Ahoy There!

I’ve got my dressing making sew-jo back this summer with this great pattern by Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor Top. It’s a really good fit on me. I made a small first time but found it a bit voluminous round the middle, so the second time I took it down to an XS from the bust to the hem. This pattern is a bit deceptive as the first 80% is really easy and just as you feel like you’ve nearly finished – you get to the neck gathers! This nearly broke me first time round but second time round I knew what to expect and found it much easier. I’m tempted to make another. The fabric mule husband has just come back from LA with a couple of yards of lawn, which would be lovely for this top.

The first one I made was a blue floral lawn, (I have a Laurel top in the same fabric) and the second in some Robert Kaufman chambray, which feels lovely to wear. I still need to get the hang of the dressmaking selfie!



A Trio of Laurel’s

I’ve not done any garment sewing since before the summer holidays, so I was itching to get on with something for the autumn and to use up some of the yards of fabric I bought back in June  – just waiting to be made into something nice.

I am lucky enough to be heading off to Canada (all by myself!) at the end of the week for a friends 40th birthday celebrations. I’m very excited and had planned to make the Colette Laurel dress to wear to the party. After making a muslin I decided it wasn’t for me – and knowing that I don’t often wear dresses plumped for the top version instead. I started it on my wonderful sewing weekend back at the beginning of October.

It comes to together so quickly and was such a great fit on me I made two more!
The first is a quilting cotton (fairly fine) it’s called Koi by Rashida Coleman Hale – this is the one I have in mind for Christmas parties with smart jeans and black boots. (I’m quite glad I didn’t make a whole dress in this)

The second fabric is Color Me Happy Cluster Dots in Emerald. I LOVE that green and it looks fab with royal blue. Its a heaver quilting cotton but is actually really nice to wear and suits the shape of the top well.

The third is a lightweight lawn – which again is lovely to wear but does crumple like a bugger – I think this will be more suited to summer.

I made a couple of adjustments to the pattern: I lengthened it by 1/2″.  Took in the sides 1/2″ (probably could do with a bit more – but I didn’t want to loose the nice shape) and deepened and lengthened the back darts by an inch.  I love the nice easy binding on the sleeve – so much easier than attaching cuffs and there isn’t too much gathering to wrangle when adding the sleeves. I hand finished all the binding, as I know from previous attempts at machining it didn’t look very neat. I’ve not managed to find a photographer for proper photos – so these headless selfies will have to do!



the sun has got his hat on….

We are having a pretty nice summer in England so far, so more summer wardrobe sewing has been happening.

A little update on my first sugar pop top…I made another! This time I was brave and used some of the fabric my husband brought back from the USA. This fabric is Flea Market Fancy, posie in grey. It’s a lovely retro print and I do love grey (though my wardrobe is becoming all kinds of colourful at the moment).

After not being happy with the bust darts last time, I traced the ones from the Josephine top pattern, this worked a treat. I cut a small size this time but scooped out a bit more round the arm holes. I’ve worn it loads. I do see why people avoid using quilting cottons for dress making, it is quite heavy compared with some of the other fabrics I’ve used.

Here it is still in need of hemming.





My next make, hot off the press, is a Washi dress. Another fab pattern by Made by Rae. It’s a dream to wear and should cover up my French bread excess in a few weeks. I was inspired by seeing Joanne’s version and hearing her rave about it . I decided right away that my bright green Chinese Lantern fabric would he perfect.  To be honest there are so many amazing versions of this dress all over the sewing-web, its not hard to feel inspired.

A few things to remember for next time…

  • The shiring at the back was a of a test of patience as my machine really didn’t like having elastic in it’s bobbin! .
  • I decided to ditch the pockets in favour of a more streamlined skirt.
  • I’m not over the moon with the U shape at the front. It’s a bit stiff and sticks out. I may go for the scoop neck next time (which I see Joanne has done too!)
  • The top half is a bit roomier than I’d like, but as this will be a summer dress, that’s probably not a bad thing.  I went for a conservative half way house between small and medium – but I think a small would be fine, there is quite a bit of give across the shoulders (which is the bit that’s always tight on me) thanks to the shiring and the arm holes are generous.

So here I am swishing about in the garden. Thanks to my husband for tearing himself away from work to take the photos (I did make him lunch as a bribe!)







Sugar Pop!

