The Monochrome Dreamcoat : Part 2

While I love reading other peoples year end reviews and plans for next year - and in the past have done them myself - I'm not going to do one of my own.  I don't really know what to say about this year, it's had it's ups and downs certainly.  I've gone from wanting to sew and blog all the time to completely losing both my sewing and blogging mojo's and in truth can't wait to see the back of 2016!

What I am going to do is share with you the project I'm most proud of this year; possibly the project I'm most proud of ever.

Vivienne Westwood style coat

Back at the end of October I wrote this post about the inspiration behind this project and my trials with my toile.  Once that was done I promptly lost all confidence in the project and couldn't get my head around tackling anything so big and it sat on my mannequin making me feel guilty every time I passed it. 

It was a project I desperately wanted to complete, but mentally things took a bit of a dip and I just couldn't face making a start.  I was overwhelmed by other commitments, work was getting busier and my anxiety put in a reappearance.

It was only when I was contemplating possible projects to tackle on a 3-day workshop with Alison Smith at the beginning of December that I decided the coat would be the thing to take.  If that was all I had with me to work on, then I'd have to do it, wouldn't I?

I'm so glad I did take the coat as my project - I literally spent the entire first day and part of the second morning cutting out - if I'd been doing that at home on my own I'd have got bored and put everything to one side again.  Or more likely, left it all over the dining room and just walked away!

Almost finished cutting out!

I had a couple of minor panics on the first day, not least because when I went to cut out the collar I realised I'd brought the wrong pattern piece with me.  I'd drafted several collars while making my toile and obviously picked up the wrong one.  (I actually found the right one this morning when I was looking for something else!).  After panicking for several minutes I calmly unpicked the collar from my toile and used that to make a new pattern piece. 

Trial bound buttonhole in faux leather

The coat actually came together very smoothly - with a little help from Alison - with only a few minor headscratching moments due to it being asymmetric.  I was constantly terrified that I was cutting things back to front, which probably made the cutting out take longer than necessary. 

I love how the back of the collar rolls

But I cracked on and at the end of three long, tiring days I came away with an almost complete coat.  All that was left for me to do at home was hem it and sew the buttons on.  Hemming actually took much longer than I thought, that hem is pretty long!

A unique lining is always a lovely touch

I absolutely love the end result.  I've had so many compliments on it - a friend wants one! - and I've got a coat that no one else has. 

Lovely curved front

Back view

In Print

Hello all,

Sorry for the unintentional absence again, work has been a bit manic, and I've had a lot of stuff going on outside work as well, including a three day workshop I attended the week before last with Alison Smith. 

I'll share what I made on that (hopefully) later this week, but for now I'd like to bring you to post I hoped to bring you a couple of weeks ago.

I'm very excited that I have a project in this months Love Sewing magazine (issue 34). 

The lovely Amy Thomas, editor of Love Sewing, contacted me a few months ago and asked if I'd be interested in contributing a project to the magazine.  She'd seen a lovely 3D free motion embroidered bag while on holiday and wondered if I would like to create something similar for the magazine.  

This is the photo she sent me for inspiration.

I was only too happy to get my creative thinking cap on and work out how I could make my own version of this beauty.  Only having a single photo to go on made things slightly tricky, but after making a few samples I was happy with the look of the finished piece. 

This is one of my samples, and the one that was closest to the final project.  I tried interfacing the skirt in different ways and gathering instead of pleating the skirt into the waist.  I also tried cutting the dress as one piece rather than a separate skirt and bodice, but that didn't work too well.

For the final piece I did away with the models hair, as my husband said it looked weird, and added a strip of braid to the waist of the dress to cover the stitching in that area.

Once I'd worked out how to create the model I had to make the bag itself, photographing each step as I went, and write a tutorial suitable for the magazine.  It was hard work, but fun.  Luckily my husband has a nice camera and tripod which he set up in the dining room for me, so I could photograph everything without any camera shake!

And here's the finished project in the magazine.

Thanks must go to Amy for giving me the opportunity to create this project, and also to Rae and Jacqui at Fabric HQ who kindly provided me with the fabrics I used. 

