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A tour of my new sewing room!

27 August 2015, 13:20

I know I’ve been talking about my new sewing room for ages (and believe me, it feels like even longer to me!) but I’m finally moved in and so chuffed to finally share it with you!

My new sewing room is very small, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in cool points – who else has a sewing room on a boat, concealed behind a hidden bookcase door, eh??

This is the bit everyone loves – a modified Hemnes bookcase from Ikea, with reinforcements, casters (wheels), and a hidden pull latch to keep it closed. Our joiner is a genius and we’re so lucky to have found him!! The greatest thing about this is that my sewing room is at the very end of the corridor, and the way the various deck heights work means there’s a porthole just above the bookcase. So it really does look convincing, like there’s no boat beyond it!!

Once inside, I’ve put a corkboard on the inside of the door as a place to pin all my magazine clippings, sketches of designs past and present, and general mood-boardy stuff. You can also see how small the room is here – it’s only a little under 2m (6 feet) long by 2m wide at its widest point.

Also take note of the smoked oak parquet floor that I painstakingly cut, laid, sanded, and hand oiled myself. Loooouuuurve my floor! It was expensive, both in cost and effort, but so worth it.

When you enter the room, immediately on your left you’ll find Susan, my dressform (seen here wearing my Laurie King fabric collaboration VNA Top pattern), and my pattern rack, which I’ve had for quite a few years but came from the garment industry supply shop, Morplan. As you can see from the number of patterns on it, I find it unbelievably useful! Also note the cute sewing machine clock my mom sent over to me!


Bits & pieces

4 June 2015, 13:06

I haven’t got any finished projects or magazines to show you this week, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to catch you up on all the smaller things I’ve been up to that maybe wouldn’t be enough for their own post…

The New Sewing Room

I know it feels like it’s taking forever (and believe me, it does to me, too!) but my new sewing room in the front of the boat is nearly done, so I’ve been spending a lot of time getting that ready to move into.

Most recently, I’ve been cutting, piecing, gluing and now sanding the beeeeeeeeautiful smoked oak mosaic panel flooring into place, which, while both expensive and time consuming, is something that makes me happy every time I see it.

The final remaining step is to put a few coats of oil on the flooring and tack the edge trim down and I’m ready to move in! And yes, at roughly 2m x 2m, it’s still smaller than most American closets! Our boat is heowge, but this particular room will be small, and hidden away, but it will be mine.

Seamwork articles

I’ve been a big fan of Seamwork magazine and a subscriber since Day One, and loads of you have written to tell me how much you enjoyed my first article, A Guide to Activewear Fabrics.

This month’s current issue is all about sewing knits (I know, right) and I’ve actually got TWO articles in it!


A week in New York City

7 April 2015, 15:03

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!

Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.


Goodbye Granny

30 January 2015, 19:35

Sorry for the silence this past week, but I had to take an extremely-last minute, emergency flight back to the States last week to attend my grandmother’s funeral (as in “book me a flight for tomorrow“). Her last gift to us all was to prompt a family reunion, and I really felt strongly that I had to be there, so it was good to have some family time despite the circumstances.

Granny and I at our wedding reception in 2010

Granny has been in the background of my sewing for pretty much my entire life, but there were a few times when she featured heavily on this site, in particular when I refashioned her wedding gown into mine in 2010, but also earlier the same year when I made her a blouse from some vintage fabric in her stash (and which my mom said she was still wearing regularly right up until the end).

If you’re a new reader to this site and haven’t yet seen my wedding dress project, then really, I urge you to just stop for a minute, click through and take a look. Granny was so immensely proud that I looked so beautiful in “her dress” and she continued to show our wedding album to everyone she could. I had so many relatives come up to me at the funeral saying how much they loved that I turned her gown into mine.

Overall, this weekend really reinforced to me how much “making” is in my DNA – I knew Granny had been quite crafty, but I hadn’t realised that she was actually a seamstress in her early life before going back to school as a young mother and becoming an insurance underwriter. She continued to quilt and sew clothing throughout her life, but also knit and crochet, too. Happily, I was gifted a very modern-looking yoked cardigan that she’d knitted years ago (I actually wore it to work yesterday!) since I was the only one in the family it really fitted (ditto to a gorgeous pair of sage green leather gloves and an astonishingly beautiful vintage coat).

The funeral stationary was quilt-themed!

Over the course of the weekend, the family went through some of Granny’s most cherished items, and my granddad asked if I’d like to see her sewing machine. Of course I did, and before I knew it, I had it humming away fixing a tear on my sister-in-law’s trousers!


Happy 2015! (My year in review)

1 January 2015, 11:14

As I do every year, I like to spend the first of a new year to take the opportunity to look back on what I’ve sewn in the previous year. So without further ado, here’s a visual reminder of 2014!

Click the image to see it better, or right-click here to see it in a new tab to get a better look!

Tip: If you’d like to skim back through the posts for the above projects, you can click Gallery in the upper left menu, which will only show you finished projects, without all the magazine reviews and in-progress reports getting in the way!

The Year in Stats

In terms of pattern companies used this year, I made:

By my count, I made: 31 tops, 19 trousers (including leggings & shorts),
5 dresses, 4 pieces of lingerie (bras, panties, slips, etc), 3 skirts, 3 jackets/coats/cardigans, and 4 bags. James also did well this year, being made a winter coat, 2 shirts, 2 cycling tops, and a dop-kit bag.

And I realise I’ve been sewing a lot of running gear but the total number even surprised me – 34 of the above were for running (though not all for me)!

The above may sound like a lot of sewing, but even this is only a fraction of what I’ve actually sewn – I couldn’t really include all the garments sewn for the Great British Sewing Bee, for example, or those made for custom clients (of which there’s been a LOT!), or for the book I’ve been working on, either. In all honesty, I think you could probably double the amount shown above and it’d be closer to the total output!


