The Maker’s Atelier Utility Coat

One very wet, cold, blustery day


I have become an erratic/ non-existent blogger due to lack of time. There seems so little of it and sewing takes priority over writing, however, just recently I have made a few items I am excited enough to want to share so you may see some posts over the next few weeks.

Do you ever find the perfect pattern and then match it to the perfect fabric and then for some reason not make it up? When The Maker’s Atelier launched the Utility Coat I knew immediately it had to be mine. I also knew I had to make it up in a navy and silver rip stop from Cloth House, and then……nothing.

Well, not quite nothing, I actually spent hours of my life thinking about it; worrying (would I be able to sew the fabric?), surfing (perfect haberdashery to go with perfect fabric), planning (should I try to be clever and make a reversible coat?) and dreaming.

Finally, I got sick of the roll of fabric cluttering up our flat and decided I had to bite the bullet. It turns out that rip stop fabric is surprisingly easy to cut, sew and iron (although the silver side got extremely hot, even on the coolest setting)

The pattern is very simple, the only problem I had was matching the notches on the hood, which I think may be misaligned (but could be me). To ensure a neat, rain resistant finish I used felled seams, hood seams and hems were finished with white tape, which also added some much needed weight to the fabric and the waist and hem have 3mm elastic drawstrings

My favourite bit was using my new Prym popper and eyelet tool. I added small eyelets under the arms to give some ventilation (thank you Frances for the suggestion), large eyelets on the ends of the drawstring channels and the pockets and fronts close with poppers. There is something very satisfying with snapping hardware onto a garment.

So I love this coat. Frances, as ever, has managed to produce a fabulous and stylish shape. It is very practical, being almost water-proof, large enough to accommodate extra jumpers underneath and having pockets big enough to hold my kindle (actually that was my modification). I also love the fabric which is unusual and beautiful but matches virtually everything else in my wardrobe.

There are a few things I would do differently if I made it again, but I will leave those until another post.


The Ultimate Shift Dress Goes Casual

Did I tell yoIMG_1310u how much I like my ultimate shift dress?  Well I made another.

This one is made out of a dark grey cotton flannel I bought in Raystitch sometime ago.  They have a lovely selection of Brannock and Patek flannels  – all ripe for making Toast like pyjamas.  To add cosiness I lined the dress in a cherry red muslin from Cloth House.

I avoided the problems I had with the last dress by using a waxed cotton cord (also from Raystitich) to make a little loop for a button.  Also I felt the facing on the last dress needed some interfacing, so I used the muslin on this dress to give it a bit of body.

Are there any patterns you enjoy remaking?



Lola Dress

ImageThis is the Lola Dress from Victory Patterns. I made it a few weeks ago with some grey sweatshirting from Cloth House in Berwick Street. I’m not actually completely enamoured of it, the style is a bit odd, the upper bodice wants to be a fitted dress but below it has these enormous pockets that give it a very casual look.  What I wanted was a very casual sweatshirt type dress and I am not sure this is actually it.  Having said that I have worn it a lot, mainly to do housework, gardening and general slouching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do quite like the pockets, particularly from the back, but Hugo says they make me look like a bag lady.  I think this was the look I was trying (and failing) to get

I also feel the length is a bit strange, it could do with being a tunic rather than a dress.

Have you tried this pattern? Where you happy with the results?

Charlotte (or does my bum look big in this…..)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love pencil skirts, I love the way they look so smart and demure and yet so sexy and feminine.   I have been eyeing up the Charlotte skirt pattern from By Hand London for sometime. Over Christmas I found the perfect fabric to go with it and decided to treat myself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fabric came from Cloth House in Berwick Street and is a tie dyed denim, my first thought was that it looked a bit All Saints (a couple of years ago) or slightly punkish.  The idea of using this slightly off beat fabric with such a classic design appealed to me.  It’s proved to be soft and supple and so far hasn’t shown any signs of creasing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI coupled the fabric with  a metre of lipstick pink lining fabric I had hanging around, which looks surprisingly good and brings out the pinky, blue design on the fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHugo’s first comment on seeing my new skirt was “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but it does make your bum look big”.  I gave him “the look” and he rapidly back-tracked by saying it was in a Jo-Lo sort of way.  Anyway it doesn’t matter because I love it!.

