A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Category Archives: Sewing

I fell in love at the London Knitting and Stitching Show around a year ago. The second I saw Lauren from Guthrie and Ghani’s Kelly anorak, I was gone. I immediately bought the pattern, zip and some of the beautiful waxed cotton they had in stock.

I had this Liberty tana lawn in mind for the lining from early on in the process. I think it’s a cute print but since buying I’ve felt that it’s a bit twee for a dress (even for me). However, I think the cotton lawn below goes better with the main fabric so I will use that instead.

I felt a bit weird asking to have photos taken in someone else’s coat, but also necessary.

Lauren made the 6 and I initially thought that I would do the same even though my measurements are closer to the 12. I am going to compromise and go with the 10.

I can see that the fit of the 6 across the shoulders is good, which means that what I probably ought to do is a full bust adjustment (FBA). I was reading someone else’s blog post in which she mentioned not liking making FBAs. I thought that was silly until I realised that I am exactly the same. When I first bought my sewing machine, I was quite keen on the old FBA and made one on my Bettine dress pattern. Since then… nothing. I think part of it is the fact that none of my RTW clothes have FBAs and yet they fit fine. Although, realistically, whenever I buy a shirt I have a choice to get a size that fits in the shoulders but risks gaping at the bust, or is slightly large in the shoulders with less risk.

For me personally I think it relates to my perception of my body. I was quite a bit larger when I was in my late teens and early twenties. My bust was absolutely enormous- I wore G cup bras. Since losing weight a few years ago, my bust has reduced a lot in both back and cup size. This has been such a relief and a big part of the reason I feel so much happier and more comfortable in my body. So, to me, I don’t have an especially full bust anymore. At the same time, most clothing and pattern companies draft to a B or C cup, so an E cup certainly is still an outlier.

When I wiggled around in the jacket a bit more, it was clear that I would need a bit more room. You can see in the side photo especially that the fit isn’t quite right. I’m so glad I risked social awkwardness to get the pics! I will also need to lengthen the sleeves and shorten the body. I really like the length of my purple SuperDry raincoat, which is shorter than the Kelly.

I’m hoping that I can try to enjoy the process of making this jacket. I’ve commented before that this has been something I have always found difficult- I am very outcome-oriented. However, this jacket will require a lot of patience from me. I will need to do extra things that are not in the pattern booklet. I will probably need to learn from mistakes.

Lauren’s blog post contains a lot of helpful information. I had a few dilemmas about this project, like whether to line or underline, how much to shorten the body. I paid £10 for a 26″ zip but really I want this jacket to be around 24″ long. I’m reluctant to spoil the lovely zip by shortening it.

Eventually I decided against buying the lining expansion pack. The main reason I would have bought it would be to tidy up the guts of the jacket.

I was also a little heartbroken to see that Guthrie&Ghani are now stocking the waxed cotton in yellow. Owning a yellow rain jacket is a small dream of mine. It’s definitely in the back of my mind that I may make a second version… Perhaps with a simple cotton lining for warmer days.

After doing some prep in early January, including buying the technical fabric to quilt my lining, I hit a roadblock. I didn’t have any thread in the correct colour. My work finally took me near the Goldhawk Road and I was disappointed to see that the shop where I normally buy my notions was closed.

I remembered that some stalls in the market sell bits and pieces and I managed to find some thread that matched my lining fabric. I didn’t feel comfortable using this random non-branded thread for sewing the shell of the coat, so I will probably wait until I am in the Oxford Street area to visit John Lewis or Liberty. But at least I can now make a start on the lining.

It has just hit me- have I become a thread snob???

I popped to Liberty but forgot that they have gutted their haberdashery section. I will have to make a trip somewhere else before I can start sewing the main fabric.

I found some time to quilt my lining recently. I followed the directions in Lauren’s blog post (linked above). I will say that it was quite tricky to get the lining to sit flat on the insulation. I found it helpful to roll the fabric up as you can see in the timelapse below. It’s also important to press your fabric before putting it on the insulation.

As Lauren says, the quilting is a time-consuming process. It took me several hours. But I enjoyed it- it’s quite meditative.

I am now ready to cut out!

