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A blue and white jumpsuit

27 May 2015, 13:13

As you may recall, I spent quite a lot of time last year working behind the scenes on the Great British Sewing Bee, first for the third series, then for the Children in Need specials, and finally, for the book which accompanies the series. I personally worked on about 60% of the patterns in the Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric book, either by sewing up early samples, measuring yardages or trims, or assisting the illustrators with the construction. So it’s probably quite funny that the first pattern I make from the finished book (not counting the green pencil skirt, which I made from the book before release!) isn’t one I really worked on at all – just one I admired across the studio while others made adjustments.

It’s a pattern for a jumpsuit with an elasticated waist and spaghetti straps with a flounced neckline edge. There’s no fussy closures – you just pull it on and off by stepping into it, and I’d definitely say it’s beginner-friendly, especially since the instructions are fully illustrated. The bonus is that you can also make a pair of casual trousers or a camisole top using the same base jumpsuit pattern (also explained in the book).

In my experience, the trickiest part of this entire jumpsuit was finding the right fabric! It needed to be something hefty enough for the trousers, but also lightweight enough to drape nicely at the neckline frill, and I eventually found this blue & white crepey viscose from Ditto Fabrics that’s the perfect weight and resists wrinkling so it should be perfect for travelling. It did fray like crazy though, so I constructed this mostly on the overlocker (serger).

Doesn’t this just scream summer?? In terms of size, I made Size 14 according to my measurements, and it fits really well – no alterations needed (I should point out that the top/camisole has bust darts so should be easy to do an FBA if you need one).

I wore this out to a pub lunch with friends on Sunday, followed by a little walk in St James’s Park (where these photos were taken) and then more pubbing! It was a little chilly, so I layered a grey cropped jacket over top.


Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric

26 February 2015, 14:01

This is not an unbiased review – if you recall, I worked behind the scenes on the production of the third series of The Great British Sewing Bee tv show, then again on the Children in Need specials (which were actually recorded after the main series, despite airing first), and right after that was done, I started work on the book which accompanies the series, The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric, under the amazing, dedicated, and super talented Claire-Louise Hardie (aka “the thriftystitcher”).

But even though I spent several months as part of the sewing team who developed, adapted, sewed, illustrated, and assisted with the patterns in this book, I have zero financial stake in the sales of this book – I’ve already been paid for my work, regardless if there are zero sales or several million. So this review is unbiased in that regard anyway.

But really, I mostly want to show you all what’s in this book, because a) myself and the team worked really freaking hard to deliver a book chock full of quality patterns, and b) because it really is the perfect book that intermediate/advanced sewists have been craving for a long, long, time. Don’t get me wrong – there are some easy, beginner styles in here, too, but there are loads of projects that are more advanced and have really interesting shapes and design lines.

It should really say something that I spent months of my life sewing up these patterns (both the ones you see as samples in the book, but many, many test versions you don’t see) and I still want to make a ton more. Seriously.

But let’s start with the patterns, shall we?

It’s a great sign that the pattern sheet stack is nearly as thick as the book itself, and each sheet is labelled on the upper right corner so you can see which patterns are printed on that sheet as you flip through the stack. The patterns need to be traced (here’s how I trace a pattern, btw), but they’re colour coded and really nicely spaced out – waaaaaay easier on the eyes than Burda’s pattern sheets, for example, and the sheets themselves are printed on hefty paper, a bit like the old KwikSew patterns. And the sheets aren’t freaking enormous like Vogue’s ones that cover my entire lounge!

Here’s the size chart, which ranges from size 8 (B32.5/W25.5/H36in) to 20 (B45.5/W38.5/H49.5in). Since there are also kids and mens patterns, too, there are (obviously!) different size charts for them. But there are also a few garments in the book which you draft from your own measurements, so if you’re outside the size range you can still make a few things (like Lorna’s curtain skirt from episode three!).

There’s the obligitary section at the start of any sewing book explaining about the supplies you need, how to trace a pattern, sew hand stitches, etc. To be honest, I always just skip past these since I know what I’m doing. But there’s also a section on common fit alterations like an FBA or trouser fitting alterations, too.

But onto the patterns themselves! I haven’t highlighted every single one, but rather pulled out my favourites (or ones where I’ve sewn the sample you see in the book!). For each pattern, you also get a “hack” variation which re-uses the same basic pattern pieces but in a new way to get a totally different look. IMHO, Claire-Louise did a great job in putting new twists on these patterns and showing how you can really make them your own.

In the Cottons section, you get a pattern for capri trousers, which you may recognise from the first episode!


Book Review: Two Pattern Grading books

25 September 2014, 13:28

I’ve got not one, but two books to talk about today, both on the subject of pattern grading, which, to be honest, has hardly any books published on the topic and seems to be a bit of an industry secret or something.

If you’re not familiar with what pattern grading is – it’s the process of taking one pattern and adding or subtracting amounts at various points to make it another size, or multiple sizes. This isn’t just a simple equation of “well, size Y is twice as big as size Q” because humans’ shapes don’t grow at the same rate (ie: the difference between a size 0 and a size 18’s shoulders aren’t likely to be as great as the difference in hip sizes). In general, the measurements around the body change much more than the vertical measurements, so you need to follow some rules to know how far to move different points and in which directions.

