I sew ..

And draft patterns. This blog will log some of the processes.

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Sloppy Stitching

If anyone’s running a Mucked Up March Comp for the sloppiest sewing, I’m ahead of the game with this top. Eat your heart out H&M.

gold top

gold top

It started off reasonably, last week. The pattern making was pretty methodical. Then on Monday it hit me that I needed to subtract two weeks from the deadline in case the fit was off and it had to be sent back for alteration.

sloppy stitching

sloppy stitching

See? Corners cut , or more accurately missed entirely.  Flying blind into the first method that popped into my mind with zero unpicking. It takes some nerve to ignore this.

 zip and miss

zip and miss

Interior unfinished,  hit and miss binding, bad buttonholes.  The invisible zip went in perfectly, but then I ran a second ugly run of top stitching over the drapes for more rapid back stage changes. So not even that’s up to scratch.

So how about it? Can you flaunt some crappily sewn constructions? Or does your inner neat freak tighten her grip when you mess up and waft the quick unpicker in front of your nose?  Can you plough on, ignoring flapping threads, mismatched notches and seamy wobbles? Or are you constitutionally incapable of bad sewing. Someone should design a badge for this stuff.

With this gem in the post I drafted a pattern for an unstructured jacket to use a piece of rayon velvet in a divine soft green, bought at a ridiculously low price in a London market. Early birds had flocked there before me, I snatched the last two yards.

jacket pattern

jacket pattern

It has a grown on collar and shaped cut away front, edge to edge fastening. I usually draft my patterns without seam allowances so that I can adapt to the fabric I’m using.

I expected to have the jacket finished by the end of the week, but the velvet takes no prisoners. It slips in all directions. Tacking and slow, slow stitching essential. Pressing was  approached gingerly, nervously touching down the toe of the iron, with paper under the edges of the seam allowances and darts and sandwiching the piece between spare scraps of velvet. I know….. I should buy a needleboard instead of so much fabric.

jacket interior

jacket interior

The outer bodice part and facings are finished, lining and sleeves next week.

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Fair Cop?



Our Yesterdays

Have you noticed how quickly stuff migrates from the luxury camp to the necessity camp ?The legendary, record breaking Eileen Sheridan recalling sportswear as it once was said

“We used to ride in our baggy shorts, not padded of course, and a sweater with a pocket on the front where we kept our food. It opened like a sail as we cycled! I wore chamois leather shorts when I was racing, but that’s as smart as it got! There were no showers or anything. We used to finish, find out our time and ride home!”

Compare that to what even the weediest of us thinks we need to strut our stuff  down the gym now .

Last night’s GB Sewing Bee was 50s themed. Contestants were given electric Singer Featherweights to work on and some struggled with the lack of features.  How quaint it seems now that my sister and I learnt to sew on a hand crank Singer. We did get a new needle when sis sewed through her finger. That was the entire gizmo expenditure.

I wonder what its like learning to sew in today’s gadget rich environment. Do you think its empowering, or does it lead to expecting that its all going to be easy?

There’s been much criticism of independent pattern makers lately. Some of it might be justified. This post claims to have found plagiarism. It’s not the first time its been suggested that some newer pattern makers are drawing round old patterns. If true, its not exactly cricket is it? Calling out commercial copying is a fair cop.

Some criticism though, is along the lines of ‘this pattern was a bad fit on the half dozen  bloggers who made it’ . That may not be a fair complaint.  Have we started to expect fitting to be plain sailing because so much else is relatively easy? I spent this week on a couple of common fit issues.

 First, fabric related fit problems. 

Have you noticed how no matter how carefully you measure and compare, fabric can throw the fit of a pattern right off? Knits are the worst offenders – even when two fabrics have apparently have the same stretch they can behave differently.

Batting off the ease I used in last week’s sportswear top, (size14, zero ease) I made a simple tee shirt (size12,  4cms ease) in a knitted noil of about the same stretch. They should have had a similar fit if there were any measurement logic in the game.  Verdict -indifferent  fit,  baggy in places and at the same time having drag lines to the bust point and the dreaded front hem raise.

So then I made another (12, zero ease, but bust darts). Verdict – good fit.  Its not all in the measurements. The noil jersey and the cotton jersey I used last week have similar stretch, but fit differently.

Second, shooting in the dark fit 

This closely echoes the pattern maker’s dilemma. Fit a theoretical model (or in this case far distant actual person) with non standard measurements.  I got these steps done this week.

