. I’m sure I will make this up at some point though as it looks like a really useful top to be a staple wardrobe piece.

    I have made one other pattern from Maria Denmark so far (the yoke skirt) and have had the Karen Drape dress pattern printed at the online copy shop I use (Print Your Pattern) ready to sew up in the Autumn.

    8. Marie wrap skirt from Rosy Peña patterns

    I am absolutely going to make this one just as soon as I can get it to the top of my sewing queue! It looks all wafty and beautiful and is free if you sign up to the newsletter (the button to do this is below the pattern photos and quantity box in the link).

    And finally, Itch to Stitch has three Free patterns, two of which look my style:

    9. Top of my list is the Lindy petal skirt which looks to be a great wardrobe staple and quick to construct, being jersey.

    10. They also have the Uvita top, which I suspect I’ll give a go at some point!

    Anyway, I hope some of these catch your eye. If you give them a go let me know how they turn out and please do post below with any other great free patterns that you have come across – the more guilt-free, free patterns the better!

    The joys of a multi cup sized pattern

    I started sewing a year ago and fell in love with it utterly and completely.

    One of the reasons for starting sewing was down to how hard it was becoming to find nice clothes that fitted my busty, somewhat larger than I wanted (I’m getting that in hand, slowly!) hourglass shape properly.

    It quickly transpired that getting a good fit when sewing a pattern would involve doing an FBA – a full bust adjustment. I have gradually been getting better at these, with the fit of each garment improving as I progress. I’ve worked out that my particular body anomaly (one of them, anyway…) is whilst I sometimes match the bust, waist and hip measurements all for the same size, it still won’t actually fit at the bust. I am narrow across my back and carry a disproportionate amount of the measurement across the bust itself. At a 34J this probably shouldn’t have been a surprise!

    Hence I am much better off choosing the pattern size based on my high bust (which is 5.5″ less than my full bust) and then doing an FBA as well as adjusting the waist and hips. And then doing my now standard sway back adjustment.

    I have read and watched countless tutorials, blogs, you tube videos and books on bust adjustments and feel I am slowly getting better with each one I do.

    But of course all this means it takes quite a while to prep the pattern before I can even start cutting out. No wonder I like making patterns up multiple times, as they are a real time investment for me, not to mention the process of tweaking and improving the fit each time I make the pattern.

    All this is a rather rambly preamble about my recent make, the Recital shirt from Liesl and Co. Which comes with that holy grail of things, multi cup sizes.

    There are a few companies that do these, for example Cashmerette, the Simplicity Amazing Fit patterns, a few Vogue patterns, Charmed Patterns which is Gertie’s own pattern company but only has two patterns so far (I have made the Rita blouse, which is lovely), and Itch to Stitch and Scroop Patterns do some of their pattern this way, but not all. I’m sure there are more out there, please do let me know of any others!

    Whilst I am resigned to doing FBAs on most patterns, it is just so lovely when I don’t have to! Or at least when I only need to do a small FBA from starting with the biggest cup size included.

    So when I decided I wanted to make a fitted classic white shirt, one of the things I looked out for was patterns that included bigger cup sizes. I narrowed it down to the Harrison shirt from Cashmerette and the Recital shirt from Liesl. They both have princess seams but it was the unusual ruffle collar on the Recital pattern that swung it for me. I loved that this looks a bit like a woman’s version of a dress shirt / tuxedo shirt. The other pattern option is the full tuxedo collar and pin tuck front.

    The fabric I used is quite a thick cotton, comparatively speaking. It has worked well for this shirt but with the current, glorious heatwave in the UK, I won’t be wearing this shirt any time soon! At least it is waiting patiently in my wardrobe for when Autumn appears.

    I’m pleased with the buttons I chose for this, with just a little bit of a detail to compliment the style of the shirt but not too over the top.

    The instructions for this pattern were very good on the whole and it all came together nicely. I did find one bit confusing though, the instructions for sewing part of the cuff. I am almost certain that there is an error in these instructions (or I’m an idiot), as if you follow them you simply can’t turn the cuff out properly. I unpicked it all and resewed it the way that made sense to me, which seemed to do the trick. Annoyingly, I realised the error after I’d already trimmed and graded the seams, so had to do a bit of fudging when re-sewing it at the corners to deal with what otherwise would have been frayed edges.

    Here is my note to myself for the next time I make this:

    Basically don’t do the bit I’ve put in square brackets!

    I took one inch of length off the sleeves before cutting out the fabric and then the other change I made, fitting as I went along, was to take more in underneath the bust. As drafted the pattern is more straight fitting down the torso, but with the princess seams it is fairly easy to scoop more out if you want a fitted shirt that goes in under the bust. The back shaping from the darts is really lovely too.

    I’m now really happy with the fit of this shirt and have marked my changes onto the pattern pieces, all ready for the next one. I’m thinking a nice blue and white stripe…

    Winner of the Mayfair dress pattern by Nina Lee

    Thank you very much to everyone who entered the competition I put up on my blog last week, I truly wish you could have all won!

    After putting everyone’s names in a hat…

    Said hat

    And letting my children pick out a name…

    The winner is Rachel!

    With this comment:

    So congratulations Rachel, please can you email me your postal address (to tailoredbykate @ and I will get the pattern out in the post to you.

