Ready To Trek The Pattern Trail?

Pattern Trail

Are you visiting the Isle of Wight over the next few weeks? Maybe you live here? Perhaps you have a sewing machine at home. It could be that you’re looking for a bit of fun in these dog days of summer. Then you need the Pattern Trail!

Pattern 1 CollageI brought several sewing patterns to the Isle of Wight with me. Why? I didn’t have a sewing machine. Because I’d had an idea. I was going to hide six patterns in various locations around the island. I’d supply six sets of photo clues to their secret homes and … the rest is up to a reader.Pattern 2 CollageCan you track down one or more of the patterns? I promise you, not all of these will be easy to find. There are only three rules:

  • No trespassing
  • No vandalism
  • No litter

I think I can trust you on these three counts!

pattern 3 Collage

I can’t wait to find out who discovers these hidden patterns. The Cynthia Rowley has already been cut and used by me. There are a few really great patterns here, including Vogue and Sew Over It classics. Each has been wrapped in a cellophane envelope to protect it from the elements. I’ve tried to place each somewhere it will be protected from rain. Every pattern has a message from me. On a couple of occasions, you may need to be brave enough to ask someone to hand a pattern over. They’re all the clues I’m giving you!

pattern 4 Collage

If you’re reading and recognise locations, maybe you want to leave your own clues in the comments. (Revealing the location might spoil the fun.)

I’m really intrigued to see if anyone successfully completes the Pattern Trail. Do send me a photo at didyoumakethat[at]fastmail[dot]fm. If this works, who knows – there could be more to come! And if you are inspired to set up your own Pattern Trail, go ahead.

pattern 5 Collage

pattern 6 CollageGet trekking and get lucky!

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How To Block A Shawl – On Holiday!

Blocking a shawlBack in – gulp – January, I bought some turquoise wool and began knitting the Trousseau shawl. Here in August, I’ve finally completed it. Don’t anyone ever accuse me of being a fast knitter.

There was only one problem. The last stitch had been knitted on holiday with family in the Isle of Wight, far from my blocking wires back in London. I was eager to see the fully blocked shawl. Could I block it without the necessary equipment? A quick Google search threw up some bullish responses to this question. Sure thing, kiddo!

This shawl has been knitted around Europe and in myriad locations – trains, camp sites, beautiful cities. Am I the only person who does most of her knitting on holiday?

Knitting Around The World Collage

Karen of Didyoumakethat knittingOn my holiday, I’d been lucky enough to stop by a knitting shop where I bought yarn, some plastic darning needles and lots (but not enough) of pins.

I sourced an old towel and dug out a 15-year-old sarong. I really didn’t mind if a little bit of dye ran into this. (It didn’t.)

The Steps I Took

1. I trimmed all loose ends on my shawl, using a pair of kitchen scissors.

Trimming2. I threaded a length of contrasting (but complimentary in colour – just in case of dye running) yarn through the straight edge of the shawl. This is where I’d normally run a blocking wire.

Threading3. I soaked my shawl in a sink of cool water. I didn’t allow my angora wool to sit around in water for any longer than necessary, and I was very gentle when it came to squishing the water out of my shawl.

4. I tightly rolled the shawl in a towel and sarong to squeeze any final excess water out of my make.

Blcoking Collage5. I went into the largest room in our house – my parents’ bedroom – happy to disturb my 71-year-old father who was trying to read (aka nap) in quiet. No such luck! You don’t mind if I just pin out my shawl in this corner of the bedroom, do you? Watch out on your way to the loo!

Dad6. I laid out a fresh, dry towel and my old sarong  on the carpet and spread my shawl on top.

7. I started pinning!


Finally Pinned Shawl8. I was short of two pins for my scallop edges (just my luck!), so I finger pressed them into shape. Not ideal, but not a deal breaker.

Finger Pinning9. I left to dry overnight, hoping I wouldn’t hear any yelps of pain from a parent on a night time visit to the bathroom.

And how did things look the next morning? I think that’s a lovely shawl – and neither parent stood on a pin!

Didyoumakethat Trousseau Shawl

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Simplicity 1941 in Isle of Wight Liberty Tana Lawn

Simplicity 1941

When I first visited the Isle of Wight a year ago, I fell deeply in love and have been dreaming of a return visit ever since. Liberty of London must have been channelling my dreams. For their Spring/Summer collection this year they released the Isle of Wight tana lawn.

