To Pocket or Not to Pocket

The first Beignet skirt I made was grey linen with an orange lining and because I didn’t want there to be the slightest chance of the orange lining being on show I chose not to add the pockets.  I’m now making a second one out of red cotton with a red floral lining and for this one I included the pockets. What a disaster!

When I first put the skirt on it was fine, the pockets seemed a bit lower than I would want but may be I have short arms.  Two minutes after sitting down I realise the error of my ways.  It seems impossible to move around without the side seams gaping where the pocket entrance is.

Has anyone else had this problem?


Sewing plans

Kestrel Finds and Makes wrote an interesting blog post about how to plan your sewing. Usually I am a great planner, I love having lists and generally being organised about things (drives my family crazy) but this post highlighted quite how little thought I’ve put into my sewing so far.  Most of the things I have sewn have been at a bit of a whim; I see something I like and I go for it.  I suspect that sewing (and knitting) are two areas of my life which I enjoy because I don’t plan them and can be spontaneous.  Having said that I can see that I am in danger of having a cupboard full of hand made skirts and nothing to wear them with if I’m not careful.

I’ve built up a bit of a pile of unused patterns (you only make savings on Vogue pattern sales if you buy enough to make the postage worth while – right?) and various bits of fabric which might or might not go with them.

I also have a number of things which are half made and which I fully intend to finish off but at present are sitting in the to do pile:

  • Jasmine blouse – need to work on the fitting issues
  • Cowl neck smart wool dress for work – needs some serious hand sewing to get the lining in
  • Burda triangle dress – pattern traced out and ready to go (ok this doesn’t count as half made but I really want to get on with it)
  • Red beignet skirt – actually this one is almost done

I am also conscious that there is a lot to learn and some basics that I’d really like to get to grips with.  For example:

  • Linings – I can’t understand why more patterns don’t have linings. So far I’ve tried to make it up as I go along but with varying degrees of success – I really need to make a pattern which includes a lining so I can feel confident about what I am doing in future.
  • Sleeves – I need a lot more practice at putting in sleeves. I know the theory but I still end up catching the gathers in badly.
  • Bodice fitting – I’m getting reasonably good at fitting skirts but I tend to shy away from  making things with bodices because I have trouble with the fitting.  Again I suspect this is down to practice.

So my “plan” for July and August but may be extended (due to my slowness at sewing everything) is:

  • Finish the half made stuff
  • Make a dress out of the gorgeous Marc Jacob’s silk I bought on ebay a couple of weeks ago.
  • Make a top or a dress with a fitted bodice – I’ll choose the pattern when I find it!
  • Plus allow for some spontaneity

What do you think? Am I being too ambitious or not ambitious enough?

Actually the real question is  – will I stick to the plan or make something completely different?

Flat Felled Seams

I’ve made my first flat felled seam!


The Ikea fabric for my Beignet skirt frayed a lot when I pre-washed it. Usually I pink seams when I sew on my Jones sewing machine but I was a bit worried that this approach would not be robust enough.  So, with a bit of research, I decided on flat felled seams using this tutorial from Colette.

I love how neat they are

Another Beignet

While I think about how to fit my Jasmine blouse (read “it’s been put into the too difficult box for now”) I have decided to make another Beignet skirt. This one will be made out of the red fabric above which came from Ikea  – I know it’s furnishing fabric but I think it will lend itself to the pattern.  It will be lined with a pretty, cotton poplin floral print bought from Raystitch in Islington.  I spent a long time looking at buttons and eventually decided to give self-covered buttons a go – they always look neat and have the advantage of being cheap; 12 buttons is a lot when you have expensive tastes.

The pattern calls for twill tape, I’m not sure what this is (and neither was the assistant in Raystitch) but I bought the tape above which I hope will fulfil the same purpose.

Before I start making the skirt I want to trace all the pieces I altered last time and create a new set of pieces which have been altered to my fit.  This should make it easier to make the pattern again (I fancy a denim one for winter).

How not to fit a garment

So when I was fitting my Jasmine blouse I put in a pin to tell me where it needed an adjustment.  Somehow this got lost when I took the blouse off and despite much searching could not be found……..that is until several hours later when I went to put my cycling helmet on.  Yes, the pin had been lodged in my hair all that time and made it’s presence known in a very uncomfortable fashion.

