Taking a break

I have not alluded to this too much on here, but I have been struggling with illness for a while now. It has become clear that I need to take some pressure off myself, and therefore I have decided to stop writing this blog, at least for a little while. I have enjoyed the writing process, and hope to return when I am ready, but at the moment I make no promises. I still plan to put some reviews on pattern review, but pick and choose the ones others will find most informative. Hopefully this will free me to focus on sewing when I have the time and energy.

Yours in sewing cameraderie


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Teal and Peacock Demi drape top

T015-DemiThe full credit for inspiration for this top goes to Jenny over at Cashmerette who made a lovely version of the Style Arc Demi Drape top which totally sold the pattern to me. About the time these two gorgeous viscose knits in teal and peacock print  appeared on clothspot.co.uk and the rich colours were so perfect I had to have them. I ordered the Demi drape pattern from Style Arc and since it had to be posted fom Aus. it took a while to get here – frustratingly while it was winging its way to me Style Arc released the Demi top in PDF version on etsy – I could have got it faster, and in multiple sizes by waiting for a while longer. Grumble.


Spot the Jade skirt too…

This is the first time I have used Style Arc patterns so it was a new experience for me. I really liked that the key measurement points (bust, waist, hips) are clearly marked with notches – it made it much easier to check the final measurements and judge where I needed to adjust fit. I used the size 16 which matches my high bust measurement. As there were no other sizes to grade between the adjustments I made are relatively extensive:

  • Extra width added to the hips – 4 cm to each side on the back, and 3cm to each side on the front.
  • 4cm Length added at the bust to all pieces for a long body
  • FBA (no dart) on the under bodice of 2.5cm wide, with 2.5cm length added to both the under and front bodice pieces, tapered to match the length of the back piece at the side seams.
  • 1cm broad back and shoulder adjustment on the back bodice
  • 1cm forward thrust shoulder adjustment
  • Sleeve piece broadened by 8cm total at the upper arm

The back seam is practically invisible, definitely worth the yardage saved.

I traced and cut the bodice pieces on the fold because that is my preference (and it is easier to make lots of pattern adjustments to one half of each piece). The pattern adjustments turned out to be a bit of a mammoth task, as I messed them up once when tired and had to go back the next day – then I was glad I used a traced version and not the original so I could refer back to the original to sort it out. I ended up cutting two back pieces and adding a centre back seam allowance to save fabric. In the end despite the cowl neck this was not a fabric hogger – For a contrasting the under bodice you need the length of the under bodice piece – for me that was 75cm including the extended length. For the main fabric it took about a metre and a half.

I had heard Style Arc instructions were brief, and I was not disappointed. As an experienced sewist, they were fine for me, but they would not suit a beginner – if you are bored by construction details, skip the next two paragraphs. The other thing I heard was that Style Arc patterns were well drafted and I was also not disappointed – the alignment of the under bodice piece on the shoulder seam to ensure it is under the other pieces and does not show is well done.

IMG_1668Like many PR reviewers before me I ignored the instruction to use Vilene interfacing to reinforce the necklines, then rip off what was not needed (this is an ironically detailed instruction considering the brevity of the others). I reinforced the back and under bodice pieces with stay tape. I finished both these edges by binding with self fabric using the back neckline binding pattern piece supplied, and drafting one for the under bodice (same width as the back piece, length approx. 30% shorter than the length of the edge to be bound). I finished the cowl neck by folding twice then zig-zagging. When sewing the shoulder seam I ensured the back bodice piece was sandwiched between the two front pieces so that when these were turned right side out the seam is mostly sandwiched between the two front pieces, making the insides neater without much effort. If you do this do a quick sanity check once everything is pinned to make sure everything is the right side up. I reinforced this seam with twill tape, as is my wont.

IMG_1610As I always do with knits, I set the sleeves in flat then sewed up the bodice and side seams last. Before setting in the sleeves I basted the front bodice pieces together along the sleeve seam to make this process easier. I finished the sleeves with self drafted bands. I finished the hems with a twin needle. Before sewing the seam I trimmed the under bodice by 2cm (the amount I was turning up) to reduce bulk in the hem. I decided to hem both the fronts together, although I know other reviewers have hemmed them separately.