Now, there’s an old-fashioned way of doing this with paper patters, scissors, tape, a special “grade ruler”, and several hours of your time, and this was covered pretty extensively in the September 2014 Threads Magazine (#174). In my personal opinion, this is fine if you only want to change one pattern to one other size, for instance if you have a vintage pattern but want it in your own size. Doing more than one size this way is a great way to end up throwing everything into the bin after several hours of swearing.

In my opinion, the far less stressful way to do pattern grading is digitally. You select a point, tell your software (like Adobe Illustrator) to move it xx cm vertically and yy cm horizontally, and you do that to all the points around the pattern. No taping, no cutting, and no weird ruler. Plus it’s way more accurate. So with this in mind, my reviews of both books are skewed heavily towards how they deal with digital drafting.

Let’s look at “Grading Workbook” by Connie Crawford first. It’s been out as a print book for a while, but I bought an early edition of the pdf ebook last year, which has been extensively cleaned up and digitised. I checked about a month ago, and there haven’t been any revisions so the copy I’m reviewing here is indeed current.

The book is targeted at someone who has some knowledge of pattern drafting, but is a beginner at pattern grading – most home sewists would be able to follow along with the introductory chapters which explain the methods and theory, and how to select different grades.

For each of the grade tables (ie: bodice, skirt, sleeve, stretch, child, etc), there are a few pages which show which point is being selected and which direction to move it, shown in a series of diagrams, like these two:


Book Review: Pattern Cutting for Menswear

24 September 2014, 13:34

Unfortunately, menswear really is the ugly stepchild of the fashion industry – there seem to be about two menswear books for every ten for women, plus there are hardly any commercial patterns out there for men (and if there are, 90% of the time it’ll be that same button-down shirt I’ve seen a million times, argh).

The Aldrich book seems to be the de-facto standard for menswear drafting as far as I can tell, but I tried her teeshirt draft for men and hated it so I’m loathe to buy it to test the rest, really. Perhaps it’s the standard just because there are so few to choose from and not because it’s particularly very good? So I asked for (and received!) this book instead for my birthday, as I’d love to draft more menswear for James and possibly for future patterns, too.

Now I haven’t actually tested the drafts in here yet (though I fully intend to), but I really like a lot of things about this book. Most obvious is that it’s a modern menswear book – instead of just covering the basic tailoring styles, it shows you how to draft things like hoodies, jeans, and parkas on top of the more standard jacket and button-down shirts. There are 20 different styles in all, with instructions on how to adapt the basic blocks to match the given style. So this is more like how the Japanese pattern books do things, only a bit easier to follow than the standard Pattern Magic “instructions”!


Book Review: Digital Textile Design

23 September 2014, 12:11

I bought this book when I was working on the Laurie King fabric collaborations and I saw that Laurence King publishers were having a massive sale on all their fashion and textile books. I already own all the Pattern Magic and Drape Drape books in English, but I was intrigued at the idea of this one and I’m really glad I picked it up as I don’t really know of any other books like it.

This book is really aimed at the beginning textile designer and has full tutorials for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to show how to get a bunch of different effects. I really like the style that this is written in (it’s much easier to read than a textbook!), and the screenshots and steps in the tutorials are really easy to follow along with.

There’s a fair amount of design inspiration from cool up and coming designers playing with digital prints, plus some advice on good design aesthetics, but I’ve learned the most from the tutorials, like this one which shows how to map out photo-realistic prints exactly where you want them on your pattern pieces.

Even if you’re not a fan of the Versace look, it’s a great primer on photo manipulation, scanning, placement, and printing (though of course it’s easier for me since my designs are already digital).


Book Review: Demystifying Bra Fitting & Construction

22 September 2014, 13:04

While I’m away on holiday I thought I’d keep you all entertained with a series of posts on books I’ve bought over the past year or so and never really quite talked about. Not a single one of them is a “beginning sewing book”, either, so for those of you who are a bit sick of seeing the same books being released over and over, well, you’re in for a treat this week.

First up is a book which I talked about a while back when it was released as an e-book, but I thought it was worth a revisit as it’s just been released in print.

The print edition has the same content as the e-book, with full colour photos and really very excellent advice on both fitting and construction that I just haven’t seen elsewhere, in print or online. If you missed my earlier review, the condensed version is that this is really what you need in order to make a bra pattern fit you, and then sew it all together. I’ve sewn with Kwik Sew bra patterns before and even though their instructions are held up to be really good, it doesn’t even come close to the level of detail in this book.

Plus, she tells you how to make a muslin (toile) so that you don’t get all the way to the end of sewing a gorgeous bra, only to find out in the final step it doesn’t fit properly. Which is what I usually end up doing, and then getting discouraged and not sewing another one for months (speaking of, I’m probably due for another spate of bra sewing soon!)


