Help! Moths* ate my lucky dress.

What to do, what to do?  You need your lucky dress.  You take it out of the cupboard knowing that, the last time that you looked at it, it had a small nibble by the back split.  Something irritating but not too obvious.  Gah!  It didn’t miraculously heal itself whilst hanging in the wardrobe unworn and worse than that, there are more holes.


I know that this fabric has a tendency to moiré but I think that you can see the damage?   Curses thinks/thought I.  But, what did I do?

I sliced off the offending areas and re-attached the remaining undamaged fabric.  Luckily it was:

1) pretty long.

2) I’m pretty short.



3) The bottom few inches were unscathed meaning that I could retain the very invisible ready-to-wear hem.

Would you like to see what it looks like now?


Back split

Back split

Side - inside view.  Love the quality of my overlockering  on the lining...

Side – inside view. Love the quality of my overlockering on the lining…

Back split

Back split


Rescued but I don’t know how long she’ll last.  Methinks therefore that an interview-friendly shift needs to go onto the ‘must sew’ list.  Any suggestions?!


* Must be the biologist in me but I feel the need to re-assure you that I know that it is the caterpillars that do the real damage…

Posted in Sewing, refashion | 5 Comments

One link leading to another and discovering…


Oonaballoona from Kalkatroona:  A sewing star of celestial proportion.  One of those folks who are able to radiate warmth and energy using just thought and text and screen.  The link that laid me at the feet of O from K was The Sewcialists who have declared July 2014 as Oonapalooza Time.  Here’s their First Roundup.  Cool hey?

What did I make that could possibly reflect even a tiny proportion of Oonaballoona’s infectious joie de vivre?

I made this jersey dress (#114) from Burda Style 02/2013.  Which I’ve had a bash at before.  It’s fashioned in a multicoloured mosaic print from Stone Fabrics.  Boy is this fabric bright.  Your husband musing ‘that’s a bit bright’ kind of bright.  Tennis ball bright.


Hi-Vis jacket bright.  I can just about carry it off.


IMG_3121Whilst I love the draped front I’m not sure that I’d do battle with this particular pattern again.  There was a point during construction where I thought that the only way that that droopy drape would stay put was if I staple-gunned it to my sternum.  Thankfully, after some experimental hacking, tinkering and top-stitching I was able to PUT AWAY the staple-gun.  Whew!

How about you, will you dip your toe into the #Oonapalooza pool?



Posted in Burda, jersey, Oonapalooza!, sewalong, Sewing | 16 Comments

Sport and strawberries – effort and reward

Fruit?!  I know, I know, you just want to see the sewing but I wish to draw an analogy and so I beg a minute of your time kind ladies and sirs.

You see, it occurred to me as we munched our way through possibly the last bowl of home-grown, organic, free-range, cruelty-free strawberries that there is a connection between sewing and strawberries.  No, it is not to do with the much discussed price of a bowl of strawberries and cream at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.  Nor do I mean that my sewing is prone to aphids and mildew.  What I realised as I ate the last of our garden-grown strawberries is that, although they were delicious, they have required some considerable effort:

In the autumn I tended to the individual plants, making sure they were weed-free and had plenty of space. In early summer, I lifted the developing berries onto a bed of dry leaves in order to dissuade the slugs and woodlice from making them their meals or homes.  As the fruit has ripened I have fended off snails aplenty (we appear to offer suitable habitat to every polymorph of the banded land snail, I swear we could house a national collection) and it’s been a daily race between me and the blackbirds to see who spots the ripe fruit first.  All in all, it has been hard work.  But we have been rewarded!  The fruit, although variable in size, knobbly and misshapen, has been fragrant and sweet and we have shared it with the legions of invertebrates and birds that share our patch of green.


I think that it is the same with home sewing.  There is much effort involved and, for me, although my ‘reward’ – the finished sewing product – may be a little misshapen and knobbly, it’s hand-grown, me-made, and the sense of achievement is fragrant and sweet.

