2018 Make Nine Premier Division

Its a little less than a year since I started sharing my sewing on social media so I’m still finding all the challenges and “traditions” of this community. I always want to join in and when my other love – travel – has allowed, I have taken part sporadically, in a couple of photo challenges (#miymarch #sewphotohop and #bpsewvember) and a making challenge (#sewtogetherforsummer).

I’ve seen mentions of #makenine throughout the year and finally caught on that it is a declaration of intention. Forward-thinking sewists boldly declaring their plans of the year.

Confession time: I’ve never been a person who really plans her sewing but I decided to jump on this bandwagon.


I know planning is good, it focuses the mind, it creates goals and targets and it provides accountability. People who plan are good people. I want to plan, I can make plans but somehow for my hobby, I always tend to be a bit more fluid. I always have several ideas bouncing around in my head and the combination of the dozens of patterns and metres of fabric in my stash mean that I have almost always have many irons in the fire. Then, of course, there is always another pattern or another piece of fabric.

Before you say it I know this is why I need to plan.

I have decided to use #makenine to help me make sense of these ideas. So I’m presenting here my #makenine for 2018. Only I can’t possibly limit myself to just nine items. Hence my title today. I’m going to try to distil those ideas and give you a rundown of the concrete plans I have for things I want to make. The Premier League will consist of the nine most desired makes.


Number ONE  is Claude Montana Vogue V2973 I love this funky Moto-inspired twosome. It’s a lot of work, there are over 40 pattern pieces in total.


Number TWO Carmelo Pomodoro’s suit has been languishing in my pattern stash for some years. The current trend for bomber jackets brought this back to mind. I have the fabric and hope to have this ready for wherever I go for my summer trip.


Number THREE and actually completed before I publish this post is an article from Wendy Ward’s book A Beginners’ Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics. I was involved in reviewing this book and while I’ve already made my test garments, I’m keen to make up some more pieces from this book which I would heartily recommend.



Number FOUR Last year I had a go at making a bra and ran away with my tail between my legs. This year I am determined to conquer this sewing challenge. I’ve got plenty of fabric and findings and I must make bras this year.

Double faced velour  lounge pants

Number FIVE Loungewear – Athleisure is the thing it would seem and I have some in mind. With a great fabric, I’m going to create something worthy of chillaxing in.


Number SIX I as you might imagine you can’t be a clothesaholic without having a little handbag love as well. I have a yearning to make a faux leather slouch bag something like below. I’ve been thinking about it for a bit and so this is on my list as well.


Number SEVEN I have sketched out a little design for a Mondrian-inspired dress like the classic sixties YSL shift dress. I want to draft it myself and it has already had more than its fair share of sewcrastination. I know there are some tutorials out there so Im going to do some research and draft a pattern.

Related image

Number EIGHT- a wrap dress should be in my wardrobe, therefore, if you’re going to make a wrap dress, it may as well be a Diane von Furstenberg hack which again I’m setting myself the challenge of seeing if I can throw together the pattern.


Number NINE I’ve never managed to persuade himself to let me make him something but he actually seems keen now so some man-sewing, probably a shirt is on the to do list and if it works out a jacket as well.

Okay, that’s the top nine intentions. I’ve actually completed some since I announced my #2018makenine after Christmas. They won’t necessarily be in any order but I really want all of these to happen this year.

Of course, nine items is nowhere near as many ideas, dreams and whims that I have in my head, nor will it go far towards reducing my stash of fabric and realising my pattern hoard. Therefore,  I’m going to put together a “Championship League” of other makes in the pipeline.

Watch this space to see how I get on.

Elaine x



Blast from the Past: One of my DKNYs takes life

During 2017 I kept saying to myself I have to address my patterns stash as well as the mountain of fabric I have accumulated. I settled on a pattern the which I’ve had for many years and never made up. I actually cut this out months earlier on a trip to my sister’s but my busy travel schedule took it from stash to UFOs in one smooth move.


Vogue 2586 Donna Karan

This Donna Karan dress is so simple but for some reason, I’ve never sewn it. I think maybe I couldn’t choose a fabric which was perfect. Finally, I’m making it almost identical to the pattern model and using a  navy blue double knit from @calicolaine. It’s quite a dense fabric that will be quite warm when worn. I think it will be suitable for spring and autumn/winter wear.


The line art for Vogue 2586

I may have wondered what construction secrets lay inside as DK’s pieces often have some tricksy techniques to get the effortless drape look. however, this one is easy peasy. The method itself is quite simple when you get your head around the tie front. It’s a straight back and front with ‘wings’ which tie at the front to create the drape.