Despite having a lot to say about the construction this was really very quick to sew up – a few hours and I was done. I am really happy with the finished product here. I think it looks great, and the fit adjustments worked well. My bust does affect the drape of the cowl – I didn’t add extra width to the upper front piece because it would be large enough because of the cowl, but I think it would hang better if I added a little bit more width. I love the cowl neck styling, and the opportunities for using contrasting fabrics. As someone who constantly has issues with tops riding up (big bust + long body) I also love the length of the top. I will defiantly sew this again when I find the right fabric, and it will be a quick sew as my fit issues are sorted.IMG_1621

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Spring/Summer 2015 sewing plans

I thought I would do a Spring/Summer sewing plans post as doing one in the autumn helped focus me on my sewing priorities. Over the past few years I have sewn quite a few dresses, and over the last year quite a few skirts so I want to get some tops sewn up, but to be honest my sewing plans are mostly being guided by the fabric I have stashed. The good news is that after my a run of plain solid sewing, almost all the fabric I have stashed is patterned – things are about to get more interesting.

T015-DemiDeep-teal-viscose-jersey-fabric-185x300Peacock-printed-viscose-jersey-fabric-185x300Stylearc Demi drape top in peacock and deep teal viscose from clothspot.co.uk (currently in progress)


Deep-marine-green-viscose-jersey-fabric2-185x300065f46d0d5baaa1f69ee0d95f9066c9aMcCalls 7092 top. Mainly in deep marine green viscose also from clothspot.co.uk., with a contrast piece in the v-neck from the Demi-drape top peacock or deep teal.

il_570xN.404660035_36z0IMG_1526A Tiramisu. This one isn’t for me – my friend is turning 30 and having a big do so I wanted to sew something for her. At the time I made this decision I had just made an online impulse purchase of some very cool domino print viscose jersey. Unfortunately, as DH pointed out, neither black or white are my usual colours, however, my friend is a big gamer, so that was a great match. I am confident she will love the shape of the tiramisu and the domino print will look very funky.

anmahoprpoma1Sally Gray Resized 2Sally shirt-dress . I started fitting the pattern for this in autumn, but realised that it would be winter by the time it was sewn up, so I wouldn’t be wearing it. The fabric I have for it is A in Anna Maria aubergine Mary Thistle quilting cotton bought from John Lewis with a gift voucher. Once the fitting is sorted I hope this will be a fairly quick sew.

IMG_1511Kirsten kimono top. I found this purple tiger print jersey in the remnant box at my local fabric shop – I think it will make a great simple Kirsten top which shouldn’t take long to whip up.


a9f378689d6764e799c5365520b491daBurgundy-silk-mix-crepe-fabric1-214x300This silk mix crepe is a 1 metre remnant from clothspot.co.uk. I was inspired by the photo to make some sort of cowl neck to take advantage of the drape in this fabric. I have not 100% settled on a pattern yet, but I am considering the Cool cowl top from In House patterns.

3afa5b916c7254409af4f2844ce78269IMG_1529I need more wrap dresses in my life and I have a TNT pattern for wovens; OOP Simplicity 6674. I bought this bight flowery cotton my one of the Edinburgh fabric stores last year, but didn’t get time to sew it up before winter moved in.


1fc114a8d73cf96ac6c841ee30d70de8IMG_1541This cotton is out of the remnant box in my local fabric store. I want to use it to make a summery version of Vogue 1182, which I have made before in a heavier satin. Vogue 1182 needs lining, which is good because this cotton is so light it needs lining for decency. Hopefully as the patten is already adjusted this should be another quick sew.

dcf13d9333588980c5a352d4f4a29084IMG_1547This is a UFO from the end of last summer. I started making a maxi sleeveless version of Simplicity 1801 out of this light knit, the fit needed quite a bit of work, and since the season was turning I left it as a UFO. Now it needs finished.

a3fb77081e2c16876b3e33daf497009dLavender-grey-flowered-cotton-fabric2-185x300I haven’t actually finished fitting my first Edith blouse – I am not working at the moment, so I wouldn’t be wearing it anyway, but I love the pattern and I love the fact you can get a blouse out of a metre, and I have done most of the fitting work on it. When I saw this ‘Blooming seventies’ lavender-grey floral cotton on clothspot.co.uk I knew instantly it would make a great blouse – a relatively neutral colour, but with some interest through the pattern.

IMG_1538b8bb7b5d30ef5af6fdddd58300f950dfI got this navy and white patterned John Kaldor fabric free with Dolly last summer. A burn test suggests it is most likely a polyester. I don’t usually sew with polyester as I prefer natural fibres, but since 60b22222dc1bf6291ede8482d3c0d4edit was free and I like the pattern I figure I might as well use it. The first pattern I that came to mind is Vogue 8814, which I think would make lovely floatly summer dress. However I have also realised this could make a lovely Gabriola skirt – I was inspired by the floaty skirts that were being sewn up last summer. I have got lots of wear out of my last two maxi skirts so maybe this would be a sensible call wearability wise. I’m not sure which I will go with, but I think both would make good use of the drapey properties of this fabric.

