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A Lime Linen Men's Shirt

28 October 2014, 14:03

James has a black linen shirt from Muji that he utterly loves. He’s worn it very nearly to death over almost ten years, though, with it rather faded and with a hole worn in in one place. So he asked me if I could copy it, as it’s a design that he’s never been able to find it shops again.


I’m so proud that my Illustrator skills are such that I can whip up a tech drawing like this in a few minutes now!

It’s an over-the-head design with a front button placket, stand collar, back yoke, and short sleeves with little button tabs on the sleeve hems. The only change I made from the original was to introduce a small pleat at the back yoke, as I just think men’s yoked shirts look weird when they don’t have them, plus it gives a bit of wearing ease back there.

I traced out his existing shirt with craft paper and my serrated tracing wheel, and made a quick muslin, which miraculously needed no fitting changes! Then it was onto the first real version, made up in a lime-green linen-blend mix from Ditto which he chose when we were in their Brighton shop earlier this year.

Plackets always tend to intimidate me as they seem like a bit of witchcraft – how can this weird shape turn into that in just a few steps?? So I put off sewing it, until I remembered that I’d scanned and digitised the placket template from David Page Coffin’s excellent “Shirtmaking” book. This is one of my clever-er ideas, as it means I just just adjust the width and length of the placket in Illustrator and print myself off a fresh template. Because obviously the dimensions for sleeve plackets for men’s shirts are of a different scale than the neck placket here!

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StyleArc Pamela - the perfect summer dress?

30 July 2014, 11:47

I must be the only sewist on earth without enough casual dresses, but alas, the weather has turned very hot and summery and I’ve taken to just wearing the same jeanskirt and pair of 17 year old shorts (no, really) around the boat while I work from home. I realised I could just make any number of knit dresses, but that’s too easy, and besides, my knit stash is a little low and my woven stash is spilling over.

So I decided to pull out the StyleArc Pamela dress pattern I originally planned to make for my Mexico travel wardrobe last year, and pair it with the same blue linen (blend?) that was gifted to me by Veronica back in 2012.

It’s been ages since I sewed a woven for myself, so of course I forgot that they require pressing, which means heat and steam standing by the iron, ugh! But let me tell you, it was all worth it in the end because I totally love this dress. I think it might be the perfect summer dress, as it’s both casual and a little different, and you can change the look just by tying it either in front, or in the back.


(Yes, I had been wearing the dress all day before these photos – including two lots of treadmill running to whilst shopping for new racing flats!)

I bought the pattern when I was a StyleArc size 14 (I’m closer to a 12 now), so the dress is a little bigger than usual on me, but this works for summer because you can get a looser fit by tying the integrated ties in a bow under the bust. Or, if you want, you can also cinch in the waist by wrapping the ties around to tie it in the back. I’ve been wearing it about 50/50 according to my whims.

There are a lot of great little details in this pattern – the shawl collar extends to the centre back neck, falling nicely into an inverted pleat at the inset corner.

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The turquoise and silver motif dress

7 June 2011, 17:16

I am very pleased to finally be able to show you this dress, which has been quite a while in the making!

I first bought the motif at Mode et Travaux in Paris when we visiting there last summer, but then a few months ago I decided that I really wanted to do something with it, so I started laying out my first pattern ideas. Then I finally decided on a a pattern and started basting the motif onto my linen in preparation for our French road trip, where I painstakingly sewed the motif onto the dress using silver thread and an embroidery hoop.

The finished dress is a variation on dress #102 from the March 2010 KnipMode supplement, but I modified the neckline heavily so that it’d match the motif’s curves. In actuality, I cut the curve of the neckline after I’d completely sewed the motif into place!

Since I changed the front neckline, I also had the widen the back at the neck edge to match the front, too. It means my big head can only just fit through, as it’s much narrower than the original pattern.

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A silver & linen dress - decisions and basting

14 April 2011, 14:04

Thank you all SO much for all the feedback on my pattern shortlist earlier this week. It’s so incredibly helpful to hear from others which have worked and which haven’t, and to get me thinking on what I most like to wear (and what I don’t!).