I had to add the now customary extra two sizes to my 90s patterns but I think I’m getting good at this now and it didn’t take long on this simple pattern.


Grading up the two extra sizes needed

The result is a simple dress that will be fine for smart or casual. You can wear it as a simple t-shirt or smarten it up with a dress shirt or blouse. I actually wore it to a casual Christmas party with a crisp white shirt.


Definitely a quick win and I’m so pleased with it. It surprised me how easy it was.  I don’t think it is for the lounging, as the front flap rides up it if you sit around in it. I ended up adding an elastic strap around the back waist to hold in place. Aside from that this dress is really comfortable fabric perfect for keeping me warm on an autumn/winter day.

Vogue 2856 Donna Karan-1

This is a 90s pattern which I suppose would be considered Vintage, but I still love the shape and I don’t think it dates. I think most of my fashion choices are relatively neutral as I’ve always worn my clothes for years sometimes decades so I don’t buy or make anything because it’s on trend, I’m in it for the long haul.

Vogue 2856 Donna Karan-2

Sewing form my stash was one of my resewlutions for 2018. I’ve managed a win-win on this one as It’s hit both fabric and pattern stashes. Why don’t you bring something out of the pattern stash that you have never sewn up, you might find a classic that you will love forever.

A Perfect Place to make: a new sewing space

I live in a little house in a terraced street which probably used to be a “Two up two down” once upon a time. We added a room in the loft/attic whatever you want to call it about 20 years ago to accommodate our home-based work. Both being teachers we needed a space to do all that work we brought home.

It was intended to be an office/study/hobbies room where as well as our work we could do all of our hobbies such as painting, crafting and of course my sewing. We made the cardinal sin of moving into it before we had finished decorating and kitting it out and hence it spent 20 years ‘meaning to’ lay proper flooring. It also became full of all manner of junk as we always felt too busy and tired to organise it.


In the depth of a project, it all became quite chaotic

Now that we are no longer working we had time to put down the floor and it obviously was the perfect time to rethink the decoration and use of the room. When we started we had only just got our first computer since then we have a computer and laptop each; printer, scanner and other gadgets and that’s before we even get to my sewing gear. On the other side of this room, I have my desk with computer and its also where my pegboard lives. This area also needs reorganising and sprucing up.

August: We started plotting and scheming to get this room sorted. This room is multipurpose and the challenge is to ensure this is a good creative space while maximising storage. Here’s the rough plan of what we were about to do. Planning was as far as we got before our summer camping trip.



Original room


I promise it doesn’t go downhill IRL


September: Back from France, once we had stored teh enormous amount of stuf that came out of our room, the first thing we did was get an electrician in to install more power outlets, we never seem to have enough. I had a geek out and got some beautiful shiny sockets that also have integral USB charger ports – I had a pair put at desk level so I can charge ALL my gadgets easily while I work.


The USB ports are  super functional and the mirror finish super bling

Once we had enough sockets (I hope) we then painted the room and ceiling a neutral white with a great feature wall in a brilliant green. This may or may not serve as a backdrop for my future makes pics if I ever learn how to pose decently to show off my stuff.


You know me and matchy-matchy!

Now for the flooring. We decided we wanted a wooden floor for ease of cleaning up all those fabric and thread scraps and to avoid mucky carpets and trip hazard rugs. However as this space is above our bedrooms and I’m partial to a bit (OK a lot) of late night sewing, we opted in the end for a wood effect vinyl to reduce the noise.

The vinyl was remarkably easy to lay once we had actually got it up the stairs and manoeuvred it into the loft. A feat which involved dangling it out of the landing window and then bringing it in at a very tight angle.

new floor

The need for flooring started all of this, I’m very pleased with this vinyl pale wood effect floor.

Floor laid and now we had to sort out the storage. Gary was going to build some more suitable storage repurposing the display shelf he built 20 years ago. We some rough plans for that but, guess what? It was time to go off to California for a month. I managed to throw together a couple of makes for my hols; my camo maxi dress and the twist front top with bell sleeves and also a test garment I was working on but then it was time to leave my sewing and the decorating for what felt like a long time. Oh well!

November: OK now we are back and time to get stuck in as I have stuff I want to make. Gary has a woodworking thing going on to match my dressmaking, I dream of us making and upholstering furniture together one day, but for now, we are creating our making space.

