2013 Update

I can’t believe it is so long since I put a post up on my blog. It is not because I haven’t been sewing although that has taken a bit of a backseat lately with everything else that has been going on. I thought the last day of the year was a good place to upload some of my sewing adventures and take time to reflect and plan for 2014.

The last 6 months has been a bit of a whirlwind – we moved house which was stressful but every cloud has a silver lining and we found a house with a turret which means that I have my own sewing room – no more sharing a corner of the spare bedroom. I can retreat upstairs with a cup of coffee and Radio 4 to spend many an hour thinking of things to do!


I will post a photo of the interior once I have tidied up a bit – it is organised chaos at the moment (that is gill speak for a complete mess).

I also got an opportunity for a working trip to Dallas in the US for my company conference followed by a week in California which was great fun but hard work and I flew out 2 days after moving house so my suitcase was filled with whatever was to hand which meant that I had completely the wrong clothes for the 30 degree heat in Dallas. You just can’t imagine that sort of heat when it is a cold, miserable and wet day in the UK.

Anyway to the point – what have I been doing on the sewing front? Well I did have some success with the Anna dress from By Hand London which is described as “an effortless dress” – not so sure about effortless as it took me a few goes to get the fit right on top.


I did make another one in an orange tie dye fabric but didn’t get around to hemming it before the 6 days of summer passed! I did actually wear this dress a couple of times which is unusual for me.

Other than that not so much success with the following:


Actually this was a simple top to make and the fit was good even though I didn’t spend as much time fussing over the fit as I normally do – however I am wondering what on earth possessed me to make this up in a very heavy spandex type of fabric?


Absolutely hideous – it did nothing for me apart from make me look fat and frumpy and then … and then to make matters worse I went and sewed a skirt in the same material!!!!!!!!


Needless to say neither has been worn by me outside or inside the house. What was I thinking? I will make the top again but will choose something light and silky next time.

Next I turned my attention to this:


… and made this ….


I really liked this and I learnt how to do a stand up collar but then I have absolutely nothing to wear with it apart from jeans. The trouble is that being a pear shape to start with this was not a flattering look as it made me look very hippy to say the least. I did flirt with the idea of making a straight skirt in the same fabric as the collar – what do you think?

By now I was totally sick of making clothes that did not fit or flatter so started doing some crafty things and made lots of fabric boxes and totes to give as Christmas presents. A sample of which can be seen below:


So there you have it – a round up of the last 6 months. There doesn’t seem to be much to show for all the effort, perspiration and tears but then I have learnt some lessons which I will be posting about tomorrow. Yes – posts on this blog are like buses – you wait ages for one and then two come together!

Happy New Year everyone x

Colette Peony – the misery continues

Well I am nothing if not determined and after the misery of my previous attempt with this pattern I was determined to get it right this time. I actually drafted the pattern for the top myself and used the existing peony skirt pattern – does this make it a peony – probably but not as we know it. I spent ages on this dress – literally ages. I handpicked the zip, put the lining in by hand, added my signature lace to the hem of the lining and then looked at it and thought to myself  “what a boring, frumpy looking dress”


As Steve said – if you saw this on a hanger in John Lewis would you bother taking it into the changing room? Probably not. I played around with a few ideas – added a belt, tried it on with my new Kurt Geiger shoes but nothing seemed to me to make much of a difference. It was still boring!

In a flash of inspiration I decided to drop the neckline and before you could say ‘Edward Scissorhand’ it was done – what a bloody stupid thing to do! My beautifully stabilised neckline became a gaping hole that looked AWFUL! It may have been boring before but now it was practically unwearable unless I covered it with a big scarf. I even managed to get 2 shoulders with different widths.

Okay, deep breath, I had put my life into this dress and I wasn’t going to give up now. So I added a band at the sides, put a pleat across the front and tried out a few things

Capture3 Capture2

So by now I am totally fed up with this dress – I am contemplating just ripping off the top and having a skirt instead. What would you do fellow bloggers? Persevere, cut your losses and make a skirt or put it away until the Autumn for a revisit?

When I have a disaster such as this I am inclined to throw my pattern and fabric stash on eBay. Is it worth treading on pins in your bare feet, trailing cotton all over the house, turning your spare bedroom into a cluttered mess, having the ironing board as a permanent fixture in your living room? Is it? Is it really?