Little bits of sewing

31 December 2013, 13:23

I’ve come to that point near the end of the year where I want to gather together a bunch of little projects I’ve made recently, but yet didn’t quite seem big enough for their own post… You’ll see my traditional, year-end roundup tomorrow (I hope! I haven’t actually started it yet, eep!), but before then, let’s finish off the last little bits of the year…

Twin clutches

The most exciting of these are undoubtably the Cake Patterns Red Velvet Mini Clutches I made for James’s twin, teenaged nieces. They’ve pretty much only wanted cash or gift cards for a few years now, but this year I fancied giving them a little something extra to hold their gift.

The Cake Red Velvet Mini Clutch is a smaller version of the full pattern without the illustrated instructions, but on the plus side it’s free, super cute, and easy to whip up in a few hours with scraps. Here I used satin scraps leftover from my Matthew Williamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress and a bit of floral lining leftover from the former, too.

These are big enough to hold your average mobile phone, keys, lippy, and credit card, but not much else, but most of the times I want a little bag to match a dress this is all I really need to carry anyway. These were certainly one of those gifts I’d have liked to have kept for myself, especially since they match my dresses!

Bolster pillow covers

I’m totally less excited by home dec sewing, but we really wanted some bolster pillows for lounging in our big, new bedroom on the boat – now that I’m working from home, I especially need one under my knees while I work on my laptop! When we bought our bedding from IKEA, the duvet cover sets came with four pillowcases, and since we only use one regular pillow each, the others were just sat on a shelf.


Book Review: Patternmaking for Underwear Design, by Kristina Shin PhD

3 April 2013, 14:55

You’ve heard me mention this book a few times as I’ve been experimenting with various drafts, but I felt it deserved a full review because, frankly, I’m a little obsessed with it right now. My mom surprised me with this when I was ill with shingles and the subsequent nerve damage pain, and it gave me something to focus on right as I was in the midst of my last bout of lingerie sewing.

It’s “Patternmaking for Underwear Design”, by Kristina Shin, PhD, and here’s a (pretty bad) shot I took of it’s cover:

It’s primarily a book for drafting your own bras and lingerie (but much more, too), and the biggest difference I’ve seen here in that these bra drafts all start with the underwire shape, and build from there. Every other bra draft I’ve seen starts with a bodice sloper, which is then adapted into a bra shape. The approach taken here makes a lot more sense to me for getting an accurate fit, since there’s so much variation in breast shape and distribution for women who even wear the same size bodice. As anyone knows who’s ever sewn a bra, finding the right size underwire is absolutely key, so it really seems right here to use that as a starting point. And it helps that most women can make a small incision in a well-fitting bra and just trace off one they know fits them!

There’s not really any construction or sewing instructions included in this book, but there are a few pages at the beginning with stuff like tips on cutting lace…

…and the wide variety of bra backs you can use once you’ve got your basic draft sorted out…

…plus several pages of various tables of measurements for different sizes, and exactly what to measure, both for the breasts and the rest of the body.

Here’s an example page from the leggings draft so you can see the style of instructions and diagrams. I personally found these easier to follow than Metric Pattern Cutting and WAY easier than any of the Pattern Magic books!


Holiday sewing update

28 December 2012, 15:51

Some (rather racy) panties

Remember how I had flu for 3 weeks earlier this month? Well lucky freakin me, because I got ill again on the first day of my holidays. I’ve essentially felt like crap since two days before Thanksgiving, arrrrgh. So on Christmas Day, I did a little bit of comfort sewing, in the form of some crazy, racy, leopard print and black lace panties.

Avert your eyes now if you’re of a gentle disposition!

I’d never buy leopard print of my own free will, but I’d bought a lingerie grab bag for a pound a while back, and this came from there, and I added some scrap black stretch lace to the sides. Nobody need know what my tastefully dressed exterior conceals…

Burda December cover dress muslin

The big project I wanted to tackle over the holidays is the Burda December cover dress (Burda Dec 2012 #112).


Sewing book review: Pattern Magic 3 - now in English!

12 June 2012, 13:05

I don’t buy sewing books very often these days, usually preferring to get my information and inspiration from the internet and sewing pattern magazines, but I’ve found so much inspiration from the Japanese design schools lately that I just can’t say no when these are translated into English.

If you recall, I reviewed the first two Pattern Magic books here, and then, just recently the first Drape Drape book was also released in English (with the second coming out later this year).

Drape Drape uses included patterns which you trace off and sew, but the Pattern Magic books all rely on instructions for altering your existing sloper, so they can work for pretty much any size or shape person.

The big difference in this third book is that all the patterns here are designed for stretch fabrics, which adds a whole new level of fun! But of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t use stretch fabrics for the designs in the first two books – I’ve already made the flip-turned top twice as teeshirts, though I did have a great boost in understanding the Pattern Magic instructions on the Morley College “Pattern Magic” course I took earlier this year (I’m eagerly awaiting the new course guide so I can sign up for the rumoured class on this new book next year!).

So enough intro, let’s have a look at some of the wonderful (and weird!) designs in this instalment!


Sewing book review: Drape Drape - now in English!

15 May 2012, 13:43

The first book in the popular Japanese sewing series has just been published in English! It’s been out in Japanese for a few years now, but, like the Pattern Magic books, I bided my time until they were released in English before I added them to my collection. I can muddle my way through Portuguese, Italian, French, and Dutch patterns, but I’d be totally lost in kanji, with no means to type it into a translator!

