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Surf to Summit Top Pattern - Out now!

An extended weekend full of sewing

15 July 2014, 11:34

Last week saw the end of a very good but busy work project, so what do I do when faced with a bit more time and mental energy than usual? Why, I sew of course!*

Liberty, but not as we know it


I received some lovely Liberty gift coins for my birthday, and because Previous Me knows Future Me so well, I had stashed some extra birthday cash along with it in the suede pouch, knowing I’d forget all about it and be pleasantly surprised. Which is precisely what happened!

So now armed with £60 to play with in Liberty, I decided to take advantage of a rainy day and go shopping. Now, I know loads of you go weak at the knees for anything Liberty, but I don’t. I find most of the traditional Liberty prints to be painfully twee and nothing I’d ever, ever wear. So I was thinking I’d see what was on offer in their jerseys, but first I got waylaid by the remnants table, where I scooped up a vaguely-African print silk twill (1m for £25, seen lower left).

The jersey selection was really small and mostly ditzy print (gag), but I kept being drawn to a dreamy, blurry, triangular print that came in a few shades, but only in Tana Lawn. I finally decided that if I kept coming back to this print then I should buy it and figure out a project later. So 1.5m of the palest colourway came home with me (seen upper left above) and brought my grand total to £58. Now that’s budgeting!

Refashioned suede wristlets

A friend had recently given me two skirts which no longer fit her, a suede one and a silk one, and mentioned that I might want them for the fabric. Of course! So I chopped up the suede one on Sunday, making two of the free Cake mini wristlets.


(The colour on the left is more accurate…)

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Bridge the Gap refashioned race tee

12 June 2013, 13:10

Following on from yesterday’s Boston Street Running refashioned top, I thought I’d show you the other refashioned race tee I made from my starting pile, the “BTG” one in the centre:

This one has a whole lot of meaning for me – the urban running crew I’m part of, Run dem Crew, has a bunch of sister crews all over the world with a similar ethos, so when we go to races in other countries, the host crew lays on parties, sightseeing, and pre-race hospitality. When crews get together like this, it’s called “Bridge the Gap”, and the Copenhagen crew even designed special shirts to commemorate the Copenhagen marathon weekend.

But I was a bit late to the Expo, and they ran out of Medium shirts, so I asked to be given the largest size they had, which was XXL! (Why they thought they needed to print any that big for marathon runners is another question entirely!). So this one was ripe for refashioning, and I had a lot of fabric to work with, which was great.


When I Bridge the Gap, I really bridge the gap!

The original shirt had the blue NBRO man on the front, with BTG and the date underneath, and the back had “The Peloton of Awesome” and all the participating crew logos across the shoulders. There were also mesh panels running down the sides, which I used in the Boston Street top instead. Unlike that top, however, here it was absolutely essential that I preserved the original designs.

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Refashioned Boston Street running top

11 June 2013, 14:40

One practical aspect of being a sewing runner (or a running sewist) is that I can take all those oversized race tee shirts that seem to accumulate and refashion the nice technical fabric into something more suitable. Oftentimes I just trim down the front and back based on my knit sloper (like I did with my Paris race tee), but this time around I thought I’d change things up and use a Burda pattern instead of my usual sloper, since one presented itself nicely in the form of the “scuba set” in the June 2013 Burda magazine (or you can purchase as a pdf here).

I started by pulling out a pile of race tees I wasn’t 100% happy with (though in reality I only did two of these four)…

This particular shirt was always destined to be refashioned – I visited tons of running shops when I was in Baltimore in April, but my favourite was a small, very friendly shop run by a very enthusiastic runner, Boston Street Running (Baltimorians, it’s down by the big Safeway in Canton). I ended up chatting to him for ages about nutrition, races, running fashion, and he despaired that he only had one of their shirts left, and it was XXL with a printing mistake, as he really wanted to give me one!

I assured him I’d refashion it down, and send him photos of me wearing it in front of Tower Bridge…

One thing I really like about this pattern is that there are no side seams – it uses side panels instead!