Michelle Pye – Bra Making Weekend

Well I have just been on the most fabulous course. I have to say in terms of value for money it is the best course I have ever been on. Michelle runs the English Couture Company in a lovely village outside Leicester. She offers a range of courses and she certainly knows her stuff. I chose the bra making weekend because I was intrigued by the techniques required to make a bra – I thought it would be horribly complicated but it wasn’t. The tricky thing is getting the right fit.

The bra making weekend is 2 courses combines into a weekend – the Basic and the Advanced Bra Making. Day One was spent making a basic bra and included techniques on making the bra cup, how to apply the picot elastic, attaching the strap.


When I took the bra home and tried it on I was amazed at the fit – the bra seemed too light for my 34F size but I wasn’t even aware that I had a bra on. The only issue was that the centre piece was gaping away from my chest.

On Sunday we learnt how to alter the bra for fitting including adjusting the straps, raising the bra so it sits in the right place. I found that the issue with my bra was that the lower cup was too deep so needed to be shortened so that the base sat under my breasts and not on my breastbone. We then went on to the ‘pretties’ of bra making including how to make a padded bra as well as shaping lace. Michelle also gave each of us a bra fitting session and she will be sending out an individual pattern to fit. I can’t wait as I was also tempted by the lovely range of fabrics and lace in the shop.

Capture4 Capture3

Excuse my awful top stitching but it was getting late and I was tired after 2 days sewing – I know, I know I am a lightweight!

Michelle was fun and knowledgeable – even though the course was due to finish at 4 she carried on until we had done everything unlike some other courses I have been on. There were 5 of us on the course and we learnt more about the female breast and all it’s idiosyncrasies than we dreamed possible.

I am so inspired by the quality of this course that I have signed up for the knickers course as you can’t have a bra without matching knickers!

I can highly recommend this course if you have ever wanted to increase your skill base by learning how to make bras and more importantly bras that fit!

Another McCalls 5136 Jacket

You know how sometimes you start to make something with one idea and during the creative process it morphs into something completely different? That is the fun part of sewing for me – when you start with the ‘what if?’ ideas in your head and then go with them to see where it takes you. This is what happened during the making of this jacket. I had some material leftover from making the skirt for my re-fashioned dress and decided to see if I could squeeze out a jacket/cardigan albeit with aforementioned moth hole! My intention was to make a plain black jacket and perhaps add some braid to ‘liven’ it up a bit.

As you may know I hate seams and raw edges etc to show on the inside of my garments and the jacket was really light and quite insubstantial so I decided to line it halfway through the sewing process which is when I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments and decided to use the discarded skirt material from my refashioned dress. I didn’t have enough to do the sleeves but I could live with that. As I was putting in the lining I then saw that if I folded back the jacket front I had a nice contrast which then led me to add some contrasting cuffs in the same material and hey presto before you know it I had a matching jacket for my dress.

Black2 Black3 Black1


..and the inside


I have only photographed it on my dummy as I couldn’t bear the thought of another ‘modelling’ session – am I the only one who hates having her photo taken?


On another note while I was hand sewing my lining into place I had another thought which was that since doing the Couture Dress class with Susan Khalje through Craftsy I will take any opportunity to hand sew rather than use my machine. I love the control that hand sewing gives you and my favourite stitch of all is fell stitch. I can quite happily sit in my sewing ‘cave’ with Radio 4 on in the background fell stitching my way through the Archers and Gardeners Question Time – I am quite the expert now on the right soil conditions for your azaleas – shame I don’t have a garden to practice in!

McCalls 5136

Well it seems that warmer weather may at last be on its way to the UK so contrary mary that I am I decided to finish a winter suit that has been languishing in my UFO pile for quite a while. It was my second forage into vintage pattern sewing and I chose this pattern from McCalls. I don’t know why I always get seduced by the covers on vintage patterns as the women look so slim and elegant but the end result is never the same on my more, shall we say, rounded figure? However I always find that vintage patterns tend to be a better fit for me than their modern equivalent which is strange.


