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A classic pair of jeans

13 September 2013, 12:18

I know I’ve been recently focusing on sewing for my upcoming Mexico trip but I’ve been wanting to sew these since my FW12 and SS13 plans so it was high time I actually just sat down and made them!

After umming and ahhing for months over which pattern I should use, then muslining two different patterns which were both too small, I ended up making this pair in two days’ flat! As you’ll recall, it’s #120 from the April 2010 issue of Burda magazine (sadly not on Burdastyle.com!), an issue which also had a great pair of men’s trousers I’ve been eyeing up for James, too.


Worn here with my plum bamboo Jalie top

I’m a bit scared that I can sew an entire pair of jeans now (including the front fly) without looking at instructions a single time… I did, however, inspect a pair of James’s RTW jeans once or twice to see which side of the seam they topstitched!


This one has been lightened so you can see the details a little better!

Oh, and remember when I tried on the muslin for this pattern and it was way too small in the waist and hips? Well, I put the muslin to the side in my sewing cave and tried them on a few weeks later and they fit perfectly now! Yes, only I would go and change my body instead of just doing a pattern alteration…

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The Swirl Sheath Dress

12 August 2013, 13:15

This dress has been an awfully long time in the making. The idea started back when I took the Pattern Magic 2 class at Morley College last winter, where we learned a technique called “Fundamentals: Create three-dimensional forms with design lines only” (it just rolls off the tongue, eh?).

Essentially what this means is you sew up a muslin, draw design lines all over it, cut along these lines, then introduce snips of ease until the pieces lie flat, and there’s your new pattern! I did all this (based on a sheath dress from the June 2012 Burda magazine, which doesn’t appear to be on the US BurdaStyle, sorry) last summer, but then the project stalled when I couldn’t find any heavyweight stretch satin anywhere in Europe, and had to import this gorgeous salmon stretch duchesse from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Then there were further delays as I didn’t have a wide enough cutting table to lay out the asymmetric and strangely-shaped pieces, until a few weeks ago when the Thrifty Stitcher invited me to pow-wow at her studio and suddenly my swirl sheath dress was back on track!

Because all the darts from the original pattern (bar one) are now incorporated into a bunch of curved seams, this means there’s a lot of easing going on, so if you don’t like easing princess seams, for example, you really won’t like sewing this. My easing motto is “pin the crap out of it”, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t have any tucks or unpicking in any of these seams. Though I did use 58 pins on just the lower semi-circular seam!

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A Big Weekend for Sewing

29 July 2013, 13:59

I had an uncharacteristic free weekend – no races and not much planned, so I ended up getting lots of sewing bits done!

Sewing room clear-out

I’ve only got a small (temporary) sewing cave, and I’m a very tidy, organised person, but I’d let it get a little messy and it was feeling crowded, so after my two hour hill run on Saturday morning, I came back and had a bit of a clear out. I filled a full black bag with rubbish, but here’s what I pulled aside to swap at the Goldhawk Road meetup on Saturday!

Yes, you could be a good home to some pattern, pattern magazines, books, craft kits, or fabric that once lived on board! Now, if I can manage to be good and not fill up the space with things I pick up in the swap or fabric stores…

Skylight cover

Remember the last time I made a skylight cover (strangely, I see last time I was sewing jeans alongside it, too!)? I’d only ever made them for the back cabin, where the skylights are peaked, with windows that open like wings, but on the front deck, the skylights are flat and require grills that fit overtop for safety and security.

We had a joiner make a gorgeous new cover for the skylight over our bedroom, but it’s been shamefully covered in tarpaulins for the last few months while I procrastinated swearing my way through sewing another.

Even with a walking foot, the clear plastic is a total P-I-T-A to sew because it sticks to the machine bed, the foot, is stiff and rams into everything, and is generally just awful.

This time around, I got so sick of the stickiness that I grabbed a “newspaper” (tabloid left from our joiner) and ripped off pieces to go underneath and also under the presser foot.

This surprisingly worked rather well, and the newspaper just rips out easily afterwards. Worth remembering if a) you don’t mind newsprint on your fabrics, and b) like me, you never have tissue paper lying around

It’s not my best work, but it’s done and will allow more light into our new bedroom!

Jeans muslin

If you recall, I decided on a Burda pattern for my non-stretch denim so I sewed up a quick muslin of that on Saturday after my skylight triumph.

The triumph was short-lived.

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Wool sweatshirt & denim-look pleated leggings

19 February 2013, 18:08

I’ve been meaning to sew both of these pieces for a few months now, but it didn’t occur to me exactly how well they work together until I went to do the photoshoot and realised, hey – these make for a great transitional weather casual outfit!