    Just in case Rachel doesn’t get in touch by this time next Saturday (21st July) I did get my children to draw a back up winner. Mostly so they could each have a turn at drawing a name and hence save the inevitable arguments if only one got to do it…

    Happy sewing everyone!

    The New Mayfair dress from Nina Lee – and a giveaway

    If you haven’t seen this newly released pattern yet, here is a photo from the Nina Lee site, in all its sartorial glory:

    Link to PDF pattern from Nina Lee website

    I love my Nina Lee Kew dress and so when I got an email to say that Nina was looking for testers for her new pattern I leapt at the chance. I was excited about the chance to sew the new dress and also to be a pattern tester, something I haven’t done before.

    So I have been waiting patiently to post about this gorgeous new dress ever since I finished it. And here it is, with flattering waist ties and lovely details at the neckline and bodice, giving it almost a Grecian feel in the slinky blue fabric I used from my stash. That I now wish I had bought more of! I think it was from Minerva Crafts, must see if they still have it in stock…

    The lovely pleating detail at the back neckline

    I found the testing process so interesting, a behind the scenes look at this stage of how a pattern is released. Nina was excellent at explaining what she needed us to do, which is not surprising given how brilliantly she explains things in her pattern instructions. Hmmm, I am doing a bit of fan girl gushing here I know, but honestly the instructions are superb and I found the pattern drafting to be well done, with everything lining / truing up where it should etc.

    The dress is for knits and the instructions include an A4 page of tips for sewing with jersey. I’ve sewn a fair bit with jersey in recent months and can vouch for these tips distilling lots of the useful info I’ve come across previously, plus a few new (to me) bits as well. Obviously it doesn’t go into the book-length detail of Tilly and the Buttons’ book “Stretch” (a brilliant book, in case you don’t already have it), but it was impressive just how much info Nina has managed to include.

    The diagrams and construction instructions are also top notch. The handful of bits that needed tweaking were picked up in the testing process so all will be nice and clear in the final released version of the pattern.

    I made the short sleeve, knee length version, but there is also a maxi version plus a three quarter sleeve and full length sleeve option. I’ve already worn it out twice and have felt great in it, even receiving compliments from total strangers!

    So anyway, here are a few photos of me in the dress. (I’ve recently bought a cheap tripod and remote for my phone in an attempt to take slightly better photos than my previous dodgy-looking selfies. So hopefully you can now see more details in these photos – and a bit more of me, gulp, you lucky things you.)

    I am a big fan of sending my PDF patterns to a copy shop for printing (, for preference, but are great too) as I can’t be bothered with the time and frustration of sticking A4 versions together. No matter what I do I always end up with pages that won’t line up with each other, usually at a fairly fundamental part! But the timings of this testing meant it would work better to crack on and stick it together myself, so I tried a technique from Itch to Stitch that someone linked to on the Fold line Facebook group (a big thank you to whoever that was!). It worked brilliantly! The best PDF sticking I’ve ever managed. Here is the link if you are interested in trying it out yourself:

    Itch to Stitch tip for easier PDF assembly

    Anyway, Nina has very kindly sent me a hard copy of the pattern to give away.

    I’m pretty new to this blogging thing and don’t have many readers / followers, but I would love to be able to give this pattern to someone in the sewing world who would enjoy making and wearing it, as I don’t really know anyone IRL who sews. So if anyone out there is reading and would like to have this pattern, please leave a comment below. If more than one person comments I’ll do some sort of random draw thing. Possibly involving the help of my young children. What could possibly go wrong…

    I will list the winner on this blog next Saturday (14th July).

    Right, I’m off to work out what other fabric I have lurking in my stash that I can turn into another Mayfair 😁

    Tackling Style Arc

    I’ve noticed the name Style Arc and seen pictures of some super looking patterns popping up on blogs and review sites for a while now. Several of the designs look very much my kind of style.

    But… All the reviews I read always mention how tricky / sparse the instructions are. So I knew that as a beginner sewist I would need to wait for my skills to improve a fair bit more, before trying out Style Arc for myself.

    I decided recently that perhaps, just perhaps, I might be ready to tackle one. Nothing crazy like a jacket or full on button up shirt mind you, I’m not insane. But say a top, skirt or a dress with similar looking construction to ones I’ve already done.

    To save actually having to make a decision on which of those three types to buy, I bought one of each type 😁. For thorough, scientific investigation purposes of course.

    I chose:

    The Mindi skirt (after my last post about my hunt for the perfect casual skirt)

    The Cate’s Cousin top

    The Heather dress

    One quirk of the Style Arc set up is that when buying the pattern you specify your size. If buying a hard copy direct from Style Arc, you just get that size. If buying a PDF you get that size plus the one above and the one below, but all in separate PDFs i.e. not nested together. You can also get some hard copy patterns from Amazon and Minerva Crafts and those ones have the range of sizes all in one pack (I think they split their vey decent range of sizes across two options for these packs).

    They also don’t have the A0 / copyshop versions as part of the PDF option, only an A4. Now whilst I’m slowly becoming a bit more prepared to stick PDFs together (after seeing this brilliant tip from Itch to Stitch ) I still prefer sending large patterns off to an online print shop. But if you email Style Arc once you’ve purchased the PDF, they are happy to send you the A0 file by email. Wonderful customer service. And apparently they are also working on providing nested sizes on their PDF patterns at some point in the future, which will be great for ease of grading between sizes.

