August total – and the reveal

I was something of a tease in my last post – showing that picture and letting you guess. I have to say that some of the guesses were very inventive! No-one was quite right but Anne McClure was close.

Pleated skirt

Pleated skirt

A pleated skirt!

Stylist picture I liked

Stylist picture I liked

The picture on the left is from a Stylist magazine from ages ago. I (like many of you out there I imagine) have a whole pile of pictures ripped from various magazines and newspapers of looks I think I might like to recreate. Not all of them are ever going to see action but just occasionally a fabric jogs a mental image and I scuttle off to try and find the picture I’m thinking of. Not always easy.

Anyway, when I was in Birmingham with Fairy and Glenda I picked up this polyester taffeta fabric from the Barrys £2 per metre table. I knew I wanted it but wasn’t sure what for. When I got home it started to whisper to me and I ignored it for a while but eventually succumbed.

I sent the panels, which I had already roll hemmed, to Ciment pleating and they made a lovely job. It didn’t take too long to join the panels (if only I had thought of this skirt whilst I was at Barrys I could have bought enough to have had the fabric pleated in one piece – you learn through experience I suppose) and trim to the length I wanted. I did think briefly about an elasticated waist but went with the more attractive waistband. I fitted this late afternoon and there is definitely a bit of wiggle room there – it could probably be a little tighter but I will leave it for now.

I’m not entirely certain that a pleated skirt ‘is me’ at the moment – and certainly not styled with an orange vest! I’m thinking white shirt maybe? It’s so long since I wore skirts on a regular basis it feels odd to be in one, but now that I have seen that I can wear a skirt AND flat shoes I will try more out. I’m currently thinking about a half circle skirt although that may have been something to have done at the start of the summer.

So at the end of August (because this was finished in August, honest) I had made two shirts for The Management, the wonderful Fadanista Sneaky Shrug for me, and now this pleated skirt. The total fabric used in August was 8m – 2 more than I bought this month. Hurrah!

Instant sunshine

I know I have been missing again – but I have been sewing. For me!

I cut this pair of garments out weeks ago with the intention of getting them made up immediately so that they could be enjoyed in the summer sunshine. Hah! Who am I kidding. Firstly, customers always come first. Secondly, I live in the UK – sunshine is rare and must be appreciated when it is there. Where possible no sewing on sunny days!

Perfect for sunny weather

Perfect for sunny weather

As you can see these garments are made as fillers in a summer wardrobe. At least I sound organised. They were cut out weeks ago and left to mature gently while the weather got colder. They are both cut from a linen/viscose blend that I bought from Barrys Fabric Market in Birmingham. I think I may have even scored this from their £2 a metre table. It was pre washed and, though softer, still very nice to handle with a bit of crispness to it. And yes, it will crease like the devil but I don’t care.

Front pockets into the yoke seam

Patch pockets to back

The trousers were from my own block. After making the Vogue 2948 pattern included in the Sandra Betzina Craftsy course I decided I should really dust off the blocks and draft my own patterns again. I use the trouser block from Hilary Campbell rather than Winnie as I found the fit better. (But if you decide to try this check the waist measurement against yours – this block waist is for a neater waist than mine!).

The details on the original pattern were nice so I used that as a starting point. I liked the little front pockets into the yoke seam which were very easy to replicate, and used patch pockets to the back. I didn’t split the legs to give a centre seam as this was the first time in a while that this block had been used, and I moved the zipper to give a front fly. If I make these again I may split the leg to get the lovely Betzina design. I intend to make a separate trouser lining that can go under several pairs that would benefit from the extra layer. I could wear these as they are but….

Back vent, lined and mitered hem.

Back vent, lined and mitered hem corner.

Pockets, always useful for collecting stones and stuff.

The skirt is the same as this one which I based on Vogue 1247 which is a huge favourite across the interweb. Again, the pattern was from my block (Winnie Aldrich this time) and fitted almost without adjustment. Astonishingly I needed to take in the waist a little. Hmm. Because I had a bit of time I decided to make a bit of effort on the finish. My customers get this all the time, me – not so much. I did just overlock the seams but handpicked the lapped zipper and mitered the corners of the back vent. Not very time consuming but with a bit more effort all round on the finish I get a garment I am proud of rather than a rushed finish.

So all finished, and it is now too cold to wear these most days in the UK. I had been waiting (not long , I confess) for a warm day to photograph me wearing these but it just wasn’t working – though I can say I am happy with the fit of both garments and will post pictures eventually. The Management and I do have a bit of winter sunshine planned in the not too distant future so I hope to be able to make good use of them then.

On to warmer sewing now I suppose.

GAM Finale and RTW Fast result.

