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Burda magazine March 2015

23 February 2015, 12:20

I’m of two minds when I get a pattern magazine in the post and there’s really nothing I want to sew from it. On one hand – “arrgh! What a waste of my subscription money!”, but on the other, well, at least there’s nothing new to be added to my already-overflowing Must Sew list, right?

I don’t often comment on the covers of magazines, but seriously, did no one at Burda HQ look at the “aloha hawaii” writing overlaid onto the skirt of the same colour and not foresee problems?!? Maybe we should reclaim “aloha haw” and get it trending on twitter, pff.

Oh geez. Let’s start with the abomination on the left – to me this looks like she took a burlap feedsack, wrapped it around her waist, and borrowed some man’s belt to hastily cinch it together. The jungle background isn’t helping, either, all I can think is that she’s on some survival tv show, forced to cover herself with whatever’s available. The unwearable jumpsuit on the right is almost chic in comparison – if you overlook the fact that it’s open to the navel ad requires wearing something else underneath it (the jumpsuit in the upcoming Sewing Bee book is far, far nicer).

This dolman-sleeved woven top is quite a nice take on a woven tee (which are much more frequently short sleeved or sleevless). I’m not completely sold on the underbust gathering, but that could easily be converted to pleats or darts. Still, a nice enough staple to have in your pattern arsenal.

This wrap dress is probably my favourite of this issue – I rather like the waist treatment, and the deep pleats at the skirt are flattering, too. Overall, a really nice, fresh take on the usual wrap dress.

I couldn’t bring myself to scan each and every hideous wedding gown in the wedding feature. With every single one I thought to myself “ugh! What a horrible, ugly dress. If I saw a bride dressed in that I’d pity her, and then think less of her for choosing to wear that out of all the dresses in the world…”. And then I’d turn the page and think the exact same thing all over again. Ugh, Burda, I know you do weddings every March, but if you haven’t got anything good, just repeat some old ones, or do that thing where you copy famous vintage celebrity gowns, remember that? Those were great! These are just depressing.

I love the concept of creating colourblocking by overlaying fabric onto existing tops or dresses. But Burda’s method sucks! Yes, why don’t we interface jersey, then clip and press back the seam allowances and then, to top it all off, hand stitch them in place (so that as soon as you move the stitches pop!). Yes, why don’t we…

And to top off this stinker of an issue, I give you… the frumpiest pair of dresses to ever grace the pages of Burda, conveniently placed on the same page of the Plus section. Seriously, the poor model looks like she’s three times larger than she is, and the fabric just looks cheap and nasty, like someone was let loose in the quilting cottons section of Joann Fabrics. Ugh.

The designs I didn’t pick out from this issue I was just pretty ambivalent about – I know there was lots of asymmetry which is usually my thing, but this all just seemed a bit too quirky and hastily tacked on to an otherwise standard design. The good news is, I’ve got a Manequim magazine to show you later this week, and it’s a bit better!

What about you, did you like this issue? I know some people found a lot to like in it, so maybe it’s just me!

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A Mountain of Your Makes (Part Three)

20 February 2015, 14:33

We’ve made it – thanks for climbing the mountain with me! I hope these last few makes of yours are as inspiring to you as they are to me. I always love seeing my patterns go off and have a life of their own – being interpreted in ways I’d never imagined, changed to suit different bodies, activities, and tastes, and truly become your own.

Katherine’s Surf to Summit rashie



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AZGreyGirl’s two different striped Duathlon capris



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JessieBear’s Surf to Summit with ingenious thumb-hole mitts and piping



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Elizabeth’s rainbow leopard Surf to Summit for her sister



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Kathy’s XYT Workout Tops with mesh upper backs



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Kerry’s two new Surf to Summit tops



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SJ’s flaming Surf to Summit Top



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Katherine’s Pnuema-meets-XYT Top mashup



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If I’ve missed yours and you’d like to be included in the next roundup (likely in April after my next pattern release), please comment below with a link or email me with some photos.

