Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Oooooh ..... look what I got!

Christmas is such a lovely celebration, isn’t it? Spending time with friends and family, entertaining and visiting and feeling thankful for all life’s pleasures is such a nice feeling! And getting presents!!! I got so many nice things this year but what I’m keen to show you, of course, is my sewing and fashion related gifts, which were all from my lovely husband, Mr. Fabulous.

Firstly, something practical - a pressing mitt and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with this. I’ve already tried it out and can report that it really does work! I’ve put my hand in it and wooshed loads of steam over it and didn’t burn my hand at all. I’m very keen to use it on a real garment. I think, however, the nicest thing about this present is that I didn’t ask for it. Mr Fabulous ventured into a sewing supplies store all on his own and, with some consultation with the store owner, worked out something that I didn’t have that would be good to have! Isn’t that amazing? I have no idea what David Beckham bought for Victoria or Tom Cruise bought for Katie but I bet it wasn’t half as nice or as thoughtful as my pressing mitt!

I also got four wonderful books to add to my growing library. The first one (pictured next to my pressing mitt), called Patternmaking for Fashion Design, by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, is a real technical bible, of over 800 pages. It offers “detailed yet easy-to-understand explanations of the essence of patternmaking”. For those who want to make their own patterns from scratch this is an amazing book but it is also full of useful information for people, like me, who want to understand how commercial patterns are drafted and learn how to alter and adapt them.

The next two books are real inspirational ones. Forties Fashion - From Siren Suits to the New Look, by Jonathan Walford is full of wonderful photographs and fascinating information about how “fashion was considered not a frivolity but an aesthetic expression of circumstances in the 1940’s”. I’m really going to enjoy reading this one.

Mrs O The Face of Fashion Democracy, by Mary Tomer is a truly fabulous source for those of us who admire Michelle Obama’s sense of style. This is where I have to say thank you to Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, because it was reading Carolyn's blog post about this book that motivated me to put it on my wish list. Now that it is in my hands, I can assure you that I am not disappointed. I have been poring over every page and am already thinking about how the patterns in my stash can be adapted so that I can ‘steal’ some of Mrs O’s style.

Lastly is The American Fashion Cookbook – Over 100 Recipes of Favorite Designers, by the Council of Fashion Designers in America. Now, if you love fashion and like to cook, this is one for you! The illustrations are great fun and a lot of the recipes really look to me like they’re going to be worth cooking up – I’m planning on making Michael Kors’ ‘Grandma Bea’s Pot Roast’ and Diane von Furstenberg’s ‘Saturday Night Chicken’ pretty soon. To be followed by Cynthia Steffe’s ‘Apple Crisp’. However, I had better be a bit careful dipping into this book because, after all my Christmas feasting, my waistband is already feeling a little tight. Much more food and my carefully altered and fitted TNT patterns are going to have to be redone several sizes larger!

So, lucky me! Do you like what I got? I'd love to know what you got …………..

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

this crazy behaviour has got to stop!

Having recently returned from New York with enough winter fabrics to keep me busy for many months (or years!), what have I now done? Yes, I’ve just taken delivery of more fabrics! And some of them are definitely also ‘wintery’ and, at a distance, do look quite similar to fabric that I already have.
Any non-sewers must, of course, be seriously questioning my sanity but I am hoping that all my sewing friends out there will understand how this might have come about. I subscribe to a U.K. based fabric club, called Chrysalis Fabrics. I’m sure you’re familiar with the kind of thing – I pay an annual subscription for which four times a year I get fabric samples that I can order from. Having returned from New York my December samples were waiting for me and, although I tried very hard indeed to resist, it was just no good. Diana, who runs Chrysalis, has a very good eye for picking lovely fabrics. Let me show you what I just had to have

Left side from top to bottom: Golden Wheat pure wool with feint herringbone pattern. Mahogany 98% wool, 2% elastane. Marl grey 90% wool, 10% cashmere. Slate Grey, Burberry pure wool with a very tiny check.
Right hand side: Dove grey/black/ivory 92% polyester, 2% spandex. Lime/magenta/ivory/black viscose. Absinthe silk with slight crinkle finish

This is how I’m justifying the new purchases. Firstly, the winter fabrics, on the left hand side, can be categorized as ‘good quality basics’ – a must for any stash. Secondly, the right hand row of fabrics could definitely be utilized for spring/summer – for which I really must be prepared! Thirdly, well, I just love them.

