Stretching, stretching…

So one of the first things I did after finding out a baby was on the way?  Look up maternity outfits on Pinterest, naturally.  I didn’t get raring on the sewing machine straight off, but after the three-month scan it seemed like time to start planning my rather different wardrobe for the rest of 2013.

Source: via Amy on Pinterest


Of course, Megan Nielsen patterns popped out and hit me in the face.  As another sewist recently said to me: “she’s rather cornered the maternity pattern market, hasn’t she?”  So I ordered the gathered t-shirt and the gathered skirt from M is for Make (and thanks Kate for sorting out blips in my order so promptly and efficiently!)

I’ll start with the t-shirt.  Helpfully, the pattern says to use your normal (pre- or early pregnancy measurements).  I confidently cut a safe medium:

Maternity top 1

I really like: the ruching down the sides, and the lovely generous length (always been a sucker for long tees).

maternity top 3

Not so keen on: the baggy width in the sleeves, and that the shoulder seam sits right out on the edge of my actual shoulders.

maternity top 2

I’m not sure that this top will go the whole nine months – you can’t really see it in these photos, but there’s already some pulling across the bust.  Fit round the tummy is great right now, but another four months of growth might just go beyond the stretch.

So for my second MN make, I cut EXTRA LARGE:

Maternity skirt 1

And a good thing too.  It does fit, but again there’s not much extra mileage in there.  I used a thick knit fabric as recommended – and it sparkles!  Perhaps I needed something stretchier… but did I mention that I cut EXTRA LARGE?!  And it’s not uncomfy, but there was a little bit of relief in peeling it off at the end of the day.  One of the things I enjoy about making my own clothes is the comfort of a really good fit, so…

Maternity skirt 2

…although I think it actually looks pretty cute and classy, I don’t love it.  This now seems very predictably obvious – because I don’t like wearing pencil skirts, full stop.  I’ve never made one: I sew big circle skirts, plenty of pleats, an A-line at a pinch.  And somehow I thought pregnancy would make me a pencil skirt fan?

Well I guess being properly pregnant stops that horror of looking accidently pregnant in a certain kind of skirt (been there, my friends, been there).  But still, I worry about my underwear line showing through, or the whole thing bunching round my empire line…

Maternity skirt 3

Nope, even with side ruching there’s just too much cling.  This skirt did serve its purpose in making me feel a little glam at the epic V&A meetup, and it might score me a day’s grace during Me-Made-May, but I don’t see a repeat make in here.

On the other hand, I think a MN Maternity t-shirt + Sewaholic Renfrew mashup might be just the ticket…

Births and birthdays

Sewing and making things for other people means… a big sewing gap for myself.  I’m not moaning – of course I could buy all the gifts and devote my teeny-tiny creative opportunities completely to my own wardrobe – but I do like that little buzz from giving an individual homemade present.

And as there seems to be a baby boom this year among my family and friends (six announced for 2013 so far), I’ll be making lots of small person thingummys like this: 

baby girl hat

I used this tutorial for the second time for baby number 1, realising I have no idea how big a baby’s head roughly is.  Big as my fist?  Bigger?  Hope it fits, baby Lara!

baby girl hat 1

To vary things up, I’ll be digging this pattern out and making some more of these cute-as-a-boot shoes.  Perhaps even for the sibling of the baby (now toddler) that I made these shoes for:

tiny shoes

In more advanced birthday news, Mr B turned 30 recently, and while this was not the year I finally got round to making him a shirt, I did russle up what I think is a pretty cool cake:

awesome cake 1

…with all of his favourite things

awesome cake 3

in Lego!

awesome cake 2  Happy birthday Mr B!

awesome cake 4

Progress and results

Because some sewing does still get done around here from time to time:


Patchwork-in-progress: Tasia’s recent quilting post reminded me to dig these out and at least think about finishing them off…

…but for something more decisive, the results of my Sew Grateful giveaway are in!

Giveaway Feb 13


The Socks book goes to Nessa, who said:

“I’d love to try socks – it’s something I’ve always avoided – I think it’s the heel turns!”

Hope you enjoy it, Nessa!


