Latest Event Updates

Vintage embroidered tablecloth to sunhat

Posted on

I’ve got a small collection of vintage table linens, some are family items, some I purchased myself.

This one was made by my great aunt in 1950 or earlier.

It’s beautifully bright and colourful, so perfectly embroidered, you can barely tell which is the back and which is the front.

The bright pinks, blues and yellows have been expertly stitched. The scalloped edge has been blanket stitched by hand, the base linen looks and feels silky like cream.

I’ve had it since 1993, the date of a different great aunt’s death and no one else wanted it. Its been in storage in a bag of mine and rarely seen the light of day in 28 years. Prior to that, I don’t ever remember seeing it in use and it was found in a suitcase under the bed, so this beautiful item has not been used and loved for 70 years.

There are stains, and I washed it in my machine on a delicate hand wash cycle, which did not damage the expertly stitched embroidery in any way but also did not remove the stains.

The reason it got washed this week was because there was a plan.

I find these pieces difficult to repurpose because there is not a lot of fabric to make a whole garment and the embroidery is delicate and positioned to suit a tablecloth not clothing.

I had purchased the Brighton bucket hat from sewgirl patterns

This hat has a small and large brim version and is reversible. I had already made a small brim version from a 2nd hand skirt and some vintage Laura Ashley homeware fabric:

It occurred to me that the size and curved shape of the brim pattern piece may fit the curve of embroidery typically sewn into the corner of a vintage tablecloth.

I cut my large brim hat pieces from the vintage tablecloth – fabric and pattern were a match made in heaven.

For the reverse I used a Orla Kiely curtain which had a similar background colour.

As both fabrics were mid weight I only interfaced one of the brim pieces – the instructions suggest more liberal use of interfacing.

What is great about the design of this hat is that the small brim version provides sun protection without being too large, and the large brim version is meant to be turned up so that the alternative fabric shows, and this showcases the flowery embroidery when the alternative fabric is outermost.

I am so pleased with both hats but especially with the large brim version because I have found a way to give the work of my talented ancestor a new life and a new set of viewers, both here online and in real life. A hat doesn’t need washing that often, doesn’t have areas of heavy wear and so should endure. The tablecloth maker died in 1959 so I never got to meet her, I suppose she never would have guessed that the youngest daughter of her husband’s niece would still be appreciating her work more than 60 years later. I am pretty sure none of my own sewing will stand that test of time.

Sew wear are they now? 2016 edition – what happened to clothes I made in 2016

Posted on

I made 17 things in 2016, 5 of which I still have. I won’t review all 17 just a representative selection.

There seem to be quite a number that didn’t go too well in 2016 so I will start with one of them

By way of explanation from 11.10.19 I started keeping records of how many times I wear clothes and refer to this in the post. I wear clothes in 10 wear blocks then put them away.

Deep Purple

I took a waterfall chenille cardigan with frills on the cuff and hem as well, and turned it into a jumper with a fake button band. There were multiple problems with this refashion – the fake button band was too thick and looked too odd, the neckline was too low, it was too bulky to fit under a coat, and I just felt uncomfortable wearing it.

Positives – nice colour, cheap buy which was barely worn

Negatives – Impractical and uncomfortable to wear

Estimated number of wears – less than 5

I discarded this refashion at least 3 years ago, barely worn.

Jeans to dress refashion

This was my entry for therefashioners 2016 the challenge was to make something out of used denim, the dress was modelled in 2016 by my daughter. I did these challenges for 3 consecutive years, each one pushed me out of my comfort zone but ended up with a result I was pleased with.

Positives – fits me perfectly and used denim is my favourite fabric.

Negatives – Can’t think of any

Estimated number of wears – 40 including 20 since 11.10.19

I still have this dress and but its probably only got 10 more wears in it.

22 inch waist scuba skirt to 2 hour top refashion

I made this top from a very small sized scuba skirt which had large pleats so contained enough fabric to make the front and back of a top. I used a free pattern so was ahead of my time as free patterns are very current in the sewing community!

