I admit it up front: I’m using this post as an entry to (try and) win two metres of the glorious Cranford Liberty Fabric from Leah at Sewbox. I have in mind a wonderful project for it… If I win, all will be revealed!

If you haven’t already checked out Sewbox, I advise you to immediately. I once compared the service I got there as like having a dealer, but legal. And for fabric. I have purchased gorgeous fabrics from there, some lovely pattern packs, buttons and other bits and bobs. I can’t rate it highly enough!

Right, I’m off to bed! I may be back later this week with a quick blog post about some sewing projects. Or I may not…I’ll see how I feel!


I have to admit, I love getting the chance to review things and so I jumped at the chance at Fiona from The Sewing Directory’s offer to review four of the D&C How to Sew series. What really drew me in was the fact they would be accessible on my iPhone which would give me a chance to read them on my daily commute to work. “But surely, you could read them in paper form anyway?”, you might ask. All well and good, but I have never been one of those people who can, for example, knit in public, and so I find parading my hobbies around in front of people in that way to be overbearing [edit: overbearing’s not the right word here – I think I probably just mean “a bit embarrassing”] . I know this is a weird foible of mine, and I’m also fairly sure that no one really gives a hoot but me, but there you have it: that’s how I feel about it.

Anyway, as I was saying…

I found it really nice to be able to sit and read a short book (or four) on my favourite hobby with discretion (I can see why people with Kindles and the like enjoy them so much) and, even though these little books are aimed more at beginners, I found them informative and interesting. Obviously, any one interested in taking up sewing as a hobby would go on to larger and more in-depth reads but these are great for new starters.

How to Sew: Basics

In the same way that I love S.E.W, I loved this book from the start. To start, It has a nice short section which gives a good introduction to the different types of fabric, thread, embellishments and techniques. How to Sew: Basics also gives a list of recommended tools and notions for beginners. From experience (and from not having done this myself) When you’re starting out from scratch and you have no idea of what you’ll need (or even if you have no idea of what that thing you bought is for), it’s always a good idea to get a guide from somewhere. This book is is a good starting point, although I would also recommend getting additional information from somewhere else, as a back-up.

I have to say, I was also impressed with the mini tutorials towards the end of the book (and in all the subsequent books) although I thought the accompanying pictures could have had a little more contrast in the stitching to make the techniques more obvious. This was especially hard to see on the little screen on my phone, but became much clearer on a PC monitor.

How to Sew: Applique

I hold my hands up to this: I don’t do much appliqué. I think this is bceause I have to relearn the blanket stitch every time I do it – it’s just one of those techniques I can’t get into my head – and it just drives me up the wall. Maybe this handy little book can help me by just being there, instead of my having to go and find the book I normally use every single time.

Having said that, I did make a rather lovely quilt with some lovely butterfly appliqué on it a while back, and this would have been handy at the time. You see, I didn’t know that if I was using bondaweb for the butterflies then I would have to do some extra stitching to hold them in place (I do now!).

As with the previous “Basics” book, I really liked the tutorial element of this book. Whilst I would maybe not make a denim jacket exactly like this for myself, the same principles applied to a little girl’s (or boy’s) jacket could turn out to be really cute. In fact, it was nice to see that the ideas presented in this book as tutorials (and, again, in all the “HOw to Sew” series of books) were different to what you might see in other similarly targeted books. All the techniques outlined were well-defined and succinct, and I was impressed by the inclusion of a set of supplies for both the UK and for the US. And not just the bog standard suppliers you see everywhere else!

How to Sew: Machine Sewing.

Machine sewing is the foundation on which most of my skills have been learned and so I was really looking forward to this book. I was really happy to see all the groundwork covered: from feet to the stitches themselves and when to use them. I think, for a lot of people who are starting off, machining is actually quite scary and so how to Sew: Machine Sewing really takes the edge and mystique off it a little bit. Again, and this is a bugbear with most of the books, I wish the diagrams were in a little higher contrast. Dark red against dark blue doesn’t really stand out enough for me and especially not, as before, on a little screen. However, it’s not impossible to see so I can’t gripe too much!