Restyled dress to peplum top

This dress came from last summer’s House of Fraser sale for £11 – I bought it for the zingy blue and the nice thick knit fabric.  But I didn’t like:Restyled dressSo restyle choice number 1: to stick with the dress and lengthen it with a contrasting panel of fabric; or go even shorter and turn it into a top?  Meandering across this pin speeded up the decision-making:

Source: via Amy on Pinterest


A peplum!  Perfect: once I’d removed the skirt and unpicked the original pleats, I had loads of fabric to play with.  I shortened it (keeping the hem intact), improvised some new pleats, and ended up with this:

Peplum top

The neckline created restyle question number 2 – I had that cake/frosting dilemma kicking around at the back of my mind.  Should I keep it blue and basic for easy co-ordinating?  Or frost it up a little with some stripes… yeah! 

Peplum top neckline

For a moment, I was worried I’d gone a bit too Dr Seuss with it, but I think I’ve got in in perspective now.  You can’t beat mixing bright blue with a little red, can you?  Outfit-wise, I’ve played it safe with jeans so far, but I’d like to have a go with a pencil skirt a la that pinspiration outfit…

Peplums: love em or hate em?  How do you wear yours?

Babushka II

Here’s Australian Babushka: a present for my English brother-in-law and his girlfriend who live in Melbourne. I know, she looks British, right?  After all, that’s a pretty big embroidered Union Jack on her apron.  But see those little Australian stars around the edge…?

(As close as I could get to fitting a rectangular flag on a big round skirt).

Like her Indian sister, she’s got super-cool blue hair… but this time it’s satin-stitch smooth instead of felt applique.  And with a cute flower, she’s all ready for her trip home in a few days’ time.

Four simple goals and a sewlution

4 Simple Goals (by A Beautiful Mess)

Inspired by A Beautiful Mess (picture above used with permission), here are mine for 2013, with a photo of the beautiful day I woke up to this morning:

  1. Draw more:  I recently came across all my old sketchbooks from school, and remembered how absorbing it used to be.  Plus, my arty friend bought me Contemporary Fashion Illustration Techniques for Christmas, and I can’t wait to have a try.
  2. Plan well to eat well:  I actually enjoy eating and cooking healthily, but too often end up with pre-fab supermarket meals… because I haven’t got the right ingredients, or I can’t be bothered to cook from scratch.  Whenever I have managed to plan ahead, it’s been easier, cheaper, and healthier all round.
  3. Sew for my home:  Living in a rented apartment means I can’t do much to the walls, but there’s so much that could be added with textiles.  I’ve made plenty of cushions, napkins and such for other people, but never for myself -why?  The other day, I was contemplating buying some table runners until I worked out that’s surely one of the easiest things to sew of all time.  So in 2013 I’ll be making cushions, table runners, and maybe turning my hand to a bit of upholstery…
  4. Streamline my possessions:  Oh I have so much stuff.  Too much stuff.  I feel laden down with it all.  Our spare room is still box city.  And my fabric stash is currently taking up a third of our available storage space. Oops. So I will be thoroughly picking through, sorting out, and moving things on. 

Finally, I’m throwing something specific into Karen’s 2013 Jar Of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is with my plan to create The Ultimate Bag… 

(Current unsatisfactory bag situation.)

I’m tired of bags which almost but not quite manage the job of containing my various day-to-day stuff.  I have to tote a lot of things around for work (used a suitcase at one point).  And then I use the same handbag at the weekend, leaving out my work keys / memory sticks / stationery, and only remember when I can’t get in to the office on Monday morning.  So! The Ultimate Bag (I think of it with capitals) will be carefully designed to meet these needs, while looking professional AND stylish.  And I have to do it, or Karen might name and shame me next December.

Are you looking forward to getting stuck into 2013?

Last make of 2012

I feel like I’ve just got back to sewing and blogging after my moving break, so a What-I-made-this-year round-up doesn’t seem to fit right now.  Instead, here’s what I made a few weeks ago for Mr B’s Christmas party:

Yes, basically t-shirt and shorts!  The top is mostly black jersey, apart from that centre panel (lined in pale-gold, don’t worry) and the peplum.  I used best-friend-pattern Simplicity 2588, omitting the zip. 