So this is a skirt I will make again (and again and again).  I can see it as part of a suit for work or added to a bodice for a summer dress. I probably should have taken the time to draft a similar skirt using my block, but I’m not sure I could have got such a good result.

Having said the good stuff, let me balance it with some “could do betters”.  Firstly, there is the small matter of walking.  The pattern itself says you should just sew up the back seam, I took a double take at that one and went to find the Charlotte sew-along.  That’s not much better, it says to leave 4″, 1″ of which will disappear into your hem.  Well I tried 10″ and a 2″ hem and found I couldn’t do more than shuffle, another 2″ and I think I have it right.  Next time I will add a vent to make a neater finish.

Secondly, and I was glad I thought about this before cutting out the material, there is no allowance in the hem area for the pegging that has gone on before.  Had I not realised this I would have ended up with a rather bubbly hem.

Lastly, the pattern asked for 2 ¼ yards of fabric, I realised in advance that this was likely to be too much so I bought a metre and managed to get all the pieces out with a bit to spare.

So, some good and some bad stuff but on the whole another lovely pattern.


Wiksten Tova (the second!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast summer I made a denim dress using the Wiksten Tova pattern, which got worn and worn and worn. It was loose and comfortable but stylish and I got lots of compliments when wearing it. Once I had finished it I immediately decided to make a second, this time using some linen from Cloth House, Berwick Street. The fabric is blue on one side and pink on the other giving an overall mauve appearance, I love the look of it but it’s been a pain to work with. I documented the problems I had with it in this post last August. In the end I gave up in despair and threw the dress on the “too difficult” pile.

Recently I have decided it’s about time I tackled the “too difficult” pile rather than start another shiny, new project (are you impressed?). Actually the pile has grown so large it’s now threatening to take over the sewing room and I really don’t have any room left to start anything new.

I had two problems with this dress originally, the first was the fabric, it’s beautiful but refuses to sit neatly and frays as soon as you look at it. I ended up having to cut an extra front because my first one looked ok but took on an off grain slant once I had sewn the inset into it. The fraying problem made the inside a terrible mess, even after finishing the seams with a neat zig-zag. Fortunately I now have an overlocker so I spent half an hour finishing it as neatly and tidily as you could hope for!

The second problem was with the fit. Despite having sewn a toile and a successful dress with the same pattern this one just did not want to work. It was tight across the back and I found I could hardly move my arms. I also found it was a little tight across the front which caused the inserts to stretch open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI tried letting out the seams across the back and the front but I still couldn’t move my arms far. Fortunately I now have a block that fits me and when I held it up against the pattern on the dress I could see the problem immediately. The sleeve has a higher and narrower top than my block which I fixed by cutting off about 2cm of the top. It’s still not perfect but I can at least move my arms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving finished the dress I am not entirely sure whether I will like it as much as my first one. The front is not as fitted as I would like (probably because I let out the seams) and, perversely, I still have the problem with the insert falling open. I may have to stick a button on it to stop this happening. I also feel the back is still a bit uncomfortable and could probably do with being a little wider.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs it’s foggy and barely managed to reach 4C outside I am finding it difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for this summer dress at the moment. It may be that once summer comes I will find it indispensible and be able to forget all the problems I had with it, but for now it’s going back in the wardrobe.

Tweed Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis has been sitting on my pile of work, waiting to be hemmed for the last week. Yes, I decided to go ahead and make shift dress 107 from Burda’s September issue using my beautiful piece of Scottish Tweed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found the fabric in Cloth House, Berwick Street. I’m not sure if you can see the colours in the pictures but it is a green and navy herringbone with fine mustard and pale blue window pane checks, which are almost indistinguishable. It’s a bit huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, if I wanted to I could use it to make plus fours.

