Friday 31 December 2010


I started this humble blog a couple of months ago, and already it’s become a big part of my sewing life.  I’ve really enjoyed showing you what I’ve made, (whether it’s good or rubbish) and REALLY enjoyed receiving comments from all you lovely fellow seamstresses out there.  I’ve had some amazing compliments and feedback, picked up some great tips and links, and even, dare I say it, made some on-line friends.  It’s such a giving community and it’s been an absolute pleasure adding my own little rambling blog to the ranks.  So, in the spirit of New Year goodwill (and because I’m a nice person), I thought I’d show my thanks to those who have followed and supported me so far by hosting my very first giveaway.

I’ve been de-stashing in preparation for my ‘soon-to-be-unveiled’ sewing room, and have put aside a couple of things you might like to get your mitts on.  First up is this beautiful book – Sew Serendipity. 

It’s a beautifully photographed guide from the Serendipity Studio (I think Seamstar stocks their patterns in the UK ) on how to create your own skirts, tops, dresses and jackets (the book includes tissue patterns for each garment).

I’ve read the book and the instructions are really clear, plus there’s a useful section at the front, which covers all the sewing techniques you’re likely to need. However, when I sat down to work out what clothes I want to make for my 2011 wardrobe, I realised that a lot of the patterns are very similar to things I’ve either already made or am planning to make.  It seems a shame to leave the patterns unused, so I think somebody else would get better use out of them than me.  This means the patterns from the book are completely uncut, so suitable for any size (they range from xxs to xxl). Despite my having read it, the book is in pristine condition.

As a second giveaway, I’ve also put together a bundle of gorgeous fat quarters. 

These are limited edition reprints of Liberty fabrics, specially commissioned for the V & A Quilting Exhibition held last year.  The dates of the designs range from the 17th to the 19th century.  They’re quilting cottons so would make great make-up bags, trims, headbands etc - the list is endless. There are five fat quarters in total and each one measures 50 x 75cms.

To be in with a chance of winning either of these goodies, this is all you have to do:
  1. Be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post by midnight (GMT) on 8th January, stating which bit of the giveaway takes your fancy. If you like the look of both of them, just say so and I’ll enter you for both parts.
  2. You can get another entry if you post about this giveaway on your own blog.  Just leave another comment to let me know you've mentioned it on your blog and I’ll put your name in twice. 
  3. I’m happy to post worldwide.
I'll announce the winners on 9th January so check back here then.  Good luck everyone, thank you again for your support and I hope you have a very Happy New Year! Jane x

Monday 27 December 2010

Star buys

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are now feeling thoroughly stuffed (I can barely move).  Before I get back to dressmaking, I just wanted to share with you two of my favourite recent purchases, which I’m completely over-excited about. 

First is the essential dressmaking aid for the modern seamstress – a Tailor's Ham and Seam Roll set from The Cupcake Goddess.  I first saw the seam roll on Sewaholic’s blog  when she was waxing lyrical about it and as is my wont, immediately wanted one of my own.  When I contacted The Cupcake Goddess (aka Sunni Standing) about purchasing one she had none in stock, but very kindly offered to make me a custom order.  She also casually pointed out that it usually came as part of a pressing set, together with a tailor’s ham. A what?  A tailor’s HAM?  Despite not even knowing what this was, I had to have one just because of the name.  I’ve since discovered that the seam roll is for pressing open seams (of course) and the tailor’s ham is for pressing darts into shape (which will come in very handy when I try to negotiate all the complicated darts on my Crepe bodice).  Sunni asked me which colours I like, and as most of my sewing accessories are red and light blue, they were what I chose.  Here’s what she made, especially for me…

Aren’t they just gorgeous?  They each have a 100% wool side and a 100% cotton side. The cotton side is for pressing with high heat and the wool side is for pressing with low heat.  What more could a girl want? I absolutely love them and even though I paid ridiculous international shipping and customs charges (they’re filled with SAWDUST and therefore extremely heavy, doh), they’re worth every penny.  I can’t wait to use them.  I even, very sadly, wrapped them up myself, and gift tagged them from Father Christmas, just so I could open them on Christmas Day!  Even then I was still overcome with glee.  Thanks again Sunni!