It appears that since I took up sewing about a year ago, after not having sewn for a long, long time, I have built up quite a stash of both fabrics and patterns. When I last sewed regularly, in my teens and early twenties, I seem to remember that I did it differently. In those days I would go to a store, buy a pattern and, at the same time, buy the fabric and notions then I would make the garment. Only when that was done would I go and buy another pattern and more fabric. Is there anyone out there who works this way? It seems like a rational and organized way of doing things but, somehow, I find that very difficult to do. I like having fabric, looking at it, touching it and thinking about all its possibilities.

However, before Mr Fabulous notices that our home is turning into a branch of a fabric warehouse, I think one of my New Year’s resolutions has to be to either stop buying so much fabric or to sew faster.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and enjoy the great pleasures of good food and spending time with loved ones. Season’s Greetings to You All.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

my festive plum dress

Before you gasp at my sewing speed (which isn’t actually very speedy at all) I need to tell you that I didn’t make this dress in the last week since my return from New York, I actually completed it just before I went. However, with so much going on, this has been my first opportunity to get Mr Fabulous out in the garden with a camera so that I have a picture to show you.

A few weeks ago I was passing through the fabric department of John Lewis (the only department store left in the United Kingdom that sells fabric) and spotted this beautiful plum coloured, 100% wool crepe and just had to have it. I thought it would make a perfect holiday season sheath dress. The pattern, which I highly recommend, is McCalls 5927

This is the one I used for my ‘sheath dress with a little bling’ but, as you can see, this is a more restrained version. The construction is the same, except that for this one I omitted the neck tabs and jewels. I was aiming for a ‘little black dress’ that can be dressed up or down but in a festive plum colour. I wanted something stylish but respectable. In New York I accompanied Mr Fabulous to a business dinner at the Harvard Club where I wore this dress and didn’t get frowned at, so I must have got the respectable bit right!

A word about wool crepe – this was my first time using this fabric and I loved it. It didn’t slip around, has a nice drape and took to steaming into shape beautifully. Now you know why I purchased two more lots of wool crepe while I was in New York (at a considerably cheaper price than I paid in John Lewis!). Why didn’t I know before how wonderful it is to work with? I’d love to know what kind of fabrics you have had some good experiences with?

Since I’ve returned from New York I haven’t had the chance to do any sewing at all. It’s all been about jet lag, unpacking, dental visits, calling in the electrician and Christmas preparations. Lack of sewing has been making me quite tetchy so I’m going to try and get some done soon ……

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I'm back from New York City ......

…... with a suitcase fit to burst! We had such a wonderful time. Here’s me in line at Tkts and on the High Line along with a couple of seasonal views of Times Square and the Rockefeller Plaza.

We saw some great shows, ate in some excellent restaurants, met with friends, visited some exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum, experienced some wonderful warm sunshine weather as well as a bit of rain and a chilly wind. And, of course, I went shopping in the garment district -

The above picture shows just some of the shops I visited. I must have been in at least a dozen and when confronted with so much fabulousness of fabrics it’s very difficult to think straight! But what you want to know, of course, is what fabrics did I decide upon? Looking at them, now that I’m home, it’s clear that I was very much in winter mode –

Top row from left to right: black wool with beige circles and dots woven in, from Mood; a fine wool suiting with grey and pale blue stripes, also from Mood; a grey wool crepe, from New York Elegant Fabrics; a black wool crepe, also from New York Elegant Fabrics.
Bottom Row from left to right: silk charmeuse in a lovely black and brown print, also from New York Elegant Fabrics; beige wool tweed with gorgeous flecks of pink, green and gold (which don’t show up in the photo very well), from Paron Fabrics and, lastly, a silk charmeuse with some stretch in a black, brown, cream and peacock blue print, also from Paron.

I also picked up a few delectable trimmings from M & J Trimming and Pacific Trimming –

At the moment, I have no definite plan for any of my purchases – my mind is whirling with dress, jacket and blouse possibilities for all of these – but I’m feeling very excited and motivated by my new stash treasures. Of course, realistically, I’m never going to get all of this made up before the winter ends (never mind about all the other winter fabrics in my stash!) but I’m planning to throw off my jet lag and get my sewing machine out pretty quickly to make a start on it – that’s in between the card writing, present wrapping, pudding stirring, cookie baking and turkey stuffing that I’m going to be doing. Don’t you just love the holiday season?!!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

New York City here I come ...........

I’m packed and ready to go – Mr Fabulous and I are off to NYC for a ten day break. I can hardly wait to step foot on the glittering streets of Manhattan! I love the city at this time of the year, as the holiday season approaches.