Oh my gosh, after all that, finally, tell me, what did you sew?

OK, you ready?  I sewed:

The culottes are New Look 6626, for which I have no envelope and no date.  I suspect them to be of an early 80s origin but I’d love to have a precise date, can anyone oblige?  I cut a size 12, which, when the origami-like sewing was over, was surprisingly close to my preferred fit although I did have to make very narrow side seams.  And a tiny hem.

The top is based on the bodice section of the dress pattern created for the V&A Golden Age of Couture Exhibition.



The whole outfit had quite a croquet vibe,

and is pretty sport friendly:

“Snow, rain, thunder… Lightning!”


What about The Secret Sporty Thing?

Oh my goodness! Have I forgotten to tell you what my Secret Sporty Thing was?  You have been most patient.  The Secret Sporty Thing, the Thing that necessitated the wearing of long sleeves:  It was tree-top, it was an adventure and it involved ropes and helmets*.  Here’s some evidence of me and my close kin stepping off something high, I’m about 2 minutes in:

Karen, thank you for being an effusive, gracious and inclusive host.  Sporty Summer Sewathon, I salute you!




* High Ropes Oxford:  Most brilliant!



Posted in New Look 6626, Sewing, Sporty Summer Sewathon, V&A Golden Age of Couture | 10 Comments

Finding beauty in the discarded.

Many is the hour that I have happliy wiled away browsing through the baskets and boxes that line the back wall of my favourite local charity shop, for the back wall doubles as an impromptu haberdashery.  Picture me if you will, balanced unsteadily with one leg either side of an overflowing bag of second hand bed-linen contentedly stirring the contents of the newly-arrived button bowl.

I try to put out of my mind how sad I feel that the shop has felt the need to add a sign that reads ‘Please don’t steal these buttons, it’s all money for the hospice’.  How can anyone resent their 5 pence a button asking price and choose instead to steal these time capsules?  For each of these sometimes very grubby little objects tells a story, from its colour and form to the number of compadres that have survived.

There was this party of two.  Made of glass and pressed into the shape of, is that a waterlily?

Or this singleton, made of metal, and surely, surely belonging to someone or something connected with the sea:

A mermaid?  No wait, the salt water would have caused her buttons to rust.  Although, maybe that’s why this is the only button to have survived.

I come back with a palm-full that I gently clean.  For many it is necessary to use my nail to ease away a greasy, sticky film that smells of woodbines.  One of the past owners was most certainly a heavy smoker.  Here they all are drying in the sun:

I almost immediately find a need for one of these new buttons, for I have fallen foul of Landmark Number 2Irreparable damage to a painstakingly produced object.  In trimming the corner of a top that I am making for the Sporty Summer Sewathon I cut through a very visible section of, nope not the lining, but the main fabric.


Do you see?  Right by the lower neckline, near to the seam with the shoulder strap and the front.  Arrgghh!  It will drive me mad to look at this so I am going to cover it with?  I don’t know yet, here are some choices:

1) One of the buttons from my latest visit to the impromptu haberdashery.


2) Some clip on earrings that could double as dress clips:


3) A pair of small plastic flower-shaped buttons:


4) A solitary elephant:


5) A white dog with a dodgy eye patch:


6) One or two of a pair of brown dogs:


7) A small, heart-shaped, shell button:IMG_2491What do you think, which button should adorn my sloppy scissor work?



Posted in sewalong, Sewing, Sporty Summer Sewathon, Thrifting | 7 Comments

Spectator Sport

Did you know that here in the UK it’s National Sport Week?  I only know because there have been events at both of the children’s schools, one of which the eldest-and-newly-a-teenager gave us permission to attend.  “Permission!” I hear you snort.  I know, sigh, but it’s an improvement on last year.  Last year I didn’t even get to find out that it was happening let alone negotiate our discrete attendance.  And it was discrete, new-teen did wave from the other side of field as he took his place in the 4 by 100 metres but we didn’t actually meet or speak or (horror of horrors) partake in any public display of affection.

