The Real McQueen

After making the calico toile that Jess tried on for fit on my last visit I intended to make her a ‘real’ version of the jacket that could be worn out. Without all the tailor tacks. Her fabric choice was a very utility style khaki twill weave cotton that I had in my stash. I had originally thought it would be nice to make this in something wonderful but in retrospect Jess chose the right fabric for her as she wanted to wear this in a very casual fashion.

McQueen Kimono Jacket Front

McQueen Kimono Jacket Front

McQueen Kimono Jacket Back

McQueen Kimono Jacket Back

The pictures were taken very quickly before we went out for the day so I apologise for the quality. In addition to that Jess had done her marathon training before we arrived and had already run 8 miles that morning. I think I might have wanted to go back to bed rather than walk around Kew Gardens with the olds.

I think the jacket fulfills the ‘casual’ requirement – but I can see it will probably be returned from time to time to have the back pleats pressed properly again. The fabric does crease a bit (which has helps maintain the crisp folds to the back) and I imagine it may need to be freshened up on occasion. Jess asked for both fronts to be made the same length which I think looks pretty good. I am happy with the result and whilst I would still like to make this for myself at some point I am happy to put it away for a little while. Possibly a long while.

That is the finished report so if you have no interest in making this you can leave now if you want!

The making up details.

Whilst many people seem to be reporting that they have downloaded this pattern not too many seem to be actually making it – possibly put off by the scant (though fine) instructions provided by Show Studio with the download. I am sure that others have made this in slightly different ways I will share my experience.

As I said in my last post about this pattern I had the file printed at a copy shop which meant that I didn’t have to paste all the odd shapes myself and possible doubt my result. This I can recommend.

I needed 2.5m of 150cm wide fabric (although you could probably manage with 2.25 if you squashed a bit more, or made both fronts the same length like Jess wanted). The layout is fairly easy, I laid the main large piece in place and then fitted around that. The pieces are:

  1. Front and back combined. Cut 2
  2. Centre back panel. Cut 1 (I fitted mine in on the fold by folding the pattern piece in half).
  3. Back facing. Cut 2
  4. Front panels (Decorative) Cut 2
  5. Sleeves. Cut 2
  6. Collar/front. Right side piece  Cut 1 (Unless you make both sides the same length in which case use only this piece and cut 2)
  7. Collar front. Left side piece Cut 1.

There appears to be a 1cm seam allowance included in the pattern pieces – I sewed the jacket with this in mind and all the pieces fitted as expected. The grainlines are marked on the pieces but not in the way of the big 4 style patterns. Look closely and you will identify them easily.

I printed out a copy of the instructions from the download file and worked with that. However, I did make a few changes to the order and did a couple of things with this jacket that helped make things clearer for me.

Mark the letters to match in coloured pen.

Mark the letters to match in coloured pen.

Use coloured thread on the coloured 'x' marks to make matching easier.

Use coloured thread on the coloured ‘x’ marks to make matching easier.

I marked the letters on the pattern which needed to be matched in coloured pen, the bulk of the tailors tacks can be made in one colour but I used threads to match the colour on the pattern to mark the coloured ‘x’ marks. This helped when I got further in to the instructions. Don’t skip making the tailor tacks – even the ones that don’t appear to have a purpose help to get the creases folded correctly later.


Following the pattern instructions.

  1. As instructed. I pressed the seams toward CB having clean finished them in lining to neaten as they are visible inside this unlined jacket.
  2. Facing with CB marked

    Facing with CB marked

    The photograph shows which edge of the pattern piece is CB. I got that wrong first time.

  3. After sewing into place I under-stitched to hold flat.

    Bust dart back

    Bust dart back

  4. Bust dart instruction. I found this straightforward but not everyone seems to agree. Ensure that you sew the short seam between markers and then sew the long seam only as far as the clip markers – not all the way to the point which gives you a straighter shape to the front piece.
    Bust dart front.

    Bust dart front.

    I sewed this along the front edge to hold all the edges flat after pressing.