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A Mountain of Your Makes (Part Two)

18 February 2015, 13:54

Following on from yesterday’s Part One, I’ve got a whole new heap of activewear sewing inspiration coming your way. You ladies have been so busy sewing up a storm, and I love that you get so excited when I release a new pattern like the Surf to Summit Tops that you make it all in droves!

Winnie’s fabulous peacock print Duathlon capris



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Cidell’s winter running Surf to Summit Top for her husband, Jordan



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Katherine’s green cherries runderwear (included in my Threshold Shorts pattern)



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Veloswer’s kiwi-styled cycling Surf to Summit Top



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Carey’s teal and white Surf to Summit Top



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Carol’s trio of Lacey Thongs



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Maria’s reflective, stormset Surf to Summit cycling jersey



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Kathy’s three different winter running Surf to Summit tops



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My XYT Workout Top also made her Top 5 Patterns of 2014, too!

Suzy’s short sleeved Surf to Summit rashguard and matching swim briefs



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Kerry’s “hunter orange” and pink Surf to Summit jacket



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Sandra’s yellow and white Surf to Summit Top (with back reflective piping)



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As I’ve been hinting here and on twitter, my next pattern is very nearly ready to release to my pattern testers. I’ve made up several muslins on my own, and it’s passed my stringent “Does this annoy me on a run?” test with flying colours – both on my 2+hr trail run and again during an hour-long tempo run.

I am super super excited for this one, not only because it’s a really cool, versatile design, but also one that brings in a whole new sport I’ve not designed for before! It also works for the usual running, cycling, ypga, gym-going, too, don’t worry! Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what the new sport might be?

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A Mountain of Your Makes (Part One)

17 February 2015, 12:54

I am long, long overdue at showing off all your incredible, inspiring, and beautiful versions of my patterns, and I’ve accumulated so many over the past 6 months or so (shocking, I know!) that it’s enough to fill not one, not two, but three posts! These are only in rough date order from when I collected them, so if you don’t see your more recent make included, hold on, as it may be in Parts Two or Three (all of the Surf to Summit Tops are yet to come!).

Devon and her “Rainbow Sparkle Pants of Awesome” PB Jams



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Winnie’s third(!) art-print VNA



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Ms McCall’s spotty Duathlons



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Kat’s new XYT Workout Top



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Ms McCall’s Threshold Shorts



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Maria’s Funki Fabrics “dyesplosion” XYT Top & Duathlon Shorts



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Karen’s Threshold Shorts (for her and her daughter!) with added piping & drawstring waistband



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Allison’s VNA Top and two pairs of Duathlon capris sets



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Winnie’s crazy Funki Fabrics Duathlon capris



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Geo fit her Duathlon capris into one yard of Fehr Trade x Laurie King fabric!



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Katherine’s Threshold Shorts, sewn from a hotel room on a travel machine



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Elizabeth’s purple “Maps” Fehr Trade x Laurie King Duathlon Shorts worn to Parkrun



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Katelyn Allers PB Jams – encouraging others after the Tussey mountainback race



(Sent via email)

Sue’s purple & blue XYT, worn to Crossfit



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If you want even more inspiration to sew your own activewear (and a peek at a few items coming up in Part Three!), then I highly suggest you look at the entries in the Pattern Review Activewear Contest, which genuinely had me clapping with delight. So many amazing makes, and so many amazing sportswomen!

And, as always, you can buy any of my digital sewing patterns from shop.fehrtrade.com, where you’ll get both fully road-tested multisize patterns in both “print at home” and “print at a copy shop” pdfs, fully illustrated instructions, and the knowledge that the highest percentage of your money is going directly to the designer…

…which allows me to design even more patterns, like the one I’m feverishly trying to finish up to get out to my testers right now!

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Designer-inspired Colourblocked Sheath Dress

10 February 2015, 13:06

I started planning this dress way back in the first week of December when I got your opinions on all the different colourblocking options, and it should tell you everything about how crazy busy I’ve been that I’ve only actually been able find the hour or two to make it last weekend.

You may recall the story of this “pattern” from when I made it in a solid, mustard-yellow ponte the first time around – I had a very well-loved ASOS dress that I traced off so it actually wasn’t from a pattern at all. (Others have asked if I’ll release it as a pattern, but it doesn’t really fit with my brand sorry!)