The lace came from Goldhawk Road – a rather accidental buy.  I was just admiring it in one of the shops, no project in mind, and with a massive bag of fabric already… but I got sort of sucked in to the sales patter:

  • Goldhawk Rd guy: “Hey lovely lady!  You want some of the lace?”
  • Me: (Shouldn’t really.) “Um, how much is it?”
  • GR guy: “£23/m”
  • Me: (!!!) “Oh… that’s a bit more than I wanted to pay…”
  • GR guy: “How much you thinking?”
  • Me: (About a fiver?) “Like, £15?”
  • GR guy: “Nah… but could do £18?”
  • Me: (Walk away now, you don’t even really want it.) “OK!”
  • GR guy: How many metres d’you want?
  • Me: (firmly) “One”.
  • GR guy: “One? What you gonna make with one metre?”
  • Me: (Don’t know, but there’s no way I’m putting down more than £18.) “A top?”

That metre of lace sat in the stash for about 9 months.  I didn’t even look at it too often, feeling the twinges of spending regret.  And then I came across this outfit:


I like everything about it, from the collar to (Jessica’s) shoes.  And finally my guilty lace clicked into place.  See, Goldhawk Rd guy, I did make a top!

I’m thinking of shortening the peplum a little bit more, and I do want to try a white collar, but otherwise it works – so comfy in jersey, and still classy enough for a smart-casual dress code.

(And the shorts?  Oh… the shorts are a self-drafted wearable muslin, barely finished – in fact, I left the waistline raw (can’t see it under the peplum), and the hem is just turned under once and stitched in place – shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Hopefully something more presentable will emerge shortly.)

Happy new year everyone!  Here’s to excitement and achievement in 2013!

Return to Sender

Earlier this year, two of my best friends went to India, and brought back some gorgeous fabric for my birthday in February.  (I’ve enthusiastically started at least two projects using this stash: no finished items so far…)  Having lugged it back across contintents in their suitcases, I wanted to make something this month that would be both a Christmas present and a little memento of their trip.

First up, a book tote for my friend in the middle of her masters degree in neuropsychology, using the red/gold woven fabric she gave me.  (I used this tutorial, which was very quick and straighforward to follow.)

The cream section actually comes from an old skirt:

…after my mother-in-law cleared out her wardrobes recently, she handed me a big sack of clothes to adapt to my heart’s content.  And though this is not a colour I’m usually drawn to, I jumped at all the beautiful floral embroidery:

And then for my business-woman-by-day/artist-by-night friend Nella, a babushka!  No obvious connection, except that I’m a little obsessed by babushkas right now, and wanted an excuse to make one.

She’s a traditional babushka with her big apron and sweeping fringe, but with an Indian fabric headscarf and henna-style embroidery.  And blue hair, cos she’s a tiny bit of a rebel. 

There’s a proper stitch-fest going on, with blanket-, stem-, chain-, running-, back-stitch and some french knots thrown in.  So fun just to make up as I went along!

Onwards and upwards – these cats aren’t going to crochet themselves.  Hope your last few days of Advent are settling down for some Christmas peace – I’m looking forward to a carol service this evening to kickstart the festive mood.

Cotton Jersey Girl

I really feel the sentimental pull of old clothes.  Folded in an old box somewhere, I still have the top I was wearing on the night I first met Mr B. There are ballgowns I’ll never wear again hanging up in my parents’ spare room.  And there are the t-shirts.

There’s nothing quite like a printed t-shirt for anchoring you straight in to a particular time and place.  The last day of school (“Class of 04!”); my friend’s hen night (“It’s not a good night out unless you almost get run over!”); that dinner with my family (“Hard Rock Cafe!”) where we met my brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, for the first time.  And I hardly wear any of them, because they make my neck look really weird:

This is my t-shirt from the last day of sixth-form in 2004, and these are the photos that brought it home to me that t-shirts do not suit me.  I know they’re bad photos anyway, but I really do look like this – that high round neckline can somehow remove my neck altogether (a la left photo) or, conversely, make it look stretched and stiff (a la right photo).  And so, for the last few years, I have avoided them as much as possible.  Without, of course, getting rid of a single item of my personal-history collection.

