Pattern Magic at Morley and more

I spent last Saturday in London on the second day of the Pattern Magic 1 course at Morley College. I was happier about attending this time as I felt that I had more of a ‘handle’ on the idea. The pattern we tried last week seemed to go well so I was looking forward to another day to reinforce what I had learned.

I followed last weeks ‘Bamboo shoots’ exercise with the ‘Crater bodice’ with limited success. As you know I am not exactly a typical ‘Japanese’ shape so I was a little concerned how some of these designs may look. With good cause. This is not a great shape on me, and the design was not helped by being toiled in calico, so I know if I use this idea it will have to be moved away from the bust. Anywhere but the bust. But it is a great idea and I love it. Just not for me to wear.

In the lunch break I was delighted to go with Petra to a local pub to meet Melissa of Fehr Trade and her husband  James for lunch. It was lovely to have been able to meet them after having contact for what seems like ages – but a little strange to meet someone you only ‘kinda know’. Despite that it was a lovely thing for them to have done and I had a lovely lunch. (Hand made fish finger sandwich and fries since you ask). We even got to see a sample of the jazzy fabric from the inside of James reversible disco jacket. Flashy! (Glad the management didn’t see that!). I am officially an idiot – I had my camera in the college and forgot to take any photographs either on the course or at lunch.

After lunch we continued on pattern cutting exercises and managed another in full. I now feel much more confident about attempting a garment from these fabulous books. All I need now is time…..

Beautiful Blenheim Palace

Beautiful Blenheim Palace

Rather than heading straight back to Bewdley The Management and I stopped off for a night in London and traveled to Blenheim Palace on Sunday. I hadn’t visited before despite this fabulous place only being about 50 miles from home. The palace and grounds are just beautiful BUT they had the house decorated for Christmas which was just fabulous. Sadly photographs were not allowed so I will have to suggest that you go and see for yourself all of the fabulous trees, and the usually stuffy looking busts wearing turban style headdresses in beautiful brocades. Just wonderful. There are a couple of pictures on the Blenheim website, but nothing like as wonderful as a visit to the house.


Glad I don’t have to fit her!

On the walk around the grounds we came across this sculpture. We wondered whether the head was modeled on one of the Duchesses? Who ever the head belongs to I am very glad I don’t have the job of fitting her body (even with the benefit of my new pattern magic – not magic enough).


Not Venice – Oxford!

The following day was spent exploring Oxford. The Management had an interview to one of the colleges many, many years ago and wanted to go and spend time in the city as an adult. What an amazing place! I was astonished that the colleges (which have been there for an eternity after all) occupied what would in many cities be regarded as prime retail space. Not what I had expected at all. I imagine almost everyone has seen pictures of Christchurch College and other popular buildings around Oxford so I thought I would show you Oxfords own bridge of sighs! I didn’t expect that at all. The weather was cold but as you can see we were fortunate to have a couple of very pleasant days.

We arrived back home after a lovely drive through the Cotswolds  around tea time yesterday and I have spent all my time since then getting back up to speed. I have sewn all day today for clients but hope to spend some time on my coat tomorrow. I have decided to work hand sewn buttonholes on it so it will not be finished tomorrow – but I might get close. It has started snowing in various parts of the UK today so it would be worth getting this done very soon – I am sure it will be useful.

Pattern Magic and the V&A

What a great weekend I had!

I attended the first part of the Pattern Magic course at Morley College last Saturday. Up until then I had admired, stroked, and generally enjoyed the Pattern Magic books but made no use of them. The pictures of all the garments are beautiful and very inspiring but the instructions were a bit intimidating. The tutor at Morley made the block (sloper) instructions understandable and I now feel that I can now make sense of the instructions to make the adaptions . We used the bamboo shoot adaption as an exercise in class and I was happy to be able to come away with the pattern ready to try at home. When I get the workload back under control I hope to make something to actually wear from this book. I will be back there for the second day of the course next Saturday and am really looking forward to it. One more class next Saturday which I am really looking forward to.


London in November!

