Oh Sallie…

Sometimes you see something and you don’t even blink before whipping out your credit card and clicking ‘buy‘! When the Sallie pattern from Heather Lou at Closet Case Files dropped into my inbox, I didn’t blink – I bought. I’m not going to lie initially I was drawn to the tops, I love a kimono sleeve shape and it’s easy to fit on someone my size and I knew I could adapt the straps on the tank too (thicker ones needed I’m afraid!) The skirt shape was great, then there was the jumpsuit…I. Loved. It. On Heather Lou at any rate, on me?? Not so sure…

Anyway, construction was very easy, the instructions are great, the only fiddly bit was attaching the lining, but I did it diffently to the instructions! I sewed up the shoulder seams and side seams then reached in between the layers to pin the lining to the outer shell around the sleeves, I found it easier to do it in two halves – stitch shoulder to underarm, flip it over and do shoulder to underarm. But apart from me messing around from that it was easy peasy.

For the dress…  I used a viscose jersey bought on EBay which wasn’t too expensive, it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting! I liked the colours so I thought I’d try it. It’s actually perfect for the dress, lightweight and swishy, bit of a pig to sew though as the edges curled a LOT when cut, but I fought and won! I cut a straight 20, which for me in a pattern is almost unheard of, I have to patterns about to make them fit but not in this case. The only alteration I made was to add 4cm in the length to the front bodice and lining along the bottom of the pattern piece from the centre to directly under the apex then curved it up to the side seam. I normally would do an inch to 2 inch FBA on most patterns so this addresses the issue of needing more room in the bodice otherwise the front would pull up (the back and front pieces are identical) it worked perfectly and I don’t feel the need to pull it down all the time. I stabilised the neckline with interfacing as there is minimal pulling and this worked fine. The skirt though is not same as the pattern – I didn’t have enough fabric!! So essentially it is a tube, straight up and down instead of being the gentle A line of the pattern, I had to stretch the bodice a little to stitch it to the skirt, but that’s the joy of knits! I overlocked the seams to keep it all neat…and wore it immediately. It is so comfortable and very nice to wear, I’m going to make a shorter version that I can wear to work because I think it would work just as well.

For the jumpsuit… 

 Well, what can I say, the jumpsuit was calling to me… No! I said, I’m a woman of a certain age and a certain size! I can’t wear a jumpsuit!! Rebellious streak said, just bloody do it, so I did! The fabric is some I had in my stash, I bought it on a trip to Goldhawk Road, it’s heavier than the jersey for the dress but I thought that would work better with trousers. Hmmm… trousers, I think the last pair of trousers I made was in the nineties, which co-incidentally is probably the last time I wore a jumpsuit. I was a little worried about fitting particularly as I knew was attaching them to a top. So armed with my favourite pair of pyjama bottoms (yes, really) and my trouser block I laid out the pattern pieces to compare. I laid my block over the top and from that I could see the 20 was a great fit width wise across the hip but I was going to need more length in the crotch, this wasn’t a surprise as I’m 5’10, I cut along the lines drawn on the pattern pieces for lengthening and added 4cm. My block was also wider than the pattern piece at the crotch point so I added 2cm there too. Having worn my dress and made no alteration to the overall length (back and front) it sat just on my waist, I was a bit worried that there might not be enough length when attached to the trousers so I added another 2cm (on top of the bust adjustment) my hunch was right, the fit is great, but would have been a little short in the body had I not done it. To stabilise the neckline on this I used clear elastic, I was very conscious that to get the jumpsuit on I would have to get my booty through that neck hole, so some serious elastic was required!! It works fine though, I was a bit worried trying it on for the first time!! 

So can a woman slowly sliding towards her 50th birthday who is not a size 10 rock a jumpsuit?

I think I’ll let you decide that one…but I’m still going to wear it!

Jennifer Lauren Vintage


Jennifer Lauren Vintage has been one of the blogs I have followed very closely! Her style is understated with a vintage feel. She has recently released a series of patterns, the Afternoon Blouse, the Bronte Top, the Dalloway Dress, the Cressida Skirt and most recently the Felicity Dress

She has made the leap from blogger to pattern maker and she very kindly agreed to be a featured post. I asked her some questions on her love of sewing and this is what she had to say…

What inspires you to sew?

