British Sewing Bee 3

Have you been watching the British Sewing Bee? I’m rather behind here as I’ve only just got around to watching the final.

Previous series have left me rather cold; I couldn’t see myself being inspired to make any of the garments or have a go at any of the techniques.  This series has been different though; from the welt pockets on the waistcoat, to the leather jacket and lace skirt the challenges were technically more exciting and had the potential to turn into something fabulous.  I can’t imagine that I am ever going to be in the position where I need to make a kilt but having seen one made I’d love to have a go.  Was I the only person googling the asymetric t-shirt in the last episode and ordering a copy of Drape Drape 2 before they’d even finished making it up?

I still think the time challenge is frustrating, the whole point of sewing is to take your time and get it right, even if it involves spending an unhealthy amount of time with your unpicker.  But this is television and giving people days or weeks to make a garment would be rather boring.

I was also frustrated that Neil didn’t win, he was consistently the best sewer in the competition, turning out one beautiful garment after another.  Both Matt and Lorna were great sewers but they didn’t have Neil’s consistency.  Had Neil not tried so hard in the last episode I am sure he would have won.

What did you think?  Did you enjoy the series or just not bother watching it?  Who would you have chosen to win?

Pattern Puzzle Continued

Thank you Studio Faro for the comments you made on my last post regarding the curved seam draped dress.  Spurred on by your encouragement I have made another toile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA First of all though I should show you the back of the dress.  This is made with my usual block which gives a good fit.  The fabric I used is a very lightweight cotton (from Ikea), much lighter than the usual calico.  I haven’t made the alteration to the central seam as yet.  Also I haven’t added the back vent. This photo was taken with toile 2 (from my previous post)

I started again with the front of the dress and redrafted the curve to end higher on my hip. I also dropped my arm hole by 1.5cm but didn’t add the cap sleeves.  I am never sure that cap sleeves suit me and I will probably wear this dress with a jumper underneath so I think a sleeveless style will be more flattering.

Toile 3

Toile 3

You will see that the dress itself it much more flattering, I have managed to get rid of the excess at the waist and the pleats are more evenly spread. The armholes still need some work though!  The front here is attached to original back with the cap sleeves so it will look a bit odd.  I probably need to make the curve of the armhole a bit deeper and shorten the shoulder seams.

Pattern Puzzle

Are you followers of Studio Faro’s Pattern Puzzles?  I stumbled across them on the internet a few weeks ago and have become completely obsessed. Anita is very generous is sharing her knowledge and manages to explain the most complex patterns in the simplest manner.

Curved Seam Dress from Anita McAdam© of Studio Faro.

Recently she feature this curved seam dress and I immediately decided that I needed to make one using my block.

Drafting the pattern took a couple of hours but the toile was very quick to sew up.

Toile no. 1

Toile no. 1

This was toile number 1.  I’m was quite pleased with it.  The pleats on the upper section work well and the neckline is good.  However, I did think I could do better, and in particular decided to move the pleats on the lower section as it all looks a bit long and boring in the centre

Toile no. 2

So, this is toile number 2.  The back and upper front are the same as the  original toile.  The lower section is the same except I have added a new pleat towards the top and removed the very bottom pleat. I have also sewn the pleats downwards rather than upwards, I’ll probably change the direction on the upper pleats in a finished dress too, stops them from becoming crumb catchers!

This is better but I am still not sure.  Perhaps my curved seam could do with ending up a few inches higher. I also feel it’s a bit lose around my waist – I may try just pulling it in a bit at the side seams.  I also want to rethink those capped sleeves and lower the arm holes a bit further.

I have some lovely red stretch crepe from Dragonfly Fabrics which is just crying out to be made into a flatter in dress.  What do you think, am I just being too pernickety about my toile and should recognise that calico will never be a flattering fabric?  Or do you think I should have another go and make a third toile?


Christmas Bling!


Today, I bring you a silver skirt made for last night’s Christmas party.

My friend and I recently attended the Selvedge Winter Fair at Chelsea Town Hall, whilst there we admired the rack of samples from the Makers Atelier which included a skirt made out of the same material as this (we also admired the raw edged coat and bought the pattern which will be the subject of a blog post as soon as I get around to sewing the buttons on).