A word about the sizing of these patterns, though – their “XL” size is still 10cm smaller (and 4cm shorter!) than me at the point of least difference.

(Note for the Americans – that XL size is 5’6”, B35 W27 H38 in inches.)

So going by their sizing, that’d make me a… 4XL. omg. Nothing like tiny Japanese sizing to make you feel enormous! Good thing most of the designs are really large and flowing, so hopefully I can get away with the largest size and not have it matter too much. Fingers crossed.

This is my favourite design in the book – it’s a dress with a gathered, dropped waist, and the only vertical seam is in the centre back. The construction of this is really cool – this dress is cut out in all one piece of fabric!

Not so cool is that Kristin made this a few years ago and it did NOT work for her, so I shall be muslinning and treading very carefully here. But this one’s the top of my list in this book, in any case.

This Grecian, V-neck dress is just beautiful! But keeping in mind the size chart, I’d probably need to grade up their bodice and waist band since they appear to be close-fitting.


A bit of everything

17 February 2012, 14:20

Housekeeping time! I’ve got lots of little bits to update you on, either with my in-progress project, upcoming things, or small projects I managed to gloss over at the time…

So in no particular order:

My purple coat

Progress is slow on my purple jacket/coat from the Winter 2011 MyImage magazine, not because of anything to do with the coat, but because life keeps getting in the way. I’ve finished the shell and I’m onto the lining now, so I’ve just got to finish constructing the lining, attach the two together, flip, and sew the buttonholes.

I’d prefer to do the buttonholes on my vintage buttonholer attachment, but the templates I have aren’t big enough for my enormous (2.5 inch?) buttons. Anyone know a clean way around this? Can I set the buttonholer to do double-length holes somehow?

In any case, I should be able to finish this coat this weekend and (hopefully) get a photoshoot in. Not long now before I can do evenings photos again – it’s already light out when I go running before work!

Gift update

My go-to baby gift is to sew a changing mat, with a hand towel on one side, and nice fabric on the other with big, deep pockets and ties to fold it all up. I had two baby boys arrive in January, so both sets of parents got changing mats with this awesome Alexander Henry vintage robot fabric. 1 meter of it wasn’t quite enough to stretch to the pockets, too, so I filled in with some scrap denim.


The Pattern Magic 2 course at Morley College

13 February 2012, 14:39

This weekend was my eagerly-awaited “Creative Pattern Cutting 2” course at Morley College in London, which was a two day class based entirely on the second “Pattern Magic” book. I’ve owned the Pattern Magic books for a while, but I’ve only tried one design (with discouraging results), so I was really excited to have the opportunity to explore them further.

I’d have no idea this course was even offered if it wasn’t for Tracy blogging about attending the course on the first book, either. So a big THANK YOU to her for bringing it to wider attention!

And seriously, this course was FANTASTIC! The tutor, Moni, was simply amazing, I can’t say enough good things about her – she does a lot of other Fashion/Sewing courses at Morley and I’d sign up for one of her other classes in a heartbeat (and I see she’s doing one on the Colette Wolf book “The Art Manipulating Fabric” soon, too, which sounds very cool)!

The facilities at Morley were great, too – lots of room to spread out, domestic Berninas and ironing stations, plenty of cross paper and cheap calico/muslin, and it was super easy for me to get to, and easy walking distance from Waterloo Station and surrounded by great pubs for lunch, too. It really was jawdropping that the whole weekend course only cost £48, especially when you consider most sewing courses in London are a) on the same old three dull topics over and over again and b) usually in the range of £300-400!

Believe it or not, this was also my first “formal” training ever in sewing!

We ended up with only eight students in the class so we all got a lot of individual help, which was great. I never really felt like there was any point where I was struggling and I couldn’t ask the tutor – she really did a fantastic job at spreading her time evenly amongst us. We also got to choose which projects we wanted to work on, which was ideal because it meant there wasn’t the usual classroom thing where some people were too fast and others too slow, etc. All the students there was really sharp with their sewing and drafting so I think everyone got a lot out of the class, too.


My BurdaStyle Book contributor experience

6 February 2012, 14:49

This is a mirrored post to my spotlight on the BurdaStyle blog. I wrote about my experience back in September before the book came out!

When I heard there was a BurdaStyle book planned, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it! I had been a beta tester for BurdaStyle before the site ever even launched, and I’ve always felt that it was such a great resource for encouraging more people to sew and be creative and share ideas.

So last year I expressed my interest to be a contributor, and I was invited to submit some ideas for pattern alterations on two patterns for the book. I sat down with the details for the dress and coat patterns and just brainstormed for a week, drawing up loads and loads of ways I could take those basic patterns and morph them into something totally new. Some ideas were simple like, What if I lost the coat sleeves, shortened it at the waist and made it in fur? Or, What if I added sleeves to the dress, lengthened the centre front and made it a wrap dress? Eventually I paired down my sketches to about eight and submitted them for consideration.