I was just dipping my toes into the pattern world and although unable to complete the top in 2 hrs did find it a simple make. It was the first time I used scuba and it was a dream to sew. Some of the creases from its life as a skirt were very persistent, and it is a little sweaty to wear as the scuba was mid weight. My work lanyard made some little pulls in the front of the top as the lanyard had a sharpish corner to it.

Positives – simple design in plain fabric, wearable with many trousers and skirts

Negatives – a bit sweaty, some of the creases took a long time to disappear.

Estimated number of wears – 35, including 20 since 11.10.19

I still have this top and have worn it this week. It’s probably got another 10 or 20 wears left in it.

Auntie’s antimacassar to skirt refashion

Out of many rather odd refashions I have done, this may be the oddest. I took a t-shirt, 2 pairs of cord trousers, a vintage antimacassar (damaged), a bit of old pillowcase, and made a skirt out of them.

It was actually comfortable and quite successful in that it got a reasonable amount of wear. The yoga waistband had to be made smaller as it tended to fall down and the antimacassar did not really tolerate washing.

Positives – I made an antimacassar into a skirt

Negatives – It was a bit odd

Estimated number of wears – 20

I discarded this skirt at least 3 years ago as the antimacassar was falling apart.

Scarf to top refashion

I made this top from a large scarf with a striking design, which I had found on the way to work.

I copied a tutorial found on pinterest (you can see details if you follow the link in the title) and though I had never heard the term at the time, it used an almost zero waste technique to make a top out of any scarf. This technique did involve sewing a bias cut, fray like hell, flimsy fabric so sweat and tears were involved in its making.

The top received many compliments when I was wearing it ( I was always a bit nervous wearing it to work in case someone claimed it as theirs)

The fabric was fragile and faded when (hand) washed, so after at most 20 wears it was looking scrappy under the armpits.

Positives – striking zero waste top

Negatives – scarves are not meant for this type of wear

Estimated number of wears – 15

I discarded this top at least 3 years ago as it was looking tatty.

Skirt made bigger

This was a simple refashion where I took a nice but too small skirt and made it fit by increasing the waist size, this is a bit of a go to method for me as I have a 2 sizes difference between my waist and hip measurements.

I’m including this skirt because mostly because I still have it but to be honest am now a little bored with it.

Positives – good quality skirt

Negatives – I added quite a lot to the waist and if effects the drape and is still a bit tight.

Estimated number of wears – 25, including 10 since 11.10.19

I still have this skirt but its fate is 10 more wears this summer then out.

This concludes my review of 2016 makes, there are more of them back there in blog post history but I don’t want to labour the point.

Revisiting these older makes has brought me joy, 2017 to follow soon.

Siella McCalls 8085

Posted on

I got this pattern free with Love Sewing magazine and was surprised to find it was intended for knit fabric, as the design looks like a woven. (In fact many sewists have sized up and made it in woven). The fabric it has been made up in for the cover photo immediately reminded me of some fabric in my stash bought recently at

which is a viscose jersey with 4% lycra

I sewed view B

The pattern instructions are for a simple folded over boat neckline with no facings or binding but others who have sewed this suggested it could be improved by adjusting the neckline to add a bias facing. I agreed with this suggestion as I was worried the weight of the dress would pull the neckline down and also the neckline looked a bit high and would benefit from being lower.

I made other adjustments to the front bodice which were to raise the shoulder by 1cm as I don’t have much of a shoulder slope, and raise the armpit by 1cm accordingly. I took 1 inch out of the bodice length and cut the side seams of the front bodice a size larger as a sort of rudimentary FBA, so overall I cut a size M but for the bodice side seams I went to L.

Here is my adjusted front bodice piece.

The dress looked quite long on the model so I took 2 inches off the main skirt piece and 1 inch off the ruffle and it still came up quite long on me.

Although not transparent, my fabric was quite thin so I cut 2 front bodice pieces exactly the same and sewed them wrong sides together as I have a RTW dress in similar fabric which is constructed like this. I then used the double layer as one piece, and this also helped to support the weight of the skirt better.

The pattern instructions suggest taping the shoulder seams and I taped the bodice side seams as well.

Construction was easy and straightforward, the skirt pieces are just rectangles, the trickiest part was the large areas of gathering and getting it even, which was needed time and patience.

