Free motion embroidered mistletoe wreath

It's the weekend, and it's already getting far too close to Christmas for my liking.  I have however finally made a start on my Christmas shopping - three presents bought this morning! 

First of all, thank you to everyone who read and replied to my last post.  Although I feel sad for anyone else suffering from depression and anxiety it is good to be reminded that I'm not alone.  I'm pleased to report that having been on medication for a few weeks I am feeling better than I was and I start a CBT course this week which I've been told is very good. 

On to some creative stuff - which we know makes us feel good!   I've had the pleasure of making another project for Fabric HQ for their 12 Makes of Christmas, and this time it's a free motion embroidered mistletoe wreath.  Pop over to the Fabric HQ blog and see how you can make your own. 

Has anyone else started any Christmas sewing or crafting?  Are you planning to?  I'm still debating whether to make my Christmas cards or not, but I suppose if I am going to I really need to get a move on!

When All Is Quiet...

... or Creativity is Good For You!

I've been debating whether to write this post or not... and even now I've written it I'm not sure about it.  I don't want it to come across as all "woe is me" and I'm not the most eloquent of writers, but it's a subject that really interests me, although I'm sure other people have written far more insightfully on it. 

What really prompted me to go ahead and write was one of the daily themes from Bimble + Pimble's #BPsewvember over on Instagram.  I'm taking part (although I've missed a couple of days) and thoroughly enjoying seeing how other people interpret the themes and connecting with new to me Instagrammers and bloggers. 

The theme that prompted my ramblings today was the one entitled "Why Sew?"

I sew for a number of reasons; because I love wearing clothes that no one else has (I've mentioned here several times that I wanted to study fashion design when I left school, but wasn't able to); because I love the creative and intellectual challenges sewing presents and because it helps enormously when things get too much and my head feels like it's about to explode.

Picture credit: @marnie_makes on Instagram
Picture credit: @marnie_makes on Instagram

For the past few months I've been posting here less regularly than usual because although I've still been sewing, I'd been finding it increasingly difficult sometimes to summon up the energy to photograph and write about what I'd been making.  I've felt tired all the time and often can't be bothered to get myself dressed up and find a decent spot for photographs.  It turns out that this isn't just down to me being lazy, but actually due to (thankfully, fairly mild) depression and anxiety. 

I've had depression before, some years ago, and at that time I wasn't sewing or doing any creative hobbies really.  My main source of enjoyment then was reading, but I found it so hard to concentrate on even the simplest book when I was feeling low.  My mind would race all over the place and I wouldn't even take in half of what I was reading.  This time around however, I've found that sewing has helped me stay calm when anxiety and confused thoughts threaten to overwhelm me.   

And there are lots of other people taking part in Bimble + Pimble's Instagram challenge that seem to feel the same way.  People with varying degrees of mental health issues posted variations on my feelings that being creative helps them to stay positive and feel better.  There's something about sewing that means you have to concentrate in a completely different way, focussing purely on what you're doing at the time - or that's the way it works for me anyway.

Sewing also reminds me that I am good at something when my brain is telling me I'm rubbish at everything.   I just wish my sewing machine was quieter so that I could sew when I'm awake at 4am without disturbing my husband!

So what's the purpose of this post?  I suppose it's twofold really; firstly to let you know that even if I'm not here posting I am sewing and I will catch up eventually; and secondly to say that if you're feeling low and as if you're rubbish at everything, you're not (rubbish at everything).  Get a project out and sew, or knit, or whatever takes your fancy - even if it's something really simple - I'm sure it will help. 

By the way, I'm still posting progress shots and completed project photos along with various other rubbish on Instagram, so if you don't already follow me there, come over and see what I'm up to. 

The Vintage Cape of Awesomeness

I'll start off by saying this is a picture heavy post because I'm rather pleased with this project.

Excuse the stupid claw-like hand - no idea what that's about!

The project started with the fabric, some gorgeous wool blend coating fabric from Fabric HQ.   They also have the same fabric in a navy check.  You might know that I teach a few different sewing classes at Fabric HQ so I'm often there, admiring their new arrivals.  This one arrived the other week and Rae asked me if I'd like to make something from it for them to display in the shop.  Of course I said yes, and then set about hunting for a suitable pattern. 

