A Spring Chicken… fabric panel Sweet tweets

Spring Chicken

I saw this cushion made up at my local fabric shop the Jolly Stitcher – I loved the combination of colours and I thought this fabric panel would be good fun to sew. I decided that it would make a lovely addition to my spring decorations.

The instructions were very clear – and easy to follow and pretty soon I was looking for ways to personalise it.

Sweet tweets bird cushion

I thought the pattern of flowers over the bird could do with a bit of embroidery – it would give me a little practice to hone my skills and try out new stitches.

Spring Chicken

I decided to quilt and embroider at the same time, as I wished to outline some of the pretty leaves as well as embellish the flowers. It was a fairly easy task accomplished in a few evenings while watching TV.

Sweet Tweets

I used a combination of weaving stitches, chain stitches and buttonhole stitch – trying to match the beautiful colour combinations as much a possible. I think the colours used was what excited me most about this project.


I thought the little fabric yoyo/ Suffolk puff came out beautifully when made, however, I wasn’t to sure about covering up the pretty eye design on the fabric.

Eye detail for cushion

In the end I opted to embroider the eye rather than cover it up with the yoyo/ Suffolk puff.

Sweet Tweets eye

It looked so pretty with the lovely colours and a nicer detail. I also struggled a little with the bird wings – they also covered up the pretty flower design but they looked so nice when they were sewn on.

Sweet Treats Embroidery bird cushion

Matching up each side of the cushion was tricky on the sewing machine – and the beak ended up virtually impossible to match without some white showing – so I ended up hand sewing the beak.

Spring bird cushion

this is the un-embroidered side and it looks lovely as it is – maybe I didn’t need to do all that embroidery after all – but then I always like to add a little bit of my own design into everything I do.

This was a lovely panel, easy to do and nicely put together – there is a smaller bird to go with this one – that I will make at a later date.


A valentine’s gift – a Man’s Kimono

Simplicity pattern 8318

The simplicity 8318 pattern is part of the costumes section – I think as a response to the film the last Samurai. I chose this because I wanted a more authentic style of kimono rather than using a dressing gown pattern.

Technical drawing

A kimono is virtually made up of rectangles – I did contemplate drafting a pattern myself but as it was a valentine gift for E, I wanted to ensure I had the style right.

A great tip is to use a photocopy of the technical drawing to record your measurements – it gives a great reference sheet when you are creating the garment.

The pattern was very large and unwieldy, the difficulty with this project is that E’s measurements were not rectangular – I needed a certain size at the waist but had to scale it down at the shoulders. So it became more of a trapezium with the bottom edge slightly wider than the top.

Geometric fabric blue grey.

One thing I will adjust in the pattern next time is that there is a back seam – my fabric was fairly geometric, but the pattern itself was tiny, to have spent time matching would have taken an age!

If you are using this pattern, cut the back piece on the fold, there is no shaping – it is a straight line. I was not making the long version of this Kimono so there was no need for a back opening (which is why the back patten piece is in two).

kimono simplicity 8318

As this Kimono was not lined – I did not want the interior to have overlocked edges showing. So I did a combination of French seams – and a lapped seam. (I might post how to do this soon). As you can see from the photograph this creates a seam with no raw edges showing. It is also a very strong seam – usually used on jeans.

I used bias binding for the sleeve edge and the bottom edge of the Kimono. It gives a flash of contrast but also gives a crisp finished edge.

Kimono male Simplicity 8318

The neck facing was odd, the pattern suggested a double faced edge that was velcro’d together. I could not see any point to it (perhaps it is what authentic kimono’s detail). I decided to make just one neck edge – but I gave it structure with a firm interfacing.

The obi belt is a lovely feature – it does finish off the kimono nicely. E was rather delighted with his kimono and it was all ready for Valentines day!

Happy sewing x ttfn x

Tailor made – dress form

Made to measure dress form neckline

It is quite a process to create a dress form that follows the contours of your body exactly. I have developed a fast and easy method that does not include duct tape or plaster casts.

Made to measure dressform

It is not for the feint hearted, to be faced with your body from the outside, all its lumps and bumps is quite distressing at first. Having been slim and lithe for most of my life, middle age is definitely spreading. However, once that shock is over, it gives an opportunity to really assess the body in terms of what I want to enhance and what I want to hide.

made to measure dress form

The dummy in this picture is not straight on mostly because I feel rather exposed showing this shape, but you get the drift. I do have some lovely fashion fabric to go over the dummy, but I find white is less distracting.

Made to measure arm hole

Having a dress form makes sewing so much easier, you can do alterations without stabbing yourself with pins, and given my sway back, I can ensure that the back sits perfectly.

The whole process took me approximately two days to do, but it is worthwhile… it really is key to getting good fitting garments.


Summer Flowers – Dress for a wedding

flowery fifties dress

A dear friend of mine was getting married so I decided to make myself a dress – I have been gradually working through my fabric stash -this beautiful fabric was bought a couple of years ago from a curtain shop that was closing down. In all I had just over three metres that I had snapped up for £7!

Fabric design

The fabric is big and bold the flower heads were enormous, but the repeat was manageable with the quantity of fabric I had. I also loved the weight of this cotton, similar to the purple linen I used for my spring dress. I have also been learning some Couture techniques that I was hoping to put in practise: using an underling.

Threadcount pattern

This pattern came with my Love Sewing Magazine and, joy of joys, it came in a DD cup! No full bust adjustment for once! What a brilliant idea! The Thread Count patterns are very well thought out and I hope that other patterns will follow their lead!