My other super purchase was also an idea stolen from somebody else (I can’t help myself).  It’s two prints by Eloise Renouf whose work I discovered whilst reading Karen’s lovely blog - Blueberry Park.  I’ve been looking for something to put on my bedroom wall for ages but nothing seemed quite right …. until I saw these.  They are limited edition giclee prints, which I bought from her etsy shop.

The colours are a perfect match for my bedroom and I love the mid-century stem patterns. I’ll post more pics when I eventually get round to buying frames for them. 

All in all a very satisfied customer. x

Monday 20 December 2010

Dummy winner!

Just a quick post to announce the lucky winner of my now redundant dressmaking dummy.  As I thought, this was quite a specialised offer, only really of interest to those in London.  There were, however, three lovely people, all very kindly offering to give her a new home.  The names went into a hat (my son's jester's hat to be precise), and the winner is ........ CARLY!!!!!!!! 

Here's the dummy beautifully displaying my fabric
Hope you like her Carly!  Send me an e-mail and we'll sort out the fun bit - how to get her across London! A big thank you to Shivani and Trudi for also offering to house her. x

Friday 17 December 2010

Crepe muslin trials and tribulations

I've been working on my first ever muslin for the Crepe Sewalong, and, as mentioned in my last post, it's become something of a trauma.  My first stumbling block was the sizing of the pattern. It was WAY off, which was disappointing, as the last Collette pattern I used was a perfect fit - I barely had to make any adjustments.  But that was a skirt and my bottom half is a standard size, the problem is with my top half which isn't quite so standard.  Collette patterns are cut for those with a reasonable sized bust which is good as that's what I have.  However, I have a very narrow back so my measurements aren't standard (32E if you must know).  I came up against this same problem when adjusting my new dressform (see last post and yes, I know it's supposed to be a Christmas present but this muslin has become something of an emergency!)  The back section was as tightly closed as I could get it, whilst the front section looked like an autopsy victim - wide open and gaping right down the front.  I still had to put a bra on it and stuff it to get the exact measurements.  But it now exactly mimics my measurements which I'm delighted about, and which was the whole point of buying it after all.  

Anyway, back to the muslin, because of my bust/back anomaly, the first muslin I cut out was really baggy and looked dreadful.  In fact it was so ridiculously baggy I re-cut it to the next size down.  

Ridiculously baggy muslin
Still no good though, so I went back to Gertie's blog for advice.  I basically then did everything she advised, as the fitting issues she was having were exactly the same as mine:

The back had too much bulk, even pulled across as a wrap, so tucks were needed on each side.

The shoulders also needed taking in, along with the side seams.  However, it was at the front where the most work was needed.  Look how much excess fabric there is.

Another horizontal tuck right across the front was called for.  I also took some small tucks out at the sides of the neckline so it didn't gape so much.

Much improved but still not too flattering

This was WAY better but it was still baggy under the bust. I get this a lot - there's basically a shelf where the bust is, and then unless it's fitted well, the fabric falls straight down to several inches in front of my stomach, making me look pregnant (which I'm not). I read a bit more of Gertie's blog and she started talking about reshaping a dart for a more flattering bustline. YES, that's what I'd been waiting for all this time!  I also moved the dart down and the combination of both these adjustments seemed to work
Lovely new fitted muslin 
The new muslin still has fold marks on it and the darts are very quickly sewn and not pressed (I was getting very frustrated by this point) so they look a bit pointy, but essentially it's a very good, flattering fit.  Here's the back.

I still don't entirely know what I'm doing when I'm transferring the muslin changes to the pattern pieces but my method of winging it seems to be working.  Gertie really has pulled out all the stops for this sewalong, she's an amazing teacher and I'm so grateful. Despite all the huffing and puffing, I would never have been able to adjust the fit so well on my own.  The next step will be cutting out the real fabric (which fills me with horror) ... x

Monday 13 December 2010

Dummy in need of a home

Having just had one of my most frustrating days in my dressmaking life trying to fit my Crepe dress muslin to my body, I’ve made the decision to purchase an adjustable dress form. I did five minutes important research and have decided to go for the strangely named Lady Valet.  For some weird reason it reminds me of the iron-clad foundation girdles my cousin and I used to snigger at in the back of my Aunty Brenda’s Grattan catalogue – I think the range was known as ‘Miss Mary of Sweden”! I digress - technically there are several dress forms that all perform the same function, but aesthetically this one wins hands down because it just looks nicer than the others - it has a plain wooden base and is neutral coloured so blends seamlessly into the background (well as much as a life sized dressmakers dummy ever can).  I presented my idea to my husband in a “do you want to get me something I REALLY WANT for Christmas?” kind of proposal and he leapt at the chance as it means he doesn't have to think of a present, so everybody’s happy.  