It reminded me of Edward Lear’s Old Man with a Beard and makes me wonder what else is in there.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

Jasmine fitting issues (and bodices in general)

I’ve learnt (the hard way) that you need to use a very similar fabric to the one for the final garment for a toile.  The fabric I am using for this blouse is quite light and drapy, not at all like the calico I have stashed away for test runs.  I therefore decided to make up the shell of the blouse and fit that before adding sleeves and collars etc.

I wasn’t sure exactly which size to make.  I’ve read al the instructions about using your upper bust measurement and then altering the pattern pieces to fit your cup size.  As I am a D cup and the pattern is written for a C cup I assumed I would have to put in a (small) full bust adjustment.  The problem is that my upper bust measurement is only a smidgen smaller and falls in to the same size group as my full bust measurement so I am never quite sure how best to manage bodice fitting (does anyone have any suggestions?)

In the size correct for both full and upper bust, the blouse fits well at the bust and around the arms; the darts are positioned correctly for my body and I don’t feel the need to adjust the armscyes or the length of the shoulder seams. Above the bust though I have about two inches of slack at the top of the central seam and there is a big gape in the back neck.  I have tried taking in the central seams at this point but find this causes a strange bulge just below my breasts Also it raises the neck line to a ludicrously high point which I suppose I could fix by  cutting the V down further.

How would you go about fixing this – any ideas gratefully received!

July Burda

Amazing that it’s the July edition already! I suspect this issue is a slow burner, nothing spectacular but several patterns for separates that might prove useful.  Having worn only t-shirts for most of my life I’ve recently decided that I should try to wear more casual blouses made out of woven fabrics; not only do they look more stylish but they tend not to get as tatty quite so fast.

Burda 117-07-2012  I think this is very pretty and would look nice tucked in as well as out.  Some longer sleeves would also look good.

Burda 110-07-2012  A lovely classic shirt I particularly like the fabric they have made it in. The description says it is a Liberty Batiste.

Burda 113 – this may be a bit fussy as it has lots of (unnecessary?) seams

Burda 114-07-2012. Nice sleeves but the body has no shaping so may look at bit boxy

Burda 108-07-2012  I like the tie with it’s floppy bow

Burda 116-07-2012 A similar shape to 117 above

Incidentally this issue has lots to “useful tips” about how to cover upper arms, small bulges and flabby thighs (is it the first time this has happened?  I can’t remember seeing similar tips in previous issues).  I must admit I find this a bit off-putting; I don’t want to make something because it covers up some of the less salubrious bits of my body, I want to make things that are stylish and look good on me.

Burda 131-07-2012

Dress 131 also caught my eye as it’s very similar to LK Bennett’s Davina dress,  which has been a mainstay of their collection for the last couple of years and looks very sexy on almost everyone.  When I saw the picture I assumed it was made of a crepe or similar but actually it’s been made out of seersucker.  Actually I’m a bit puzzled about seersucker as I thought this was a thinnish cotton material with puckered stripes running through it, suitable for lightweight summer shirts and so on.  Sometimes you see references to seersucker suits in American novels and the slapdash seamstress referred to a seersucker social recently.  Does seersucker mean something different in American? I think American muslin is nearer to what I would call calico than English muslin which is a very light cloth and dupion seems to get called dupioni elsewhere.

Dress 109 – colour blocking and a bow!

Lastly I also liked dress 109 which looks very similar to something you might find in Cos (even the colours are right).  If the weather warms up I might make this!

Many of the plus size dresses are also lovely, but as I can’t fit into them and have no pattern grading skills I’ve chosen to pretend they don’t exist.


Today’s frustrations:

1) My laptop isn’t working due to a software update from Apple; all I get is a grey screen with lots of code and the word “panic” used several times. I’ve spent half the day on the phone to Apple getting it sorted out.

2) My iron blew a fuse knocking out all the sockets in the flat and causing the Internet connection to go down in the middle of downloading the fix Apple had sent me.

3) I missed the train this evening by 30 seconds and had to spent half an hour on Lewisham station waiting for the next one (actually this is traditional).