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My refashioned Paris race tee

15 March 2013, 14:20

As I mentioned earlier this week, one of the projects I wanted to work on was refashioning the free (but too large) shirt given out at the Paris half marathon a few weekends ago. Pretty much every race these days gives out a shirt, and usually they’re in nice wicking fabrics, but very rarely are they nicely designed, or vests. I prefer to run in vests instead of teeshirts (even if I’m wearing a jacket over top), so after I finished sewing my mom’s latest chic sweatshirt, I set to work on the race tee.

Here’s a “Before” shot, with my friend Daniel holding up his at the race expo (this is the “Medium”, but it’s massive, like a men’s large!)

I really like the Paris logo, so I wanted to keep that on the front, but I didn’t care about the adidas stripes on the sleeves or “boost” on the upper back (the new shoe they’re promoting). So the first step was to carefully cut along the sides of the shirt and sleeves, so I could lay the shirt out, folded along the centre front and centre back and pin my (self drafted but based on the Kristina Shin sloper) vest pattern pieces down:

I then cut the pieces out, with seam allowances at the sides and shoulders, but none at the neck and arm edges, since I planned to bind those with some of the black technical strips I used with the disco running top.

These were the only bits of the shirt I didn’t use!

First step is to use my little pizza wheel measuring device along the bound edges to work out what length strips I need…


I caught my mistake before binding – the neckline length needs doubling, as I measured both on the fold!

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Simultaneous sewing

12 March 2013, 12:43

I generally like to only work on one project at a time, but sometimes, for ease of tracing or bulk-cutting, or because (heaven forbid!) I run out of some necessary supply, I end up working on multiple projects at once. For me, this road is the way to Unfinished Objects (UFOs), and a treacherous one to travel down.

Far, far more frequently, though, I get a posting backlog so it just appears as though I’m working on a few things at once!

So right now, my tally is…

The Disco top and leggings


I posted about the leggings in December and the top last week, but I owe you a proper photoshoot for both!

The pink and orange tie-back top


I can’t talk too much about this one here because my niece reads the site, but this one has been finished for a few weeks, and I’ll get some photos of her wearing it when I’m over in the States after Easter.

The striped raglan tee


This is new-to-you, but I’ve also sewed a top for my nephew to give at the same time. I just finished this one this weekend, and I’ll also get photos of him wearing it when I’m in the States.

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Run dem Crew Refashions - Ladies first...

19 July 2012, 14:30

This is probably the longest-running project I’ve done since my epic wedding gown refashion, but I’m really proud of the results and the fact that I can finally show them off after much hinting and whispering round these parts. This would’ve never happened at all without the spark from Charlie, the founder of Run dem Crew (the Tuesday night running family that has utterly transformed my life in the past year I’ve been a member). When he found out I sewed, he raised the idea of a refashioning project, then proceeded to gather together all the pieces to make it happen.

The idea was simple – start with 19 pieces of running clothing – some used, some promotional, and some brand new with tags on (including some ££££ Gyakusou designer gear!), and refashion them.

I started this project back in April, but stalled during the 5 weeks our boat was in drydock and I was without access to my overlocker and sewing room. Happily, I got some fantastic help with ideas from fellow RDC runner Jennie, who’s worked for years as a product designer for a well-known clothing company, and came over to sift through the clothes and it really helped for me to bounce ideas off her and vice-versa.

So her reward was some enforced modelling when the project was finished! Ha!

From the initial bag of clothes, I made 8 garments – tops and bottoms for two ladies and two men. I’ve been promised some modelled shots of the men’s clothing coming up soon, but here are the two ladies’ outfits, modelled by Jennie and I….

I had the fore-thought to take images of all the Before clothing, so I was able to do a nice collage like this, showing you what the various pieces turned into:

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PSA - Freezer paper and laser printers don't mix!

27 April 2012, 14:23

This is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, but as I couldn’t find this information easily myself, I thought it was really important to get it out there to save some other poor sod the frustration and money I just spent.