In order to make the dress a little more slinky than my toile I pinched an additional centimetre on either side of the long curvy darts, extending them up so they met my bust point. I also took a centimetre off the sides from the waist and down through the hips. This makes a massive 8cm taken off the waist, it’s still quite loose but now has a bit of shape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tweed is very thick and I was worried that if I used the same fabric for facings it would be too bulky and itchy against the skin so I made a full lining out of mustard coloured bemsilk (from MacCulloch and Wallis) and used that as a facing. I also lined the patch pockets, cutting the lining on the cross grain and interfacing it, tips I found in a book to ensure the lining is strong and smooth. The seams have all been serged to death; now I have discovered a cheap source of thread I love my new serger!

Today will be a perfect day for trying out the new dress; it’s a cold, bright day and I’m off to my knitting group later this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Dress for Work

In theory this dress has all the things I don’t do;

  • Polyester – I’m a fabric snob and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m also old enough to remember when polyester was cheap and nasty and to be avoided at all costs
  • Georgette – far to reminiscent of frou-frou frills for me
  • Polka dots – good heavens I’ll be wearing a peter pan collar next!

So having got all my pet phobias out of the way, actually, I quite like this dress. The simple lines of the design means it is feminine but not too girly, even in polka dot georgette. I’m still to wear the polyester for a full day but I’m looking forward to having a dress I can throw in the wash and not worry about.

The fabric came from Sew Over It, they also had it in navy which was lovely but I thought black would be more versatile. It is lined in a lightweight lining from Cloth House. I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of lining fabric to use and in retrospect I don’t think it was the best choice. I have a silk dress from Whistles which has a lining which looks something like a chiffon and I think that would have gone better.

I posted previously about the meal I made of making the dress’s lining. Next time I’ll do it more simply. Fitting the lining into the dress was an adventure – my brain doesn’t work in 3D and the first time I tried sewing the sleeves together I ended up with a horribly contorted mess of dress and lining fabric with some strange mobius strip type twist. I really must make up a pattern which actually has a lining in it sometime so I can see how the order of construction is supposed to work.

The georgette proved to be fun to cut out; fortunately the polka dots helped keep me on the straight. Each piece had to be done on the flat as I was worried that if I folded the fabric the underside would contort.

I also had some problems with getting the seams to lie flat; even with the tension on my upper thread turned right down I was getting some puckering on the seams when I sewed the georgette the first time.  One of my friends gave me a great tip; she suggested I sewed the seam using a long stitch and not back tacking at either end.  If you do this you can run your fingers along the seam and pull out any puckering.

And as for the hem……

I must admit to getting quite despondent my poor sewing skills as I made this dress. It’s such a simple design and because I had made one before I thought it would be simple to make. Still I have learnt quite a lot:

– polyester georgette is a pig to sew, never, never, never again (well until the next time)
– don’t try to be too clever when lining a dress
– perseverance does pay off!

This is the second time I’ve made this pattern (Easy Kimono Dress from Pattern Runway) and I will probably make a third at some stage in the future. I love the way the choice of fabric completely changes a garment’s look. This one is much smarter than my first but I hope will be worn almost as regularly.

A gratuitous shot of my shoes



I love my Tova dress, it’s extremely comfortable and I have had several compliments when wearing it. I’ve worn it with leggings and on colder days over a t-shirt with jeans and a scarf.

I decided a second dress was definitely needed. For this one I chose some beautiful mauve linen from Cloth House in Berwick Street.  Cloth House always has good linens; I bought the grey, herringbone fabric I used for my first Beignet skirt there.  This fabric has a slightly coarse texture and a loose weave, it’s a very blue colour on one side and a pinker colour on the other giving a subtly mottled texture.

The first problem came when I tried to cut the pattern out. This fabric will just not sit still! I think I managed to cut all the pieces on the grain but I am not sure. The front in particular looks like it’s “on the hu” as we say in Suffolk but, strangely, when I try ironing it it straightens itself out.  This maybe why my front insert isn’t sitting quite straight at the moment (or it may be because of my non-existent top stitching skills).