The wool sweatshirt


I mentioned it in my Burda Challenge roundup but I abolutely adore my turquoise chic sweatshirt from the September 2012 Burda magazine (or you can purchase the download pattern here), and I wear it so much I’ve been plotting another ever since. I’ve had this wool blend fabric in my stash since our honeymoon in 2010, when I bought it at Elliott Berman in NYC. I’m not sure if it’s a jersey or a woven, and it’s got a bit of loft and stretch, but it’s not as spongey as your typical loden. And for a wool, it’s super soft and not scratchy in the slightest.

So I made another “chic sweatshirt” out of this wool – does this make this one my “luxe sweatshirt” or something?

As before, you’ve really got to baste those curved front darts carefully so they’re accurate when you sew them. I always do my hand basting with silk thread (hot pink so it stands out against pretty much everything I sew) because it pulls out so much easier than polyester or cotton thread when you’re done.

I really like the detail of the curved, darted sleeve head, which makes the construction of this more like a raglan sleeve than a set in one.

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Brick orange Marita draped dress

18 February 2013, 16:25

I fell in love with the design of the Style Arc “Marita” dress as soon as it was released, and I bought it right away. But that was back in our summer, and I thought the long sleeves would be better suited towards cooler weather, so I let it hibernate a bit in my pattern stash before adding it into my Fall/Winter 2012 Sewing Shortlist.

I bought some wonderful some brick orange (or “rust”) viscose-lycra jersey from Tissu and knew it’d have the perfect drapiness and recovery for this design. Coincidentally, it’s also the same fabric I made the Donna Karan skirt set in – I just love this stuff and you cannot beat the price (£3.50/m)!

The pattern front claims you can make it in one hour, and it really is ridiculously fast to sew! I don’t feel right showing the pattern pieces as I feel that’s giving away their design, and I really think this is ingenious. The finished dress looks really complicated, but in reality it’s just a basic knit dress with one dart and one tuck. That’s it.

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A vintage painter's smock

14 November 2012, 13:11

I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be a painter’s smock, but that’s certainly what this feels like to me! In the October edition of BurdaStyle magazine Burda call it a “retro short coat” – a reprint of a vintage pattern that originally appeared in 1952. From the magazine and original sketch, it reminded me loads of a coat Bel wore to the country house party in the first season of The Hour, so I was keen to make it to inject some vintage styling into my usual modern wardrobe.

(It’s available to download from Burda’s English site if you like it, or just fancy reading the instruction pdf)

I made it here in some silver-grey linen gifted to me by Veronica when I was in Paris. It’s nice fabric, but I think the colour isn’t helping the smock comparisons! Maybe it needs something brighter…

Burda’s patterns are very nearly always well-made, but this one in particular is impeccable drafted (well, except for the curved collar), with tons of inset corners that joined up perfectly. It’s one of those patterns that’s a joy to sew, when everything matches up and just comes together like a little puzzle – match up corners and notches here, a bit of gathering there, pieces join to be the Centre Back in unexpected ways – that sort of thing! If I wanted to be picky, there’s some generous gathering across the back, but there wasn’t quite enough gathering on the front seams for my liking. Personally, I’d rather the gathering be concentrated in a smaller area than have it be wide and hardly any gathers.

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Parisian jeans and a geometric Wiksten tee

31 October 2012, 14:32

As some of you may have guessed from my FW2012 shortlist I posted yesterday, I’ve made the Wiksten tank, using the pattern and geometric Mood jersey Kollabora gifted me and also another pair of Jalie jeans! I wasn’t actually planning that they’d go together, but they were a perfect pairing for a relaxed Sunday roast at a cosy pub near the moorings.

Let’s start with the jeans – as I said earlier, my NY-Lon jeans are easily my most-worn item of clothing ever since I made them last year, but they’re starting to fade and I want to have a replacement pair ready before they totally die. The denim I used there was from Mood in NYC, but I’d found some great stretch denim at the Tissues Dreyfus coupon shop in Paris in March, and only €10 for a 3m length, too. I wouldn’t normally buy that much of the same fabric if given a choice, but it means that I’ve got enough left over to easily make another pair. I find it really difficult to find good stretch denim in shops, but this has good stretch and recovery without being too flimsy, so I snapped it up when I saw it.

I constructed these exactly the same as my NY-Lon jeans – again, my main deviations from the Jalie pattern were to use a Burda curved waistband (instead of their rectangular, bias-cut waistband that was just awful in my muslin pair), and extended the pocket linings to the centre front for a non-stretch “gut slimming” panel, as before.

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Fall/Winter 2012 Sewing Shortlist

30 October 2012, 13:34

A lot of sewers like to “Sew with a Plan” (SWAP), but I prefer to call this a “Shortlist” rather than a “Plan”, so I’m free to still change my mind and add/remove items as I go along! My main goal here isn’t so much to create a capsule wardrobe that can be worn together, but more to use up fabrics and/or that have been in my stash for a while that I’d really like to just wear.


(Click to enbiggen!)

From the top down, in no particular order: