Is this normal?

Dear Sewsan, 

I sometimes wonder if the choices that I make are a little unusual.  Not many other people seem to make the things that I do.  I worry that I’m not doing sewing properly.  Do other people do the same things as my machine and me?

Take this latest sewalong sundress.  It a bit different to the one I made earlier.


It’s from a Burda pattern, which is a relatively unusual choice.  Even though this is one of those patterns in an envelope just like other patterns, you don’t have to trace it if you don’t want to and it has seam allowances and everything.  

There’s something else though.  What makes my sundress even weirder is –  I made it with a knit fabric.  There I said it.  I haven’t shocked you have I?  Is that the strangest thing that anyone has ever told you?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  It’s just that it felt right and if it feels right it can’t be wrong.  Can it?  Yes, the collar is a little soft, but I like it like that.

Please tell me, is this normal?

Confused, near Banbury.

Dear Confused,

Oh my love, I am not shocked.  The things that I could tell you if only there was not a totally binding confidentiality clause in my contract.  Let us not risk any unforeseen revelations, let us turn to your problem.

What is normal?  Now that is a jolly enormous question.  As far as I am aware we are all gloriously unique.  If you are using a knit fabric in a pattern that is designed for wovens and it feels right for you, I say go for it.  The world would be a terribly dull place if we all made the same things as everyone else.  Try your best not to compare yourself to others.  If it is in the context of a stable and caring relationship, if both you and your machine are happy and you are staying within the law of the land where is the harm?  Just remember that if you and Singer or Brother or whomever (in your letter you do not mention a name) are venturing into new territory again, invest in a safe word.  It can save no end of mess and embarrassment.

Remember my sweet, always stabilise a shoulder seam and reinforce a gusset.

Warmest regards,

Auntie Sewsan

Posted in #SundressSew15, Sewsan | 9 Comments

Can this be anything other than a holiday romance?

Dear Sewsan,

I’m worried and I don’t know who to turn to for advice.  I met this fabulous pattern whilst on a short break to the Jurassic Coast.  Have you been?  It’s breathtaking there, we stayed close to West Bay – where Broadchurch was filmed – you know, Olivia Coleman and David Tennant?

Anyway, there we were.  There this pattern was.  I was beguiled.  I was tempted.  I responded to its siren call.  Margo, you will be mine.


Each and every night of that vacation I tended the envelope, I imagined what might become of us once we were home.  Would we feel differently?

I know what you’re thinking Sewsan.  It didn’t last the week, I tired of Margo before the last paddle at sunset.  Well, it wasn’t like that.  Our affaire de coeur lasted the journey home.  It lasted through fabric choice.  It lasted through modification and construction.  This is no mere toile!  This is the real deal.  I love her.

But!  Will it last?  I have doubts about whether she is really for me.  Her legs flare.


Her fabric is from a far off land very different to my own, it’s cheap and it faded in the pre-wash.  Despite all this, j’adore.

I’m so conflicted.  My head asks – Is she practical?  Is she everyday?  When the sun finally sets on our summer will she become a nuisance, will I discard her?  My heart says…  you know what my heart says!

What am I to do?


Worried, Nr. Oxford.

Dear Worried,

Thank you for your lovely letter.

I am not sure that my readers are strong enough to bear the raw emotion of the 6,000+ words of your re-telling of this all too familiar tale so I have only included the highlights above.  Rest assured that I did indeed read every. single.word.

In my reply I will try to be similarly concise.  Dearest garment maker we have all felt the intensity of immediate attraction that you describe so vividly.

Sometimes it is a pattern that begs to be bought, other times it is fabric that falls into our online shopping cart.  Some of these beloveds will slot into our lives and we will not know how we survived without them, others will bring a brief spark of joy but then they are forgotten.

For now, I suggest that you take things slowly.  One day at a time.  Certainly do not make any firm commitments such as cutting out the fabric for the bodice.

Wishing you love and lace trimmings from the finest haberdasheries,

Auntie Sewsan



Posted in Sewing, Sewsan | 13 Comments

Your destination has been reached #SundressSew15

Did I do it?  Of course I did it.  I mean, I set myself an extraordinarily generous timescale.  Seventeen sleeps, hah!  It was finished with, well, about a day to spare.


McCall’s 5881 in ‘Lilo Swimmers’ from Stone Fabrics, currently in their summer sale.