The lawn cotton is to die for, smattered with charming and real details from the island. I’ve never had so much fun with people jabbing fingers at my chest:

That’s Carisbrook Castle!

Isn’t that St Catherine’s lighthouse?

Liberty print details

Isle of Wight beach

I immediately and hotly needed some of this fabric. Only one problem – stocks were disappearing fast. For months, I kept re-checking websites and kept being disappointed. When I finally spotted some available, I snapped it up. But I only had a few days left to sew something ahead of my next holiday on the island and I was determined to wear the Isle of Wight whilst holidaying on the Isle of Wight. By the skin of my teeth, I think I succeeded!

Liberty blouse Collage

For a quick-ish holiday make, I turned to the Simplicity 1941 pattern, kindly sent to me by Sunny Gal Studios. It’s another Amazing Fit pattern. Am I allowed to admit that at times during the make I wasn’t entirely convinced this was going to be so amazing? How wrong I was.

Would you like some construction details? I cut according to my size around the chest but at the waist and hips I went down from the suggested ease by 1.5 sizes. The sleeve heads are pleated, which with a crisp fabric gives them a fab 1940s puff. (For a fascinating blog post on the 1940s puff sleeve, read this.) The pattern works with princess seams and has you baste the side seams together (and baste your sleeves in, if your patience runs that far) for fitting.

Beach iiThis is such a sweet blouse and I can definitely see myself making more. I wanted to use this liberty lawn on something that I would wear again and again, rather than a self-indulgent summer dress that would get two outings a year. I think the above photo proves how adaptable this blouse can be. After two days of solid wear, I still love it. The perfect make for a perfect holiday, I squeezed this into my 2014 summer sewing.

Do you have any blouse patterns that have proved surprisingly satisfying?


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Wilderness 2014 – Craftastic

Wilderness Knitting

I have just returned from a weekend at the Wilderness Festival in deepest, darkest Oxfordshire, where I survived by my wits and fighting off the wolves. Which, roughly translated, means I have spent the weekend beneath canvas, sipping cider and G&Ts, whilst sitting in the sun (and rain), listening to music … and knitting!

Camp Knitting

Who knew that collapsible camping chairs and their handy beer can holders are great for holding balls of yarn whilst knitting! But it wasn’t just about the camping. I found the whole festival both creatively inspiring and confirming.

At the last moment of packing, I threw this satchel into my rucksack. It turned out to be absolutely perfect for long days on my feet and away from my tent, when I’d need the bare essentials of sun cream, purse, phone, sunglasses, tissues … and that was about it.

Guy Latiluppe Bag

This is the Guy Latulippe Simple Satchel I made and blogged about during my time writing at The Guardian. (The comments on the original article turned into an interesting semi-debate over the two issues of hardworking creatives charging for their work and the ethics of fast fashion. Can you guess what my opinions were?)

This is a corking pattern and satchel. I’ve never met Guy, he lives in Canada, and I can’t really remember how we found each other through the Internet. All I know is that I massively respect his aesthetic and creative enterprise. Which means I’m really pleased to see that Guy’s Simple Satchel passes the ultimate test. It survived a festival!

P1090413Why isn’t this man sporting a Simple Satchel?!

I also wore a lot of handmade outfits whilst camping. My second Lilou dress was perfect for hot days, as was my Tiny Pocket tank. Tana lawn suits tight packing. The fabric rolls up so small and any few creases quickly fall out. Perfecto!

P1090455With no shadow of a doubt, my favourite venue at the festival was the Secret Forum – an open tent that hosted a series of free talks and debates. (When was the last time you attended a good debate? For me, as a teenager!) I’ve been in a very ‘think-ey’ mood of late, and this was just perfect for me. Clutching a morning coffee, I could wander into the tent, sit on a bale of hay and listen to a philosopher, an environmentalist, a voice coach, a politician, businessman or … Craftivist Collective! I saw both Sarah Corbett of Craftivist Collective and Doug Richards, the founder of School for Creative Start Ups. Doug was fantastically eloquent and inspiring. My best friend and I left the tent sparking with ideas!

It’s easy to be a bit eye ball roll-ey about the modern rise and rise of festivals, but this weekend allowed me to be with good friends, to hear inspiring people, to think and dance, think and eat, think and queue for the showers. It allowed me to think. I think that’s a good thing.