    Oh, and if you buy a PDF pattern via the Style Arc site, you get to choose one free pattern from a choice of two different options each month. Bonus!

    Anyway, on to the patterns themselves!

    I have made two of the three patterns so far, with the Heather dress waiting patiently in the queue.

    First up I made the Mindi skirt in some gorgeous electric blue denim from Sew Me Sunshine . It has a slight stretch which I thought would help with the fit / wearing.

    The instructions are indeed sparse, but the pattern is super well drafted, which helps immensely. Everything lines up where it should. The seam allowances are smaller than most of the other patterns I’ve been sewing, but I’m getting used to these and in some ways they are easier (eg for princess seams) and of course help save a little fabric. Just be careful clipping your notches!

    I wanted to have the zip on the pockets fully exposed so I stuck the two pattern pieces together at the stitch line and cut them as a whole, then used the windowpane method (a bit like making a welt pocket) to insert the zip. I had seen someone’s tutorial on how to do this ages ago, but of course couldn’t find it when I searched for it again. So I had to guess how to do it based on my rather foggy memory of the tutorial!

    My practice version, using interfacing bumpy side up on top of right side of fabric, sewn around in the box lines I marked, cut down the middle, turned through and then ironed into place, holding everything in neatly

    Anyway, unsurprisingly I got it a bit wrong with the cutting line for the first pocket. I cut through both of the 1/4″ marks I made at each end, all the way to the end of the box I had marked for stitching, when I should have left these small bits uncut. So as you can see, the first pocket has a gap at the end of the zip, showing the hole between the zip tape.

    Grrr. I considered redoing the whole pocket but in the end decided that you really wouldn’t see this aspect as the pocket then sits against the denim of the skirt anyway, which masks it a bit.

    The second pocket I got spot on, thankfully.

    Well, for the zip installation anyway. The other thing that I didn’t quite get right for this skirt is the pointy top corner of the pocket. I didn’t turn each side of the seam allowance under properly somehow, so you can see a few threads of the raw edge a bit.

    I’ll have to work out how to do that better for next time. Although I probably won’t always put the pockets on every time I make this skirt as they give it a very distinctive look that I might not want multiple versions of. But the skirt is a super fit and I love the seam lines and curved waistband.

    I can see this becoming my go to skirt pattern for a short or knee length straight skirt.

    Right, onto the Cate’s Cousin top. This is a super quick make, as you would expect from a jersey pattern.

    I used some slinky viscose / poly (I think) jersey from my stash that I got from Minerva Crafts. It was perfect for this top, you definitely need something with good drape. I also used this fabric for the faux wrap, panelled skirt version I made of the Aldaia dress by Pauline Alice.

    Again, very spartan instructions, but you can work them out with a bit of careful re-reading and it helps if you’ve made other jersey tops before (like my four Agnes tops for starters…). The only thing I’m not sure I got right is attaching the back neckband. The instructions just say “Attach the back neck binding” or something along those lines. There is a note to refer to the mini guides on the Style Arc website for help if needed, but the web address given is just to the general site, not a link to the specific tutorial. And there isn’t a tutorial with the exact name of the technique as it is called in the instructions. There is one with instructions for different bindings, but none leap out as the exact one needed for this top, or at least if there is then it isn’t clear – they seem more appropriate to woven fabrics. Maybe that’s just me though. In the end I just used the technique from the Valencia top from New Horizons. However, I think the Style Arc pattern is designed to have the whole of the neckband turned under, rather than just the seam allowance. The notch for where you turn the front facing under didn’t quite line up for me, but I think it would if the neckband were completely turned under. I’ll give that a whirl next time!

    The skirt I am wearing here is also a Mindi skirt – I hacked this one a little to remove the front exposed zip and put in a concealed zip at the back instead (no pockets as per my plans mentioned above). I used some awesome purple coated denim, also from Sew Me Sunshine

    Anyway, I am so thrilled with this top and have immediate plans to make many more in every colour. Well, every colour I actually wear. So that would be blue, pink, purple and grey then! Oh, and I am starting to venture into white. I know, I’m just so adventurous.

    So there we go – a challenge, a few errors, but my first experience of Style Arc has left me with a skirt and top I absolutely love.

    #sewtogetherforthesummer – Erica from Seamwork

    Well, after leaving things till the 11th hour, I finally got my act together and made a wrap dress for the #sewtogetherforthrsummer sewing event.

    I had started out nice and early, picking and buying the Orsola pattern from By Hand London way back in April. I made a proper toile (go me!), marked it up and adjusted the pattern, made a second toile of the bodice. And then stopped. I don’t really know why. A combination of other things jumping the queue that I wanted to sew more or needed sooner, plus a feeling that the Orsola just might not be the best pattern for me. So time ticked on, I occasionally popped onto Instagram and saw beautiful wrap dresses appearing in abundance, but still couldn’t motivate myself to make my proper Orsola.

    (Look, an actual muslin! Which is as far as my Orsola got)

    Ah well, I thought, I’ll join in properly next year, best laid plans and all that.

    But then at the weekend I saw the message that there were five days to go till #sewtogetherforthesummer ended. More stunning wrap dresses adorned my Instagram feed. I thought sod it, I’ll just choose another dress.