McCall’s 5881, which I am astonished to find having just this very moment checked the envelope, is dated 1992.  From the pattern illustrations I would have put this firmly into an exuberant section of the 80s rather than what I remember as the rather austere early 90s.  Although, my summer of ’92 included a fantastically sunny Glastonbury, the end of Polytechnic education and jobs in the apple picking and tree counting industries.

This would be a great dress in which to pick apples.  Plenty of reach room and that collar would provide much needed back of the neck sun protection.  Plus, I popped in some in-seam pockets.  Perfect for scrumping which I never ever did.


If you have this pattern in your stash somewhere and feel the need to channel the spirit of the exuberant/austere late 80s/early 90s, beware!  Not for nothing are these called tent dresses.  Give me a pole and some pegs and we could have slept under this in ’92.  That’s with some slimming from me through the shoulders and armholes.  Plus a teensy raising of the neckline.  Don’t want flash your tan line and your tide marks at your fellow festival goers!

1992.  You know I’m sure that was the year that Newman and Baddiel appeared on the Comedy Stage.

“Do you see that brightly coloured confection in the next field?”

“The Circus Tent?”

“Yes, the Circus Tent.  You do see it?  It’s large enough to accommodate six stilt walkers and the entire Bristol School of Samba.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.  Its aroma is somewhat unpleasant due to its proximity to the compost toilets and its fabric is gaudy and ill-fitting.”


“That’s you that is.  That’s you in your best dress that is.”

Apologies to both Newman and Baddiel.  And, anyone under 30.

Happy Sundress Sewing!


Posted in #SundressSew15, McCall's 5881, Sewing | 21 Comments

Possibility and Destination

Afternoon All.

How are you today?  Well I trust?  I’m very well thank you so very much for asking.  Seventeen sleeps until the school holidays, not that we’re counting or anything.  June, hey?  Crazy busy in this household.  I mean I know that we’re all busy but, well, here’s a snapshot of the itinerary:  My birthday.  The birthdays of both of the offspring.  Fathers Day.  My brother’s birthday.  A family wedding.  Sports Day.  A karate competition (offspring).  A week in North Carolina (the patient parent).   Suffice to say that I’m always glad to turn the pages of the calendar from June to July.

That said, June is also the month that our main campus is transformed by caps and gowns and proud parents.  Not having been at the right type of campus at the right time of year for, woo, a looong time I had quite forgotten the spectacle.  Such joy.  Such relief to have reached this particular destination.  I feel responsible for capturing the moment and reporting it on to those that follow.  It is possible!

Possible.  Possibilities.  This fabric:


The lilo ladies with the enormous hands.  I love it!  It could be many things.  I have seventeen sleeps.  In that time can I create one of these dresses?


Say it’s so!  Say it’s possible to make a dress from the lilo ladies in seventeen sleeps because… Well, because then, then I can take it on my south coast holiday.  It’s bound to be warm enough to go into the sea * adopts wry English smile* so I will wear it whilst paddling.  That’s my summer sewing destination.  Yay!

Talking of paddling and sundresses, I might paddle along with the Sundress Sew-a-long #SundressSew15.  How about you?

Posted in McCall's 5881, Sewing | 5 Comments

Things from other things

Felicitations fellow fabric fans.  How are things with you today?  Things are tickety-boo in our tiny township, the sky has been blue and the step count has been high. Good news because I’m part of a Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) team and step counts count.  Go Library Academicals!
Yea-s… and back to the clothes. As I’ve been stepping out as frequently as my creaky old knees will let me I’ve had to be appropriately attired and what I have been appropriately attired in today is an old tablecloth. A tablecloth? Yes, a tablecloth. Not just any old tablecloth I’ll have you know, a tablecloth that had already been not one but two shades of impractical circle skirt. View the evidence from the vaults:

Honestly, how anyone does anything with that amount of fabric flapping about their thighs I’ll never know.

The-tablecloth-that-became-a-skirt-that-was-then-dyed-purple is now a pair of culottes (New Look 6626, which I’ve made before).

Yep, I’m still a stranger to the steam iron.  Give me a break, I’m sure that I’ve mentioned already how unusually active I’ve been today.  I’m on for a personal best step count I’ll have you know.