The princess seam line, just off the bust line works well for my body shape, it makes the bodice  easier to adjust without deep darts. I really struggle because my bust is quite big, I avoid waistline darts as there is not enough room and they end up very deep! The pattern was very easy to follow –  I was delighted to find after making the toile there was no pattern adaptation other than bringing in the back by a couple of inches.

I decided to change the lightly gathered skirt opting to use a circle skirt to avoid extra bulk around the midriff. I am short waisted with a bit of a tummy which reduces the overall space between the bust and waistline.

Princess seams

I used a beautiful soft voile as the underling – it was the first time I had used this technique – oh it is delightful, suddenly the garment has more structure! I hand stitched the princess seams open – it might look messier than my overlocker, but I find I really enjoy the control hand stitching gives! This will be covered by the lining anyway.

pattern matching 2

I used the underlining to pattern match the bodice pieces, I wanted the design to flow round the body – while the design was large I had enough fabric to get the pattern matching right on the bodice.

pattern matching side seam

The side seam worked beautifully – once again hand stitching the seams open to the underling, meant that no stitches came through to the front of the garment.

back bodice zip

The pattern matching came up well along the back bodice, although it was difficult to do on the skirt.   I hand stitched the zip to the underlining again – so there is no visible stitching line the right side, only the zipper pull is peeping out from the top.

Organza skirt lining

I used a organdie lining for the skirt – I had to pattern match as best I could – trying to ensure the flowers ran centrally along the front. The underlining helped the skirt to maintain its crisp shape, allowing the garment to flow around the body, as it is quite slippery.

threadcount pattern

The skirt flowers matched the bodice but I could not be as accurate as I was on the bodice as there simply wasn’t enough fabric to play with. Although I am quite pleased with the results.

Reading poem

Here I am wearing my dress and reading out a poem during the service, the dress was supported by a net underskirt.  It was a fabulous wedding and a beautiful day!

the Happy Couple

The happy couple! Congratulations!

Burda Skirt 6834 – perfect for hourglass, curvy girls and sway backs!



Home fires will be back on our screens soon – I love the show and quietly  coveted the beautifully fitted wool suits the ladies of the WI wore – so this was the inspiration behind this skirt. I wanted to challenge myself to make a really fitted garment without using stretch fabric.

I am an hourglass – while it might be the ideal body shape, it tests fitting skills to the max! Not only is there a 6 inch difference between my waist and hip measurement, but being short the height between waist and full hip is only 4 inches! If you think about an hourglass it is a rounded shape, so it not just goes in at the sides but also the front and back – so a sway back is part of the challenge (not to mention the rise of the middle aged tummy!).


If, like me, you are curvy, the traditional A line skirt ends up with huge deep darts at the back but the six piece skirt, like this pattern, offers more opportunity to accomodate the bulk over six seams – so this is an ideal pattern for curvy ladies!

As you can see from the toile the waist has to be reduced by quite a lot, but each seam can divide the overall reduction – giving a lot of opportunity to refine the shape.

I had to add a few inches at the hip – it is easy to do, just draw a straight of grain line in the centre of the pattern piece and add inches. As long as you do this inside the pattern lines you won’t alter any of the pattern edges so it should all line up.

Burda 6834 toile second fitting

The waistline of the second toile needed some adjustment but you can see that this pattern makes enhances curves! As I am fairly short, I decided to go for a slimmer flute at the bottom.

Burda 6834 skirt

I had this beautiful purple wool fabric in my stash – we are not into summer yet and wool is such a great fabric to wear – it seems to maintain an ambient temperature. I wanted this project to test my fitting abilities – and wool is the ideal choice because you can shape it so easily with steam.


The left hand picture shows the skirt seam before it is steamed – I used my dummy to maintain my shape as I gently held my steam iron about 4 inches away. Then using a pressing cloth to gently work from the seam outwards- look how beautifully the seam lays open – but also because you can stretch and shape the wool – it hugs the body nicely.

In order to avoid the ‘librarian’ look I wanted my skirt to be a bit edgy, so this embroidery design by urban threads was ideal. The top left is the design on white, but when I tried it as a sample on the fabric the black was not enough of a contrast to do the embroidery justice, so I used lime green!

Burda 6834 lining

My first lining fabric was a nightmare I chose it because it was fushia pink and made a great contrast but  it was way to flimsy and ended up fraying so I had to completely rip it out and re-do the lining. I had this lovely weighty oyster polyester silk which complemented the skirt nicely I decided to end the lining at the straight edge rather than the frill. I hand stitched it between the skirt facing, (while watching England play Wales in the Rugby) again on the tailor dummy to maintain the shape. Hand stitching gives you so much control – I am addicted to it. Years ago I avoided it – wrestling with my machine to get the fabric under the foot. Then unpicking it because the seam was off – now it is just a case of placing a stitch exactly where I want it and no unpicking!


I love my fancy machine stitches and never find much use for them – so it was nice to use a patterned stitch at the edge of the lining.(top right)  I made little chain tacks using in soft cotton Perle it holds the lining in place but allows for some movement. I also embroidered a tiny loop for my top closure using buttonhole stitch – my hand embroidery skills come in useful! It is these tiny details that give me such satisfaction. I don’t want my sewing to be the same as a shop bought skirt – I want it to be better! These details have mostly disappeared as clothing is made as fast and as cheaply as possible.

I love my skirt – it was a painstaking effort in all it took me three weekends to make but it was worth it. The lining slips around beautifully and it is so warm and figure hugging – I could never buy the same fit, I am just too oddly shaped!

The fitting took a lot of time but that was the challenge of this exercise and I have my toile to make more skirts!