74ac687bc3d590474b4e63ff81e400e7IMG_1532This is another summer dress I just didn’t get the time to sew up last year. I know the Maryilyn dress will look great on me and I found this beautiful blue cotton in John Lewis last year.


ae56d67b8ff649a509fc76815517454cDensely-flowered-cerise-cotton-poplin-fabric3-300x272Butterick 4790; the Walkaway dress. Like so many sewers, I suspect,  I fell in love with the Walkaway dress when it was featured on the Great British Sewing bee. I recently got some of this Densely-flowered cerise cotton poplin fabric which I think will make a great bright summer dress.

6d04711d654ded1ccaea9d6d9199020fBetsy skirt. I have been wanting to make a Betsy skirt for a while, but have been lacking inspiration for the fabric. Recently I found some leftover denim in my stash and realised this would be a great workhorse skirt combo.


cd23f4391912d934a5365f748a34eadeIMG_1518This is another light cotton out of the remnant box from my local fabric shop. I haven’t worked out what to do with it yet – perhaps Simplicity 2053, 6209 or Vogue 8814





IMG_0828IMG_1543Finally I want to try one of the patterns from my CSC christmas swap present, Bold and Beautiful patterns. This jacket has caught my eye, and I have this wool cotton blend fabric in a pale purple (it has come out quite blue in this photo).

Fabric shopping list

– A knit wrap dress

– Walking trousers

– A blazer of some kind


A few fabrics lurking in my stash without a pattern match yet


3m of this blue striped cotton chambray from clothspot.co.uk


3m of this autunmal knit


More of this viscose grey polka dot knit which I used for a dress for my niece.


Enough for a top in each of these three viscose knits from clothspot.co.uk in deep teal, peacock print and deep green.

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Navy Jade ponte skirt

20150213-IMG_4792-680x453Wow, my current run of projects is all boring solids. I hadn’t planned this, it was just the way the dice rolled. If you are falling asleep in the face of overwhelming navy-ness, the good news is I have been assessing my stash for summer sewing, and it is bright colours and patterns all the way. Today’s project is the Jade skirt by Paprika patterns. I clocked this pattern last autumn a while ago because of its stylish pleats. The fabric I used for this skirt is a navy ponte knit from one of my local stores. It is nice and stable with a soft finish, I’m not sure what the fibre composition is, but it’s great to sew.

Since I printed and started work on this pattern a 2.0 version  has been released with slightly altered fitting and a larger size range. Since I started adjusting this pattern before this update was released I stuck with the original, and so I was slightly outside of the size range for the original pattern. Therefore, I added an extra 6cm to the centre front and back to the largest size (6). With hindsight, next time I make this pattern I will reprint the 2.0 version and use the appropriate size.


My navy skirt on Dolly.

The only other alteration I made to the pattern before cutting was to add an extra 4cm to each side at the waist for a thick waist based on my measurements. I need to stop doing this, because even though my measurements say I need it, every time I do this I end up taking it off again when I fit the actual garment, which is exactly what I did this time.

Cutting the pattern pieces for this is a bit fiddely as some have to be done single layer and on the fold and there are a lot of corners and notches, but it was fairly straight forward, and I got the skirt out of 1.5m, after a small hiccup when I nearly cut the pieces out with the stretch in the wrong direction.

With the helpful paper aid to practicing the folding I found the folding easy to work out, but I made a critical error in marking the fold lines on the back of the pattern piece as is my usual practice – this caused me no end of headaches as I couldn’t see them when I was making the pleats and sewing them down. If you are making this skirt, test your marker first to check it washes/rubs off, then draw on the front of the pattern piece. Once I had everything pinned down I still found it tricky getting the folds sewn down – I ended up with some of the fabric and folds shifted off centre. Further, when I matched the skirt front and back there was a slight size discrepancy with the skirt front slightly too long. Some careful adjustments of the folds as I was sewing it down fixed this – not sure if these issues were due to small pattern flaws, issues created by my resizing, or dodgy inaccurate sewing (possibly due to not having the markings on the front of the piece). I do like the method of construction and lining which means there are no exposed seam allowances and no hemming (hemming at the end of a project always frustrates me, as I just want it done by then).


Spot the Bronte t-shirt.

