A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: fashion

I managed to finish sewing my second Avid Seamstress Day Dress at long last! This project has taken me around two years to complete. I was very close to finishing in late August, but this dress became yet another casualty of the secret project, my series of coat classes and my thumb injury. I prioritised finishing the coat instead, which turned out to be a wise decision given how cold January was. That decision meant this dress narrowly missed out on being the last item completed in my #2017makenine and now cannot be included in either make nine challenge.

In the end, it only took around an hour to finish the machine sewing on the neck facing. I was very relieved that the pieces all fit since I’d cut them such a long time ago. The facing looks so much better than my botched attempt at using bias binding on my first Day Dress (a combination of rookie error and overconfidence). I also hand-stitched the hem, which took a while but looks pretty good. I managed to complete the finishing in time to wear this dress on my 31st birthday.

Overall, I am very happy with how this dress turned out. The day dress pattern fits perfectly into my work wardrobe. More details about the changes I made, and my views on the pattern, can be found here. I really like this dress in the drapey rayon. It’s going to be great to wear in summer, though I’m not sure how well the fabric will wash. I have some gorgeous viscose ready to make into a third Day Dress, and I’m very excited by that project. I think I will cut a straight size 10 rather than the mashup size I attempted here, for unremembered reasons.

Pretty sure I popped a couple of stitches while I was messing around but I just can’t resist a cheeky crow pose

Notes for next iteration

  • Lower the darts on the bodice by a couple of cm
  • Use self fabric for pockets if possible

Pattern: Avid Seamstress Day Dress in a hybrid size 3/4 (corresponds to UK size 10/12)

Fabric: Around 2m of rayon purchased in Indonesia

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I managed to think about my knitting plans for 2018 already and my sewing needs a similar level of thought. I’m going to take part in the Make Nine challenge again this year. I think nine garments is a manageable number, both in terms of time taken to make items and ensuring that I sew responsibly.

Project ideas

  • Cloud Lark
  • Stripy Lark
  • Ultimate shirt in Liberty fabric
  • Third day dress in viscose
  • Wearable toile- copy of the perfect pencil skirt I have
  • Threadcount 1617- I think I will start out with a toile using a viscose remnant I have.
  • I also have my eye on some beautiful viscose with a monstera (my favourite leaf) print for a second version. I won a £20 voucher from Sew Over It’s #SOIshowoff competition, which would buy 1.5m
  • Teal anorak
  • Dotty Linden

Specific things I’d like to do

I’m very excited about these projects, especially the ideas I’ve carried over from last year. I still have a lot on my plate, so I find it difficult to find a lot of sewing time. This just motivates me to make the most of the time I do have and create useful and long-lasting garments. I’m looking forward to Me Made May already and one or two more items would be very handy.

I’m also going to start being totally transparent about the costs for each of my projects. While I’m happy to spend money on my passions (why else do I work hard?) I have got into a bad habit of spending thoughtlessly. I know that I spent well over £600 on craft stuff last year. That’s a lot. While I don’t make things with the explicit intention of saving money, it would be good to track how much I do spend.


Being into making clothing definitely makes me notice textiles wherever I am. In London, I often use the proximity of the tube as an excuse to stare at strangers and try to work out how their clothes are made. When shopping, I check labels for the fibre content of the fabric and turn garments inside-out to see how they are finished. It’s an obsession.

I found myself doing the same thing on a recent trip to India. I looked at my taxi driver’s kurta and wondered whether it was handmade. I videoed men making alterations in the back of market stalls.

Since labour is so cheap in India, tailoring is much more commonplace. I had hoped to bring some fabric home and noticed some lovely silk in the shop where some friends were having dresses made.

Mukesh, the owner, quoted me the price (the equivalent of around £4/m if I remember correctly) but then said that it would only cost 200 rupees (around £2.50) for him to make something up for me. In the end, I asked him to make me a reversible wrap skirt.

In a single night, he made three Indian style outfits, two pairs of trousers and a top as well as my skirt. Plus he may have had other commissions to work on. The skirt alone would have been a huge source of stress for me, so it was nice to have someone else take that on.

My skirt is such a fun souvenir of the trip, even though I’m pretty scared of destroying it.

A taxi driver in Mumbai mentioned that Zara has a big factory there. Having an experience of the low cost of labour only adds to my growing sense of unease about the fashion industry. It’s hard to have another big thing to worry about, over which I have little control. Even if I made all my clothes, I have no idea of the conditions under which the fabric is made. Growing, spinning and weaving my own cotton seems like a bit of a stretch.