Costs

  • 2.3m waxed cotton from G&G £65.55
  • Liberty tana lawn £23.25
  • Pattern £16
  • Zip £10
  • Extra insulating material and snaps £30.60
  • Thread £3

Total £148.40

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Overall, I’m very happy with how my plain version of the Colette Macaron dress turned out.

It felt good to be able to use my skills to make the changes I wanted to this dress. I did look for some guidance on line, but when I couldn’t find anything about altering the pattern, I decided to go my own way. I was aware that my sewing improved a lot over the past couple of years, but I don’t consider myself an especially advanced sewist. I had a lot of help with my most complex projects, including the only thing I have ever lined properly (my coat). However, I definitely have picked up tips and tricks from Julie that helped me.

That being said, the guts of the dress turned out to be a bit of a mess. Even though it felt good to follow my own instincts when it came to the lining, this remains something I am not experienced at doing. Next time I want to line a garment, I will follow a proper tutorial.

I kind of went halfway in between lining and underlining the dress, when I probably should have just stuck with one method. Another problem was the fiasco with the skirt (described in my last post, which has a lot more details about what I did). I had already used a French seam (definitely incorrect in this situation) on the side with the zip. I decided to slightly fudge the redo of the seam, which doesn’t affect the outside but looks like a dog’s dinner inside.

On the plus side, I have been reminded that a lining (however inexpertly installed) makes a garment feel so much more luxurious. This dress feels much more ‘proper’ than any of the ones I have made before.

I haven’t covered up the waistband seams yet. At some point I plan to slip-stitch some ribbon over the whole waistband area. But I decided to leave it for now. If the lining overall had been more successful, I would care more about how the inside looks. Life just feels too short at the moment. I’m not one of those people (yet) who needs the wrong side of their makes to be as beautiful as the right side.

While I was making this dress, it occurred to me that sewing is a form of 3D puzzle. I am generally a bit bemused by adults doing things like Lego, but dressmaking really does use a similar skillset- lots of spatial problem-solving. Spatial awareness is definitely a weakness of mine, though it’s improved in leaps and bounds during my adulthood. It feels pretty good to exercise those muscles.

Coming in at under £35, this dress is one of my cheaper makes. The viscose was quite inexpensive even though it seems like nice quality to me. I suppose it is quite thin. I don’t understand fabric costings at all! I feel like this is the kind of dress that would sell for £60-70 in Oliver Bonas.


I bought this fabric just over a year ago, planning to make a third Day Dress (previous version 1, 2). I saw someone else using it at my disastrous silk cami workshop (Sew Over It were stocking it at the time) and fell in love. Although I like the Day Dress, my pink Macaron is probably the most flattering dress I have for day wear. I decided to have a go at making a version without the contrast bodice, which no one else seems to have previously attempted. I certainly could not find any blog posts about doing this even after extensive searching.

This post contains detailed notes about how I created a solid Macaron by combining the yoke and bodice pattern pieces. I will also describe how I lined this dress- I don’t think I did the best job, it’s more a case of notes for future learning.

I overlapped the bodice and yoke pattern pieces by 3cm and traced. On the front I also increased one of the darts by 5mm since some length seems to be taken out at the seam between the pieces. I probably should have done this on the waist dart but I took it out of the side dart- I don’t imagine this will make much difference. I just did the back straight and did not alter the shaping- I’m fairly confident this will work for my figure.

I also decided to make my life difficult by lining the dress. The neckline facing on my first Macaron is a travesty (partly my error, partly the pattern). At present I have only planned lining the bodice. I’ll see how I feel when I get to the skirt.

I easily got this dress out of 2m of fabric by book folding it. I nearly always do this and it saves loads of material. Pattern companies tend to massively overestimate the fabric requirements, as well as not having cutting diagrams that are as efficient as possible. It’s really wasteful and annoying. Bear mind that I also cut out two bodices.

I cut a size 10 with adjustments as described previously. I interfaced the waistband for extra stability. Since I had plenty of fabric, I decided to self-line the bodice so I don’t have to worry if the lining ever peeks out at the neck seam. I pinned and machine basted the darts as pleats in the lining pieces, trying to have the excess fabric fall in the opposite direction to the darts in the shell.

I made up the bodice as directed, following the same instructions for the lining. I joined the two pieces RS together at the neck. Note: do not finish the neckline edges before stitching.