The instructions suggested making an elastic casing from the seam allowances where the bodice attaches to the skirt but I was confused by this and missed it out. I already had extra bulk there due to by double layer bodice and the fabric is gathered and stretch anyway so didn’t understand the need for elastic. I can always add it later if the dress seems to need it.

When it came to binding the neckline I used normal home made cotton binding as a facing. I topstitched it down near the seam instead of under stitching (mistake) and then thought it would look awkward if I secured it with a second line of top stitching, so used one of my decorative stitches to secure the binding and am quite pleased with the result.

This dress has received many compliments. I am very pleased with it and would highly recommend this pattern. It’s easy, super comfy to wear, could be dressed up or down, has pockets, and is multi seasonal.

Sew wear are they now? 2015 edition – what happened to the things I sewed in 2015

Posted on

Inspired by

I decided to look back on some of my older makes and reflect on their life history.

I started recording what clothes I wear on a daily basis from 11 Oct 2019 so prior to this date number of wears are estimates but after that they are accurate.

I bought a sewing machine in 2015 and it has changed my life…. well my wardrobe anyway.

I habitually bought second hand clothes at charity shops, so the first clothing items to be tackled were refashions.

I refashioned 13 items in 2015, 4 of which I still have, so here is the life history of some of my 2015 makes.

Dress and skirt to dress refashion:

The first item I ever blogged was this dress, the bodice of which was made from the skirt of a well worn RTW dress which I owned and the skirt was made from a drill type fabric 2nd hand skirt.

With this item I had beginners luck because the dress was a good fit, probably due to knit fabric on the top, and was comfortable to wear. It looks like a skirt and t-shirt but is more comfortable because there was no waistband. I loved the before dress and refashioned it because the armpits were getting a little grotty.

positives – comfortable and nice fit

negatives – weight of skirt tended to drag the bodice down a little

estimated number of wears – at least 20 in this re-incarnation and at least 20 as the before dress.

score 9 out of 10

I can’t remember when I discarded this dress but it must have been at least 3 years ago and the component parts had a final life as cleaning cloths in my home.

Shirt made bigger

This was my 2nd make and a found item which I noticed in a bin bag near my home, picking it out with the intention of using it as a fabric source. I actually ended up making the shirt fit me by sewing a rudimentary triangle into the back to make it bigger, the fabric for which came from shortening the shirt considerably. The reason I did this was because when I tried it on I was surprised how good a fit the shoulders and arms turned out to be. This shirt is something of a curiosity to me even now because the armholes are a perfect fit and I can lift my arms up and the body of the shirt does not move at all.

positives – perfect armhole fit

negatives – triangle on the back looks a bit odd and the side seams are thrown quite a bit forward as a result.

estimated number of wears – 20

score 5 out of 10 good fit but not many wears.

I have kept this shirt for sleeve fit reference and wore it 10 times in 2020 but then retired it from my wardrobe.

Party dress to gypsy skirt refashion

I bought a too small dress 2nd hand because I liked the fabric which was a mid weight cotton with some stretch. I made it into a skirt and added a denim ruffle at the hemline. I really enjoyed wearing this skirt because it was comfortable and had some structure.

positives – good design and fit

negatives – the fastening wasn’t very well done

estimated number of wears – 30

score 8 out of 10

I no longer have this skirt and threw it away at least 3 years ago as the fabric was pretty faded.

Club Tr Op icana t-shirt refashion

This is pretty typical of the refashions I was doing at the time. I bought a lightly worn t-shirt with a logo I didn’t like, lowered the neckline and created a pleated ruffle to cover it up. This refashion was pretty successful and got enough wears at the time

positives – fairly good design and fit

negatives – the neckline gaped a bit

estimated number of wears – 20

score 7 out of 10

I no longer have this t-shirt and threw it away at least 3 years ago as it was looking worn. It probably had a final life as a cleaning cloth.

