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Post Marathon Thank You

17 April 2014, 14:29

Thank you all so, so much for your well wishes, support, and donations for Sunday’s London Marathon!

If you’re interested in my full race report, please head over to my RiverRunner site, but the short version is that it was super tough in the hot sun, but I managed to finish in 3:30:37, which is a new PB for me, an automatic Good For Age place in next year’s race, and a Boston Qualifier as well!

My rainbow Duathlon Shorts were the perfect choice, too – super comfortable with no tugging or chafing whatsoever, and the pockets were big enough for me to cram in four gels and a pack of Shot Bloks and not have them bouncing around everywhere.

I’ve got a crazy backlogue of posts, but I’ve been super busy working full days on an outside project for the past few weeks, plus the marathon, plus now I’ve got the typical post-marathon cold, so I’m going to try to rest and recover over the long Easter weekend and hopefully get caught up!

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12 April 2014, 14:13

Tomorrow I run the London Marathon.

(Actually, I’m way more excited than that sounds. Add in a “Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!”)

I will be running in my newest Duathlon shorts, so I’ll be sure to share some photos of myself in them for the Spring Race Challenge! Remember that if you’re entering the prize draw, you need to link to your photo in the comments of that post – I’ve seen some great photos already but they need to be added there so I don’t lose any.

If you’d like to track me during the race tomorrow (it starts at 10am BST), I’ve detailed three different ways you can do so over on my Riverrunner site. I’ll especially need comments after 2.5 hours in, so that’s about 12:30ish local time (or 7:30 EDT).

Remember that tomorrow is also the last day to take advantage of the “VMLM14” code to get 10% off my exercise sewing patterns, so if you’re dawdling, go grab them now!

I also owe you a massive roundup of all the amazing Duathlon Shorts I’ve seen over the past few weeks, but I’ve got to focus on tomorrow first! My past 6 months have been focused on tomorrow…

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Duathlon Shorts tip - short on fabric?

4 April 2014, 13:06

The Upper Side piece of my Duathlon Shorts pattern is pretty long – 64cm (25in) long for size XL, to be exact. If you’re using scraps as accents on the sides, you may find a great piece of fabric that’s too short for the piece.

Here’s a tip – because of the way the piece folds to create the pocket, if you position a joining seam anywhere between the top “Top of Pocket” lines, the seam will be hidden inside the pocket construction!

(Just don’t forget to add on seam allowances when you join – or join your fabric first and then cut out the pattern piece!)

Remember there’s still 10% off my sewing patterns if you use code “VMLM14” up through marathon day!

Fancy making your own?


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Digitally printed fabric comparison

3 April 2014, 12:57

I recently placed a small order at Spoonflower for the first time in three years since they now do “performance knit” as a base fabric option! I mostly wanted to see how it compares against other wicking lycras and also FunkiFabrics’ digitally printed (non-wicking) lycra, as it could potentially be a great source of wild running prints for me.

I had stopped ordering from Spoonflower because their international shipping was taking an excessively long amount of time (over a month!!) and getting lost fairly frequently. I also stopped because, at the time, the only knit fabric they had was the organic cotton interlock, which both faded in the first wash and had zero recovery, and was pretty much useless for my purposes. But in the past three years, they’ve added a bunch more knits to their range and sorted out their international shipping, so I tentatively made a small order to try them out again.

I ended up getting three samples and a fat quarter, all in the performance knit (plus a swatch book), and I’m really impressed. Spoonflower’s performance knit is a smooth lycra base with about 40% widthwise stretch and no lengthwise stretch. They print onto white base lycra, and although the weight is thinner than FunkiFabrics’ base lycra (which has four-way stretch), I’d still feel fine using it for actvewear, though you’d want a busy print to distract from any lumps and bumps.

I’m also relieved to report that they’ve sorted out their international shipping – I ordered on 13 March, they shipped it on 17 March, and it arrived on 31 March. Much improved!