4) Worst of all I have found that my nice stripy fabric which I am going to make a Jasmine blouse out of has been printed slightly off kilter so the stripes won’t match exactly


Some days are just like that. Back to normal tomorrow I hope.

Hello Dolly!

I spent a fun Saturday with my friend making Dolly. The instructions were from Thread magazine and to make her we used about a kilometre of duct tape, a coat hanger, a tall cardboard tube, one table leg and a breadboard (yes that made for an odd shopping list).

This is how we did it:

1) Drink, eat and wee before your start (once you get going you won’t be able to move enough to do any of these things)

2) Put on some decent underwear (i.e. a good bra) and cover that with an old t-shirt that you don’t mind doing without, wrap any bits that this doesn’t cover in cling film (neck and lower hips)

3) Cut your duct tape into various lengths – I used two 500m rolls of silver tape.  I understand that there is a danger that some types of tape shrink but Threads did recommend Duck tape which you can buy in the UK from B&Q.  You will need some really short bits and some longer bits (say up to half a metre in length).


4)  Get someone to wrap the tape around you quite tightly.  We wrapped it horizontally around my waist and hips and crossed it over the bust area, using smaller bits to fill in the holes and crevices.  You need to put about 3 layers of tape.  We finished with a bit of white tape to mark my waist, shoulders and centre back and front.

A Jane Suit

5) Carefully cut up the back through the duct tape and the t-shirt (avoiding your bra and any bits of flesh that might be in the way) and remove.

6) Make two notches at the top of the cardboard tube for the coat hanger to sit in and tape securely.  The tube we used was a bit shorter than me (you need one at least as tall as your height to the base of your neck).  The base of the tube is supported on a stand made using an upturned table leg screwed onto a bread board.

7) Tape shoulder pads into the shoulders and lady lumps to keep their definition, then place the dummy over the coat hanger and tape up the back.

8) Stuff the dummy as tightly as you can.  She turned out to be very greedy!

9) Check the dummy’s measurements against your own before finishing her.  I found the waist on my dummy was quite a bit bigger than my real waist. I think because I had been moving around as I was wrapped.  To remedy this we cut darts into the tape shell to reduce the size and then re-taped the holes back up.

10) Cut bits of cardboard to go into the arm, neck and hip holes and taping them securely in place to stop the stuffing coming out.

11) Compare your height to the base of your neck to that of your dummy and alter the length of card board tube to match.

It took us the best part of a day to make her.  The wrapping didn’t take long at all but the stuffing was quite time consuming and  fiddly.

I’ll probably have a go at tidying her up and decorating her when I have a chance but in the mean time I was glad to see she fitted into my new Beignet skirt beautifully!

I Love My New Skirt!

I’m wearing the skirt with the Manu cardigan (from Kate Davies of Needled) I knitted a couple of years ago

I knew this would be good the moment I spotted the grey herringbone linen in Cloth House; it has such a lovely feel, and the funky orange buttons from Knit and Yarn in Bungay were just crying out to be teamed with it.

The pattern is Beignet from Colette.  The Colette standard woman is clearly a different shape from me; she has wider hips (or more probably a smaller waist) that start much lower than mine.  I had the same issues with the Clover pattern and after 5 muslins I gave up!  I had several goes at fitting this skirt too but with a much better result.

The buttons are larger than those specified in the pattern.  I realised this would cause a problem after I had made the skirt so I ended up by ripping off the two fronts and cutting new ones 3/8″ wider than the originals to compensate.  Fortunately (?) the pattern fabric requirements were so overly generous I had enough to make a second skirt had I wanted to.

I thought the most difficult bit would be to sew the curve where the lining meets the facing inside the two fronts, but actually this went reasonably well (both times!).  I was also very sceptical about my machine’s ability to handle the button holes but it defied my expectations and didn’t gobble the skirt up as I had fully expected it to do.  The hardest part in the end turned out to be making the belt loops.  I know this should have been really simple but sometimes my machine refuses to work with small pieces of fabric and this was one of those times!  Also for the life of me I couldn’t turn them inside-out as the pattern specified.  In the end I botched them together as neatly as I could.

Lastly I should show you the secret inside!  I love unexpected linings.

Sorry about the creases in the photos  – I have been wearing the skirt all morning.  I tend to consider creases in linen as acceptable!