Which leads me onto the title of this post.  You see, I’ve already got a very nice, wooden bottomed, neutral coloured dress dummy which is great for photographing clothes…. 

….and seeing what fabrics look like draped over it.  

.. and generally being a nice piece of furniture. But, it’s not adjustable, it’s a standard shop display dummy with traditional measurements of 36-26-36, which sadly are not quite my measurements (ahem), so I can’t use it for accurate clothes fitting.  And as I can’t justify two dummies in my soon-to-be-unveiled sewing area (‘why not’? a little voice in my head says, ‘one for putting nice outfits on, and one for dressmaking…’) I need to say goodbye to the old one.

So, I’m very happy to offer somebody my lovely, classy dressmaking dummy completely free of charge if you can give her a good home. This is probably only of interest to London sewists, or anybody visiting London in the near future, as I live in West London and you’d need to collect it - although I don’t mind delivering locally.  It dismantles and can easily fit into the boot of a car (or even be carried on a tube as it’s very light). If you think you can make use of her, please let me know by leaving a comment.  If more than one of you fits the geographical/dummy loving bill, then I’ll toss a coin or put your names in a hat, or some other highly technical method.  If nobody’s interested, then I’ll put her on eBay, but I’d much rather she went to a fellow blogger. 

I’ll keep you up to date on my disastrous muslin fitting saga soon …. x

Sorry, should have mentioned in the original post.  I'll draw names out of a hat on 20th December. x

Thursday 9 December 2010

Christmas Swap

Here's my last attempt at making handmade gifts (or anything of a craft nature for that matter) before I become consumed in hard core dressmaking for the next few weeks (I'm definitely taking part in two sewalongs and teetering on the edge of joining a third!). 

First off are the things I made for a swap organised by Louise from Sew Scrumptious. The rules were, to make at least one handmade Christmas decoration, a Christmas card and a Christmas chocolate, send them to your swap partner and receive the same in return.  Well, I need some more handmade decorations and wanted to have a go at making some myself so this was perfect. (plus I get free chocolate and stuff through the post, yay).

So here’s what I made….

It's a xmas tree card in case you're wondering!
…and here’s what I received

I’m thrilled, I love the handmade bird (especially the wing) and handmade ceramic hearts (yes, handmade!) but I’m sorry to say the chocolates I received never made it in front of the camera (too busy being stuffed in my mouth).  I also learnt that the blogosphere is a very small world indeed.  My lovely swap partner was Cath from e.giraffe.  It only turns out that she’s the sister-in-law of one of my oldest friends!!!!!!  How spooky is that?  

Finally here's a squashy cushion I made for my six year old helicopter-loving son:

It was ridiculously quick to make - I didn't bother with zips or buttons, just two overlapping flaps on the back, like a pillowcase, easy peasy.

Right, off to start sewing, along with half the world. x

Sunday 5 December 2010

Fabric and pattern pairings...

I’m happy to report I made tons more money than I expected at my Christmas craft fairs.  Which is just as well as I’ve been buying fabric like it’s the end of the world recently.  So, in an organisational flurry I thought it would be sensible to actually try to match fabrics with upcoming sewing projects.  Note:  these are only the fabrics I’ve matched up, there are many, many more new purchases sitting in my stash box waiting hopefully to be paired up with a pattern.

First up is this old lady-style cotton lawn, which I’m using for Gertie’s Crepe dress sew along.  

The style of the Crepe dress is quite flowery and old fashioned and weirdly I haven’t actually got a flowery dress.  Plus I LOVE grey and red!  

Next up is this beautiful Japanese double gauze fabric I ordered from Fabric Tales.  

I’d never heard of this website before until Nathalie (fellow fabric fiend with very similar taste to me) suggested it as a good place to get double gauze.  Double gauze was suggested by Gertie as a suitable choice for the Crepe dress as it’s beautifully drapey for dressmaking.  She wasn’t wrong - I can’t stop stroking it.  Double gauze IS quite expensive, but as Fabric Tales is based in Japan it’s cheaper than buying in the UK (or the States) and the carriage is really reasonable and ridiculously fast considering it’s coming so far.