Overall, I wouldn’t describe the instructions as beginner friendly. There are only a few illustrations, so I had to read things a few times through. For example, another point where I could have used some more guidance was sewing the front and back pieces together – if done sloppily you could end up with tucks right at the bottom where they are meant to join. One way to avoid this is to sew from the bottom up – then if you get a small amount of extra fabric it just goes above the other pieces.

When finishing construction I added elastic to the waistband to give it extra strength as per the instructions on the website. The pattern is designed to sit a few centimetres under your natural waist, but mine sits just on my natural waist, and therefore is slightly shorter on my legs. I think a combination of the waist elastic and my fairly broad hips is why the skirt sits just on my waist rather than lower.

IMG_1443As mentioned before, as part of the fitting process I trimmed the 4cm I added to the waist off again. Having worn the skirt a few times I think next time I make it I want to lengthen it a bit – there are instructions for this on the blog. Even though I made the midi length, it is pretty much mini length on me – I have short thighs, so there isn’t much difference between mini and above knee length. I am comfortable with the current length, but I think I might be more comfortable when sitting if it was a fraction longer. I think I would also like to add a bit of length above the back waistband to give a little more space for my generous rear end – currently after sitting the skirt tends to ride down a little and needs to be hiked back up to avoid muffin top. It’s no major issue, but I think it would make a future skirt fit a tiny bit better, if the back was a little higher.

Overall, I love this skirt. It is super flattering and really works with curves, and the knit fabric makes the fitting nice and easy. The pleats on the front are great and so distinctive. I actually wish I had sewn this skirt in a lighter colour so they show up better – next time I will. My only problem with this pattern is that it lacks pockets! Given the negative ease involved I can’t see any way they could be added without stretching out when worn (but I assure you I will be thinking on it before I make another version). I definitely will be sewing this again – with a few improvements to my construction process (mark the front of the skirt front!) this would be a quick sew as I found the pleating easy to understand. Next time I will also print the new 2.0 version of the pattern to get the improvements and larger sizing.IMG_1434

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Navy wool Myrtle dress

cp1030-myrtle-12-med-0e08997f8869b8b232b7e989e17d1416Over the past few years as I have done more and more sewing I formulated a loose theory that there are many styles of clothing that I avoid like the plague in RTW clothing, because they just wont fit, such as empire line or fitted dresses, but will look great when fitted correctly. At my most optimistic I have mentally postulated that any clothing styles would look fine on me, as long as they are fitted right. Realistically I know this isn’t really true – I avoid boxy loose fitting styles like the plague because of this. This dress is another bit of proof of this: I can’t describe it as a wadder, but it isn’t my favourite item ever made.

The pattern in question is the Collette Myrtle  – a sleeveless knit dress with a cowl neck. It has been on my make list for a little while. I decided to make it using the navy wool knit  which I also used for my Kristen kimono top and Bronte t-shirt, as the drape of this fabric is ideal for this cowl neck style, and I hope the light wool will make it a good transitional piece for spring and autumn. I know black is a uniform colour for many people, but it just makes me look ill and ghostly due to the particularly pale colour of my complexion, so navy is as close as I get. The idea was that this would be a good basic work dress – something close to an LBD (LND?). also, this dress comes with pockets, and you know I can’t resist a good pocket.


Hello spring! This is the first time my legs have seen the light of day since September. The sunglasses are for the reflected glare.

Before construction I made my usual pattern adjustments. I couldn’t work out how to do a forward thrust shoulder adjustment, so I left it for this pattern. I cut a size L graded to XL at the waist. Due to the extra fabric involved in a cowl neck I decided I might not need my usual FBA, so I measured the finished garment and decided that based on this I could get away with just grading to XL at the bust for width – if you look at the photos of the model on the collette website you can see she is busty, and this works fine. Infact, several reviewers have commented that the Myrtle cowl neck is too loose when they bend forward, but having a large bust and not FBA’ing will probably solve this issue.I also added an extra 5cm length to the front bodice.

This dress seems to run quite short to me – I am 5.6, so pretty average height, I had to add a lot of length to the bodice, and a cut the skirt longer than drafted. I cut the skirt at the 3XL length, although only L width, which adds a couple of inches at the side seams. For the bodice, after measuring, I added 5cm length to the front and back, and the extra 5cm (for 10cm total) to the front for FBA length. Unfortunately, only after cutting out the fabric I realised that the front and back length of my bodices was different due to added FBA length – to fix this I rounded off the waist line so the side length of the bodice matched the back, but maintained the length across most of the front bodice.

Quick hint for anyone altering this pattern: When adjusting the front bodice I just altered one side then folded the pattern piece in half and cut the other side out identically – it saved time on doing the same alterations twice.