Free Motion Monday

I've got a bit behind myself this week I'm afraid.  I'd planned a free motion embroidery post to bring you last Friday but due to circumstances beyond my control I wasn't able to.  Stupidly I didn't have anything else planned to take it's place at the time, but since then I have been teaching some free motion embroidery classes, so I'll share some of the projects from those with you.

I taught two classes at the weekend, at Fabric HQ and Crafty Angel Sewing Studio, and we made Christmas wreaths at both of them. 

They were great fun, and even messier than normal free motion embroidery classes, due to the addition of hessian, lots of ribbon and a glue gun!   Oh, and biscuits of course!

The class attendees had the choice of making either a holly wreath or a mistletoe one and the two people who came to Craft Angel Sewing Studio on Sunday even added a little robin to their wreaths. 


The pieces above were completed by my students.  Neither of them had done free motion embroidery before, and their finished pieces are gorgeous!

As there were only two participants on the class Angela who owns Crafty Angel Sewing Studio and I both made wreaths as well.   This is Angela's - how gorgeous is it?  That bow is to die for!

I made this one, as I already have "normal" mistletoe and holly wreaths.  It's now got pride of place on the dresser in my kitchen.

In case you're wondering, the red and white "berries" are the pompoms snipped off pompom trim and glued in place. 

Recreating Ready to Wear: Michelle Williams' Colour Blocked Dress

I'm continuing with my "Recreating Ready to Wear" series with another dress, again in collaboration with Minerva Crafts Blogger Network.

This month I decided to try and recreate a dress worn by the actress Michelle Williams in a shoot for Elle magazine last year.  Sadly, I've never been able to track down who the designer of Michelle's dress was. 

As you can imagine, this one involved quite a bit of pattern hacking.  If you'd like to read more about what I did and the fabrics/pattern I used, head over to Minerva Crafts and read all about it here.

I promise I'll make something other than a dress next month. 

Made by Me: Dress Cezembre

First things first...  as you can see, I've given the blog a little makeover.  What do you think?  I'm really pleased with it, I've been wanting to do it for ages but wasn't sure exactly what I wanted.  I found this theme ready made on Etsy, it was really cheap and the seller was super helpful with a couple of queries I had.  I even managed to install it myself AND I made the new logo myself as well.   

I also made this dress.

The dress is based on the Blouse Cezembre pattern by Anne Kerdiles Couture.  I have actually made it as a blouse as well, which is yet to be blogged, and as soon as I tried on the finished blouse I knew I wanted a dress version.

I love the way the hem is shorter at the front than the back, and that the change in length happens towards the front rather than at the side seams.  This is achieved by not having side seams in the pattern.  The back piece wraps around to the front princess seam line, so it is really wide, and the front piece is very narrow.  It looks weird when you cut it out, but great when it's made up. 

The pattern suggests you use crepe, viscose or light cotton and for my blouse version I used the remains of the cotton/viscose plaid fabric from this dress.

For this version I went totally off piste and used ponte roma fabric from Fabric HQ, sadly I can't find it on their website to share it with you.  It wasn't the cheapest fabric ever, I think about £20 a metre, but I bought it on their birthday celebrations and got 20% off.  I managed to get this dress out of 1.5 metres.

You'll notice I've added pockets.  I really wanted this to be a cosy dress with pockets - not sure that I'll ever use them, but they had to be there.  And I didn't want inseam pockets either. 

I actually added a side seam to the pattern as well as adding around 12 inches in length by slashing the pattern at hip level.  The narrow side section between the new side seam and the princess seam I lengthened a further 12 inches and folded this up to create a deep pocket.  With the patterned fabric you can't really see that the pockets are there, but I know they are, which is all that matters.

I also lengthened the sleeves, basically making them as long as my available fabric would allow, and they're lovely and cosy.  I put a deep hem facing on them so if I wanted to I could turn them back a bit. 

Instead of a facing for the neckline I used a band of fabric, and for I think the first time ever, got the right length first time!

I took a bit of a risk with this as I didn't make a toile first - I didn't have enough of another ponte roma to do so - so I did risk ruining this lovely fabric, but thankfully this has turned out exactly as I imagined it.  I want to wear it all the time and if I didn't have so many other things on my "to sew" list I'd probably have made another one already!