Return to the set

27 October 2014, 13:55

Remember last April when I told you all about my day on set of the Great British Sewing Bee? Well, that was at the very end of Season Two, and I must’ve made a good impression on the production company because by the time that post went live, I had already begun work behind the scenes on Season Three!

Over a span of about four months, I spent a lot of time working on the Bee with a team of fantastic people, including the Thriftystitcher herself, who heads up the entire behind-the-scenes sewing team. Most of it was involved with the pattern challenges (the first portion of each episode, where the contestants are given a mystery pattern to make). I can’t discuss details of how we produce the patterns, but just trust me that a lot of work goes into each one before the contestants ever see them! A lot of this work was done in the production company’s offices – which are a pretty normal looking workplace, except at my desk there was a sewing machine and ironing board instead of a computer, which was quite funny!

My work involved a lot of sewing, fitting, digitising, but also illustration, too. I did the latter together with Rosie from DIY Couture (whom I’m not afraid to admit is way better at these than I am!). This proved to be great practice for my own pattern line, as the more I did these for the Bee, the better I got – it was especially helpful for someone to say “ugh, that one looks weird, do it again!” Seriously, this helped up my Illustrator skills immensely!

The Haberdashery, empty and quiet

I was super chuffed to see some of my drawings made it into the final tv shows, too! Here I thought they’d only have an audience of ten, at most!


Why pdf patterns?

15 October 2014, 14:33

There’s been some discussion around the internet lately about pdf patterns and their ability to stand the test of time, and it’s one that I’ve felt very strongly about. I’ve worked in technology for over 12 years, and have created and run my own websites for 20 years now (seriously!). I’ve seen the world move from owning cds and taking photos to be developed, to ripping cds into mp3s and printing our own digital photos, right through to streaming music subscriptions and purely-digital photos in the cloud. The idea that digital patterns might somehow die out seems absurd when you think of it in this context.

Think of photos – which is more accessible when you want to look at them, the photos in your album on the shelf at home, or the ones backed up in your cloud account you can view from anywhere, share, and search by date and keyword? Frankly, I’m terrified that my 10 year old collection of Burda magazine patterns might be ruined in a fire or flood, because they’d be gone forever. But my digital patterns are backed up in several places, ready for me to re-print at any time.

But all this is from a user perspective. As a business owner, why would I not want to offer my patterns in every format possible? Why only pdf patterns?

In short, time and money. It’s grossly inefficient (not to mention extremely eco-unfriendly) for me to print a pattern and ship it halfway around the globe to customers when printing places exist closer to you. Adding on the cost to print the patterns, to package them, and then my time in posting them, I’d quickly end up with a price point that not very many people would be willing to spend.


Sewing Indie Month

6 May 2014, 10:50

I’m back now from a ridiculously gluttonous week in Brittany, and having devoured every spec of seafood and salted caramel in the land, I’ve returned right into the throws of Sewing Indie Month!


Mari (of Disparate Disciples, now Seamster Patterns) approached me months ago asking if I’d like to join in, and now it’s finally here! What’s here, you may ask? Well, it’s a month-long celebration and collaboration between myself and 20 other indie pattern designers, with interviews, tutorials, sewalongs, and a mahoosive bucket of prizes to be won (in all, over $1,000 worth!).

There’s something new going up on one of the participating designer sites every single day in May – mine aren’t scheduled until the end of the month, but you can see a calendar listing everything that’s going up (be sure to click “Read More” on each date to see everything!). There’s already 6 days full of free tutorials and interviews to pour through over your lunch hour today…

For me the best part is being able to collaborate with other designers whose work I really admire, but whom I haven’t really had a chance to talk much with. I love being part of a community of creative women who are all passionate about what we do, and see others in our field as friends and comrades instead of competitors! In the spirit of collaboration, this month would be nothing if it wasn’t for each of us doing our own little part – I mean, I’m only involved directly in four posts, but together we’ve crammed May full of great stuff!


My day on set

23 April 2014, 13:09

I wrote this post back in October, but couldn’t talk about it until now!

I got a call on my mobile and in less than two hours I found myself on the set for The Great British Sewing Bee, rifling through the on-screen sewing supplies and marveling at the endless array of haberdashery available to the contestants! The next day I was whisked off for an emergency manicure, and before I knew it, I was demonstrating sewing techniques in front of two cameras under the bright lights on set!

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, no, I was not a contestant! (I did apply again this year, but my Mexican holiday fell right over their filming dates). I stepped in at short notice to help the production team with some extra “how-to” videos they film for BBC Learning, to teach people how to sew projects that relate to the challenges made in the show. Kinda like saying “You know that cool thing that you just saw a contestant make? Well, look how simple it is to make something similar!”

For this, they needed someone who could sew (obviously!), write sewing instructions which could then be translated into cues for the cameramen, editors, and voice over artists, and also perform well in front of the cameras. And those three things are pretty much what I excel at and enjoy doing, so it was a massively enjoyable day for me!


Post Marathon Thank You

17 April 2014, 14:29

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

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

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


Diary of an indie patternmaker, part two

30 January 2014, 12:58

Read Part One here!

While I was in the States visiting family, I also took the brave step of contacting a few other activewear-sewing ladies and asking them if they’d be interested in pattern testing for me. I knew that I wanted to keep the testing pool small, but also use sewists who I knew had sewn their own exercise gear before, both so that they were comfortable with the basic techniques, knew what they liked, and also could potentially go out an exercise in my patterns for some useful on-the-road feedback. I was utterly delighted when every single one of them said yes, and this really started the timeline towards Launch Day, which I knew I wanted to be before the usual New Years resolutions exercise explosion. Since I started the XYT Workout Top first and it was further ahead in the patternmaking process, I’d give the testers two weeks to test that, a short break, then hopefully I’d be finished with the PB Jam Leggings by that point so they could have two weeks to test that before I’d get their feedback and finish up everything for Launch Day.