I wanted something quite simple so that I didn't have to do too much pattern matching.  None of the coat or jacket patterns in my stash were quite right, and then I came across this vintage cape pattern. 

I bought it a couple of summers ago at - would you believe - a funny little shop at the Bletchley Park code breakers museum.  They had a small selection of vintage patterns in amongst other antique "junk" and I think it cost me £1.00. 

I wasn't keen on the collar though, so I decided to mash it up with the collar from the Burdastyle Kim coat. 


This meant extending the fronts a little, which I did by tracing the front sections for the cape then laying them over the front sections for the coat and tracing the neckline curve and additional section I needed.  This kept the shoulder seam correct for the cape and gave me a neckline that matched the collar.   I'm really glad I did this, because the collar feels very cosy and luxurious.

I think I spent a whole evening matching the checks and cutting this out, but once I'd done the cutting out things went together pretty quickly.  The cape has princess seams on the front and back, and a long seam over each shoulder and down the side.  The front princess seams are supposed to contain the arm slits, but I moved mine to the side seams.  I tried them in the front seams on my muslin but could barely move my arms.  I knew if the cape was going to be worn at all they'd have to be moved.

I did four bound buttonholes, centring them in the middle of one of the squares created by the checks.  This was a great help in getting them level and the fabric behaved itself beautifully.  I think I must have used a different tutorial to the last time I did bound buttonholes because I found them much easier than previously.

The time I spent matching the checks at the cutting out stage paid off, because look at the pattern matching on the back of the collar!  I'm definitely proud of that.  This was the first time I'd really done any major pattern matching and while it takes time, it's definitely worth putting the effort in at the preparation stage.

I lined the cape with some paisley jacquard lining from a local fabric shop, and flat piped the seam between the facings and the lining with some bias binding.  This could have been slightly neater - it's not all exactly the same width - but I'm pleased with the effect nonetheless.  

I bagged the lining, using the armhole slit on one side to turn the cape the right way out once the two pieces had been joined together.   I then hand sewed the lining to the fashion fabric around the arm slits.

I think the only thing I'd change about this is that I wish I'd added pockets into the front princess seams, but I'm not going to start taking it apart and adding them.

Thank you very much to Rae and Jacqui at Fabric HQ for providing the fabric for this project.  It's currently on display in their shop, but I can't wait for the opportunity to wear it.  The fabric was wonderful to work with and is cosy but not heavy. 

Lexi in Red

I've only made one Named Patterns pattern before - the Jamie jeans - but when they released their latest collection - New Black - I knew I had to make the Lexi dress.  From the line drawing it looked as if it would be right up my street, and it is.

Named describe this as an A line dress with a loose fit, boat neck and long bust darts at the front.  It has a lowered waistline and an above knee length skirt, with two pleats in the front and back of the skirt.

Here's my finished version.

I used some red polyester crepe I've had in stash for a good couple of years, I'm normally drawn to patterned fabrics but I wanted to use something plain for this to show off the long darts and pleats in the skirt.  Having said that, you can't really see them that well in this photo.  Red is so hard to photograph.

I was going to tell you what size I made but I can't remember.  I printed and cut the pdf pattern out a few weeks before I actually made the dress and I don't have a record of which size I actually used in the end.  I'm naughty - I don't trace pdf patterns - I just cut them out, working on the principle that I can print them again if I need to.   I'd actually rather spend time sticking the sheets together than tracing!

Anyway, I'm happy with the fit across the shoulders and bust, but I'd probably go down one size in the waist and hips another time.  It's meant to be a loose dress but this one is very loose on me.  I do like the shape though, but feel I can only get away with it because it's above knee length. 

I made a few changes along the way as I normally do, nothing major this time though because I love the dress as it is.   The pattern calls for the dress to be lined, but I didn't have any suitable lining so I didn't.  I just used the facing pieces for the top pattern (which is also included when you buy the dress) to finish the neckline.  I used to hate neck facings but I'm coming round to the idea of them again.

I also omitted the back zip, because I only had a standard red zip in the right length and I only like invisible zips in the back of dresses.  It really doesn't need the zip though, I can get it on and off easily.  I think even if I went down a size I wouldn't need a zip in it.