The original configuration had a wall unit where we kept storage boxes full of various stuff. Initially, the plan was to create cupboards then reuse the shelves above but once the lower storage was made I actually felt I liked having the extra work surface and also a bit of clear wall. I’d like some pictures there eventually. So the revised plan is for a set of cupboards made from MDF and whatever leftovers we have in teh house. The cupboards are deeper than the shelves they are replacing. Plenty of room hopefully not only for my sewing stash but my art stash as well. Further along, there is going to be a floor to ceiling pull-out system for Gary’s stuff. There will also still be his desk space and more worksurface for me.


Incorporating some old school storage rescued from a skip and an existing IKEA system

Gary’s end of the room is more or less unchanged, we are losing one filing cabinet and the contents of this will go into the upright cupboard. The other side of the tall cupboard is where he will build the new cupboards.

When we originally converted the attic into this room we sacrificed most of the storage in the house. Our hobbies (OK – mostly my hobbies and hoarding tendencies) have generated a fair bit of stuff. It’s not just the fabric folks, there are stashes of artists’ gear, stashes of craft materials, books, photographic and technological paraphernalia of all sorts coming out of my ears. While I’m trying to declutter as things come back from storage we need capacity for what we want to keep; there must be enough room for each of us to work and keep all of our bits and bobs. I’m trying to adopt a ‘place for everything’ strategy as I’m very bad at putting things away so I want to remove the excuse ‘I don’t know where this goes’. By building these cupboards the OH has created a bit more storage which is out of sight and also created an additional workspace.


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The #hemade storage came out fabulously I’ve got somewhere to put all my fabric stash as well as the art materials. We did end up putting one column of shelves up but  I’ve also now got a huge total work surface when combined with my cutting table.


The MDF was painted with a melamine effect paint for an attractive and durable finish

January: I’m really delighted with the overall outcome and can’t get over how spacious room looks now.


I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, there will always be a bit of randomness

I’m debating whether my machines will stay out on display rather than in the cubby hole in the sewing table, I kind of like this idea as I can just walk over and start using them rather than have to get them out from under the table. I’ve also been toying with standing up to sew as I keep reading about how prolonged sitting is not good for you. I might look at some kind of platform to raise the machines.


My Janome dynamic duo and acres of space to work

In addition to my desk area where my pegboard lives. Plus my slimmed down library which is now mostly sewing and Spanish textbooks. I have an amazing new creative space.



My desk area, no before pic annoyingly.


I could go on and on about my new space as it’s so much improved and there are so many good things here, I keep turning around and looking at it all with a big grin on my face. It’s also so pretty that I hope it makes me more likely to keep it nice I’m trying to make sure I put stuff away before I leave. (Oh who am I kidding?)


Spruced-up pegboard

I’d love to nosy at other peoples sewing spaces, so I’m off to stalk some in the blogs and vlogs. What are the essentials that you couldn’t do without and the things that enhance your crafting the most?

Happy sewing space.

Elaine x






Reflection: how sewing saved me in 2017

Just under a year ago I finally got around to resurrecting my sewing hobby. I hadn’t finished anything for about 20 years because I had been ‘too busy’ at work. During lunch with a buddy, we both discussed how we had let our love of sewing drift and agreed to get back into it together. During our post-lunch window-shopping spree, we ‘happened’ to wander into Ditto Fabrics and a couple of other stores en route and both bought fabric. Great you may think but those fabrics just went into the stash for another year or so. Finally, after a lot of dithering, I resolved to get back in, so now ‘free’ from work, I dusted off my sewing machine and had it serviced and started looking at old projects and new. I also started this little blog to chronicle my progress and I think to keep me going. The most effective thing I did was join Instagram in February. I never really was into IG because I didn’t think I had an “IG lifestyle” but I have found this so inspiring purely because it has given me an outlet for my creativity and it has provided such a lot of support. This has made want to sew and to share my progress. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of praise.

Once I had committed to sewing again, I had a big problem to solve, my dress form was kaput and I’m not earning so I cant just buy another. So I rebuilt her. This involved replacing the covering and shoring up the construction a bit. Not perfect, but fit for purpose once more. Never underestimate how much a dress form helps you sew. Once you have one it’s hard to do without.


My refurbished  Venus dress form

Works in Progress and Stash-busting were my stated targets when I started but unfortunately, I still have many items waiting to be completed and my fabric stash has tripled in size!  I haven’t bought any more patterns though and I have drafted a few of my own which is a long-held dream.

The first thing I did, fittingly was a WIP. I have quite a few of them and one of the promises I made to myself was to complete those I still liked.

Yes, I used the very same fabric as the pattern sleeve, that’s how I roll sometimes.


This little olive green skirt is really nice on a cold day with thick tights.


Then I made a little present for my friend’s twins because I knit too!