    After a bit of searching I found a fab looking wrap dress which had floaty frill around it, view C of McCall’s 7745:

    That looked more the ticket, the extra bit of detail that I felt I needed. As an hourglass shape wrap dresses really should work on me. But so often I find they make me look all pointy and even larger busted, as a result of the position where the crossover sits. Or they just feel a bit plain. Or they don’t give enough definition just above the waist, which is my smallest bit. Or they gape. And the list goes on.

    But that is the point of sewing of course, to learn to make (and adapt) the right pattern in the way that fits me and deals with all of these things.

    The problem was that having left it so late, the M7745 pattern being hard copy only, wouldn’t arrive in time. Boo. (Of course I ordered it anyway to make another time 😁)

    So plan B (actually we are up to plan C now, aren’t we) was to use one of my Seamwork credits on the PDF Erica dress.

    I didn’t want the midi length though, or long sleeves, but these are easy enough to change.

    I also needed to do a full bust adjustment and decided to do this by leaving in the dart, in the hope this would give the shaping that works best for my figure.

    Finally, a sway back adjustment and a small bit of grading out at waist and hips and my list of pattern adjustments was complete.

    When it came to the sewing, there are a few more fiddly-ish details for the Erica than a ‘standard’ jersey sew. The method for sewing the neckline involves sewing elastic to the finished seam allowance of the neckband piece before it is sewn to the dress. I gave it a go but am not sure I will do it this way again. I would probably use clear elastic next time and serge / overlock it straight on when sewing, to save a step or three. Or just use the method for attaching the neckband on the Coppelia cardy (Papercut Patterns) where you stretch the band slightly as you sew it on, which has the same effect of stopping gaping at the neckline.

    I also made a couple of annoying mistakes when sewing this dress, probably related to the aforementioned 11th hour! I realized that I had sewn one set of the front neckband pieces to the back neckband with the shaping swooping outwards rather than the horseshoe shape it should be. I had to unpick and resew that. I also cut and sewed the waist hole bit on both sides of the bodice rather than just the one. Sigh. More unpicking using a larger seam allowance when sewing that seam to get around the superfluous snip I had made up to the circle on that side.

    But once all assembled at last, I tried it on. And it looked awful. Possibly as a result of my FBA on a wrap piece not being done the right way (I winged it 🤣) or just the pattern needing further adjustment for my shape, there was a huge flappy pouchy bit hanging down from the bodice between bust and waist. Not flattering at all.

    In an attempt to fix this and save the dress I pinched out and pinned two waist darts and also the excess bit of bodice fabric along the waist line. I basted them to see if they were roughly right (by this stage “finished and wearable” was all I was aiming for!), tweaked them a bit more then sewed them up.

    Unsurprisingly, given that I made these last changes once the dress was already sewn up (save for the hemming), the fit still isn’t quite right but it’s not bad and I think this dress will still be useful as a functional work dress.

    Here are a few photos of the finished article:

    And I may try this pattern again once I’ve fully worked out (and worked on) the problems with the bodice.

    But what I am really looking forward to is my floaty frilly pattern arriving!

    A summer dress

    I’ve become a bit of a sewing magazine junkie. I have a subscription to three of them at the moment (Love Sewing, Sew and Threads) and from time to time one of the other titles ends up jumping into my shopping basket too. No idea how that happens.

    The patterns that come free with the magazines aren’t always my style, but sometimes it’s good to go outside your comfort zone, or they become tests of how I can hack them to better suit the looks I like. Plus it is just indulgent fun to sit with a magazine and a cup of coffee in a spare moment.

    Anyway, guilty pleasure confessions aside, I’ve just finished making the pattern that came with the last issue of Love Sewing (McCalls 7543).

    I made view D but I did an FBA to add bust darts for fit and shaping reasons, used the straps from view A (for bra strap coverage!) and shortened it by a few inches.

    (Please excuse the threads on the carpet, I need to hoover it after finishing sewing for the day!)

    I also added the waist ties as designs like this tend to look too boxy or even nightdress-like on me without some shaping and definition at the waist. I just cut two long lengths from the remaining fabric and sewed them up in the same manner as the shoulder straps. They ended up pretty long so I may cut them down a bit, although I like the way I can wrap them all the way round so they may stay as is!

    This photo shows what it would look like without the ties:

    I had to underline it with cotton voile as the fabric was a bit see through. It has given it a more structured look which I like in the skirt section and think I can just about get away with in the bodice, as I think it is just shy of the ‘too stiff’ category. I used this magic stuff to keep the two pieces of fabric together whilst sewing them up as one:

    I’m very happy with how it’s turned out and I’m now tempted to try the view A top with the flutter sleeves as I think that would be nice with jeans or a denim skirt etc. I would still add the ties but probably shorter ones for a top version. I have a nice blue and red fine striped fabric in my stash that is beautifully soft and drapey, but again a bit sheer so I might need to self line it. Hopefully that would still preserve the drape and not make it too firm.

    All in all a very handy dress for summer (looking glumly at the greyness outside…).

    My hunt for the perfect casual skirt

    When I started sewing in the summer of 2017, skirts were some of the first things I made. I started with the Dominique from Tilly and the Buttons, as a beginner pattern and part of Tilly’s online courses that I took to learn to sew. I was a bit larger then and knew that my figure was not best suited to elastic waisted skirts (it still isn’t!). But in the spirit of learning, I made this one: (terrible pattern matching / placement!)