What, if anything, has this to do with all things hand-made?  Well, whilst I was ever-so-discretely spectating I was wearing my new long sleeves, the ones that I made for The Secret Sporty Thing.  I’m not going to reveal any more about the The Secret Sporty Thing until the day of the Sporty Summer Sewathon.  I am however going to reveal the sleeves, and the rest of the top, because making isolated long sleeves might be have been a little odd.


What is it?  It’s a raglan sleeved cardigan affair.  The pattern is based upon The Anorak from the book that tied-in with second series of the Great British Sewing Bee – ‘The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe’.  It is possible to download the patterns from this book but I have my own copy so I traced off the pieces that I needed and I started to think and to fold.


I love raglan sleeves and I wanted to try to create a pattern that would work with stretch fabrics such as this delicious, red, double sided, wool/viscose jersey from Stone Fabrics.


I won’t list all of the hacking details, if anyone is interested, I’ll do a separate post.  It was basically a sliming of the back, front and sleeve pieces with the sneaky insertion of pockets copied from youngest’s school cardigan.


Are you done perusing me pockets?  Here, look at this, look at my underarm!  Hello?  Oh, they’re gone.  I only wanted to show them my seam matching and my twin-needle top-stitching.  Using a twin ball point needle no less!*


It’s far from perfect, but it is wearable.  Slowly, slowly my relationship with knits is mellowing.

I’m going to leave you with some actions shots – lest you fear me a complete spectator and all round lardy-arse.  This is a top for watching and participating, if only there was a yoga section of Sports Day.


* From Sew Essential, which I mention as it’s taken me a while to find a place that sells such delights.


Posted in GBSB, jersey, self-drafted, sewalong, Sewing, Sporty Summer Sewathon | 6 Comments

What to make for a Sporty Summer Sewathon? A participant/spectator dichotomy.

Are you taking part in part in Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewathon?  Say you are!  They’re always bags of fun! I’m taking part and I have been musing muchly on what my particular makes might be.  My first thought was culottes, something that had been on ‘the list’ (you know, The List.  The constantly evolving inventory of things that you are going to make. The List that keeps getting added to and rarely gets taken away from, you know that List) since last summer. Last summer I’d even got as far as placing pattern pieces onto fabric when I don’t know, something stayed my hand.  It probably started raining and thus, the craft cupboard claimed the culottes.

That is until this week.  This week I cut out the culottes!


The pattern is New Look 6626 which was without its very 80s looking envelope and the fabric is something striped from a charity shop bargain bin.

All well and good says you, but what’s all this about a dichotomy?

It’s like this.  I love the idea of the culottes and they will get made and they will be sport friendly.  It’s just that I suspect that they might get more use in my role as spectator.  That being the case I had a good think about what I like doing sport-wise.  It wasn’t a long think because I am not very sporty but it was a good think.  Do you know what my conclusion was?  My conclusion was that very soon I was going to be doing a secret sporty thing and this secret sporty thing required the wearing of long sleeves and do you know what?  It is a very long time since I have made anything wearable that has long sleeves.  I know!  How lax is that?  What am I going to do about this?  Here’s a visual clue:


There we are then, you now know my cunning plans for the Sporty Summer Sewathon: culottes for spectatoring in and long sleeves for a secret sporty thing.

What about you?  Are you a participant or a spectator?  Or is this all a load of old nonsense (er, yes!), there is no dichotomy, we are all participants and spectators.

Wishing you every happiness in your sewing whether it’s for a sporty summer or not.



Posted in GBSB, New Look 6626, Sporty Summer Sewathon | 2 Comments

Three word stories for my third Me-Made-May

Cute wildlife picture.




Stories of three words.  Give it a chance, it’s a learning tool I picked up, although now I come to think about it, it was in fact six word stories.  Maybe I’ll call them three word statements.