Freezer paper stencils are great – fast, fairly easy, you get good results, and you can reuse the stencils a few times. Search for freezer paper stencil tutorials online, and you’ll get tons of results, all saying you can either print directly onto the freezer paper, or lay your design on top of the freezer paper, and trace around it with an exacto knife.

The latter is what I’ve always done in the past, but for my upcoming RDC refashioning project, I have a ton of stencilling to do, so I thought if I could cut out the step of taping the paper layers together, it’d go a bit quicker.

Only thing is, clearly none of the well-meaning tutorials out there own a laser printer. Laser printers use heat to print. Freezer paper uses heat to bond to the fabric. You see where this is going…?

DO NOT PRINT DIRECTLY ONTO FREEZER PAPER WITH A LASER PRINTER!

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A beginner skirt sewing lesson

23 March 2011, 12:50

Sunday afternoon was Lesson Two for my beginning sewing ladies, following along from the first lesson a few weeks ago when they learned how to operate a sewing machine and make a shopping bag.

At the end of the last lesson, Holly, Ness, and Veda were all begging to learn how to make a skirt, so how could I refuse? I decided they should follow in my footsteps and learn with New Look 6843, which was one of the VERY first patterns I ever made (then remade over and over again with a few variations!).

They picked out their own fabric and zippers, with Ness choosing a navy corduroy (so we got to talk about nap!), Holly choosing a beautiful navy wool suiting fabric, and Veda going for a bright and cheerful Liberty print.

Here’s Veda sewing on her own purple JL Mini machine (like my red one!)

We talked through measurements, pattern layouts, what the symbols on patterns mean, and also how you don’t have to follow the directions if you don’t want to (since I thought New Look’s order of construction made it awkward to check the fit of darts, and their zipper insertion made things more difficult than they had to be!).

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Free ruffled wristlet pattern!

4 May 2010, 11:29

This might possibly be my longest running project-to-post duration since I drafted and sewed up this cute wristlet last February using some scrap leather and some vintage lingerie fabric for a lining. I made it as a gift for a neighbour who wanted to remember a dear departed friend who left her a stash of vintage fabrics, and I loved the resulting wristlet purse so much that I felt compelled to share it with all of you! But I had problems digitising the pattern so it languished… but recently I was inspired to take another stab at it and I love the way it turned out!

The great thing is that because it’s a small purse, you can really make this out of leather scraps, or even an old leather skirt or jacket from a charity shop (thrift store or op-shop)! Or it doesn’t even have to be from leather at all, it’d work equally well in corduroy, denim, or even felt! And because it’s a wristlet, you can keep your hands free for drinks & canapes, or for beers & barbecues!

Download the free pattern by clicking the image below!

To anyone linking – please link to this page, not directly to the pdf file!

I hope you all enjoy this and please email me any photos if you make one for yourself! I’d rate this as an Advanced Beginner project just because of sewing the zipper, but it’d make a GREAT first leather project if you’ve never sewed with it before.

Illustrated instructions!


Text instructions are included in the downloadable file, but I wanted to provide photo instructions to make it easier for beginners to sew this, too. But when I put the photos in the file itself, it turned out way too big so I compromised and I’m offering them here instead!

Step 1



Using the exterior fabric, cut out two copies of the purse body, two copies of the flap, one of the ruffle, and one of the strap (or omit the strap for a ruffled clutch). The interior circle from the ruffle is unused and can be turned into a decorative flower by pinching the centre and securing with a few hand stitches.

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Race tops and new patterns

30 September 2008, 14:51

It is an enigma that, while the overwhelming majority of 10k race participants are slim and svelte, race shirts given away to participants are always enormous!

I had two race shirts made out of the nice wicking polyester that were way too big to wear (hanging down to my mid-thigh! And I’m not exactly Tinkerbelle…) but too nice to let rot in my wardrobe, so I cut them up!

I used the same KnipMode pattern as before, but got lazy and just serged all the edges with my white woolly nylon thread and didn’t bother with the elastic. The armpits were a tad too high before, so I lowered those, but otherwise just approached this as a no-nonsense reconstruction to get some wear out of garments I previously wouldn’t touch.