Now, the price. I always expect that I’m going to get shafted on shipping fabric from the States (and I’m usually right!), but the shipping on my above order was only $7, which I found wholly reasonable. In fact, I started getting curious so I actually worked out a price comparison for having digitally printed lycra shipped to me in the UK:

Spoonflower: 1 yard “performance knit” ($24) + UK shipping ($7) = $31 (~£18.62)

FunkiFabrics: 1 metre “printed lycra” (£18) + VAT (£4.59) + UK shipping (£4.95) = £27.54 (~$45.77)

So, as depressing as it is, it actually makes economic sense to have my fabric printed halfway around the world and air shipped to me than it does to get it printed locally (well, at least in the same country). This isn’t to say I’ll stop using FunkiFabrics entirely – I think their lycra is of fantastic, hefty quality, great stretch, and a great range of prints, and they tend to print and ship a bit quicker (plus they print onto different coloured base fabrics). But for sheer price comparison, Spoonflower comes out almost a third cheaper, even if you have to gamble with customs fees.

Oh, and I since I had these samples on hand, I realised that you can fit both Lower Side pieces of the Duathlon Shorts (biker short length) nicely into a Spoonflower sample! Bargain!

(I’ve just folded away the top & bottom seam allowances to show it does fit into the printed area!)

At $5 a sample for the performance knit, this could be a really great way of injecting some fancy prints into your shorts that coordinate with your base fabrics!

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"Leggings that actually fit!"

28 March 2014, 15:23

First of all thank you so much for all your birthday wishes, compliments on my galaxy print birthday dress, and also for all your enthusiasm on my new Duathlon Shorts pattern, too! What a week!

I’m running a bit behind on posts here, but I wanted to share a few words from the Lovely Leggings class I taught on Sunday. I’ve of course made loads of leggings before, but it was my first time teaching this class, and I’m pleased to say that it went smoothly and all four ladies went away very happy!

It was the first time any of them had used an overlocker (serger) before, but they all took to it so quickly, and now (of course!) all want one at home, too!

On this class each student was asked to bring their own fabric, since there’s a big personal preference there and some people wanted wicking fabric to exercise in, and the fun part was seeing what people bought!

You know that point when you finish a sewing project and you finally put it on and you do a little dance and punch the air? It was awesome seeing these ladies try on their leggings at the end! I heard things like “omg, this is the first pair I’ve ever worn that actually fit!”, “I’m not fighting with these like I do my others!”, “Finally, my waistband’s where I want without folding it down a bunch of times!”, etc.

Awesome. One lady even wore hers home! So I count this as a total success, and a great reason why we share our skills with others – as of Sunday evening, there are four more women in the world who won’t put up with ill-fitting, shop-bought leggings!

Oh, and in case you’d like to be one yourself, there is still room for the next leggings class on Thursday 3 April. It’s also not too late to nab the last spot for my Breton top class this Sunday (30 March) if you’d like to learn about stretch fabrics and overlockers but don’t fancy making leggings…

Coming up next week: a roundup of birthday pressies, updates on a new Marfy dress, the grand finale of the Sherlock coat (I know! It’s finally done!!), and quite probably a rundown of the Breton top class, too…


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Duathlon Shorts sewing pattern - on sale now!

26 March 2014, 11:26

It’s been several months in the making, but I’m pleased to report that my third sewing pattern is on sale now! Please welcome the Duathlon shorts!


This is a pattern for close-fitting capris or shorts in three lengths with contrast side panels. There’s an integrated pocket at each hip, perfect for gels, keys, or your phone plus an optional padding piece for cyclists wanting some extra comfort on their ride. An elasticated, high-rise waistband means they won’t shift around as you move, either!

Read more details in the Shop section…

If you’re not familiar with the term, a Duathlon is a competition where you run, bike, and then run again, and I designed this pattern to be both runner and cyclist friendly (and dance, and yoga, and hiking, and skating!). The draft is very similar to my PB Jam Leggings but with a slightly higher back rise to accommodate the seated, cycling position, and with the pockets placed lower on the hips so your leg crease doesn’t get in the way when you’re sitting down. Lots of people asked for a leggings pattern that could be easier to make fit alterations on, and this is it!

Like my other patterns, these are designed to use up fun scraps leftover from other projects, and I’ve even got a thrifty tip coming up if you haven’t got enough length for the long Upper Side piece, too!

The Booty Short length is great in particular for ladies who cycle commute but like to wear skirts – you can pop these on underneath, stash your phone securely in the side pocket (so you can feel it vibrate if you need to), and have a bit of cushioning while you ride. I highly recommend seeking out laminated foam padding (usually used in bramaking) for great crotch padding, which fared best in testing.