Pad out size 12 dressform to approximate extra 2 inches of front bodice measurement -a different cup size.

Drape pattern for garment support structure and transfer it to paper.

Make up test support pattern, pin out alterations.

Tentatively drape a piece of fabric over it to see if the finished lines will marry up with the support structure.

But will it fit?



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Suit Yourself

Its finished! In the end I decided to leave the front edge to edge, just working a concealed fastening to keep it together, and skipped the pockets. Enough already.

Suit with velvet trim

Suit with velvet trim


Photographed in five second break from freezing downpour. Sorry, there was no time to fuss about coordinating accessories!

To recap the jacket construction, its a simple shoulder princess line, not interfaced, lined with bias cut satin. The edges are faced to the right side with a wavy edged piece of deep green velvet, top stitched. The skirt is bog standard straight skirt cut, with no side seams – all the shaping in darts. I have about four inches of ease in the pattern at bust level, which is enough to get it over a couple of fine knit jumpers in this jersey fabric with slight stretch.

This week I also made a long sleeved Tee shirt roughly basing the design on a sleeveless tee I made earlier.

T shirt with shoulder drape

earlier version

This version has a simpler pattern construction with no twist.

tee with contrast bands

teeneckline is a shaped band which incorporates one side of the bust darting, the other side being formed into three small tucks.

Its in a moderate stretch cotton lycra jersey in black and green, very easy to wear and yoga friendly.  This daft pose attempts to show green diagonal swish .

side panels

side panels


I’m editing this to add a note about how I did the neckline bit. Both the outer pieces and the facing of the band were interfaced with a fusible keeping the fusible to the finished size (that is without seam allowances). The dart and tucks were done in the black front. When I did this I made up the band by stitching front to back and stitched the shoulder seams, but honestly this was just being pedantic. You can more easily leave shoulder seams until after you have applied the bands. To do the curve at the front band I stitched from the point to the shoulder on the short side and pulled it off the machine. Then I put the needle into a couple of stitches back from the point and stitched the second, long side, swivelling and cutting at the corner.

The facing pieces were stitched at the shoulders, obviously, stitched RS together, turned and stitched in the ditch. If I’d been less lazy I might have switched to a double needle and top stitched round the curve instead to hold the facing. That could look good.

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Sew Not Dead Yet

Clutching at straws for a blog name three years ago, I almost called it SNDY. I mean I sew for fun.

2015 brought the usual crop of resolutions in the sewing community, organisation fits, destashing, and finally nailing that impeccable wardrobe.

Do you spot a problem with that last one? Assuming you don’t have a vast budget, a room sized clothing cupboard and a stylist, doesn’t it always come down to sewing up a bunch of basics in a neutral colour? Ten or twelve black or grey garments will get you through most occasions but how much fun is making them and would you rather watch paint dry?

Don’t get me wrong, I can sit back and admire  minimalism and discipline when someone else is fine tuning their clothes collection, but who am I kidding?  Sewing my own clothes will continue to be helter skelter through eclecticism. Its going to be a colour fest, a style mish mash and pattern pandemonium. Later I’ll weed out the wadders, pass on the overly optimistic, remake the ridiculous.

How about you – disciplined or chaotic, organisation freak or making mahem? There’s a simple test.  Have you sewn a chic, got together working wardrobe or a haphazard heap of mis-matches you can’t bear to part with ?

This week I got a bit further with the red bouclé re-run, and sewed a dd blouse. She picked this gloriously pink, fantastically fluid figured silk from Angus International five years ago, so I didn’t rush into anything.

pink silk

pink silk

I used it with the matt background as RS, either would have been good.

cowl blouse

cowl blouse

Yes, another cowl.  This time made with slightly belled sleeves, all cut on the bias including the sleeves to show off the soft flowing look of the fabric.

Here’s the jacket in progress.

red bouclé jacket

red bouclé jacket

Now what I actually need is a good basic black straight skirt, and some black twill or baby cord narrow leg jeans. I wonder how long I can put off making those?





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Out on a Lim

Crepe dress by Phillip Lim

Crepe dress by Phillip Lim

PR has again its Bargainista Fashionista contest in progress and I’ve run up a Phillip Lim inspired dress for dd.  Its not an exact copy – the original is more resort wear and this one is another in a long line of office dresses. I lifted the idea of wavy bands forming the armhole and shoulder piece, but constructed them differently, and of course used a different fabric.