    I then discovered the Delphine skirt from Love at First Stitch, (you guessed it, also a Tilly pattern!) and really liked this pattern, making several. My favourite is this one:

    But having lost a reasonable bit of weight since, they no longer fit well. Again, with my figure I need things to be fitted around my waist or I look a lot bigger than I actually am. Plus I like the more fitted look (I’m a ‘classic romantic’ for anyone else who has done the House of Colour style day thing). I’m also now not sure if the exaggerated A line of that pattern really works for me, or at least I know I don’t just want another four Delphines in smaller sizes. Maybe just one though…

    So the challenge became to find another skirt pattern (or two, or three…) which meets the following criteria:

    ▪️ Doesn’t look like a skirt I’d wear to work (I love tailored / smart pencil skirts but I’m looking for something more casual)

    ▪️ Isn’t too dressy or vintage looking (e.g. not a circle skirt)

    ▪️ Nothing that makes my stomach or hips look bigger than they are (gathering and box pleats tend to do this although might work in the right proportions)

    ▪️ Nothing boxy, baggy or with an elastic waist (see above!)

    I started hunting through the pattern reviews on the Foldline, Pattern Review and on loads of blogs. I also looked online at patterns from all sorts of pattern companies that I have come across over the last year.

    It was one of those searches where you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, but you’ll know it when you see it!

    As the search went on (and on) I started narrowing things down to two looks: a) a denim sort of mini-ish skirt, possibly with a button or zip front, possibly slight A line but if so not too much; and b) a skirt with a yoke to keep things fitted around my waist down to high or low hip and then flaring out a bit more below that.

    For the category a), I pulled together the following shortlist:

    🔹 The Tillery skirt from Blank Slate Patterns – Tillery skirt

    🔹 The Mindi skirt from Style Arc – Mindi skirt

    🔹 The Goldie skirt also from Style Arc – Goldie skirt

    🔹 Extra sharp pencil skirt from Liesl & Co – Pencil skirt (I know I said no pencil skirts but this one from Sew Country Chick in denim made me rethink that rule! Contrary, moi?! Denim version)

    🔹 The Danube jean skirt from Itch to Stitch – Danube skirt (I am not sure about this as while I love the skirt, I know from previous RTW skirts that a zip front on skirts can bulge out a bit over my stomach in a not terribly flattering way)

    🔹 The Lindy Petal skirt also from Itch to Stitch – Lindy skirt (which has the extra advantage of being free!)

    🔹 Haute Skinny skirt from Wardrobe by Me – Haute skirt (also a pencil skirt those eagle eyed amongst you will note! But I could perhaps use a ponte or scuba, omit the zip and use a more casual looking fabric / print…)

    For category b) I found:

    🔹 Burda pleated mini skirt 08/2017 – Burda mini skirt

    🔹 Butterick 4686 (view D) – B4686 (possibly still a bit more dressy / work looking although that could depend on what fabric I choose – it looks great on blogger Kiku Corner)

    🔹 McCall’s 7725 – M7725 (I would level off the yoke seam and hem so they are horizontal rather than diagonal. Again I’m not sure I would have thought of using this pattern without seeing this version on Pattern Review)

    🔹 The Crescent skirt from Sewaholic – Crescent skirt (I’m not sure how this would work with my hips but in theory it ought too as Sewaholic designs for pear shapes, which also does the trick for hourglasses too when it is a skirt / trouser pattern)

    🔹 The Yasmin yoke skirt from Maria Denmark – Yasmin skirt

    And then a couple of wild cards!

    🔹 The Sasha skirt from Friday Pattern Company – Sasha skirt

    🔹 The Marie wrap skirt from Rosy Peña – Marie skirt (which is free if you sign up to Rosy’s newsletter)

    🔹 The Jupe longue Ivy from Dessine moi un patron – Ivy (years ago I had a gorgeous dark green silky skirt from Monsoon that I loved and this pattern reminds me of it hugely! #Nostalgiamoments…)

    Oh the happy times I could have sewing my way through that list! Not exactly time or cost efficient though!

    Hence for now my plan is to sew:

    🔸 The Mindi from Style Arc in a gorgeous denim I got from Sew Me Sunshine – Electric blue stretch denim and if it goes well / suits me I will also make it in this coated denim – Purple coated denim

    🔸 The Lindy petal skirt from Itch to Stitch in a navy ponte, also from Sew Me Sunshine (such a dangerous shop for my bank balance!) – Navy ponte

    🔸 The Yasmin yoke shirt from Maria Denmark in I’m not quite sure what yet.

    🔸 The Jupe Longue Ivy might have to sneak in there too…

    In fact (spoiler alert) I’ve already sewn one of these four, just finishing it today. But as this (rather wordy and very short on pictures) post has already raged out of control somewhat, I’ll do a separate post about that, very soon. Does that countas a cliff-hanger?!

    Sashaying in my Sasha trousers

    Ahem. Sorry for that terrible pun. If it even counts as a pun.

