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Surf to Summit Top Pattern - Out now!

A colourblocked Cynthia Rowley satin jacket

13 November 2013, 12:00

Last week I mentioned a few projects I’d been working on, including a little satin jacket to wear with both my purple Matthew Willamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress. Well, the Welsh wedding was over the weekend and we managed to squeeze in some photos in the hotel room before the big bash so you all can see how it coordinates with the Matthew Williamson sheath!

As I mentioned before, the pattern is the same Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern I used for my fuschia party dress – a simple, loose, open jacket with dropped shoulders and wide sleeves.

I didn’t have enough of either satin to make the entire jacket in one colour so I decided to colourblock it. Since there weren’t many seams in the jacket itself, I just drew some extra seamlines onto the pattern pieces for my colourblocking.

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Roundup of updates

5 November 2013, 15:54

I appear to have found myself again in the position where I’ve been doing an extreme amount of sewing and sewing-related activity, but I can talk about only a small portion of it, and I don’t have any proper photoshoots for the things I can talk about… Bad, Melissa, very bad!

So consider this a little roundup post to let you know what I’ve been up to, until I can get my act together properly…

Silver cowl top

I cut out this MyImage cowl top pattern before we went to Mexico, thinking I might have enough time to quickly sew it up before we left. I would’ve, too, if I hadn’t decided I needed to make a quick travel bag. So it was waiting for me when I got back to cold, grey London, mocking me with its sleeveless-ness. I finally just sewed it up so I could have the space back in my sewing room, though I’m afraid I won’t really get to wear this until next year.

I made it out of some absolutely glitter-tastic jersey I bought at Tissue Reine in Paris a few years back, and I recall it was on the pricey side. It also left a trail of silver all over my sewing room… Boo.

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The Swirl Sheath Dress

12 August 2013, 13:15

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

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

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

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

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A Big Weekend for Sewing

29 July 2013, 13:59

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

Sewing room clear-out

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

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

Skylight cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeans muslin

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

The triumph was short-lived.

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Dark green sateen Clover trousers

10 November 2011, 13:55

As I mentioned earlier this week, I bought the new Colette Patterns Clover trouser pattern and I just had to try it right away!

There’s only four pattern pieces (five if you count the pockets) so this is about as simple as trousers get, and Colette have rated this as for Beginners, too. My first step was to make up a quick muslin in some super cheap stretch viscose I had on hand, but I hadn’t realised that the stretch was lengthwise until midway throgh cutting it, meaning there’d be no stretch around the body.

And you know what? These trousers still fit like a dream, with zero fitting wrinkles! I kid you not! It’s like Sarai came and measured me in my sleep or something (really, that’s bordering on creepy right there!). The only alteration I made with this final version was to add 2” to the leg length at the indicated line. Otherwise View A (the longer length) were still above my ankle bone when unhemmed. I’m not sure what height Colette drafts for, but I usually have to lengthen Burda trousers, too (but not Knip!) so I’d guess it’s around the 5’6” range.

I’m happy to say that this version in a nicer (but not terribly much more expensive) fabric fit just as well around the waist and hips, and are now the perfect length, too!

Even Bosco couldn’t resist coming along to rub up against them!

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Draped jacket - no ordinary lining

19 October 2011, 14:02

There’s been only slow and steady progress on my draped suit (Burda September 2011 #126 and 127) this week as there’s been little time to sew, but I did get a few hours of “me time” in on Sunday evening after my insulation work was done for the day.

Those few hours were enough for me to finish the entire shell of the jacket and skirt, but I needed a clear surface to cut out the lining fabric, so that was delayed until last evening (since my running group was cancelled). Since the wool suiting has stretch, I didn’t want to negate the benefits of that with a non-stretch lining, so I pulled out one of the few stretch wovens in my stash – a blisteringly hot pink stretch satin I’d bought from Fabric.com last year (and came across in my mom’s suitcase before the wedding). Despite it being polyester, it actually feels wonderful and it was worth the price to be such a high quality lining.

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Manequim silk birthday blouse

25 March 2011, 12:49

I love this blouse!