When did you last get a salve for your soul and what are your top tips for working down time into a busy life?

photo (16) copy 3

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Liberty Lilou

Liberty Lilou iiThis is my second make of the Lilou Dress from Love At First Stitch. I used some liberty fabric bought at Christmas from Birmingham rag market. I can remember hesitating over the purchase. Even off a market, the fabric was a tad pricey and I have a tendency to equate ‘cotton’ with ‘cheap’. Why was I paying double figures per metre?

Now I know why. Because the tana lawn is absolutely beautiful to work with. During construction, I was full of admiration for the clever print. Seams just melted out of view. If you’re a beginner with an eye on hiding mistakes, you could do worse than stretch to some of this type of fabric. It behaves really well and doesn’t crease badly during wearing.

ongping sewingI was able to tweak details with this second make. I shaved some depth off the armhole on the left side so that my sleeve doesn’t fall off my wonky shoulder. Despite having made this once before, I still needed to baste the zip in to assess fit. All fabrics are not created equal. The linen on my first make had a loose weave; the tana lawn did not. Tiny details, that make big differences.

Liberty LilouI suspect this is my last summer dress make for 2014 and it already holds good memories. A lot of the construction was completed during a weekend when I had house guests. Like a good host, I’d sacrificed my bed to sleep on the sofa – metres away from my sewing machine. So when I woke early in the mornings with a creaky back, I’d get up and sew in the quietness of my home. I love sewing when I know other people are sleeping. Do you?


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Are You A GTS or a Rebel?

Goody Two Shoes.jpg

I’ve noticed there’s one particular in which I seem to be very different to other Sewists out there. I’m a right old Goody Two Shoes! Whatever the pattern tells me to do, I darn well do it.

detailed instructionsYet all around me I read the most revolutionary details. ‘I took the bodice of X and hacked it with the skirt of Y, changed the gathers into pleats, raised the neckline…’ Here‘s A Stitching Odyssey mixing vintage and contemporary sewing patterns in one make and nary a thunderbolt of Sewing God Fury!

I am not happy about this state of affairs. I feel that I should have more creative vision and the confidence to take the building blocks and hurl them out of the window. I do like the bodice of the Anna dress. I wonder if I could hack it with the skirt of the Lilou?

But that would mean breaking the rules!

Are you like me? Butter wouldn’t melt? Or do you have a devil sitting on your shoulder? Any advice for the Sewist who needs to relax her approach?

Oh, and if you’re interested – the patterns in the first photo were a gift from my best friend’s partner. That’s right. I’ve trained grown men to source vintage sewing patterns, buy them, and transport them several hundred miles to hand over to me. I can’t be that green, then.

ongping sewing

My current project. I’m obeying all the rules.

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Tilly and the Buttons Lilou Dress

Lilou Dress ivHey, guys! Keeping cool in the sun? After a pointless trek to Ella’s dog groomer, only to discover a calendar clash, I’m ever so slightly overheated. Not that I’m complaining about a British summer that actually delivers on the sunshine. These times are to be cherished!

This is the intermediate dress from Tilly and the Button’s Love At First Stitch. It’s one of seven patterns (plus variations), which at an Amazon cover price of £10 for the book means that each pattern costs you £1.43. Admittedly, some of those patterns are very beginner-friendly and all of them will need tracing. But, still. That’s a bargain in my book (forgive the pun) and has given me a perfect linen dress for summer, fabric bought from Minerva Crafts here.

I made three toiles of this bodice:

  • One to assess fit
  • One to adjust fit
  • One to apply a split bust dart, of which I am disgustingly proud.

Lilou Bodice DartsDon’t ask me how I worked this. I still don’t really know. But having applied an FBA to the Lilou, I was aware of a huge bust dart that held all the danger of giving me Killer Nipple Guns. Kapow! Nah, not saving the world, just wearing a dress. One answer to this challenge is to divide your bust dart into two, avoiding unnecessary bubbles at the point.

I took this much care over the bodice fitting because I’d love to make this a go-to pattern. It’s so adaptable. I can really see this as a summer or winter make. No collars or unnecessary fuss to get in the way of cardigan wearing.

To all those people who’ve raved over the pleat fitting of the skirt on this pattern – dang right! This is the uber flattering answer to a gathered skirt. Breathable and flirty, it moves gorgeously.