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Sleeping beauty mask

27 August 2008, 12:07

I was in such a buzz of sewing activity on this bank holiday Monday that I finally got a chance to make BurdaStyle’s Marcel sleep mask pattern that I’ve been meaning to sew for ages now!

One sleep mask is for myself, but the second one is a surprise for my friend (and will-be bridesmaid) Gez (who got it slipped through her letterbox last night!).

The adorable kitties fabric is from a tunic she gave me that was a bit too long for a shirt but too short for a dress, so I chopped off some length and saved the offcut to make something for her. The grey fabric is from a skirt her auntie gave me years ago that I completely forgot I even had until I dived into my scraps bin looking for something to use here. The dark grey backing was the skirt itself, and the shiny (silk?) casing used to be the waistband of the skirt. So it’s an entirely recycled sleep mask!

There aren’t any instructions for the pattern, but it’s very easy to make one and would be a great project for beginners:

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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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The Porsche dress

28 April 2008, 12:10

What a difference a week makes! Spring has finally come to London, meaning I could wear my new dress outside without fear of goosebumps (the reverse – I actually got a bit sunburnt!).

If you recall from earlier, I bought a vintage Porsche cotton duvet cover and pillowcase off eBay for £8 (including shipping). It was in great condition and even had a full wraparound print which meant I had a lot more fabric to work with than I ever imagined when I clicked Bid Now…

I decided it’d work best with a suitably vintage pattern, so I decided to use Simplicity 3780, using a bit of careful pattern placement to get the most out of the different printed areas of the duvet cover (so the stripes along the bottom of the duvet became the red halter straps, for instance).

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A Walking Advertisement

21 April 2008, 16:19

I was away all day Saturday hiking near Guildford with our monthly walking group, but a friend staying at ours said it snowed back in London. Ugh. It’s still too cold to wear either the silk blouse or the ikea skirt apart from their hurried photoshoots, so of course I’m sewing practical winter clothes to suit the weather…

Ha! Gotcha! No, I’m sewing a sleeveless, cotton halter-top dress, out of this vintage Porsche duvet I bought on eBay:

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You're it!

18 April 2008, 12:12

No, we’re not back on the school playground, but you’ll now see tags all over FehrTrade. I’ve been wanting to add more flexible linking for a while now, so I installed this plugin for Textpattern so I can now add any number of tags to the end of each post, and you can see a cloud of all the tags on the left, under the Google Ads. And another new addition over there is the search box, which should be working now across all pages (but if you find a circumstance where if looks weird, please send me the URL as I probably just missed a template!). I spent quite a while going through all my old posts and tagging them appropriately, so I apologise if you suddenly get a bunch of old posts in your RSS feed reader (mine still seems to be fine though, so fingers crossed!).

Anyway, enough of this housekeeping nonsense, what of the sewing, eh? Well, I’m going full steam ahead on my Porsche dress, and I carefully cut our the pattern pieces last night, taking note of the best possible placement for all the pieces.

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Refashioned Ikea Patrones skirt and bag

8 April 2008, 12:26

I’m no stranger to repurposing Ikea – so far I’ve turned two pillowcases into four placemats, a shower curtain into a dress, and a pillowcase into a skirt. I picked up some blue, pre-hemmed table runner fabric back at the same time I bought the shower curtain, but it’s just so narrow that I couldn’t really think what to do with it and it’s languished in my stash ever since.

But I’ve been in the sewing doldrums lately, waiting for the weather to warm up, so I had another look at the table runner and saw the potential for a cute, flirty skirt using this Patrones skirt pattern from the October 2007 issue (#261, pattern no. 22). Big, big thanks to my generous Patrones benefactor, Zoe, for letting me borrow her past few issues so I don’t go broke on German eBay!

Because the Ikea table runner fabric was so narrow, I had to get out my seam ripper and unpick one entire hem in order to make the skirt as long as possible. I kept the other side hem intact to use as the bottom of the skirt to save myself a construction step!