The second problem is in the fit. I made a toile for the first dress and spent some time getting the fit right. I have noticed that I sometimes get a small crease across my back when wearing it but as it doesn’t feel tight I didn’t think I needed to alter the pattern. This second dress has been cut using exactly the same pieces but feels distinctly tight across my back. The only difference is the type of fabric; the cotton I used for the first dress obviously has more natural give than the linen I am now using. I will try letting out the seam allowances around the arms but the pattern only allowed for 1cm so there isn’t a huge amount to play with.

Pattern Runway – Easy Kimono Dress

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was trying the Scout Woven Tee pattern from Gainline studios. I spent an enjoyable morning altering the pattern to fit me and making up a toile. The good news was that after a bit of jiggling around (mainly taking out some of the adjustments I had thought would be necessary) the toile fitted me, the bad news was that it looked hideous on me. I should have realised before I started that an unfitted top with very little structure was going to hang like a sack on me, no matter how nice it looked on all the other people who made it.

After a set back it’s always good to try something simple to get your confidence back and I thought the Easy Kimono Dress (clue in the name) would be a good place to start. I downloaded the pattern, stuck all the pieces together with glue (I know it says to tape them but I think glue gives a neater finish) and cut it out. A quick trip to Cloth House in Berwick Street yielded some duck egg blue poplin and after an afternoon’s sewing I had a new dress!

The pattern really is very simple, I based the size on my hip measurement; the top is loose and the waist elasticated so there are no fitting issues to deal with. The dress is very comfortable and easy to wear, if I can find the right cardigan or jacket I can see myself wearing it quite a bit. The poplin I used makes it look quite casual but a different fabric would give it a smarter look.

This dress was a sort of trial as I want to use the same pattern to make a dress out of some Marc Jacob’s crepe-de-chine I bought on eBay a few weeks ago. The fabric will need lining so I will have to make a trip to Goldhawk Road before I attempt it. It will be my first attempt at sewing silk so I want to take my time over it and make sure I don’t make any mistakes.

Triangles Dress – Burda 117a 02/2012

I have been keen to make this dress since I first saw it in Burda’s February issue.  Pictures of the dress made up on Fehr Trade, Sew Tawdry and Cyberdaze (twice) made me even more enthusiastic.

I used some thick, stable, wool-polyamide double knit jersey bought from Cloth House in Berwick St.  Unfortunately the first length I bought shrunk in the wash but Cloth House were brilliant and kindly replaced it.  It’s a stable knit and was very easy to sew using my Toyota set on a medium width zig-zag.  Pressing was another matter, being quite thick it needed a lot of brute force and ignorance to get the seams to lie flat, particularly where the different triangles joined together.

Once I cut out the fabric, sewing it together was relatively quick. This pattern had “sewing course” instructions which were a bit more detailed than the usual Burda instructions, even so I found I had to concentrate a lot to ensure all the seams lined up.  A sideways picture of the dress would have helped; even now I’m not sure whether I got my upper left front seam in quite the right place.  My first attempt at the main triangle on the front skirt piece had the tip buried in the seam allowance.  I was quite tempted to leave it but after seeing Catherine’s red dress I decided to unpick it and rework (I’m glad I did my little perfectionist streak would have yelled at me every time I saw the dress had I not).

I didn’t include the shoulder pleats, once I’d sewn up the arm holes I decided I liked them as they were.  Also I made the dress 4cm shorter than Burda’s version, which would have come to my knee and looked to my eye a little frumpy.

The pattern goes a bit overboard on fasteners and asks for a two way full length zip in addition to 3 poppers for the front.  As it’s a knit dress which pops over my head quite happily neither of these are really required.  In the end I included the zip (1m long from Klein’s in Soho – I managed to get there on one of the rare occasions they are open) but sewed up the front opening.

If I were to make it again I would probably go for a smaller size. The back in particular seems to be quite big and I am getting a little gaping at the back of my neck. In this thick knit it doesn’t matter too much that’s it’s slightly large, but if it were in a stretchier fabric it would show.

I’d like to make this dress again with sleeves for winter.  I don’t think a sleeveless dress is entirely practical for someone who feels the cold and putting a jacket over the top would spoil the impact of the back detail.

Oh! I haven’t shown you my favourite bit………………the orange zip maybe not be to everybody’s taste but I love it.