What I do feel I can do is renew my pledge to try and avoid the lure of fast fashion. I want to be mindful with my purchases and try to buy investment pieces where possible. I will continue to purchase second-hand when I can. I will also try not to have a ‘fast’ attitude to the things I make. I only want to create items that I know will be worn a lot, and try to waste as few raw materials as I can.


I just about managed to complete my challenge to sew nine garments in 2017. I’ve been updating my original post, but I wanted to reflect a little bit more on the clothes I’ve made this year.

The nine garments I’ve made are very different from the nine I had in mind a few months ago when I decided to take part. This fact underlines to me that I am a very flighty maker- I should avoid stashing fabric and cutting out patterns unless I plan to start straight away.

I’m sad that the Liberty print shirt I’m planning isn’t included here, but I’m going to try not to let that stop me from making it. On the flip side, I’m proud of finally finishing my Macaron, which is made of fabric I bought when I was travelling in Indonesia. I cut out before I had a sewing machine and I’m glad that I finally sat down and sewed them up. It’s quite demoralising to have loads of half-finished stuff lying around.

Mushroom print Cleo

Raindrop print Bettine

Turquoise striped Bettine

Pink Macaron

Pineapple tulip skirt

Hidden panda Lark t-shirt

Liberty print Southport

Rocket print Southport

1960s coat

It’s so funny how craft life goes at times. I was really close to finishing the challenge in August, when I got some good momentum on my second Day Dress. After that point, life threw a lot at me that ate up all of my spare time. Just after booking onto the classes to make the 1960s coat, I was asked to appear on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas. The coat class then became all-consuming, but I was unable to finish it due to my thumb injury. It started to feel like I had so many projects on the go, but very little to show for my efforts.

Not long ago, I spotted that Julia from the class at Sew Over It had posted a picture of her finished coat on Instagram. I was instantly inspired. Maybe if she could finish her coat, I could. One day when I was too full of a cold to do anything else, I sat down to the enormous amount of hand-sewing required to finish the coat. And, in less than a week, it was done!

I really think I’ve grown as a sewist this year. I’ve gone from only ever working with woven material to makes using some tricky fabrics like jersey, wool and viscose.

I was going to make a separate post about my knitting in 2017 until I realised that I have only finished four things! (That I can talk about).

A real positive is that making my jumper for Kirstie weirdly seems to have reawakened my love of knitting. When I was furiously knitting away on Silver Island, I felt that it was going to have the opposite effect. Thinking about it, I feel like the coat class gave me a bit of sewing burnout whereas the sweater made me remember what I enjoy about knitting.

Now to decide what I want to make in 2018!


I can’t believe that I’m finally getting to type these words- I have finished making my Sew Over It 1960s coat. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it. Though I’m not that happy with the pictures, this one excites me quite a lot.

This is what the back looks like.

Something I found notable about this project is that I never felt relaxed during any part of the making process. It felt as if disaster could strike at any minute. I suppose that’s the danger of investing such an enormous amount of time and money into something.

All in all, the hand-sewing required after the final class took a full day. There’s a little bit of pulling on the bottom hem that didn’t press out, but I haven’t fixed it because I’m considering taking some length out of the coat.

The next challenge was to select the buttons that would adorn the coat. I took her on a trip to Liberty to try out some different options. Black was the obvious choice, but I wanted to see if anything else tickled my fancy.

In the end, I picked the beautiful black glass buttons in the finished pictures. Nothing wrong with the obvious choice if it’s the right one! I decided to take the coat on a second trip to Soho to have the buttonholes professionally done. Marking out the holes was another source of anxiety. A small mistake could mean that the coat would never hang nicely.

I think my coat enjoyed the second trip into town. I’d rung up DM Buttons the day before to be told that the following day was their last before the holiday, so to go as early as possible. We got to see the Christmas decorations in the early morning light.

Before finding our way down a dark and scary alley to the lovely studio.

It was so cool seeing all the specialist equipment he has to finish garments. And the finished buttonholes look fabulous. I went for bar tacks for any buttonhole aficionados out there.

Getting the buttons to line up took FOREVER.

I have to say that the chances of me making another coat like this are slim. It’s an incredibly labour intensive process, and I’m not entirely convinced that what I can do at home is better than what I can buy. But I am happy with my fabric choices.

My biggest regret is not making the pockets bigger. This is a perennial problem I have with SOI patterns, so be warned if you like a capacious pocket.

