Be Like A Peacock And Dance With All Your Beauty

Drape Jersey Dress

Fabric Godmother recently sent me a surprise gift of this peacock optical dot fabric. It has a super gorgeous velvet touch on the right side, but a slippery wrong side, which means it doesn’t stick to tights. Perfection! But what to make?

I laundered the fabric and left it hanging on a radiator for a couple of weeks. Every time I walked past it, I’d think, What shall you become? Then I remembered a couple of dresses I’d seen recently that reminded me of the Drapey Knit Dress from Fashion With Fabric. They were made from a much lighter jersey than the ponte featured in The Thrifty Stitcher‘s book. I was tempted to have a go – so I did!

Jersey Sleeve Hem

Here’s my biggest top tip for working with jersey. Leave the sleeve hems longer than you think you’ll need. On three separate makes I’ve shortened jersey sleeves and regretted it. Jersey clings and incrementally rides up your arms. Even a centimetre too short and your ickle wrists start whinging. But, Karen, the draft from the window is so cold and now we are all shivery and statement jewellery doesn’t help. Listen to my wrists. Heed their words. Leave your sleeves long.

My other jersey tips? I always, always use Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 to hem jersey and always test my hemming before setting to on the final make. I loosen the tension on both needle and bobbin. I usually forget to use a jersey needle. (That’s not a tip.)

But out of all the above, I’d underline my recommendation to invest in some Lite Steam-A-Seam 2. Hemming is the last stage in a make; you don’t want it to go wrong. For less than £5, you could save your sewing from disaster – and, believe me, a stretched out or puckered hem can spell disaster, with several hours’ sewing wasted. No one wants that.

Hem CollageThe Drapey Knit Dress is a great dress, if you choose fabric carefully and if you’re happy with the deconstructed look. I’d suggest ignoring the pocket insertion. It’s unnecessary complication of this dress’s fabric origami, in my humble opinion, and I don’t see how pockets would ever lie flush to your body.

Thank you, Fabric Godmother. I have a very cosy autumnal dress and you’ve enabled me to deliver a stern lecture about jersey hems!

What do you think to this dress? My guess it’s on the Marmite side of sewing – you either love it or hate it.

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My Manifesto For Happiness – Monochrome Style

Striped Coco ii Collage

Photographing this today was ALL the fun, but you should visit my Instagram account to see the full details. I had quite the little helper…

Tate Modern Collage

This may be turning into Monochrome Month at Didyoumakethat Towers. Also, the month of fun. I loved working with this ponte from Fabric Godmother. Can’t recommend it enough. It’s stable, cosy and just the right side of structural to work well with the Coco pattern. Go buy some! Two metres will give you a dress.

I’ve been blogging for five years now. Can you believe it? I can’t! It’s amazing how evocative a blog becomes as an online diary. Marie touched on this recently, when she looked back at blog photos that – for her – spoke of aching misery. I’ve had similair experiences. I still wince to remember blog posts that saw me putting on a brave face, almost literally wiping away tears before I presented myself to the world. When my Apronalong went live, I’d just split up from my boyfriend. I was baking fairy cakes in an empty house.

Today I had the sense to recognise that my latest photos marked a small turning point in my life. Laughing, walking in the sunshine, muscles relaxing. I’m happy. Really happy. Again. Hello happiness, I remember you.

We must take our happiness where we find it. The rest of the time, we sew. And then? Then, we never take life for granted again. Blogging has taught me that. Phewee! Who ever said this shallow gig was just about the pretty dresses? Some fool who underestimated the extreme power of clothes.

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Is This The Perfect Easy Top To Sew?

Simplicity 1366

The Simplicity 1366 has no darts and no closures. It uses less than 1.5 metres of fabric and is the perfect platform for prints. It can be dressed up or dressed down. So, why has it taken me this long to discover it?

Of course, if it was all that easy, where would the fun be? Knowing Simplicity, I went down two sizes from the pattern sizing. I pinched a centimetre or so out of the back centre neckline. I lengthened by 7.6 cm and graded out for the hips. This top is mean to be a short, boxy style but my days of midriff reveal have … never existed.