But over the summer, I was finally liberated by the Sewaholic Renfrew:

…and I’ve been almost exclusively sewing t-shirts ever since.  I even made one for Mr B’s Christmas party this week (reserve judgement til you see it.)  In fact, consider this a warning that an onslaught of cotton jersey is coming up on this blog.

But before I get into that, I better announce the winner of the Twinkle Sews giveaway (thanks for your welcoming comments and your patience, lovely commenters).  The book goes to:

The 4th comment was from Carly, who said “Ooh I was just thinking I hadn’t seen a post from you in aaaages! Nice to see you back.  Please enter me in the giveaway – I’m about to give birth so some slouchy knits and tunic tops sounds right up my street!”

Carly, I honestly didn’t fix the numbers, but you sound very deserving of a book full of slouchy tops – it’s all yours!

Mini-maxi skirt tutorial

This skirt is made from one piece of fabric: it has two seams, and two hems – four straight lines and it’s done.  It started off with this coral-colour rayon, which I thought would look great as a summer maxi skirt (following on from my winter maxi skirt).  Thing is, it’s rather see-through in certain lights.  Some sort of lining was called for – but instead of a full length lining… how about a MINI?

I’m smitten with these sorts of skirts just now. The other day I saw a girl wearing one… first I thought, hey, nice maxi skirt! and then hey, that’s really see-through! And hey, she’s actually wearing a mini skirt underneath!

 I’m actually pretty fond of the shape of my legs, but I feel hugely self-conscious if a skirt is more than about an inch above my knee: I just can’t relax in it.  But wearing this?  My miniskirt’s mid-thigh, the outline of my legs is visible… but it’s all demurely covered by the maxi!  Result.


It all starts with a piece of elastic.  I measured it just by wrapping it round my waist, adjusting it until it was comfortable and sticking a pin in to keep it in place.  Cut off the end so there’s about an inch of overlap, then slip it off without removing the pin. 

Zig-zag along each of the raw ends to form the waistband circle, and put it back on to measure how long you want each of the skirts to be.  You’ll need to measure from the top of the elastic – this will be the top edge of your skirt.

I decided I wanted the mini to be 18″ long, and the maxi to be 45″ (to the floor).  Bit o’ maths:

  1. Mini length + hem allowance (18 + 1 = 19″)
  2. Maxi length + hem allowance (45 + 1 = 46″)
  3. Add 1. and 2. together (19 + 46 = 65″)

So the total length of fabric I cut was 65″.  For the width, I measured my waist (30″) and multiplied by 2 (60″).  My fabric was only 56″ wide, so I went with that, ending up with a rectangle 56″ wide x 65″ long.

  • Mark measurement no.1 (i.e. the mini length + seam allowance) along the whole width of the skirt.  I took a picture of this, but the line didn’t show up very well.  You’re basically marking the division between the mini part and the maxi part, which will form the top of the skirt.
  • Fold the rectangle in half widthways, right sides together, and sew along the whole long seam. 
  • Turn the skirt right-side out, so you have a long tube.  Fold this tube around the elastic waistband, along the line you marked out previously.  The longer maxi part will be right-side-out, and the shorter mini part will be folded behind it, so the wrong sides are together.  The elastic waistband should be sandwiched between the two, with the top of the elastic lined up with your marked fold-line.  Pin in place.  Is this making sense? Would a diagram help?
  • Sew all around the waist-line, a little wider than the width of the elastic (mine was 1″ wide, so I sewed 1.25″ from the edge).    This will make the channel to hold the elastic.  Don’t catch the elastic in your seam!  As you get further round the waistband, you’ll need to gather up what you’ve already sewed, keeping the small section you’re currently sewing nice and flat. 
  • That’s the two seams done – just hem each section of the skirt and it’s ready to wear!

I like styling it under a long top with a belt, like this:

(A final word of caution:  While double-your-waist-measurement seems to be standard for a gathered skirt, I find it a little restrictive – I have to hoick the skirt up to stride properly.  So I’m going to add a short slit at the back, along the long seam.)  Even so, I’m wearing it 2 or 3 times a week right now – perfect summer skirt, check.