I was really happy to be staying with my daughter because we planned to spend Sunday morning at the V&A to see their current ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition. We were unusually early and so stopped at a lovely cafe called Greenfields for coffee and pastries. It was amazing weather and although a little bit ‘chill’ we were able to enjoy our coffee outside in the morning sunshine. What a treat in November!

The exhibition was great – I had seen some of the costumes previously at the exhibition held in Worcester Cathedral some time ago. The costumes are beautifully displayed and it is possible to see the backs of most of them (though often from a position further around the display) and I loved it. It would be impossible to choose a favorite costume as so many were just fabulous. Sadly, no photographs allowed so you will just have to go to see them! ( What a great excuse).

I was amazed to find that this was my daughters first visit to the V&A despite living in London – but they have a new convert and she will be there many times more from now! I was able to take her up to the Theater and Performance area where she just loved the ‘Kylie Minogue dressing room’ display. The Lion King costumes were still on display (and I have just bought a ticket to see the show in Birmingham next year – hurrah!) which was lovely.


Wonderful Lion King costumes

And just for those readers down under who I know enjoyed my last Dame Edna offering from the V&A – here is the wonderful ‘Breakfast Dress’!


Dame Edna’s Breakfast dress


Artist/Fisherman’s Smock

I am still hollygagging about trying to decide what I really want to make for myself in my daily half hours. I know I want it to be autumnal. I think it will probably be a jacket. I quite like the idea of a cape – but don’t want to end up looking like Batman. Oh dear – decisions, decisions.

Artists smock

Artists smock

Whilst I was in a mental muddle I had a job from a client to make  a copy of an artists smock. I loved how useful and easy it was, so I made another for me. The original was made in a cotton twill but I decided to make this in my cotton baby cord in a lovely chocolate brown. I suspect that I am going to use this quite a lot as the weather starts to cool.

The pattern was very easy to make and I have included my workings here for you.  I have not allowed for any seams or hems, or the turning on the top of the pockets so don’t forget to add that onto your pattern. I overlocked all the pieces before I made this up as it was much easier than trying to catch all the edges of the gussets! (Call me  lazy if you want).

Artists smock

Neckline/collar detail


I sewed the pockets and attached them to the front piece, then sewed the shoulder seams , then worked the neckline by sewing the collar piece into a loop and then to the neck edge (collar seam to the CB), then turning it in and sewing inside to secure it (I overlocked the raw edge and left it out but you could make a turn and ‘stitch in the ditch’ from outside). Stitching the top edge makes it look a bit crisper if you want to do that.

Centre the top of the sleeves over the shoulder seam and sew in place – leave the seam allowance free to enable you to insert the underarm gusset more easily. Sew the gusset into place – I used the marks on the main body/sleeves to guide me and sewed so that I could see the point I needed to stitch up to. When you have all four gusset seams completed  sew the sleeve seam, and then the body seam.

All you need to do now is to turn up a hem on both sleeve and body. Done!

In addition to this top the management asked me to knit more little hats for the Innocent Smoothie fundraiser for this year. Everyone in his office is knitting some and he didn’t want not to contribute. I think I may teach him to knit before next year! If you want to join in with this campaign check out their website. They are really easy to knit and raise money for Age UK.

My Innocent Hats

My Innocent Hats for 2012

Maybe I will work out what I really want to make soon – it would be nice to have something new that actually suited the season!

P.S. Bessie will be wearing the top for a little while. She is a bit upset at being found ‘naked’ by a client who remarked ‘That’s a big girl!’. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was ‘me’ (I wonder if she has worked it out yet?). The diet starts …….whenever the chocolate runs out.

Summer 6PAC – Item 2 (and last)

Oh I have had a an odd week. I was still fully intending to get stuck in and finish at least three more garments for the 6PAC (which would have made it a 4PAC I suppose…) but I have been forced to concede that the jacket I made as item 2 will definitely have to be the last – not chance of any more sewing for me by the end of the month.

I got back from a fantastic break, scuba diving in Penzance, with what I thought was a sensible workload to come back to. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. A client  advised me of the death of a lovely lady, for whom I was making a special occasion dress, which came as a complete shock. I worked to finish this dress at her husbands request this week, which was a very sad job to do.