I would recommend this pattern – its the first time I used a Burda pattern – having learned a few couture techniques I thought wrongly that Burda patterns did not include a seam allowance, but they have changed.  I think Burda have some great styles and the instructions are straight forward, although I have to admit, I didn’t follow them!

ttfn x






Tips for Knits! – Jersey Kate Dress, Love Sewing Magazine

tips for stretch fabrics-3


Many retailers are making clothing in Knit fabrics because it allows for more flexibility with sizing – but they offer a challenge to the home sewer that is easy to overcome.

Stretch fabrics have a life of their own – Jersey is a very finely knitted fabric which can be made from many different fibres from cotton to polyester. Some might shy away from Polyester, but recent developments have produced blends that are warm, soft and fluid, like the fabric I chose for my project.

So here are my top tips for successful sewing with Knits:

Made for mi tips for stretch knits one layer at a time

Cut your fabric in one layer

Most patterns are made to be cut on the fold, but with stretch fabrics the lower part of the fabric can shift. It is best to draft a new patten piece and cut a single layer. If you don’t have any pattern paper, you can lay the pattern out on one side, then turn it over to cut the second side making sure you don’t disturb the fabric.

The left hand square was cut on the fold, the right and square cut in a single layer. Notice how much the left hand square has grown on the left side almost 5cm! The left hand side  was the underside of the fabric when it was being cut.

Don’t cut out your fabric all at once – cut each piece as you sew – the less time the fabric has to move the better the stability and the more likely the piece will retain its shape.

tips for stetch knits made for mi

Use a rotary cutter and self healing mat

The fabric shifts and moves easily! Take care not to shift the fabric around while cutting – I caught the bottom of my fabric pulled it slightly during cutting, I thought I had rectified it but when I compared the pattern to the fabric, I had cut the bottom edge 1/2 inch smaller!

The act of cutting with scissors lifts the fabric – causing it to stretch and move. A rotary cutter puts downward pressure on the fabric and anchors it in place while cutting.  Accuracy will improve and it is easier to follow the sharp armhole curves.


Use a stretch needle

These are different to ball point needles – they are coated with anti-static, which prevents the fabric from sticking to your needle, causing skipped or missing stitches. They also have ball points that move the needle between the knit rather than piercing the threads and causing a ‘run’ (it looks like a ladder that you see in tights!).

Madeformi tips for stretch knits use a walking foot

If you don’t have an overlocker – use a Walking Foot.

Overlockers are made for stretch fabrics – they have what is called a differential feed – that means two sets of feed dogs, one on the bottom that feeds the fabric through, and one on the top that pushes the fabric out.

An overlocker can push more fabric though the bottom than is being pushed out at the top and visa versa – hence the term ‘differential’. The seam created has a little stretch of its own.

If you plan on making lots of stretch fabrics it is worth the investment of an overlocker, it speeds up the making process by neatening the edges as the garment is sewn.

A walking foot – creates an upper fabric feed system to work with the feed dogs so that your sewing machine can create a similar seam – it works very effectively and allows a little more control when stitching.


Use the right stitch

If you are using your sewing machine – ensure that you use a knit stitch  or if not set your width just above zero so that each stitch is a tiny zigzag, this will give your stitching the flexibility to  move with your fabric as it expands and contracts.


Use the right thread

Let there be a harmonious marriage between  fabric and thread. Natural fabrics need natural threads, synthetic fabrics need synthetic thread – polyester knits are best stitched with polyester thread, cotton with cotton – save your sanity and seam ripper!

tips for stretch fabrics

Stabilise necklines with twill tape or ribbon

Necklines will grow – more so with stretch fabrics. Stabilise them by stitching a narrow twill tape or ribbon just inside the seam allowance.  Do this immediately after cutting this piece and you will reduce the opportunity for growth!

You can use the iron on hemming tape for speed but it is not as durable.

Use more stable fabrics for facings

Facings are often used around necklines and armholes – because they lay inside the garment you can use more stable fabrics such as cotton or fleece. Or in this sample above I placed the facing on the outside using black wool.

Try to ensure that the facing fabric matches the weight of your knit so that they are balanced.

If you want to use the same fabric  stitch a layer of organza on the inside edge of the facing, this will give the neckline more stability without adding bulk.

Here is my finished Kate Jersey Dress

Happy stitching

Kate Jersey dress finished front












Liberty Prints at the London Museum of Fashion and Textiles


Liberty Artistic Dressing

London Fashion and Textile Museum Liberty Exhibition 2016

There are not many chaps out there who are willing to encourage a fabric obsessive like me but the lovely Mr D asked me if I wanted to visit the Museum of Fashion and Textiles  as he had noticed there was a Liberty exhibition! I leaped at the opportunity! We headed off by train early on a chilly Saturday morning, after a short pleasant journey,   I found myself stepping through the glass doors and bright interior –  a world of Textiles  -Heaven on earth!


The exhibition was organised chronologically: this display of kimonos dates from the early years of Liberty around 1870. The exquisite hand embroidery was simply, divine. The butterflies and iris adorn exquisite silk kimonos and you can see in the bottom left an example of wallpaper that inspired  the kimono decoration.

I was thrilled to be able to get up close to the exhibits eager to feast my eyes on construction,  finishing and techniques used. I am fascinated by design details – and spent a great deal of time noting and photographing in order to create a reference at home. Having recently taken up hand embroidery it was inspiring to see it utilised in high end fashion it tends to go in cycles. The two items above were  examples of the dress reform movement. Women wanted clothing that was more practical, the late Victorian period where the S curve was in Vogue this was revolutionary! The dress on the right had exquisite pleating that simply followed the curves beautifully – a good 60 years before the 1930’s bias cut.