    Bust dart fold at armhole edge. (C & Y Markers)

    Bust dart fold at armhole edge. (C & Y Markers)

  5. Points C & Y need to be folded down in direction with the right side of the piece facing you. This will now complete the bust dart and you can see how this will work on the body as you hold the piece up.
  6.  This seems like the simplest instruction on the pattern, folding shoulder notches to make a dart. However, I looked closely at the photographs on the Show Studio page and this should just be stitched at the shoulder edge to create a tuck, not a dart like I sewed. I guess it is personal choice but the tuck looks nice.
  7. Point P joins with the bottom of the opposite point. This creates a dart which is pressed on the inside.
  8. As instructed.
  9. As instructed.
  10. One point N is the top of the part sewn in part 9.
  11. Point M-M. I had problems eventually pressing the tuck without this 1cm stitched section distorting the garment so I unpicked this and left it. The tailor tacks ensure that you are making the fold in the correct shape.
  12. See above.
  13. As instructed.
  14. As instructed.
  15. This is where it starts to look as if it might just become what you thought!
  16. Not Yet! I wanted to sew the sleeves into place and neaten the edges at the armhole edge before sewing the side seam – by waiting I thought I would get a tidier finish.

    Front edge detail.

    Front edge detail.

  17. Fold the pattern in half to determine the short edge. This is important and will impact later if you get it wrong. I clean finished the bottom edge only before hemming.
  18. I clean finished the bottom of both piece 1 before hemming these separately from piece 4. Check that the side seam is still going to match the length of the back piece when the seam is sewn with the facing.
  19. The long edge of piece 4 will extend beyond the hemmed edge of piece one when folded. You can see the finished detail in the photograph. 
  20. As instruction.
  21. As Instruction.
  22. As Instruction (though slight obvious difference if you are making edges equal).
  23. As Instruction
  24. As Instruction
  25. As instruction. I did this by hand to get a nice tidy finish.
  26. As Instruction. Clean finish as these will be visible.
  27. As instruction. Also clean finish.
  28. Don’t think you are getting this wrong when the sleeve seam isn’t level with the side seam – it sits slightly toward the front.
  29. As instruction – I clean finished.

    Side seam detail with facing.

    Side seam detail with facing.

  30. Now is where I sewed the side seam, folding the facing up to enclose the front piece. When the seam is pulled out and pressed towards the back it gives a lovely clean edge.

I tacked the folds into position on the back before pressing, clapping, and leaving the jacket on a hanger overnight to cool and set the creases.

By the time you get here you deserve to go and get a strong drink!


If you are thinking of having a go at making this jacket don’t be put off by the amount of instructions – most of what is done is fairly intuitive, and hopefully what I have been able to supply will help a bit too. Let me know if you make one!

A Management moment at Kew.

I spotted a raffia plant in one of the glass houses at Kew and got quite excited. “Did you use raffia at school when you were little” I asked. He looked faintly bewildered and after further explanation as to the use of raffia he replied

“No. We learned Latin”

That’s me told.





Hey presto!

Can I just tell you how happy I am? I mean really, really happy.

I saw the pattern for Savage Cocos Presto popover top a while back on Fadanistas blog and thought it looked great, then again on Shams blog  and knew I had to buy it. I loved the simple shape, but it was different to most t-shirt style tops you see offered. Shams is a similar shape to me (but with less tummy lumps) so I knew when she made it and was happy with a fit almost straight off the basic pattern I could be in luck. This pattern turned out to be my unicorn pattern. I made the large size directly from the pattern. No changes. Not a one. What do you think?!

Presto frontage

Presto frontage


Presto reverse.


The fabric is a very fine viscose single knit jersey that I bought several weeks ago with the intention of turning it into my basic t. It is magnificently soft and was not expensive so I bought it in this cream, pale pink, and a soft peach. I knew I had previously bought t-shirts from GAP in a very similar fabric – and then remembered that they were relegated to bed wear as they felt too fine for general use. Doh!