    But anyway, I’ve made a pair of Sasha trousers from Closet Case patterns:

    Sasha trousers from Closet Case Patterns

    (Ha! Edited to point out the above photo isn’t me 🤣 it is the photo from the Closet Case site)

    And what an awesome pattern it is. These have been on my burgeoning ‘to make’ list ever since I finished my Ginger jeans (blog post for those here: Ginger jeans blog post )

    I loved the fit of the Gingers and read somewhere that the Sasha trousers are based on the same block. I have been wanting to sew a pair of smarter, tailored looking trousers for a while and was tossing up between the Sasha pattern and the Sew Over It Ultimate trousers. My love of the Gingers plus Heather Lou’s amazing instructions swung me towards the Sasha pattern and I’m so glad about that decision.

    Said instructions were so good that I found the construction process to be pretty smooth sailing. I’m getting a bit more confident with a fly installation, although I still have to follow the instructions in careful, minute detail!

    I omitted the rear welt pockets as this is my wearable toile pair so I didn’t want to spend all that extra time on those until I have the fit worked out. I also left out the belt loops, more or less for the same reason.

    I basted the inner leg and side seams together as Heather Lou recommends, to check the fit. I ended up reducing the seam allowance to 1cm at the waist and high hip, staying at 1.5cm to the bottom of the front pockets and then increasing to over 2.5cm on the inner and outer leg seams. Next time I think I will grade down one or possibly even two sizes down for the legs.

    I did a 1/2″ sway back adjustment to the pattern from the outset as I was sure I would need that. I’m really happy with the fit at the back so that was clearly the right thing to do.

    The fabric is a medium weight stretch piqué that I’m pretty sure I got on sale from Minerva Crafts. It is a rather vibrant candy pink but I thought sod it, I can pull this off as a pair of summer trousers. Worn with a lot of navy 😂. And as it turns out I really like their brightness. It’s good to push myself out of my comfort zone from time to time.

    Now for photo overload:

    Oh, I’ve just remembered that I followed the suggestion to sew twill tape into the sloping edge of the front pocket, but the slight bulk of the tape I used meant when I was turning over the pocket and intending to roll it so the seam was just slightly to the inside, it didn’t want to roll smoothly and was going to be bulky. I noticed though that if I left the seam showing on / rolled to the right side, the presence of the twill tape edge underneath actually made it look a bit like flat piping, nicely highlighting the pocket edge. So I went with that! Slight mistake transformed into a ‘design detail’. I love the way sewing lets you come up with (get away with) things like that 😄

    Looking at the photos of my rear (oh what fun) I think I may need to scoop the back crotch a little to do a low rear adjustment, plus adjust the thigh seam somehow. There is a little bit of baggyness at the front crotch / lower tum area, so I have already adjusted the pattern with a 3/8″ overlap at the front rise seam (on the ‘shorten / lengthen here’ line), ready for the next pair I’m planning to sew. I already have a gorgeous China / smoky blue stretch cotton drill from Sew Me Sunshine which is the most amazing online fabric store by the way, good grief the money I could spend there! Ok, that I may already have spent there…

    So there we go, I heartily commend this super pattern to you!

    Bellatrix Blazer – much more lovely than the usual image

    (Image from

    This Bellatrix:

    Link to pattern (no affiliates or anything, just a link!)

    I have had this pattern in my stash for a while, glinting at me whenever I rifle through my patterns. It is from Papercut Patterns, a New Zealand indie pattern company who also created the Coppelia cardy, of which I have made four. So far.

    I knew this pattern involved a few skills and experience I didn’t have when I first bought it and hence it has been waiting patiently for me to catch up ever since.

    With this sort of close fitting style I knew a toile would be essential. I had some satin backed crepe in my stash that I had bought online but wasn’t at all what I expected when it arrived. Much thinner and the crepe side wasn’t usable, it really did just look like the wrong side of the fabric. Hey ho, I thought, it wasn’t expensive so I just popped it in my linings drawer. However, it would be perfect to use as a toile for this, hooray.

    I read through the instructions a few times first until I was sure I had my head around how it would all come together. On that note, the instructions are generally excellent. Clear without being overly long, and good diagrams. There were a couple of bits where I thought a few more words and details might have been in order, but nothing I couldn’t work my way through with a bit of thought. And twisting the pictures back and forward and upside down a few times. These instructions are much more to my taste (is that tactful enough?!) compared my last make, my M7536 dress.

    The jacket has a lot of interfacing and I realised that I wouldn’t get a true picture of the fit with the toile unless I interfaced it too. So I figured by the time I did all the interfacing I might as well make the whole thing properly, so that it would be a wearable toile. At least it would also give me good practice for the main event and I would have something to show for all the time spent interfacing.

    I tried out block interfacing for the first time. It took ages but I think it was worth it, as the pieces held their shape well from being interfaced before being cut, plus it saved the time of cutting the fabric and the interfacing pieces separately.

    I also used a different princess seam FBA technique. For the last dress I made (referred to above) I did the standard way that FBAs are shown in the dressmaking books I have, where you measure out the required FBA amount from the fullest point of the princess seam and then blend a new curve into the upper and lower bits of the existing pattern line. But this doesn’t work so well with bigger FBAs and you can end up with a distorted curve that is more than a little pointy and gappy. Not the look I am going for…

    I did some googling and came across this brilliant tutorial:

    FBA tutorial

    I can’t recommend it highly enough. Beautifully, clearly written and it worked a treat.