I machined the bottom hem of the lining to the seam allowance between the bodice and waistband pieces at the front and back separately.

This is how the bodice looked just before I attached the sleeves. I’m very happy that I decided to line the bodice since the fabric is so delicate. It makes the dress feel much more classy and professional.

I attached the sleeves as in the pattern, to both layers of bodice and lining. I then finished the seam as one piece. I haven’t yet removed my hand-basting because I think it looks really cute.

I decided it would be silly to line the bodice but not the skirt. I cut out additional skirt pieces using the leftover lining from my coat. I shortened the pieces by about 3 inches and incorporated the selvedges at the bottom to save hemming (lazy sewing for the win!) I made up the skirt lining as directed, ironing the pleats in the opposite direction to those in the shell.

I had planned to attach the skirt and lining within the waistband seam allowance before I sewed the skirt to the bodice. However I wasn’t sure about having additional weight of the lining pulling down on the waistband piece. The fabric really is very delicate. Thank goodness I decided to interface it!

In the end I couldn’t think of another solution. Weirdly I had an issue with having a lot of extra length in my bodice compared to the skirt, but only at the front. I was able to ease it, but it took three attempts. When I tried the dress on, it looked weird. I tested the pockets and… they were on the back of the dress. I had seamed the wrong side of the skirt 🤦🏽‍♀️

My inability to tell left from right bites me again. I spent ages undoing the incorrect stitching and sewing the skirt together on the correct side. I then re-did the waist seam and it went together much more smoothly.

I tried on the dress and I’m really happy with the fit. I love the way this dress makes my figure look.

The last step was to insert the zip. That part was relatively pain-free. I hand-tacked the dress to the zip before stitching to ensure the waistband seams would line up- this definitely helped. I probably should have used a 1cm seam allowance rather than 1.5cm because the dress is a teeny bit tight at the waist. My makes normally give slightly with wear, so I don’t think it’s worth the bother of reinstalling. Now just the hem and a bit of finishing and this dress will be ready!

Cost breakdown

Fabric: 2m of viscose costing £18 (I paid £2.95 p&p for this and the fabric for my cloud tee). I also used less than a metre of viscose lining (a scrap so I will not cost this)

Pattern: £18 (second use)

Notions: All bought ages ago so no idea. Let’s provisionally say £5

Total: About £33


Some of my precious sewing time during my time off work was devoted to patching my two pairs of jeans. I already posted a tutorial on how I do this and I followed the same technique.

I very nearly threw the lighter jeans away when I moved house in June, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even though I haven’t worn them since summer 2017, I love these jeans. I possibly kept them in case I wanted to replicate the fit in case I ever make my own jeans (at this point looking unlikely but who knows what the future has in store).

Annoyingly I didn’t think to take a picture, but the fabric around the seams on the inside leg of these jeans was completely worn away. You can see in the photo above the way the denim is pulling apart.

I was sorting though my clothes and I examined the jeans again. I think I previously dismissed the idea of patching over the seam, but suddenly this seemed like a great idea. The seam allowance is perfectly placed to cover where the denim is damaged. Shouldn’t a patch over the top hold it all together nicely?

You can see how heavily the jeans are already patched. I marked out with pins where I wanted to add new patches.

As with all of my jeans repairs, I made the patches with denim left over from my first day dress.

You may be able to see that I made the patches on the incorrect side of the fabric but you shouldn’t see this from the right side so I didn’t bother to remake them.

Weirdly intimate to show a picture of my crotch

You can see that I’ve basically reinforced the whole crotch area of these jeans with an extra layer of denim. I was a bit concerned that they would feel uncomfortable but they’re absolutely fine.

I just noticed that my ‘new’ jeans (purchased in September 2017 and worn quite heavily since) have just developed their first hole. My jeans always wear in exactly the same way.

This was a very straightforward patch job. I slightly thought about preemptively patching the areas that I know will wear away next but in the end I didn’t bother.

I almost feel like it is a personal challenge to see how many years I can keep these two pairs of jeans going. I’m fairly confident that I have had the brighter blue pair for around five years. It’s interesting how my conception of something being ‘worn out’ has changed in a fairly short period of time. This project has also reminded me how hardwearing jeans are- even though jeans are now a staple, this harks back to their history as a garment for hard physical labour.