I made the jacket a few months ago – this was intended to be a try out for the pattern and I used some sale fabric from John  Lewis which to be honest was probably intended for a coat. I just couldn’t find the right trim to finish this off until I went to Paris. I used the black chanel braid purchased there – I ummed and aaahed about using it on this project as after all it is a long way to Paris if I wanted more. I did make a straight skirt rather than a pencil one from the pattern as my hips will not bear that kind of scrutiny. I made a few mistakes on this – one I didn’t match up the pattern very well on the centre back seam of the skirt and secondly I don’t know what possessed me to put a stay lining in the back which only added to the bulk around the collar which is quite horrendous as I also have a facing there. Luckily my hair is shoulder length and hides most of the damage. Third I should have made the sleeves a bit longer. Apart from that it is perfect 🙂 Still we live and learn.


Here are some more piccies –


Oops skirt is not on straight!


The lining:

InsideJacket1 SkirtInside

Actually I prefer these as separates – the jacket looks nice with my black trousers (there’s a surprise) and the skirt looks really nice with a red jumper so they may end up like sausage and trifle – rarely seen in the same dish unless you are a ‘Come dine with me’ contestant. Actually I prefer the inside anyway but that would be a step too far!

And the winner is ….

Hello Ladies

I apologise for the delay in picking a winner for my giveaway but last week I was working in Edinburgh and got home just in time for the Easter holidays but have at last put all the names in the hat and the winner of this lovely wool fabric from Munrospun as seen on the right of this photo is..


GJeometry!! Selected by that old fashioned method of putting names on bits of paper and picking a winner randomly. If you can email me your address GJeometry I will get this in the post to you on condition that you send me a photo of whatever you make from it although probably not much choice given you only have a metre of fabric to play with!

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show 2013 and a Day Out in London

Last Saturday I took myself off for a day in London at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show 2013 at Olympia.


I love these shows but always spend far more than I intended. I try to do a workshop for something I haven’t tried before but as I didn’t know whether or not I was going to make the show because of work commitments I hadn’t booked anything in advance.

I was a bit disappointed to be honest – apart from the stalls there wasn’t a lot else going on. It was really a cut down version of the Autumn show which is held at Ally Pally. The only workshop I fancied doing – dragonfly gold stumpwork was also the only workshop that was fully booked which was a shame.

However, I did enjoy some fabric shopping at Mr Rosenberg’s stall – Mr Rosenberg sells designer fabric and has a website at www.stitchfabrics.co.uk It is well worth checking out his site as he has some beautiful material including silks from Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, Docle and Gabbana – these start at over £60 per metre but he has some cheaper silks. I picked up this one from his stall for £8 a metre which is cheaper than his online price:


I am going to make a pussybow blouse from this to go with a black skirt – which I haven’t made yet but I did buy a metre of his italian wool crepe which was beautiful to the touch and which cost me a staggering £40 but this is what I wanted to achieve with my sewing – make the clothes I can’t afford to buy. Last time I saw him he had some wonderful Italian wool from Marc Jacobs which was £60 a metre. Not all of his stuff is this expensive as his prices start from about £6.50 a metre for cotton but his silks and even his polyesters are very nice patterns.

The highlight of the show was meeting Lisa Lam of www.u-handbag.com in person. She even admired my purse that I had made out of a pattern and frame that she supplied but I think she was being polite.

I’m glad I got to the show early as it got really busy towards lunchtime which was when I left to meet my son for lunch in town. We had a nice meal at Cafe Rouge and then went to Liberty’s to have a look at their vintage designer collection. £2,000 for a 40 year old Chanel Jacket etc. They had some handbags there including a Hermes Crocodile skin and a snip at £36,000. Mind you I thought it was pretty dire and my son commented that if he went out on a date with a girl who pitched up with that he would think that she had got it from a charity shop.

By this time my son was bored and the Rugby was due to start on the TV so he was keen to get away to his flat so we parted company and I took my by now very sore feet off to Kings Cross.

All in all it was an expensive day – train fare to London, ticket to the show, fabric purchasing, lunch for two and a new jumper for my son but I had a really nice day out and came home with some goodies.

Sewing for Pleasure is on at Birmingham this weekend and this is my favourite show – I really should have waited for that one. I am in two minds whether or not to go but there is always a lot to see there. I could, of course, spend my time actually doing some sewing for a change!