Simplicity 1366 CollageThe fabric is a giant polka dot crepe, the body lined in a poly cotton. Not only does underlining give structure to your make, but it prevents any underwear reveals and allows for a very neat finish on the neckline, which otherwise would be topstitched. I love the neckline curve.

I’d recommend prints for this top. My test make was in a solid colour double gauze, which I’ll wear to death but was never born for blog photos. It was very interesting to see how two different fabrics produced very different fits. The double gauze version came out not only roomier but longer. That’s a loose weave fabric for you.

Simplicity 1366 is currently on sale. I’m trying not to wince because I bought it full price, but I’ll get my money’s worth. Just you watch me.

Simplicity 1366 iii

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A Wonk, A Curve, A Crook Or A Twist?

Fitting CollageWhat makes a body normal, anyway? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot as I assess my own changes over the years. Did I always have wonky shoulders? When did I acquire that deep groove in the shoulder that’s spent a lifetime lugging heavy tote bags around? At which point exactly did I stop caring about a post-op scar that I once thought had ruined my life? And on which holiday did I finally bid farewell to the bikini? I can’t recall.

Sewing doesn’t supply neat answers to unanswerable questions, but it does supply solutions. Wonky shoulders? Tweak your seam line. Narrow upper chest? Pin out a dart. Too tall for the high street? Sew your own. Too small for the high street? Sew your own. Too startlingly original for the high street? You get the idea.

Sewing teaches us that there is no normal. Sewing spits in the eye of normal. Can you remember the first time you stepped out of your home in a dress you’d made and didn’t feel self-conscious? That’s when you said goodbye to normal and allowed your body to just be.

I shan’t go so far as to say I love my wonky shoulders, but at least now I understand them. (Poor, misunderstood wonky shoulders! Can you forgive me all the years when I failed to understand why one bra strap kept slipping off?)

Do you have a wonk, a curve, a crook or a twist? What is your body quirk? And has sewing helped you love it?

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Made Up Winners

Made Up Meet Up CollageThe Made Up Meet Up went brilliantly yesterday. Lots of friends, patterns, drinks, food and a certain straw hat with over 90 folded up pieces of paper. Who would win the three prizes?

We shared the moment of revelation with a wider audience via Periscope – just. I hadn’t anticipated thick Victorian warehouse walls interfering with Internet access. I scrambled to stand next to the only window in our room and a new friend allowed me to log on through the 4G on her phone. By the skin of our teeth we shared the prize-drawing moment. 54 people tuned in live and another 60+ have replayed. The clip is only up for another few hours. Despite the dodgy connection, I now have a hunger to attempt a much better event broadcast with readers. What, oh what, will it be?

With no further ado, our winners are:

The Made Up tote bag went to Nicola in Yorkshire who emailed me with her make half an hour before the deadline closed. Phewee!

The Quadrille books went to Bridget who sewed an Archer shirt – the first she’s ever sewn.

And the grand prize went to Emma who says she never wins anything. That’s changed! You can see a film montage of her winning dress here.

Thanks to everyone for taking part. I shall spend today perusing some of the makes that were emailed to me. Other than that? I’m doing nothing at all.

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Made Up Live Prize Draw – Join Us

Okay, this is way out there in terms of comfort zones. I have almost no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to give this a go. At 1.30pm GMT (8.30am in New York, 10.30pm in Sydney) today, I shall host a live prize draw for the Made Up Initiative at our Made Up Meet Up.

You can join us. How? By downloading the free Periscope app (available here or here) and following Didyoumakethat. If you tune in just before 1.30pm, you should be able to watch me draw three names from a hat. You can cheer me on with comments (which I can answer live!) or by tapping your screen to send me hearts of support. You might even be able to see some of my new sewing friends, gathered in our lovely venue.

games room

Periscope is a live broadcast feature developed by the team at Twitter. (The Guardian recently reviewed it here.) Broadcasts stay up for 24 hours – no more! Yes, by the power of my mobile phone we can all be together when winners are revealed.

phone on tripod

I’ll be selecting winners in the following order:

First out wins a Made Up tote bag.