Lilou Dress iiHow did the dress stand up to the sun? Fantastically well. I need to do some further tweaking to my back bodice, a day of wearing revealed. I’ve always had issues with my left shoulder sitting low and the strap on this dress kept falling down. I feel a blog appeal to expert readers coming on!

Walthamstow FestivalI can’t resist sharing the above photo. Ella and I gatecrashed preparations for a local festival this morning. You wouldn’t believe the number of naive fools trying to steer me out of the tent, muttering words like ‘health’ and ‘safety’! Have blog, don’t take orders, will photograph. Especially when there’s a cake that matches my new dress. Yum!


Lilou DressIn closing, now is probably the moment to officially platform my status as Sewing Geek Extraordinaire. Just in case you want a close up of the necklace I’m wearing. I ordered it bespoke.

NecklaceHave you made the Lilou Dress? And do you have a weird body quirk like my dodgy left shoulder? Don’t be shy, we all have them!

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The Dress Just Isn’t That Into You

Staple Dress in blue chambrayThis dress was sooo difficult to photograph, which suggests it’s just not that into me. Possibly not my most flattering make. Will that stop me from wearing it? No way! It’s breathable and comfortable, and in summer heat that’s exactly what I need.

Staple Dress in chambray

This is my second make of the Staple Dress in one of the best fabrics I have ever worked with – a dot chambray from The Village Haberdashery, who currently stock several chambrays.

I don’t use the words ‘best fabric’ lightly. Not when I risk making The Man Outside Sainsburys jealous. But seriously, you won’t regret investing in some of this beauty. Seams melt away beneath the press of a moderately heated iron, it behaves, is light and malleable and just – ooh! Can’t beat a good chambray, and a good chambray is hard to find.

Walthamstow is enjoying the summer and so is Ella.

Walthamstow Summer.jpg

Ella at Hollow PondsI think I must have known that this dress wasn’t going to be all that when I decided to add a false plackett with flower buttons in order to avoid the hospital gown vibe.

Plackett ollage.jpg

This was my first time ever shirring. Guess what, guys? It’s easy!


ShirringThis experience proves to me that the Staple Dress needs a stunning fabric to lift it beyond the pedestrian. But sometimes it’s fine to be pedestrian. Sometimes you just need a cool dress to wear when walking the dog on a hot summer day.

How are you keeping cool this weekend?

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Sporty Summer Sewathon – The Winners

wpid-wp-1404838955702It’s safe to say that the Sporty Summer Sewathon has left me well and truly humbled. Loads of people took part! I might have made a pathetic flippy flappy skirt culotte thingie but other people really proved themselves worthy of sewing gold medals.

Check out the above from What Gladys Wore. She made herself an outfit for aerial hoop and then she swung around on a giant hoop in her self-made outfit! My life suddenly feels very dull. Why have I never swung on an aerial hoop?!

Other participants created outfits to (deep breath) run, hike, swim, hit the gym, play golf, ride piggy back, take up tennis, dance, walk, do yoga, enter a duathlon AND a triathlon – and of course, the aerial hoop. Have I missed anything?!

L’Attaque du Decoud-Vite takes the prize for greatest serenity in a Sporty Summer Sewathon photoshoot. Doesn’t she look beauoootiful? I’m really gutted I ran out of time to make a swimsuit.


bombshell_chapeauWe even had an outfit produced for a professional male ballet dancer. Yes, really! Check out the whole fascinating blog post here.

foto 1Of course, one of the great things to come out of sewalongs is the opportunity to discover new-to-you blogs. I am now slightly in love with ladysewalot and her joyous approach to sewing and corralling her mates into taking photos on sunkissed lawns. Did you find new reading material?

But, of course, there can only be one winner. BIG FAT LIE. At the Sporty Summer Sewathon, there can be two winners! (Don’t you love blogging? You can just make up your own rules.)

My two chosen winners have one thing in common: tenacity in the face of learning. For this alone, they’re winners in my book. They set themselves challenges, they sweated, they swore (probably) but they kept going – and they got there in the end. And one of them posted some very brave photos with only a ukelele to protect her.

PRIZE ONE from Fehr Trade, The Village Haberdashery and Colette Patterns goes to Canal Couture who made the above troos for her bendy boyfriend, who is very particular about what he wears for ballet. I loved her description of the process and how she determined to sew slowly and carefully, learning along the way. To quote Canal Couture:

One thing I learned from this process: I am definitely a slow sewer. I like to take my time and finish my makes as neatly and professionally as possible. I don’t mind slowing down to research new techniques or finishes. 