I tried to describe the pattern to some girlfriends at a birthday drinks do the other night but don’t really think my description did it justice (“it’s grey with giant chrysanthemums and deer and lions in the background”).  I could have sworn it had lions on it, maybe I’d had one Babycham too many. I think the full panel needs to be seen on this fabric so I’m going to make another Socialite dress.  

Yes, I know the first one was grey too but it just means I’m sure to wear it often (I’ve worn the first one a LOT). 

Moving on, we have another double gauze from Fabric Tales.  

Again, badly described to my friends the other night (“It sort of has rabbits heads all over it”).  Now I know “30’s blouse’ wouldn’t normally pop into your head on first sight of this fabric, but I really think it’s would be perfect for the blouse from this pattern.  

I won this pattern in  Debi’s giveaway at My Happy Sewing Place.  Debi’s been so supportive to me as a rookie blogger (and sewist) and is so excited to see what I make with the pattern that I’m determined to take my time over this one and do her proud.  I may even rein in my laziness and make a muslin (!)

Finally, after I’ve finished the Crepe dress I’ll be doing the Pendrell blouse sewalong hosted by Tasia at Sewaholic.  She’s just produced her very first commercial pattern which I got my mitts on yesterday and it looks fab.  

Again, drapey fabrics are suggested so I thought I’d buy my very first voile.  There was a lot of excitement about the Anna Maria Horner Little Folks voiles this summer but I never got my act together to buy any (I couldn’t make my mind up which was my favourite).  But when I saw her new collection of Innocent Crush voiles at M is for Make yesterday my favourite print definitely jumped out at me.  Surprise surprise it’s this one...

I think it will make a lovely Pendrell blouse.  So, quite a lot to keep me busy over the next few weeks... x

Thursday 2 December 2010

Swirly dress success

Remember the party dress for my niece I shared with you last month? 

Well I thought it would be nice to show some pics of the delighted recipient.  

Hannah wanted me to make it in time to wear for Christmas (she lives in Australia in case you're worried she'll catch her death).  And according to my lovely sister-in-law she doesn't want to take it off until she's 16.  That's probably the best compliment I've ever had in my life.  Thank you Hannah you little darling, you look gorgeous in it. x

Tuesday 30 November 2010

First vintage outing...

Here it is ….. my first ever garment made from a real life vintage pattern.  And it fits me!  

I chose this pattern (Advance 7701) for my first attempt as it appeared to be pretty straightforward to put together: a simple wrap top with one cunningly crafted main piece plus a small collar piece and a tie end.  And because it’s a wrap top I didn’t think I'd have any tricky fitting issues.  Well the good news is, that’s more or less how it turned out.

Happily, the instructions were really clear and comprehensive – I was expecting them to be something along the lines of  “cut out, fit, sew, finish” but they were much more accommodating to the novice sewer.  Once I’d got my head round how the pieces fitted together it was very quick to sew together.  I cheated used my initiative just the once. Because I used el-cheapo poly cotton, it was almost impossible to slip stitch the facing down without it showing through on the other side, there just weren’t any threads of fabric to be had.  So I machined it in place and I don’t think it looks any worse for it. There were also a couple of tiny fitting issues.

First, the cut is one where the sleeves are part of the pattern front and back pieces rather than separate sleeves you have to fit yourself (I’m sure there’s an official sewing word for this, would love to know what it is!).  However, I think I have natural sloping shoulders (or bad posture as my husband pointed out, thanks love) and this tends to accentuate them.  I found this with the Sencha blouse as well.  I need to get into the habit of standing upright and thrusting my chest out as 50’s ladies were want to do (think Joan Harris nee Holloway) and it will probably look better. 

Second, my waist is definitely not a typical 50’s size.  The top is supposed to cross at the front, go all the way round the back and tie at the front. Hmm, not quite long enough.  

Look how tiny the knot at the front is!
I had to wear industrial strength foundation garments for this photo just because I was desperate to show it off (my first vintage pattern, yay!) and that’s the only way the tie was going to get round my waist.  Of course if I tried to walk or breath or eat or do anything at all, the whole thing would explode, so I’ll retrospectively add a little length to the ties to make it more wearable.  It’s also cut higher than current fashions, and as there’s more chance of hell freezing over than of me displaying my midriff, a black vest had to bridge the gap.  I’ll now need to add a high waisted skirt to my pattern list. 