IMG_1585The other alteration I planned before sewing was adding sleeves, as I am not a big fan of sleeveless clothes on me. I used the short sleeve pattern piece from the Sewaholic Renfrew top. This was pretty easy – a quick measure showed this should fit the armhole. I just had to remember not to sew the front bodice arm hole closed, or hem the back bodice armhole while following the instructions, and then sewed in the sleeve as usual. As I remembered the Renfrew sleeve was quite loose I was hoping for a loose effect to match the blousniess of the dress. Unfortunately I forgot the Renfrew sleeve was loose lower down my arm, the short sleeve is quite close fitting – at least it gives me a sleeve for the dress.

IMG_1571With alterations made, I proceeded with cutting and sewing. The fabric yardages suggest that this dress needs about 2.7m (in the XL). Even with the extra length I added I only used about 2m (I say about as it is part of a longer length) so this is pretty economical fabric wise if cut carefully. Having learnt my lesson about this fabric with the Kirsten Kimono top I went back into super stabalisation mode (ala Bronte top). Therefore, immediately upon unpinning I fused strips of stretch tricot interfacing to the back neckline, and the arm and bottom hems. And I mean immediately – the unpinning was done on my ironing board with precut interfacing and a hot iron ready – from pins to fused in 30 seconds.

The instructions for this dress are good (as I would expect given what I have heard about Collette patterns). The method of sewing the bodice together is clever leaving no exposed seams although it does make fitting adjustments while sewing trickier. When I checked the fit of the bodice, I found it was a bit baggy for me at the waist, so I took a centimetre off each side, so the tapering to an XL at the waist I did was probably not needed. Other reviewers have commented that they don’t like the method used to encase the waistband elastic. I’m not a fan of feeding elastic through a slot, so I didn’t mind the method used. On the first attempt I managed to sew the fold of fabric for the elastic to the wrong bit, but I am pretty sure that was my own fault. Worth a quick sanity check with this pinned before sewing. Other than that small hiccup, there is nothing to write home about re. construction.

I liked the look of this dress on the envelope and model, but with it sewed it up I don’t think it looks amazing on me. I think it is a combination of the blousiness, and the skirt – it seems to be an awkward shape between an a-line and fuller skirt. I think it might suit me better if the skirt was either closer fitting, or fuller. Due to the gathering at the waist and blousiness my instinct suggests the fuller skirt would work better. I don’t have any plans to sew this again immediately – I just dont’t feel as fabulous as I do in other clothes I make. I will get some wear out of it as a basic work dress. Should I decide to make this pattern again (probably unlikely) I think I would try adding a fuller skirt to see if that makes the shape work better for me.IMG_1573

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Kitschy Coo Toddlers dresses

My niece turns two soon, so I thought I should make her a present. I decided on a couple of dresses. I wanted them to be knit dresses for comfort and practicality. With this in mind I set off in search of some patterns. I was surprised how hard it was to fulfil this simple brief. Particularly the big 4 patterns – why are all the baby/toddler clothes made in wovens with frills? Admittedly most of them are designed so they hang off the shoulders and little fitting is needed, but still – what do they have against babies wearing knits? In widening my search I found the Kitschy Coo patterns and fell for two of them – it was long ago enough that I can’t remember any other patterns I looked at (but my outrage at the big 4 offerings lives on).


Mini Penny front view.

The first pattern is the Mini Penny Pinafore – an a-line shift shape dress with princess seams front and back with banded neckline and sleeves, and options for short or long sleeves, and dress or tunic length. It’s a cute pattern which really lends itself to showing off fabrics. The pattern is available in sizes 6m-10y, which is great value. I sewed up size 2 years, and I plan to sew up some more when my niece gets older. Given the range of sizes it’s good this is a PDF, as when kids inevitably grow you are more likely to need larger sizes, and you can just print again rather than having cut into the only tissue pieces (ala big 4).


Mini Penny back view.

While on the Kirschy Coo website I feel in love with many of her awesome fabrics. For this dress I used some very cute cotton jersey owls from the kitschy coo website  and plain cotton petrol interlock jersey from myfabrics.co.uk . Both feel like quality fabrics, although the owls do have a tendency to curl. The interlock jersey feels great, and I am tempted to get some more for myself in such a gorgeous colour.

There is little to report in terms of construction about this dress. I really like that there are detailed photographic instructions for beginners and anyone with less confidence, but also brief instructions if you know what you are doing. The only change I made to the pattern was doing a bound neckline rather than using a band, although I used the same pattern piece to create the binding. In the end this is a cute, and hopefully practical dress – I am tempted to get the pattern for the adult dress for myself.


