Sunday, 7 September 2014

One Week, One Pattern

Only wear one pattern’s worth of clothes for a whole week?  Well yes, it is possible!  And it even looks like it might be fun, if only the weather will cooperate. 

I’m going to wear only things I’ve made from Sew Over It’s Betty Dress pattern.
So, yesterday I went to the Ingrave and Herongate Village Show ( proudly wearing my ‘noisy dress’! 

This was my second go at Betty, made using a wonderful jungle noises fabric from Geoff’s Remnant Shop in Brentwood (  I always feel good in that one, feminine but fun and not too ‘pretty pretty’ (which just ain’t me!). And it's great when you're doing something a bit dull to look down at your own chest and see 'yelp' or 'hiss' in the middle of your ledge (as my mum used to call it!!), really cheers the most dreary of encounters!

And today is the day for my first ever Betty.  Really pretty cotton summery flowers, which Beatrice enjoys sitting on cos they offset her colouring so well (apparently!).



Being my first go at the pattern, and being one of my first home sewn attempts for a good many years, this one is a bit big on me – I always feel I’m fatter than I really am, and because I’m so anxious not to make something that’s unbecomingly tight, I end up with things being loose, at times even gappy, instead of neatly snug!  Of course, I could easily take this in a bit, but I’m just too flippin’ lazy!

When I made the noisy dress, I knew better – cut the same size but just was generous with my seam allowances.  I probably could’ve done a smaller size successfully, but because I had (again) been lazy originally, and cut the bought pattern pieces instead of patiently tracing them off, that was never going to be simple – it’s the armhole and necklines that challenge my brain beyond endurance then.  I have learnt from my mistakes, though: now I trace patterns onto dot and star paper in my chosen size and cut that instead of the precious (pricey) original.

Why do so many patterns cost so much, especially when they often prove not to have been proof read or tested properly by ordinary sewers, instead of by experienced seamstresses who automatically correct errors or instinctively interpret poorly explained steps?  The awkward bit of Betty is in the facings: explanations and diagrams are thoroughly confusing here, and for the second version sewing buddy Claire had worked out a much simpler and neater way of doing them which meant I didn’t get the urge to top stitch to neaten them up!

Two days down, two dresses worn....
next up???








Thursday, 28 August 2014


Yup, I love my yoga, and I can't wait for the classes with Renate to start up again after the summer break (, but this is actually about sewing with stre-e-e-e-e-tch fabrics!

I'd always thought that sewing jersey fabrics was the ultimate challenge which I would simply never manage, but I hadn't reckoned with Tilly Walnes (

She produced THE PERFECT PATTERN for me, Coco - a tunic / top, with / without collar and with a choice of sleeves.  Just the thing to hide bulges, stick on over leggings or jeans, and forget about!  Mind you, I looked at the pics of Tilly wearing Coco, saw her petite figure and cute look and assumed I'd be disappointed.
That's where sewing buddy Claire came in - why do some people have self confidence that others don't?  Who knows, but I am so grateful for it!  We agreed we'd get ourselves some stretch jersey fabric and give Coco a go.  We picked some relatively cheap jersey with not too much stretch and set off together!

It was SO EASY!  Seriously, the worst bit was getting it to lie still to be cut out, but Tilly suggested a rotary cutter which really was the right thing.  And then, her whole pattern was just so CLEAR and straightforward, from the 'Tips for sewing knits' through to the final stitch.  Every step clearly described, illustrated by a photo, and reasons and extra little tips given all through.  Brilliant!  At last, someone who writes clearly and whose enjoyment and sense of fun comes through in every word. 

It really wasn't Tilly's fault that I got my pockets more than a bit wonky.....and it gives my make character, doesn't it? Yes?!
I chose three little buttons to customise / cheer up my pockets (I'm always a sucker for a button!) 

The minute I put my first Coco on, I started plotting what material I wanted for my next: such confidence had been created by the first, that I got some dearer, striped, heavier jersey in my favourite blues and greens. It only fleetingly occurred to me that I might not be able to get the stripes matched enough for a good look, and the heavier weight was easier to sew and made a more substantial feeling garment. 