As usual all my blog posts and sewing activity seem to all be happening at once!

True to my word I got straight on with making a Sugar Pop Top. I haven’t dug into my new stash of precious fabric yet, as I thought a test version might be a good idea.

I’ve had this blue floral lawn fabric for a long time. I bought it to cover a breastfeeding pillow when my son (who is now 9) was born.  Its very pretty and I had no idea I had so much of it left.

So, the making of the top,  here’s a quick run down as I have precisely 5 minutes until I need to take youngest child to school!

Things I like:

  • Simple to sew
  • pretty shaped collar and capped sleeves
  • minimal fabric usage
  • The binding on neck and arms gives a really nice finish.

Things I’ll change next time:

  • I was a bit between sizes. I cut a medium but there was a lot of spare fabric round my middle, so I did some creative cutting and made it go in a lot more in the middle.
  • The bust darts went a bit wrong. For some reason when I went to sew them they were a rather funny angle and the pointy bits (technical!) along the edge didn’t meet – not sure if this is my pattern printing/sticking together, or if is how they were supposed to be. I adjusted them so that they lined up but this meant creating a new end point.  Generally I think they need to be longer and lower down as they are  a bit up under my arm pits!!
  • My arm holes ended up rather tight, probably due to me taking in the side seams. They were fine until I did the binding, so I will make some adjustment for this next time.
  • binding is a fiddle! I will use bought binding next time as it’s stiffer and has a folded edge already. I ended up finishing my binding by hand stitching as it was the only way to get it sewn on neatly without loosing my mind. All that said I really like the bound neck and arm finish, it looks really nice.
  • I used binding on the bottom hem as it was already quite short and I didn’t want to shorten it any more by turning it up. It looks nice with binding but I think i will add on a bit to the length and do a blind hem next time.

Time to go – son is nagging me from downstairs – I will leave you with some pictures!




The Whole 15 Yards

My husband travels to the good old U.S of A at least twice a year, which for me is a great chance to stock up on fabric!

The first few times I let him choose for me. This had mixed success and mostly he’s too busy to go fabric shopping while he’s away, so the process has become more refined over time.

In February he was in New York and I placed an order for him to go and collect from a local store, which had an etsy store too. This worked brilliantly until he mentioned the cab fare there was over $20. I figured I may as well just get stuff shipped straight to his hotel!

So this time I did just that. The only problem was the overwhelming choice of online fabric shops in the U.S. Where to start!?

I wanted yardage for dressmaking but quilting cottons rather than anything too specialised. I went for an etsy store again as i find them easy to browse and clear to see what you are playing for. Rock Paper Scissors in New Jersey had a really nice selection of prints and they were really helpful with my odd request to ship to a hotel address.

Choosing was very hard. I had a list of garments on my sewing to do list, so I tried to choose yardage and prints to match this list. I got a whopping 15 yards at only $12 shipping. A few half yards may have snuck in there too – just to fill up the box of course!


My choices are were pretty good in real life – the bottom one – green Chinese lanterns  at the bottom is VERY green, not sure about that for a top now, it may become a skirt instead. The blue floral is a lawn. I can’t wait to get sewing. First on my list is the Sugar Pop top by Sew Caroline. I must get on with it while the sun is still shining.

Sewing Over-Drive

My sewing mojo has gone slightly through the roof this week. After my initial attempt at garment sewing a few weeks back I was itching to try more. I had fabric and patterns waiting in the wings so last weekend I made another Tova – this one wasn’t out of a vintage curtain but some nice cotton with a fine stripe. It all turned out beautifully with only a few lumpy bits and puckers. I made a small this time and it was nearly TOO small across the chest. I’ve pretty much been wearing it all week, it’s so comfortable and flattering.


My other clothing make of the week (get me!) is the Josephine top by Made by Rae. I’ve had the fabric for this for a while – I bought it with a voucher I won for my local sewing machine and fabric shop.  This was fun to make and actually less tricky than the Tova in a lot of ways. I had plans for dinner with friends last night and had really hoped to get the top finished in time. On getting in at 3pm I had a top with no cuffs, no neckline or hem. I threw some dinner on for the kids and the set to it. I finished it with half an hour left to bung on some make up.  It’s a great pattern because there is elastic at the back to adjust the fit. I made the small – though the elastic measurements for this were a bit tight to I had to add on a bit more so I could breathe!