Refashioners 2015 entry – alternative angles

Seen below in 2015 (on left) and now

This shirt refashion was my entry for therefashioners challenge for 2015 which was to refashion a men’s button down shirt. I was, and still am, quite proud of my creativity in this make as I turned the shirt round 180 degrees so a former armhole became the neckline, and did the rest of the construction by draping, re-attaching the shirt collar with some added trim and re-positioning the pockets as one at the front. I could have probably done with a bigger sized shirt as this was a bit of a limitation. This top has a limited hot weather wearing season due to the low back but I do like it, and the pocket was useful on holidays for small items like tickets or credit cards.

positives – creative design

negatives – limited wearing season, its a bit snug on the bust

estimated number of wears – 15 including 5 in 2020

score 8 out of 10

I still have this top and intend to wear it some more this year. I will probably keep it long term as I am quite attached to it.

Keep your cloth as long as you can as long as you can shirt refashion

Don’t seen to have a 2015 photo of me wearing it so this is now:

With no time to plan I bought this men’s shirt new for a particular event and paid £40 for it. It was too tight on the hips and too long, so after wearing for the event I decided to shorten it and make a shaped hemline.

I made a mistake and cut too much off the length. In addition poor armhole fit made the shirt ride up and expose my midriff, so I made a 2nd refashion of adding some knit fabric to the armpit area. This helped a bit but not enough. Having just tried this on again I am determined to bring it back into use as I now have more high waisted trousers and skirts it could be worn with comfortably.

positives – quality fabric

negatives – too short which limits wear

estimated wears – 10 but none since oct 2019

score – 2 out of 10

I still have this shirt as it was too good to throw out and did use the trimmed hemline piece for some other garment but can’t remember what now. I haven’t worn it for a long time but it will get 10 wears this year or my name’s not Helen.

That concludes my 2015 review. I haven’t included everything but a representative sample. The original blog post are still there if you wish to look. I used to favour making tops and so I am planning to target wearing some out this year. My records are showing me that most items will be looking quite worn after 40 wears and ready for retirement.

maxi dress to lounge skirt refashion

Posted on

I’ve been going through some unfinished drafts on my blog and decided to complete them. This is one from 2019, or possibly even 2018.

Attracted by the bright orange colour pallet I bought this maxi dress at a charity shop in Bristol for £7 with the specific purpose of converting it to a maxi skirt to lounge around the house in.

The fabric is some kind of synthetic knit and the refashion is basically cutting the skirt portion off and adding a waistband.

I used some grey jersey, also bought in Bristol at Fabricland, from my stash to make a simple fold over waistband and salvaged the ties from the dress to use on the skirt.

The remaining fabric from the bodice came in handy for a later t-shirt refashion project.

I like wearing maxi skirts, they are warm and casual but only really wear them outside the home when on holiday, my problem, not the skirt’s problem.

This is a great skirt to put on when you’ve had a really big meal, can’t wait to get tights off and it’s too early to go to bed yet.

Sewing with less fabric

Posted on

When you sew it’s only a matter of time before you own some sort of fabric collection and some of these lengths will be smaller than required to sew up a garment.

There are 3 basic ways a fabric can end up in my stash, not having been bought for a specific project.

  1. I may have gone into a cute little fabric shop in a pretty town and wanted to buy something to support the owner .
  2. I saw some fabric, any fabric, in a charity shop and bought it.
  3. I have bought for a song or been given someone else’s fabric collection for free – I am unable to say no to any offers of this nature.

My pattern collection is mostly made up of ‘free patterns’ from magazines, in fact my whole sewing practice is quite chaotic and unplanned and I like it like that, but as my experience grows, order and satisfaction is emerging from chaos. With a now pretty decent collection of both fabric and patterns, the garments I sew may be driven by either, but often when I chose a fabric and a pattern from my stash to go together, there will not be the required yardage. I have stopped worrying about this because whatever yardage is available it can usually be made to work .

Once I have settled on the main fabric for a garment, I will make fit adjustments to the pattern pieces like shortening the length (I am 5ft 3in so this is a usual adjustment for me), lay the main pieces out on the fabric to see what will fit and cut these pieces out. The main pieces will be the largest ones on the front of the garment so shirt fronts, skirt fronts, dress bodices, front trouser legs, and as long as 2 or 3 of these main pieces will fit I am good to go. Sleeves, pockets, collars and belts are OK on the cross grain if the print is non directional.