Of course, one of the first things I shall be doing is getting myself a large slice of pumpkin pie! We’re going to take in some shows, see some exhibitions, do some shopping and eat a lot of excellent dinners – sounds good to me. Mr Fabulous will be taking a few business meetings here and there and I will be spending many happy hours in the garment district – Mood, New York Elegant Fabrics, Metro Textile, Paron, and M & J Trimmings are all on my list. I’m also keen to visit Lace Star – I may not be able to afford anything there but I want to take a look and get some inspiration. Last time I went shopping in the garment district I had put myself on a strict fabric diet because my stash was getting so large and intimidating. However, this time I think I’m going to allow myself a little more leeway. My stash is still well stocked but I have been working hard over the last few months to bring it down to a more manageable size and I have finally got around to sorting it properly and putting it all in one place so now I actually know what’s in it! I think that gives me a licence to have a little fabric splurge doesn’t it?

What I should, of course, do is first decide what I what to make, then arrive at the stores with a pattern in hand and a clear idea of exactly what fabric I want. However, I just can’t seem to get that organised – I find it so much more fun to walk around a shop and let the fabrics call out to me. I tend to buy what my heart wants then hope that my head is going to organize what’s to be done with it later. That’s probably not the best way to shop is it?

While I’m away I shall try to get to a computer to read your blogs and see what you’re all doing so that I don’t miss you too much. However, I won’t be posting until I get back home. In the meantime, A Very Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Friday, 20 November 2009

My Liberty print fabric is now a shirt!

My rather expensive Liberty print fabric, that I bought last month, has now been turned into a shirt -

Perhaps, at this point, I should reveal a little bit of my personal shirt history. I haven’t owned a long sleeve shirt since, probably, the late 1980’s – in those days shirts were much looser and, indeed, I was much smaller and, whilst the fit was never perfect, I could buy one RTW that was at least passable. Throughout the 90’s fashion got more fitted and my figure got curvier and I discovered that narrow shoulders and a full bust meant that if a shirt fitted my shoulders I couldn’t do it up and if I could do it up my arm movement was restricted by overhanging shoulders. I shudder to recall the many depressing changing room scenes where desperate sales assistants have attempted to button me into some hideously unflattering garment. Since taking up sewing last year I have been determined to make myself a well fitting classic shirt – the sort of thing that all the style gurus say is a must for any wardrobe.

I chose this pattern

which is pattern number 105 from the September 2009 issue of Burda Magazine. As I mentioned in my previous post, I liked that it was “slightly-fitted” and had a double-layered shoulder yoke, a narrow collar and curved hem. It took me two muslins to get something that I was happy with. I started by tracing the size 38 and making a 1” FBA but eventually decided that this was too fitted from the armholes down (I wanted a ‘relaxed’ fit) and was too big around the shoulders. So I started again with a size 36 for the neck and shoulders, grading out to a size 40 for the body and made a small FBA. I also made a petite adjustment across the front, back and sleeves just above the armhole notches, shortened the sleeves and cut the cuffs at a size 36. See what I mean? That’s a lot of fitting adjustments isn’t it? Next time I might be able to fine tune the fit a bit more but, on the whole, I’m pretty ecstatic that I’ve got a shirt that doesn’t gape at the bust and allows me to actually move my arms.

When it came to making it up I have to confess that the stitch ripper was constantly at my side with this one. I can’t blame Burda because their instructions were fine as far as Burda magazine goes. No, it was me not paying attention to what I was doing – Burda give you a nice way of sewing the outer and inner yokes on to the back and front pieces so that everything is neatly enclosed but I managed to sew the outer yoke on inside out! Or, it was me changing my mind – at first I chose to do the topstitching using a dark, navy blue topstitching thread but after doing the first line of topstitching on the back yoke I decided that it would be too overpowering so I ripped that out and switched to a regular thread in a mid-blue that disappears and lets the pattern do the talking.

Here’s a close-up picture of the neat little collar and, if you look closely you can, hopefully, just make out the lines of the yoke and the topstitching.

The funny thing is that, once I was done, although I really liked it as a garment on the hanger, when I put it on me I wasn’t so sure that this style suited me – I felt that it just wasn’t me! However, Mr Fabulous told me I was wrong, so I wore it out shopping for the day and, you know what, by the end of the day I decided that I really did like it on me after all. So, here’s another, full length, picture of me in my new smart-casual wardrobe basic.

Looks like I’ve found my TNT shirt pattern – thanks Burda!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The sheath dress with a little bling!

With not too much trouble at all my McCalls 5927 ‘fashion sheath’, that I promised in my last post, is complete and, with as much modesty as I can muster, I have to say that I like it and think my sewing and fitting skills are improving of late.

and here's the back view

Yes, I can hardly believe it, I made it myself!