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Birthday bolero and Thames jeans

25 March 2008, 12:51

I’ve just spent nearly all of my four day weekend (double bank holiday, woo!) behind my sewing machine and ironing board, and I couldn’t be happier! For the last few years I’ve made myself something nice and new to wear on my birthday, so today I’m wearing my new clothes! It dulls the pain of turning 29, you see… ;)

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Bad kitty pillows

23 March 2008, 20:32

Ever since I cut up the Ikea pillowcases and turned them into placemats a few weeks ago, our couch has had the indignity of being adorned with raw pillows (oh the shame!). I’ve been sewing like a mad woman over this long bank holiday weekend (I finished up my jeans and my Patrones Jean Paul Gaultier skirt but it’s been hailing and snowing and FAR too cold to make photoshoots appealing…) so I finally got the energy up to cover the pillows once and for all, with the genius naughty kitties fabric we bought for this purpose in the States.

I made a bunch of piping using some offcuts of poly gabardine (I eyeballed it and only had a couple inches leftover, yesssssss!), made some careful measurements, and now our couch is a much happier place to sit!

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Ikea pillowcase placemats

6 March 2008, 14:47

Way back in August, James and I picked out this green naughty kitties fabric to use as pillowcases for our eventual lounge. We’ve since been on the lookout for the cheapest pillows we can find so I can make up new kitten covers for them, but you’d be surprised how overpriced even the ugliest pillows are today!

But then on a post-Christmas Ikea trip, we found these “ISIG” pillows on sale for £2 each. I think they must’ve been considered holiday items because of the snowflakes, but frankly, these were too good to just throw away. They’re cotton/linen blend, with the red snowflake (or star) design on one side, and stripes and a zipper closure on the other.

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Everyday superheroes

15 February 2008, 17:33

We’re off to Dublin for a week’s holiday from Wednesday and since we’re staying with some of James’s relatives, we wanted to give them a nice little hostess gift for putting us up (and putting up with us!). We thought about the usual stuff, but then instead decided to make something fun for their little boy (aged 5) instead.

So he’s going to be the recipient of this cape:

It’s nice and recycled – it’s made from a blue cotton tablecloth that came with our hotel boat when we bought it, the silver silk dupioni is offcuts from this shirt, and the velcro was from the shoulder pads I purchased for my tuxedo jacket (since I was sewing them in I wisely removed the velcro for later use). I just freehanded this so I can’t recommend a pattern, but if you’re making your own please make sure the neck fastening uses velcro or snaps instead of ties or buttons so you don’t end up gifting a choke hazard!

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Metro bottom dollar

22 January 2008, 11:13

Greetings Metro readers! No, this morning’s vision of a woman clad only in an Ikea shower curtain was not some hallucination brought on my last night’s curry and an early morning commute – it really was me!

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Express Yourself

21 January 2008, 13:12

Greetings to everyone who saw my interview and photo in the Daily Express today! For those of you outside the UK, here’s a scan of the feature on page 37 (the centrefold):

You can read the but the lovely photos are only in the print edition.

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Yellow satin cocktail dress

17 December 2007, 12:27

I fell in love with the yellow cocktail dress in the 11/07 Burda WOF magazine, with its wide, square neckline and fabulous 90 degree front darts, and it just so happened that I had just the right amount of butter-yellow duchess satin leftover from James’s pirate coat lining to sew this up. Since the satin was so thick I opted to omit the lining and just go for facings instead, which made this an even quicker project.

Together with my matching fascinator and steel grey satin gloves from the V&A gift shop, I rather overfulfilled the “glam attire” required for my neighbour’s lighting up party on Friday night.

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One More 'Times

19 November 2007, 11:48

To continue on with my domination of the world’s media, my interview with the Financial Times Germany appeared last weekend! This time I even got a funky illustration of me cutting into an IKEA shower curtain to go with my feature! Click below for the front page of the Weekend section, or for just my article (which appeared on page two).