Denim A line skirt with yolk waistband

Most recent make is this skirt for which stated the fabric required was 1.95 square metres. I only had 1.2 square meters of this black stretch denim, and the width was an unuseful 110cm which would only accommodate 3 of the 4 panels of this A line skirt. I cut the 2 back panels exactly as required by the pattern and then re-assessed the situation. Instead of cutting one front panel whole, I made a seam about a quarter of the way up from the hem of the front pattern piece and cut the front 2 pieces of the skirt in 4 parts. The reason I chose to do this on the front and not the back was because I planned to cover the seam line with some sort of trim which would sit better at the front than the back.

The remaining pieces were the yolk style waist band and pockets, which were completed with co-ordinating similar weight small pieces of stash fabric.

I’ve shown the skirt here with the top tucked in so you can see the waistband and pockets but this is only for pictures and I would not normally style it like this.

I didn’t cover the extra front seam with a trim as the final garment didn’t look as if it would be improved by it.

Of course I had chosen this pattern in the first place because the 4 panel construction meant the pattern pieces were smaller.

Cotton shirt M6436

I didn’t make a note of how much of this cotton fabric I had but knew it was less than the pattern requirements for McCalls shirt 6436

The sleeve for this pattern is made of 2 pieces so I cut what I could from the main fabric then selected a contrasting but similar weight cotton for one sleeve back, pocket and button band. I am pleased with the result which enabled me to make a garment from 2 small fabric pieces. I knew finding a small piece to go with the main fabric would be no problem because I have a lot of these in quilting type cotton and the sleeve being in 2 pieces was a bonus.

M8379 Wrap dress in stretch jersey

Things started out well with this vogue wrap dress V8379 with the skirt and front bodice pieces coming out of the fabric whole and as designed.

I did have at least 2 metres of 150cm wide fabric but this dress uses a lot. The sleeves were shortened and cut on the cross grain but then things began to get tricky. There was virtually nothing left for the back bodice, belt and collar. I slept on it and hoped that inspiration would come, and it did.

I raided my fabric stash and found some skinny rib fabric in black which was sufficient for the belt and collar then gritted my teeth and cut the back bodice from 4 small pieces, breaking all grainline rules but with the polka dot design you can’t tell that much.

The collar and belt work well with the main fabric and I think I can just about get away with the back bodice being pieced together, which seemed a better option than using a contrast fabric on this occasion.

Its become almost a challenge for me to sew this way and part of the reason I do it is to use up my smaller pieces and be left with fewer new ones from each sewing project.

MiY Kelham skirt from vintage Welsh wool

Posted on

As a child in the 60’s and 70’s summer holidays were spent in the beautiful Welsh countryside. If it rained we might walk around a small town and there would be some kind of woollen mill shop. Looking round these shops was a part of the holidays I really enjoyed and remember various purses and skirts mum bought over the years. At the time I probably thought these items were a bit naff but when I look back on my teenage choices of clothes a lot of them were of dubious taste too ( and actually my current and previous purses are made from Welsh wool fabric)

This Welsh woollen fabric ‘superior quality tweed’ from Afonwen Woollen Mill in North Wales was in my mum’s things. I estimate it’s at least 40 years old. Sold as a skirt length to make yourself (although there is the option to have it made up) mum never got round to sewing it. The piece is quite small, only 80cm long in a 137 cm width, meant to make a straight, A line or knife pleat skirt. I decided to make the A line Kelham skirt from MiY patterns. The wool packaging claims it’s enough fabric for up to 44 inch hips in this style but with only 1 inch of ease at the hips. My hips are 42 inches and I would consider such a small amount of ease very tight. I have made this skirt pattern before Kelham Skirt with pleat and pockets in a stretch twill but there was only enough wool here for an unpleated version.

Just recently I have been questioning myself about why do I keep adding to my fabric stash when I already have plenty (but most of what I add is second hand and given to me for free) and why do I keep sewing more clothes when I already have plenty to wear. I considered this length of wool to be an exception. It belonged to my mother, I should be the one to sew it up.

The Kelham skirt is a simple A line design with a back zip, optional pleats pockets and length options. I was making the short skirt, which is knee length on me, with front pockets. The available fabric was only enough for the main pieces so I went to my box of small pieces and chose alternative fabric for the pockets and waistband. In this case I had no choice but to do this due to shortage of main fabric, but I’ve already decided to use fabric from my small pieces stash for small pattern pieces in future even if there is enough of the main fabric available. This is because I want to use up small pieces and because I also like pattern mixing.