I think the major thing that inspires me to sew are the endless creative possibilities. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but in general, I can literally dream something up and go make it. I know it will fit me, I know it’ll be the perfect colour, in the perfect weight fabric and I know I can wear it tomorrow if I like (and if I sew fast enough!). You also become quite aware of just how much work goes into making even a basic garment. It makes you wonder how stores can charge so little for garments (or home wares etc) when you know how long it took you to make.
There is also a lot of freedom in sewing. You don’t have to wait for a company or store to come out with that perfect top or cushion that will complete your outfit or lounge. It’s very liberating and I’m so glad there is such a resurgence back to these basic skills.

What’s the first thing you made?

Hmmmm, I think it was probably a pillow case or a cushion! So, not exactly inspiring, but knowing I could make something  from scratch, no matter how simple it was, definitely gave me the sewing bug and the courage to try bigger, more complicated things.

Do you have a favourite pattern or style?

Skirts and dresses. I love them. I wear either a skirt or a dress everyday. My favourite kind of skirt is a simple circle skirt (they go with everything! And you can dress them up or down depending on the occasion). And I’m a fan of the big skirted dress, the bigger the better :)

Do you prefer paper or .pdf?

I prefer paper, though I enjoy the ease and quickness of pdf. patterns. I actually currently only release my patterns in pdf. at the moment, and I know it’s a bit of a contradiction, considering my penchant towards paper, but I am working on turning some of my digital patterns into paper patterns. They’ll hopefully be available early next year.

How did you make the change from blogger to pattern maker?

It was totally by accident, it was actually never my intention to release any patterns. I had moved back to New Zealand after living in Sydney for several years and I was finding it difficult to get a job in my field, so I thought I’d start teaching sewing on the side while I kept looking.
I was writing my ‘Intro to Dress-Making’ class and realised that there were no patterns out there that I wanted to teach that had the basic elements of dress-making, but were also interesting – so went about making my own. Once I had completed the pattern, I realised how much work it had taken and so thought I’d just pop the pdf. file up on my Etsy store for sale, not really expecting a whole lot.
That was the Afternoon Blouse, and I’ve since never looked back :)

Can we look forward to more lovely patterns in the future?

Definitely! I’ve just released the Cressida skirt and have a sweater pattern coming hopefully towards the end of November. I’ve also got another dress pattern in the works, but that probably won’t be out until early next year.
Many thanks to Jennifer for allowing me to feature her patterns on the site, we look forward to seeing more soon!

Tempus Fugit…

Look at me!! My colleague in the Latin department will be so proud…

Time flies indeed, I have no idea where the last two months went. Given that my last post starts with the words ‘Happy New Year’ I’m shamed into updating with something! The truth is I have been quietly busy on my sewing machine, but any computer time I get I spend updating my website, it constantly needs changing as there are so many lovely patterns being released!

There’s lots to see on there now and I’m getting loads of ideas for a Spring wardrobe! I’m over Winter now and need something to look forward to. I’ve made two jackets this winter though, a couple of skirts, 5 tops and 2 dresses, not bad eh? I just need to get my act together to photograph them! My favourite make was my violet  Violet by Blue Ginger Doll, I made the straight skirt version, it’s very flattering and it makes me feel good when I wear it.

I’ve already cut out another in black ponte, which I know I will wear non-stop. I will try and photograph that one! My other ‘project’ at the moment is that I have started a Sewing Group in the town where I live, we are a small few at the moment but I’m hoping numbers will grow, the ladies who do come really enjoy it, and that’s what it’s all about.

Right back to planning projects for Spring, how do we feel about culottes??