I downloaded the PDF over the weekend and taped and traced on Monday night. I cut the fabric out yesterday after I finished client work with the intention of making it today. It took about an hour. Yes, an hour – and that included threading all three machines in the correct thread. Zippy make.


The fact that this t-shirt has a double front as part of the design meant that I had found a use for this lovely, but currently unloved fabric. I cut the back double too (though the pattern can be made up with a single back) but left the sleeves as a single layer. The collar/neckline can be left to ‘flop’ or if the fabric plays ball can be made to look like a shawl collar.

The weather here in Bewdley has turned cold and wet today so the double layer t-shirt is fabulous as it just adds a little bit of extra warmth without actually conceding that autumn may be sneaking up on us (I did see that the trees are starting to change colour on Monday). I know I have some brown merino wool jersey that I bought and decided was too fine for the project I had intended it for in the stash. I think I have just found its purpose.

I will do my best not to bore the pants off you all with this pattern but I honestly think I have struck gold. A pattern that needed no alterations. Whatever will they think of next!


T-Shirt take 2

After making the grey version of the Kristina Shin t-shirt I was pretty happy with the fit but knew there were a few minor changes I wanted to make. This week I made the alterations to the pattern and made this version in a snake print viscose jersey from stash. You may recognise it from this dress (heavens, my hair has changed).

New pattern - front view dodgy selfie!

New pattern – front view dodgy selfie!

New pattern - side view

New pattern – side view

For this version I changed the neckline shape and I am much happier. I don’t feel I look very good in a close fit ‘jewel’ neckline. I also made a very small FBA , I did not stitch what could have been a dart but eased it between markers I made on the pattern. That gives a much nicer finish when you wear it – after all, with few exceptions you don’t tend to see darts in t-shirts. I did add a little width to the front but not enough to make the front stand away from my body which was one of my main complaints about RTW. This version is also about an inch longer. Not much I admit but I think it looks better, and I am less likely to expose my waist (what waist!) if I reach up.

I am now very happy with this pattern and it has been put in a packet and filed away under winner. I will no doubt use it to make more incarnations as I really wear t-shirts a lot.

In addition to this for me, and client work which is going pretty well at the moment, I decided I really needed to finish off some of the organisation that I had started. Years ago I started to copy the pages in Burda which showed the tech drawings of the patterns for that month so that I could search without having to get all the magazines out (though that can be fun!). Whilst I can rarely use a Burda pattern straight from the sheets I do occasionally use the instruction booklet to see what the shape of the pattern pieces is so that I have some help with pattern cutting from my own blocks. I don’t subscribe to Burda anymore so it was a finite task, and one that I knew wouldn’t take too long.

BUrda magazines and tech drawing folder.

BUrda magazines and tech drawing folder.

Result! All of the magazines are now collected into one box and the necessary pictures are in a folder . Picture me on the sofa with my Burda folder for inspiration, and the stash folder (which I really must get on with again, not finished yet) to check to see if I have something to make the desired garment in. Sounds pretty organised – I wonder if it will actually work.


I have another project planned now and will get back as soon as I have something to show you.


McQueen + McQueen

I spent last weekend with my daughter who kindly allowed me to invade again. It was the last weekend of the McQueen exhibition at the V&A and I really wanted another look. Can I say now that it didn’t disappoint.

Even just after 9am the queue for day tickets was already snaking its way around the block so I was very glad of my members early entry ticket. The exhibition space was more crowded this time than on my last visit but my guess is that it was going to be much worse later! We were able to enjoy the garments all over again, check out the close detail on some of the ones I identified from the book, and retire to the members room for a tea and pastry before hitting the shoe exhibition.

Whilst the shoes are fabulous I would probably not have made a trip to see them all on their own. The abiding memory will be the torture that must have been living with ‘Lotus feet’. The shoes are small beyond belief. There is some fabulous information on the V&A website which is well worth a look.

Inspired by my last visit I revisited a download that had sat quietly on my computer for a very long time waiting for me to feel brave enough to tackle it. This was the McQueen kimono pattern download from Show Studio (still available  – McQueen Kimono pattern. ) I didn’t feel up to pasting all the sheets together for the pattern so had it printed at a local copy shop. The lady who printed it was very puzzled by it and asked what it was!