I was about to start cutting out when it occurred to me that the fabric had not been washed. I’ve washed all kinds of stuff in the machine on my normal cycle before with no harm done, and my proximity to the kitchen during this thought process encouraged me to bung the stuff straight in on a short cycle at low temperature. I wish I hadn’t done this because the shrinkage was like nothing I’ve seen before. If went from 80cm to 64cm, a full 20%, and there was some felting. I was never going to be taking it to the dry cleaner but do wish I had hand washed or not washed instead of rushing to the machine. After a lot of pulling and tugging I managed to stretch it back to 70cm but there it stubbornly stayed, and there was still just enough to cut out the main pieces but no room for error.

The pattern is cut like that at the hem because I thought I would have to shorten it but there was just enough for the main pieces

I have heard several experienced and couture end sewists say that wool is their favourite fabric to work with. When I started cutting out the Welsh wool I began to understand why. It was like cutting into a delicious buttery fudge, with a luscious feel and a thick and perfect edge with no fraying.

This skirt comes together very quickly and was finished in a couple of hours. I used a reclaimed jeans zip and some vintage bias binding for the hem.

Now I know wool should be lined and this does feel scratchy, but I’m going to wear it a couple of times, review the situation, and try and see if I can get away without lining.

Here is the finished skirt:

How do you decide what to sew next?

Posted on Updated on

So Sewists how do you decide out of all the patterns you already own and all the fabric you already own and all the new stuff out there what you are going to make next?

For myself it’s a combination of pattern, fabric stash, wardrobe gaps and season and thoughts going round in my head all coming together.

The pattern in question here is M6436, shown on the right above – a McCall’s button down shirt pattern with sleeve, pocket and cup size options, owned because it was ‘free’ with ‘Love Sewing’ magazine which I have on subscription.

I have read some opinion about free patterns with magazines, whether or not they should be included, for example, with the #frugalfrocks2021 challenge.

I probably buy the magazine mostly for the free patterns, it’s a win win situation because if I like the patterns I ‘ll keep them and if I don’t I will sell them on ebay and this will probably cover the price of the magazine. In defence of the magazine there are always 2 or 3 PDF patterns included as well so you have 5 or so patterns each month for your subscription price and surely are going to like at least 2?

Anyway, onto the fabric stash element…. I bought 2 1970’s era Marks and Spencer double sheets 50% poly cotton, some time last year in my local Salvation army shop priced £2.99 for both

Attracted to them because the design screamed 1970’s plus the price, plus there were 2 of them, these sheets were too small for my bed as the mattress was too thick, but I bought them for the fabric.

At home it was difficult to see what could be made out of them – conclusion was a shirt would probably be OK, and this idea fermented away in my brain and gradually popped up as the thing to make next. I am a sequential maker, don’t have garments cut out and not sewn up, only think one or two makes ahead, usually only make one thing per month.

As to wardrobe gaps and season, well I don’t honestly have any wardrobe gaps at all. Making my own clothes is something I do for me and is not really driven by actual need, but it is my main hobby, I use a lot of 2nd hand fabric, and that’s how I justify it.

When making a new pattern it’s a headache to decide what size to cut with the shoulder, armholes, bust, waist and length to consider. My experience with McCall’s tells me to cut a size 14 shoulders and sleeves and size 16 everything else, even though my body measurements would place me in a size 16 & 18.

This is my first time of using a pattern with cup sizes and from my measurements I should have cut a D cup, that dart was extraordinarily huge on the pattern piece so decided to go for the C because after all I saw this garment as a toile. Unusually for me I went for the most complicated version with full shirt collar and stand, pleated pockets and full sleeves.

Other regular adjustments were to lower the bust apex by 1 inch and take 1 inch out of the length of both body and sleeves.

As you can see from the photo above I just re-draw the dart pointing to my actual apex which is much easier but has implications for the side seam which bothers me because to square up it involves taking out a bit of the extra bust room which you’ve added in from the larger dart. One day I will learn to do this properly and move the dart en masse.