It all started in Paris last June when I saw this amazingly gorgeous silk satin (charmeuse) in Tissues Dreyfus that I just had to have. But it was €22/m (zoot alors!) so I only bought 1 metre. But even now I still love it love it love it love it so it was worth it worth it worth it!

Ever since, I kept my eyes open for a good blouse pattern that only needed 1 metre of fabric, and along came Manequim Feb 2011 #158, which called for exactly the amount I had – 1 metre long and 150cm wide!

These two were clearly meant to be together! I don’t often do prints, but this one is just so gorgeous with the psuedo-floral/paint splatters of silver, black, orange, and fuschia that I wanted it to form both the centrepiece of my March Mini Wardrobe as well as be my special birthday garment this year!

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Patrones spring coat - finished shell

22 May 2009, 12:37

Are you thoroughly sick of the sight of the Patrones spring coat yet? Well, too bad, because it’s taking me forever!

The good news is, I sailed smoothly over the speed bump that caused me so many headaches and delays in making my winter coat – the bound buttonholes. I’d already decided that with such a thick, loosely woven fabric that’s so prone to unravelling, that I’d use the satin bias tape I’d bought for binding the hood seam allowances to also make the bound buttonholes.

So I pressed the satin bias tape flat, cut it down to 1/2 inch wide strips, then folded these in half (right sides out) to make the buttonhole “lips”. After basting my ladder stitches on all the coat tabs, I did the usual technique of sewing these lips to the right side and cutting open the buttonholes.

But here’s where I deviated a bit – since my wool unravels so much, I knew that trying to stitch those tiny triangles at the ends would just be an exercise in futility, so I pulled out some lightweight knit interfacing and cut out a tiny strip. I then pulled the triangles to the back and fused the interfacing over top to keep them out of the way:


(It’s a bit hard to see but the mesh white interfacing over the left and right ends is there!)

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Satin cowl blouse

25 September 2008, 12:49

You’ve seen it in the tweed and satin three piece suit, now it’s time to reveal the blouse on its own!

Marfy 1210 is the first Marfy pattern I’ve ever sewn, and if you’re not familiar with them, Marfy patterns come with no instructions, no technical drawing, no layout diagrams, nothing. You don’t even get any other sizes – just the one you’ve ordered, in pre-cut tissue, just like vintage patterns.

So the above is all I had to go on, plus a few cryptic phrases rubber stamped onto the tissue itself (if you thought “Burda-isms” were bad, hoo boy, you should see Marfy!). Still, I knew I was up for a challenge, and to be honest, the construction wasn’t any more different than dealing with KnipMode or Patrones when I can’t understand the instructions.

There are a lot of things I like about this blouse, but there are also a fair amount of things I’d change if I made it again.

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Tweed capelet

24 September 2008, 11:44

Almost a year ago I saw and instantly fell in love with this Trina Turk capelet:

Around the same time, the lovely ladies at Go Patterns sent me their new capelet pattern, #2002 after I was so impressed with their little black dress pattern. Really, how nice of them!

Looking at the two together, I instantly saw the possibilities, but didn’t quite get around to finding the right fabric or the time last winter, but this year it all came together to form this sweet little capelet…

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Tweedy bird!

21 September 2008, 21:34

My tweed and satin three piece suit is finally finished! One day for the construction, and a week to get around to do the hand sewing! Here’s a taste…

More on the individual components this week…

Read more about…

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The Tuxedo-Inspired Suit

10 February 2008, 22:56

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that my grandmother visited the Pendleton woollen mill in the 1960s and bought two 2 yard remnants of 100% wool navy blue suiting fabric for $6 each (so $12 total). In August, she gave these to me, saying she’d never got around to sewing up anything with them and she thought I’d make better use of it.

I’d already finished the jacket portion of this tuxedo-inspired suit (the show piece from my F/W 07 Collection), and you can see the first photoshoot of that here.

The trousers were far more straightforward than the jacket, however, so they didn’t take nearly as much time or seam ripping to complete! I wanted to tie together the satin accents of the two pieces so I opted to add a thin stripe of navy blue satin ribbon to the outside seams of each trouser leg, which I think gives a subtle sheen as I move. The integral belt/waistband of this pattern really evokes a sort of cummerbund, too, and raises this design above just a normal trouser suit.