Well it couldn’t have got any closer to the wire – I finished the last garment I will make this year about 30 minutes ago. I really can’t believe how quickly 2014 has flown past. And just how little I have managed to make for myself. Again. However, changes have been made so look out for a more productive 2015.

So, garment number 8. I discovered pieces already cut out in a box I tend to chuck my ‘get there eventually’ stuff into. I couldn’t actually remember cutting this out so have no idea when I did it. Shameful. Clearly I was making something influenced by Simplicity 2451 which I remember being very popular in blogland. If you have a good memory you might even remember!

Cord skirt with yoke. Finally.

Cord skirt with yoke. Finally.

Cord skirt with yoke pocket and tuck detail.

Cord skirt with yoke pocket and tuck detail.


I vaguely remember deciding that I needed to use my pattern cutting skills more so I imagine I thought this style was simple enough to copy and make up quickly. Part right. Once started this skirt didn’t take too long to sew. Had I tried it on whilst sewing I would have discovered that it was in need of an alteration. The waist needed to be reduces by 2″! Was I happy to know that my gym work has had some good effects. I was too late to get a photograph wearing this but will do so sometime soon.

Garment number 9 is something I have wanted to do for ages. I have made running tights for my daughter from a block detailed in the Patternmaking for Underwear Design by Kristina Shin but not for me. Until today. I decided that since I had a free afternoon I would draw out my leggings block, which I managed very quickly so I completed the pattern. Well, when things are going so well you really have to continue – so I cut out and sewed the leggings after tea. I had some black supplex fabric which I bought ages ago from Tia Knight so was able to get right on with the project. I know how much Jess enjoys her supplex leggings so I am looking forward to wearing these – they are so soft! A really satisfying, speedy garment.

Running tights

Running tights

I didn’t quite manage the 12 garments I had hoped to make for myself, but I am considering 9 out of 12 not too bad. The whole project made me reconsider how much work I want to do for clients and I did decide recently to remove a telephone listing which will definitely reduce work whilst still enabling me to work for my established clients. All in all this is a good result.

Alongside this GAM challenge I have also been on a ready to wear fast. The wardrobe is looking a bit skinny at the moment as I have been getting rid of things that had worn out, or that I decided I really didn’t wear and passed on to someone who would, or one of the local charity shops. The only things I have bought this year are three bras (professionally fitted and I don’t like any of them – guess what may be attempted early next year), and a commemorative Parkrun sports top. I am amazed at how little I have missed shopping for clothes, so much so that I am prepared to do  it again next year. I may be a little less strict but truly I don’t think it will be a problem.

I do have more to show you – I made some gifts for Christmas which I can reveal now – but I will do another post for them.

So, off now to enjoy a glass of Breaky Bottom fizz which the darling daughter bought for The Management and he is willing to share. Have a wonderful New Years Eve, and a very productive 2015 to come. Cheers!

Pocket skirt pattern

For a long, long, time now I have been seeing a particular skirt in a number of blogs and really liked it. I loved Carolyns, Winnies, Ruths, and about a gazillion others I have seen. It is a classic. It is simple. I wanted it.

However, I really didn’t want to buy another pattern for a very simple skirt that probably would need ‘tweaking’ to fit me anything like as well as my basic skirt block from good old Winnie Aldrich. Lets face it, if you have been sewing for any length of time you are going to have a basic skirt pattern that you like – and more importantly, that fits you well.

Not a great picture, but I like the skirt!

Not a great picture, but I like the skirt!

This skirt is made from the very basic pencil skirt pattern, but frankly any simple skirt pattern you have that fits well would probably work. By tracing a pattern you are happy with you can make your own pocket skirt pattern at very little cost – and save you money for that spectacularly complicated pattern you are coveting! No original patterns will be damaged – you can use your favorite pattern again as it wont be cut – you will cut your copy.scan.pocket skirt0001

If you are using an a-line pattern then your pieces will look more like my red outside line. Simply decide how deep you would like the top of the pockets to be from your waistband and draw a line at right angles across the front and back from the center lines (Shown in red on my diagram). These lines should match at the side seams. Bearing in mind that you want the pockets to be wide enough to get your hand in through the gap, and deep enough so that things don’t fall out (but not so deep that you have to work too hard to get to the bottom – unless it is your turn to buy the drinks!) draw a square/rectangle of the size required, you can round the pocket corners off later. Cut out another pocket piece.scan.pocket skirt0002

The pocket pieces are then added – one heading up on the skirt bottom section, and one heading down on the yoke section. I work without adding seam allowances to any of the patterns I make myself so the main thing to remember is to make sure you have seam allowances added to the sections that you actually cut!