I cut the dress to the length given on the pattern, but then did a much deeper hem - 4 inches instead of the recommended inch and a quarter.  I think this is the perfect length for me - I'm 5' 3" - any longer and it would look like a shapeless, frumpy sack.   I love the way it's slightly longer at the back.

I'll definitely make this again, I have some black and ivory houndstooth fabric in my stash that might work for it, although it's a heavier weight than this crepe.  I think that might work if I go down a size, so that it's not quite so loose.  I think it would also work in a ponte knit and would be so comfortable. 

In the meantime I think I'm going to wear this version to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary party a week on Saturday. 

A Christmas Village

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen my Tweet earlier in the week about a Christmas sewing tutorial I've been working on. 


I know it's a bit early for most people, myself included, but it was for the 12 Makes of Christmas series of blog posts that my lovely friends at Fabric HQ do every year.   They aim to post one Christmas sewing/crafty related tutorial a week during the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas, hence the early start.

Anyway, my tutorial for a free motion embroidered village is now live on the Fabric HQ blog, so pop over and have a look.  While you're there, have a look at their gorgeous selection of Christmas fabrics, and their lovely fabrics in general.

I'm thinking of doing smaller versions of this for my Christmas cards this year.  Are you planning any Christmas sewing?  Have you started it yet?

Minerva Crafts Blogger Network : Waistcoat and Trousers

This month’s Minerva Crafts project is actually two pieces, and was meant to be two months projects, but last month time just got away from me and I didn’t have time to complete the piece.

I’ll start by apologising for the lack of modelled photos, again time (and good lighting) has got away from me and my photographer is nowhere to be seen when I need him!  You will have to settle for Rosie doing the modelling for you, which is not ideal when it comes to trousers I’m afraid.  You’ll have to believe me when I say the trousers fit me very well.

I’ve always loved menswear inspired designs, particularly fitted waistcoats and wide legged trousers, so that is what I’ve tried to recreate here.
I used some lovely black and grey mini dogtooth check fabric, which appears to be sold out on the Minerva website, but they have plenty of other lovely suiting fabrics you could use instead.
I made the waistcoat first. 

Would you believe that it started life as this vintage (if you can call 1990’s patterns vintage) dress pattern?

I actually bought the pattern with the intention of using it to make a coat – and I’m still planning on doing that – but thought it would be perfect as the basis for a double breasted waistcoat as well.  I spent ages testing different design ideas, I’d actually planned on making it much higher in the neckline, and with an asymmetric hem of some sort, but in the end simplicity one out. 

The trousers are from a Burda pattern, Young Burda 6856, which includes both this wide legged design and a narrow leg with high waist and braces.  I decreased the size of the pleat a little on this version as it was a bit too full for my liking.

I’m pretty pleased with my fly front, even though its the first one I’ve done for a couple of years and the instructions had me scratching my head for a while.

Don’t you love the buttons?  They’re some vintage glass ones I bought in a little shop in Lyme Regis about a year ago and have been saving for the perfect project.  

I can’t wait to wear this outfit now the weather has become more Autumnal.  I just need a few new blouses or shirts to wear underneath... watch this space!

Thanks go again to Minerva Crafts for providing me with the fabrics to make this outfit.  I actually have enough left for a skirt as well, so you may well see that at some stage.
This project is actually going to be my last for the Minerva Blogger Network as I'm now finding it harder and harder to fit in all my sewing commitments.  I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a fun and varied group, and would like to thank Vicki and all at Minerva Crafts for their help and support over the time I've been part of the network.  

Self Drafted Skandi Skirt

Hi there!

I'd like to share my first attempt at pattern drafting with you today.  I've seen a lot of box pleated midi skirts around lately and thought I'd have a go at drafting my own.  It was a lot of fun.

I started with this highly technical drawing:

The dimensions are taken from a 8 panelled RTW midi skirt I bought a couple of years ago.  I thought it was a pretty good place to start from.

Even though the "inspiration" skirt has a straight waistband I drafted a curved one based on my skirt block.  I find curved waistbands much more comfortable than straight ones.