I spent a great deal if time taking in the wonderful construction details of the 1930’s to 1940’s stand. I particularly enjoyed the way the red flower dress was thoughtfully made. The neckline is trimmed with appliquéd flowers, the sleeve cap is full typical of the 1940s and has a lovely velvet ribbon detail running down the centre finished with a little bow. The velvet ribbon detail is repeated at the front placket, and the overall placement of the red/pink flowers is skilfully done.

The 1970’s saw a revival in ‘folk’ costume especially the use of smocking. The whole of the seventies section brought back memories of warm summers wearing gypsy skirts! I the brown  dress,  fabric is entirely shaped using this technique it allows so much movement that you can put the clothing on without the need for zips or darts! The wedding dress reminded me of the 1980s.

Art Nouveau had a revival in the 1960s prompting the use of more romantic folk styles classical empire lines, Victorian Butcher sleeves – updated with modern prints and fabrics. The wonderful detail of the corduroy dress yoke was a delight to my eye!

There were lots of displays of the patterns used and I did not realise Kate Greenaway had designed for Liberty (centre)


It was a wonderful exhibition – I took a lot more pictures that I shall use for reference there were so many examples of different construction techniques and embellishment ideas that I am still buzzing days later. I can’t wait to include them in my sewing.

The Museum of Fashion is just a short walk from London Bridge Station it is a real treat for any lover of textiles or fashion.

A vested interest -grey to glorious cosy underwear

It is cold, blustery and wintery, being a chilly morsel I am reluctant to turn the heating up too much out of respect not just to my purse but the planet. I am not a fan of jumpers – they seem to make me into a blob with mono boob!

I wear dresses mostly, some of them are cotton so I need a little extra warmth. These little vests might be a little old fashioned, but they are so delightfully warm without bulk and slip easily under a dress. Pretty they aren’t!

Grey lace top

Revamp, top, sewing, lace, insert

I like to wear pretty things especially underwear but these scream out old lady! bear with me, this can be beautiful with a few little tweaks.

Remove old elastic

recycle, upcycle, revamp

Cut off the knicker elastic edging – it is a good time to consider lowering your neckline if you don’t want the vest to be seen. If you aren’t sure try it on under one of your dresses and mark where you want the finished edge to be.

Adding lace panel

adding lace, replacement, upcycling.

There are so many beautiful little lace panels available – this pretty little design was relatively inexpensive – and it is beautiful!

Marking lace edging

use a marker pen to indicate where the lace panel will be.

Mark your positioning with an erasable pen, or tailors chalk. Check to see the lace is balanced and central.

stretch needles

Always use stretch needles when working with knits.

You can get lovely stretch lace from eBay or your local fabric store, I bought this on eBay for about £2.99 per metre, the rickrack  looks like little hearts to me. You will also need stretch needles, these are rounded so that they push between the threads rather than breaking them. Ordinary cotton thread is perfect.

The stretch zigzag allows the item some movement when sewn.

The stretch zigzag allows the item some movement when sewn.

Set your sewing machine stitch to a stretch zig zag  – it looks like a broken zigzag, this allows the stitches to stretch with the elastic. You can see what the stitch looks like on my machine.

Attach the elastic edging around the neckline right side of the vest to the wrong side of the elastic. The decorative edge should be on the outer edge and the flat edge of the elastic should be lined up with the neckline.

with the decorative edge pointing away from the neckline.

with the decorative edge pointing away from the neckline.

Set the zigzag stitch width to cover  the elastic, but leave the ricrac edge free. Stitch between the two marked points, while slightly stretching the elastic lace.

Turn the elasticated edge under and top sttich.

Turn the elasticated edge under and top sttich.

Turn the elastic under and top stitch around the neckline using a 3.5 stitch length once again stopping at the marked points.

cut to the zigzag edge of the lace.

cut to the zigzag edge of the lace.

Lay the decorative lace in place and using a narrow stretch zigzag follow the lower edge of the lace attaching it to the vest.

Trim away the vest to the zigzag edging and then you are done!

with new lace edging

with new lace edging

Your pretty lace detail can peek from your neckline, no-one would guess you are wearing a vest!

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again … adventures with Embroidery Software

time for fun

Hello, isn’t it wonderful sewing weather? Just right for settling down in a cosy corner, radio playing softly in the background and the little bernina singing away…bright bobbins of thread, pretty little pins and a large steaming pot of tea at the ready.

I was doing a little calculation – it has been nearly 11 years since I bought my sewing machine; one of the new wave of embroidery options and an odd sort of love affair ever since – mostly because I haven’t spent time exploring the software and playing with the machine.

A couple of prompts  put it higher on my to do list. We met an inspirational textile artist on the Art Trail this year,  using machine embroidery and I also sat at the sparkly shiny new Brother version at the Three Counties Quilting Show; but there have been a few bumps on my journey to sublime stitchery.

It was a hefty investment but I was flush with funds and wanted something significant rather than simply frittering it away.  The machine cost £1500 and there were many embroidery designs you could buy at the time, but I wanted to design my own.  The software was another £1000 – I decided to go for the cut down version at an eye watering £700.  I notice the software is still around the £1000 mark, I am guessing this might be because it is still not widely used. There is a cheaper alternative called Embird – which creates designs that you save into the relative format for your machine, currently its only about £200 with add ins. 

Vintage thread

At the time I was teaching ICT as well as being the network administrator for the school, so my confidence in my IT skills was running high but the software was really baffling – completely different from any other software I had used before. The manuals did not help – they referred to buttons and icons that only existed in full version. It was shelved, I used the machine to make things and forgot all about machine embroidering.