I’ve also been sewing for my daughters birthday on Monday – but that will have to stay a secret for now.  So, a VERY productive week! My husband says I am displaying addictive behaviour. It’s true! – I am totally hooked on the idea of making clothes for my self, it’s so exciting!  I need to step away from the sewing machine as we have an 11th birthday sleepover to organise.


I’ve had my first go at solo garment sewing and it amazingly it was a success!

I bought the Tova pattern as it looked nice and easy. My friend Mary had made one and mentioned on her blog a very useful sew-a-long that Kerry ran last year.

For a my first try I wanted something in expensive which didn’t matter if it was rubbish at the end. I decided on a 1970’s habitat curtain, which had been lingering in my vintage sheet cupboard. It’s quite a stiff cotton, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be making my life more difficult with that.

Kerry kindly provided email support when I couldn’t work out the collar and explained an alternative way of sewing on the placket. The online sewing world is just fab!

The pattern suggests trying the top and making any adjustments once you have the placket sewn in. I took it in at the waist quite a lot but kept a nice a-line tunic shape. I also took it up on the shoulders as there was rather a lot of baggy fabric at the front. These are the kind of things that I would have found daunting but I remembered a surprising amount from my dressmaking course before Christmas.

Ok so the fabric is a bit odd but I’m so pleased with the fit. I can’t wait to make another. That said, I am still going to wear it to the pub tonight !




It’s Taking Shape!

Dressmaking class number 3 involved leaning what exactly a 5/8th’s of an inch is, which wasn’t where I thought it was on my machine. This also lead to a bit of unpicking. There was also some snipping and a lot of concentration not to snip too far!

20131125-214920.jpg We attached our facings and I got as far as sewing on the front skirt pieces. It’s all taking shape and I now have the front half of a dress! Sorry for the average photo, I didn’t get a chance to spread it out properly until I got home.

I also found that someone took a sneak pic of us through the shop window!



I was so excited to get back to dressmaking class tonight. During the week our homework was to buy our fabric. I went for this lovely grey. It’s quite pretty and delicate so hopefully I will get whisked off somewhere posh over Christmas to try it out.

20131118-213919.jpg Our other homework was to cut out our pattern pieces from the fabric. Even though I’ve done lots of cutting this was a bit nerve wracking! So much more fabric wasted if you make a mistake.

After tinkering with our machines for a while we got sewing.


20131118-214414.jpg So, tonight’s instalment of dressmaking school was all about darts. I’ve done a few darts and pleats in bag making but of course there were lots of new things to learn.

First job was learning how to do tailor tacks to mark out our darts. To you and me, these are loops of cotton hand sewn along the dart lines.

Lesley also showed us a simple sewing technique for keeping the darts nice and straight. As we couldn’t find any paper we used bags from the shop.


Before too long the front pieces of my dress top looked like this.

We all took turns to try them out on the tailors dummy. I’m not sure I’m quite as busty as her, so let’s hope it fits!

Dressmaking School

Tonight was the first night of my Introduction to Dressmaking course.

So many of the sewing blogs I read are filled with beautiful handmade clothes. It’s hard resist the urge to join in.
I have resisted for a while, using various excuses as to why it wasn’t for me. I can’t remember what the tipping point was into ‘I have to know how to do this now!’ but it happened.

After a bit of searching around I found a few local courses and settled on a 5 week course at Arrietty, a fabulous vintagey, treasure trove who also offer sewing courses and workshops. In fact my very lovely friend Mary teaches a frame purse worksop there.

I digress!

So tonight’s session was all about preparing our patterns. We’d sent in our measurements in a few weeks ago, so we arrived to find our pattern pieces all ready for us.

Lots of notes we’re taken

We pinned, measured and snipped. This is me cutting out the facing piece.

Then Lesley (our teacher) talked to us about what kind of fabric to buy for next week and broke the news that we’ll be cutting our shift dress pieces ourselves before next weeks class. Collective sharp intake of breath from the group!

Thankfully Lesley also showed us how to lay out our fabric and pattern pieces. Having used patterns for bags I had a rough idea of all this but there is so much I don’t know about dressmaking!

I can’t wait to go fabric shopping tomorrow.

Next week we need our machines and I’ll try and get some photos of the rest of the group rather than sneaking my phone out and trying not too look like a weirdo.