If you’re not a cyclist, you can leave off the crotch padding and still have a great, stylish, and functional pair of workout shorts. You might also wish to use these in our Spring Race Challenge – just a thought!

To celebrate the launch (and the weather-based possibility I will be running London Marathon in a pair of these!), you can use code “VMLM14” to get 10% off! The offer is good through marathon day – it expires at the end of 13 April.

$10.99USD (£6.84)

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Burda magazine April 2014

24 March 2014, 14:59

I wasn’t overly keen on last month’s issue, but there’s a lot to love in this one! Even the designs I didn’t like definitely had their own merit – lots of details and designs with thought behind them, and nary a shapeless sack in sight! But let’s take a peek inside for my picks…

I didn’t like much from the Southern style feature (nothing wrong with it, just not for me!), but I love that Burda have snuck in another cycling pattern, hot on the heels of last month’s seat cover! I really love the look of panniers, and I think these are a great design, with or without the frills.

The only Southern style garment that really jumped out at me was this shirt with the front, “bib” yoke. I don’t tend to sew many woven shirts for myself, but I really like this pattern, and it’d definitely be good in the summer heat!

I’m convinced that someone at Burda HQ has either studied at Bunka, or else is just really into Japanese-style pattern cutting, because we’ve had at least one design a month that just has Bunka written all over it, and this dress is certainly it. I had a bit of a “Burda WTF” reaction at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I think it might actually be kinda cool. Or uncomfortable – I’m not so sure about that left sleeve with the flat sleevehead. But I’m kinda into the uneven tube concept, even though I’m unsure whether it’d work in real life.

Here we see the cover dress in more detail, and it’s utterly gorgeous. This is the best about Burda – a flattering, edgy, and well designed dress that’s made accessible to everyone. Those skirt petals are just inspired and the topstitching and seaming is just icing on the cake.

Here’s the top version of that Bunka-esque dress from earlier, teamed with a high waisted skirt. But the interesting this for me are the men’s patterns, even if they are the same ol’ blazer we’ve seen a thousand times before, and trousers that are only slight variations…

At this point I’m just hands-down loving this “Summer White” feature so freaking much! Seriously, I’d make and/or wear pretty much everything in it – I’m totally a minimalist girl deep down, and I just adore this surplice-hem top, too, even if midriff-baring isn’t my thing (hint: it’d be ridiculously easy to lengthen this by a few inches!). It’d be easy to overlook the trousers here, too, but they’ve got some great detailing at the waist, and look like they’re almost sailor-style.

Aaaaaah, stop it, Burda, you’re killing me with amazing designs here! Seriously, this crossover dress (or its top version) are just so freaking cool! I was pretty much guaranteed to make this anyway, but you’ve gone and given this one the illustrated instructions, too?!? Twist my arm already!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m not usually a fan of jumpsuits, but I wanted to show you a little comparison I put together. There’s a jumpsuit pattern in this issue (hilariously, incorrectly called both “overalls” and “catsuit” in different places), and this really highlights the importance of fabric choice. The version on the left looks totally classy. The version on the right – awful and trashy, the worst kind of Versace over the top crap. So pick your fabric carefully, ladies.

Ok – what was the point of the ten page spread showing various people I don’t care about wearing the same two blazers over and over again (literally the same – no fabric differences or anything)? Because I seriously couldn’t give a crap about whether some German lady’s daughter steals her clothes. This had better not be a new recurring feature. Ugh.

I thought the Plus offerings were a little lackluster this month, but I’m a total sucker for knit tops, and this one looks very nice indeed, especially with the square neckline.

So what did everyone else think? Any favourites I missed? And who’s going to be the first to try out that Japanese dress in person?

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Manequim magazine February 2014

20 March 2014, 13:50

Wow, everyone in Brazil must’ve been partying their bums off at carnival because my February issue was really late – I’d normally be expecting to see March any day now! But I’m just glad it arrived at all, because it’s a really good one, and features one must sew for me in particular!

First up are the Plus offerings for this issue. They may not seem like much, but all three look to be very wearable and versatile, and those bermuda shorts are offered in multiple sizes, too.

The designer style section this month is Victoria Beckham, and, all Spice Girl and WAG celebrity-BS aside, I actually really love a lot of her designs and find they intersect with my own personal style an awful lot. Here we get patterns for a really nicely shaped sheath dress, narrow trousers, and – the one that made me bolt upright when I turned the page – a draped, crossover blouse.