During Me-Made-Made-14 I wore:  School run stuff. 

It’s all dreadfully practical.  It has to withstand bicycle maintenance, grass stains and household cleaning products.  I need to try harder to stop it being VERY DULL.

During Me-Made-May I made:  Barely a thing.

What with half-term and asynchronous INSET days it feels as if the children are hardly at school.

Most important revelation of Me-Made-May-14:  More home stuff. 

As in, I need more me-made home clothes.  I have a ludicrously low number of contracted work work hours and I need to turn my attention to home work.  It’s the conclusion that I’ve seen others come to and it’s one that I need to embrace – create for the life that I live.  That exotic life of chain fixing, lawn mowing and loo cleaning.  Some years ago my friend and I were chatting about our (then young) children’s total lack of existential angst.

“For Poppy*,” my friend said,

“it’s a good day if she gets to wear her pink, sparkly shoes.”

Too right young Poppy, let’s dress joyfully every day.

Today is a good day because I’m wearing this:



My Wine Waiter top that I thought that I hated.  It turns out that I don’t hate it, yay, it’s a good day!

What about those trousers?  My denim capris? 

Yes, those, did you make them? Yes, I did.

Are they new?  Yes they are. 

Do you  like them?  No, I don’t.

What’s wrong with them? Where to start?

At the beginning?  Colour, cut, construction.

What about Poppy and your new mantra?  Dress joyfully daily?

Yes, that one.  I’m very fickle.

Can you stop talking in three word statements?  Don’t think so.

Shall we end there?  Might be best.


* Nope, not her real name.

Posted in MMM14, Sewing, Style 4844 | Leave a comment

The lesser-known landmarks of a sewing journey.

desert convoy

I’m not talking about the fabulous firsts.  The first time someone thanked you for your hand-crafted gift and meant it.  The first time you received an unsolicited and believable compliment:

“I love your …insert description of garment!”

Did you get it from …insert name of favourite high street brand?”*

I’m talking about the more meagre milestones, the true rites of passage for the sewing amateur.


1.  Frightening and/or injuring yourself

Have you ever sewn late into the night?  Have you ever sewn whilst tired and emotional?  Maybe you’ve sewn in a hurry.  Whatever the circumstances under which upon reflection you perhaps should not have taken to your machine.  Trust me, before you can say “E6 error message”, your heart is pounding and you’re levering up the needle plate to retrieve a broken needle or a bit of a foot.  In a slightly more dramatic scenario you might be retrieving something that you have attached to your own clothing or pierced into your own nail.


2.  Irreparable damage to a painstakingly produced object

Let’s get this one straight.  This never happens when you are working with cheap fabric of which you have an inexhaustible supply.  This never happens when you are ambivalent about a make or when you have only invested a few hours of your time.  You cannot call yourself a true amateur until you have carelessly attacked adjusted a garment with seam ripper or scissors.  Hacked off a hem?  Ripped out the wrong seam? Torn a hole into a crucial and obvious area?  These my sewing friends are the experiences that bind us together.


3.  Tracing a Burda pattern

Burda – The Grand National of pattern tracing – so many fences at which to fall:  Visually te-tangling the tube map of overlapping lines to identify the pieces that you need.  Staying true to the pattern pieces that you have taken 3 hours to identify and not accidentally tracing a sleeve head merged with a pocket.  Not forgetting the final and most difficult hurdle – remembering to add a seam allowance.  Gah!  That’s why I can’t get the blinking thing over my head.


4.  Beguilement by vintage pattern illustrations

Casually browsing Ebay or Etsy one evening you happen upon a pattern for which you fall hopelessly in sewing love.  The drape of the fabric, the pleasing proportions of the model.  Her hair, her hat, her handbag!  Yes!  I totally need and would work tirelessly to produce a fifties era, floor-length evening dress with matching fur-lined stole.  Curse you ‘Buy It Now’.