The fabric is a silk twill designed by Rebecca Taylor – purchased from Mood Designer Fabrics, during my trip to NYC in July, for $14 per yard. I made the sleeveless version of the pattern, View B, but I added the neckline tabs from View C, onto which I have sewn some jewels bought in M & J Trimmings. Here’s a close-up so you can, hopefully, see the ‘bling’ a little better -

I followed the pattern instructions fairly slavishly but added a couple of ‘little improvements’. After cutting out I stabilized the armholes, neckline and centre back edges with a lightweight fusible interfacing to stop them stretching and help the zipper go in smoothly. Like this -

The bodice lining is an ‘edge to edge’ one (no facings) so I used the technique I learnt from Connie Long’s book where you trim the armhole edges of the lining to stop it rolling out – as explained in a previous post.

I really like the cut-in pockets of this style and the neat vent at the back. The vent is the kind where you machine stitch the seam allowances of the dress and the lining together – I had never done this before and was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was.

This is the first sheath dress I have made – I’d been feeling rather cautious about making such a close-fitting dress style but this one has some little pleats at the top of the skirt at the front which means that the dress skims rather nicely over an area where I (and maybe you too?) like to have some leeway. Mr Fabulous and I are going out to celebrate his birthday tomorrow night so this dress is going to get its first outing at a very fancy restaurant where I want to look good - I hope it's up to the job!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

I'm working on "The Fashion Sheath"

As I believe I have mentioned once or twice before, I love dresses. I spend many happy hours looking at dress patterns and fantasizing about the perfect dress I am going to make from them ..... until reality bites and I remember that in order to realise this dream I am going to have to actually decide on a pattern and get on and get it made!

So, decision made, in the pipeline is this lovely little number McCalls 5927 – “The Fashion Sheath”

A big selling point for this one is that it comes with separate pattern pieces for A/B, C and D cup sizes – such a boon (isn’t that a lovely vintage word?) for ladies of my shape, or, indeed, any shape that is not ‘standard’. I’m starting with a sleeveless version but I like that it has options for different sleeves if I decide that I want to make it again later. But I’m getting ahead of myself, goodness me, let’s get this one done first!

After a small amount of fiddling around, my muslin left me feeling rather hopeful – in fact it’s looking pretty promising. However, I would like to say a little something about the fitting. This dress has one of those bodices that doesn’t have horizontal, underarm darts, but has vertical darts that come from the waist up to the bust line. I’ve never made one of these before but the pattern, as it is made by McCalls, has one of those round things that indicate where the apex of the bust should be and the darts finish (just like horizontal darts do) one inch away from the apex. Here’s a picture of my traced-off pattern piece -

I measured the pattern and got it all worked out so that the apex mark on my muslin matched the bust point on my body but it looked all wrong. The darts didn’t sit right and it didn’t fit round my body at all. BUT, when I put a horizontal tuck across the bodice between the armholes and the shoulders to lift the whole thing up, so that the darts ended just a tiny fraction of an inch below my bust apex, it all fitted smoothly. Now I'd be interested to know if any of you have any thoughts on this but I found it a little puzzling because everything I’ve read about this kind of thing tells me that darts are supposed to end an inch or more before the apex. However, I’m going to ignore these rules and I’m making this dress the way I think it fits me best. Reckless – maybe! But it’s my dress and I’m going to do what I want and I did take some encouragement from Pati Palmer and Marta Alto in Fit for Real People because, although they seem to be pretty firm about ‘Bust Dart Rules’, they do also say “Just remember, if it works, it’s right!!”

So, anyway, I shall be posting pictures of this new dress soon – I do hope you're going to like it ......

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


I like to think of myself as the kind of person who, with a little effort, can get my head around most things but these little devils drive me crazy. I HATE HOOKS AND EYES.

In the past I have given them plenty of chances but every time I’ve tried to sew them on they will not behave. Just getting them to stay still is difficult – either the hook or the eye tends to leap out of my hand when I’m positioning it on the garment, never to be found again, leaving me with an orphan half. When I do manage to stitch them down they don’t really lie flat properly and I find it quite difficult to judge exactly where they need to be placed so that the two sides of the garment come together exactly right when done up. This isn’t helped, of course, by the fact that a hook and eye usually has to be sewn onto the neck or waistband area where a whole load of fabric and interfacing and a zip tape all meet up and, even with a lot of clipping, you are bound to land up with a lot of stiff fabric layers for the little hook and eye to have to balance on and stretch itself across.

The last time I used a hook and eye was on this sundress – here’s a close-up of the centre back.

This style meant that the top of the zip was going to be right in the middle of the back rather than up at the neck so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to use a hook and eye so that the dress was completely ‘done up’ in such a showy place. It looks OK but it took me three attempts to get this sewn on to my satisfaction and you can still, if you look very closely, see it glinting through a small gap!