What I didn’t show you is that I tested my few pattern changes afterwards with a version of this pattern colourblocked in random ponte scraps from my stash, shortened to top-length, minus the CB invisible zip, and with a teeshirt-bound neckline instead of a facing.

It actually works quite well as a top (though I think the pieces near the hem could be better thought-out), but I wasn’t quite sold on the colourblocking choices, which were mostly decided based on fabric scrap sizes. It felt a bit… starfleet commander. And that’s a look only Catherine Daze can pull off!

But the original goal was to make another dress similar to the mustard-yellow version, inspired by this Chalayan dress that’s been hanging on my sewing room wall for ages:

I had the perfect teal viscose ponte leftover from a client commission, but I went out and bought a half metre of white and a metre of mustard ponte at Goldhawk Road to make up the other pieces. I really wanted the yellow at the waistline curve, but that would’ve meant having the white at the hem (instant grime!), so I ultimately went with the second colourblocking option!

I finally got a few minutes to cut out the pieces in mid-January (having been ill for the entire Christmas holidays!), but then I had to fly to the States for my Granny’s funeral a few days later, and the pieces were waiting for me when I got back. I finally had two hours spare last weekend to close myself into my sewing cave, so this was a great pick-me-up to get me back on track.

The seamlines weren’t quite as apparent in the yellow version, but wow are they on show here! I love the way the panels connect up at the sides and carry on through to the back. When constructiong this, I pretty much assemble the front, then assemble the back, attach the sleeves, then sew the side seams flat. It means you’ve got to really pay attention to match up the seams when sewing the sides!

There’s an invisible zipper in the centre back seam, but as I found with the top version, it’s not really necessary. So why did I bother with it? Well, even though this is a stretchy dress, it’s also very close fitting, and I didn’t want to risk popping any of the seams getting it on or off when I could just take another few minutes as insert a zipper instead. And it kinda sounds weird, but a knit dress with a zipper feels a bit more like an occasion dress than just a big teeshirt.

I finished the hem and sleeve hems with my trusty coverstitch machine, and the neckline is finished with a lightly-interfaced facing. I know, I know – facings on knits, right!? But with so many section seams around the neckline, it’s easy to stitch-in-the-ditch and really anchor it in place well.

So there you have it – I can finally wear and enjoy my Chalayan-inspired dress after several months of longing and planning!

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Burda magazine February 2015

3 February 2015, 14:01

I’m a bit behind on my review due to my emergency trip to the States, but this wasn’t the greatest issue ever anyway, IMHO, but there’s plenty enough to like (and to moan about!).

This shirt is probably my favourite of the entire issue – I love its angular seams, inset corners at the shoulder, and general shape. I thought it’d be the perfect partner for some muted, geometric Liberty lawn in my stash, but the pattern actually calls for jersey. For once I actually don’t want to sew something in jersey, figures! I also quite like the asymmetric skirt it’s paired with. It’s just a basic pencil skirt with some additional, diagonal darts and a drape but I think it works here.

This coat pattern is shown in several guises throughout the magazine, but I like this classic navy version the best (minus the weird patch pockets over the boobs!). It’s also the pattern with coloured, illustrated instructions this month, too.

Here’s that same angular-seamed shirt as seen above, but made in a thicker fabric so it looks more like a sweatshirt than a teeshirt. The skirt it’s paired with here is very simple, but works well to showcase a special fabric, or in this case, just two great colours! (also, bonus points for including a bicycle in the photoshoot, Burda!)

Somehow in a feature all about pairing denim with white shirts, Burda have failed to provide a classic jeans pattern (ummm, okay?). But on the upside, this wrap skirt pattern is really cool – it reminds me a bit of Tilly’s Miette skirt pattern, but Burda’s incorporates a deep centre front pleat and wraps round to tie at the back instead of the front.

On first glance, you might look at the shape and flip the page, thinking “ugh, not another peplum shirt, I’m so over those!”. Or at least that’s what I did the first time through. But there are some amazing details lurking in here, like the curved neck placket, two-part sleeve, and that amazing asymmetric, freehand curved joining seam! The latter totally looks like something out of Pattern Magic, and certainly elevates this above your average white dress shirt.