I wasn’t really expecting any of my submissions to be picked for the book (my drawing skills have gone way downhill since high school art classes!), so I was ecstatic to learn that not only was I picked to be a contributor, but my dress variation was picked to be one of only two dress pattern variations in the entire book! Then it dawned on me that the tight deadlines would coincide with the few months I needed to sew my wedding gown! So I did some hardcore time management and set aside the better part of a month last summer to document my pattern alteration, write the new sewing instructions and sew up the sample for the book, PLUS get it sent off and done before the deadline!


Sewing Christmas Gifts

30 December 2011, 21:06

I know this is sure to shock you (ha!), but I received a fair few sewing-related Christmas gifts this year…

The Colette Sewing Handbook – I’ve only cracked the surface of the content here, but I love it already. It’s so comprehensive and ends up being greats for beginners as well as old hats like me. And how chuffed was I to see FehrTrade.com in the Recommended Reading List??

I received a slew of novels and cookbooks from my WishList, amoungst those were the sewing-related novels Pleating for Mercy and The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard. I’m just hoping they’re better written than Laura’s Handmade Life, which I struggled to even finish earlier this year and is now on the charity shop pile (god knows why it has so many 5 star reviews on Amazon – it was so bad it was almost insulting)…

I also received a really cute ModCloth spool headphone keeper – it’s made of silicone to look like an oversized thread spool, but to keep your headphones tidy (my earbuds are tucked inside).


Piling up...

21 December 2011, 13:24

The number of posts I want to write is piling up at an alarming rate, and I have no time to do anything about it, what with work being crazy busy (I hate all of you who get tons of time off at Christmas – I only get 3 days off in total! And my days have mostly been solving one problem, and having five new problems pour in while I was fixing the one, then moving on to the next in a To-Do list which never, ever gets cleared.) and us spending all our weekends working on the boat (last weekend we spent 15 hours building the subfloor down there. No, don’t feel jealous – the boat blog is being neglected, too).

So rather than stress about the amount of things piling up, I’m going to present my pile to you in pictorial form.

This is what James’s desk looked like this morning. It’s supposed to be my temporary cutting table while we’re building in the hold. How can I possibly cut the bias Ruby Slip or Holly’s maxi-dress fabric on this?? I’m pretty sure Bosco isn’t responsible, though he does look a bit shifty there…

I finished my vintage midi skirt ages ago, but have had zero time to document, or photoshoot or anything. So here’s two photos to test the hem length (which is why it’s just basted here)

I sewed a little waistcoat for James’s nephew out of this Tardamask fabric on Spoonflower. It’s got hidden pockets inside! He’s 7, and the biggest Dr Who fan ever, so we’re excited to see his reaction on Christmas.


Recent gifts

8 April 2011, 12:18

My first gift is a very special one, because it’s from all of you!

I recently received a Google Adsense payment, and I always try to spend these exclusively on sewing supplies to feed back into this site. The last payment bought me four Patrones issues and some Spoonflower knits, for example! But I’m trying to pare down my fabric to fit in my tiny sewing room, and I already have more patterns than I can sew, so I thought I’d spend the windfall on some really nice interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply!

You bought me:

This should be enough to keep me in interfacing for a year years, and this stuff just feels incredible – the Pro-Tailor stuff especially feels so silky soft! I can’t wait to try this stuff out…

For my birthday, I received some sewing books that I requested!


Bridal Bodice Neckline - opinions needed!

18 July 2010, 11:23

I am very happy to report that my dress for the BurdaStyle book is completely, 100% finished, packed up in an airtight bag and ready to be FedExed this week. HOO-RAY!

I’m afraid that’s all you get to see until next year, to. Boo.

But it means I can now devote ALL of my sewing time to my wedding gown. So the first step is to attack the muslin. I’ve marked my waistline in green, and the possible boning positions in blue. Once I marked my waistline I realised exactly how short the bodice is so I’m elongating it all by an inch so the back and sides aren’t ending exactly at my waist. My waist is an inch higher than the standard measurements anyway so I think this alteration will help (note: I’m not short-waisted. My bust-hip measurement is standard, my waist is just shifted up a tad).

But I really, really need your help choosing the right neckline for this gown!!


Bridal planning update

16 July 2010, 14:36

Apologies but this is a bit of a “brain dump” post as I’m understandably a bit frazzled right now, with the BurdaStyle book deadline looming on top of wedding planning and everything else I seem to list every time I post (ahh, just thinking about it is starting to stress me out, sorry!).

So I haven’t done much tangible work on my gown since I last updated because I’ve been focusing on getting the BS book dress done since it has a more immediate deadline, but I’ve been doing lots of mental sewing on the gown. Which, you’ll remember, is half the battle for me. So I took an evening out to read (really read and digest!) through “Bridal Couture” by Susan Khalje and the OOP Palmer/Pletsch “Bridal Gowns—How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams” book (the former being way way more useful than the latter IMHO). I placed copious amounts of Post-It notes sticking out the edges at places I want to refer back to later.

I’m also really glad I ended up taking that PR online Underlining class a few months ago now!! Though I just looked to see if I could link to the Underlining class somehow, and I noticed Susan Khalje herself is teaching a “Wedding Gowns 101” class starting Aug 15. If it were a few months earlier, I’d have jumped all over it, but you need time to devote to the classes most evenings and I’ll need all the time I can get to work on my gown!