I drafted this pattern on Monday, using a basic dress block in dd’s size, giving it a slight A-line at the hem, and placing the shoulders together to draw in the wavy bands. I rarely do a rip off, its usually easier to work up an idea a with the person and purpose in mind. The main challenges for this version were getting a reasonable smooth wave around the J shape front armhole curve you get on a pattern with a bigger cup size, and avoiding cutting too low underarm or too high on the shoulder for ‘normal’ foundation wear. (Its photographed on a different size dress form btw.)  Getting the waves to sit well on the larger cup size and not hit a difficult place came into play too. The result is inevitably a bit of a compromise.

The original looks as though it has the band cut in a single layer, presumably facing back the armhole edge, finished with what the Nieman Marcus site describes as embroidery. Its made in  crepe. Mine is in a firmer twill weave poly, which didn’t lend itself to the same kind of finish. PL’s is pretty mini on the model, mine’s longer.

A line dress with wavy bands

A line dress with wavy bands

I constructed the bands as a double piece, stitching them in a tube, then stitching the ends together at the underarm. Then I set them onto the dress and top stitched. This top stitching is a WIP – I’m considering adding another row or two.

Wavy bands forming armhole

Wavy bands forming armhole


The idea of the comp. is to compare the original price with what you have made your version for. The price for the Philip Lim dress was around the $770 area. You will have guessed I used about one and a half yards of a fabric which looks a bit like wool but is pretty certainly a poly. It had been lurking in stash since I bought a few yards at £1 a yard from the East London market stall where I get most of my experiment fabrics, and those destined to provide grist for the mill workwear. I’m almost embarassed to list this in my competition entry details. Should I pretend its made from something a little classier do you think?

For fellow pattern nuts, this was what my working pattern for the waves looked like.





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A Suitable Fabric

Slow progress this week on remaking a jacket. I am trying a decorative facing, which involves a lot of  drawing, cutting, fusing, tacking, snipping, pressing and pausing to wonder if it will look anything like I intended or end up getting ripped off.


The fabric is a red tweedy bouclé, looking woven but actually a knit structure. I never liked the original jacket. The first style wasn’t right for the softness of the fabric.   Getting  fabric and design to gel in home dressmaking can be pretty difficult, do you agree? If you start with the big idea finding the suitable colour, weight, structure and surface pattern to make it in can be a long haul.

I picked up a February Burda Style while the car was in repair. This fabric/design mismatch hit me in the eye.


Chunky masculine style lines married to the sort of  twee floral print you’d pick for a pram cover. I guess they used their stash.

It’s definitely the Bad Fabric Issue. There’s a colour blocking bonanza to brighten your frosty February..

jacYou think the jacket’s awkward ? Get a load of these trousers.


Pale pink Vee centred over glutes. But the bag matches, so no worries.

Not enough design faux pas for one day? Check out the pocket placement.


Too subtle? Emphasise the V yoke line  with  fringing before rudely slapping a rectangle of fabric over it.


Big and Boxy or Big and Baggy takes up most of the issue. OK  on the tall slender models  but, no bust darts! I predict a rush of  ‘how do I do FBA on this?’ forum questions. Does this  herald an 80’s re-run , curtains of fabric hanging from triple strength shoulder pads? If so, I still have this Issey Miyake pattern lurking.


I’d probably look like a slightly chubby dwarf doing a twirl in Radagast’s robes, but there are always those days when  the burqa doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all. Good for tossing over pj’s if you need to walk the dog at unsocial hours for instance.

Last up in my styling by Burda show there’s this adventurous combination  .. please comment. I couldn’t.


All was not lost though. Hidden amongst the belted milkmaid smocks, the plain weird and the architectural overgarments there was this top .

polo I like it and the fabric they chose for it.



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Cheat Cheetah

Presenting my homage to Jungle January.

CheetI noticed there has been some pairing up, but your intrepid explorer ventured out alone,  sticking to well trod paths and furnishing a cowl neck top in fine fake fur, baby cheetah printed. Sleeves are a dense black stretch lace.

My pattern is intended to be cut on the bias. I only had a small remnant of fabric, so I messed about holding drapes at various angles, before settling on simply cheating. Its on straight grain and the cowl doesn’t seem to have suffered.

All fabric was from stash, construction time a leisurely hour and a half. I  love cowl neck tops for quick results.

(A hanger shot, as its in a daughter’s size, now packed and flying off.)



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