Now, the curved hem of the skirt/tablecloth gave my bodgery/fudgery muscles a bit of a work out but I’m not entirely unsatisfied with overall ‘hang’ of the thing.  I’ve more of less utilised the decorative edge to reasonable effect and it got me thinking about other things with border prints and whether they were harvest-able.  It’s something that I think our sewing ancestors did frequently.  This pattern for a pantskirt (!):

has a 90″ by 108″ bedspread as one of the suggested fabrics.  I really, really want to have a go at that.  Have you made a thing from any other thing?  Would you go the route of the tablecloth or the bedspread or would you try something more modern.  There’s always the Twister Mat Raincoat, tell me you’ve seen one of those.  They are ACE, go forth and Google those and then tell me what you think:

Tablecloth, bedspread or Twister Mat?


Posted in foraged fabric, New Look 6626, refashion, Sewing | 5 Comments

Making Rules when there are No Rules

‘Allo there, how you diddling?  I’m diddling fine thanks so very much for asking.  It’s nearly the end of semester and that always feels like an achievement even when you’re not the one that is taking the exams.

Would you like to see where I have got to with my hexagons?


Definite growth.  Now given that I was hoping for a pleasingly random scattering of colour across the lap/cat/not-sure-of-the-finished-size blanket, one might think that I would be happy to just pop my hand into the jar when it came to hatch a hexagon.


I mean there are twenty something balls to choose from, there would be no need to impose restrictions would there?  Would there?  Hah!  How little I know myself.  I began to stress that the ‘pleasingly random’ that I desired isn’t truly random, for truly random would mean embracing the idea that I could end up with a row that was entirely pink.  Or entirely solid.  Or entirely variegated.  Or, or..  you get the idea.  Given this spread of colours:

I have imposed these rules:

  • Choose six colours at a time.  Why six?  I’ve no clue, something to so with the six sides of the hexagon?
  • Of these six, three must be solid, three must be variegated.
  • Close your eyes as much as possible when choosing colours to add some degree of pucker randomness.
  • Try not to over-analyse colour placement once you have chosen the six.  You won’t believe the problem I have with the over-analysis.  Well, given that I have imposed so many rules where others would have embraced true randomness, maybe you would believe that I have a problem with over-analysis.

I am pretty pleased with the spread of colours that the rules and the eye closing are producing:


If you’d like to join me in hooking hexagons it’s not necessary to take on the inspired weird polygon protocol…  Here’s a hexagon tutorial that illustrates a similar method to the one that I’m using.  To join the hexagons as you go I followed this YouTube video.

That’s about it for now, I hope that you have a lovely evening.  My better half has just informed me that he ate scotch egg curry  Scotch.  Egg.  Curry.  for lunch so I suspect that I’ll be crafting by an open window.





Posted in crochet, Natural Dye Studio, yarn | 7 Comments

In Search of a Sleeveless Shell – Diana Variation

I’m on a quest and I think dear Reader that I will need your assistance.  I’m looking for a pattern for the perfect sleeveless shell.  I want a pattern that uses maybe a metre or a metre and a half of fabric.  A pattern that can be used with my odd-shaped leftovers, my remnants and my impulse purchases.  It needs to work well tucked out as I’m a hang-it-out-er rather than a tuck-it-in-er.  There has to be a good balance of pit-podge-coverage and collar-bone-display.  It has to pass the Shelving Test:  I need to be able to heft a weighty tome onto the top shelf without fear of rip-age or kidney display.  Work and play appropriate.

I’m asking too much you say?  I say, that together, we might find the one.  The Perfect Sleeveless Shell.

I thought that I would start my quest with the patterns that are loafing about my shelves and in my stash cupboard.  Here is the Diana Variation from Famous Frocks – The Little Black Dress Book.


Why start with this picture?  Well, it’s the one that I like the best.  (Rather sadly) I think that this might be compelling evidence that my back side is my best side.  Which is rather a shame because all of the interesting noises come from the front side.  Although my nearest and dearest might suggest that that too is open to debate!

The ‘Diana Variation’ is a princess seamed sleeveless shell, I traced an extra small grading out to a small at the waist/hips.  It is made from Liberty Tana Lawn harvested from the scraps bag.  As the arm holes and neck are finished with bias binding I suspect that I might have used around a metre of fabric.  I’d say it was a weeny bit tight around the arm.  Also, something that I didn’t spot until I came to sew the side seams… the back pieces run shorter than the front pieces.  Design feature or error?  The line drawing doesn’t suggest a deliberate discrepancy and there is no rear shot of the model.  I guess her best side is her front side!


What do you think of this pattern?  If I had to rate it today, it might get a 7.5/10.  With a few tweaks I think that this could be a really useful basic.  I have at least three more stashed patterns lined up to Test for the Quest, but in the meantime do you have any that you can recommend?