The XYT Workout Top pattern pieces were pretty much ready for testing, but I knew I’d have to create the tech drawings as well as all the illustrated instructions at some point, and, while I used to be a semi-decent drawer, I am totally crap at drawing anything digitally. Like, comically crap. So my first attempts at the tech drawing were done by my sketching them out on paper, scanning it in, then tracing over top with (yes, you guessed it) The Pen Tool in Illustrator before cleaning it all up, mirroring to make things symmetrical, etc.

The instruction illustrations were all done by myself, too, but I did all of those without the hand-sketching step, sometimes using the pattern pieces themselves as a starting point (since I already had those digitally, I just had to shrink down the scale!), and sometimes just referring to photos I’d taken during construction. I never quite appreciated exactly how long illustrated instructions take to create, but my god, they took a LONG TIME. The step-by-step illustrations were easily the most time consuming piece of the entire patternmaking process, EASILY. I totally understand now why some indie designers skip the illustrations entirely, because it would be SO tempting to, and it’d make the process to Launch Day so much quicker. But in the end, I’m glad I did do them, as I think they make the instructions a lot clearer, especially for non-native English speakers.

Another thing I wasn’t really expecting was how the pattern testing process would really work. I guess I kinda thought that I’d send them out, some testers would have some fit issues, others might not think the mesh bra worked for them, I’d get some feedback, and maybe catch a typo or two. Ha! I’m so, so glad I have the amazing pattern testers I did, because both of my patterns needed major revisions thanks to my testers. Yes, it hurts at the time, but I’d much, much rather resolve these issues before release than have paying customers go through them later!


Diary of an indie patternmaker, part one

29 January 2014, 11:56

Quite a few of you were interested in hearing about the process of launching my own line of exercise sewing patterns, and since I tried to keep everything very quiet until the launch day, I couldn’t really talk about the process at the time, either (I decided to keep it quiet to minimise the “Are they ready yet? Are they ready yet? How about now??”, etc pressure when people get excited!).

I’ve been thinking about the possibility of making some of my own patterns for a while now, testing the waters last year with my Lacey Thong pattern, of course, but a full time job, marathon training, boat work, and busy social schedule mean that it always seemed to be on the back burner and never at the top of my To Do List. But I was made redundant from my tech job in August (really, it’s ok!) so I had time to think about what I wanted to do while we were in Mexico, and I realised that I wanted to give sewing a shot as my main career, with patternmaking as a large part of that.

I had lots of ideas in my head (and in my sketchbook!) but I opted to specialise in exercisewear because that was something I a) was passionate about, b) had lots of practice sewing and designing for myself, and c) there wasn’t much on the market for already. I knew I wanted to release at least two patterns at the launch, but I developed these sequentially, starting with the XYT Workout Top.

The first step in the XYT development was to draft my own sloper and make a series of muslins for the different versions, chopping and redrafting the basic shapes until I was happy. Then I made a muslin which had a bra the same basic shape as the exterior with one layer of power mesh, but I found that even though I took the side seams in closer and closer, I still didn’t have the support I needed for running. It was only after talking to a friend that I was able to make the leap to the arrangement of the second mesh layer that made all the difference and stopped the bouncing! I then finished off this muslin version, wore it for a few runs, and only then did I start the process of transferring my hand-drafted pattern pieces into digital.

I started by scanning in the paper pieces and re-joining them digitally in Photoshop, and then came the laborious and tedious process of tracing around all the pieces with the Pen Tool (ie: vector paths) in Illustrator. I’ve used Photoshop for 10+ years, but I was a complete Illustrator novice when I started this patternmaking, and my god there’s a steep learning curve!


Happy 2014! (My Sewing Year in review)

1 January 2014, 11:01

As I do every year, I like to spend the first of a new year to take the opportunity to look back on what I’ve sewn in the previous year. So without further ado, here’s a visual reminder of 2013!

Click the image to see it better, or right-click here to see it in a new tab to get a better look!

Tip: If you’d like to skim back through the posts for the above projects, you can click Gallery in the upper left menu, which will only show you finished projects, without all the magazine reviews and in-progress reports getting in the way!

The Year in Stats

In terms of pattern companies used this year, I made: 15 Self-drafted (including Pattern Magic), 11 Burda Magazine (aka Burda Style), 8 FehrTrade, 4 Style Arc, 4 Cake Patterns, 3 Christine Jonson, 3 MyImage, 2 Pattern-Scissors-Cloth, 2 Jalie, and 1 each from Elan, KnipMode, Papercut Patterns, Drape Drape, Lolita Patterns, Kwik Sew and Simplicity.

So that’s precisely one garment made from any of the Big Four, but a whopping 23 items I either drafted myself or drafted and then released as a pattern! It’s no surprise Burda is otherwise up in the 2nd place position, and I’m pleased to see Style Arc and Cake ranking highly this year, since I discovered both companies this year. It is a bit disappointing that I failed to make a single Manequim pattern this year, despite reviewing my monthly copies! I must try harder next year to justify the subscription cost.

By my count, I made: 22 tops, 13 trousers (including leggings), 9 dresses, 9 pieces of lingerie (bras, panties, slips, etc), 3 skirts, 3 jackets or cardigans, and 3 bags.


A taste for gold

19 August 2013, 18:22

As I mentioned last week, I was up in Sheffield this weekend for my first British Transplant Games competition*, and despite having done specific track training for the past few months, I was absolutely bricking it in the leadup to the first race.