Once you have the pattern pieces looking like those above you can go ahead and cut out your skirt. My pattern took just under 1m of 150cm wide fabric, but that would vary according to how long your skirt is. This is a pretty short version.

My pieces ready to be cut.

My pieces ready to be cut.

Once you have sewn the yoke onto the back section, and sewn the front by working a wiggly line around the pockets, you press the seams down (so you can put your hands down into the pockets),and you can go ahead and finish it off exactly as you would have done before you fiddled with the pattern.

The beige cord I used has been in my stash for longer than I dare think about, but it has finally been made into something I will wear frequently (and will probably make other incarnations of too!). I made use of all of my machines on this project – straight seams on Patience while I get my treadle action perfected, zip and other ‘fiddly’ bits on the faithful Pfaff, the overlocker did duty tidying up the seams (I’m afraid to say I didn’t do lovely bound seams like I have seen some bloggers make – maybe on a skirt I don’t need to line), and Molly made the buttonhole. A real team effort!

Some of the team!

Some of the team!

One of the regular complaints I hear from some of my clients about garments they have purchased relates to the buttons. How they have been sewn on to a garment isn’t something many of them think about until it is a difficulty for them. I recently resewed all of the buttons on a coat that were too tight to fit through the ‘turn of cloth’. That made me realise I have another ‘tool’ I use regularly that isn’t really a sewing tool – but is an essential part of my box. Step forward – the toothpick.

Toothpick as sewing tool

Toothpick as sewing tool

This little gem can be used built up to as many ‘picks’ are necessary to make a stalk behind you button long enough to accommodate the cloth. So simple, but another ‘You use what?’ moment for some of my friends.

I am very happy with my skirt. But, you know I did this adjustment to save buying and fiddling with another new pattern? I have been attending a kettlebell class at my gym and I have lost 1.5″ off my waist and ended up having to take the skirt waistband in! I’m not complaining, but honestly……

P.S. I was reading another blog today (Hi Robyn!) and read a fantastic quote which I have to share.

She said ‘Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile’.Love it! Robyn makes some fabulous garments – if you aren’t familiar with her work go have a look!

Blogiversary and a new skirt

I have been surprised to realise that today is my blogs 1st anniversary. It is still a shock to me to find how many people have visited the site in the past year – and some have even been kind enough to comment on what they have seen! I love hearing from people so please feel free to say something when you call by.

The main intention of blogging was to encourage me to sew more for myself, and whilst my output has not been magnificent it is certainly more than I achieved in the previous year (and I feel is likely to increase as I have started to enjoy making things for myself again). I still feel a bit reluctant to show my methods of doing things – I feel I may be accused of trying to ‘teach my granny to suck eggs’ – so if you see something I am doing and want more detail please ask (I would be thrilled!). I also spent time last year doing a computer course which has been put to good use on occasion on here (did anyone notice that the misplaced post in the sidebar has been sorted out now? – and I did it all by myself!). I still have lots to learn but I think I’m getting better.

Another very happy accident of blogging is that I have connected with others through their blogs and gained lots of inspiration. It was from one of these blogs that I saw the skirt I made. Carolyn  showed this skirt in her round-up from last year and I apologised in her comments – but had to have one.

Carolyns Skirt

Great skirt - awful pose

Carolyns Skirt

Knitted yoke detail

 I can remember making granny squares like this as a child  – and never considered them as possible clothing components. The management was a bit nonplussed at the pile of squares growing on the table before they were all sewn together (I really hadn’t considered that part!), but he is now very impressed and declared it ‘very smart’. I think I should be pleased. I took this skirt away over the weekend and really enjoyed wearing it (warm butt in the cold, snowy conditions!). I had to adapt the yoke section from Carolyns instructions as I am somewhat thicker around the middle than she is but I think it has turned out very well – and I think it will be worn lots. Thank you Carolyn!

 Yesterday I showed a picture of a fabulous hat I saw in the V&A and it was identified as belonging to the wonderful Dame Edna Everage.I found a link to a picture of Dame Edna wearing the hat to ‘Ladies Day’ (!?!) at Royal Ascot races. I hope you can access the picture – s/he looks ‘goooooorrgeous’ (Best Dame Edna voices please!) Check it out.

Again, thanks to everyone for stopping by my blog. Please comment – it makes me very happy! I hope to improve the content even more next year as my IT skills improve.