Christmas Gifts for Sewists

Am I too early to be talking about this?  I know some highly organised people - not me, sadly - will have already completed their Christmas shopping.  Some might even have it wrapped and their cards written.  I'm still under the impression that it's months until Christmas!

But if you need any inspiration on what to put on your Christmas list, or what to buy for the sewist in your life, these are some of my favourite things.

Top of my list is a controversial one - scissors.  My mum says you should never give anything with a blade as a gift - the blade cuts the friendship apparently - but if you do want to gift scissors, then you can ask the recipient to pay you for the gift.  It only has to be one penny, but then the recipient has bought them from you and according to the old wives tale the friendship is safe.

I treated myself to these scissors earlier this year and I have to say they are gorgeous.  Not only do they look pretty spectacular, but they cut beautifully as well.  I have the fabric shears and the 6" straight scissors, but I have my eye on the snips as well. 

Tula Pink Hardware scissors from The Crafty Mastermind - from £14.99

If you or the person you're buying for love using a rotary cutter, how about this pretty floral one by Fiskars?  It keeps popping up in my Instagram feed and I wish I liked using a rotary cutter, because I really want one. 

Fiskars floral rotary cutter from Remnant House - £14.99

How about some lovely Merchant and Mills goodies?  I absolutely LOVE the entomology pins. 

Merchant and Mills Entomology pins - £6.00

Other Merchant and Mills goodies I love are the sewing gauge and the bamboo point turner

I've normally got a mug of tea on the go while I'm sewing, and I often get so engrossed in what I'm doing that it goes cold.  A thermal mug would be ideal, and I love this one.   It's not strictly sewing related, but aren't we all very busy when we're sewing!

"I am very busy" thermal mug from John Lewis - £14.00

Sewing themed jewellery is always a good gift - well it would be high on my list anyway! - and there's a huge variety out there. 

I'm lucky enough to have the tiny silver Alex Monroe scissors necklace and matching earrings, bought by my husband last Christmas.

Alex Monroe Inline Sewing scissors from the Haberdashery collection

If you like something a little chunkier, then Tatty Devine have a whole range of gorgeous necklaces, from a sewing box, pinking shears or a sewing machine to patchwork pieces, and that's just things that are sewing related. 

Beyond Measure have some lovely unusual leather ruler wrap bracelets at the moment.  I'm tempted by one of these, but I have really tiny wrists and I'm worried it would be too big for me. 

Beyond Measure Leather Wrist Ruler - £20.00

Of course, there's always the old favourite - gift vouchers.  How about a voucher for a class or workshop at the recipients favourite fabric store, or just vouchers to spend on lovely fabric?  Who wouldn't love to receive one (or more!) of these Liberty gift coins - although they're so pretty I think I'd have a hard time parting with them to spend them.

Liberty gift coin - from £10.00

I hope that's given you a few ideas if you didn't have any already.  I'd be happy to receive any of these in my Christmas stocking this year.

What's on your Christmas list?

Free Motion Friday: Robin Wall Hanging

I hardly dare mention it, but I have a Christmassy tutorial for you today for Free Motion Friday.  I stitched a cute little robin and mounted him in an embroidery hoop.  I always think of robin's as being boys, I don't know why!

If you would like to make a robin wall hanging of your own, you will need the following:

·         Piece of linen type fabric approx 10” square.  I used Robert Kaufman Essex Linen in theNatural colourway.
·         Small scraps of fabric in appropriate “robin” colours.  I used scraps of “Twist” by Dashwood Studios. 
·         Bondaweb – approx 4” square.
·         Iron on interfacing – approx 6” square.
·         Black thread.
·         6” wooden embroidery hoop.
·         Fabric glue.  I used Gutermann HT2.

You will also need a darning or embroidery foot for your sewing machine, and you must also be able to lower or cover the feed dogs of your machine.

You can download the template for the robin I used here.


Print and cut out the robin template.  If the test square in the corner measures 1” then the robin will fit perfectly in a 6” embroidery hoop.