I’ll keep it brief since this isn’t a running site, but the first event was the 3km “Mini Marathon”, which is the longest race run in the games, and my Main Event. It’s good to keep an open mind for this sort of thing, because in the last few moments before the race I discovered that a) my main competitor was out with a stress fracture, b) the race was actually on the roads/trails around the stadium instead of a straightforward track race, and c) there was a fun run occurring at the same time and no separate start area for those of us who were competing in the Games.

Despite all this, I ran really strong (even up the two surprise hills!) and ended up the first female finisher, coming second overall and only about 30 second behind the lead male! I did an unintentional Mo Bot when the commentator told me I came in under 12 minutes!! So this earned me a gold medal for my age group, but also apparently a trophy for the first female for any age (which I’ve not received yet and may just be a rumor?).

Then the next morning was my second race, the women’s 1500m (3.75 laps around the track). This indeed was a true track race, with a gun start and a bell for the final lap! I came out in front in the first 200m and grew the lead over the race, ending up finishing over a full minute ahead of the next finisher! I had to lap a few of the other ladies, which I felt bad about, so I tried to offer encouragement as I went past.


Goldhawk Road meetup & acquisitions

6 August 2013, 12:14

I’m lucky to live in London for a lot of reasons, but one of them is certainly the access to great fabric stores and the frequency of meetups at said stores with other like-minded sewists. They usually occur every few months, but with my crazy social and running events calendar, it’s usually really difficult for me to attend. However, this time around, the meetup coincided with a “stepback week” in my running (a planned lower mileage week to give your body a break) so I only had a one hour run on Saturday morning before the meetup. Yes, I realise the craziness of using “only” in that sentence.

In any case, you should go read Claire’s writeup of the day as she organised everything down to a meticulous degree and posted some amazing photos taken by herself and also Dibs!

This post is more about my own shopping and acquisitions from the day, and I know from past trips to Goldhawk Road that I really need to be strict with myself or risk returning home broke and dragging binbags full of fabric behind me. So I came prepared with a shopping list and only £50 cash to spend (in the past I’ve actually left all my cards at home, too!).

Things on my shopping list:

Here’s a shot of my total haul. Not only did I get everything on my list, but I stayed within that £50 budget for the day (which included lunch & drinks!).

My first purchase was the power mesh – 1m of both black and beige from A-Z Fabrics for £4.95/m. They had loads of colours, too, and I was glad I bought it there when I saw shortly afterwards that Classic Textiles was asking £10.95/m for theirs! I didn’t buy anything at Classic this time around, but I was tempted by the ponte knits by the door.


Summer sewing & posts by mail

8 July 2013, 15:27

When summer weather comes to England, it’s always something of a surprise. Those in other countries may not be aware, but just because the calendar says June, July, or August, does not mean it’ll be either hot or sunny. Sometimes “summer” comes one weekend in March, or in a few days in September. Or in the case of 2012, not at all.

In any case, summer has arrived, and for the past week, it’s felt hot here. I think the heat may be getting to my brain somewhat, because I’m 99% finished sewing up a summer outfit:

Yes, that would be shocking pink trousers and a cream stretch lace teeshirt, dear readers. I both hope look as good in the photos as they do in my head!

The other development of note is one of a more digital nature – for a while now some of you have been asking if it’s possible to get my new posts delivered my email (instead of RSS or just popping by when you remember to!), and I’ve finally got round to setting this up!

If you pop your email address into the box on your left (or, repeated below), then you’ll get a summary of all the week’s posts emailed to you every Saturday! My test version from last week looked like this:


Baltimore & DC

15 April 2013, 14:17

Last week we flew over to the States for a week – not in Pennsylvania where I grew up (no offence, but I’m kinda sick of visiting there!), but to Baltimore, with a day in DC at the end. We got a lot of strange looks from British friends when we said where we were going – “Baltimore? Really? Why??”, and we’ve been mounting our own Baltimore Tourism crusade since we got back, because it was fantastic!

The reason we were over was because James was speaking at a prestigious tech conference, but I took the opportunity to meet up with loads of friends and family, including the chance to finally meet some fellow sewing bloggers!

I’ve been speaking to Cidell & Trena for at least five years now I reckon, and even weirder is that I already knew their voices from their earlier sewing podcasts (please bring them back!), and there was zero awkwardness when we met up for dinner! It really was like we’d known each other for years, which I suppose we have!

(Note: Jack’s Bistro did not pay us for their product placement!)

Cidell puts me to shame – she posted about our meeting like the same day!! I was also very excited to get more of the Under Armour Cold Gear fabric she’d previously sent, because during the last few months I’d been doing laundry twice a week in order to wear my Cold Gear leggings on both my Tuesday night runs and my Saturday long runs because they’re seriously the warmest leggings I own. Next winter I’ll be much better prepared now!

But they weren’t the only sewists I met – I’d also planned a run with Kathy in Patterson Park near my cousin’s house in Baltimore, which she’s already posted about here!

We both wore running gear we made ourselves – she’s wearing McCalls 6435 adapted for running as her top and the Jalie sports skirt lengthened into leggings, and I’m wearing my disco top and my new self-drafted leggings with that fishnet insertion from Tissu in the front thighs and back calves, which you can see a bit better here:


Happy 2013!

1 January 2013, 13:55

As is traditional, I like to take the first of a new year to take the opportunity to look back on what I’ve sewn in the previous year. So without further ado, here’s a visual reminder of 2012!

Click the image to see it better, or right-click here to see it in a new tab to get a better look!

Tip: If you’d like to skim back through the posts for the above projects, you can click Gallery in the upper left menu, which will only show you finished projects, without all the magazine reviews and in-progress reports getting in the way!