A few years later I bought designs – but it was still a hit and miss process, getting the design centred to the exact spot was a challenge and it was impossible to hoop a quilt despite the advertisements. I have a quit top  but it started to go wrong – months of work ruined. It was shelved again!

Two years later I dusted it off and tried again – it stopped half way through the design, each time. I took it to a sewing machine service shop  I was told the board had gone in the machine and it would cost £1,000 for a new one. In the end Bernina UK took it back and replaced the board for free, which was great of them as the warranty had long past. Luckily the machines record time spent using them and I had only used the module 72 hours in 7 years!

Bernina Embroidery Software

Yesterday I decided to have a much needed play day, so I fired up my ancient laptop, and opened up the programme. It has three useful elements, one is for embroidery, one is for creating cross stitch and one is for designing quilts and will also create pattern templates to print. I thought I would try my hand at cross-stitch. I have collected quite  a few lovely pattern books and thought I would start transferring some of them into digital format.

Cross-stitch maker

The cross-stitch software is quite exciting to use: you load in your thread colours using the drop down menus and then you have the option to decide what type of stitch, from outline, cross, double cross, upright cross, etc. At the click of a mouse you create a stitch, with a sweep of a mouse you create lots of stitches! I tried to replicate a pattern but it was making me cross-eyed! It is a laborious process – all the time I was wondering if it might be quicker to simply stitch it myself. However, once it is created you can stitch it out easily and quickly.

Design your own embroidery with Bernina Software

So.. a little while later I have my design. I  I cheated a little, it was so much easier to simply draw out my design than copy an existing chart – but it looks ok. The software has options for you to scan material and use it as a back ground which will give you a great idea of how the embroidery will look. (you can do this with the quilting programme as well).

transferring the design to the machine

Sending the design to the machine is yet another simple click of the button – I have a long lead that goes from computer to machine, but the later versions have USB connectors now.   I know when I saw the brother machine at the Quilting Festival,  you could simply place a drawing in the scanner and it would simply stitch it out from there, things have become even easier. However, I quite like watching it make its merry way down the wire!

the stitched out version

In a relatively short space of time the design is finished.. oh dear! I think I used the upright cross for this and it hasn’t stitched out as well as I would have liked. I like the darker green leaf at the bottom but the rose has not come out very well at all.

stitched out design

You can see some thicker darker thread on the green – this is some vintage thread I bought in a garden sale last summer, it is slightly thicker than the normal thread.

I learned the following:

  1. Upright crosses give a grid like effect to the pattern – which is not as pretty as I had hoped.
  2. The cross-stich size look good – the software gives you many options for sizing from 10 stitches per millimetre upwards. I wanted a ‘hand’ done look so went for a medium size.
  3. The threads are too thin – there are options for 2, 4 or 6 strands of thread per stitch so for ordinary thread it would be better to use a 6 strand. However the vintage spool of thread looked perfect so I thought I would try another design using those.

Star style cross stitch

This time I used a star-stitch with the thicker thread it made the stitches sit very proud. The stitch is built up by the machine gradually getting bigger so they form a pretty dome. Watching the machine stitch out is quite magical and mesmerising! Hours of hand work done by machine in 10 minutes.

cross stitches

This sample taught me a little more:

  1. I did have a lovely blue border round this design, as well as some outline stitch to bring this rose to life – but I decided to stop there as I was rather pleased with the stitching but not the design. The definition of the rosebud is not there, as I mistakenly used the same colour twice so the mid tones are lost. It is a good idea therefore to keep a chart or a note of the colour order.
  2. Mindful that I also had a limited supply of the vintage thread – I did not want to waste it on experimentation.
  3. I had an iron on stabiliser – which was excellent at keeping the fabric rigid to take the design. Without it the fabric begins to move and the accuracy goes down.

A more open design

I thought I would try a more open design – I love the pretty star shaped stitches so combined them with the double crosses. Then I used a outline stitch for some wording.

The stitched out design

From this sample I learned:

  1. The distance between stitches created long threads, that got caught up in the stitching of the following colour. To rectify this a little – I took the risky decision to stop the stitching and remove the frame and cut the tails off.
  2. Its probably not a good design to have just one stitch here and there.

Stitching the design out

  • The removal of the frame did not affect the alignment of the stitches and the design lined up perfectly.
  • Tails did however make this embroidery a bit of a challenge afterwards.

Stitching is fast and easy

  • Cutting the stitches did leave them a little furry, so it is better to do a small group rather than a single stitch when designing.
  • You can see how raised these stitches are – the pink eight point stars look very effective but I will experiment with stitch size next time and maybe with a thinner thread to see if the stitch becomes more defined.

Single outline stitch is very effective

I really love the outline stitch here – it has a hand made quality that thrills me, as I was hoping to have the nature and feel of hand stitched with the speed of machine stitched.

All in all an interesting way to spend time – and I am beginning to fall in love with my embroidery module – if at first you don’t succeed try again, and again, and again..

ttfn x


French knickers

satin and silk french knickers
I have been experimenting with French Knicker patterns. There are a number of them available on ebay but I can recommend the Vintage pattern company. 

Vintage pattern instructions

The instructions are very clear, and the pattern is a good quality copy and far more robust than an original pattern.

Vintage pattern copy

You can see from the little circles that the pattern was from the 1940’s these circles indicate where the pattern pieces should meet. Darts, grain line markings all came later and give us much more details than early vintage patterns.