5.  Making something truly unwearable

There are times when every and all actions result in the same consequence – the production of something truly noxious.  Man, if I had a penny for every time I have looked in the mirror only to realise that I have lovingly crafted a sack and I look like the lowliest of House Elves.  I would have £1.42.


These are the slightly alternative stages of my sewing journey, are there any lesser-known landmarks that you would like to share?





* Which for the record has happened to me ONCE.

Posted in reflection, Sewing | 5 Comments

I’m a little bit testy and a little bit floral.

Oh, me oh my, it’s been a testing week and I mean that in the literal sense of the word that it has been a week that has contained very many tests.  Thank you (absolutely and resoundingly NOT) to whomsoever devised the mandatory testing of ten year olds.  There have been tears, there have been troubled nights, there were tonsils the size of tennis balls*.  There has been much familial tolerance.

There are other tests to come, some of which are too confidential to share.

It’s at times like these that I turn to reliable, dependable, well-mannered fabric.  Fabric that stays put when worked with, that washes well, that lasts.  Fabric that provides continuity in a time of change.  Of course it’s Liberty, you knew it was going to the Liberty where else would one turn in the midst of a tumultuous Me-Made-May?

There was this dress, that you have seen before.  She’s had a face-lift.  Well a bottom-lift really as it’s the skirt and the ribbon that I have changed.  And the zip.  Is she still the same dress? Where’s a metaphysician when you need one?


{I had to add this photo too.  This photo shows last-year’s rocket which went to seed and happily germinated in the gravel path and is now even more happily growing right up through the bench.}


There has been this shirt who hasn’t yet had her own blog post, she’s a charity shop re-fashion.  Shown here toning fetchingly with the weathered gate.



Finally there has been this dress, which has been re-incarnated as a sort-of-a-shift.


Brace, brace, brace.  Close-up.


Let’s end with some Knitting News.  I seem to be capturing spring between my needles.  It’s such a pleasure to work that I almost don’t care if my knitted experiment is a failure.


*I am of course exaggerating for alliterative effect.

Posted in knitting, Liberty, MMM14, Natural Dye Studio, refashion | Leave a comment

I’m a little bit denim.

Which with all due respect to Donny and Marie is both Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll.   Although not on me.  On me denim is.. everyday.


And to my astonishment, it’s something that I have reached for almost every day of Me Made May.  It’s a workhorse of a fabric coping with all but the most filthy of household chores.  It also passes the ‘presentable at the school gate’ test which is more important than you might think.  Although nothing can help you on that front if you have just headbutted a dead tree in a freak gardening incident and have a two inch by one inch graze on your forehead and are then asked in to chat to the class teacher.  I mean I suppose I could have put a plaster on it?  Or worn a hat?  Neither of which would have stopped me having to explain why I looked such a wreck.  I digress.  Denim.

The denim-y details?

1.  A skirt that began life as my first ever trousers of denim way back in 2012, two whole Me Made Mays ago.  The original fit of the trouser leg was wrong in a way I can’t articulate, the result of which I can:  They were rarely worn.  After hacking off some length, undoing the inside leg seams and re-doing the centre front and centre back seams I have a skirt that gets worn loads.  Yay me!

2.  Some trousers that are almost but not entirely Simplicity 3850.  I’ve been hacking my pattern pieces about because front flies and I are not friends.  So this is Simplicity 3850, with a side zip that is almost but not entirely concealed.


There are also no false back pocket flaps and there has been some considerable jiggery pokery with the yoke pieces.  I have nearly 10 inches (25 cms) difference between my waist and my hip measurements and I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the reasons that I find fitting to this region of my bod very tricky. What say you of the fit kind ladies and sirs?

Having provided me with both a skirt and a pair of trousers there is still more of the denim in the cupboard (it was a charity shop find).  I’m thinking, 3/4 length narrow legged capri style trews, using the other side of the fabric.  You know what else I’m thinking?  I still love libraries


and I love denim.



Posted in MMM14, Sewing, Simplicity 3850 | 4 Comments