By a mere glance at the collage, it looks like I’ve sewn less this year than in past years, but really I just became more efficient with my photoshoots and so most of the photos contain more than one garment! That, and there were a few that weren’t properly documented, oops.

The Year in Stats

In terms of pattern companies used this year, I made: 11 Burda magazine (more on that in January as I finish up my Year of Burda), 6 Papercut Patterns, 5 Jalie, 4 Pattern Magic, around 4 self-drafted, 2 Manequim magazine, 2 Young Image/My Image magazine, 2 Pattern ~ Scissors ~ Cloth, and one each from: Lekala, Simplicity, Vogue, So… Zoe, Christine Jonson, Wiksten, and KnipMode (oh how the once-mighty have fallen!).

By my count, I made: 19 Tops, 15 pairs of Trousers, 4 Dresses, 4 Skirts, 3 Coats/Jackets, plus two slips and a handful of pairs of panties, an iPad cover, some running armbands, and a boat skylight cover!

But the biggest number of them all – 21 of the above were for running! omg.


Goings On

12 November 2012, 13:55

I know everyone goes through periods of extreme busy-ness and stress, but I feel like the past 6-8 weeks have just been nonstop with barely a pause to catch my breath! You’ll have to accept my apologies for not going into these various sewing happenings in full – I’m saving my writing time for my finished garments!

So, without further ado, a catchup on the last few weeks’ goings on…

1. The day after I arrived back from Amsterdam, my parents arrived for a visit! Among other things, they brought with them a big stash of Suziplex wicking lycra that Lakaribane bought for me by request while she was in Montreal recently! I think I’ve lost track of the number of international borders these 5 meters of fabric have crossed, but I am so happy to have more, because the three running leggings I’ve sewn with the stash I bought in March are my favourites ever.

2. I recently went on a bit of a Young Image magazines and envelope patterns binge, so I sat down with my mom while she was here and she picked out some designs she thought my niece might like for her Christmas present…


Amsterdamage - lingerie and marathon edition

25 October 2012, 13:48

What a weekend! I’ve been to Amsterdam several times before, so I felt zero need to see the tourist sites (though I did take a boat tour, more for the hour of sitting than anything else!). For me, this weekend was all about sewing and running, my two favourite pasttimes! I flew in Saturday morning and fellow sewing blogger Lauriana met me at the station to drive to the legendary Kantje Boord.

If you’re not familiar with Kantje Boord (and let’s be fair, their website is appalling), it’s a specialty lingerie haberdashery and fabric store, and is pretty much the only one of its kind in the world as far as I know. But it’s pretty far out of town, well away from the usual public transport, so I was very grateful to be driven there and give my legs a rest!

I’d heard stories about Kantje Boord, and I was not disappointed! It’s a tiny shop, but it’s stacked floor to ceiling with everything lingerie, lace, and elastic you could possibly imagine, and in every colour of the rainbow.

There must’ve been several hundred different kits (with everything you need to make a bra and panties in matching colours), but I decided what I’d rather make is another Ruby Slip, but in camisole length, with matching panties, so I instead focused on the wide laces, of which there must’ve been 3-4 times as many as the kits! Once I settled on a lace, I then crawled around the floor to get matching picot lingerie elastics to match it and my fabric swatches I’d brought from home.

So here’s what I bought! It might’ve been a bit more than I pledged, but I stayed away from the tempting Wall of Crazy Lycra, and only bought pieces that matched what I already owned!


Let the disco begin!

14 September 2012, 13:16

Because I’m a good wife, I promised James I’d make his reversible smoking jacket after I’d finished my peplum top (photos coming next week, sorry – it’s been impossible to organise a photoshoot around both our social schedules!). This week has been rather busy, even by our standards, but I did get two evenings to work on it, and so far I’ve completed the entire corduroy shell (including bound buttonholes and no less than three welt pockets!) and moved on to the interior. Or, because this is a reversible jacket, I suppose it’s just “the other side”.

The other, disco side.

If you recall this is Betabrand’s disco fabric and it seriously is as bright and loud as the photos on their site suggest. I had to cut it with the black side facing out just so I wouldn’t go dizzy cutting it!


Pick Three

21 August 2012, 14:29

If you had to choose three (and only three!) things you’ve ever sewn to best represent what you can do, what would you choose?

I’ve recently been tasked with exactly this, and I found it incredibly difficult to decide. I mean, it’d be difficult enough if I was confined to just one type of garment, like “Pick three dresses” or “Pick three casual garments”, etc, but just three, from the hundreds of garments I’ve sewn in the past nine years?! This required thought.

Pick One…

Having said that, strangely, the first of my picks was pretty easy – my Winter Coat.

I made this coat two winters ago and I’m really, really proud of the finish on it. The wool is extremely thick, with bound buttonholes, metal buttons, single welt pockets, a thick silk lining, and (most proudly for me) I didn’t use a single bit of fusible anything in its construction. I wear it to death in winter and I love everything about it.

Pick Two…

Should I play my trump card and pick my vintage refashioned wedding gown? Well, alright then!


Olympic leggings - sneak peek

28 July 2012, 13:50

How amazing was the Olympic opening ceremony last night? It was all the better because no one in London was expecting it to be any good. Sure, absolutely everyone was watching it, but we all expected it to be utterly awful, and to be the topic of mass moaning for the next several years.

But WOW, even the cynicism of the British was cast aside for Danny Boyle’s spectacle, full of heart, charm, eclecticism, great music (and some terrible music, too), and all the things London and the UK are generally very proud of. (Woo NHS!!)

It also helps that I watched it from our outdoor popup cinema on the moorings, so when the fireworks went off on Tower Bridge and David Beckham’s neon speedboat holding the torch raced by, we were right there. And we saw all that 30 minutes before anyone else in the world, since there was a big delay before that part was on tv!