These images belong to Show


The pattern download is one size, European 40 which wouldn’t fit me but would fit my dear Jess. Regardless of whether she would like it I wanted to just try making this up so cut it in calico. It fits into about 2.5m of 150cm wide fabric which isn’t in the download info. There are about a gazillion tailors tacks to make, not all are essential but I wouldn’t like to have missed any as this pattern is not for the faint hearted.

Once I was finished marking the jacket didn’t really take too long to sew. This was a definite case of ‘stop thinking, start sewing’ as the instructions are a bit ‘sketchy’ . Anyhoo, the pictures. Sorry for the quality but they have been photographed off my Blackberry as the blessed thing just wouldn’t be recognised by the computer and I had wasted too much time already.(That will teach me to check the camera batteries before I go away!)

Jacket front - showing gap under arm

Jacket front – showing gap under arm


Jacket front


Jacket back

I was delighted to find that the jacket fitted Jess perfectly – I’m not sure how I would have altered it – and she likes it! The plan now is to make it in a good but casual fabric so that she can use it through the autumn over jeans. Naturally I won’t be leaving the tailor tacks in the final version.

I love this design and may try adjusting the pattern to fit me – but not until I have moved this version.

We will be visiting her again in a few weeks so I will show the finished version then. Off to shop the stash for 2.5m of suitable fabrics before posting samples for her to choose from.



YSL ‘Style is Eternal’ at The Bowes Museum

Might I suggest that before you get started you make a cup of tea/coffee and get a snack of choice – you might be here a while. This post is also going to be picture heavy.

You might remember that I visited The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle,Durham in April for their ‘Birds of Paradise’ exhibition (post and pictures here if you missed it). I only managed to catch this as I had seen mention of an upcoming Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in a magazine. What!? I thought. But that isn’t in London! Yes, Durham is in the north and they have got this absolute gem until October.

Marina Schiano wearing the short evening dress Haute couture collection Fall-Winter 1970 © The Estate of Jeanloup Sieff

Unlike the Birds of Paradise I have managed a visit right at the start of this exhibition so you have all the way through to the 25th October to arrange a visit if you like what you see. Seriously consider it if you can – Durham has plenty to offer in addition to this gem, and if you feel like getting further north Northumberland is pretty gorgeous.

The tickets we bought were timed entry tickets, and I was glad to have them as the queue was building up in the foyer of the museum mid-morning and The Management reported that it got longer toward lunchtime. I think they have a winner.

Screen showing YSL runway show - Matisse inspired gowns.

Screen showing YSL runway show – Matisse inspired gowns.

Screen showing YSL runway show

Screen showing YSL runway show

Whilst on the balcony waiting for entry it was possible to watch a video (or whatever they are called these days!) of YSL runway show(s?). There was a sign showing that flash photography was not allowed but I checked with a room steward and was told it was OK to take photographs without flash. Unfortunately that means that some of the photographs are not as sharp as perhaps they could be. However, what I lost in quality I made up for in quantity. More about that later.

The initial ‘crush’ in the first exhibition room quickly spread out enabling anyone to be able to look as closely as was possible at these magnificent garments.

Bowes museum case reflecting YSL Style

Bowes museum case reflecting YSL Style


The permanent cases in The Bowes which house their own costume collections had been changed from my last visit to reflect the YSL garment shown in that particular case. Well done The Bowes. The case on the left shows tailored styles go well with the fabulous 1967 trouser suit, which I thought would not have looked out of place on a war time ‘spiv’.

YSL toiles

YSL toiles


Not all of the pieces were complete garments, and I was particularly happy to be able to have a really good look at the toiles produced by a couture house. I have to admit they are streets better than my own (when I actually do make a toile) and I loved that anyone could have been able to follow them to create a garment. Maybe that’s a lesson I need to learn in my pattern cutting.