Turn the template pieces face down and draw round each one on the reverse of the appropriate fabric.  You don’t have to use exactly the same colours I’ve used, I just used what I had. 

Rough cut each shape out, leaving a small border and iron onto some Bondaweb.  Remember to use some greaseproof paper over the Bondaweb so you don’t get any of the glue on the plate of your iron. 

Peel the fabric pieces off the Bondaweb backing and cut out exactly.

Prepare the linen fabric by ironing the interfacing onto the back of it to give some stability for stitching.

Arrange the pieces of the robin on the linen, centring them, and then press with a hot iron to adhere them to the linen with the Bondaweb.
You can find a full tutorial explaining these steps in more detail here.

Using free motion embroidery, stitch around the edge of the pieces and add details such as the robins legs, beak and eye.  I used scribbly lines rather than straight ones to give a more hand drawn look.

Add details such as a branch for the robin to stand on, or a fence, or anything that takes your fancy!  I cut some tiny holly leaves to add a contrasting colour into the design. 

Make sure your design fits in a 6” embroidery hoop.  Mine does just, but I wanted it to fill the frame, so that's good!  Mount your linen in the embroidery hoop so that the fabric sits over the inner ring, press the outer ring down and tighten the top screw. 

Trim off the excess at the back, leaving about 15 – 20mm to fold over the back of the hoop.

Apply fabric glue around the top edge of the inner rim of the hoop and press the fabric down over the edge. 

Sit back and admire your completed picture.  You could add a ribbon loop or bow at the top for hanging if you wish. 

The Monochrome Dream Coat : Part 1

You've all heard of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, right?  Well this is the first part of my story about my Monochrome Dream Coat.

As soon as I saw the photo of this coat a year or more ago I wanted it.  Like really, really wanted it. 

That particular coat would never be in my possession though, for one thing it's a Vivienne Westwood coat, and for another, I don't think was still available even if I could afford it. 

I dreamed about it for ages, I think I even wrote about it here, and then at the Knitting and Stitching Show last October I bought some fabric to make it.  The Simply Fabrics stall had this black and white polka dot coat weight fabric that seemed too good a match to turn down, so I bought 4 metres.

And the fabric sat in the cupboard for a year while I searched for a pattern to use as a starting point and generally procrastinated.  I'm very good at procrastinating. 

Then, this weekend I decided to make a start.  I didn't have a current project underway and I wanted something I could get my teeth into.  I dug Vogue 8505 out of my stash and decided to go with that.  It's a 1990's pattern, but has pretty much the basic shape I want.

My copy of course is one size too small for me, and this is also a dress pattern, not a coat pattern, so my first step was to trace the pattern, enlarge it slightly and then make a straight toile without any design alterations.

This is my initial toile.

As you can see from all the pins it needs quite a few adjustments.  It's too wide on the shoulders - I thought it would be - and I gave myself a little too much extra room in the waist.  I want to be able to wear a sweater under the coat, but I still want a fitted look.  I don't wear hugely thick sweaters anyway, I prefer a few thinner layers. 

The whole coat also needs lengthening about 4 inches, but I had already taken two out of the bodice length before I cut the toile out so I anticipated needing to add length back at the hem. 

I then moved onto the collar, using the collar pattern piece from a Burdastyle coat as the basis, mainly because it was to hand. 

I started off with this one, and thought it was pretty good.

But then when I looked at my inspiration photo this morning I realised that the collar wraps right over on the right front, so I redrafted it and replaced it with this.

I'm pretty happy with this one.   I just need to try it on myself - rather than on Rosie - to make sure it's not going to choke me. 

My next step is to work out the drape on the side of the skirt.  I've already marked an area I'm going to cut away from the original shape (you can see that in the photo of the full toile above) and then I'm going to try my hand at draping a new piece to go in it's place.  I'm not going to add the flap at the top of the hip, I have enough bulk there myself without adding to it! 

Once I've got that right I need to pre-treat my fabric, order some interfacing and lining and get started!

I'm not sure of the best way to pre-treat the fabric (I'm not actually sure of the fibre content - the price I paid leads me to believe it's probably mostly synthetic).  For the last coat I made I steamed the fabric first, so I'll probably do that, but if anyone has any other suggestions please let me know. 