OH. MY. GOD. I adore… freaking adore… this blouse! That I can’t quite immediately work out the construction of that drape from the pattern pieces makes me want to make it even more. And, umm, it’s also in my new size, too. LOVE!

While I regain my composure, have a look at this coral sheath dress. There’s a lot going on – the banded, cap sleeves, the exposed darts, and the added hip peplums, but it’s one I personally find really appealing.

This dress isn’t explicitly an homage to YSL’s famous Mondrian dress, but it’s all I could think of when I saw it. Maybe it’s partly down to their colour choice, but I’d personally colourblock it in more “Me” hues of turquoise, mustard, and purple!

There’s a full denim section near the back, and I’m usually disappointed when pattern magazines feature denim without offering tons of different jeans patterns, but this time I actually preferred all the non-jeans denim uses, like this dress. I think this is an adorable dress, and one that I could see in any number of fabrics. It also really reminds me of that Turkish designer dress that was in BurdaStyle a while back

The fewer words said about those awful flared jeans, the better, but look at the denim top! It’s a perfect shell or woven tee pattern, and I’ve had a photo of a boucle tee with this exact shape stuck to my sewing room wall for ages now. That this pattern is offered in multiple sizes makes it even better!

This jean skirt reminded me of two things – 1, that I don’t currently own any denim skirts that fit me and I should really remedy that before summer, and 2, that this looks SO similar to the Colette Patterns Beignet skirt that I made years ago and wore to death. Note to self: combine these two!

Speaking of Colette Patterns – if you missed it, I wrote a guest post for their Coletterie blog about sewing for exercise, and Part One went live yesterday! So hello to my new readers if you came over because of it, and if you haven’t read it yet, go have a look.

And another point of note – my red Brasilia dress and my silver Jamie jeans are both entered in the Pattern Review “New to Me Pattern Company” contest and voting is open right now! Please consider voting for mine if you’re a PR member.

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Announcing the Spring Race Challenge!

18 March 2014, 16:08

Everybody could use a bit more motivation to exercise, right? In my opinion, spring time is the absolute best time to start exercising if you haven’t been doing as much as you’d like, and what better way to motivate yourself than with some pretty new exercise gear that fits you perfectly?

The Spring Race Challenge is simple – sew up some exercise gear, and sign up to a race.


It doesn’t matter whether the sewing is self-drafted, from one of my patterns, or from another pattern company. The important bit is that you’ve sewn it yourself!


It doesn’t matter what sport you’re into – running, cycling, swimming, karate, gymnastic, cross fit, whatever! You do not have to be speedy. This isn’t about beating your competition, or getting a new PB, or signing up to some lofty challenge – this is all about picking a goal and motivating yourself to work towards it. If running is your thing, I highly recommend checking out your local Parkrun – they’re free, timed 5km runs every Saturday around the world.

How to take part!

Step 1: Place the Spring Race Challenge badge somewhere on your blog (if you have one – if not, tell a friend or tweet it with #SweatAndSew or post it to Facebook!).

Copy/paste this into your blog:

Southern hemisphere ladies – I’ve made a Fall Race Challenge badge just for you so you don’t feel left out!

Copy/paste this into your blog:

Step 2: Find a race or competition in your area and sign up to it. Don’t put this part off – knowing you’ve committed to participate on a set date is key for avoiding procrastination, and gives you a firm deadline. That, and races often sell out well in advance!

Step 3: Start sewing! To be eligible for the prize draw (oh yes!), you must wear at least one home-sewn item during the race/competition.

Step 4: After your race, post a photo of yourself either during or immediately after the competition (your number and medal are great accessories!), and post a comment on this post linking to your photo. If you don’t have a blog, link to your photo on a public gallery or social media site in your comment.

Step 5: The prize draw! On 7 July (Edit: Now extended to include the 4th of July weekend!) a winner will be randomly drawn from all entries to win a very special prize (no really – it’s really cool!) to be announced shortly.


Case in point: My mom has just completed her first 5k. It was in a local mall, and she jogged some of it, and walked some of it. By her own admission, she said she hadn’t trained as much as she’d liked, but because she’d told me she was going to do it, she went out and did it. Accountability is key! By placing the Spring Race Challenge badge on your site, you’re making a public statement that you’re going to complete your challenge, and it’s a proven motivation technique.