Since I tend to email commenters personally but not put my responses in the comments themselves, I thought it might be helpful to answer a few general questions from the comments. I’m not really seeing this as an overly dressy/posh/fussy dress – for me, the linen dress on its own would be something I’d wear to the office, out to lunch with friends, or out in town, and the motif I bought in Paris is just a sort of permanent necklace. I always overdress anyway, and I’m not envisioning this as anything “left for best” in the slightest! Believe me, there’s very little I keep aside and out of my daily rotation!

Nancy K suggested a tunic might be more wearable than a dress, but I had to admit to her that I really, really don’t feel comfortable wearing tunics. There’s just something about the awkward “too long for a top but too short for a dress” length plus too many layers that just makes me feel self conscious. Whereas I wear dresses and skirts almost continuously in summer (compounded by the fact that I don’t wear shorts)!

Finally, I decided against a bunch of lovely sheath dress patterns purely for linen/wrinkle reasons, and my thinking that these would probably have more horizontal wrinkles from sitting than full-skirted numbers. I’m debating whether I’ll underline this dress or not for that same reason, but I suppose it all depends on if I can find suitable cotton or silk lightweight fabric for a good price while we’re in France.

Enough with the commentary – I finally decided on dress #102 from the KnipMode 03/2010 supplement (one I didn’t even scan in my initial review! gasp!).

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A linen & silver dress - ideas

10 April 2011, 14:40

London has gone super sunny and warm over the past few weeks, so my thoughts have turned to spring sewing and using up some treasures from my stash. Remember the silver chain and sequin motif I bought in Paris last summer? Well I still adore it, and I thought it’d be a great showpiece for a spring dress.

Since the motif is mounted on blue netting, I thought it’d be best to pick a similar coloured fabric for the dress, so that the little spots inside the design which can’t be trimmed away wouldn’t look too out of place. Luckily I’ve had this turquoise linen/rayon mix in my stash for a few years, so its day has come!

I thought it looked good next to the motif, but wow! it looks amazing when I actually pull some through underneath it!

Has anyone worked with motifs like this before? I’m guessing I just get silver lurex thread to match and take tiny stitches the whole way around and trim off the excess netting? Is an embroidery hoop useful (or necessary)? I’m hoping to get the piece cut out and ready to work on during our French road trip over Easter, with any luck.

The next step is figuring out which pattern I’m going to use. I used my usual method for sifting through my pattern magazines (like I did for my wedding gown and my latest winter coat) – since I’ve got all my At-a-glance pages scanned in an online gallery, I flip through them all looking for a suitable pattern, and when I find one, take a quick screenshot of that pattern (Shift-Apple-4 on Mac makes it really easy!), and rename the file to be the issue number so I can find where it came from.

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James's fantasy jacket

21 December 2010, 16:14

I’ve been calling this James’s “fantasy jacket” because he’s asked me to recreate a beloved unlined, simple, waterproof jacket that was stolen from a pub on the night he met me all those years ago.

He recalled it from memory while I attempted to create an accurate tech drawing, and then once that was agreed, I compared this against my vast pattern magazine archive (made much easier since I started tagging my At a Glance scans online, so I just had to shuffle through those issues tagged “menswear”!).

I decided that BWOF 10/08 #134 was a pretty good starting point for what James wanted, and I went from there. The muslin went well, so around Thanksgiving I started on the final jacket, made from a very cool laminated linen from Mood in NYC, with bias binding made from some dark red and black tie silk bought in Dublin three years ago.

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Silver linen dress in situ

10 September 2008, 15:12

I’m a bit late in getting the photos from last weekend’s wedding off James’s computer, but I know some of you were waiting to see how the silver linen shift dress and the matching fascinator looked together, so here you go!