My Favourite Sewing Techniques - Bound Buttonholes

I love a good bound buttonhole and have used them on several garments over the last few years.  Each time I've done them I've used a different method, usually involving thin strips of fabric to create the buttonholes "lips" and some also using patches of fabric to create a kind of facing that secures the lips in place. 

This method is the simplest I've come across, and does away with the separate strips of fabric for lips and just uses the patch to face the buttonhole and create the lips at the same time.  So much easier!  I learnt this method from Alison Smith when I attended her Tailored Jacket class earlier this year. 

So, without further ado, here is my preferred method of creating bound buttonholes.

You will need:

  • The piece of your garment that requires the buttonholes - you need to make them before the garment is constructed.
  • Interfacing for the rear of the buttonhole area.  You may find that if you're making a coat or jacket the pattern has already recommended interfacing the whole section containing the buttonholes.  If not you can do this, or you can use a separate patch of interfacing for each buttonhole.
  • A patch of your fashion fabric for each buttonhole - at least 3 times as wide as the finished buttonhole and 4 - 5 times the height.
  • Your facing piece for the garment and patches of the facing fabric or lining fabric for each buttonhole.
Yellow = outer fabric, Dark teal = buttonhole patch, White = interfacing, Grey = facing, Light teal = facing patch.

1. Firstly interface the rear of your fashion fabric - either the whole piece or separate patches for each buttonhole as mentioned above.

2. Using your paper pattern as a guide, mark the position of the buttonholes with lines of basting stitches.  You will need 2 vertical lines of basting - one marking each end of the buttonholes - and then a horizontal line running between these marking the actual position of each buttonhole. Extend the lines of stitching so that they cross each other by at least an inch in each direction.

3. Cut a "patch" of fabric for each buttonhole, size as described above.  This will normally be your fashion fabric, but could be a contrast if you prefer. 

4. Draw the finished dimensions of your buttonhole onto your fashion fabric, using your basted lines as a guide.  (I haven't used any basting here, as I was only making one buttonhole!). Pin the patch right sides together with your fashion fabric, centring the patch over the marked buttonhole.

Buttonhole marked in position on reverse of fashion fabric.

Buttonhole patch laid over markings, right sides together.

5. Stitch around the marked lines for each buttonhole.  To get a perfectly even buttonhole you can count the stitches to make sure each long side and each short side are identical.

Stitch around buttonhole.

The "patch" side with look like this.

6. Carefully, with very sharp scissors, make a horizontal cut in the centre of each rectangle of stitching and then a diagonal cut into each corner.  Stitch up to, but not through, your line of stitching.

Cut the buttonhole open with sharp scissors.

7. Push the patch through to the wrong side of the fashion fabric and press.  You should have a small letterbox type opening.



8. On the reverse side of the fabric, press the bottom flap up to expose the seam, then back down halfway so that half the buttonhole is covered by the patch.  This forms the bottom "lip".  Repeat for the top flap and pin in place.
Lips folded up and pinned in place.

9. Fold the fabric on one side of the buttonhole back to expose the edge of the patch.  Stitch down over the small triangle of fabric at the end of the buttonhole.  This holds the folded lips in place.  Repeat for the other end, stitching as close to the edge of the buttonhole as you can without actually stitching through it. 

Stitch over the little white triangle. 

Once you have stitched both ends the buttonhole will look like this.

Finished buttonhole from front

Finished buttonhole from rear

We now need to make a similar opening in the facing or lining to cover the reverse of the buttonhole.

10. Repeat steps 2 - 7 above on your facing or lining, making sure that the slots you make in the facing line up with the buttonholes you've made in the outer fabric!

Right side of facing

Wrong side of facing

11. Join your facing piece to your fashion fabric as and when directed in the pattern instructions.

Join fashion fabric and facing / lining together as instructed.

12. Carefully handstitch the edges of the slot in the facing to the reverse of the buttonhole lips.

Handstitch facing to rear of buttonhole to finish.

 Congratulations, you should now have a lovely bound buttonhole!

I hope you found this tutorial useful.  As I mentioned above, this is the easiest method of creating bound buttonholes that I have tried.