Nothing much happened until February because… two weeks in Spain! Once back, I ventured into pattern testing and tried out @sinclairpattern’s first release, Clementine. Then I made @studiotkb Fallon and later J004 Kommattia Patterns’ great bomber jacket. It’s so inspiring to get involved with other makers.

I love to learn new things and as I’ve done so many of the ‘standard’ techniques I wanted to try something new. That something was underwear and while my first attempt at a bra didn’t come out too well, I did make some knickers and now making bras is on my Must Conquer list for 2018.

I made knickers, next year bras!

A dressmaking challenge had to be part of my immersion into the sewcialist community and I was delighted to participate in #sewtogetherforsummer a shirtdress challenge which yielded this great dress.

So many people, as well as me, loved this shirtdress

Ultimately I want to design and make my own patterns, this dress below is one of the first steps down that road.


So pleased with this dress that I drafted myself and the little matching jacket.

My next makes were done in a bit of a frenzy as I wanted to take them on my first big trip of the year to Albania. These were a pair of jeans, constructed from the remains of a favourite pair used as the pattern. A pair of dress trousers made from one of my designer patterns from my stash and a T-shirt cloned from a favourite RTW top. These all made into my holiday wardrobe.

In between trips, we decided to refurbish our study which is also my sewing space. We were doing this in fits and starts and it definitely held up the making as one I was busy helping G rebuild storage and laying floor and painting and decluttering. It’s almost finished and will soon feature on a blog. However, it meant that only a couple more items were finished in 2017.

This unusual over-shirt for a fabric review for @minervacrafts (big thanks to them for helping a skint crafter to make stuff) and this self-drafted maxi t-shirt dress and this sewing puzzle twist front dress with bell sleeves, also self-drafted which is one of my favourites this year.

My biggest sewing problem if you can call it that is that my brilliant partner is determined that we spend this time together fruitfully. He’s already retired from his job, but I’m technically too young to retire although I’m enjoying ‘practising’. When I was struggling at work we made the decision, to live now and not wait for my planned early retirement date. I still don’t know how to thank him for helping me make that decision. Anyway, the problem is that we have been indulging our joint first love which is travelling. For the third year in a row, we have spent about a third of the year away from home. We were always fortunate with time as we were teachers and therefore had a good deal of leave to travel but now we have taken it to another level being able to travel for months at a time rather than weeks. Its been fantastic and I feel a bit churlish that this year I have been ‘missing’ sewing when we are away. Regardless of those time constraints, I am delighted by how much I have managed to create in 2017. There are still a few WIPs hanging about and plenty of makes, challenges and collabs in the pipeline for 2018.

My post is titled how sewing saved me, and that is how it did and still is. I think, overall, I’ve had a brilliant life so far, but recent times have been a bit hard emotionally and physically. I’d lost myself a bit. I’ve always advised other people to write a CV when they are feeling down. This look back at 2017 is in some ways a version of that. The nagging feeling of not being good enough goes away when I see what I have achieved. In addition, the encouragement of such a positive, supporting community has meant that I feel so much different than I did at the beginning of last year.

I’ve been enjoying sharing my 2017 projects and reading about those of a lot of other sewists, how did your 2017 makes go and what do they mean to you?

Elaine x




Sleevetober? A twist in the tale.

I didn’t have time to enter #sleevefest as I was travelling, nevertheless, I am bringing it with a sleeve AND and twist front on my latest make.

This dress is my favourite RTW dress and I’ve worn it nearly to death. I have been trying to figure out the twist front for years without success! I don’t want to take her apart because I still love her, but I couldn’t quite figure out how the front worked, however, I was determined not to buy a pattern as I’m trying to economise and use my stash, plus I really wanted to draft it myself.

Anyway, after staring at this dress inside and out for ages, I couldn’t figure it out until I finally turned to the internet to helped me visualise the structure. It turns out I was not the only one who likes this style. As it happens Burda have a pattern for a top and dress like this and quite a few people have given their take on the pattern.

Once I had seen a sketch of the pattern pieces and with my rudimentary drafting skills, I figured out that it is a kind of a slash and spread on a basic bodice with a bit of origami thrown in.

I had to be able to visualise it in order to make it. This is how I think it works. From a basic bodice, you have to slash and spread in the bust area to make the fullness to twist the top. It’s quite an extreme rotation and the resulting pattern piece looks really weird. However I’ve labelled the main parts and hopefully, you can see where everything came from.


