The Sewing Sap Rises


The Met Office tells us that spring is still six weeks away, but there are definite signs of life in London. I keep catching the scent of jasmine when I’m out and about. Crocus rings are in bud. Shops are replete with daffodils, and this morning I even managed to hang some washing on the line.

peg bag

I sewed this peg bag five years ago (go see an early blog post about it here!) and it’s still going strong. It gives me joy every time I use it.

sewing table daffodils

Seasonal sewing is about so much more than pattern releases. It’s a subtle shift in the frame of making. This bear is emerging from her cave! Right now, I have so many ideas buzzing that I’m struggling to arrange my sewing plans in an orderly fashion. Any tips for planning?

But first, I need to finish a project I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. There’s a very definite deadline looming…

shirt sewing

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A Bride Sews

Cutting Out Silk Jersey

I have always sworn blind that I would not ever, not now, no way sew someone a wedding dress. But help someone sew their own wedding outfit? Hmmmm, maybe.

A dear friend is getting married and wanted to make part of her outfit on the sewing machine handed down by her mother. Said friend has more taste in the tip of her little finger than I’ll ever have in my whole body. When I offered to help buy fabric, she gently declined, preferring to shop alone. Clever person. She had a clear vision and didn’t need my clownish tastes muddying the affair.

She hit up Soho for their silks and came home armed with two beautiful fabrics – a silk jersey and satin.

silk jersey fabric

silver satin

My task was to help cut out, providing space, equipment and moral support. The two of us set to with silk pins, paper and serrated shears – my essential trio of equipment for cutting out anything silk. For your own detailed guidance, visit here.

We were tremulous, handling such expensive fabric but both the satin and jersey behaved excellently. I avoided breathing down my friend’s neck by turning to a spot of my own sewing. Soon, she didn’t really need my help at all. The power of wedding was strong!

cutting out silk jersey ii

By the end of our session together, any fear had morphed into excitement. We had successfully cut out two very expensive fabrics. The journey towards an outfit had commenced without a single tear. Success!

Now, my friend begins to sew. This isn’t a dress, but a skirt. Can you guess which one?

silk jersey scraps

It occurred to me that there’s one last gift to share, along with my readers. Tips. How would you sew silk jersey and satin in a maxi skirt? I’ve suggested silk touch interfacing for the yoke and organza stay tape to stabilise key seams. Anything to add? Would you leave the hem raw, for example? Tips around an invisible zip?

Can you help a good woman feel beautiful on an important day? You have the expertise and kindness; all you need to do is share it.

cutting out with engagement ring

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A Month Without Ablogogising

heinous poached egg

It’s 1 February, time to analyse my self-set challenge of a January free of ablogogising.

The month is best summarised by the above photo of a heinous attempt at my first ever poached egg. How best to Instagram caption this without doing myself down? I tried hard to be positive without preening. Did I succeed? Preening… Interesting word choice.

During January I shared a gazillion Instagram photos and nine blog posts. All I had to do was avoid self-derogatory language in the pursuit of creativity.

Did Confidence Come Naturally?

It probably helps that I’ve been blogging and sewing for over five years. It also helps that I didn’t make any howlers over January. And it helps that my day job teaches me to have faith in myself, even when I don’t have faith in myself. I’m not sure a lot of girls or women receive that lesson on a daily basis. (And yes, I think this is a gender issue.)

Did I twitch, knowing that my flannel pyjamas held some less than perfect details? Not really. I’d made awesome pyjamas that I’m wearing as I type – high five!

I’d give myself 8/10 on the confidence front. 

Did Confident Language Come Naturally?

This was much more nuanced. At least two blog posts went live before I even thought about checking my vocabulary for a ‘sorry’ or ‘silly me’. Fortunately, no hindsight editing was called for. But I did panic and go back and check, which led me to ponder how much ablogogising slips out without us even realising.

I’d give myself 6/10 on the language front.

Did I Help Others Find Their Confidence?

You tell me. Once my eyes were opened to ablogogising, I found it fascinating to watch how others presented themselves. I even indulged in the odd comment on blog or Instagram accounts, highlighting ablogogising. I either made myself incredibly unpopular or provided food for thought. Maybe both!

I’d give myself 7/10 on the helping front.

Conscious thought around language has been really interesting for me in January. Mrs C brilliantly described this exercise as ‘same info, different framing’. Did the frame adjustment work for you?

That photo of my badly poached egg prompted several suggestions for improvement and one week later, I’d learnt how to make a great poached egg. I’d also learnt that positive language isn’t just about the words you have the guts to use; it’s about the words you dare to leave out. Eggsellent.

And, yes. I really should have left that word out…

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A Study In Scarlet

dog swatch

A swatch has been knitted to test tension and colour matching…

ella body measurements

Careful body measurements taken…

ella tape measure

And the client has reached a fever pitch of excitement.

Can you guess what plans are afoot? Will this link help? Any tips? I’m drawing the line at the little hat.

Ella Reading

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What Are Your Sewing Rituals?

sewing rituals

I wrote recently about the ritualisation of cutting out paper patterns, and how routines help guard against sewing failure. This led me to ponder what my other rituals are.

In no particular order…

Monthly worshipping at The Man Outside Sainsburys’ stall.

Throwing fabric in the washing machine the moment it enters the house.

Getting up super-early to sew in silence whilst the rest of the world sleeps.

Sewing in my pyjamas.

Sewing in my nuddy pants.

Wiping down surfaces to avoid transference of grease to fabric. Wiping them down again.

Religiously snipping thread at the end of a row of stitching. All the time. Always.