Pattern: Sew Over It 1960s coat (size 12 with some fitting adjustments)
Fabric: 3m of wool and lining from Goldbrick Fabrics (I had 1m of wool left over)


I already wrote about the substantive making of my Port Charlotte jumper, but I added a few elements to make it ‘more Christmassy.’ Even though I knit this sweater specifically for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I was very clear that if I was going to invest so much time (and money) in a project, it had to be something I would love in its own right.

The words on the front are simply some chain-stitch embroidery. A top tip that really helped with this (thanks Jane) was to baste on the design with cotton first, to give myself a guideline. The only time I had to do it was on the train from London to Dorset, hence the uneven appearance. I’m definitely going to remove the embroidery once Xmas is over and done with.

I wore my jumper out and about on lovely day out in Bristol with my friend Jane to get some pictures. Here we are being geeks on the open-topped bus tour.

The yoke looks just as beautiful from the back.

I think this jumper fulfils its purpose of looking good with waisted skirts and dresses.

I STILL cannot pose for pictures.

Something that I wish I’d had some more time to work on was the light-up element of this jumper. I’ve been interested in incorporating lights into my knits for a few years now- this was my reason for backing a project on Kickstarter about making light-up cards.

The card kit didn’t really translate into wearable tech, but I backed another TehnoChic project that came with a load of cool LEDs, which were perfect for this. If I’d had more time, I would probably have knitted little pockets behind the sweater to hold the batteries. In the end, I just slapped them on using Velcro! I’ve been too lazy to get the LEDs out again since the filming, so they’re not pictured in this post.

If you want to see more about this sweater and see how I got on in the Christmas jumper knitting competition, you can see my second small screen appearance of the year at 5pm on Thursday 14th December on Channel 4. I imagine it will be available on demand after that (I hope so because I won’t actually be home when it’s on).

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


I can finally reveal the sweater that took up every minute of time I had available in late September. It’s Port Charlotte by Kate Davies, and I made it for a secret reason that I hope I will be able to talk about soon.

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I had three weeks and two days to knit a whole jumper. Including getting hold of the wool.

Port Charlotte is a pattern I coveted from the moment I saw Kate Davies post about it on Instagram. I have always been obsessed with rainbows, and I thought the design looked so clean.

I used a tubular cast-on throughout. I just love how it looks even though it’s a massive pain to do. I used Ysolda’s method, since I couldn’t figure out how many stitches I needed to cast on using the Brooklyn Tweed method.

Note for future me: do not use a smaller needle for the Ysolda tubular CO. After knitting the cuff, I realised that the cast-on was way too tight, so I decided to knit on a bit and use the sleeve as a swatch-in-the-round. It’s just as well I did- the gauge on the sleeve was quite different to the gauge square I knitted (back and forth) on the same size needles for my League sweater. The difference is so substantial that I need to knit a different size (4 rather than 3). So this was definitely one of those mistakes that turned out to be important.

Made some errors due to the lack of planning time I had for this project. I forgot to take into account that this pattern has bracelet-length sleeves, which is not a design choice I would normally make. However, the sleeves are made to fit that way so I just decided to follow the pattern.

I also cast on the body (the tubular CO took FOREVER) without thinking, and forgot that I am making this a cropped jumper. This means that I really cast on too many stitches. Rather than re-doing the CO, which would have destroyed my soul and taken too long, I decided to make the waist decreases in the ribbing. I’d never seen this done in a pattern so  worried it would look bad, but I have so little time for this project that I just have to plough on and hope for the best.

I did most of the knitting on a yoga retreat I happened to be going on during this time. I managed to finish the first sleeve in London, then cast on the rest of the pieces before setting off. I knew there wouldn’t be any wifi on Silver Island, so I didn’t want to risk drama with the tubular CO. This is what the sweater looked like when I was in Athens, the evening before I got the bus to the retreat.

For the week of the retreat, if I wasn’t doing yoga or eating, I was knitting.

Fortunately I had nice surroundings while I knit yard after yard of plain white stocking stitch.

The yoga helped stave off the RSI I’d started to feel in my wrist after a few days of intensive knitting. Having a digital detox was also a big help as I seem to use exactly the same muscles and tendons for knitting and swiping.

I did my cast off on the plane back to London.

Used Ysolda’s tubular BO. It was a stressful experience because I didn’t put in a lifeline, so couldn’t afford any mistakes. Fortunately it turned out fine.

I added some extra decoration to the sweater to make it more Christmassy. I’ll reveal all in a Friday post once I know when the episode is going to be aired.

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page