Behold – the ugliest top I’ve seen in a long, long time. Off the shoulder, unflattering gathers, zero body shaping, boring yoke, and to top it all off, a weird, furry fabric. That’s also so sheer you’d have to wear something underneath. Impractical and ugly? That’s impressive.

What? You’d like something equally ugly to wear with your ugly, shapeless, furry top? How about some horrible clown trousers! Hooray!

You may not notice it immediately, but this leather jacket uses the same base pattern as the navy coat seen above but adds some colourblocking and an attached jersey scarf collar. I’m not keen on the particular leathers they’ve used here, but it’s a nice enough concept.

I’m not likely to ever wear a crop top, but I thought it was interesting that this is yet another variant of the first shirt I liked with the angled seams, showing you can also make it with short sleeves if you like. The skirt is also a variant of the yellow cycling skirt, so I almost didn’t show this again, except that I bought some striped, woven fabric in Mexico as a souvenir and I wanted to remind myself that this would be a good pattern to actually use it!

And finally, in the Plus section, which had some decent separates, my eye was drawn to this frumpy mistake. This design might seem fine on paper, but put it on anyone with half a bust and it’s just the frumpiest, least-flattering design possible. Ugh. Poor model.

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Goodbye Granny

30 January 2015, 19:35

Sorry for the silence this past week, but I had to take an extremely-last minute, emergency flight back to the States last week to attend my grandmother’s funeral (as in “book me a flight for tomorrow“). Her last gift to us all was to prompt a family reunion, and I really felt strongly that I had to be there, so it was good to have some family time despite the circumstances.


Granny and I at our wedding reception in 2010

Granny has been in the background of my sewing for pretty much my entire life, but there were a few times when she featured heavily on this site, in particular when I refashioned her wedding gown into mine in 2010, but also earlier the same year when I made her a blouse from some vintage fabric in her stash (and which my mom said she was still wearing regularly right up until the end).

If you’re a new reader to this site and haven’t yet seen my wedding dress project, then really, I urge you to just stop for a minute, click through and take a look. Granny was so immensely proud that I looked so beautiful in “her dress” and she continued to show our wedding album to everyone she could. I had so many relatives come up to me at the funeral saying how much they loved that I turned her gown into mine.

Overall, this weekend really reinforced to me how much “making” is in my DNA – I knew Granny had been quite crafty, but I hadn’t realised that she was actually a seamstress in her early life before going back to school as a young mother and becoming an insurance underwriter. She continued to quilt and sew clothing throughout her life, but also knit and crochet, too. Happily, I was gifted a very modern-looking yoked cardigan that she’d knitted years ago (I actually wore it to work yesterday!) since I was the only one in the family it really fitted (ditto to a gorgeous pair of sage green leather gloves and an astonishingly beautiful vintage coat).


The funeral stationary was quilt-themed!

Over the course of the weekend, the family went through some of Granny’s most cherished items, and my granddad asked if I’d like to see her sewing machine. Of course I did, and before I knew it, I had it humming away fixing a tear on my sister-in-law’s trousers!

I was also able to measure up my tween niece to be an athlete-model for my next pattern (now delayed a bit), as well as measuring my aunt for her wedding dress!

But as I mentioned, my granddad is also crafty, too – but his medium has always been wood instead of fibres. For as long as I can remember, Pop has had a woodshop, and the contents of it were moved to the retirement village when they did, and merged with loads of other machines and housed in a special community workshop. Pop built all sorts of tables, chairs, chests, and other furniture years ago, but these days he mostly carves intricate figurines, rings, and bowls on the lathe when he can find the time.

We didn’t get many family photos over the weekend, as we’re more the sort to talk and laugh and cry and hug instead of pose, but we did get this nice shot of my mom and I after the funeral itself…

…and another of the four grandkids (my brother on the left, and my two cousins). If you can believe it, I’m probably the least funny one amoungst us, and my face is always hurting from laughter when we’re together.