    I did an FBA of 1 5/8″ to make an extra 3 1/4″ in total. I didn’t curve the side seam back in at the waist in order to give the extra room I needed there (I chose the size based on my high bust measurement, not my full bust). I also did a sway back adjustment of 1/2″. Other than those I didn’t do any other adjustments at the pattern stage.

    Oh, but I was feeling all proud of myself for remembering to alter the collar interfacing pattern piece when I did my FBA. Until I came to attach the lower jacket pieces at the lining front and found they were too short. Because I hadn’t adjusted them when I had effectively widened the upper front bodice piece as part of the FBA. Whoops. I belatedly had to adjust the pattern piece, interface more fabric and cut four new pattern pieces.

    I started by making the lining first and (apart from the above daft moment) it all came together like a dream. The 1cm (3/8″) seam allowance really helps for sewing the princess seams. I must remember that! I then tried on the lining to see how the fit was looking. I was really pleased with it, but saw that it could come in a little more underneath my bust. I left it as is for the lining because it is always helpful to have that a little bigger, but I cut out a little scoop from the main fabric pieces in readiness for sewing those next.

    The finished lining section:

    This was my first time doing a welt pocket and I was super pleased with how they turned out. It was definitely easier doing these ones as my first go, as they sew into a seam rather than having to cut into your sewn up garment (what a gulp moment that must be!).

    I really – hugely – enjoyed sewing this blazer. Truly a satisfying sew and I now can’t wait to make the blazer in the real fabric I have for it, a lustrous, French navy, satin back crepe, with glorious drape and both sides able to be used:

    It is from Clothspot, one of my absolute favourite online fabric shops.

    The navy crepe at Clothspot

    Can you tell how much I love this pattern and this navy fabric?! My plan is to make the jacket with the crepe showing and then use the satin side for the lapel, similarly to how I did my Etta dress. Now that I think about it, the two would go nicely together. Happy days.

    Adding my Ogden to the plethora

    There are so many gorgeous versions and terrific reviews of this pattern out there already. I probably don’t need to add anything further. But hey, since I’m here…

    I bought this True Bias pattern ages ago but was waiting for summer to make itself felt before I made it up. I’m hoping the fact I’ve now made it won’t wreck the summer weather!

    For PDF patterns, I’m most definitely a ‘send it to an online copy shop’ kind of woman ( being my preferred one) rather than cutting and sticking the A4s together. Mostly this is to save time (so I can use it for actual sewing) but also because I am clearly just a bit rubbish at the sticking bit. No matter how carefully I cut and line up there are always bits that just won’t match up. Cue me getting frustrated and grumpy.

    But this pattern is just 13 pages (if I remember correctly) so I felt I really could manage with this one! But again, perhaps just me, I really couldn’t get some bits to sit even close to having the size lines match up. I checked the test square, all was fine. But some pages had the completely wrong size lines butting together. Anyway, I did my best and re-blended several lines. I think I got it roughly right in the end! I should have spent more time on arts and crafts as a child.

    I was in two minds (more like about four actually) as to what fabric from my stash would be the lucky winner for the wearable toile. The fabric I really wanted to use was a little heavier / less drapey than the pattern really calls for, but the other options seemed better suited (for various reasons) to other wearable toiles I have planned. So I decided to go for it with this lovely fabric:

    It is a brushed cotton, medium weight and has a little drape but isn’t properly drapey.

    For the pattern itself, I made a few changes.

    Several reviews mention that it comes up large in the hips / sides, so I cut a size smaller than the chart measurements indicated. I then did an FBA to give me more space across the bust but also to create a bit more shaping. I definitely don’t suit boxy or unstructured styles, sadly. The dart helps a lot but I may rotate it into a french dart next time, to shape the sides more. I will probably take it in at the sides a touch as well.

    I also lengthened the facing pieces by 3″ to cover the full extent of my bust and I widened the straps just a little (3/8″ in total) to give a better chance of covering the wider bra straps that tend to come with the size I wear (which helped but I will widen the straps by the same again next time).

    Widening the straps meant I also had to widen the top of each shoulder piece on the front, back and facings so they would all still line up when sewn.

    All of this meant I basically had to adjust every single pattern piece. Sigh. As I was doing this I mulled over the fact that this is why I tend to make several versions of patterns once I have adjusted them to fit me. I’m still pretty new at this pattern alteration stuff and it can take me a while to do all the alterations that I am learning I often need (FBA, sway back adjustment, forward shoulder adjustment, sometimes a wide rear adjustment…). I then want to make the time spent worth it and sew lots of versions of the pattern! It helps though that I really enjoy planning the looks and style I am after and coordinating them all, so everything all works together. Having multiple but different looking versions suits my style and sewing personality, I guess.

    Anyway, leaving aside my random musings, once the pattern was all adjusted and ready, I had fun sewing this top. Even with all the stay stitching and understitching it is a fairly quick sew, but some nice touches to concentrate on like neatly attaching the shoulder straps.

    (Worn here with my Ginger jeans and Bellatrix blazer)

    I am very happy with the finished top. The fit across the neckline in particular is just as perfect as everyone says. My FBA had the effect of filling in more of the underarm area too and I didn’t redraw the curve as I suspected this would help to reduce any gaping / bra showing there (a fairly common occurrence for the busty amongst us). This seemed to work nicely, although I will adjust the pattern a little further to fill in some more space, as you can still see the side of my bra a bit. You can see a bit of the bra straps too and whilst I probably won’t be able to eradicate this completely, I will see if I can re-draft the strap area to cover them a bit more.