Again I couldn't resist the button lure....
....and at least stripes make it easier to get your pockets straighter!
Meanwhile, Coco really had taken off (check out Tilly and the Buttons on Facebook) and Tilly held a 'Coco day tea party', which of course Claire and I had to join in with:

Claire had by then made a beautiful brown funnel neck version too
(But why do we get funny looks from the neighbouring businesses when we do our photos?!)

And as I write, I'm planning the next version, with Autumn in mind - there's some rather tempting purple ponte di roma down the road which I reckon I could enjoy with a funnel neck!

But Tilly has already gone so much further, and produced a really lovely book which I'll say more about another time.  For now, suffice it to say that it's full of instructions and patterns which really do work!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Two important basics: A machine, and a sewing buddy!

I have always loved art and ‘making things’.  As a child, I insisted on making outfits for my dolls, and I regularly followed the legendary Valerie Singleton and did the Blue Peter Christmassy / Mother’s Day makes (those were the days!).  As a teenager, I made most of my own clothes – oh, my wonderful ankle length denim pinafore dress!   But that was a year or two (or forty!) ago, and no one was more surprised than I was when I got bitten by the dressmaking bug this spring! 
Out came my 21st birthday present, a lovely heavy old Bernina 807. 

 OK, so she has a pretty limited range of stitches, but she’s solid and trusty and happily changes needle position, speed setting, stitch width and length.  She good-naturedly does everything I’ve needed to make and make and make, with just one service in her long life.  The more I see and hear of more modern machines, the happier I am with my unfussy good quality old workhorse.  She doesn’t seem to get hiccoughs and indigestion so often as the youngsters do, bits don’t break, and her rich engine purr is so reassuring.
The other invaluable asset I've found is my 'sewing buddy'.  Claire Mackaness is the brilliant lass who taught me ( very patiently) to crochet, needlefelt, and so much more at Beautiful Things ( ), and when she got the dressmaking urge, she swept me along with her.  We have occasionally made the same pattern simultaneously, and we even made a joint (experimental) dress together!  
Claire modelling our joint venture - made of a curtain and a sheet.  It looked so good on both of us, that I made my own with the other curtain!!
We have learnt to draft and adapt patterns for ourselves.  More of all these projects later. 
Coco day tea party - the pattern was Coco by Tilly and the Buttons.
Moneta pattern by Colette
Most often, however, we ‘parallel sew’ like infants, each working on our own thing, but with the companionship, encouragement and advice of having someone alongside.  And it’s even her fault I’ve started this blog, so all complaints go to her……

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

First ever blog post!!

So, a first post – and this from someone who always felt blogging was somehow a bit arrogant (why should I expect anyone to be interested in reading about my doings?).....   
Having cared for my increasingly demented Mum for 13 years, I faced a choice when she died:  continue in the isolation I had found myself forced into, or venture into the big, wide world again.  I chose the latter and have been saying ‘yes’ to (very nearly!) everything for 18 months now.  Aged 50-something, I’m hurling myself into a whole new life, spending my time making and creating.
Luckily, I discovered Craft Classes at Beautiful Things just down the road, and patient owner Claire taught me to crochet.  She has a real gift for thinking out how to make techniques accessible so that even absolute beginners go home after an hour or so with something achieved on which to build.  I promptly found myself well and truly hooked (oops! sorry!), and only really hot sticky weather stops me.  Is it weird to welcome a more autumnal feel because it feels like crochet weather?!
That was just the start – with a totally uncharacteristic confidence (started by Claire) I have enjoyed needle- and wet-felting, machine embroidery, appliqué and crazy patchwork; and through Beautiful Things I have discovered the fascination of fusing glass, and surprised myself in Art classes with Helen Smith (Helen Rose Glass).  Now I’m even the proud dressmaker of an increasingly varied wardrobe of handmade garments!
This blog will record my creative life, activities, influences, experiences, ideas and challenges.  I hope it might help to inspire some other people: I’m just a very ordinary maker, who is learning by doing, reading and talking.  I have absolutely brilliant, totally impractical, ideas which are well beyond my capabilities and I am definitely fallible, but increasingly willing to ‘have a go’!  Even my failures seem to be feeding my confidence, and I’m hoping some folk out there will give me useful pointers, helpful hints, and more inspiration.
So, if you’re interested in sharing my occasional thoughts and reflections, laughing at my failures and rejoicing in my successes, WELCOME!