It truly was the kind of atmosphere that Granny would have wanted – full of love and memories we had of her over her 87 years, but also filled with lots of laughter and introductions to the newest generation, too.

While I was staying at the retirement village, I also took the opportunity to get some of my grief out on the road. I’d brought along my mustard merino Surf to Summit top but didn’t expect to run in the fresh snow twice in under a week! Both times I ran along a very hilly country road, with my eyebrows and eyelashes freezing in the Juno snow on Monday morning! I’d kinda forgotten exactly how awful Pennsylvania winters are compared to mild London weather!

(I was on literally the last plane out of Philly airport on Monday night before it closed for the storm, too, so thank you for all your Twitter-based good luck!)

I’m back home now, feeling utterly exhausted for the unexpected trip, rather overwhelmed with the amount of work which piled up in my absence, and in desperate need of a rest, but I still don’t regret for a second that I dropped everything, charged a huge amount to my credit card, and just went. If you’re ever in the same position, I urge you to do the same.


Granny and me in 2005, when she and Pop visited London

Esther Kemmerer, my beloved grandmother, 1927-2015.

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Comment [30]

Two stylin' sports bras

21 January 2015, 13:02

I’ve had a few people ask me, “When are you going to release a sports bra pattern?” And to be honest, the short answer is that I have no plans to. My aim has always been to create exercise patterns for designs that aren’t already available, and in my opinion, there’s already a great compression sports bra pattern* out there, Jalie 2563, hiding in the guise of a “Sports top”.

I recently found out that my favourite sports bra pattern is being discontinued (Moving Comfort’s “Phoebe”, boo!), so this was the push I needed to sew up a few more of my own, ready for the next few months of marathon training. I was already cutting into my lycra scraps to create Running armband pockets to fundraise for Argentina, so I cut out some sports bra pieces at the same time when I saw I could fit them in.

The result is two sports bras, one made with Funkifabrics Triathlon (Aqua) print lycra and UK Fabrics navy blue nylon lycra shoulder straps, and one made from UK Fabrics Leopard print nylon lycra topped with aqua nylon lycra (also from UK Fabrics but long sold out). You may remember these fabrics from a bunch of former projects – my triathlon print leggings, my ladies’ cycling Surf to Summit version, my cheetah print leggings, my men’s running Surf to Summit, and my aqua & yellow piping Surf to Summit. Never let it be said I don’t get my money’s worth!

These two were made assembly-line style, so as I sewed the seams on one, I’d do the other at the same time. Happily the colours are similar enough that I could do this without having to rethread all the time.

I’ve only recently discovered that Tia Knight do power mesh in really fun colours, so I’ve been buying a metre of two of that when I buy other stuff from them. I used the last of my “Damson” power mesh on these so I restocked with some “Flo Yellow” and “Jade” for future sports bras, XYT Workout Tops, or just regular ol’ bra making.

I like to have a nice flash of colour inside – I know only I will see it, but it gives me a little ray of sunshine as I’m pulling on my gear early in the morning. The cheetah print version is exactly the same, only I didn’t have enough damson power mesh for both layers (more on this in a sec), so I did one layer in beige power mesh and just hid it under the damson so you can’t see it anyway.

But – as I mentioned before, I don’t make these sports bras following Jalie’s pattern to the letter. I’ve made some modifications to make these work as sports bras. Jalie never claim that these are supportive, nor do they claim anywhere that this is a “sports bra” pattern, but I’ve found with a few tweaks that these are plenty supportive for my 34Bs to run in. If RTW compression sports bras don’t work for you then this probably won’t either.

My changes to turn Jalie 2563 into a sports bra


Nishi approves!

It looks like a lot written out, but it’s really only an extra layer at the beginning, which is now just second nature to me. And it means I have fun, supportive, and well-made sports bras to wear on my runs!

*An encapsulation sports bra is another matter entirely – there’s one pattern, but it’s not reviewed very favourably, and frankly, the engineering involved for those is beyond me at the moment!