One thing I do have to say though (and this might just be me…) but why would you get someone to use fabric glue to stick a ribbon to the front of a bag you’ve just made up on a sewing machine. isn’t that cheating?! Or at least defeating the purpose of teaching someone how to use a sewing machine?!

Again, all the projects at the end were suitable for beginners and well laid out.

How to Sew: Patchwork

Patchwork scares me. I think it’s because every time I attempt it, I fail and I end up with mismatched corners, different size squares: all sorts really. (I also really like the cute pigs on the cover! Is that sad?)

My boyfriend’s mother is an accomplished quilter and I had the privilege of her showing me how to cut properly using a rotary cutter and mat. There are a few things she taught me which I found invaluable which don’t really come through in the first section – always cut at a 45 degree angle, always have two square and straight ends to ensure your cut is right etc – and a little additional information would have been useful. A little about chain piecing to save time and fabric would also have been nice, although this was hinted at in one of the diagrams. However, I understand that this is a basics introduction book, and that you can’t have everything!

All the basics are covered really and, on the whole, it’s a good basic introduction to patchwork. I think perhaps there should have been more discussion around the process of quilting itself, however, as that can often be one of the most difficult parts (especially for a beginner).

Besides, I still really love that little pig pattern – look at their wee faces…

What I like about this set of books was how they were unassuming and pleasant to read. They assumed little to no prior knowledge (which is an advantage, given the target audience!) and were short and sweet. Although you couldn’t make up a library from these, they are definitely a good beginners purchase (or gift) and I would recommend them to anyone starting out. And may I also say how useful it is to have a different set of suppliers per book – you could build a whole arsenal up that way!

Using the leftover fabric from my Prima June 2009 dress, I made Lyra another dress using the Burda Kids 9750 pattern which I have used before.

It’s a very easy and simple pattern to use, and the dress can be made to look different with the addition of pockets and different trims.  Once I had cut the pieces, I managed to sew the main part of the dress in a couple of hours one evening, and I did the button holes the next day.  It helped that I have used the pattern before, but it really does allow you to create a lovely dress for a little one with relatively no stress.

This time I used a Broderie Anglaise trim and I added pockets (obviously essential for Lyra’s iPhone and pack of ten fags).

I would definitely recommend this pattern if you want to make a lovely handmade baby dress (the pattern size goes up to 3 years old).

After a brief look at the pattern layout, I thought making this dress would be easy: two main pieces, (there are seven in total), with a few darts and sewn together at the side seams.  Because of this, and because I didn’t know what to expect of a pattern that comes free with a magazine, my expectations were quite low.  I was wrong in both respects: the pattern was not particularly easy to follow, but the finished result is stunning.

The pattern assumes prior knowledge of dress-making and would not be suitable for a beginner.  Terms such as ‘catchstitch’, ‘narrow hem’ and ‘gathers’ are not explained (luckily I knew from previous patterns how to do a narrow hem and how to gather, but had to look up how to catchstitch in one of my sewing books).  The pattern is also incomplete: it tells you to add 16cm to the end of the dress front and dress back (presumably to save paper), and to ‘cut sufficient 3.5cm wide bias strips to join and finish armhole edges’, leaving you to work out the length required!  If you’re a beginner, how would you know what a bias strip is, and how to press it correctly?  You would have to look it up!

However, detailed instructions of how to insert a concealed zip were included, and thanks to these instructions I was able to do the best concealed zip I’ve ever done.  I have never been bothered about stitching showing on the outside of a dress before, as I quite like the uniformity and evenness of machine stitching, but this time I took sufficient time and care to ensure that the zip really is concealed, and the slit at the back does not have stitching either side (thanks to catchstitching).  The only place where the stitching shows on the outside is around the armholes where the bias binding is attached, and the hem.  The hem allowance was two and a quarter inches, but when I tried the almost-finished dress on, I decided I would prefer it to be a little longer, and so opted for a narrow hem at the bottom instead of catchstitching a deeper hem.