I applaud this attitude and reward it with a prize!

PRIZE TWO from Minerva Crafts goes to Errant Pear and her self-drafted bikini. She wanted to achieve perfect coverage for her perfect derriere, and by crikey, she did it! And posted photos of her bikini-clad self  ‘in the name of SCIENCE’. That is one cool mama. Again, determined to get things right, she ploughed on through four different makes until she arrived at bikini nirvana.

I shall be in touch with the prize winners for their addresses. A big thank you to everyone else for taking part. I really do appreciate it and you really do show me up with your brilliant makes. Can you be less brilliant next time?

But, please – never stop being inspiring. I am particularly taken with the swimsuit projects. I’m hoping to jump into the sea this August. Can I make myself something to wear. And dare I be photographed? Only time and this blog will tell!


What’s a sewalong without a wig? Thanks, Scruffy Badger

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Simplicity 1652 – The Dress That Nearly Wasn’t A Dress

Simplicity 1652 interiorThis is the dress that I nearly didn’t make. My lovely friend, Rachel, was getting married to the equally lovely Brett. Rachel has been a faithful follower of my blog and I even made her a work outfit that she still wears to international book fairs. (Indeed, I’ve heard tell of meetings being opened with the question, ‘Is that the dress Karen made?’)

So, when Rachel announced her wedding she didn’t waste any time telling me that I needed to start sewing my outfit. Soon! There was only one problem. I’d been mega busy for nearly a year and wasn’t sure I had the energy for a make that counted. I’ll tell her soon, I kept thinking. She won’t mind if I wear a shop-bought dress.

Then something happened. I went to the Minerva Crafts weekend and spotted some cerise triple crepe. I snapped up three metres. Buoyed on the energy and enthusiasm of that weekend I made myself a promise. I wasn’t going to let my friend down.

I dug out the Simplicity 1652 from my pattern collection. This is one of their Amazing Fit patterns. I swear, if I was banished to a desert island and told I only had one pattern line to sew from, it would be the Amazing Fits. They’re amazing. And they fit.

The pattern instructions are mega-detailed with useful tips, there are different cup size pattern pieces and the order of construction allows you to carefully check and adjust fit during the sewing process. Guess what? I didn’t make a toile of this dress. Knew I didn’t need to. Had faith that the Amazing Fits wouldn’t let me down. Hey, don’t The Amazing Fits sound like a bunch of sewing superheroes? They are!

I will add one caveat. The Amazing Fits fit if you follow the instructions. And the instructions are to baste the entire dress together before the final sewing. Which is a big test on a person’s patience. So just, you know, learn to be patient. It’s still quicker than cutting a dress out twice!

Simplicity 1652The above being said, I made life easy by choosing the simplest variation with a simple back bodice section. The back bodice does come with a cool cut out option, though. Maybe I’ll try it next time I make this dress! I think a back bodice can be almost – almost! – as demanding as a front bodice to fit. You want it right, right?

Back bodiceI was all set on a simple, straightforward, stress-free make. But (and as often happens with me) the deeper I delved into the project, the more I wanted to take care. Out came some fusible interfacing to give the front bodice structure and allow me to tack down the raw princess seams and armhole seams:

Princess seams

And out came the satin lining for the bodice (see top picture). Out came the button making kit, which left poor Ella scared when I kept thumping it!

pink buttons

And out came the silk thread and antique silver thimble. Ella kept me company as I sunk deeper and deeper into long stretches of hand stitching the hem, bodice lining and … gosh, so much hand sewing!

As I worked in silence, the same words kept turning over in my head and my heart. We love you, Rachel. Schmaltzy, I know, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

Simplicity Collage.jpgI got up before work to sew, I sewed late into the night – I was still sewing on the morning of the wedding! Then two of my dearest friends in the world arrived at the house, we each gave Ella a quick cuddle, and there was nothing left to do except make our way to a very happy day indeed. Here I am with the bride:

Karen and Rachel

 It was a really, really lovely day and I’m glad I made my dress. It was worth it. And sewing lessons learned? You should never be too busy for your friends.

Do you have a wedding story to go with your sewing?

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