After reading through the two books I had everything mostly straight in my head about this dress, but the boning placement still puzzled me because my pattern doesn’t have any obvious vertical seaming to place the boning along, and all three examples in Bridal Couture had some sort of princess seaming. Luckily for me, it was easily solved on the PR messageboard and by this Susan Khalje article, so I’ve got a full gameplan in my head now for the dress!


Selvedge Magazine

27 April 2010, 15:02

I’m glad so many of you have been enjoying my recent book reviews, but I’m sad to say this is my last for a while. Selvedge is technically a bimonthly magazine, but with the page count it’s really more of a mini-book, kinda how (no longer in print) Craft: magazine was.

But that’s where the similarity ends, because instead of a bunch of how-tos, Selvedge focuses on the celebration of fabric and textiles, with a bunch of really interesting articles. It’s total fabric porn, written and produced by a small band of dedicated enthusiasts, and I came away not only reading it cover-to-cover, but feeling like I’d learned so much from it. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a sewing/craft/fabric magazine or any magazine for that matter cover-to-cover! This was like 3 weeks’ worth of breakfast reading!

My scanner really doesn’t do these pages justice since the page size is bigger than my scanner size so a lot of cropping had to take place. The pages are nice and thick and the ink SMELLS amazing, so with the artistic layout, it really does feel like a treat to read.

This issue I have here is about quilting, but each issue focuses on something different in the world of textiles (the next one is “the romance issue” with lots of wedding stuff, hooray!).

This feature was celebrating the crisp cleanness of White fabrics. “Life is not an egg and spoon race”, indeed.


Metric Pattern Cutting

14 April 2010, 14:41

It’s fitting that Neighbour Helen decided to buy me this book for my birthday, as she’s the one who got me interested in drafting recently, and she liked it so much she bought one for herself, too!

I’ve heard that this is one of the best pattern drafting books around (alongside the Armstrong book, but there’s a £60 price difference there, too!), and I can see why. It’s certainly not an easy book to get to grips with, but if you’re a visual learner like me, then you probably really only need the drawings to be getting on with anyway. The book is absolutely packed with different blocks and various sleeve, collar, skirt, dart, yoke, etc drafts, with precious little else included. It’s a book that doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point, which is great as it doesn’t take up much space on the bookshelf, either (frankly, I’ve seen thicker magazines!!). There are no wasted pages here, and Winifred Aldrich certainly doesn’t mess around!


Making Trousers

12 April 2010, 14:37

Continuing on with some of my new books, James knew exactly how much I loved David Page Coffin’s “Shirtmaking” book that I used when sewing his yellow linen dress shirt so when I asked for this followup book on sewing trousers, he jumped at the chance to buy it for my birthday. I think he might be eyeing up some custom trousers of his own, but no matter what the motivation, I’m glad he did!

One thing that surprised me, however, is that there’s no DVD in the UK edition of this book like there is in the US edition, but then again, our version is cheaper, and I can’t really see myself watching many sewing videos anyway (I have zero patience whatsoever for YouTube. Zero.). But I am kinda annoyed that there are some pdf patterns included that us UK readers miss out on!

David Page Coffin has a Trouser Making blog to accompany/promote the book but the patterns aren’t included there, either. But a lot of good discussion is there, and you can get a good feel for whether the book is right for you from reading it.

In a nutshell, this is a book for anyone who has their perfect basic trouser pattern but wants to make a bunch of variations from it so no one can tell you’re wearing the same trousers every day!


Bridal Couture

8 April 2010, 17:25

I’m in downtown Muslin City at the moment, between the bridesmaids dresses and the very belated birthday dress for my (future) sister in law. So far I’ve made the FSIL’s muslin, had her try it on, and altered the pattern pieces according to the two changes we’re making (which was a pleasant surprise – it fit really well!). And on the bridesmaid front, I’ve completed both bodices and attached one to the skirt in preparation for Pip to try it on this weekend. Since the skirt is so enormously long, I actually didn’t have enough muslin fabric to make a skirt for each muslin. So I’m just going to swap the skirt out and attach it to the other bodice after fitting the first one (it’s a very loose design so the fact that it’s 2 sizes off doesn’t matter much!).

Can you believe I’ve gone through 8m of white viscose knit muslin fabric, between a top, my birthday dress, the FSIL’s dress, and the two bridesmaids dresses?? Wowza.

Anyway, while I’m sewing up muslins, there isn’t much to show off (I don’t mind putting photos of myself up in little more than a bedsheet, but it’d something else to subject your friends to that!) but I’ve got a ton of good sewing books to report on, so you’ll be enjoying a few good books with me over the next week or so…

So to start things off, we’re going to stay on the wedding theme with Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture, a book so amazing that it fetches RIDICULOUS prices online. It’s been out of print for years (also contributing to the resale value), but the copyright has just reverted back to Susan Khalje, and she is is self-publishing this on CD – you can preorder it here for delivery next month.