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Forty Year Wool Jacket

28 January 2008, 11:49

I’ve been working on the jacket portion of my tuxedo-inspired suit (the show piece from my F/W 07 Collection) for the better part of January now, and I finally finished it this week. I cut out the pieces for the trousers at the same time to ensure I had enough fabric for both (I do, with about a half yard left over!), but sewing both at once would’ve really just resulted in missing pieces!

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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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Wool, satin, and lace

17 January 2008, 11:16

I’m making good progress on my tuxedo-y suit using my grandmother’s vintage Pendleton wool. I’ve done the single welt pockets (a first time for me!) and the construction of the jacket body, and I’m now working on the many collars and lapels. The placement of the welt pockets (which are hidden under a front flap) is way too high, though, and the pockets are too narrow to be useful, though – this is the second time I’ve had BWOF jacket pockets be waaaay too narrow for my hands to fit through, so I must remember that for next time.

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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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Fascinating stuff

8 December 2007, 16:21

While I’m pretty much in love with every dress from the November Burda WOF cocktail collection, I found myself flipping back to the yellow dress, #105 more than the rest. It’s only 4 pattern pieces, but that 90 degree dart at the waist is just too cool, and I’m very much into sheath dresses this year. I still had some gold duchess satin leftover from the pirate jacket lining, so I lined up the pieces and was able to fit the dress out of the fabric with hardly any scraps to spare (I just love it when that happens!).

I’m still waiting on the invisible zipper I ordered online to be delivered, but as I was waiting I thought I’d try my hand at making a fascinator to match the dress!

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The Pirate YARRty

18 September 2007, 16:43

Wow. After nearly two years, I finally finished my boyfriend’s black velvet pirate jacket. Lined with gold satin, with functional pockets, functional buttonholes, brass buttons, tons of interior pockets for his gadgets, and hidden pocket inside the cuff for his Oyster card. There was so much handstitching on this and velvet is such an jerk of a fabric that I seriously wasn’t sure I’d ever finish it. I had problems at pretty much every step of the way, the majority of which stemmed from the fact that you can’t iron velvet. At all. Made in a different fabric, with non-functioning costume parts as indicated on the pattern, this would be a fairly straightforward project.

But since he wanted silk velvet and satin and for everything to function, plus have pockets absolutely everywhere, combined with a hem a mile long, this turned into a complete nightmare of a jacket. The handstitching alone took more manhours than I actually want to think about without bursting into tears. I did manage to make one big mistake near the end, even though I was so careful to NOT do it in my planning. It would’ve been impossible to fix without a complete deconstruction (and stitching lines remain in velvet forever), so I just left it as is. See if you can tell what it is from the photos, and I’ll reveal all below…

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Diamonds and silver

28 November 2006, 12:16

What better way to celebrate the start of the Christmas party season than with a luxe new top that shimmers in the lights? I made Burda 8132c for the pre-launch of BurdaStyle.com, a new community-based sewing site that’s launching in December 2006. I’ve written up a TON of tips and tricks for the site, so I’ll amend this article with a link to those once it goes live.

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Party Princess

12 October 2006, 16:02

Why is it that we have to stop playing dress-up once we reach a certain age? Sometimes it’s good to have a special dress that makes you feel like the prettiest girl in the room, the one all eyes are on — like a princess, really.

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Marc Jacobs-esque, black ruffled New Year's top

2 January 2006, 12:30

I had a bunch of black satin left over from my black vintage evening gown so I thought I’d spice it up a bit by adding some fancy satin accents to it. I think the end result has something of a 70s tuxedo feel to it.

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Vintage black satin evening gown

27 November 2005, 12:37

I made this in November 2005 with ten day’s notice. My boyfriend told me that his best friend’s birthday party was back on for the weekend. This wouldn’t cause too much alarm in most cases, but this was her 30th birthday and she was renting out a country house for an entire weekend with a black tie catered dinner on Saturday night.

Yes, I said “black tie” – that means I needed a posh evening gown in 10 days!! I don’t have posh money, but I did have a this pattern, Simplicity 5876, for a vintage evening gown that I fell in love with but had no occasion to make or wear

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