This time I also curved the dart in a little at the point to avoid a conical effect and it did look better but was then covered up by the pocket so could not be seen.

My sheet was thicker and less willing to take a crease than most sheets you would buy today. The cuffs, collar and pocket tabs required sewn in interfacing and I just used another piece of sheet for this which worked fine.

Whenever you sew something there are inevitably small pieces of fabric left over, too big to throw out but too small to make any garment from. I keep these pieces in a shoebox but recently the shoe box is getting a bit difficult to close so I decided to use these small pieces of fabric for small pattern pieces whenever I make something, regardless of whether I had enough main fabric to complete the garment or not. Hence I used for the button band and pocket flaps, some navy and orange 100% cotton poplin fabric with a fox pattern which I had previously used for a Helen’s Closet Suki Robe.

As I said, the sheet was quite thick and reluctant to respond to pressing. The fox fabric pressed like a dream. The instructions for this pattern were easy but I made a mistake and followed the instructions for view A which just has a collar stand and no collar, instead of view C which meant I sewed up the collar stand when it should have been left open to attach to the collar. I covered up this mistake with some bias binding although I did have plenty of sheet left and probably should have cut another piece and sewed it properly.

This pattern uses 2 interfaced plackets and in the finished garment this seemed a bit bulky. Next time I will just interface the buttonhole placket and not the button placket which seems to be the standard with a button down shirt anyway.

I started working on this shirt at 10am and apart from a few meal and exercise breaks did not finish until 10pm. Once I got started I just didn’t want to stop.

The fit is pretty good, it could go an inch or 2 shorter but is still OK at this length, therefore a success as a toile but does it look obviously home made and like a sheet? Does that bother me?… well not much. I am not aiming for a RTW look I’m aiming to make something that fits me using supplies I already own and I like this shirt more every time I put it on. It was meant to be a toile but every sewist hopes a toile will be wearable don’t they? The shirt (sheet) fabric is quite thick and warm so I think it’s going to be good across 3 seasons. The flowery pattern makes it more difficult to find something it goes with but as I don’t make many plain garments (should make more) that’s not a unique problem for me.

I still have another full sheet left but that’s a make for another day. However, plans for a version in a different non- sheet fabric are already afoot.

Coat from a curtain

Posted on

Some time last year I was offered curtains which were being thrown out and obviously said yes please.

There were 3 different types and although not keen on the brown ones, took them all because I think that’s the best thing to do all round. If you go through the bag picking out some things and rejecting others its like criticizing someone’s taste who is trying to do you a favour, and if you don’t take everything you are not helping them as much because they still have stuff to get rid of.

I put all of them up in my loft for a while waiting for inspiration to strike – and before long it did, but for the disliked brown ones.

A few years ago I found myself away from home and having misjudged the weather, in need of a coat. This was an annoying situation for me because I don’t like to make unplanned clothing purchases and in this case bought a value coat from a supermarket – it was a hip length duvet type coat:

I have given this coat a chance and worn it quite a lot – I washed it and some of the padding clumped together, so now its time was up and it wasn’t that warm anyway – enter the brown curtains, which I pre-washed on my normal cycle. I had already removed the lining and used it to line some other curtains.

The curtains were going to be a Helen’s closet Pona jacket – the longer version, and be lined. I am fast becoming a walking advert for this pattern company having recently made 4 x Arden pants, 4 x Suki robe and now 2 x Pona Jacket, note to self, diversify more.

I am not sure what to say the curtain fabric type was but will attempt to describe it – there is a chenille element and a silky element and one side is the shadow of the other.

The warp (grainline) thread, seen here on the left is a thin brown cotton type which holds it all together. There are 2 weft threads, a silky turquoise one which only appears on one side of the fabric to make up the leaves and is hidden in the warp the rest of the time, and a chenille type brown one which appears on one side of the fabric or the other to make up the flowers. The right side of the curtains was the silky side but I decided to use the chenille side as I thought it looked less curtainy. The previous owners of these curtains also owned a cat which had spent some time scratching the silky side.

It was a luxury to have so much fabric, normally I select a fabric piece for my project which is smaller than the recommended size and do tetris to reduce waste, but with this jacket I had plenty and abandoned my normal fabric frugality.