YSL A/W 1978 Haute Couture

YSL A/W 1978 Haute Couture

a/w 1980 detail

a/w 1980 detail

The attention to detail shown by YSL is incredible. He was meticulous in his designing (apparently the drawings were done in two weeks away, twice a year, and he didn’t know until he started drawing what would appear), and was known to have things re-done if the seam was even as little as 1mm away from his requirements. This is why haute couture is so costly. His attitude to design was not to follow ‘fashion’ but to concentrate on ‘style’. As has been quoted ‘Fashion fades but style is eternal’.

YSL evening gown s/s 2001

YSL evening gown s/s 2001

YSL evening gown s/s 2001 detail

YSL evening gown s/s 2001 detail


I did try to take photographs of the details within the garments, we all get to see so many ‘styled’ pictures in magazines of spectacular garments but rarely do they show the tiny details involved in getting that finish. Many of the ideas are way beyond the scope of the majority of dressmakers but some were achievable with a great deal of attention to detail.



YSL Evening gowns inspired by Henri Matisse. a/w 1980

YSL Evening gowns inspired by Henri Matisse. a/w 1980

YSL Evening gown inspired by Henri Matisse. a/w 1980 (Detail)

YSL Evening gown inspired by Henri Matisse. a/w 1980 (Detail)

The gowns inspired by Henri Matisse were fabulously colourful, and whilst it would be incredibly time consuming to spend the time needed to do all the applique to get that amazing skirt it would be possible – just put by a month or two to make that if you want….. (and if you look very closely at the detail you can see that there are some ‘fluffy’ edges showing round some of the leaves – not machine ‘perfect’ but showing that these are truly ‘hand made’).


I was fairly surprised at just how wearable so many of the garments still were despite having been designed anything up to fifty+ years ago. Many elicited gasps of admiration from some of the young ladies who were visiting who wouldn’t have been born when they were designed. There were several I would have been very happy to have taken away had I been allowed. Who am I kidding – I would have been gloriously happy just to have been allowed to hold one up against me to see how I looked. I might even have agreed to diet for one of those (and there is little chance of me actually dieting for any other reason).


YSL Jumpsuit s/s 1975

YSL Jumpsuit s/s 1975

YSL 'Transparence' gowns

YSL ‘Transparence’ gowns

This jumpsuit would not have looked out of place during Jump Into June. So many garments were absolutely dribble worthy that it would be almost impossible to have a favourite. I loved one of the Transparence gowns (second from right), though clearly if I wanted to take inspiration from that it would have to be executed in something opaque, but I think my favourite is probably still the Mondrian shift dress which despite being designed in 1965 still looks incredibly fresh.

YSL'Art'  Dresses

YSL ‘Art’ Dresses



Throughout the exhibition it was possible to see where later designers had taken inspiration, and I did intend to try to show some YSL/Other designer comparisons but I haven’t had an opportunity to do that yet.

I was horrified amazed to discover that I had taken over 100 pictures – clearly I couldn’t put them all on this post but if you are still curious (and perhaps aren’t able to get to Bowes to see this in person) here is the link to all of them on Flickr.


Moving gently on

I have been ridiculously well occupied in my blog absence – not always with sewing but mainly so. I am staggering out of the end of a load of client work, including three weddings which make me wonder how Mrs Mole , who specialises in wedding and prom dresses, ever stays sane!

I was a bit glum after my recent batch of sewing for me. Nothing really seemed to ‘hit the spot’ so I decided to go back to the wardrobe and analyse what I actually wear rather than what I would like my wardrobe to be. My wardrobe staples are jeans (sorted now thank to the Kenneth D King course) and t-shirts/tops. I tend to wear those in preference to shirts although there is no real reason why. Particularly strange since I can’t generally buy t-shirts which fit both my bust and waist/stomach area – they tend to stick out away from my front below the bust.

I still wanted to do more with the wonderful Japanese pattern cutting books but, again, I had been struggling for success with them. So…. I started by drawing out a new T-shirt block using the Kristina Shin book I used for my (successful) leggings. I knew that by drawing out a t-shirt block which fitted well I could use that to check to Japanese pattern sizing to be more sure of a good result.