Cut on the bias

The important thing to remember when making lingerie is to cut on the bias, which is 45 degrees from the selvage edge. It is what will make your lingerie cling to you.

light weight fabrics

These were an early experiment and they are cut on the grain, when I wear these it feels as if I am wearing shorts!  French knickers are really just fancy shorts! You can use any short pattern as it is the fabric you use that makes it lingerie rather than outer wear.

The Vintage pattern creates a skirt that you cut along the front and attach a gusset

cut on the bias

Which is far more flattering than shorts and they flow around the body better than short patterns do.


I love the idea of buttons up the sides, but for my initial practise garments I decided to use an elasticated waistband, its kinder to wear as my tummy size alters quite a bit during the course of the day.

Zig Zag Stitch for attaching elastic

Attaching elastic is relatively easy, you have to select a broken zig zag stitch on your sewing machine, the gaps allow the elastic to move. An elasticated needle is essential as it is blunt it finds a way between the elastic threads rather than piercing them.

attaching elastic

I firstly stitch the decorative knicker elastic along the top edge with the frill facing downwards and the right side of my fabric facing. Stretching the elastic slightly as I sew along the waistline.

Top stitching elastic

Once attached I turn the edge over and top stitch – it makes the most of the decorative edging.

Adding lace trimming

Lace trim is easy to add to the bottom edges, simply stitch along the middle of the lace and then re-stitch following the contours of the lace.

French Knickers vintage patternIt is difficult to photograph these – and while they look enormous, when you wear them it is similar to wearing a miniskirt! It looks beautiful – no more muffin tops and elastic cutting into the top of my legs causing bulges! It simply skims my body, flows and caresses my skin with no chafing! No panty lines!

Edge lace enhancement

Try them yourself, using different luxurious fabrics, bows and trims. Once you wear these you will never go back to shop bought briefs!

ttfn x

Pattern Adjustment – increasing/decreasing the pattern at the hip / waist.

It is easy to add a few inches to a skirt or dress pattern – especially around the hip area. This pattern illustration is from the Simplicity Sewing book published in 1940! You can see by the right hand of the illustration the garment will wrinkle across the hip or waistline where the fabric is being stretched to fit.

Adding fabric for hips

As much as you might fear cutting into your pattern, this pattern adjustment will make the pattern work for your body shape – If you really struggle to get snipping with your scissors, you can always copy the pattern onto cross and dot paper – and keep the original.

So here is what you do.

Adding fabric for hips 1

2a pattern before adaptation

added seam allowance

2 b pattern after adaptation. Marked in section is filled with additional paper.

Cut down the front and back pieces from the hem to the neckline – then pivot the pattern apart into an inverted ‘v’. It helps if the top gap is small so that the pattern hinges.

Move the pieces apart far enough so that you have the extra space where needed along the hipline  (the dotted line on this pattern)-

Make sure your hip/waist measurement includes seam allowances and 1 cm for ease.

Fill in the gap with paper or discarded tissue from the pattern.

Because you have altered the patten within the pattern outline, the original design will flow correctly.

If you need to decrease the measurements, simply cross over the two edges you snipped with your scissors, by the amount you need to reduce the pattern by.

Simplicity Blogger Challenge – Pattern 1364

Simplicity Blogger Circle

I discovered Simplicity were hosting a Blogging Challenge about 4 weeks ago, feeling brave I thought I would enjoy the challenge. I liked the Vintage Category and thought this pattern would be the best choice.


I love the 1960’s its all about the cut and simple lines. This is the era that gave us the A Line skirt, which suits all body shapes. It is also the era of black and white, geometrics, using the new man made fibres developed in the 1950’s – silver and metallic fabrics were popular.

The pattern history tells us that the ‘young’ 70 million teenagers became the fashion leaders for the first time in history – influenced by the Beatles and the androgynous silhouette of twiggy came to the fore, which still influences fashion today. Simplicity introduced this pattern for the new Teenage Market, that could be made quickly as the jiffy term implied.  It consisted of three main pattern pieces with a belt option and arm facings.

To be honest I was a little worried about this pattern, I am no spring chicken! I am more Marylin Monroe than Twiggy, this pattern challenge should be how to fit a circle into a rectangle! 

Adjusting the bust

I am very busty, (G cup) with a small frame 34 and short 5’2.  I know from experience that the bust point needs lowering by around 4 cm. (I blame being over 40 and my daughter! ) I decided to alter the bust point straight away and then make the toile.

It is a simple process,

  1. Lay the patten across your body and mark your bust point, (your nipple!).
  2. You don’t want darts to finish at the bust point (it would be a little hello boys!) usually about 5cm 2inches below retains your modesty. 
  3. Cut the dart out then move it down so that it points to your bust point.
  4. Fill the space created with some of the excess tissue paper from the pattern.

It is surprising how this small step can make a huge difference to the fit of the garment.

The Toile


I have become quite adept at noticing small details on pattern envelopes.

The gathering shading at the base of this illustration indicated to me that this pattern was quite straight at the bottom. The View C in particular shows just how rectangular this style is.

Not good news if you are curvy! As you can see from the toile there is a huge gap at the bottom I had to open the seam in order to get the top over ‘Doris’.

I am an hourglass – I have noticed with age that my dimensions have changed – my bust has grown in proportion to my hips but I have a relatively small waist and a smaller than average back. I am also short waisted which means that my curves are rather extreme!

Adapting the pattern to create a more defined waist

side seam and dart adjustment

If I was to make this top without these adaptations I would end up looking at least four sizes bigger as it would finish at my hip line (the widest part of my body) and hide my small waist. I decided to cut the top at the waistline so I can tailor it more to my body shape.