Fraying was a big issue, so much so that even though I was going to line the jacket I started by zig zagging every piece.

The jacket came together well and as I have previously made the shorter view from some old jeans, Helen’s closet Pona jacket from upcycled jeans I was familiar with the instructions. The curtain was thick but my walking foot coped well with it. There is a blog post on Helen’s closet website taking you through the steps needed to line the jacket which I had planned and also needed to do due to the fraying. The lining fabric was some from stash left over some trousers made last year More Arden pants. I struggled with the hem part of the lining instructions and ended up sewing the lining on to the jacket by hand at the hem.

I like the way the other side of the fabric shows on the lapel and am enjoying the oversized pockets. I had to topstitch every edge because this curtain did not respond to pressing. Here is the coat on a hanger

And on my daughter – its not for her, I just used her for photos, then realised I couldn’t then tag sewover50.

The coat is very snuggly and warm but I am going to end up putting some sort of fasten on it as I just think its needed on a coat of this nature.

Bonus feature

I had a message from my daughter that some 2XL scrubs were needed at the nursing home at which she works so sewed up these ones from a duvet cover using a sewdifferent pattern found online.

Vintage fabric and thread purchases

Posted on

I recently had 2 sewing shopping experiences that dreams are made of.

Exploring a nearby village with my daughter we saw a few charity shops. I love charity shops and second hand items generally. There’s the thrill of the chase, the bargains and the variety and unpredictable nature of items on offer for sale which appeals to me. Plus, I feel as if I am giving older items the respect they deserve, they get another chance to be useful and avoid landfill for a few more years.

At one particular charity shop there were some sewing notions for sale – a pincushion and some thread, some curtain tape etc. I bought them for a total of £11 asked if they had any fabric for sale. The sales assistant told me that there was some upstairs and she would go and look. I was expecting a few small pieces, not 3 carrier bags full of wonderful vintage fabric. I could see that one of them was suiting which I am unlikely to use, and rejected that one but said I would buy the other 2 bags, suggested price (from her) was £5. I hadn’t properly looked through the bags but could tell that this price was too cheap and gave her £10.

I couldn’t wait to get home and get a proper look at what was there but could not have anticipated how good the contents were, most likely the fabric stash of a lady who had died. I wish I could have known her and heard her sewing stories. There was a good number of larger pieces, 3m seems to have been her go to length, including what I believe is vintage liberty cotton lawn – I bought some Liberty lawn from the shop last year and this fruity fabric has the same look and feel.

There was 3m of this sheerish blue fabric from 1981 – its probably my favourite of the lot but I haven’t got a plan for it yet.

And 5m of monochrome of a narrower width – this ones a bit slippery.

and so much more…… some pieces look like the 1m you sometimes have left over or maybe remnants but the bag also included some Ikea bedding type fabric from 2007. Most of the fabric was woven but there were some smaller sized knits as well.

At the bottom of one of the bags was a box full of threads, notions and trim, some were very old.

There was some rick rack wrapped up in a 1962 newspaper

Some fancy trim

And some India tape, which I had to look up what it actually was, (its a kind of stabilising tape) made in Manchester with very old styling on the package. There is a lot of this India tape and I doubt I can use all of it it but will absolutely keep and cherish it.

There were also a lot of sets of buttons like this

It was the best ever charity shop find possibly never to be repeated. I will treat this find with respect, for me its not about getting a bargain but about enjoying these treasures.

As luck would have it the next day I was browsing face book market place and near to me someone was selling a box of thread. I went to buy it and the box was a very mixed bag.

There were several overlocker spools and again some very old thread.

Some mending wool – didn’t know that was a thing.

Plenty of older wooden spools, although the owner of this box did seem to like winding new thread onto old bobbins as the dark smoke one is actually yellow.

Look at this war Issue thread – I don’t even know if I should use this as its so old.

There was also an assortment of overlocker threads, some of which were dirty at the edges but I’ll still use them.

It’s official, I now have thread beyond life expectancy, but looking through my fabric and thread is almost a hobby in itself, and I know that if similar treasures presented themselves to me tomorrow I would buy them again.