Twinkle Sews

28 January 2010, 11:47

I got an early Christmas present from lovely Rachel that I’ve been dying to talk about, but I’ve just been sewing too much to find room on here! She ended up with two copies so she offered me one (with unbelievably perfect timing, as I’d not five minutes before received my Christmas parcel from America, totally soaked through like it had been dunked in a lake somewhere en route and was thoroughly upset. So her offer really turned the day around for me!).

It’s called “Twinkle Sews”, and it’s the first sewing book by designer Wenlan Chia.

It’s got sections for skirts, raglan sleeve tops and tunics, dropped shoulder tops and tunics, and sleeveless tops. I’m not a big fan of the dropped shoulder look myself (it just looks badly fitted to my eyes) but that’s easily altered and the designs in here are just so different to what I’m used to seeing in my pattern magazines that it was a real fresh burst of inspiration.

The book contains glossy model photoshoots for each design, then shots of the clothing laid flat, line drawings of the pattern pieces (though not laid onto fabric) with a few detail shots and text-only instructions. To my dismay, there aren’t any technical drawings, but you can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on from the flat photos. They rate the patterns from “Easy” to “Advanced”, but to my eyes, this is not a beginner book at all! The A-Plus A Line skirt is definitely the easiest in the book (read on for a free download link), but the instructions are un-illustrated and don’t seem to use standard pattern instruction notation. Don’t get me wrong – they’re not as bad as Burda magazine, so if you can handle those, you’ll be fine here!


Been making and opening...

28 July 2009, 18:27

Believe it or not, I’ve been doing an awful lot of resting and napping, but as long as I don’t spend too much time standing at the ironing board, I can usually get a fair bit of sewing done before I get too tired (though on the days I have to go into outpatients I just come home and collapse!).


Since I already had this KnipMode wrap blouse prepared as an activity pack, it seemed the ideal candidate to ease myself into my sewing room again. I’m waiting for my wigs to arrive from Hong Kong before I do the photoshoot, but here’s a teaser on Susan…

I realise I’m posting out of order here since I haven’t shown you all the fantastic August issue of KnipMode magzine yet, but let’s just say it’s so fan-tas-tic (terrible Dutch pun, uggggh) that I’ve already drafted this weekend bag pattern and have online shopping lists together to get all the haberdashery bits to complete it. I’m SO excited to try that vilene stuff that turns regular fabric into oilcloth, as my RTW bags just get so filthy so quickly!

And starting the long line of baby gifts (I have something like 5 or 6 friends due in August & September!!) is this baby blanket for our friend’s little baby, Grace. I did the embroidery (from Urban Threads) while I was in hospital, then used a large amount of the turquiose basketweave fabric (which was just screaming to be made into a blanket even before I made my duffle coat!), and finished it off with some red and white bias tape. How is it that no matter how much bias tape you make, you’ll always end up a little short? Or maybe it’s just me?


Patrones spring coat - muslin & alterations

13 May 2009, 12:25

Since I’m not entirely confident of how Patrones patterns fit me, and I’m equally not confident that I am a size 44 anymore (well, I was when I traced it 18 months ago, argh), I decided to play it safe and make a bedsheet muslin for my Patrones spring coat before cutting into the basketweave wool. If you remember, this is the coat:

And this is how the muslin looks straight off the pattern sheets:


Pillowcase Challenge giveaway!

30 April 2009, 13:18

Cast your mind back to May last year, when I posted about sending off some submitted projects for a book about reusing old pillowcases… You there yet? Great!

Because Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase has now been published! Or rather, it was a month or so ago, I’m a tad late…

I’ve got my copy here, which is full of really basic, easy sewing projects that are perfect for beginning sewers. The other cool things is that you don’t really have to use pillowcases for your starting points here – you could just as easily make things like the hat, stuffed toys, kimono (pictured above), remote control armchair caddy, cape, etc, from equivalent lengths of scrap fabric or fun quilting cottons. I sourced all my vintage pillowcases off eBay to make my samples for the book, too, so you don’t have to feel bad about cutting up your family heirlooms if you don’t want to, either.

So without further ado, here’s my winning submission, the “Flirty pyjama set”, featuring a camisole and French knickers made from one pair of pillowcases!

(Photo of the Flirty Pyjamas compliments of Lark Books!)


What the Postman brought...

2 February 2009, 18:53

(Actually, the postie for my office is a very nice lady, but that doesn’t sound as good…) In any case, I received some very nice goodies in the post last week!

First up is the Sublime Stitching Ultimate embroidery kit that I ordered just before New Year’s (there was a weird problem with the post and it was presumed lost so they sent another… which turned up a day after the original one finally came, d’oh!)

It’s got pretty much everything you need to start embroidering stuff (including a half apron and my chosen designs, Tattoo Your Towels), and I’ve already assembled everything into a nice, pink, dedicated embroidery box, ready for transport! Maybe it will impove my very simplistic embroidery skills as seen on my mom and niece’s sleep masks!

The other parcel came from Cindy, my former uni housemate and now Amazon fairy!

She read how I’m not so well and decided to perk me up with the best gifts ever. It’s almost scary how well she knows me!! In the parcel was The Beautiful Fall (a book about Yves St Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1970s Paris), The Art of Manipulating Fabric (more on that below), and Mad Men Season One dvd (which I’ve really been wanting to see but missed when it was shown on BBC4)!