Once that was done, I divided the measurement along the bottom seamline of the waistband by 8 to get the top width of my panels.  It was almost exactly the same as the measurement from the RTW skirt, so I used the same hem width for each panel as the RTW skirt has. 

I then decided how deep I wanted the pleats to be - 1 inch - and therefore added 2 inches to each side of my basic panel piece, curving the waist and hem with my pattern master.

I made it a bit more complicated than I needed to initially because for some reason I decided I needed to make it panelled, as the RTW skirt was, hiding the seams inside the pleats.  I was going to have 2 centre panels front and back, with pleats either side and between them, and then side panels without pleats at the side seam. 

The dashed line in the photo above shows where I marked the cutting line for the side panels.  I traced this off and ended up with the two pieces below.

However when it actually came to cutting out I came to my senses and realised I didn't need seamed panels, so I pinned the side piece over the seam allowance for the centre panel and cut one complete front and one complete back, marking the top of the pleats with snips into the fabric.

When it came to sewing I stitched the tops of the pleats down 2 inches from the edge, and then pressed and stitched them in place.

Here's a photo of one piece before I sewed them together and added the waistband.

The construction was pretty straightforward.  I cut two front and two back waistbands and interfaced one of each.  Then there was just two side seams to sew, a lapped zip to insert and the hem.  The seam allowances are all finished with the overlocker.

This is a pretty different style for me, both in terms of shape and fabric, but I think I like it.  The fabric by the way is from Ikea, I think it was £4.00 a metre.  I easily got this out of 2 metres, even allowing for pattern matching.

I envisage wearing it like this most often, with a black top and opaque tights, but also like it with the denim shirt I've styled it with below.  I think that needs sheer tights though, the black look a bit heavy.  I'd also like it with a black blouse - I think I'll feel most comfortable pairing it with black - or a cropped top that sits just over the waistband.

So that's my first attempt at pattern drafting.  It was a pretty straightforward style for a first go, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  Now to make some tops to go with it!

This week...

I'm a bit behind on my "This Week" post, I normally do them on Fridays, but better late than never, eh?

So, what have I been up to since the last time I chatted to you?

There doesn't appear to have been much actual sewing taking place.  I'm in that weird mood where there is lots I want to sew, but I'm having trouble matching patterns with fabric and vice versa.  I keep pairing things up and then wondering if I'm making the right choice, or if I'll regret my choices once I've started cutting out.  I'll show you a few other bits first, and then I might talk through my ideas.  You can chip in if you feel like it.

I did another fused glass workshop last Friday.  It was great fun again, probably better this time as I had a much better idea of what to expect.  I managed to cut myself several times though, although luckily only tiny cuts.  That glass is sharp!  I made another picture panel, here it is in progress.  I just need to wait for it to be fired now and mounted onto canvas.

I went to the Handmade Fair the weekend before last, and it was fab.  I could have spent a fortune, but I was actually very restrained and only bought the new Joan dress pattern from Sew Over It

I've loved this dress since I saw a sample in Sew Over It in Clapham about three years ago, but until the Handmade Fair (when the pattern was released) it's only been available as a class.

I love both versions shown in the link above, and funnily enough I have both red crepe and a grey stretch suiting fabric in my stash.   I thought about using the red for a Christmas version, but then am also liking the idea of red for my next pattern pick, which is the Named Patterns Lexi dress and top

I'm not sure about the top on me, although it might be worth a go, but I love the look of the dress.  That's all printed, taped together and cut out waiting for me to decide which fabric I'm going to use for it.  Currently my fabric choices for this are either the red crepe I mentioned above, some cream/black houndstooth check suiting or I think there is enough of the fabric left from my Sew Over It Anderson blouse for a dress. The red crepe is probably a better weight - the houndstooth might be a bit too stiff and the satin a bit light - and I think the Lexi would look good in a plain fabric to show off the dart/pleat.

My sewing plans also include a box pleated skirt, there seem to be lots about at the moment, and I'm wondering if I can do something similar to the double pleats on this dress. 

I do actually know what fabric I'll be using for the skirt, this polyester crepe I bought on Ebay recently.  I absolutely love the colours and the print.  I think it will look amazing paired with a black top.