I made a 1/4 scale sloper when I first attempted pattern making, I used it to make this mini muslin

I tried out a mini mock-up of the pattern to get my head around the construction and once I understood the pattern it all fell into place. I’m using a lightweight stretch jersey knit fabric from Minerva Crafts to make this top.

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First sew the two fronts together, basting the facing into position. The trick comes in sewing the bust seam. On the left side, mark a point halfway along the ‘bust seam’ and stitch the seam leaving an opening at the centre. Then pass the other side through the hole before stitching that side. This gives the twist. You can then sew up the rest of the garment as normal.


The finished top on Venus, a little adjustment is required to turn in the edge.

Once I had finished sewing and was ready to try on I realised it was a little snug.  I need to allow a bit more room in my next version but a wearable toile this is.

Now back to Sleevetober. As if this bodice experimentation wasn’t enough I also decided I wanted to get in on the sleeve game and added some fluted sleeves to this design.  I kept seeing these sleeves and decided it shouldn’t be difficult to add create these. They are effectively mini circle skirts. I traced a circle with a radius equal to the length from my elbow to my wrist. I then cut out a smaller circle in the centre approximately the circumference of my arm at the elbow. Finally, I removed a quarter of the ring as I thought it would be too full. I then attached this to my half-length sleeves et voila!


Mini ‘circle skirts’ = bell sleeves

Attach these to the end of your sleeves and it is all done. A twist front blouse with bell sleeves.


Twist top with bell sleeves, I think this experiment worked and I’m definitely wearing this toile.

Note to self: seems a bit close all over, I wonder if Elaine remembered to add any seam allowances? It’s turned out a bit,  mmm shall we say ‘booby’, so I need to allow a bit more room in there next time and figure out how to make sure my finished edge lay better in the twist. What do you reckon on the twist and the sleeves – too much together?


My 3/4 circle sleeves are making me all kinds of happy here. I have to keep swishing them.

Now I don’t really know if this counts as a ‘How To’ as there is a lot more detail missing but I thought it would help to show how to visualise a pattern to make a garment from sight. Maybe I’ll make a full tutorial the next time I make this top. (Another thing to learn) For now, I’m chuffed at managing to figure out the construction of this pattern knockoff. As for my sleeves well they are just Sleevetastic! Any ideas on how to fix my twist problem or examples of your own pattern puzzle triumphs would be very welcome. Thanks for reading.

Elaine x



Self drafted T-shirt goes long – taking it to the Maxi.

In March I was getting my sewjo back with a vengeance and sewed my first self-drafted item for a while. I made a simple T-shirt based on an old RTW favourite and used some dramatic fabric to give it life. I’m going to use the same technique and extend that self-made pattern into a maxi dress.

I’ve seen a few IG posts using camouflage print jersey and I really liked them and I figured this should be a pretty easy conversion, I use the same technique from the pattern I made earlier this year but just need to lengthen to add a maxi skirt. The overlocker will be carrying the brunt of the work and this time I want to do a self-bound neckline rather than just turn over the edge as I did with the t-shirt.


Straights and curves

Preparation is as follows: you will need some paper to trace onto, you can do this with any paper, preferably wide enough to fit your garment and it should be slightly translucent so you can see your markings through it. I used A3 printer paper but you could also use parcel wrapping paper, tracing paper or another favourite of mine, wall lining paper (the stuff you put onto lumpy walls before the good paper to even it out). You’ll need pencils and markers, a ruler – I found that a standard 30cm is too short for most pieces and a metre stick is too long but I had a metal ruler that I used to use for picture framing which is 60cm and that is just right. You also need something to draw curves. You can use your ruler marking and moving as necessary or you can use a French curve or a flexible


Two sheets of A3 taped together to allow for the top, place centre against the edge

Start off by folding your t-shirt in half vertically – that is down the middle. Lay the t-shirt up against the edge of your paper. Simply trace around the t-shirt with a pencil and mark the neck, sleeves and hem. I used a pencil first as I didn’t want to mark my t-shirt. At the neck the outline will be the back neck, remember to put a mark where the front neck is as you will need this later.

Remove the t-shirt and go over your markings with a Sharpie or some other dark marker. Use whichever method you choose to make a nice curve for both the front and the back neck. I also used the curve to give me a waist. You might want to draw in seam allowances here too, I allowed 1cm as I was going to use the overlocker to make it up but you can set your seam allowance to your own preferred width.

Once you have the outline take another piece of paper, stick it to the first piece at the centre front, fold the two pieces of paper at the join. You should be able to see your original line through the second sheet of paper, mark a mirror image of the first outline, this time marking in the front neckline only. When you have finished go over it in marker.