Vintage Sewing Books

29 August 2008, 17:10

I recently had a spate of vintage book buying, and I’ve finally had a chance over the last month or so to properly digest them. Most of them were purchased from AbeBooks.com, which I’d used and loved years ago and then promptly forgot existed until they sent me a “come back to us!” voucher out of the blue. Well, it worked because I ended up with Kwik Sew Method Swim Wear and Kwik Sew Method Lingerie, both by Kerstin Martensson, plus The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot, and a reproduction of the famous WWII pamphlet Make Do And Mend (bought from Bletchley Park‘s gift shop).


Been up to...

19 June 2008, 11:54

Phew! It’s been a very busy week, both in my sewing room and elsewhere on the boat. Parties, film nights, more deck grinding, music selection for a friend’s wedding, gardening, broken water pumps, gifts, muslins, and BIG shopping, but to name a few!

The deadline for the finished instructions and my bio for the “Pillowcase Challenge” book were also due this week, so I devoted a big chunk of Sunday to getting that perfect, and then the rest of the weekend was spent making a twin blue KnipMode shirt for my mom:


I love a man in yellow

2 June 2008, 17:18

I started work on this shirt so long ago it almost seems amazing that I finished it at all! I was first held up by buying some machine feet for this project back in the beginning of April, and here it is in June and I’m finally showing it to you (though I did finish it over a week ago so it was technically May!).

I’ve made quite a few button-down shirts for my boyfriend James over the years, but after reading through Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin I had the epiphany that they were all really badly done and I couldn’t possibly ever go back to my old ways after that. Really, I cannot recommend this book highly enough – even if you never sew menswear, it is essential reading for all shirt and blouse construction.

So instead of using the old Simplicity pattern (OOP 5273), I thought I’d break with tradition and make my first long-sleeved shirt for him using BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern. According to his measurements, I made a size 52 and it fits him perfectly. He also adds that he’s “a textbook 15 1/2” in dress shirts in case that helps anyone at all.


Hands in many pots

21 May 2008, 11:22

I’ve got my hands in so many different projects right, it’s almost hard to keep up with myself!

My first priority was re-creating my piece for the upcoming book, which (as I’ve seen it talked about elsewhere online) I believe I can now reveal is tentatively titled “Pillowcase Challenge” and is all about recycling vintage pillowcases into other items. You’re going to have to wait until next spring to see my creation in the flesh (along with a few other pillowcase-related tutorials I’ve got tucked away), but here’s a teaser of my sample ready to be posted:


S'Update (Spring Update)

9 May 2008, 12:02

I had the day off yesterday, but I did not sew a single stitch. Yes, I am feeling okay, but I was looking a bit green yesterday…

This week I’ve been mostly busying myself with gathering materials for future projects. I ordered some gorgeous charcoal grey, 100% wool coating fabric from Rosenberg’s (they’ve got lots more fabric than what’s listed on the site!) which will be made into a new, long overcoat for next winter (I doubt I’ll be ready in time for Marji’s coat sew along, sadly!):


No small feet

4 April 2008, 12:08

I was planning on next sewing up a long-sleeved linen shirt for James using BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern, but having read through Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin, I soon realised that all my previously sewn shirts were terribly amateur and that I’d learned SO MUCH in just reading the first ten pages that I’d now longer be able to go back to my own ignorant ways after eating from the tree of knowledge.

One of the things Coffin said is absolutely necessary is a felling foot for your sewing machine, which I don’t have. These seem to be a rare item for non-Pfaff machines in the UK, so I’ve had to buy one off American eBay (along with a rolled hem foot from the same seller, which Coffin also recommends).

Before I bought the feet, I had a quick rifle through my sewing machine feet box first to see if I already had them and just didn’t know what they were. When I got my sewing machine from my sister-in-law, she threw in a little plastic box full of feet and spare bobbin casings and screwdrivers and all sort of random pieces that she thought went with the machine. Some I’ve been able to identify, but others are still a mystery, so I’m hoping some of you will be able to help me out…

The A Team – the feet I use all the time! From left to right: the standard foot, the adjustable zipper foot, and the walking foot


Gift and Receive

7 January 2008, 12:55

Things were a bit hectic in the leadup to Christmas this year, seeing as how we were starting from scratch in our own place this year. Sewing ornaments and other decorations took up most of my time, but I was able to fit in two sewn gifts in the few minutes I had before work in the mornings, sewing with very numb fingers in my heater-less sewing room.


Happy birthday indeed!

26 March 2007, 12:29

Yesterday was my 28th birthday and I received quite possibly the best birthday gift possible, especially since I thought it would be impossible to deliver in time…

Yes, our new floating home is now in her new home, delivered actually on my birthday itself by my boyfriend and our hired crew. We’ve got a bunch of hard work to do this week before we can move in at the weekend, but it means I’ll be able to eventually have a dedicated sewing room for all things Fehrtrade and have a wide choice of cutting tables (since it used to be a hotel, we’ve got a breakfast room crammed full of tables and chairs!).