Posted in fabric scraps, Famous Frocks The Little Black Dress, foraged fabric, Liberty, Sewing, Sleeveless Shell | 9 Comments

Stop Knitting at the Shark

Despite the perceived wisdom, research has shown that women are pretty good at navigating.  They just have a different approach to men, often relying on landmarks.  If I’m embarking on a journey that I undertake infrequently I certainly rely heavily on key physical features: The park, the petrol station, the shark in the rooftop.


Not up to me usual picture quality I know, but the double decker was moving and I was using my phone camera.  It’s mostly here to prove that I’m not making this story up.  Passing the Headington Shark signifies the end of my inter-site bus journey.  Time to stop reading my work emails and pack away my knitting.  Knitting?


Yep, still knitting this stranded snake of a scarf.  I started working with this yarn this time last year and I confidently predict that this time next year it will still be on my needles.  Of course what one needs to do if one is unable to get excited about a woolly project… is start another woolly project.  Here’s some crochet that has been occupying my evenings:

There might be enough for a blanket, I haven’t done the maths yet.  What do you think?

Posted in crochet, knitting, Natural Dye Studio, work in progress, yarn | 5 Comments

Pockets for Pleasure

Good Evening dear reader, may I ask you a question?  Does making make you happy?  Making makes me happy.  So much so that I have quite a few things on the go here at Start-A-Project-Central.  There’s a bit of knitting :

IMG_5907It’s a scarf and it’s a bit longer than this now but I have yet to reach the half way mark and I’ve stalled rather.  Mid-project ennui.  C’est la vie.  There’s no point in forcing these things, it’s supposed to be enjoyable?

There’s a strong urge to pick up a hook and fashion some more woolly eggs.  I really want some more woolly eggs.


I’d also like to start a granny square blanket and maybe some socks.  I know that I am really serious about the blanket because I’ve done a test square and ordered crochet hooks in the two sizes up from the one I used for the swatch.

Lovely as all these yarny things are, what has really been making my heart sing is this:


A trouser pocket.  From yet another pair of Simplicity 3850.

Try as I might I could not work out why the blue bed sheet and the scrap of Liberty Strawberry Thief in fuchsia and lime was making me smile so.  That was until today when I was gazing longingly at my neighbour’s cherry tree beginning to blossom against the backdrop of a crisp blue sky:  These colours remind me of spring!  And spring with its lengthening days and its buds and its blossom makes me happy.  So happy that I had to capture the moment to share with you, wobbling precariously at the top of the climbing frame I took these:

If you’ve just had the other equinox, here’s something to remind you of the pleasures of that season too:


Whatever the weather and whatever the season where you are I hope that you are well.  And happily crafting.  Px.



Posted in crochet, knitting, Liberty, Sewing, Simplicity 3850, work in progress | 5 Comments

Ash, azure, battleship

blue (greyhound), cadet, carbon, charcoal, cinereous, Davy’s, dim.

Dolphin, dove, dun, elephant’s breath,


eigengrau, fuscous, gainsboro, glaucous, granite, gray.

Gris, gun-metal, iron, jet, lavender, lead, midnight, mouse, neutral, obsidian.

Oil, oyster, Payne’s, pearl, petrel, platinum, puce, rocket metallic, salt and pepper, silver.

Slate, smoke, Spanish, steel, stone, stormcloud, taupe, thunder, timberwolf, whale.

That was Fifty Shades of Grey.  


Salutations sewing siblings, are you here for a sewing story?


Here I am this time last year looking rather eccentric (my children’s words) in Simplicity 3850 Mark Two, The Grey Flannel Version:  My first attempt at dispensing with the fly front.  Mark One were also grey.  Mark Three have a slightly better fit.  There may be a Mark Four in my future as I find grey trews jolly useful.  This pair have had that much wear that they are showing signs of wear.  Which is brilliant.  Why is it brilliant?  It’s brilliant because I have worn them.  Because I no longer even consider trying to buy ready-to-wear trousers because I understand my body shape (short legs, big bum) and how it does not conform to any ready-to-wear ‘standard’.  Even with my fledgling fitting skills trousers that I make are a better fit than any ready-to-wear I have ever owned.

Do you have tried and true (TNT) trews?  Let me know, maybe I can give them a try.


For my irreplaceable Dad who died at the end of January.  

Sharing terrible jokes and showing you the things that I have made are two of a multitude of things that I already miss.

Posted in Sewing, Simplicity 3850 | 4 Comments