Skater dress front view.

The second dress is the Little Girls’ Skater Dress – a dress with a simple fitted bodice, high neckline and a curved flared skirt, with short, long, and sleeveless sleeve options. As with the Mini Penny, this comes as a PDF which gives good value as kids grow.

The fabrics for this dress are from my local fabric shop. The grey spotted fabric is from the remnant bin, so the fibre is a mystery, but it is fairly light weight. The pink is a viscose knit which I bought a very small amount of for contrast neck and sleeve bands. I think grey and pink is a funky combination, even if I generally steer away from making clothes for little girls in pink.


Skater dress back view.

Unfortunately, unlike the Mini Penny, the skater dress only comes with detailed instructions for beginners –it’s a pity there isn’t also a brief version for confident sewers as with the Mini Penny. This frustration is compounded by the poor layout of the detailed instructions, which could be better designed to make it clear which steps in the instructions are for which version of the dress. I constructed as suggested, apart from the neck and sleeve bands, which I sewed in the round, rather than sewing the band in flat with one seam closed. Again, it’s a simple dress so I have no comments about the construction, and since my niece has not yet received the dresses, I can’t comment on the fit.

I am really happy with these two dresses, which I think are cute and practical and having sewed two patterns I really like the Kitschy Coo patterns – they are clearly designed with kids in mind, with features such as being quite long to extend the useable life of the garment.

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I need to talk about the Great British Sewing Bee

So the Great Britsh Sewing Bee is over for another year, and while I loved having some sewing on my TV every week, there are a few things that are starting to grate.


First of all, ‘they was robbed’. Both this year and last I feel the rightful winners were robbed by one person who snuck into the final on lesser merits and snatched the crown with one good performance. While I can see how this theory works in single performance events such as running races where it is all about one criteria such as speed, the programme repeatedly claims to be looking for ‘Britains best sewer’. Sewing is not a one variable skill – I would not call someone a good sewer if they had sewn one couture standard garment, and a whole wardrobe of wadders, or could sew perfect garments with zips, but not with buttons. Therefore, Chinelo, and Neil/Lorna were robbed – they performed consistently throughout the programme and deserve to have that recognised, even if they weren’t best in the very final challenge of the final episode.

Not testing key skills

Related to my previous complaint – the programme themes are not making sure they test all the skills that are core to sewing. Off the top of my head this year the sewers were not forced to sew using knit fabrics, do any handsewing or tailoring. I would deem these key skills of a well rounded sewer.

Where are the men? (and pets, and bags, and home etc)

No I don’t mean the male sewers, I mean the sewing for men. And the home. And bags. And pets. And any other sewing projects we can come up with. The show repeatedly tells us they are looking for ‘Britains best sewer’ not ‘Britains best women’s (and occasionally children’s) dressmaker’. And yet, every single project this year was dressmaking. And the vast vast majority were explicitly for women – the kilt was the only men focused fit challenge, and the alteration challenge was mostly about women – there is a limit you can do for a man with flowered curtains (but kudos to Ryan for doing a great job anyway).


This one is probably a common complaint for reality shows, but the time limits imposed are RIDICULOUS. At least with the Great British Bake off it takes a certain amount of time for bread to rise or a cake to bake, so they have to be given that. The time limits on many of the challenges made me cringe – can you honestly be surprised that poor fabric choices are made, or patterns not matched when such appalling time restrictions are applied? I’m sure every sewist has been asked if they are going to enter – my answer to this is that even if I was good enough, I have no desire to put myself through such a ridiculous and unachievable ordeal.


And finally the ‘fit’ challenge. This looks good in principle, but if you think about it, it is massively unfair. We know different fit challenges present different levels of challenge, yet all the sewists use different models. How can they be sure all of these models present the same fit challenge? It’s easier to fit something where fabric needs shaved off somewhere, rather than a FBA where the pattern needs adjusting and volume adding before cutting. And on that note, how can they possibly get a good fit for challenges where they cut the pattern pieces before they even meet the models? Why not try to standardise it a bit, for example giving the all a model who needs an FBA one week, swayback another week, and plus sized the next week. Or why not all share the same model each week with identical fit issues?

Rant over, I needed to get this off my chest. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show and couldn’t wait for each new episode, but they really need to think about what they are trying to do.