Other clients have also taken the opportunity to decide that as the weather looks as though it may be getting better they need me NOW! Nothing like forward planning! All this means that there will be no sewing for me for a little while.

6PAC 2 - JacketAnyway….. I mentioned a jacket. I clattered this one together after being given a very similar jacket from a client for alteration (there are some perks!) This is self drafted, and made from some black cotton twill from stash. The buttons are the only thing I needed to buy, and so this felt like a very virtuous project.

I used my basic bodice block (sloper) from the Winifred Aldrich book again, but just added a little  extra ease at the side seams. The last time I used this i decided that the shoulders needed to be reduced by 1/2″ before next use, so I made the adjustment to the pattern. Unfortunately I had already made the adjustment to the block (Note to self: Please mark any adjustments to blocks on the margins in future). The jacket is now a bit too narrow in the shoulder and as it was ‘clattered together’ I didn’t try this on until it was finished so I didn’t find out in time to do anything about it. It is still wearable but I will adjust the pattern before I put it away. And mark the adjustment.

The original jacket had bound seams which looked wonderful, but as I said I had ‘clattered’ this together you may guess that I just 6PAC 2 - Jacketoverlocked them. The topstitching which was such a lovely feature of the original jacket was an opportunity to use a technique shown on Shams blog which used the machine stretch stitch to give a heavier looking seam using  ordinary thread. Whilst I wouldn’t have had any difficulty obtaining a suitable thread to topstitch this in black, it is often difficult getting a good match in other colours. Apart from having to concentrate, and count stitches as they were machined towards corners, to ensure you ‘turned the corner’ at the right moment this was a very easy, and useful, process to have learned. Thanks Shams!

The original also had actual pockets rather than just the flaps that I put into the yoke seam. As I am inclined to fill pockets with anything to hand – and I really don’t need any extra padding at that point – I decided mock was best.

Despite not being a perfect fit this jacket has already been worn several times and I expect it to become quite a useful jacket to just ‘chuck on’ for general wear. Even without the trousers that were planned to go with it. And t-shirt…..

When things calm down a bit I will be back but meanwhile there is a wedding dress (manufactured – not made to order) which needs an urgent and major alteration. Back when I get my workload under control.


SAM 3 – Late again!

 Ok. I admit I am terribly disorganised. However (M’Lud) I have been away from home twice since I last posted. The management and I spent a couple of days in Wales (one fabulous sunshine and the other Welsh) when we visited two National Trust properties – Erdigg and Chirk Castle. I thoroughly enjoyed having a break after the bridesmaid crisis which meant that I filled all the remaining time just finishing client work . Nothing for me. Zilch. Nada. Niet.

Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle

We followed that with another week of just keeping pace before running away to Plymouth to give my Northern Diver suit a good soaking. No apologies for a weekends diving over Easter. Fabulous dives – I am sad to have missed the electric guitar which is apparantly in the wheelhouse of the wreck of the Scylla but I didn’t get there!

This week has been better and I am now back on track with outside work. Today I finally got started on SAM3. Yes – I know we are in April so it should be SAM4. But I am working on 3. I did the pattern alterations to the style I wanted and cut it out in cotton sateen a little while ago but I lost my way after that.

Vogue 8747


New Back Vogue 8747

New Back Vogue 8747

I liked Vogue 8747 but wanted the princess lines on the back to look the same as the front (go into the sleeve instead of the shoulder). I made the pattern with 8747 in mind from my own pattern block. I knew I would need lots of adjustments to a commercial pattern so thought that would be a quicker route. Today I actually made a start with sewing this together. I am determined not to use the overlocker on this project – they are a wonderful tool but it is too easy to just ‘romp’ through a project without too much effort. I have the body put together using ‘sort of’ flat felled seams. I have no photographs yet but hope to be able to finish by sunday and show the stages in my next post.

    P.S. I also have a project that I have been working on for Rhonda Buss which I hope to be able to show you next week – I have to clear it with her first! 

Pyjama Drama!