Kristina Shin T-shirt block

Kristina Shin T-shirt block

The first attempt was very short. Seriously, I went back and checked my measurements and pattern cutting against the instructions and decided it was clearly personal preference. If you are using this book it would be worth checking the finished pattern length against an existing favourite garment. The fabric used was a cheap single knit viscose mix from Birmingham Rag market which was surprisingly nice for the price. Closer examination showed a run right along the centre fold that didn’t concern me as I managed to cut around the problem. The second attempt is shown left, still a little shorter than ideal and whilst not a perfect fit much closer than any I can buy so I am calling this a win and will tweak the block before making again. The neck binding is a little tight (I cut a length 80% of the neck measurement for the binding but could possibly have forgotten seam allowances.What can I say?), and the bust could possibly benefit from a small FBA but it is very comfortable to wear. Since making this I have worn it on a number of occasions and it has washed and worn well.


Side drape

Side drape

Happy with the stripe matching!

Happy with the stripe matching!

With this small success in my system I went ahead and traced out the pattern from Drape Drape 2  for the Number 2 dress. I have long wanted to try this dress but had minor doubts that it was a sensible idea for a lady of my bulk and vintage. Despite that I went ahead and traced the largest size in the book and used my new t-shirt pattern to ensure I would actually fit into it. On the same trip to Birmingham I bought a length of single knit jersey from Barrys. It feels very cool and has a cottony/lineny feel but I can’t remember the fibre content and cant be bothered to do a burn test on the remains. It has no lycra content so is reliant on its ‘mechanical’ return, which is not as good as a jersey with lycra. The pattern fitted easily into the 1.5m I had bought and I made the whole garment using just the overlocker/serger and my coverstitcher so it took very little time. I was particularly happy with the chevron stripe matching on the left side as I hadn’t relied on the overlocker to do as good as that before.

I am pretty happy with the result, though it doesn’t look anywhere like as good on me as it does on Sew Busy Lizzie ! I knew I had admired her dresses(yes, she has multiples of this dress) a good while ago but was a little surprised to see it was the beginning of 2014, shortly after receiving this book from my dear sister as a Christmas gift.

Bare legs....

Bare legs….

...or leggings

…or leggings

I wore this to a family lunch on Saturday in Northumberland  and was pretty happy with the result. It was unusually warm for the north east of England and perfect conditions for a sleeveless dress, although I did wear it with leggings as my legs are still blindingly white! Over the course of the day I was aware of the hem getting wider, and less snug on my thighs which helps to keep the ‘swag’ in shape. I will almost certainly make another one of these but will ensure I have a fabric with a good lycra content so it holds its shape better. Despite that I feel happy with the result though I think I will almost always wear this with leggings.

The trip ‘up north’ was also to take in a visit to The Bowes Museums ‘Style is Eternal’ Yves Saint Laurent exhibition which was wonderful, and as soon as I get the photographs sorted I will do another post. Just like buses – no posts for an age then two in quick succession. Back soon.

Savage Beauty

Image result for savage beauty

I went to stay with my darling daughter last weekend and managed two visits to the V&A to see the Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition. Please don’t let the fact that it has taken me a week to get around to writing anything about this make you think it wasn’t any good. It was superb. Better than that even. If you have any chance of booking a ticket and getting to London do it. Sell your firstborn, or hock your husband – it really is special.

I wasn’t able to take photographs as that wasn’t allowed but if you go here there are lots of fabulous pictures. Probably my favourite element of the entire show was the Peppers Ghost feature with Kate Moss which I understand closed the Widows of Culloden show. Spine tingling. If you click on the image you will (hopefully) be taken to the youtube video. In case you want to know what the wonderful haunting music is I can tell you that it is the theme from Schindlers List. I just loved it.

Image result for kate moss peppers ghost

Just in case you think I haven’t been doing anything this week I can confirm that my pattern blocks still fit, and when I get through the heap of ‘but I need it!’ stuff from my clients I will be charging on with something for me. I just need to get through this pile…..


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