We’d also witnessed the helicopter flying through Tower Bridge a few weeks back – a bunch of neighbours gathered on one of the barges to cheer on the two helipcopters and make a night of it. At the time, the rumour was that it was for a Bond film, but we had no idea how close that would end up becoming!!

Happily, I also started feeling a bit better this week after I posted the last message, so thank you all very much for your thoughts and good will – you did just the trick! I went out this morning for my first run in 17 days, and did so in my official replica Team GB vest and my new grey Ooh La Leggings.


Weekend bits & pieces

22 May 2012, 15:04

Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but I’ve had a busy few days of sewing activity, but in more disjointed areas than any one common goal.

Burda and KnipMode magazines & PM3

The June editions of Burda & KnipMode arrived on the same day and made for a nice comparison. I loooooooved the May Burda, but the June one is way too summery for me, and I’m not really feeling it. I’ll review the KnipMode shortly, as soon as I can get the scanner going. I almost feel like I should start doing Burda magazine reviews since their online previews are getting more and more cumbersome to use, now that they’re eliminating the French site, the German does is a total PITA to view on mobile devices, and the English site only gets a third of the patterns a month after everyone else. But then again, so many other bloggers already do this so I don’t want to create a “New Vogue effect” where every sewing blog suddenly shows the same five pictures all at once.

What do you think? Is Burda niche enough that you want to see my picks like I do for Manequim and (soon to be much less frequently) KnipMode?

Also at the same time, my KnipMode renewal notice came through. I don’t want to renew, but I want to make sure I don’t need to do anything in order to cancel (ie: I don’t want it to renew me automatically). Could I pretty please send an image of the latter to a Dutch speaker just to confirm what I need to do? (Volunteers, please leave a comment) I don’t need a full translation, just someone to tell me whether I need to formally cancel or not.

My copy of Pattern Magic 3 (in English) also finally arrived, after the first copy got lost in the post from Amazon! There are some Must Sews in there (including one I’ve started drafting already) but also some hi-LAR-ious things in there. A review will be coming soon for this, too.


On Saturday, after my long run with friends, I made some new pants (underwear). As per usual, I used my TNT thong pattern, which originally came from a KnipMode magazine from 2007 or 2008.


Bosco 2007-2012

3 April 2012, 13:28

This wasn’t how I’d planned this week’s posts – I made a top and trousers over the weekend, plus I had some fabrics to show off from last week’s work trip to Montreal…

But yesterday afternoon, our little Bosco died in his sleep. It was totally without warning, and our best guess is that his heart condition finally caught up with him. I’d been home with a fever all day, and he’d been curled up with me earlier, making sure I felt better for him being there. I even tweeted a photo. It’s the last we ever took of him:


Post-Paris report

8 March 2012, 17:31

I’m a bit late with my Paris weekend report, but we didn’t get back til Monday night (thankfully taking the Eurotunnel rather than the very-disrupted Eurostar!), and then I had to fly out to Dublin and back yesterday so things have been crazy! Seriously – three European capitals in three days? I feel like I’m on a Contiki tour!

We had a pretty busy schedule while we were in town, but a trip to Paris just isn’t complete without a visit to the Montmarte fabric shops (For more details on those please see my earlier French road trip & Paris fabric shopping posts!)

I’m so pleased we were able to squeeze in a meetup with Veronica again and have lunch, and since she knew I wasn’t able to go to her local fabric market with her this time around, she gifted me a HUGE bag of fabrics, in exactly the colours and prints I love!

Seriously, wait til you see the goodies she brought for me (photos coming later)!

As a teaser, check out the overflowing Tissues Dreyfus bag of fabric!

About half are from Veronica, then another 3 lengths bought by James, then 4 lengths bought by me!

But the main reason excuse for our trip was that I signed up to run the Paris Semi-marathon, which was my first-ever half marathon! I’ve been running for about 7-8 years now, but I’ve only ever run 10ks (with the odd 5k and 8k thrown in there).


Yet more lycra...

29 February 2012, 13:38

Are you bored with lycra yet?

If you recall, I’m sewing three different pieces of running gear – leggings, a vest top, and a long sleeved top. The vest top has stalled while I wait for my new coverstitch binder to arrive, but I was able to finish my leggings this weekend and cut out all the pieces for the long sleeved top.

When I went to look through my stash for fabrics, though, I realised that the long sleeved top needs three different fabrics in order to get a contrast on the upper body, and again at the hip pockets. So I’m using the black supplex for the top and sleeves, leftover turquoise for the lower back and front hips, and the same turquoise but overlaid with olive green stretch lace for the front body. I’m thinking a bit of lace in the running community won’t go amiss.

But now this top is stalled while I await more short, black invisible zips (which should arrive with my binder!) for the pockets and the upper front!

It’s realistically looking like I’ll only have my leggings ready for the Paris half marathon on Sunday, so I needed to take them out for a test run last night prior to the big event.

Be prepared for a totally unflattering, post-hour-long RDC session photo…

(I’m wearing the blue Nike pinny over my jacket ‘cos I’m a group leader!) Overall, I’m really happy with the fit. The ankles are still a bit baggy (even after I took them in a bunch!), but the fit everywhere else was perfect. I was a bit concerned about chafing since I don’t have a flatlock machine so my overlocked seams make small ridges inside, but they were absolutely fine, and the waistband was very comfortable and sat exactly where I wanted it to be with no shifting or tugging. Result! I’ll totally be making more of these from my customised base pattern…


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.


Happy 2012!

1 January 2012, 13:44

As is traditional, I like to take the opportunity at the start of a new year to look back on what I’ve sewn in the previous calendar year.