And of course I’ve been in training for my big spring race, London marathon, for months now, but I’ve had a string of tune-up races over the past months where I’ve worn lots of my own-sewn race kit.

First there was the Bath Half marathon, where I ran in my rainbow PB Jam leggings:

The then Saturday after was Flatline 10, where we run up and down the steepest hill in London (Swain’s Lane, by Highgate Cemetery) 10 times for a total of 10 miles. I wore my mint X-Back top and my Copenhagen marathon leggings for this:

The next day was the Anthony Nolan 10km Marrowthon, where I wore my favourite printed PB Jam leggings:

And finally, this Sunday was the Spitfire 20 miler (my last race before London marathon!), where I wore my printed Y-Back top and a sneak peek of my next pattern!

This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now, and judging from your feedback last week, it’s something a lot of you are up for participating in, too! So who’s in? Get those badges up and start your race hunting!

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Londoners - Come sew with me! Teeshirts, Leggings and Panties!

14 March 2014, 13:06

I’m teaching a bunch more classes in the next month and wanted to let you all know in case any of you Londoners fancied coming and learning about the joys of stretch fabrics from me!

All of the classes are aimed at beginners – you should know the basics of a sewing machine, but don’t necessarily have ever worked with stretch fabrics before. You’ll get to know the fun of an overlocker, the joys of a twin needle, and come away with a newfound greed for all things jerseys.

They all take place at the ThriftyStitcher studio in Stoke Newington, right by Clissold Park (an easy walk from Canonbury Overground or there are tons of buses), and include unlimited tea, coffee, and biccies to fuel your sewing.

Sew a Classic Breton Tee

Sunday 30 March, 14:30-18:00
Does your life need a little ooh la la? Is there a certain je ne sais quoi missing from your wardrobe? Learn to sew the classic Breton tee with us! You should already be comfortable using a sewing machine, and this class will cover stretch fabric basics as well as an introduction to the overlocker (serger).

You’ll make a striped, long or 3/4 sleeved teeshirt using a pattern, which will give you the skills you need to sew your own teeshirts (long or short sleeved) at home.

  • Learn how to use an overlocker to achieve a professional finish

  • Use a simple teeshirt binding on the neckline

  • Use a twin needle for a great, stretchy hem

  • Set in sleeves the easy way with the “flat insertion” technique.

Go here to book your place!

Lovely Leggings

Sunday 23 March, 14:30-17:30 OR Thursday 3 April 18:30-21:30
Whether you wear them for exercise or just lounging around, leggings are an everyday wardrobe staple that are quick and easy to make yourself – once you know how! You should already be comfortable using a sewing machine, and this class will cover stretch fabric basics as well as an introduction to the overlocker (serger). In this class you’ll learn how to…

  • Use an overlocker to achieve a professional finish
  • Finish an elastic waistband without an awkward casing
  • Master the twin needle to get a great looking hem
  • Adapt a pattern to match your leg length (so no more baggy “elephant ankles”!)

You choose your own fabric in advance of this class so you’ll have a pair of leggings you love (don’t worry – we’ll supply a list of good online suppliers).

Go here to book your place!

Panty Party!

Friday 28 March, 18:30-22:00
Looking to sew something special for yourself?

Some lacey little panties are the perfect way to spice up your sewing and get started with stretch fabrics, fancy trims, and special laces. You should already be comfortable using a sewing machine, and this class will cover stretch fabric basics and the application of elastic.

  • You’ll be using a pdf pattern to create a pair of pants with stretch lace sides, gusset, and elasticated edges
  • Learn the secrets of lace placement to best take advantage of motifs and scalloped edges
  • Discover the clever “burrito method” of enclosed seams
  • Learn how to neatly apply lingerie elastic to get a high-end finish

These pants are also a great way to use up little scraps of stretch fabrics from other projects, well-loved teeshirts, or even refashion some existing lingerie, so feel free to bring along fabrics and stretch laces you’d like to use.

Note that we’ll be offering a few different styles of panties this time so if you don’t like thongs, that’s not a problem!

Go here to book your place!

There are quite a few places booked already – any FehrTrade readers coming along? Let me know in the comments!

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