The fabric comes from Ditto, I think I may have had the last metre as it’s no longer on their website, but it is still available in gold.  I was a bit nervous about sewing with PU but actually it’s very straight forward.  Ditto say you can iron it on a cool iron, but I must admit I found it quite difficult to get any reasonable creases (also it was very smelly!).  It has a slightly tacky surface so I found that right sides together I could sew it without any pins.

You will know from my last post that I was uncertain of how to hem it.  Catherine suggested just cutting it, which is how most of the silver skirts you see in the shops are finished, however  I was a bit worried that the fabric might be a bit light.  Alice‘s preferred method was also cutting it but suggested that copydex might work, which in the end was how I finished it.  Applying copydex to the hem of a pencil skirt is not as easy as it sounds and I am not sure it really was the best decision, particularly as I was doing it half an hour before the party started!

The pattern was made up from my block.  As the fabric is very stretchy I made separate waistband pieces for the front and back sections which made it easier to reduce the side seams to get a good fit.

I can’t imagine that I am going to wear this a lot but it was fun and quick to make, and I received several compliments.

PU fabric

I am currently making a simple pencil skirt for parties. The fabric is silver PU (a girl needs some bling over Christmas) which is much simpler to work with than I expected, however I have no idea how to make the hem.

Like leather you cannot use pins because they leave holes in the fabric. But unlike leather it is very stretchy so presumably that precludes the use of fabric glue.

Any ideas?

What To Do Next?

Sewing is supposed to be the relaxing part of my life but at the moment I feel as if it’s actually the most stressful – my own fault I have done what I always do and have too many things on the go at once.  So in order of completion:

Finished but not blogged about:

  • Two jersey dresses which my friend Alice of Alice & Co designed
  • Orange trousers made at the end of last summer and copied from another pair of trousers
  • Drapped jersey skirt from pattern runway – lovely skirt – made because I was intrigued by the construction method

Nearly complete to in progress

  • Raw edged coat from the Makers Atelier – just needs buttons and button holes
  • Two more jersey dresses designed by Alice – put aside for the time being because the bamboo jersey I chose to make them with proved to be much stretchier and drapier than I had expected
  • Self drafted cotton sateen dress – actually this one could be called finished, I am just not sure it’s actually that flattering so I have plans to alter it.
  •  Vogue 1179 in orange just waiting for the hems to be completed (bought the thread, lost the thread…..)
  • Vogue 1194 front made – lots of swearing about the pleats – back to do
  • StyleArc Emma dress for work – lots and lots of swearing about the fit – called on my friend who helped sort it out, but now needs sewing up
  • Charlotte skirt cut out but not started

Wanna start and (in a fit of enthusiasm) have bought the fabric

  • Checked shift dress – I even have a pattern for this one
  • Silver pencil skirt for Christmas (but which year?) to be drafted from my block
  • Curved seam dress to be drafted using Studio Faro instructions

Vague ideas

  • Pair of good trousers
  • A jacket

Is this normal or is it just me?

Thank you!

Thank you all for the advice given in response to my last post about books for helping children learn how to sew, there were some great ideas.  Catherine I think you are right the SewU books might be the answer, particularly home stretch.  Being a bit of a tomboy she  wears leggings, t-shirts and sweat shirts so learning how to make dresses from woven fabric doesn’t have much appeal.  I also like the idea of the Japanese books, the other advantage of these is that the patterns are likely to fit a 12 year old child.   Also, Marianna thank you for pointing out that the screen has superseded books for many youngsters!

Another book I am considering is the newly published  Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward.   Look at these great projects you can make from it.  I particularly like the jacket

Also look at the variations – the t-shirts are great fun

Actually I might get it for us both – that way I can use the patterns too!



Help and Advice Needed!

My partner’s daughter is going to be 12 next week and, as she has enjoyed sewing a few things with me, we have decided to give her one of my old sewing machines. I wasn’t sure if this would be as good present as its a fine line between encouraging a child and pushing them into something which they later don’t enjoy, but we asked her if she wanted it and her response was beyond excited.

She doesn’t live with us and her Mum is not a sewer so if her sewing machine is not going to sit in the corner unused she could do with a book to help her and that’s where I need some advice.