The finished result is such an elegant shape.  My hips, bottom and thighs are usually too big for this style of shop-bought dresses, but making it myself allowed me to create a perfect fit.  I am looking forward to wearing it as I have nothing like it in terms of style or fabric in my collection.  The fabric is 100% cotton and purchased from my local market for £3.99 per metre (and I only needed 1.5m of 150cm-wide fabric).  I think the dress has a very Vivien of Holloway feel to it (and in fact is quite similar to a lovely halter-neck Vivien of Holloway dress that Lemonianta bought in March, which is also red and white polka dot).  I will definitely be using this pattern again to make variations on the dress, perhaps the next without the bow (depending on the style of fabric I choose, as the bow adds a fun, retro element).  I think it would look good in a plain navy with the waist drape in a contrasting colour such as rose pink.  I think it would also look excellent in tweed for winter.  Lemonianta suggested using duchess satin for an elegant evening dress.  YUM.

I will certainly not turn my nose up at Prima patterns in future!

Since my last post, I used the remaining fabric from Lemonianta’s vintage apron to make myself a new bag.  It is lined with plain white cotton.  I didn’t use a pattern, just made it up as I went along, and I’m very pleased with it.  It ended up being quite fiddly and, like the last time I made a bag, I broke several machine needles.  I plan to make simpler bags with left-over fabric and use them instead of gift bags for future friends’ birthdays.

I also got some lovely fabric from John Lewis and a Burda Kids pattern 9750 (which goes up to 3 years) with which I made this dress for Lyra:

I’m currently using the same pattern to make a red polka dot dress for her, and with the same fabric I’ve started on a dress for me too using a pattern which came free with Prima magazine (collected by my great Aunt!).

Finally, I felt my usual style of clothing needed a wake up and shake up, and I can’t tell you what made me really badly want to own a denim playsuit.  I found this in a charity shop, which fitted my bottom half perfectly but was too big on top, so I took it in at the side seams, and here is the finished result:

Apologies to Lemonianta for the ‘outfit shot’, but this has to be captured in all its ‘noughties’* glory so that in a few years Lyra can tease me for ever, ever having worn such a garment!

And now it’s back to the ongoing projects: red polka dot dresses for me and Lyra, and I’m also doing an applique ‘Home Sweet Home’ cushion cover…photos to follow!

* OK, so it isn’t the noughties anymore…so what do we call this decade?

I’ve been yammering on about making this coat on this blog for some time now. Because it was my first “advanced” pattern, I really wanted to take my time over it and do it right.

I decided to make it in a black linen with a yellow and white polka dot lining as I thought it would be light enough for summer wear. Turns out I was wrong! Of course, the linen was heavier than I had anticipated and, with the added weight of the lining, it became a good autumn weight coat. Nevertheless, because the summers here may as well be autumn I have already had some wear out of it.

In general, as with all Colette Patterns, I found the pattern easy enough to follow and clearly laid out. At times, I got frustrated with it but that’s my own impatience and inexperience and not the pattern’s fault.

As this was a jacket, I didn’t make a full bust adjustment for it. When I look at it now I figure I probably should have adjusted a little as it tends to gape a little. (I’m not entirely sure how I would go about that though, so that’s something I need to look into) This made the placement of the buttons a little more difficult as well. Ultimately, I decided to put two buttons on as it looked a little better on me – and held it’s shape better – than just having the one.

One thing I did find about the coat was that, when I was wearing it I noticed the pockets tended to hang a little below the hemline when there was something that was just a little weighty in them. Next time, I think somehow attaching the pockets to either the lining to to the hem might be in order, if only to keep them a little better in the shape I’d like them! On the subject of pockets as well, I tried topstitching alongside one edge of the left pocket, but found the stitching tended to warp the shape of it. All other edges were topstitched and this gave it a lovely finished look.