Made Up Tote Bags ii

Second out wins a selection of Quadrille titles.

Quadrille Sewing Library ii

Third out wins … drum roll … over £300 of goodies that include:

  • £50 voucher from The Village Haberdashery
  • Copy of the Aster pattern from Colette Patterns
  • A place on Tilly and the Button’s Learn To Sew Jersey Tops online workshop
  • All seven paper patterns from Sew Over It (for UK residents. For applicants outside of the UK, the patterns will be provided as PDF downloads.
  • Ten sewing books donated by Love Sewing. These will include Learn To Sew with Lauren Guthrie, Alabama Chanin Sewing Patterns, Sew Over It Vintage by Lisa Comfort, Quilt Me by Jane Brockett and Skirt A Day by Nicole Smith.

In other great Made Up news, English Girl At Home has generously offered to donate the raffle money from her awesome-sounding SewBrum meet up on 31 October. This could potentially tip us over the £3000 mark. (We currently stand at £2571.) Did you know that most charity initiatives receive 20% of their donations after the event has finished? Don’t feel shy about still donating!

Right, I’m off to add some more entrants to the prize draw pot. Could your name emerge in a few hours from now? Tune in and find out!

prize draw

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Made Up Initiative D Day

Vintage Vogue Collage

A month of fundraising with the Made Up Initiative. Over £2500 raised for the National Literacy Trust. More than 220 donations. And at least one dress sewn! We did it. Our original goal was to raise £1000, and we’ve smashed that.

Have you completed your Made Up pledge? If so, it’s really important to leave a link in the comments below or email me a photo, as per the outline in my original blog post. I am too feeble a human to rigorously track shares on other social media sites (much as I adore and appreciate them). So, if you want to guarantee your chance to win, you know what to do! You have until 11am GMT Saturday 12 September to add or email your make. Then, I’ll be pulling names from a hat – possibly in a live situation at our Made Up Meet Up.

For myself? I’ve managed to finish my Vogue 5098 in time for today’s deadline. It’s been a labour of love. Can you believe that this make came from my stash? The fabric was bought over four years ago on my very first trip to Mood Fabrics. I was a young and inexperienced Sewist at the time, so bought far too much of this brocade – enough for two dresses! The belt buckle was a gift from a reader. Forgive me, dear reader, can you remind me if it was you? It’s been used, at last.

belt detail

This was an intense make to a deadline. Two toiles, kimono sleeve gussets, a bound buttonhole, seven seams to match up at the waist… You get the drift. But I loved the journey. Well, until the very end when I arrived close to that intense hatred you develop for a dress you’ve loved sewing. Ever had that?

The finished make is significantly more flattering than I’d expected. I was concerned about those pleats around the tummy, but actually they work brilliantly. (You can sew them down, which helps with the silhouette.) I’m glad I chose to make the version sans collar – that would have been too much.


Brocade is lovely to work with but there isn’t a smidgin of give, so you really don’t want to over fit. The great detail about brocade is that it doesn’t need lining. All inside seams were overlocked. (A couture purist wouldn’t approve.) The skirt was pegged 1.5 inches at each side seam and shortened from the original pattern by a good 5 inches.

I am very happy with this dress. It was a lot of work. If I had to self-flagellate (and why not, this is a sewing blog after all) I wish I’d anticipated that front centre seam in the skirt and been a bit more canny with my pattern placement. But honestly, a rat’s arse I do not much give.

Thank goodness for the Made Up Initiative, which forced me to complete a project first mooted five months ago. Nothing like a rocket up your behind, eh? Have your rockets worked?

Thanks so much to everyone who took part; we’ve achieved something rather wonderful. If you haven’t already, I urge you to go visit the Justgiving page and read through the inspiring and touching pledges. Maybe make a donation whilst you’re there!