Somehow I keep getting more and more prolific each year… and it’s a bonus that you get to watch my hair grow as you skim downwards, ha!

(Click the above to en-biggen, or right-click here to open it in a new tab to get a better look

You’ll notice a few at the bottom that I haven’t shown you yet (seriously I only just finished the maternity maxidress with mere hours to go!), but all the rest can be seen by clicking the Gallery link on the top left of the site, then clicking through to the full article.

To make a few statistical analyses of my own, by my count:


Before New Year's...

17 December 2011, 14:26

… I want to make:

I’ve got to go into work on the 27th-29th, but I’ve still got a lot of days off to hole up in my sewing cave. Most years I end up making a coat over the Christmas break, but I don’t really have much need this year so I thought I’d focus my attentions elsewhere instead.


When you need thread fast...

13 September 2011, 13:35

I’ve literally been sewing my trench jacket in tiny sessions – 10 minutes before work here, 5 minutes while dinner cooks there – you get the idea. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you add up all the short bursts, it really does mean I’ve made progress in a week where I’ve had social plans every single night, and huge amounts of exhausting boat work every weekend.

But on Saturday night I realised that I’ve come to a bottleneck that couldn’t be fixed with time management – I was nearly out of beige Gutermann thread, and I still had quite a bit of topstitching and a bunch of buttonholes yet to sew. Ordering online would take several crucial days, so I tried to rack my brain for any London shops that stock Gutermann thread and are open Sundays… Hrmmm…

Yes! Of course!

So Sunday morning I got up early and combined my weekend run with a trip to Beyond Fabrics on Columbia Road to restock on No.464 All Purpose thread!

I ended up arriving there a little too early for their 9:00 opening so I ran a few laps around the little triangular park on Quilter Street (yes, Quilter Street!) to fill time before they opened up. Then I just peered in the windows until they laughed and let me in. ha!

I thought for sure the spool would fit in the little elastic space on my arm band where my chapstick usually fits, but it was slightly too big (how dare they not design these things with thread in mind, eh??) so I had to ask for a paper bag to protect the thread from my sweaty fist on the run home.


Upcoming Fall 2011 sewing - the patterns

7 September 2011, 14:26

It’ll be no surprise to you that I’ve already started on my Fall sewing, since you’ve just heard all about my upcoming trench jacket, but I’ve been thinking about the rest of my Fall sewing ambitions over the last few weeks. Having August temperatures mostly in the 50sF (16-20C) meant that I was mentally ready for cooler weather a long time ago!

I’ve got the fabric for all (but two) of these already, too, so I’m sure to get through a lot of my stash this way, too… Though I did just buy some new fabric in order to make four of these, oops. More on the matching fabric later.


Lowering the Pedestal

22 June 2011, 14:03

Can we take a moment to talk about “pedestal fabrics”? You know the ones – you saw it in a shop, it was too gorgeous to not buy, but now it’s too gorgeous to cut into? And now that you’ve put it up on that pedestal, it just sits in your stash, making you sigh with its beauty but ashamed that you haven’t used it yet…

I don’t often have this problem, but I have recognised that I’ve done this with a particular silk in my stash, a ridiculously gorgeous silk in a silver and black chrysanthemum print. It was a gift from AllisonC when I was about to go into hospital, and I initially didn’t cut into it because I’d gained some weight from my illness and I didn’t want to waste it on something that wouldn’t fit in a few months.

But I’ve been back to my usual size for a good year now, and it continued to sit in my stash, until I finally cut into it this weekend. It took some doing, but here’s some thoughts that helped me overcome this:


The Madame Grès exhibition

9 May 2011, 13:01

One of my highlights of our weekend in Paris was seeing the superlative Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle. For me, this was higher on my Must-Do list than even visiting the Montmartre fabric shops, and I was so glad that this museum is open on the weekends, and even located very close to our friends’ flat, too.

Madame Grès originally wanted to be a sculptor, so it makes perfect sense that the dresses were shown in a sculpture museum, and intermingled amongst the various sculptures on display.

I went on a Saturday afternoon, and the museum was filled to the brim with middle aged women and young men, all taking a multitude of photos on their cameras and phones. Had I known it was allowed, I would’ve brought our DSLR, but as it is, you’ll have to settle for the limited detail from my iPhone…


Prepping for our road trip...

20 April 2011, 13:18

I’ve been super busy over the past week and weekend preparing for our upcoming road trip through France over the double bank holiday extravaganza*…

Making these packets really reminded me of all those sewing projects I prepped before I went into hospital!

Included are:


Me-Made March

31 March 2011, 14:20

Me-Made March has been in full swing for a month now, and as I stated in February, I’ve been playing along at home, but taking photos of what I wear every day is just completely infeasible for me, so I’ve just kept a record of what I’ve worn instead.

I did something similar a few years ago and it was really helpful in observing what I tended to wear throughout the week and which items I turned to most often. I can’t actually remember the last time I wore an outfit that didn’t contain at least one “me-made” item (not counting weekends, where I live in grotty, boat-DIY clothes), so this challenge isn’t really that challenging for me! It’s what I tend to wear anyway!


  1. Tues. Navy blue riding trousers & purple cashmere turtleneck (RTW)

  2. Wed. Taupe corduroy skirt & turquoise mohair sweater (layered over a RTW white long sleeved top) (so yes, I am wearing the exact same outfit as shown in my citizenship post, right down to the same tights and boots!)

  3. Thur. First Jalie jeans & plum and green lace Patrones top

  4. Fri. Foldover wool trousers (so warm!) & RTW black long sleeved top

  5. Sat. Two 40th birthday parties! Burda September cover dress


Post-coat winter sewing plans

12 January 2011, 13:48

Now that I’ve got my big winter coat sewing out of the way, I can turn my attentions to filling in a few gaps in my winter wardrobe. Sewing these things now means I can get another good 3-4 months of wear out of them before moving on to short sleeves and lighter jackets (no really, for the past few years we’ve had flurries and hard frosts in April or May).