Pattern in two halves showing front neck and back neck


Now cut out the pattern pieces; on one side cut the back neck and on the other, you will cut the front neck.

My t-shirt cuts me at the hip so for the skirt, I measured from my hip to my ankle and cut a rectangle of paper, the width of the t-shirt, stick these pieces together and this makes the t-shirt into a maxi dress. The sleeves are simple cylinders which are grown onto the body. There are no armhole shapings to worry about. Cut out a rectangle the width of your armhole, allowing for seams. You choose how long to make your sleeves.


Last time a did a simple fold-over neckline but I decided to add a neckband to my tee. To do this measure around your neckline to determine the length of the binding you need adding a bit for the seam. Edit: this actually works better if you make the band a bit shorter than the neckline, I found later that my neckband gapes a little because it was too long. Cut a strip of fabric to this length and the desired width. I made my binding about a centimetre wide (when folded) but again it’s up to you how wide to make it.

Layout your fabric on the fold and cut your front and back. The cut out your sleeves and binding. I got this camo fabric way back in the spring from @fabric_styles just when this project came to mind.


Making up the dress with an overlocker is very easy. Join the shoulders first then attach the sleeves. Then join the sides from the sleeves to the hem matching the sleeves seams. Finish the sleeves by overlocking the edge and then folding over and topstitching the hem. You can also use a twin needle to finish this.


The little grown on sleeve with double topstitch finishing

The neckline was a first for me. Join the binding to form a hoop. Fold in half lengthwise wrong side to wrong side. Pin it to your neckline right side to right side and stitch or overclock. Turn in and press. On the outside topstitch in place. This gives a finish that looks so much more professional, I’m really pleased with how this came out and will finish all my tees like this now.

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Et voila!

Finished maxi dress on Venus, you can also see my new floor in our refurbished hobbies room

Note to self, I found doing this skirt completely straight left me a little hobbled – no running for the bus in this dress! Next time I’ll add a bit of width at the bottom to make it slightly A-line and give myself a bit more room for manoeuvre.

This is a very simplistic method which can be done without any pattern drafting experience, you are simply tracing around an existing garment. Pick something that fits you and you love the look of and you can’t go too far wrong. Working with stretch fabric seems a little forgiving as well.


Here I am standing by a Sacramento wall


This dress has made its debut on my latest trip, I’ve been swanning around Sacramento in it and felt a million dollars. I would definitely recommend this jersey, it’s got a good stretch and holds its shape after washing. The camo looks surprisingly glamorous, or maybe its the fact that it’s a maxi dress, whichever, it got lots of compliments.

This clothes cloning feels a little addictive. I’m eyeing every t-shirt I own to see if they could become my next laineemake.

For fun look here



Evergreen: an adventure in colour and creating

A little while ago  I blogged about drafting a dress from a photo I had seen in the Vogue Pattern book. I’ll show you here how I turned that pattern into a real-life dress. The original was a shift style dress in denim and I had intended to make a close copy in the traditional fabric until Minerva Crafts offered me some emerald green denim dress fabric to play with. Here is the fabric, I hope you can see how gorgeous the colour and the fabric itself are.

MC Review Green Denim 2

Heres how the dress evolved, the blue changed to green and that dictated some contrasting topstitching. The usual yellow/gold wouldn’t work here and I debated red, purple and orange before selecting a strong cobalt blue for embellishment.

Taking my freshly made pattern I laid everything out to cut it. I have christened the pattern Prairie and just to make myself happy.

I actually made a toile! This is major for me as I never used to. I’m a dive in person, I like to get going and I kinda like a bit of instant gratification so I never used to think that I could spend the time doing ‘practice’ versions. However, for an article made purely from imagination and with a collaboration with another party a trial was indeed necessary. It was just as well as my sizing was far from accurate.

I had to make quite a few alterations before using my ‘real ‘ dress. So changes were made and I prepared to do the real thing.

As luck would have it I unearthed a forgotten sewing tool. I had some Burda carbon paper which I used to trace out my notches and mark all of the darts in position. See – I’m trying to do things properly!


Once everything was cut out, I finished all the edges with the overlocker (btw I love overlocking) and stitched and pressed all of the darts.

MC Review Green Denim 5

The bit that I found most taxing was getting the pockets right. The top-stitched seam is interrupted by inset pockets and I had to work out how to do this. In the end, I had to topstitch in two phases.

Insert the pockets and topstitch them, then join the mid front to the side front and do that topstitching.

Once the front was done, I then dealt with the back. I had decided that I wanted an exposed zip in this dress to add a bit of detail. I chose a cobalt blue zip with very shiny gold hardware. I’m really pleased with this decision.