This is more like the intended waist size

But… even though I’ll have to butcher it a bit to be able to walk in it, I do think I’ll actually wear it.  The style fits in with the rest of my wardrobe, the colour is right and it’s my first vintage top so it’s extra special. I love it.  x

Sunday 21 November 2010

Shoe bag

Remember this post and my triumph at finding the shoe print fabric?  Well, here's the finished result.  

A cute little bag just large enough for a pair of your high heeled finest.  I actually made this as a commission for a friend, but it's such a good idea I may have to steal it (I also have lots of left over shoe fabric looking hopefully at me).

In other news, I've cut out my first vintage pattern (fanfare of trumpets).  

The red poly cotton fabric I'm using was cheap as chips at £2 a metre, so if it all goes horribly wrong I'll use it as a practice muslin.  If it all goes beautifully right then I've got a new top for £4 (yes!)

I'm also gearing up for my first sew-along - the Collette Pattern Crepe Dress hosted by Gertie. I'm still umming and ahhing about fabric.  I wanted some of the Japanese double gauze she featured in a recent post, but it was from a US fabric shop and ridiculously expensive to boot. I couldn't find a UK supplier so I may just copy the colour and fabric pattern (black or navy with polka dots - predictable, me?)  I'm going fabric shopping to the Goldhawk Road this week, so I'm sure I'll find something just as lovely for about a tenth of the price.  Anybody else doing the sew-along?  Would love to hear what fabrics you have in mind. x

Thursday 18 November 2010

Lovely things I've found

I recently made my first purchase from Beth at The Linen Cat.  I’ve been a big fan of the Linen Cat blog for a while, but never bought anything for my boys as they would just wreck them. As special Christmas presents for my nieces however, they're perfect. I ordered a cashmere bear and a linen mouse which arrived beautifully wrapped in tissue paper with very stylish labels attached.

I'd actually love a dress like this...
They are both exquisitely handmade, with real attention to detail.  Beth also uses a lot of tweed in her work which I really like.  Which leads me on to the best bit  - as there was a delay in processing the order because of a rubbish e-mail connection, she sent me this set of tweed trimmed spring birds.

Talk about customer service!  I’m thrilled with them, they’re going straight on my Christmas tree.

Another discovery I made recently is a new website called handmade and vintage.  As you'd guess from the name, they stock some lovely, unusual vintage bits, including these packs of vintage bias binding I picked up

The contents of the shop change depending on what treasures have been found, so it's worth popping back to see what's new.  I just had another look now and saw some beautiful old French buttons for sale.  Hmm, definitely tempted...

Monday 15 November 2010

Finished Beignet!

Hoorah, at last I've finished my Beignet skirt from Collette Patterns and I'm SSOOO pleased with it.  

I made it in a navy cotton drill with red detailing.  The pattern was great to work with and I whipped through it, until I got to the section that made me break out in a cold sweat - the twelve buttons and buttonholes. I know some sewers have certain sewing tasks they hate/can't do very well - well buttons and buttonholes are definitely mine.  I took me almost the same amount of time to make the buttonholes and sew on the buttons than it did to sew the entire rest of the skirt.  I just about managed to get them done without ruining the whole thing, apart from one rogue one that unfortunately looks like the Frankenstein's monster of buttonholes. This was thanks to a last minute slip of the hand with the seam ripper (and yes, it was the LAST buttonhole after 11 perfect ones, sob!) Once the skirt is buttoned up though, you don't even notice it, as my husband helpfully told me whilst I was mopping up my tears.

Things I liked about this pattern:
1) The instructions.  As ever, lovely and clear and easy to follow.

2) The fit.  I cut out my size and didn't have to make one adjustment, it fitted me like a glove.  I know some bloggers have had problems with the fit, so I think my body shape and this style just happen to be a good match.  I'm on the curvy side so maybe this helps?

3) The design.  I love the way the skirt is put together, it's so clever.  I particularly like the facings (which I'm so pleased I made in a contrast fabric, thanks Tilly for the idea!) and the lining which neatly covers over all the seams underneath.

Look at the facing!
4) The fact that the skill level is Intermediate!  I'm feeling super pleased with myself about this one particularly!

Here's one last look at the contrasting pockets.


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