So far we have sewn a simple dress which I drafted for her, an elastic waisted skirt and a t-shirt which we copied off one of her favourite tops. So she hasn’t really had any experience of sewing with patterns or making anything complicated. If she’s going to progress she really needs to start having a go on her own and make things she wants to make.

There are lots of beginner books out there but most of them are so pretty as to be off putting to a tomboy like Sas. She wants to make clothes she can wear to show off to her friends, that means t-shirts or sweat shirts or leggings, not pencil skirts or vintage dresses or cushion covers.

So does anyone know of a book which is good for absolute beginners and will help her to make the sort of things a self respecting 12 year old will want to wear?

Vogue 1250

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you remember Vogue 1250?  It was the dress everyone was making a couple of years ago  – I jumped on the bandwagon with my Accidental Dress and although it didn’t look too bad in the photo’s I posted on the blog, it really was too big to be flattering on me and so was never worn.  I found it again recently and put it in the pile to go to the charity shop, but that got me thinking…

Yesterday I found the pattern again and this time cut out a smaller size using Navy Roma jersey from The Fabric Godmother. I’ve written before about how much I like this fabric, it is probably slightly thicker than the pattern calls for but I know it will wear well and be comfortable.

A couple of hours later I had a dress – yes it really only took that long!  There is nothing complicated about this pattern and with only three pieces it doesn’t take much to put it together.

The combination of a smaller size and less stretch fabric make the fit perfect.  My only concern is the sleeve caps which seem to stick out a little. If I were to wear the dress as it is I wouldn’t be too worried but I know I will be cold at work without a jacket or cardigan and these will add extra bulk.  I haven’t thought how to get around this as yet and it may be that I will come back and add some sleeves at some point.

BTW the pictures in the background were painted by my lovely friend Jim, if you want to see more of his work you can look here


Strathcona Henley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI a bit of a selfish sewer (actually completely selfish) and never sew for anyone else.  I think this is mainly because I tend to sew on a whim  – because I’ve seen a nice piece of fabric, or had an idea about a dress I might make or found a pattern I like.  As there is so much inspiration around I rarely have any time when I don’t have a list of things in my head that I want to sew.  This time it’s been a bit different, I have found a pattern I want to sew but it’s for a man.

Thread Theory started a few months ago and I have been watching their website and admiring their designs.  It’s been noted before that there are few good sewing patterns for men and it’s good to see a company which has decided to specialise in menswear. The Strathcona Henley fitted right in with my current obsession with knits.



I started off with some navy jersey – 1.5m as the pattern says – but found I had barely enough fabric. I managed to get the pattern cut out but had to reduce some of the seam allowances in the process. I haven’t gone back to check the pattern pieces so it may be that I was slightly short changed in the length of fabric I bought, or that it shrunk more than I expected.

This should be an easy pattern but the placket is not that straight forward. My initial attempt was a complete pig’s ear, I unpicked it but having used a stretch stitch to sew it found that unpicking it only stretched the jersey. Fortunately I’ve been able to cut the pieces down to make a Jane sized t-shirt so I didn’t waste all that fabric.

Attempt two was this red cotton jersey of which I had 3m. This time I cut out the front first, so that if I spoilt it I could restart. I’m still not completely convinced I got the placket entirely even but it’s not too bad. I think if I make another I will try using a different placket method – there is one described in my DK sewing book where you use two pieces of fabric and hide the ends on the inside not on the outside like this one.

One problem with the pattern which other bloggers have noted; it asks you to cut the neckband so there is no stretch along the width (i.e. One long strip running down the grain of the fabric rather than across as normal). I’m sure this is a mistake, but it’s repeated in the instructions a couple of times so maybe it’s intentional. Anyway I cut it as I would normally do with the stretch running along the length of the band.

My original plan was to finish it off with a twin needle, but I couldn’t find mine so I went with bands. Unfortunately they turned out to be too bulky (Hugo is a tucker in), so I cut them off and substituted with a twin needled hem. I also had to cut back the sleeves by a couple of inches as they were ridiculously long on Hugo.

I suspect I will be making this pattern again. It makes a nice, comfortable t-shirt perfect for making breakfast in on Sunday morning.