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Sign of the 'Times

7 September 2007, 11:49

To follow on from yesterday’s comment about the New York Times Ikea hacks article, as things transpired throughout the day yesterday, I became less and less disappointed with being omitted from the article text itself. Sure, I gave what I thought was a good article with interesting things to say, but I know enough about the publishing world to accept that sometimes your articles get really, really chopped down and that word counts are super strict even when the topic is so interesting and varied. And did you see how many people the writer interviewed for this feature? I’m amazed she covered as much ground as she did!

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Yikes! Stripes!

27 August 2007, 14:16

I wanted to make a few gifts to give to my niece and nephew while I was visiting in America, and a friend gave me the idea of making sock monkies out of really long knee socks. So when I was at Glastonbury I had a look around and picked up two striped pairs for the monkies, then stitched and stuffed them by hand over the course of two evenings (one spent in the A&E waiting room!). I added some button eyes and packed these guys in my suitcase…

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Orla la!

5 August 2007, 14:42

I’m going on holiday very soon, and even though I’m not a “beach person” (try getting me to sit still long enough, my freckly pale colouring nonwithstanding), I know we’ll be going to a few pools and a municipal beach while I’m away. So I aimed towards making a beach coverup that I wouldn’t mind wearing out and about, and I’m pretty happy with the results!

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Glastonbury dress in situ

3 July 2007, 10:46

I’ll have another update very shortly (as soon as I can arrange the photo shoot), but until then, I know some of you have been asking how the Glastonbury dress held up to the deluge of mud…

And the answer is, surprisingly well!

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Glastonbury meets IKEA

2 June 2007, 12:49

Back when I got the pillowcases for the famous IKEA skirt, I also bought a Tanja shower curtain that caught my eye from across the store and was conveniently marked down to a fiver.

It’s stayed in my fabric stash ever since, just waiting for the perfect project, which presented itself in the form of this Burda WOF 60s dress from the May 2007 issue. It turned out to be the perfect fabric for this dress, considering that Glastonbury is coming up in a few weeks and I’ve been wanting something special to wear (and let’s face it, if the famous downpours happen again this year, this dress is ready for them!!), and because the pink piping matches my hot pink wellies perfectly.

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Oh Baby!

19 September 2006, 16:11

I took a little sideline from my current two big projects (a massive velvet pirate coat for James and a lemon yellow tulle dress for a friend’s 30th birthday) to sew up some new arrivals for a friend’s, err, new arrival.

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Pink rocker skulls

13 August 2006, 19:34

I’m rather proud of my recycling skills on the grey halter top I made this afternoon – the grey jersey fabric came from a pair of oversized lounge trousers I picked up at a Naked Ladies Party (it’s not what it sounds like – it’s a party to get rid of all your old clothes and pick up new ones off other ladies!), the pattern was a gift from benevolent craftster RiAnge who was cleaning out her pattern stash, and the fantastic plastic skull charms were a gift from my friend Caramel who picked them up at a craft sale in NYC last time she was over. So in total, I spent absolutely nothing and I’ve got this fab top to wear for the rest of the summer!

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Not your average von Trapp dress

3 July 2006, 21:54

As you may have already read, I started work on a sheath dress made from a 1960s dress pattern. I am happy to report that the dress is now finished, though the end result bears little resemblance to the pattern sketch. Mostly because the pattern sketch does not show a sack of potatoes. Once again I fell into the trap of being entranced by the lovely, stylish drawings on the fronts of vintage patterns, choosing to ignore the little voice in my head that knows you can only trust a photograph on these kinds of things.

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I normally hate IKEA, but...

28 June 2006, 20:53

…it was just before closing time and there was some cute fabric I wanted to grab (and the boy wanted some pear cider from the Swedish shop) so I allowed myself to be dragged into the 9th circle of hell, just this once. Across the warehouse-wasteland expanse of the store, a bold red print called out to me. But on further inspection, the print belonged to just some pillowcases. How disappointing!

Or, what if I could somehow turn those pillowcases into something wonderful? It took an evening, but out of two pillowcases and a bit of bias binding, this skirt emerged (and because the pillowcases each had a zipper, I’ve got an extra now!):

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