I have (as you may know) just got back from a couple of days  visiting my DD. It wasn’t until I looked at the pj’s I was packing to take with me that I realised just how shabby the trousers were looking – I think I must wriggle a lot in bed or something. No time to do anything about it, so I just had to hope there were no fire alarms or such that would require a night-time evacuation (although the management can tell a funny tale about a night fire alarm evacuation at a corporate event he was at….).

Anyway, shamed by the lack of attention to my own wardrobe (all elements – must try harder) I made a new pair of pj trousers yesterday to go with a top that still had lots of life and is unbelievably comfortable. I didn’t even look for a ‘real’ pattern. I took a pattern I was happy with and put the pieces side by side on the fabric with the grain lines parallel and enough of a gap at the hip to give ‘wiggle’ room. I treated the two pieces as one big piece so I get trousers that have only an inside leg seam, and the body seam. I narrowed the width of the ‘leg’ from thigh to hem, so the bottoms wouldn’t be enormous, and cut a large enough seam allowance on the waist edge to use as an elastic casing. Much more complicated to write than to do. (Picture below)

PJ Instructions

PJ Instruction diagram

I used some really nice poly/cotton stripe from my Material Lady stock and these were cut out, sewn (french seams as I couldn’t be bothered to change the thread in my overlocker – lazy cat!), and pressed ready to wear within a ridiculously short time. The only detail on this garment was a tag in the centre back (so I can find which way to wear them easily) and a line of edgestitching around the top of the elastic casing. I know this isn’t done on RTW pj’s (or not the ones I checked) but it is something I do around all elastic casings as I think it just looks ‘crisper’.

Easy PJs

Back tagged, and top edgestitched


Easy PJs

Easy PJs

  I was pretty pleased with these but remembered a fabulous vintage pattern that Rhonda Buss was making for a trip. They were really glamorous PJ’s (for wear in a boudoir not bedroom) and I thought they were just fabulous. She had challenged readers to identify where they may be worn for the first time – and offered the right person a copy of the pattern. I commented – but didn’t expect to hear any more. Just to confirm what an absolute darling she is Rhonda is going to make a copy of the pattern for each of the five (yes, FIVE copies!) of us who commented. Thank you so much Rhonda!

The next PJ’s to grace this screen could well be very glamorous!

Spotty shirt (January SAM)

1st shirt done with 3 days to spare! If I am totally honest it was finished last night, worn today, and I have already managed to drip ‘bloody mary salsa’ on the front. Darn. (Not out of character – and the burger was worth it!)

As I promised, this was the basic shirt drawn from a bodice block made to my measures from the Winifred Aldrich pattern cutting book. I have used this book for years and whilst I like most of the instructions I have found some to be less than ideal (I really couldn’t recommend the trouser block, for example). I made few adjustments to the basic block – added wearing ease at the side seams (the original is a ‘second skin’ to be worked up to pattern point), moved the dart to the side bust position, ignored the front waist shaping but used the back darts, added extra length and a button stand. Apart from the addition of a collar and stand, sleeve placket (nicked off a Vogue pattern because it is perfect), and sleeve cuffs I was done. This really was going to be the easiest of projects. Until I tried to cut it out.

Contrast is 'all the rage'

I had two remnant pieces of this lovely spotted cotton fabric in stock, and the first seemed so obviously the right size I got right to it. And discovered I couldn’t quite fit the collar and stand pieces on – or not if I wanted cuffs too. I was by now determined that this was the piece to be used so I decided to follow the lead that is growing at Artisan Square and make contrast collar and cuff backs. Plain white looked good, and I have loads of that, so I went ahead and sewed this together yesterday. I didn’t (and generally don’t) do anything clever with my shirts – the only thing that I do that isn’t detailed when you look at commercial instructions is to sew my inside collar band onto the shirt by machine first and then turn the seam allowance of the outside away and sew it down later. This looks tidier on me as I never button my collar, so the inside collar band is what is seen most on the front. I really couldn’t do much to make this individual – but I decided the buttons (plain lilac) were a bit dull  so I replaced two with black to echo the dots on the fabric.

Shirt and Patrones jeans


Having worn this all day I can report that I am very happy with the fit and am ready to do some ‘tweaking’ to make another style from the pattern. I think I will wear this shirt alot – if the salsa comes out….