The All Points Skirt

I saw an intriguing skirt on the Artisan Square website by a lady called Rhonda Buss. She is kind enough to offer a Free Pattern Friday slot – and this was one of her free patterns. It is a long way from my usual style but I had decided that this year I really must try to experiment a little more so…

All points - back

All points - back

All points - front

All points - front


All points -side

All points - side

I made this in a heavy polyester jersey from my stash. It has a sort of bark weave on the outside but is plain black inside. I am very happy with how it turned out  – the instructions were very easy to follow (and the link to them is here ) though I did need to tighten the elastic waist more than I expected because of the fabric weight! 
I had hoped to have a photograph wearing it but my husband hasn’t been here in daylight to take a picture so I hope you get the idea with Bessie modelling.I plan to wear this with a plain sweater or t-shirt (still long-sleeved  – but it will depend on temperature) and long black boots, and a colourful wrap. We are going to the theatre  soon so I may give this outfit its first airing then.
Thank you Rhonda !

Shirt cotton

Also on Artisan square there are lots of ______ a month (fill in your choice of garment – its sure to be there!) and I thought I may join in with the Shirt or top a month (SAM or TAM – time to choose). Whilst I was stash trawling for skirt fabric I found this cotton which I thought would be lovely for a shirt – and as a bonus I could wear it with the Patrones purple jeans. It is just one of the many pieces I bought from Pamela at Material Matters before I took over as The Material Lady. I think it is probably sufficiently matured now to cope with being made up. I am going to self draft a very basic shirt pattern which I can adapt to the current fashion styles. Watch this space!


Skirt finished

Ok. Not the most inspriring title – but it tells you what you need to know.

I worked late last night, after a very busy day, determined to finish the skirt. Looking at the photographs of the ‘stitch in the ditch’ on the narrow waistband I should have probably left it for another day! Nevertheless, it is finished and I am very happy with it. Since no-one was around to photograph (and I have never got the hand of doing it myself through a mirror) I have used Bessie to demonstrate.

Finished skirt

Back vent

Don't sew when tired!

I am going away for a week scuba diving in Cornwall now so there wont be any posts until after next weekend. (Now you know why I was determined to finish!) I hope to come back fresh and ready to sew.
Bye for now.

Skirt progress

Around the work I have to finish for clients and the wonderful new autumn fabrics which arrived yesterday (more about those in a later post!) I have made a start on the skirt.

I stitched the backs together and set the zip, worked the back vent (I hate plain ‘splits’ in the back of skirts) as I was sure any alterations would need to be in the side seams. Whilst there are many tutorials out there to show how to put in a concealed zip rarely do I see the small change I make to help keep things straight and easy. My method is this:

  1. Sew the seam – leaving an open length longer than needed for just the zip.
  2. Stitch the open part of the seam with a long stitch (to be pulled out later) and gently press open. This gives you a good guide to settle the zipper teeth against. Pull out the stitching.
  3. Pin the zip very close to the teeth to hold the zip in place just alongside the pressed turn. Stitch along the length of the zip away from the teeth – this holds the zip in place so that you can sew a second seam close to the teeth without the need for pins (which get in the way) but holds the zip so you dont get any curves.(See photographs) 
  4. Sew back up from the closed back seam to the bottom of the zipper to within 1 stitch of the zipper seams. If you now anchor the bottom of the zip to the seam allowance with a few stitches on each side it seems to be easier to pull.
    This always works for me and is no more work than a standard way of working – provided you are sure of the fit – otherwise there is one more set of stitches to unpick.

I work the back vent so that it is easy to put in a lining (if you want one) but it still looks neat if not lined. By cutting a fairly large extension (I cut 12cm here) it will allow enough fabric to fold back completely and allow the raw edge to join the seam allowance. It is necessary to cut diagonally down to the seam end so that it will open up to be pressed flat, and when the extension folds back over the seam it is now possible to sew across the main seam allowance and the overlapping vent allowance to create one long seam (easier to see in the middle photograph than to explain). Only the vent fabric is sewn – not the outside garment  fabric.This can now be finished as you would any vent/hem. I will show the finished vent in my next post.

I have sewn the side seams and tried it on – apart from having to take in the waist a little (hurrah!) it was a good fit and I am happy to continue to finish. Hopefully tomorrow.

New Skirt block needed…

…after the dress block needed alterations. Since I will need to make the very basic style to check the fit I have decided to make a skirt from a fairly busy print that I still have available from my summer stock (Cotton sateen 503) as a wearable muslin. I have been looking for an excuse to use some of this! Cotton sateen

I saw this picture in a magazine recently and thought how nice the print skirt looked. I know that not everyone would agree, but as someone who has almost no hips (barely a waist either sadly) I can afford to wear a print on my lower half. I thought it looked lovely with the crisp white blouse – another project perhaps?

Anyway, as a result of all the fiddling I am now off to redraw my skirt block from good old Winifred Aldrich ‘Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear’ and expect to be able to convert the said block (sloper to any Americans reading) into any number of skirt patterns which should fit. I should be able to start the skirt tomorrow.

 It looks like I have got my personal sewing mojo back. Hurrah!