I decided to sit down and reflect on the year since my last attempt turned into a post about future intentions. 2018 has been very much a mixed bag for me. Work has been mostly very challenging and I need to put some serious time into considering the next steps in my career. It’s hard for me because my mother really hammered into me the belief that a woman must have her own source of income. I have worked really hard to have a decent job that pays quite well. Although one of my core beliefs is about the importance of excellent universal free education- it was the route to independence from dangerous families for both my mother and me- this job is simply not my passion. While I don’t mind doing it, I’m not excited to get out of bed on weekdays. What does get me excited is the things I write about here- making things and reducing my impact on our one and only planet.

It’s been a funny year in my craft life. My output has decreased every year, but I really see this as a positive. I want to focus my time on making a small number of items that are of the highest quality I can achieve, that meet the demands of my everyday life, and that last.

This year I sewed seven items. They are also a mixed bag and as follows:

  1. Cloud tee
  2. Striped tee
  3. Boat Linden
  4. Olive blouse
  5. Speckled Linden
  6. Emoji blouse
  7. Corduroy trousers

The two Lark tees… meh. I have definitely learnt to stop buying jersey online. There are big variations in quality and that is the main issue with both of these tops. The cloud version does get worn sometimes but the black one is in the big bag of items I have that will one day be cut up into t-shirt yarn.

The Lindens… also meh. I love the look of the boat Linden but unfortunately the discrepancy between the weights of the fabrics did tell and the neckline has started to pucker. However, it has reminded me of how much I love pattern- and colour-blocking so I imagine there will be more of that in my future. The other Linden is nice enough, but just a bit boring. I don’t wear it much.

The olive blouse I was so proud of making does get worn, but I want to replace it with something better. The mistakes I made- especially sewing the neckline facing wrong and making a hole in the button band- mean that this is not going to be a garment that lasts for years. It was intended as a wearable toile, so I guess it served its purpose. While I really like the sleeveless blouse I made, I am very annoyed with myself for using cotton even though I know that I don’t like cotton tops.

The biggest win of the year was my corduroy trousers. Which is quite funny because it took me so damned long to make them. I guess it’s a reminder that projects that aren’t much fun to make can be great fun to wear. I adore these trousers.

So I guess that one of the main takeaways of the year has been to be super mindful about my fabric choices. I am very happy with my choice to state the costs associated with every make. It’s helpful for me to be clear about what I spend on craft. I wonder if it’s also interesting for non-crafters (though I’m not sure how many still read since Facebook links stopped working). People have definitely commented on how ‘frugal’ I must be since I make my own clothes. Of course they wouldn’t say that if they knew that my handmade coat cost over 600!

Especially when fabric comes out of stash, it’s easy to see it as ‘free.’ But of course, it isn’t. I believe someone has started a hashtag wherein she documents all the time it takes to make things too. I think that’s an interesting concept but I’m not sure if it would work for me. For sewing, yes. But knitting is generally something I do during ‘dead’ time such as travelling and watching TV. It would be logistically challenging to document.

I have spent time both on larger-scale alteration projects- such as unravelling two unworn jumpers to make a new one– and small-scale repairs that extend the lifespan of clothes I love. I have also made a few things in my zero waste journey, like my produce bags and dishcloths.

I have only finished one major knitting project this year- the sweater that took ten months to make. Again, I am happy to take more time to make better items rather than churning out loads of things of which I’m not that fond.

It’s been a good year for me physically. I only ended up achieving one of my three fitness goals, mainly due to breaking my finger. However, I know that I am stronger, faster, and better able to endure than ever before. I keep wondering when I will reach my fitness ceiling. However, my body continues to amaze me with the things I am able to do. This year I ran my first 10k.

Some of my fitness goals

  • Lift over 100kg in lower body compound lifts
  • Lift over 50kg in upper body compound lifts
  • Unsupported handstand
  • 5 pull-ups
  • Enter at least two more races, aiming for sub-25 5k and sub-50 10k

The Happy Book bullet journal

Finally, I started bullet journalling this year. I like the way I have been able to record some aspects of my day-to-day life. However, I have really struggled with the planning/future logging aspect, which is actually what would be more useful for me. I was also hoping that the bujo would be a creative space, but I haven’t realised this wish.