This banner was actually up outside the venue advertising an upcoming wedding expo, but it was too good for the bride and groom (and us!) to pass up for photos…

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Silver wedding fascinator

26 August 2008, 12:01

You may remember that I made my silver linen dress to wear to our friends Holly and Simon’s wedding this weekend. While at Holly’s delightful (and crafty!) hen party / tea party on Sunday, I mentioned that I was debating whether to make a matching fascinator and it was demanded that I comply!

So in the spirit of my first fascinator, I got out a bit of scrap plastic, some soft, squishy fleece, silver linen leftover from my dress, and grey netting and went to town…

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Silver linen shift dress

13 August 2008, 16:26

This dress has been fully formed in my mind ever since February, when I bought Burda 7783 and this beautiful linen/lurex blend at Hickeys in Dublin. Luckily, they print the fabric content and washing instructions right on the receipts, so I can tell you with some degree of accuracy that this dress is 53% linen, 44% rayon, and 3% lurex. As far as I’m concerned, this fabric is 100% gorgeous – it’s got a subtle bit of shine under bright lights that really makes it special.

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Prima linen shift dress

6 June 2008, 13:18

The third linen item in this week’s unofficial linen-a-thon is a cute and very casual shift dress from the May 08 issue of Prima magazine. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Prima much here before, but it’s a UK women’s magazine that features one sewing pattern each issue. If you subscribe you get sent them automatically, but if you pick up an occasional copy at the newsagents like I do, then you need to ring a premium rate number to have it posted to you (it usually works out to a pound or two on your phone bill, which is very reasonable).

Their patterns are usually a bit hit-or-miss with me, but when they get it right, I drop everything to buy the issue, even though this is the first one I’ve actually sewn up. Their sizing is pretty close to the Big 4 patterns and they include seam and hem allowances, and the patterns are printed on newsprint like the pattern magazines. One thing I really don’t like, though, is that they print their sewing instructions right on the pattern sheet so you’ve got to unfold this huge sheet just to read what the next step is if you haven’t cut up your patterns and prefer to trace instead.

On this pattern, I really liked the overall easygoing style and fit of the dress, and the gathered back yoke combined with the standing wide collar really appealed to me. This pattern included optional cap sleeves, which I decided to make to shield my poor freckled shoulders from the sun (when it occasionally shows its face here!).

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Lemon and raspberry La Mia Boutique dress

4 June 2008, 13:19

When I bought my first La Mia Boutique magazine a few months ago I was instantly drawn to dress #31 in that April 2008 issue:

I loved the duality of the buttoned, tight, and sleeveless bodice with the pleated A-line skirt, and I wanted to accentuate that with contrasting fabric (and, err, leave out the weird knee-highs!). I happened to have about a half metre of lemon-yellow linen/tencel blend leftover from James’s dress shirt, and it was just too soft to let languish in my scraps box! So I decided to use it for the bodice (and lining) of this day dress and pair it with some raspberry-coloured tablecloths for the bottom. I think I may possibly be channelling Spring colours, or perhaps I’m just craving sorbet!

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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.

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A shirt, two dresses, and 10,000 meters

27 May 2008, 16:37

This past weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, so technically I got another day though it doesn’t really feel that way! I did manage to get some sewing in amongst the DIY, cleaning, baking, running, and hosting, however. I finally finished James’s linen shirt, and even made myself a new day dress from La Mia Boutique using some of his excess linen/tencel fabric and some raspberry tablecloths…

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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:

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Collar Me Bad

12 May 2008, 11:41

Yesterday was a beautiful, warm and sunny day – I’d already done all my DIY work on Saturday (plus cooked and hosted a three course charity dinner for 5!) so the day was all mine to relax and sew for a change!

I’ve been slowly working on making BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern in a lemon yellow linen/tencel blend for James, but it’s been slow going because I’ve been trying to unlearn all my bad habits and follow David Page Coffin’s “Shirtmaking” book to the letter. I cannot say enough fabulous things abut this book – really, within 5 pages I knew I could never, ever go back to my old ways. Even if you never sew menswear, it’s still a must buy in my opinion for its techniques in dresses, shirtwaisters and the like.

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