I also attached the lower edges of the sleeve lining to the lower edges of the sleeves, drawing the sleeves back up inside themselves nicely. Originally I had wanted to self hem the sleeves with the lining, creating a nice neat line underneath. However, at around this time my brain started to hurt and I just wanted to get the coat finished. I eventually attached the lining to the edges of the outer sleeve, automatically pulling the sleeve up inside and then I covered the exposed seam with a little bias binding. This I stitched in two parallel lines which I think looks really nice on the outside!

All in all though, I love this pattern and I’m really pleased with the way it worked out. It looks lovely over a nice fitted skirt and makes me feel great when I wear it. I will definitely make it again for winter, possibly with longer sleeves and in a longer length. I also happen to think that with a smaller (or no?) collar this could look lovely as a coat dress for winter.

Anyway, here it is!

A new sewing adventure to bore you all with: I borrowed a vintage apron pattern from Lemonianta and used it to make her an apron as part of her birthday present.  It turned out well, and here it is (on me):

Lyra’s Godmother liked it so much she has requested one the same for her birthday!  It’s a great pattern although quite fiddly due to lots of gathering, and uses a whopping 2.6m of fabric, which could make two dresses!  But it is a lovely, unusual garment, and I love the vintage style, especially the full skirt.  And of course, it’s always good to make things for other people.

Overlockers scare the living daylights out of me. Quite probably it’s because I’ve never used one, I’ve never seen anyone use one and I have no idea how to. With a sewing machine you pretty much know where you’re at. Almost everyone has used a sewing machine at some point in their life – be it at home, at school or elsewhere. How many people can put their hands up to say they’ve used an overlocker? Certainly not me.

With that in mind, guess what I’m getting next week? That’s right…

On the Me-Made-June front, I’m doing alright so far. I’ve not really had time to put up pictures of everything I’ve done yet as I’m still frantically trying to get stuff finished. Mostly, I have to hem things, and I just really hate hemming. Like, really hate it. Like I really hate doing the dishes. I am looking to the Flickr Me-Made-May group for inspiration though and it’s really great to see other people out there doing the same thing (and doing it better, I might add!). My efforts on the Me-Made-June front were pushed back by the call up for CPD I had from the RPSGB. I therefore spent hours labouring over a dry form instead of a hot iron.

I am also about to embark on making my first pair of trousers. I found a lovely pattern on Burdastyle for some wide leg trousers with hip yoke pockets.

I’m making them in black linen so they’ll match my Lady Grey coat if I ever need to go somewhere clad in a “suit”. They also come in a shorter, knee length version (on the same pattern, just cropped up a little) which makes them perfect for the summer. If I get round to it, I might make those as well.

I know I’ve banged on about Burdastyle before, but it really is a great place to go when you’re starting out. I learned a lot of stuff from there, and I probably owe it mostly to them that I got interested in sewing in the first place. It really helps to have a community like that out there.

Anyway, I have about 2 metres of that black linen left over so I reckon I’ll probably make another Rooibos dress with it. I lined the lady gey with pale yellow polka dot material from Spotlight and it looks lovely. Matching dress anyone? Is that a bit sad? This time, I’m definitely going to pipe it all around so I may not have enough material left over to do that – I shall have to see!

Anyway, this was supposed to be a quick update. I have only 4 days left until I have to start wearing all me-made clothes for a month so I’d better get on with it!

Not being a fan of tops (I’d rather wear dresses), I decided to experiment by cutting up three colour co-ordinated summery cotton tops given to me by a friend’s sister with a view to making a patchwork quilt for Lyra.  I cut them into squares measuring 6”x 6” and pieced them together, which was quick and easy thanks to a few tips on ‘chain piecing’ in Sew Hip magazine (issue no. 11).  I also added a few squares of fabric cut from a shirt donated by my father-in-law.  I didn’t follow a pattern for my quilt, I just made it up as I went along, and I’m very pleased with the results!  I used crib-sized wadding, which was much more than I needed, and plain backing fabric from Hobbycraft.  I used the backing fabric left-overs to make binding for the edges.  When I had finished the quilt, I was so pleased with it I took it round to a friend’s house the next day, only to spill a cup of tea on it straight away.  My friend made me a replacement cup of tea, which I again spilt, and then when I put Lyra to lie down on the dry section, she threw up!  It survived the machine wash, thankfully!  Its most exciting feature is a secret pocket in which Lyra can hide small things when she’s older.  I’m not going to tell her about its existence; she can discover it for herself!

I have been on a sewing mission since my last post. Here are some of the fruits of my labour…some more to follow when i can get some pictures.

Burda Button down Skirt

I made this skirt on a whim the night I finished my Rooibos dress (pictures of that to follow!). It’s not perfect and, to be honest, I used it to try out buttonholes for the first time so they are much too close to the centre seam. It’s also a little too big around the waist to the point it makes me wish I had spent a little more time on it to make it better but, ah well, it’s perfectly serviceable.

I used some gorgeous vintage buttons I picked up in  Liberty to add a little interest.  I’ll probably end up taking these off at some stage and using them for something else. For the time being, they’ll stay.

Alexander Henry April Showers Top

I’m actually wearing this top today and I absolutely love it! People at work keep commenting on how unusual the fabric is. It reminds me of something I wore when I was little – and I specifically remember having something with a similar print on it -I just have no idea what that Item of clothing was.

Here is a close up of some of the little fellas:

I only bought a metre of this fabric because I was intending to use it to make a small set of curtains to protect my fabric stash from sunlight. However, when I looked at it I couldn’t bring myself to use it for that and instead decided to make a top using the Simplicity pattern TicTacSew used for her pin-up dress. I made the straps a little too long however, so ended up having to drag them up, fold them over and add some lovely blue buttons, attached with green thread for contrast (and because they both matched!)

Love Birds Parfait

I finally got round to making the Parfait dress in this gorgeous green fabric I bought in Spotlight in Coffs Harbour back in March. I adore this material: it’s so summery,  fresh and unusual. I have to say, I  love being able to make something that is different to what everyone else is wearing at the minute.

This is a picture of it pre-zip and pre hemming. I promise it’s lovely on! Next time I’ll make it a little longer though.

I covered some buttons in the fabric as well to make it that little bit more finished looking. The pockets turned ot really well and I’m really pleased with them. I also got a little carried away and made the buttons on the pocket “look” at each other. Here they are!

I also covered the strap buttons but chose two butterflies for those:

Michael Miller Doodle Fabric dress:

This dress is from the same pattern as the April Showers top above. I was so chuffed to put the invisible zip into the side of this dress absolutely perfectly, only to break it as soon as I had it in! This fabric and the April Showers fabric were bought at the same time.

And a close up (with added kitten):

I love how the different patterns make this dress look completely different. Thanks to the colour combination this will be a good dress for summer with some sandals, and for winter with some thick tights and boots.

I find that now, with each time I pick up the machine, I feel more confident and more easy using it. I can pretty much thread it blindfolded, I have got the hang of seaming without marking the allowance (which I really shouldn’t do), I know just how much thread to wind onto the bobbin to make sure I don’t run out and, best of all, I’m getting much faster at it! This past weekend I made both the dresses and this top. The Parfait dress is classed as an intermediate pattern and I found it no hassle at all to do, In fact, I didn’t once make a mistake with the seams or matching up the fabrics whilst I was doing it, which surely must show I’m improving, right?

I was also overjoyed today to find that my longed-for Tattoo print fabric arrived along with the lovely flower print fabric, which is much prettier in real life. I still haven’t fully decided what to do with the tattoo print fabric, nut I have a pttern in mind for the other. That should be this weekend’s project I think (and the Lady Grey coat, if the fabric ever arrives!)

In fact, I’m enjoying sewing so much I decided to buy a Supafit dress dummy to help me along. I really hate trying on clothes when there are pins sticking out of them and trying to adjust seams, check the fit and all that because I just end up scratched and annoyed so this seemed like a logical next step. Hopefully it’ll be worth the expense!

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