As I had made a toile (a departure for me) I had most details in place. A few more tweaks were required for the back darts and zip but I think with practice I can improve these.


Now it came to the skirt section, I had originally thought I would put a split in the back but I decided to join the two back pieces, as the dress is quite short, a split would be heading too close to the core so to speak. (Note to self, I think I wanted this dress a little longer.)

I attached the skirt pieces to the front and back, stitched and then overlocked them, finally, I joined the two sides carefully making sure that all the seams and topstitching matched. (Time for the seam ripper) Then when the garment was finally one piece I did a fitting and then finished the neckline, sleeves and hem.

There’s a bit of work to perfect this dress but I’m so happy that I have drafted and sewn a simple dress with a few technical features and it fits and looks more or less like I intended it. I packed it to take away on holiday and I wore it for my birthday meal on the Brittany coast.


Tweaks that I would make to this dress are in the length, I’ve decided I would actually make it bit longer both the hemline and the bodice. An adjustment that you can’t see is the pockets. I made mine far too shallow, so next time they will be increased in size. All in all, though I’m pretty pleased with my latest make.

Tell me about your first forays into drafting your own patterns. It’s exciting, isn’t it?



Making it work – upsizing commercial sewing patterns.

I don’t know if it was overconfidence, wishful thinking or both but I seem to have a number of patterns that are not the right size for me. Some of these date from my earlier sewing days when I would buy patterns fully believing I was going to make that item next week. These patterns don’t fit because I’m not the girl I was 20 years ago – read two sizes bigger. Another group of patterns are the ones bought optimistically in more recent sales, knowing they are wrong. Somewhere along the years, I slid from the 8-10-12 band into the 14-16-18 band. Now there would be wishful thinking “I might lose those pounds” and then there is the (perhaps) overconfidence “I can adjust that pattern”.


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Oh, those were the days.


Now that I’ve accepted that I probably won’t “lose those pounds” anytime soon, and I want to make these garments now, I have to follow the second route and adjust the patterns.

It can look a little daunting because commercial patterns, especially multisized ones have a lot of information on them and signs and symbols that can seem baffling. However, the multisize pattern is your friend as you can see how the system works.

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Straight edges are fine, you can just trace them but you will need to add your sizes by grading. Look at your pattern, big four ones like Vogue usually have three sizes on a sheet so look at how they increase them. There will be a small increment between each size e.g. 0.5cm or 3/8 inch.


Use a clear ruler to measure your points

Measure and make a note of that increment and then add that amount for each additional size you need. Note: your size points should all fall on a straight line, this will help you check you are in the right place.


Add on an increment for each additional size

Once you have marked your points, join them up using a ruler or French curve, or a flexible curve, which is my favourite because you can manipulate it to fit your line. If you are tracing onto a new sheet rather than just adding to the existing pattern, remember to copy all of the markings such as notches, grainline and placement marks.



Curves and lines

Once done your pattern will be ready to use. I can now feel happy about those “bargains” I got in the sales and use my precious patterns to make some lovely garments. Have you got some mis-sized patterns lurking in your stash? Have a go at grading them to your size. Do you have any tips to share? I’d like to see how you get on.


Something tells me I’m into something good.

There I was sitting at my computer trying to force myself to complete the hundreds of exam scripts I still had to mark, I hear the third knock at the door this morning. It’s not as if I need distracting anymore than I can do myself. I have had to put my phone away so I can’t keep flicking to Instagram and I have had to draw upon superhuman (for me) reserves of self-discipline to stop myself going on other social media. It’s not easy as this marking is all done online so I can’t “Step away from the Internet”.

So why am I typing here, it’s because that third interruption brought me a delivery of joy.  A week or so back I was delighted to find that I had been chosen to receive a gift as part of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt-dress challenge. I felt very fortunate, almost a bit of a cheat as I had only joined at the last minute as I didn’t realise I  was still eligible.


I accepted an Amazon parcel from the postie and was thinking to myself honestly I haven’t Amazoned for weeks! I couldn’t think what it could be. this is not unusual but I was pretty sure this time that I wasn’t expecting anything. It was obviously a book but I haven’t bought a physical book for so long. I was confused.

I opened the packet and the corner of The Tunic Bible came into view. “OOOOEEEEYOWWWW!” – this is the only literal way I can express the level of excitement I’m feeling.

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results! by [Gunn, Sarah, Starr, Julie]

I was really genuinely pleased to get an acknowledgement from Sarah Smith and the other hosts of the challenge and I was not expecting it when I read the announcement that I had received a gift. That was so cool. However, now it’s here I am even more over the moon.