You can see just how deep the side darts are and the large side seam allowance I need to alter the line of this top to enhance my shape rather than hide it.

These side darts really work beautifully – a wonderful find as I have been using waistline darts up to now.

By making these adaptations my top will now resemble views A and B, which is more flattering for my body shape.

Lowering the Neckline

the neckline

This style includes a boat neck which was a big feature of the 1960’s.

It was important to check that the front neckline would sit on my collarbone.

I had to lower the neck line by 10cm and draw a new line using my french curve on the pattern.

I have a full bust in contrast the top of my chest is quite small. In order to get a better fit I pinch out a tiny 0.5cm dart at the neck edge.

It helps the neckline to lay flat by removing excess fabric.

Simply cut the neckline towards the waist around 20cm and then overlap the edges.

If you have a broader chest then open up the edges to give more room.

Changing the back zip

Back seam

I am not a fan of back seams, not only are they difficult to do up by yourself, but it creates a pattern match challenge which breaks up the back of the garment.

I decided to adapt this top pattern and use a side invisible zip. Since I had a lot of excess fabric at the sides anyway, I would not need to add any more to the seam allowance.

I removed the seam allowances along the centre back of the pattern.

I also pinched out another small overlap to compensate for my small back in the same way I had adapted the neckline.

The design has dropped sleeves so there was no need to adjust the shoulder line, but I decided to add my own cropped short sleeve rather than the three quarter length sleeve of the pattern.I always add the sleeves before the side seams – the garment can be opened out, it gives you much more space to work with.

Fabric – pattern flow

back bodice

I chose a black and white fabric in homage to the 1960’s, but went for flowers rather than geometrics.

 If I had retained the zip the large flower repeat would have used up a lot of fabric. You can see the back panel with the large flower flowing across the back nicely without the zip to interrupt it – the pattern design flows around the body working upwards from the waist and ending near the shoulder blade.

The fit works well across the shoulders and hugs the waist, which will emphasis the narrowest part of my body, (my best feature).

Side darts and bodice fitting

side dart

I am really loving the side darts! They work much better for me as they are longer than the waist darts I have used before.

The bodice is fitting so well, the easy pattern shapes have made adaptations simple!

I decided to use the pattern as a bodice for a skater style dress by adding a circular skirt. The advantage of this style is that it has no gathering at the waistline and I positioned it so that the fullness appears at the sides so that my little tummy is hidden away!

The fabric is a synthetic crepe that flows nicely and works well with a circular pattern. It has a lovely sheen with none of the difficulties of slippery fabric!

Checking the neckline


I have a short neck, so tend to avoid boat necks if possible as they sit on my adams apple rather than the collarbone!

The neckline now sits just below my collarbone but it has altered the boat neckline from a straight line into a curve.

Peter Pan – Yes or No?


I did contemplate adding a peter pan collar which was also a feature of the 1950’s

It created a huge collar because of the broad boat neck – I narrowed the collar to sit on the shoulder edge, but it was altering the clean lines of the pattern.

In the end I decided against it – leaving the neckline simple in line with the ethos of the 1960s lack of ‘trim and embellishment’, to quote from the fashion history.

The toille fabric is an old sheet I bought from a charity shop, they are always sold at a reasonable price – this double bed sheet was only £4! It cuts down costs and makes good use of items that might go to landfill as well as helping charities! I call that a win win situation!

Rolling along the edge

neck line with bias bound edge

I used rolled hem on my overlocker to create a nice neck edge and finished with black satin bias binding rather than facing.

You can get a very crisp finish without the need of top stitching by using wundaweb hemming tape between the neck edge and the binding.

Once in place, a few hand stitches will be enough to keep it in place permanently.

Invisible Zip Insertion to the side seam

size seam invisible zip

The invisible zip is hidden away – with just the tag poking out under the arm.

I pin the bodice edge to the zip first and then work my way upwards.

I make a first line of stitching using a normal zip foot along the edges and down the seams.

Then I stitch a closer edge using the invisible zipper foot.

I find it avoids the difficulty in joining the bottom of the zip with the seam – I usually end up with a gap. This method seems to create a continuous seam and doesn’t alter the line of the garment.

Inserting a Zip Facing

facing for invisible zip

I created facing to prevent the nylon zip scratching me when I am wearing the dress.

I intend to go dancing in this dress so need lots of movement so a little bit of cushioning is a luxury I can add easily.

It is just a doubled up rectangle of fabric, overlocked the raw edges then  secured long side to the free edge of the zip.

Hemming Circular Skirts

rolled hem

My overlocker has a lovely rolled hem setting that is perfect for circular skirts.

They need a very small hem due to the shape, as soon as you turn up even a small section, the top edge of the hem is smaller than the skirt you try and attach it to. A rolled hem offers a great solution and the fabric is light enough so that the edge is not heavy.

I like the hem to finish at the knee and Doris has a lovely device for trimming off hems! It looks like a metal bar that slides up or down. Given that I have a bit of a tummy it sometimes raises the hem at the front slightly, so I try and do this step right at the end.

So here is the finished dress!

Simplicity Pattern Challenge 1364

What I learned from this Challenge

Simplicity Pattern Challenge 1364

What fun this challenge has turned out to be! You could call it how to turn a rectangle into a circle!

The pattern was a giveaway from Simplicity for their challenge, which was really kind of them!

I found this pattern very easy to use and adapt. I particularly like the side darts – and will most likely use them in other bodice blocks.

I have a wonderful bodice pattern that works beautifully with my body shape and makes me feel good.