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a great break over the holidays. I’m back to work tomorrow after 2 and a half weeks off, may be a slight shock to the system…
So before that all kicks off I thought I’d look back at what I did in 2014 and what my plans are for 2015.
I made a lot of things, many of which weren’t blogged for one reason or another, but my choice of projects has been eclectic to say the least. One thing I have achieved though is to make things which are more suited to my body shape and also use fabrics which I know I will wear. Sounds daft, but I love all sorts of fabrics, particularly bright, intricate designs, but I’ve discovered I’m much more limited as to what I will actually pull out of the wardrobe to wear.
Anyway, here are some of my favourite makes…

1. Coco by Tilly and the Buttons, a very versatile pattern, I love the neckline on this.
2. Self drafted box top, long to go with leggings, made in stripes so I could fiddle around with this pocket! Wear it all the time.
3. Self drafted maxi dress, inspired by the Flora dress from By Hand London.
4. Tova by Wiksten, made early in the year but worn lots!
5. My second Jackie Coat by Iconic Patterns, I made this just before Christmas in fur fabric I had bought at the sewing meet up in Goldhawk Road in January. In October I went back with friends and purchased the crazy lining!! I made some changes – slightly longer sleeves, put the closure in the centre and left off the collar and pockets. I absolutely love it and I’ve had lots of lovely comments about it too.

6. The Marthe blouse from République du Chiffon, I wondered about this shape on me, but I loved all the versions I’d seen on the Internet so gave it a go in some very light viscose and it worked really well.
7. This is the dress I made with Chinelo at one of her workshops in June, loved the day and love the dress.
8. My favourite make of the year in terms of a ‘eureka, it fits’ kind of way. This is the Georgia dress from Tilly’s book I had to make some adjustments to the bodice, but I now have a TNT pattern which I love, it’s very flattering and makes me feel great when I wear it, suffice to say I’ve since made 2 more…
9. This is the Dolores top from Zoe at So Zo, great shape and great to wear, in basic black but I wear it non-stop. I’ve made two others.
10. Finally! This is a cape I made for my sister for Christmas, the pattern is The Woodland Stroll Cape by Oliver & S, I made two, one for each of my sisters at Christmas, I suppose this sort of represents things I’ve made for others this year, there have been quite a few on reflection, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
My other big achievement was launching my website – The Sewing Pattern Directory which I’ve loved doing. There are over 60 pattern makers on there now, it’s growing all the time and I’d like more people to use it in 2015.

So for 2015, I’m going to challenge myself to a bit of different sewing. Tailoring and clothes with finer detailing, I can be a bit too eager to finish things sometimes, so this focus might slow me down a bit!!

Right time to pack the bag for work and launch myself back into a new school term. Happy New Year!!

Dahling Dahlia

It’s official, November is rubbish. It’s dark, cold and rainy, but when it’s like this I need to keep occupied so out comes the sewing machine!! So far I’ve made 2 So Zo Dolores Tops, a grey velvet self drafted pencil skirt, a Mandy Boat Tee (free pattern by the way) with a Dolores neckline and now a Dahling Dahlia.

Do you ever get the feeling when you are making something that it’s going to be a winner? As soon as Dahlia popped up as a pre-sale in my inbox, I bought it immediately, which is not usual for me, I need to procrastinate for a little while…

Anyway I was determined I was going to make it ASAP. I LOVE the green version on the pattern page, but I wanted a fabric that would work in Autumn / Winter. During half term I visited relatives up in Lancashire and made a determined detour to visit Minerva Crafts in Darwen, there was so much choice I didn’t know where to start. After spending some (a lot) of time browsing I settled on this Olive / Mustard Swirl design. It’s cotton with some stretch, but it’s quite heavy, almost like sewing a soft denim. I loved the retro feel to it and Dahlia sprung to mind.

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I had bought the .pdf so out came the tape and scissors (and a glass of wine, I find that helps…) I’m a bit of a maverick when it comes to instructions, I’m the same with flat pack furniture, I just launch myself into it without much consultation! I think I have enough experience at sewing to know what I’m doing, but I still have check occasionally! I really like the sewalong posts for that, I’m a visual learner, so seeing how it should look step by step is really helpful, I can also just pick out the bits I need. In terms of construction, I had to alter a few pattern pieces, one before and one during the sewing process…