Cutting out interfacing at the same time as fashion fabric, even though I hate doing it.

Covering my dressmaker’s dummy after a sewing session so that visitors don’t glimpse a plastic torso wearing a bra.

Running up and down stairs a gazillion times to check fit.

Forgetting to eat. Making up for it with a tub of humous.

Buying too many buttons.

Rituals I should indulge and don’t:

Using a fresh needle with each new project.

Cleaning my sewing machine between makes.

Wiping down my cutting mat and changing the blade on my rotary cutter.

This is all normal, right? What about you? What are your rituals?

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Tips For Cutting Out Paper Patterns

paper scissors

Have a dedicated pair of paper scissors, only used for cutting out pattern pieces. A sharp blade makes all the difference.


Tick off each piece as it’s cut out. This gives a sense of achievement and forwards progress. It also means you can keep track of what has or hasn’t been cut out, without having to disturb feather-light pieces of tissue paper.

paper pieces

Cut out pieces roughly in the first instance. This avoids wrangling with huge sheets of tissue paper as you then cut out accurately.

paper scraps

Save the leftover scraps of tissue paper to use for future pattern tweaks. If you regularly do FBAs, for example, you’ll need spare paper to tape to your adjustments.

Pressing Collage

Press each paper piece with a moderately hot iron. Not only will this help with accurate cutting out, but it’s an opportunity to study the details of the pattern.

ironing fabric

Immediately follow up with pressing your pre-laundered fabric, folded right sides together with selvages meeting. If you’re feeling extra saintly, flip and press both sides of the fabric.

If you can turn this process into its own satisfying ritual, you’ll learn not to rush to the instant hit of slicing into fabric. Rituals can make all the difference between success and failure.

Now, how to stop those pressed paper pieces from curling?

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Sewing Flannel Pyjamas

gingham pyjamas

Say hello to my new PJs! Just in time for the cold snap that’s arrived in the UK. I bought this gingham flannel back on a hot summer day. Those will make some cosy winter pyjamas, I thought. I wasn’t wrong. Have you ever sewn with flannel? You must! It’s like walking around in a giant hot water bottle, only with less danger of drowning.

pyjama shirt with piping

I went to town with baby pink satin piping on the shirt. I don’t usually bother sewing pyjama tops, but I was tired of wearing ancient running T-shirts with my home sewn pyjama bottoms. I wanted a pair of PJs I could wear on a weekend break with friends and not find myself cringing with shame.

burda pyjamas

The pattern? It’s unisex, Burda 2691. With a unisex pyjama pattern, you’d better prepare for some tweaking to your body shape. I shortened the sleeves and took four inches off the length of the shirt, sewn with a generous seam allowance. I shaved three inches off the depth of the crotch, yet found myself adding an inch to the trouser length. Huh?!

This is not a sophisticated pattern, but I found it a really cute make. And if you want to get a bit of experience of patch pockets, adding piping, matching plaid, adjusting patterns, and sewing a simple collar … you could do worse than sew your own full pyjama set. Plus, you get to snuggle up on the sofa in your new make.

I love seeing how cleanly pressed this flannel is in my photos. Probably the last time this set of pyjamas will ever see an iron again.


piping ii

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How Far Do You Take Pre-Washing?

washing machine

Pre-washing fabric allows for shrinkage before you slave over a hand stitched outfit. The best lessons are learnt the hard way and after some ruined makes, I’ve trained myself to pre-wash fabric the moment it enters the house. I try to wash fabric on a 40 degree cycle to cover myself for the occasions I forget to be eco-friendly. (Sometimes 30 degrees just doesn’t cut it.) Any nasty surprises I want before I start sewing.


But how far do you take pre-washing? Do you pre-wash interfacing, bias tape, piping, lace trim, shoulder pads, zips?! I don’t. Never have. I sometimes wonder if I’m setting myself up for a nasty surprise, but then how careful is too careful? I guess I’ll find out, the first time I launder my current make with its pink satin piping. Just remind me not to toss it into a 60 degree wash…

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Three Reasons Sewing Helps My Shop Bought Items

coat button

Sewing Buttons Back On


Getting Rid Of Those Blooming Labels


Cropping Too Long Leggings

Once upon a time, those leggings would have gone back to the shop. Not any more. How does sewing equipment and knowledge help with the clothes you buy on the high street?

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Knitting A Snood

wool and the gang snood

Have you come across Wool And The Gang? They’re very active on Instagram and my impression is that they’ve been on a significant and successful social media onslaught – I’ve spotted lots of other bloggers knitting their wares.

When I was asked if I’d like to sample their products, I chose the Snood Dogg kit. My biggest challenge was picking from the ultra yummy range of colours. I forced myself to go for a deep navy that would colour match my outer wear. Sensible – pah! I still want to knit myself a pink snood.

If there doesn’t already exist an unboxing video of Wool And The Gang kits, there needs to be one. Unpacking mine was a sensual smorgasbord of woolly love.

Wool And The Gang CollageThese kits are pricey. The snood would have cost me £45 if I’d paid for mine. Not a cheap beginner make, but then the wool is 100% Peruvian wool, the needles are rosewood, I was given a darning needle, clasp… If I’d bought all that separately, the pennies would have quickly added up. And I do think this kit would make a gorgeous gift for a newbie knitter.

Knitting with ella

I enjoyed stopping by Wool And The Gang’s pop up shop in Oxford Circus over Christmas and I’m eyeing up their Let’s Groove Cardigan. But what colours to choose? I don’t need to be sensible all the time … do I?

wool and the gang

snood gods own junkyard

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