Me-made May layount with RuPaul

I was looking back on some of my very oldest blog posts recently and I remembered how much I used to love making cards. I haven’t made a card in years, though I suppose I have also largely stopped giving cards. My craft life has exploded but this has been at the cost of my more artistic side.  When I was at school, I spent hours and hours every week drawing and painting (I did art and graphics GCSEs).

It’s tough because there are only so many hours a day. I already work full-time, undergo psychoanalysis, play quidditch, go to the gym, knit and sew my own clothes, cook almost everything I eat, live a low-impact lifestyle, travel as much as I can and maintain a blog! That’s not even to mention socialising, life admin and rest/self-care.

However, as my weekly screen time reports attest, I do somehow manage to spend hours a day on my phone. I want to use the hours I have well.


I started out thinking that this post would be a review of 2018. Perhaps I will write that post elsewhere, but as I thought about what I have sewn this year, I found myself reflecting more on what I hadn’t sewn.

I would like to make 2019 my first official year of mindful making. I have loads of projects that I would love to make (and, importantly, I have all the resources) but they continually get bumped down the queue when something shiny catches my eye. One of my intentions for next year is to unsubscribe from all fabric shop mailing lists because I am a weak human being and when I see beautiful fabric I can’t resist buying it.

1. Kelly anorak

2. Pencil skirt wearable toile

3. Day dress

4. Monstera shirt

These are all garments that would fill very real gaps in my wardrobe if I would only sit down and actually make them.

While I have enjoyed taking part in the ‘make nine’ challenge for the past two years (2017, 2018), I will certainly be letting go of the aspiration to make an arbitrary number of items.

Something else I will be reflecting upon is the idea of ‘using up’ stash, i.e. king things with the primary aim of ‘getting rid of’ fabric or yarn I already own. While I think it’s important to use what you have before buying more, it is also important to use the right equipment for the job. I know all too well that a poor fabric choice is often the reason for a garment going unloved. Therefore my focus will be on using materials that will give the best chance of a great final product. Where I have stash (which fortunately has always been something I have generally avoided), I will simply accept that the item is in my life and wait for the right time to use it.

As examples, I have been planning to make a shirt with some of my Liberty fabric for a while. This would ‘get rid of’ some of the tana lawn I bought a few years ago in one of their sales. However, most of the shirts I love wearing are made from drapey fabrics like silk or viscose. If I make a cotton shirt, I’m not sure I will wear it as much as I would like. So I will now take some more time before deciding what kind of shirt I would like to make.

Materials for my teal waxed cotton Kelly Anorak

Similarly, I had planned to ‘use up’ the sweetie-print fabric I bought in that same sale as the lining for my Kelly anorak. The two fabrics don’t go that well together but it’s a way to ‘get rid of’ something I don’t have an immediate use for. After a re-think, I have decided to use whichever cotton I like best as the lining. The RTW raincoat that they Kelly will replace has been in my wardrobe for well over seven years. I want to look fondly on my Kelly each time I wear it rather than thinking that the lining isn’t quite right.

I’ll write a separate post about my knitting since this one is rather long already!


I’ve been meaning to sew myself a pair of trousers for winter and thought that corduroy would be perfect. I normally can’t resist bold patterns so the texture of the corduroy was a nice balance; a more mature solid garment that still has some interest to it. I love to wear navy as a neutral colour so I’m excited to add these to my wardrobe for the upcoming seasons.

This is my third pair of cigarette pants! I think they make a great addition to my blue pants and zebra shorts. I wrote a post for Minerva Crafts about these trousers so check out the full post over on their site for more details.

Just to note for next time, watch the grain line placement when positioning the pattern pieces to cut out as this affects fabric usage quite a lot. I possibly could have used less fabric if I had been more mindful of this.

These trousers are breathing new life into my autumnal wardrobe. I’m loving wearing them with a tucked-in shirt. It makes me feel all androgynous and cool.

Costs:

Fabric 2m of 21 wale cotton corduroy provided for free by Minerva crafts. For the facings I used the leftover Liberty tana lawn from my first pair of Carrie trousers. All other notions came from stash.

Pattern Paid £120 for workshop and pattern was included. This is my third use.