Now I’m a great fan of free things, although strictly speaking this was won; but free things that are beyond fabulous? That’s another level. Now that I see the book I would have been very happy to buy it with real £££s.  I have been following Julie Starr for a few months and admiring some of the garments she showcased on her Instagram, but this book is bee-ute-iful! Not only that; on first inspection it’s well written, wonderfully organised and it looks as though it will be really easy to use. My only problem will be to choose which tunics (plural) I make.

So once again thank you @sewsarahsmith, @sewing_in_spain and @rocco_sienna and thank you Julie Starr for this wonderful book.

Something tells me this sewing community I’m into is something really good.

Have you seen The Tunic Bible? Have you made anything from it and how did it go?

The Accidental Winner: why it pays to dig out those sewing UFOs.

Now meet my “Afterthought” dress, the late to the party dress, the slow-slow-slow game-winner. It’s months since I made her but only now got around to wearing and writing about it!

I’m currently in a phase of craving instant gratification I see a new fabric or pattern and I want to sew it now, but nagging away at me was the need to deal with my ufos – or UnFinished Objects.


This fabric was a remnant of a beautiful Robert Kaufman print snagged from my local    C and H Fabrics an indeterminate number of years ago. It was in the category of an “It’s so pretty that there must be something I can make with it.” item. Not my usual style at the time as I think it was in my most drab, work-wear phase in which everything was Plain, Muted and Unobtrusive. It was my ‘Black, Navy, Brown and Beige Period’. So this fabric was definitely in the #sewingdreams category.

Some significant time after purchasing said fabric I eventually came to the conclusion that this needed to be a shirt dress. I don’t know why but that’s how I came to buy the Simplicity Lisette Pattern 2246.


Then more time passed. At some point, I cut out the dress pieces and set them aside, probably missing something like interfacing for the plackets and collar. More time passed and the big sewing hiatus ensued. Finally, I snapped out of it and when I started sewing again, I said to myself I have to tackle this.


Out from its prison of a plastic carrier bag and I assessed my earlier progress: side and shoulder seams had been sewn before I abandoned. That meant sleeves, a collar, a front placket, buttonholes (which I hate) and all the hemming and finishing still needed to be done. I put it on on a clothes hanger in my sewing area. I still didn’t dive in until it was approaching summertime again and I thought I really should get it finished.

So out it came from where it had hung accusingly for the last few months and I finally cut the missing placket and faced it with iron on interfacing. This is, I now believe, what had stalled me in the first place. Piecing it together was relatively easy, I still had the thread but I hadn’t chosen buttons and despite having a mini stash of buttons (of course) I didn’t see the definitive button that cried out to go on this shirt dress.

It was about now that I became aware that the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress challenge was just coming towards its last leg. I had seen it earlier in the year while travelling but not seriously thought about joining in – I didn’t think I would have time and I had once again forgotten the Afterthought. Then I thought “Hey – this is a shirt-dress” and when I re-read the details and it said any shirtdress anytime, I realised I could, after all, take part.

The bits all came together nicely and was very pleased with my collar and just happy I was finishing it.

I sewed the garment together and this is when I hit the big snag. When I put on this dress it was tight all over and once again I had to acknowledge that with the passing of time I have gained weight. Where once there was a curvy yet svelte figure, now I was a lot more ‘voluptuous’ shall we say.

I had by now invested a fair bit of time into making this dress, I wouldn’t consider not finishing it and I was also invested emotionally in the idea of entering my first challenge. So the solution? Gusset!

This great comedy word always seems to induce giggles (is it just me?) but the gusset is my dressmaking hero. I needed volume and by inserting a 2″ strip in the sides and arms, I provided that volume and left me with a lovely comfortably fitting shirt dress.


You can just peek the side gusset


The print in all its glory

Work, holidays and visitors meant I was cutting to the wire as I often do, but the dress was finished in time to enter the challenge.

Now I was super chuffed to have made it in time because I really wanted to participate, however, I was even more delighted when I found out my name had been drawn out of the hat to receive a prize, a copy of the Tunic Bible, by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr.

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results! by [Gunn, Sarah, Starr, Julie]

So this is how my ‘afterthought’ dress, my long abandoned unfinished object became a superstar (in my wardrobe anyway) and this is why we should all look again at those little-neglected bundles in the bottom of draws or scrunched up in carrier bags and say to them, you deserve to be finished.


Here it is on hols with me in California


Works nicely as a duster too.

I’m really interested to hear what unexpected bonuses have you received through your craft?