My solution since then has been to not bother with a hook and eye. Yes, really, I just put in a zip, placed as closely as I can to the top of the garment and leave it at that. If the zip is put in correctly it doesn’t come undone and I can live with a little bit of a ‘V’ effect at the top of the neck or waistband. But that isn’t really good enough is it? If I want to make a ‘couture’ garment I’m going to have to learn to do better.

Do you use hooks and eyes or do you hate them too? Do you have a much healthier relationship with these pesky little things, can you tame them? If so, have you got any tips for me on how to get them sewn down nicely? I’d love to know ……

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Fall (Autumn for us British) is well and truly here. It’s getting cooler and the days are shorter but what I like about it is the opportunity to create clothes in delicious darker shades. With that in mind I dug deep into my stash and pulled out a lovely piece of shiny silk in a jewel toned purple-blue that I purchased at New York Elegant Fabrics, whilst on a trip to NYC last winter. All wrong for summer but just right for a festive season top –

It’s made from my ‘new best friend’ blouse pattern - Simplicity 2501 that I wrote about in an earlier post.

This time I made view B and I think it looks very different from my first version. It still has the tie at the neck but it has a plain bodice front (no peplum and waistband) and has some lovely puffy sleeves. To be honest, as I am quite small, I did wonder if these sleeves were going to be a girly indulgence that I would regret but, you know what, I LOVE them and think I can get away with them. However, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this count - is it OK for small girls to wear puffy things in shiny purple?

This version was slightly trickier than my earlier one, mainly because of the slippery nature of the fabric. The sleeves are a little fiddly because of all the pleats - my tip here is to be very accurate with the marking so that all the pleats are exactly the right size. To do this I used a combination of old fashioned tailor’s tacks and my new Clover Chaco Pen which I highly recommend – it’s so easy to use and works really well.

I also have to say how much I like this pattern, I’ve made two tops from it but I still think there’s a lot of mileage left in it because there’s more sleeve and collar options to try out and, of course, different fabric choices can give it a very different look.

But next up is going to be another dress. I love dresses and now that I’ve organized my fall/winter fabric stash there are several pieces of fabric crying out “Make me, make me – I’m going to be a lovely dress!” Let’s hope they’re right ……….

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Being a London girl I felt that I really couldn't go another week without mentioning that great bastion of British style - Liberty of London

Strolling past last week I felt an irresistible urge to enter and was pretty glad I did because they had a sale on and this was my opportunity to indulge myself with a piece of their Liberty print Tana Lawn fabric. It's lovely stuff, it really is, but it's not cheap! Their regular price is £19.95 per metre (approx. US$ 33.00) - that's a lot for some cotton isn't it? So I was pretty pleased to get a discount. There's a lot to choose from - if you'd like to take a look at their range, here is the link to Liberty's Fabric Department.

After some indecision I went for this one, called Valerie's Garden

Liberty prints have always been popular but, as I'm sure you're aware, in the last couple of years they've been achieving iconic fashion status . Both Gap and Nike have included Liberty prints in their ranges and several designers have used them in their recent collections, including Marc Jacobs -

Now, I'm a big admirer of Mr Jacobs but unfortunately, at my age, I don't think the above dress would be quite right for me! So what am I going to do with my prize piece of fabric? I thought I would go down the more traditional route and make a classic shirt. I did make a shirt last year but, to be honest it was fairly hideous and didn't fit me right so I'm still searching for my TNT classic shirt pattern and I need to be sure the muslin is pretty perfect before I cut into my Liberty print. I'm thinking that I might try this pattern, no. 105, from last month's Burda Magazine
I'm looking for something not too fitted but not baggy and I like the yoke, the shape of the collar and the curved hem of this style. I'm hoping this might be the one!

So, what do you think about Liberty print fabric - do you love it or hate it? Is it too much 'old-fashioned English country garden' or do you see the iconic style possibilities? Can you get it where you live and, if so, is it expensive? I'd love to know ........

Friday, 16 October 2009


I had a bad time with this one and I really don't think it was my fault! However, Cynthia, all is forgiven because you are a wonderful designer and in the end it didn't turn out too badly. Without further ado let me show you a picture of the finished dress

I used some quite expensive crepe backed silk-satin purchased from Mood Fabrics on a trip to NYC and it's made from this pattern
Starting at the beginning, fitting a muslin didn't go too badly. I made an fba by creating a dart and rotating it into the waist gathers and I cut about an inch out of both the width and length of the back because it seemed unnecessarily long and droopy. Also the neckline, which is pretty low anyway, was gaping at the front so, to preserve modesty, I went against all the rules of these things and just pinched in the pattern tissue at the neckline and smooshed it flat with the iron. I have since discovered that what I should have done is made a little dart there and rotated it down into the waist gathers. Well now I know! but my quick-fix did the trick. So, all set to sew ...