Which is what sewing is all about!

Malvern Quilt Show 2015 – Three Counties Show Ground

I realise I am very lucky, Mr D not only enjoys doing the Art Trail and shares my passion for painting, but he is also kind enough to accompany me to various sewing events! He discovered the Malvern Quilt Show was at the Three Counties Show Ground, so I headed to the Cotswolds for a lovely relaxing long weekend.   The Malvern Quilt show was about a 40 minute drive away from Broadway, we headed off in the bright sunshine in my little red car, with roof down and some 1950’s rock and roll playing on the radio, winding round the glorious countryside. Perfick! to quote Pop Larkin!

After reading the Last Runaway, I have come to look at quilting in a new light.


This quilt was outstanding, the piecework was incredible.


each one of the fans are made up of six or seven pieces!

I believe this is entitled Curved Lines by the incredibly talented Fiona Macaulay Davies.


While two colours might be considered simpler,  this quilt entitled Cappuccino by

Gwenfai Rees Griffiths put so much detail in the quilting stitches creating a whole new pattern.

It was so delightful I spent a good while following the intricate lines.


I loved the smaller quilts, this little one was a delight

It is called Little Meitdrranean Village by Julia Gahagan


I loved the nautical theme, with the centre piece reminding me of degrees on a compass

It is called Winter’s Day, by Andrea Ashwell


Yhis beautiful colourful horse was amazing!

It is Called Horse of Many Colours by Danai-Rae Matthews who is amazingly only 11 years old!


This is entitled Red Arrows over Sandy Bay, by the very talented Patricia Denholm

I think this little one was my favourite, it has inspired me to design a small quilt of my own.

The grass was long and loose threads, and the movement of the kite and draws the eye in.

The curves in the sky are the red arrows.


This adorable cot quilt had three demential sump work  lilac flowers and butterflies.

It is called Flutterbies – by Sheila Warman


None of these shapes is regular, quite a work of art.


These little flowers were free motion embroidery

giving a three dimensional effect.


Pretty, pretty flowers!


Oh yes, David Bowie!  this is called Ziggy by Ann Beech

she hand dyed the cotton and used blanket stitches!


I could not believe this was a quilt! There was so much detail!

It is called Cocktails in Manhattan by the marvellous Jane Hopkins.


This is a small section of one of the ladies dresses, Jane Hopkins is a very talented lady!


I could not believe the padded detail of this quilt,

the stitching was used to raise or squash the layers


with artful precision.


Four seasons in a quilt


I loved the shading of the fabric leaves, summer turning to autumn


Beautiful flowers – the dark background enhances the flowers


Another three dimensional quilt, so beautifully done!

It is called In My Garden, by Penny Armitage

There are a number of shows all round the country and definitely worth a visit.

While I wanted to share these works of art with you, I have kept the pictures small out of respect to the makers.

Be inspired to create your own while giving due regard to these artists creativity.

Finding Peace with our Bodies through Sewing

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-6

I turned to sewing out of sheer desperation.

Changing rooms in clothing shops were woeful experiences – seeing my body under harsh shop lighting; mirrors creating multiple reflections of parts of me that I did not usually see. The clothing either stretched out of place across my hips or it simply slipped off my shoulders. Trousers gaped at my waist and sometimes would not pass beyond my thighs.  I would leave clothing shops downcast and empty handed.

There is no standardisation for clothing manufacturing, with the increase in internet shopping companies experience huge returns for clothing mostly because women have to order a range of sizes. The industry identifies four main body types, most women in the UK are considered pear shaped yet manufacturers use a standard hourglass figure size 12. Some movement has shifted towards using body shapes with ease created in the style and use of stretch fabrics.

Women are graded by numbers – its quantifiable, smaller is better, size 10 used to be desirable now it is size zero, but hold on isn’t zero nothing?

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-5

Women blame their bodies for diverting from unrealistic standards. Talk to any woman about buying clothes and she will tell you what she believes is ‘wrong’ with her body: broad shoulders, narrow shoulders, or a small bust, or she is too busty, or her hips are too big. It is the cause of so much loss of self esteem in women and it is responsible for so much misery.

size diversity will become the norm

Thankfully times are changing, there are small rays of hope. Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe the icon of beauty –  a size 16?Manufacturers recognise that in order to sell clothing and reduce returns, they have to change.

Women are using blogs and social media to challenge the system of the ideal, the internet has given every woman a voice and the ability to speak in huge numbers.

Dove’s advertising campaign embraces women’s differences but imagine advertising where all the body shapes must be represented in order not to cause offence!

Dressmaking, sewing, self acceptance and self love

You no longer have to fit into a standard. If you are turning to sewing you will discover similar blocks in patterns, but with a little skill and knowledge, you can overcome them.

The dressmaking industry has used a method of standardisation that was last reviewed in the 1970’s and only 1% of women studied were over the age of 55. Women bodies alter as they age, but patterns were designed for a 20 year old woman before childbirth.

Standards are set using a B cup bra, most women today are a DD – so if you have to do a full bust adjustment you are in good company. Its a great idea to use the upper bust measurement rather than the full bust measurement to determine the size.

To sew your own clothing is to go on a journey of discovery about the wonderful home that serves us faithfully every moment of our lives.

As we begin measuring, adjusting, altering,  refining the patterns we use, we are learning to work with our bodies.

We learn a new language, there is no part of us that is wrong any more, certain parts that need a little more fabric or a dart here and there.

We begin to understand how particular styles make us feel good about ourselves – and then we can create these in an infinite number of ways.

Dressmaking, sewing, body confidence, self love, self esteem-4