    It is of course a little more stiff / thicker than ideal, as I knew it would be, but I love the colour and pattern on the fabric hugely. It looks nice tucked into jeans as above or loose over shorts (in fact this is what I am actually wearing as I type):

    I’ll use the correctly drapey fabric for my next one though, as oh yes, there will be many more Ogdens whirring their way off my sewing machine 😁

    An attempt at a border print

    One of the patterns in my stash has been catching my eye recently. The McCall’s 7536 that came with one of the Love Sewing magazines:

    I saw that it mentioned you could use it for border prints and realised I had exactly that in my fabric stash. A lovely muted navy blue cotton with large white appliqué flowers at the border that I had bought a while back from Minerva Crafts. I could immediately visualise it as view A and started working on the pattern.

    I made quite a few adjustments, including my usual FBA (I went for 5/8″ this time) plus a half inch sway back adjustment. When I made the toile, I saw that I needed a bit more space over my back hip / rear area, and needed to pinch some excess from the top of the front princess seams to remove the armhole gaping. I also removed 1/2″ from each of the front and back shoulder seam. The back V also seemed to sit out a little so I had my husband pinch out a little dart there and pin it. It was his first time helping me with something like that – I think he was a bit nervous of sticking a pin into me, but he did a stellar job.

    Once I’d marked the adjustments in pen on the calico toile and then measured and transferred them to the pattern, I was ready to cut out the proper fabric.

    It was at this point that I realised the pattern was for using border prints along the top of the skirt waistline and the lower part of the bodice. Not at the skirt hem, where I was planning it. Hmmmpff. Of course, the photo on the pattern cover really should have been a clue…

    The sloping hem line of the A-line skirt won’t give the straight edge you need for a border print. But with the appliqué flowers being bulky-ish I didn’t want them at the waistline. I wanted them on the hem, dammit.

    I figured my options were:

    1. Put them at the waist as per the pattern and be constantly annoyed with the extra bulk in the area I least want more bulk;
    2. Use different fabric;
    3. Use a different pattern for the skirt bit so it has a straight hem (but I wanted the balance of the A-line look plus I didn’t think I would have enough fabric for e.g. a gathered skirt);
    4. Abandon this project for now and sew something else; or
    5. Crack on and sew it with the border at the hem anyway, it will just curve a bit, or have the lowest bit of the front hem showing more of the navy below the flowers. Or something. No idea how it will actually look once sewn.

    You can guess which one I went with can’t you…

    Stubborn is occasionally my middle name.

    Sewing all went fairly smoothly, no major mishaps. I stay stitched the two V necklines in addition to the other bits of stay stitching mentioned in the instructions. I did find a few things amiss with the instructions and pattern though. The shoulders don’t match up on the pattern pieces, i.e. if you line them up on their seam lines as if sewn, the width of the shoulders doesn’t line up. I had to trim the back one in by around a centimetre.

    Also, for version A it never tells you to sew up the side seams. It has the step for sewing the shoulder seams (and for the view B step it also says to sew the side seam). So fine, you add the capped sleeve for view A flat, great. But then (unless I am being completely blind in which case somebody please put me right!) it never says to sew the side seams during the rest of the instructions. You just notice in some of the later pictures that they are all of a sudden sewn together.

    My final gripe about the instructions is that they give clear details about clipping, turning, pressing and basting the underarm seam for the lining, but never mention doing it for the main fabric. Yet when you come to hand stitch them together it is clear that you need to do this step for the main fabric too.

    Now I know I have been spoilt by indie pattern companies like Tilly and the Buttons and their wonderful, clear instructions and I equally know the big four aren’t (generally) known for their instructions. But whilst I can cope with brief instructions, completely missing ones aren’t really ideal!

    And on the point about the hand stitching of the arms holes, I know I have seen a blog tutorial somewhere about how to do a lined bodice with unlined sleeves by machine, all nice and neat. But I thought I would follow the instructions within this pattern to use hand stitching. I’m not as averse to hand stitching as I used to be, however I still don’t love it. Suffice to say that hasn’t changed! Next time I make this pattern I will dig out the machine method and try that instead.

    Anyway, on to the dress itself. Did it work? Do I like it?

    The answers are yes and yes.

    Whilst the border pattern isn’t completely even at the bottom, it doesn’t jump out as wrong (to me, anyway 😄) because the border pattern itself isn’t in a straight line, so I think I got away with it.

    (I didn’t have enough fabric to try pattern matching, as you can see!)

    I really like the finished dress and the way it fits. In a further version I think I need a small-ish full rear adjustment as there is some pulling across the back (you can see it a bit in the last photo above). Or perhaps I need to convert the ease stitching at the back into a small dart. I will also add some height to the pattern at the front underarm to raise this area as you can see my bra a little.

    The sleeves sit out in a more structured way that it looked on the envelope, but that is probably down to the fabric I used. And I really like them like that anyway, I think it balances me out and gives an interesting semi-structural looking detail.

    So all in all, I’m counting this one as a success. Hooray, my stubbornness actually paid off!