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Flamingo yoga mat

IMG_1349Just a quickie project today. My pilates class has recently moved location and I now need to take my mat with me. This made me realise I could do with a proper bag so I could carry it comfortably. A quick google lead me to Caroline’s tutorial on this, which I decided to follow. The fabric I used  is a light summer cotton with a pale peach background and fun flamingos on it – one of the nice new summer fabrics appearing in my local shop at the moment. A quick measure suggested Caroline’s sizing was pretty good for my mat, so I cut out the body, end and drawstring cord pieces as described. I decided I don’t need a pocket, and I wanted to do something different for the strap so I didn’t use those pieces.

The bottom of the strap with plastic rectangle for the strap to feed through sewn into the circular base seam.

The bottom of the strap with plastic rectangle for the strap to feed through sewn into the circular base seam.

Sometimes I will want the bag over a shoulder, sometimes over my body, so I wanted an adjustable strap. I used 1 1/2″ wide twill tape in this fabulous-flamingo-matching burgundy (I needed about 1 1/2 metres in total), a plastic rectangle and a three bar plastic slider to create the strap. I sewed a 7cm piece of the tape folded around the rectangle into the bottom circular seam. I then sewed the end of the long piece of tape around the middle of the three bar slider. I fed the free end of the long piece of tape through the rectangle sewed into the bottom seam of the bag, and over the top of the middle of the three bar slider. Finally, I sewed down the end of the long piece of tape at the top of the  bag.

The three-bar slider.

The three-bar slider. The end of the strap is sewn to the middle bar. The main strap piece feeds through the slider,  across the top of the middle bar and sewn loop.


the other end of the strap sewn to the top of the bag.

Tada!!! I am very pleased with this – it is stylish, fun, and functional, and using Caroline’s instructions gave me a nice finish (it’s always nice when others do the thinking for you) – I really liked the tie at the top which is a nice detail. I have used it for one class so far, and it was ridiculously comfortable.


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Tutorial: rotating bust darts for the win

402LineDrawing-137x150My next project is the Mariadenmark Edith blouse. The blouse has a vertical dart at the waist, and a horizontal bust dart. As always with bust darts, I found as well as a FBA I needed to move the darts around a bit. I often find I need to do this to get a good fit, and it isn’t a process I see discussed often, so I thought I would explain a bit.

There are a number of ways to transform darts to improve fit –  I was surprised with the number of options I came up with when I thought about it.

  • Size – do an SBA or FBA to increase or decrease the size of the darts. Mary and Leila both have good summaries of links to tutorials on this.
  • Realign the apex. You may need to move the dart vertically if you have a low or high bust, or move a waist dart horizontally. This is done to move the fullness and dart apex (your nipple for a bust dart) because it is not in the same place as the pattern. From experience I can say that you shouldn’t make an adjustment for this until you have applied a FBA/SBA as needed, as this will affect the position of the apex. Again, Mary has links to tutorials to do this.
  • Rotate the dart – (detailed below) rotating the existing dart around the apex. As with the apex realignment you shouldn’t make an adjustment for this  until you have applied a FBA/SBA as appropriate. Megann and Tatterdemalion also have details on this.
  • Split the dart – if the dart is particularly large you may find success splitting it into more than one. I can’t say I have had success doing this having tried it on a few muslins, but it may work for you.
  • Reshape the dart – keeping the apex, and beginning and end of the dart, you can curve the dart lines convex or concave  to provide extra fabric, or gather excess along the length of the dart (I needed to do this on the back waist dart on my Anna dress).
  • Move the fullness elsewhere – you can rotate some or all dart fullness into other features that include extra fullness such as gathers, tucks or pleats. Cennetta has some great examples of this.

My pattern piece post FBA with the widened darts highlighted.

So let me talk you through my bust fitting process for this blouse to show how I came to the conclusion the darts needed some adjustment. First I applied my standard FBA (2” or 5cm on either side, for 4” or 10cm in total). I do the Y-FBA as detailed in FFRP which is better if you are adding more than 1”. As the Edith blouse already has bust and waist darts this enlarges both of these – nothing new is added, which is the simplest type of FBA.

IMG_1252So here is my muslin. As you can see, something is not right; there is loose fabric above the bust by the armhole (yellow arrows), draglines all over the place under the bust (red lines) and slight tightness across and just under the bust (this is not so obvious in the photo). I marked my bust apex (black dot). The horizontal dart (green line) is just about pointing at it, but the diamond waist dart is not (the photo perspective slightly forshortens it, but it is several cm off). The end of this dart is also finishing too high and close to my apex.