Instruction step number 1: stay-stitch bodice front and back necklines 1/2" from cut edge. Except, and the sewing gods must have been looking down on me here, when I was cutting it out didn't I notice that the seam allowance round the neckline was only 3/8"? So, I'm issuing a PATTERN ERROR ALERT here - you need to stay-stitch 1/4" from the cut edge.

Next, I have a confession to make. I left out the pockets. It's not that I don't like pockets, I do. But I have to be honest and say that because there is a side zipper in this dress the instructions for inserting the left hand side pocket into the seam alongside the zipper was all too much for me. Probably, if I'd really applied myself to trying to understand it, I could have managed it - I can't blame Simplicity for their instructions - the fact is I just wasn't willing to work that hard. Shame on me!

So, here's where it went wrong. The very last thing you have to do is make the neck ruffle and stitch it on the dress. I joined the two pieces together and made a beautiful narrow hem all around both sides, I gathered the ruffle and attached it to the dress. Wow! It was beautiful and it was glamorous ....... until I turned round -

See how the ruffle flops down at the back and shows all the insides? Of course, it mightn't have been so bad if I hadn't used crepe backed silk which has a very obvious difference between the two sides but I didn't expect this to happen. Both silk and crepe are fabrics that Simplicity recommends for this pattern and, look, here is their line drawing of the back and the ruffle quite definitely sticks up.

I told myself that perhaps, if I wore it, I could stay standing with my back to a wall but, after putting it aside for a couple of days, I decided that it just wasn't good enough. So, I took the whole ruffle off, I unpicked one row of the stitching for the narrow hem but couldn't unpick the rest so I cut it off. I then recut the ruffle, which now had to be narrower and slightly shorter, but this time I cut the back neck so that it started to narrow in from the shoulder and became very narrow at the centre back and didn't flop down.
I think that looks much better!

Trauma now (almost) forgotten I do like the dress but Mr Fabulous says I look like a chocolate eclair in it - all brown and glossy. Now I love chocolate eclairs but do I want to look like one - I'm not so sure? However, next time I'm invited to a fancy dress party all I need is a can of spray cream and I'm good to go ........

Friday, 9 October 2009


I know you're going to look at this picture of my new skirt and think "wow! ..... that's dull" but stick with me because there's some interesting stuff going on inside.

This skirt is made from Simplicity 2564

so I could have chosen to add pockets, trims, belt loops etc. but I decided I really needed a very plain skirt - I wanted it to look good with my new top (Simplicity 2501), featured in my last post, but I also wanted to be able to wear it with lots of other things. Sometimes you just have to bite the boring bullet and make a wardrobe workhorse.

It's made from a grey medium-weight denim, so it should be sturdy and can be dressed up or down to be casual or smart. Size 12 fitted straight out of the envelope but to be really perfectionist I made a small swayback adjustment. I made the following changes from the pattern instructions - I used an invisible zipper and I mitred the corner of the left back vent, which looks much neater that just folding it over. Also, I lined the skirt, putting a lace trim on the lining hem.

Above is a picture of the inside of the vent and you may be thinking "what's gone wrong there, why is there is a fold above where the vent is secured to the skirt?" But the reason for this is 'lengthwise ease'. When cutting the lining out I referred to my oracle - Connie Long's Easy Guide to Sewing Linings - and what Connie says is "Whenever you connect the lining to the outside vent, lengthwise ease is important to keep the lining from distorting the outer seam". So, as per her instructions, this is how I drafted the lining pattern -

The green line is the cutting line for the outer fabric and the red line is the cutting line for the lining. As you can see, the lining is cut a half inch lower from the pivot point to the hem line at the centre back, blending upwards to the original hemline at the side seam (note that for this pattern I have allowed 1 1/4" for the skirt hem and 5/8" for the lining hem and the lining is 3/4" shorter than the skirt). When sewing the lining to the skirt you match up the pivot points so that the lining hem is raised up and becomes level and a fold forms above the vent. So it looks a bit wonky inside but I think that it does actually work to make the outside look better and doesn't strain or pull the seam when moving, sitting etc.

Incidentally I initially found it a real headache to work out how the lining vent was attached and which side needed to be cut off and where until I looked at Jackets for Real People by Alto, Neall and Palmer. Even though their explanation was for a jacket vent it's the same for a skirt vent and I found their illustrations really easy to understand.