I might actually use the satin left over from my Anderson blouse for a (hopefully) wearable muslin of this skirt. 

I'm also in the process of muslining a trouser pattern, which I'm putting off because although I really need to find a trouser pattern that fits me well I dislike the fitting process with trousers.  There always seems to be far too many places they need altering and I can never work out exactly where!

So, those are my musings for this week.  If you've any suggestions regarding pairing fabric with pattern I'd love to hear them. 

Made by Me: Sew Over It Anderson Blouse

I'm working from home today so I thought I'd spend my lunch break telling you about my latest project, my Sew Over It Anderson blouse.

As soon as I saw this pattern had been released I knew I had to have it.  It's the kind of blouse I love, no collar, no fastenings, just stylish.  I've always disliked blouses or shirts with collars - ever since school - I find the collars rarely sit well on me, and often button front blouses or shirts gape between the buttons, or if they fit well across the bust are too big in the shoulders and waist.  I suppose all of these issues could be solved by sewing my own, and maybe one day I will, but for now I've gone the Anderson route.

Pattern Description:

Based on the iconic silk blouses worn by Gillian Anderson in hit series The Fall, the Anderson Blouse is a gorgeous, glamorous classic. The delicious wrap front is sexy and sophisticated, and its stunning drape gives the blouse an effortlessly feminine feel - though it definitely still means business!

Pattern Sizing:

UK sizes 8 - 20 (33 - 45 inch bust).  I made a size 10.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?


Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, I found the instructions very clear and easy to follow.  It was my first Sew Over It pattern, and based on this experience I'd happily use other patterns.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I liked the clear instructions and the photographs.  I love the design of the blouse, although thought it might be a little oversized for me.  I would normally be a UK size 12, but this had a finished bust measurement of 42 inches, which gave a bit more ease than I wanted.  I made a size 10 instead and am completely happy with the amount of ease.

Fabric Used:

Polyester satin with a twill weave, bought very cheaply from a market in Spain.  This version is actually a muslin, but is very wearable (as I'd hoped it would be).

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
No changes made.  The only thing I did differently was to omit the drawstring from the hem, as I would never wear the blouse loose.  I thought the drawstring might add (unneeded) bulk when the blouse was tucked into trousers.  
I'm going to add a small clear press-stud to the front overlap.  Lisa suggests a few stitches if you're worrying about it staying put, but I think I'd prefer a popper.
When I make it again I'll narrow the shoulders slightly, as they are a little too wide.  This is a common alteration for me as I have quite narrow shoulders in comparison to my bust.  The shoulders on this version are fine though.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Definitely and yes.  This style wouldn't suit everyone, but then I don't think there is any style that would suit absolutely everyone, but its a smart alternative to a jersey top for people that don't like traditional buttoned blouses.


I'm very happy with how this turned out.  It's definitely the kind of top I need in my wardrobe so I can see there being a couple more joining this one.  I'm wondering if it would work in jersey, with a wide band at the hem for a more casual look to be worn over trousers rather than tucked in.

This week...

Well, I don't know what happened there.  After getting right back into the blogging scheme of things for a couple of weeks it suddenly all went to pot again. 

I've been procrastinating again.  If only I spent as much time actually sewing as I do thinking about sewing and piddling about on t'internet many, many more projects would be completed.

I didn't even show you my final week or so of Sew Photo Hop, so I'll start with that.  This covers the last 10 days.

Day 22: Last thing I made: my black and white Marthe top.
Day 23: Favourite sewing technique: Hong Kong seams, without a doubt.
Day 24: Worst part of sewing: tidying/vacuuming up the mess afterwards.
Day 25: Behind the seams: the insides of the first coat I made a couple of years ago.
Day 26: Labour of love: my sisters wedding dress... with 4000 tiny pearls sewn on by me!
Day 27: It's been a while: since I picked up my knitting... I still haven't!
Day 28: Trims and haberdashery: pretty trims from Sew Over It.
Day 29: Eye level: my inspiration shelf just above my sewing table contains postcards from Valentino and Alexander McQueen exhibitions.
Day 30: Favourite era: I don't suit vintage fashion, but I love a good 1930's evening dress.
Day 31: Last thing I bought: Style Arc Zoe pencil skirt pdf.