So I’ve gathered together the patterns I’d most like to sew along with fabrics I’ve got in my stash that would help fill my wardrobe voids…

Starting at the top of this collage, we’ve got:


Happy 2011!

1 January 2011, 00:15

My favourites of 2010:

Standout moments in sewing land:


The Best Pattern Magazines of 2010 - Nominations

15 December 2010, 13:02

I always look forward to Pattern Review’s Best Patterns of the year, but this year the nominations don’t have a single pattern magazine included. This is really disappointing as I do 99% of my sewing from them, and I feel the shortlist really doesn’t reflect my own personal sewing in the slightest. (And don’t even get me started about the inclusion of some patterns that were just Big 4’s stumbling, mediocre versions of great patterns previously printed in pattern mags!)

So I thought it might be fun to have our own nominations for the Best Pattern Magazines of 2010!

I think it’ll be easier to vote for whole issues rather than specific patterns inside, and also give people a better idea of which back issues to hunt for. If there’s enough nominations, I’ll set up a proper vote in a bit so we can see what’s crowned the winner when I do my own personal roundup of the year on New Year’s Day.


Thank god it's finally 2010!!

1 January 2010, 08:10

The worst year of my life is finally over, hurrah! Celebrate!! Woo! I always try to live each year so that it’s better than the one before, and I don’t think I’ll have to spend much energy to make 2010 a success by that yardstick! Still, my cathartic sewing output hasn’t been too bad, especially considering I spent a full 8 weeks/2 months in a hospital bed!

(Click the composite photo to zoom in, and have a look in the Gallery to read more about any of them. Except the last few, which you’ll see in greater detail next week.)

Here’s 2007’s and 2008’s roundups, for comparison.

Let’s find some highlights in what was an otherwise incredibly sh*tty, sh*tty year….


30th Birthday Dress - completed!

25 March 2009, 07:25

Happy birthday to me!!

Today is my 30th birthday, and as such, I’ve made Burda WOF 03/09 #116 in emerald green silk charmeuse (satin) to wear to my big party on Saturday night!

I tested this pattern a few weeks ago and wrote all about the fitting and muslin work here, and thanks to popular opinion, I did indeed take a wedge out of the back seam to get rid of the swayback wrinkles. Apart from that, I kept the fit the same!


First-rate Brit chic!

3 March 2009, 21:52

The title is from the cover of my much-loved issue of Burda that I was going on about last week, which also gave me BWOF 08/2006 #113:

I bought some beautifully soft mohair sweater knit from Classic Textiles last time I was at Goldhawk Road (1.5m at £8/m), but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it until I went skimming through my magazine archive and saw this sweater. The mohair knit is a very open weave with an abstract star/flower pattern running through it, so I knew that whatever I’d make would have to either be lined or be worn with something else underneath (both to show the pattern and also to protect modesty). I chose the latter.

I had only one week’s notice to make something new to wear to my British citizenship ceremony, and I thought the pairing and the “British chic” pattern were too good to pass up! But I had a very busy week and weekend, so I only ended up finishing it the night before! Phew!

Here I am during and after my ceremony at Southwark Town Hall earlier today, pleased as punch!


Here's to 2009!

1 January 2009, 14:40

Here’s hoping I’m as productive in 2009 as I was in 2008! (Click the composite photo to zoom in, and have a look in the Gallery to read more about any of them…)

(Here’s 2007’s roundup, for comparison)


November workwear log

28 November 2008, 11:54

At the beginning of the month, I thought it’d be an interesting experiment to document exactly what I wear to work over the course of a month in order to observe how much of my wardrobe I actually wear, and how much of that I’ve made. I made a really informal attempt at this in the form of my Most Worn Awards last winter, but I felt it was high time to do something slightly more scientific and allowing FehrTrade creations to go head-to-head with ready to wear.

I didn’t include weekends into this because my clothing choices are usually the same grotty work clothes for doing boat DIY, and also because I change a few times during the day which would complicate things. I made a real attempt not to let my experiment influence my clothing choices in the morning, and I think I’ve been as impartial as I could’ve been.

Monday 3 Novbrown twill trousers and Uni Qlo white cashmere sweater
Tuesday 4 Novgreen corduroys, brown sleeveless turtleneck, and mom’s vintage mustard cardigan
Wednesday 5 Novchocolate brown bamboo wrap dress
Thursday 6 NovThames jeans and beige cashmere sweater
Friday 7 Novstretch jeans and blue KnipMode twist top


Mister and Missus Fehr Trade

20 June 2008, 11:02

James proposed last night!


The Most Worn Awards

4 February 2008, 14:19

I’m nearly finished the tuxedo-inspired trousers which are made from the same vintage Pendleton wool as the tuxedo-inspired jacket – I’ve just got to hem and turn up the bottoms and they’re ready for a photo shoot! But in the meantime, if you’re a Pattern Review member, take a second right now to go vote in the One Fabric: Wool contest in which said tuxedo-inspired jacket was entered. Go on, I’ll wait.

So finishing up such classy threads has made me stop and think about which parts of my wardrobe I actually wear most on a day-to-day basis. I absolutely love making the smart ensembles and special occasion wear, especially since the aim of my FW/07 Collection was to increase my business attire, but I tend to wear a lot of basics in my otherwise very casual office. I think looking through the garments I wear most often might help to give me some focus as I start mentally planning what I’ll be sewing this spring…

Fehr Trade Most Worn Awards

(in no particular order)