Next time I make this skirt I think I'll go crazy and add some pockets!

Friday, 2 October 2009


Last week I mentioned that I'd bought Simplicity 2501 and here's the finished version

and here is the back view:

As this pattern supplies separate pieces for B, C and D cup sizes it was pretty easy to fit. I cut a size 8 for the neck and shoulders, grading out to a size 12 and using the D cup front. After that all I had to do was raise the waistband.

Essentially I made View D, which has the tie neck, waistband and peplum but without the sleeves. The front pleats and waistband add some nice interest to the bodice -

As you can (hopefully) see in the above picture I used a different material for the tie, the waistband and the covered buttons. I know what you're now thinking: "ah hah, she ran out of material" but, actually, I didn't - I just decided to do it this way on a whim. Both materials are cotton lawn that I had in my stash and they don't match but I think they complement each other, sort of. With the flowery fabric and prim little tie neck I was going for an 'English country garden' effect.

Instead of using purchased bias binding for the armholes I made my own, which is very easy to do with this kind of fabric and looks much nicer (and costs nothing). Here's a picture of inside the armhole -

Hemming the peplum gave me a chance to use the narrow hem technique taught by Susan Khalje in the Top 10 Couture Techniques online class with Pattern Review that I have just completed. I'm very envious of those of you who have been to classes with Susan in person, and I know she is doing one at Gorgeous Fabrics soon, but as I'm several thousand miles away this was a great alternative. I'm very keen to try out all the other techniques the way she teaches them - I'm on a mission to upgrade my sewing skills.

Coming soon - a skirt, from Simplicity 2564, to go with this top ..........

Saturday, 26 September 2009


The lovely Trudy Callan from Sewing with Trudy has very kindly nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award, so I am now entitled to display this delightful logo on my blog.

The rules for accepting this award call for me to tell you seven things that you don’t know about me, after which I may nominate seven other blogs to receive this award.

So, seven things about me

1. I left school at sixteen but last year I completed a five year, part time degree course, studying Humanities at The Open University. I received my BA at a graduation ceremony last May.

2. Until I began studying for my degree I worked as a television production executive.

3. Both my husband and I are British but we got married in New York City because we love it there so much.

4. I like to cook and over the years I have amassed a large collection of cookery books – Mr Fabulous tells me that I have over 120 but he doesn’t complain too much because, fortunately, he likes to eat.

5. When I was a young girl my mother made me a salmon pink trouser suit – I still remember how much I loved that suit and I think that’s where my love of sewing all began.

6. I have, however, never made myself a salmon pink trouser suit and I think that it is pretty unlikely that I will do so!

7. One day I would like to be skilful enough to make a truly show-stopping dress, perfectly fitted and flawlessly constructed in a stunning design that looks like something from a high end designer boutique.

I love being part of the worldwide sewing community and I like to read as many as I can of the sewing blogs out there. Most of my favourites are well established and, deservedly, extremely popular and have already received this award and/or many others. I would therefore like to pass on this award to three blogger buddies who, like me, are relative beginners in the blogging world. My nominations go to

A Sewn Wardrobe
Kelly from Sew much to do, Sew little time
Sandra from The Surly Seamstress

All three are writing entertaining and interesting blogs and are sewing beautiful things.

Happy blogging to you all.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


So, taking a break from making dresses for a moment or two, I'm turning my attention to getting some basic separates together. Here in the UK Simplicity patterns have all been in a half price sale recently so I grabbed these two new ones -

I loved this one as soon as I saw it. I particularly like the view with the waistband and peplum and I like that little tie neckband but I also like the plain bodice version and the neck ruffle so there's lots of mixing and matching possibilities with the one pattern. For anyone looking for "the new shoulder" that the fashion magazines are all raving about, there are two different versions of short, big puffy sleeves but I rather fancy a sleeveless or long sleeve version.

I've already made my muslin, which is shaping up really nicely and, guess what, this pattern is one of those that gives separate pieces for different cup sizes so NO FBA NEEDED! I'm in fitting heaven.

Pattern number two is this one -
I was looking for a basic skirt pattern and this seems to fit the bill nicely - a straight skirt with simple lines but with options for pockets, belt loops and yoke decoration. And, I've got to tell you, the words"Step by step to sewing success!" on the envelope were a big attraction: "sewing success" - don't you just love those words? Although I bought this one for the skirt pattern, when I got it home I took a closer look at the blouse and have decided that I want to make that too (I have a weakness for ruffles). I've never made a kimono sleeve blouse so I'm not quite sure how I will tackle the fba on that but I have no doubt that my fitting bible, Fit for Real People (Pati Palmer and Marto Alto), will have the solution for that.