I could have adjusted the waist dart on paper by shortening the length and moving the whole dart across on the pattern piece. However, since I had a muslin I unstitched the dart, and then repined it where it wanted to be based on the excess fabric: slightly closer to the centre and slightly shorter. I could then draw this adjustment onto the paper pattern piece, saving myself some paper manipulation, with the knowledge the adjustment is correct.

The horizontal bust dart seemed to be in the right place, but as mentioned, there is excess above the bust and it felt tight across the bust. I could have decided this needed more volume across the bust, but from experience I decided to play around with the dart position first. Therefore, I also unpicked this dart and then played around with the positioning of the excess – doing it this way means the muslin side seams may not work properly, but gives you leeway for some experimenting with the dart positioning along the side seam, which is much faster than trying several options by manipulating the paper pattern. I tried 2 horizontal darts, but that didn’t fix anything. Then, I tried rotating the dart round to above the arm hole to where I had the excess fabric. Suddenly, the whole thing fitted – the snugness across the bust and the excess above was gone. I confess this was not a surprise to me – I have had success rotating horizontal darts upwards before – it seems to fit my bust better. Interestingly this creates a quasi-armhole princess seam – you can see why they work well for the full busted.

Here is the before and after:

IMG_1252 2  IMG_1246

It is worth bearing in mind that these fit improvements came from moving each of these darts only about 2cm in each case – these were not drastic adjustments, but the effect is – the drag lines, tightness, and fullness all vanished without changing the size of the darts – just adjusting their position.

IMG_1348So how do you rotate a dart? First you need to decide where it is going – FFRP has a fantastic diagram showing many of the options (and a page discussing the process).

1. Identify the dart apex and draw lines on the pattern piece from the ends of the current dart legs to this apex. Also mark on the line where the new dart should lie.

1. Identify the dart apex and draw lines on the pattern piece from the ends of the current dart legs to this apex. Also mark on the line where the new dart should lie.

2. Cut out the wedge of the old dart, and along the line of the new dart. Ensure a small hinge remains between the two at the apex.

2. Cut out the wedge of the old dart, and along the line of the new dart. Ensure a small hinge remains between the two at the apex.

3. Rotate the wedge between the old dart and the new dart to close the old dart. Tape the old dart closed.

3. Rotate the wedge between the old dart and the new dart to close the old dart. Tape the old dart closed.

4. Fill in the gap behind the new dart space with new paper

4. Fill in the gap behind the new dart space with new paper.  Draw in a new dart with the legs starting at the edge of the new wedge, and the end of the dart an appropriate distance from the apex (1” is quoted as standard, but those with a larger bust often want it further out – in this example mine is …)

5. Fold this new dart, and cut along the edge of the pattern piece to trim the edge of the dart – when unfolded this will shape the dart to sew perfectly.

5. Fold this new dart, and cut along the edge of the pattern piece to trim the edge of the dart – when unfolded this will shape the dart to sew perfectly.


Ta-dah! Finished pattern piece with adjusted and rotated darts – tune in next week for the blouse.

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Aubergine v -neck Renfrew

IMG_1336Next in my current line of fast (and probably unintersting) knit tops is another Sewaholic Renfrew. This time I did the v-neck version with a full length sleeve. The fabric I used was this rich dark aubergine viscose from the clothshop, which is a great fabric for the price, but tends to gather hairs, threads etc, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a pet owner. The colour doesn’t show well in photos, but it is a beautiful deep purple – like aubergine skins, as described.

As I have made this top before there is only a limited amount to say about the construction. My cowl neck version was a bit baggy in places, so I graded down to a size smaller for the wrist end of the sleeves. For the cowl neck version I did I did a 2cm no dart FBA and then another 3cm using a standard Y adjustment, rotating the dart around into the neckline. This seemed to provide slightly too large FBA for a knit fabric, so this time I only applied the 2cm no dart FBA. I kept the forward thrust shoulder and broad shoulder adjustment I did for the cowl neck version.

IMG_1339During construction I found the sleeve was about an inch too long so I had to trim that off before adding the sleeve band – next time I could remove this much from the pattern piece. After wearing I am happy with the smaller FBA and sleeve size. With this version of the top I have a bit of an issue with the back riding up – I think I need to broaden the back piece at the hips slightly to prevent this. It is not so bad to make the top unwearable, but it is annoying. I also have a preference for longer tops, and I think I could happily make this top an inch longer for wearing with jeans.

IMG_1260IMG_1327Other than these small fit issues this top was easy to whip up in one afternoon, and I like the v-neck version – the band came out well and this is another good basic top. Not so exciting, but excellent wardrobe building.

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