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Comment [7]

The Sonata is Saved

19 January 2015, 12:32

My main sewing machine is a Joann Sonata, metal-body sewing machine, produced in 1984 and running on a voltage converter since my mom brought it over in her suitcase 12 years ago. It was a gift from my sister-in-law, having been in her family for the past 30 years, and it has been sewing like a dream through pretty much everything you’ve seen on this site since I started writing it in 2005.


The Sonata in 2006(?), pre-boatlife

In all that time, I’ve never taken it to be serviced, and – I’ll admit – I’m not the most regular oil-er, either. But everything was fine until a few months ago, when the foot pedal started to feel decidedly jerky. I’d have to press down quite far before the machine would respond, and then it’d be off at positively industrial speed.

This I could live with.

But then it started to continue sewing even after I’d left my foot off the pedal, sewing off happily into the beyond at lightspeed, leaving me to scream and kill the power switch. Obviously this could not really continue, so I begrudgingly rang up the Maury sewing machine repair shop I’d used a few years ago when my overlocker looper got bent out of shape. The shop isn’t that far away, but since the machine is heavy, I’d been dreading taking it up there, as I’d need James to drive me out on a Saturday.

I’m going to reiterate again that my machine is some random-ass brand no-one’s ever heard of, running on a foreign voltage. But he listened to the issue, and without even needing to open up the case to look at it, told me several ways he could fix it (he’d usually just graft on a new pedal, but with mine being 110v that’d be a long eBay wait). Plus I wanted a few other tweaks and a good oiling, and he said he’d give me a ring when he knew more. I should digress at this point to say that I also brought my overlocker along because I’d bought a replacement upper blade but didn’t have the special Bernina wrench required to take the &%^#% old one off. He swapped it over as I stood there (no charge!), then as we were leaving, ran out into the rain to tell me exactly which wrench to buy if I’d like to change it myself in future. What a dude!

On Monday (2 days later!), he rang me on my mobile to say he’d taken apart the wiring inside the pedal, cleaned it out, tightened up some connections and when he reattached it all, it was working fine. Plus he straightened out my needle position and oiled it so it is so much freaking quieter now it’s like another machine. All for the sum of £42. And the weird voltage and random brand didn’t even phase him – he was going to replace the entire motor to something 240v should nothing else work, just so I’d still be able to keep my beloved machine.

I’m going to say it again – what. a. dude!


The Sonata today, after her first repair.

Londoners, if you’re in need of an awesome sewing machine repairman, definitely speak to Mark at Maury Sewing Machines on Hackney Road (between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green). He can work miracles. Plus, the shop is absolutely crammed with a million random cool machines to look at!

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Pattern Review Activewear Contest

16 January 2015, 14:31

If you’re a member of Pattern Review, you may have already noticed that they’ve announced the contests for this year, one of which is an Activewear sewing contest! This is super exciting because it’s not only a great acknowledgment of the importance and popularity of sewing exercise wear, but also a fantastic introduction for anyone who hasn’t yet started themselves.

PR Activewear contest

The contest started yesterday and runs through to 15 February, so you’ve got one month to sew some activewear, post a review, and you might win some prizes – gift certificates from Mood Fabrics are up for grabs this time! I’ve entered some of the PR contests myself over the years and found them to be hugely motivating to focus my attention and actually sew within a timeframe. Seeing what other people are making in the contest gallery always sparks ideas of my own, too.

I’m not affiliated with Pattern Review in any way (I’ve just been a regular ol’ user for years), nor with this contest. As a “professional” I don’t feel right about entering this one, so I’m just going to advise people when I see questions I can answer, and hopefully some of you may choose to sew up some of my patterns, too!

In fact, to help sway your pattern decision-making my way, I’ve created a special discount PRACTIVEWEAR” code for 10% off all my patterns, through to the end of the contest, 15 February! This is the first time I’ve ever done a discount outside of a new pattern release, and it’s just my way of lending support for more people to know the joy of sewing up their own activewear.

And speaking of joy, I am so far behind at showing off all the amazing gear you all have made with my patterns, so get ready for a behemoth inspiration post next week! But for today, I’m going to carry on with the early stage muslins for my next pattern (oh yes!), still several months away I imagine! The first early ideas coming into life is my favourite stage of the whole process.

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