I'm reckoning on getting quite a few outfits out of these two patterns - so, enough of the chat, now all I have to do is get on and make them ...................

Thursday, 17 September 2009


I think I’m having a dress thing at the moment because I've made myself another dress -

It’s made from Kwik Sew 3521 and it's what I call a real party dress - a classic shape with a fitted bodice, scoop neck and full skirt.

I made it up in a beautiful silk charmeuse bought from Gorgeous Fabrics. I love the big ‘flower garden’ print and because it has a black background I’m thinking that this could take me through the winter party season as well as summer: an all seasons dress. Now, silk charmeuse might seem like delicate stuff, and it's a bit slippy to sew, but it turns out that it’s quite resilient – this dress has already had a glass of wine spilt down the front (well, I did say it was a party dress) and it came out of the washing machine, on the silk programme, none the worse for wear.

I rather like Kwik Sew patterns – their instructions and illustrations are nice and clear and they sometimes do things a bit differently from the Big 4 which is interesting to try. With this pattern the bodice has what I think is called an edge to edge lining, which I rather like because it saves fiddling around with facings and has a nice clean look inside. If you are using a lightweight fabric, like this silk, they tell you to stabilize it by fusing some interfacing, cut 1” wide, around the wrong side of the neckline and armholes of the lining pieces.

I did, however, make some changes. I lined the skirt as well as the bodice to give it some fullness. I used an invisible zipper instead of a regular one and I sewed quarter inch twill tape to the seam allowances at the waist to stop it stretching out. I also used a technique for sewing sleeveless dresses that I’ve never actually seen in pattern instructions but I learnt from Connie Long’s great book Easy Guide to Sewing Linings. You trim an eighth of an inch from the lining fabric around the shoulder, blending to the original line near the underarm. When you sew the lining to the fashion fabric you keep the raw edges together and then the outer fabric rolls in slightly and stops the lining showing on the outside.

So, I’m all set to party and would be checking the post for invitations but our local post office workers keep going on strike – I had a big grumble at them on Tuesday because I was waiting for several things to arrive and they told me triumphantly that they had a backlog of millions of things to sort through – I'm hoping that at least one of them is a party invitation for me!

Thursday, 10 September 2009


My maxi is finished and I'm lovin' it!

This is the only full-length dress that I own and I'm really enjoying wearing something a bit different. The main fabric I used is a poly-lycra print called "Let's Play" and I used a plain black poly matte jersey for the neckband. Both of these were purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics. The bodice was lined with some black tricot. Here's the inside

I really liked this pattern, it went together well and I pretty much followed the instructions as written with only a couple of modifications. I ironed some Vilene bias tape (the stuff that Burda Magazine are always telling you to use) on to the front armholes to be certain that the fabric didn't stretch out and gape above the bust. Instead of machine stitching the neck band facing down I hand stitched it because I wanted a clean finish round the outside of the neckline. Lastly, I didn't add the pockets - I told myself that because the fabric is very stretchy and drapey I didn't want to risk them pulling the dress out of shape at the sides but if I'm really honest I think it was because I was so eager to get my maxi done I just didn't want to spend the extra time on them.

This is a pretty straight-forward dress to put together. I think that the only bit you need to be careful about is making sure that the neckband and bodice centre front seams are all lined up just right. Using a different fabric for the neck band meant I had to take particular care about this -

I sewed the bodice and lining with my regular machine, using a stretch stitch, but used my serger to sew the skirt and attach it to the midriff.

I kept seeing all these great maxi dresses made by other Pattern Reviewers and was always thinking I WANT ONE OF THOSE. I wish now I'd made it a bit earlier in the season but better late than never and I'm hoping the maxi thing will still be going on next summer. I'll be wearing mine if you'll wear yours ........

Monday, 7 September 2009


Well Labor Day weekend is nearly over and, here in the UK, the days are getting shorter and the wind is blowing a little colder (and, of course, it's raining) but I'm still working on my summer wardrobe! I just can't look at winter clothes-making until I've made myself a summer maxi dress. This is what I'm working on

It's Simplicity 3503. Lots of people on Pattern Review have made really great looking dresses from this one and I've had it on my list for a while so I'm not going to let the weather deter me. I'm making view E, which has the v-neck and cut-in back, in a multi-coloured poly-lycra knit from Gorgeous Fabrics. It's shaping up really nicely - I'm seeing it as a cross between hippie chic and Miami cool!!! I'm breaking all the rules for short girls - long dress in a large print - but I don't care - soon I shall be wafting around in my maxi dress - I'll keep you posted!
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