So what else have I been up to?  As I said, procrastinating largely (some would call it wasting time - they'd probably be right!).

I've fallen in love with a coat I want to make for this winter.  It's this:

Of course - you know me - it's not a coat you can buy a pattern for.  It's a Vivienne Westwood Anglomania coat.  I'm going to start experimenting with patterns soon.  I will not be doing the asymmetric shoulders though - both would be the plain one on the left.  I have a plain double breasted coat pattern that I think I might be able to hack... watch this space!

Hmm, what else?

It was my birthday at the beginning of the month and earlier this week I treated myself to a couple of new books with some of my birthday money.  Another Alexander McQueen one, Genius of a Generation.

What can I say, I'm obsessed.  This one is lovely, almost all photographs.  Some of the designs are so beautiful they make me want to cry. 

The other one is the Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion.  I didn't even know this existed until I saw it in Waterstones, but it looks really good.

I'll report further once I've had a chance to have a good read through.

I've got some sewing plans for the weekend. There's a Sew Over It Anderson blouse all ready cut out and waiting to be sewn up, and then I really need to sort out a decent trouser pattern to muslin.  I'm not really sure what style I want to go with though.  I like slim legged cigarette type trousers in the summer, but I'm thinking more of a wider leg for winter, maybe slimmer at the hip and thigh and then flared a bit?  Any recommendations gratefully received.  I'm wondering if the Sewaholic Thurlow's are what I'm after?

Do you have any sewing or other crafty plans for the weekend? 

Black and White Marthe

I have a project to share with you today that's been floating around in my mind for months.  Earlier this year I was wasting time on Pinterest (as I often do!) and came across this photo.

I fell in love with the top straight away and decided I'd have a go at making my own... as I'd never find the actual one for sale anywhere.  (Strangely, since finishing my version I've actually seen this one for sale in a shop near me.  It was really poor quality, not as nice as mine!).

I knew the first thing I needed to do was to find some lovely lace, the other fabrics being simple enough to find.  I spoke to Lisa at White Tree Fabrics and told her I'd like to make a version of this top for one of my projects for their blog team, and straight away she sent me some samples of fabrics she thought would be suitable.

The lace she sent was this beautiful Random Flower Guipure lace, together with some white chiffon and some black ITY spandex jersey.  All gorgeous fabrics, and all perfect for what I had in mind.  I duly asked Lisa to send me some of each, and then they sat in my cupboard for some time while I worked on other projects and tried to find a pattern that would be a suitable starting point.

I was on the verge of drafting my own pattern when I came across the Republique du Chiffon Marthe top.  It was quite close to what I was looking for, and I realised that if I changed the gathered peplum to a semi-circular one it would be even closer.   I drafted a semi-circular peplum myself, making the inner edge the same length as the bottom of the Marthe bodice, and the peplum itself about 8 inches deep.

I planned on just using a panel of the lace over the join between the chiffon and the jersey, but even with two layers of chiffon my stomach was clearly visible, and to be honest, no one wants to see my stomach.  I decided to stick with the two layers of chiffon and add a complete semi-circle of the lace over these.  To cut this I laid my peplum pattern piece underneath the lace, pinned it in place and then used it as a guide to cut around the flowers. 

Most of the construction was done on my overlocker, but the lace was sewn on by hand after being pinned in place.  I actually put the top on my mannequin while I pinned the lace in place, it really helped to see if I'd got it where I wanted it. 

I wasn't sure how to finish the neck of the top, I really wanted a clean, simple finish so I knew a band wouldn't work.  I drafted a facing and attached that with a long, narrow zigzag stitch on my normal machine.  I'd hoped I could get away with just tacking it down at the raglan seams, but it still flipped out at the front, so I ended up topstitching it down with the same long narrow zigzag stitch, about an inch in from the edge.

The final top is quite different from my inspiration photo, but I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.  I just need the right occasion and the right weather to wear it now!

Thanks must go to White Tree Fabrics for providing me with the fabrics I used to make this top.  Now I just have to decide what to do with the lace I have left over.  I think there's enough for another top if combined with some other fabric.