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Number 1. is the front bodice piece, I have to do an FBA to everything, so it was no surprise I had to do one here! I cut a 16 bodice piece but then did a 2cm FBA. Instead of creating a side dart I left the extra ease at the bottom of the piece, as it is already gathered here, it just meant a few more gathers! This was one of the ways suggested on the sewalong too. I used this method to adjust my bodice piece on my version of Tilly’s Georgia dress, rather than having a large side dart. I measured the Dahlia bodice piece against the Georgia I had already cut and found they were nearly identical (which I was pleased about because the Georgia fits me really well) except the Georgia was 2cm longer, so I lengthened the Dahlia pieces (front and back) by the same amount. At this point the scissors came out and off went! I sewed the dress up to the point where I was finishing the neckline (ie. nearly done) and tried it on…The bodice fit was good, apart from the neckline (more on that in a min) but the skirt was too…much. In picture 2 you can see the pattern piece is essentially a pencil skirt shape, slightly flared at the side, with extra width which gathers into the waistband. The back piece (picture 3) is cut more like an A line piece AND it has extra width for gathers. I think made in drapier fabric and on someone with smaller hips than me this would not be an issue, but I need a slightly straighter shape to stop me looking bigger. Conundrum…I ended up unpicking the whole of the back skirt and recutting it using my own skirt block (picture 4). This meant that the back had darts instead of gathers ( which lie flatter and actually match the darts in the back bodice) and I didn’t look so…wide. Anyway here it is:

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The neckline was another issue, because the fabric was fairly heavy (and I think I may have stretched it a bit) the neckline was too big, even when I gathered it according to the pattern. I had to gather the whole of the front piece, and as I have a rounded back I put a few in there too. I was worried that normal bias binding was not going to do the job of holding the gathers / neck in shape so I made some from the fabric 6cm wide which I then stitched so it is visible. It did the trick and the neckline is spot on.

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Result? I love it, it’s a great shape for me (with the skirt adjustment) and it’s very comfortable to wear. I wore it to work today before two of my friends and I enjoyed afternoon tea at the Cotswold 88 Hotel in Painswick. It’s a pattern I will make again – a real winner, but I knew that before I started cutting it out…

Back to Batwing

Definitely a blast from the past for me! I’m a teenager of the 80s, a lover of Duran Duran and all things New Romantic, some of you are nodding in recognition, some of you haven’t got a clue what I’m on about. I can say for certain that I had several batwing tops and loved every one of them, when it saw the Dolores top from Zoe from ‘So Zo What Do You Know?’ I had to have it…

I love the fact it can be top / tunic / dress and has two sleeve options too! The pattern goes up to 16, which is too small for me, but I found this easy to address. I’m a size 16/18 high bust measurement so I traced the pattern pieces out another size to make an 18, which fit my back, but I still needed an FBA. My go to tutorial for this is from Vicki Kate Makes which she did for a Sewaholic Renfrew top, to make a dartless FBA, I like it because there are loads of photos (visual learner!) and because she is very similar in size to me. As the front piece of the Dolores is a kimono shape, first of all cut the sleeve section off before following the instructions…

This all worked a treat and mean I had enough room, without losing some of the waist shaping. I also left off the cuffs as I prefer a slightly shorter / three quarter length sleeve without any extras! Probably why I don’t wear many shirts. Anyway my lovely son took a photo of me this morning, in a messy garden, I had all good intentions of taking more before posting, but do you know what? I will never get round to it, so here is my (first) Dolores!

I love it! And wearing it today I’ve noticed it’s a great layer under cardies as the arms are close fitting, so you don’t have the whole issue of getting loose sleeves inside other sleeves (bear with me, it’s the little things…) I’m already planning how many more colours I can make it in for the winter, then I’ll do some short sleeved ones for the summer! Win win!

It’s alive…

…my website that is! What a week! I hit the publish button on The Sewing Pattern Directory last Friday. It’s taken a while to put together but I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I’ve had lots of nice comments too! It came into my head during one of those nights where you’re staring at the ceiling at 3am wondering where sleep went, got up the following day and set to work. All the pattern companies featured kindly replied to my rambling email to allow me to post pictures of their patterns and there are lots!

It’s quite exciting to see it evolve and I hope people will use it and like it. It also could be fatal for my bank balance…I’ve lost count this week of the times I’ve said “ooh that’s nice”, and promptly bought it! One pattern I purchased was the Dahlia dress by Colette patterns which was released on Tuesday, I’m now trying to find the perfect fabric for a festive dress!
It’s half term this week as well for me and I’m going to sew, sew, sew…