Even if you didn’t manage to complete your Made Up Make, you still have reason to be very proud, raising funds for the National Literacy Trust. Changing lives.

I’m made up to be Made Up. I hope you are, too.

vintage vogue ii

Don’t forget to come along to our Made Up Meet Up on Saturday 12 September – everyone is welcome! I may use this as an opportunity to off load patterns and fabric stash.

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Vintage Patterns – Use Or Abuse?

Vintage pattern at work

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague today, who was asking about my vintage Vogue 5098. I described some of the work around fitting and adjusting this 1960s pattern to a 2015 body. Not only was I pulling the pattern pieces apart and putting them back together. Each time I picked up the instruction sheet I could feel the paper becoming more like a delicate piece of vellum, the ancient fold lines ready to disintegrate at a moment’s touch.

‘Did you trace the pattern?’ she asked reverentially. ‘You know, to protect it?’

I grimaced. Shook my head, and explained that there’s nothing more divisive in the world of sewing than the treatment of vintage patterns. Acid free bags, dark storage, delicate handling, careful tracing? Some people adhere to these rules. I don’t. Nor, more tellingly, do I want to. Why not?

From my experience, there are a lot of vintage patterns out there that are readily available. A lot…

boxes of vintage patterns

So for me, firstly, context. I was working with a 1960s pattern that needed a heck of a lot of adjustment, and I just didn’t have time, energy or inclination to go through rounds of tracing. I could see that other versions of this pattern were available. I wasn’t destroying history. If this was a rare 1920s pattern, the situation might have been different.

Secondly, learned behaviour. I’ve seen sewing teachers who have an equally robust attitude towards the treatment of vintage patterns. I wasn’t in the mood to argue.

Thirdly, upbringing. I come from a long line of women who bring a ruthless attitude towards inheritance and hoarding. Use it, move on!

Finally, life philosophy. This pattern could have remained in its envelope or it could have become a dress. I erred on the side of action. Has my behaviour been heinous or pragmatic? I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer. But I’m sure you have an opinion!

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Made Up Quotes – Nicole Mary Kelby


If you’re looking for the story of couture sewing, this is the novel for you. The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby follows an Irish dressmaker, Kate, who receives the commission of a lifetime – to create Jackie Kennedy’s iconic pink suit. Of course, no one knows how emblematic this suit will become when it’s worn on a fateful day in Dallas.

The sewing detail in this novel is extraordinary and beautiful. Below, Kate considers the work she’s about to embark on:

The jacket would take more than seventy hours to make. The lining must first be quilted to the fabric before it was cut. Then there were the buttonholes. To be Chanel, they had to be sewn twice. Each one must be embroidered on the boucle side and then bound on the lining side. Then the two must be basted together. It was insanely difficult to do properly because each side must be sewn with a very fine silk thread. The thread was so fine, and so fragile, that you couldn’t pull it through the eye of a needle unless you dipped it in beeswax for strength … And finally, the fabrics were always difficult, at best. The blouse was to be made of a very particular silk charmeuse that was too delicate to be made into a shirt, and impossible to sew without damaging, but would feel wonderful next to the skin. For the suit itself, the boucle was so loosely woven and very fragile – too fragile to wear often. But the softness of the cloth was incomparable, so it must be stitched together with magic and hope. When photographed, Kate knew the suit would appear practical and durable. It would appear conservative. But in reality, it was incredibly fragile and decadent. Everything about it was luxurious and sensuous – and that was its secret.

The details behind the suit are fascinating. Jackie Kennedy couldn’t wear Chanel, because it would appear unpatriotic and excessive in the wife of an American president. So, she had a copy made in New York couture house, Chez Ninon. I love that Jackie presented the face of safe conservatism to the world, whilst secretly enjoying the luxurious whisper of decadent fabrics against her skin. Francis in House of Cards, anyone?!

The Pink Suit

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Made Up Meet Up

games room

Our venue

  • Eight days until our deadline hoves into view, with the chance of winning hundreds of pounds’ worth of goodies.
  • Ten days before our Made Up Meet Up.

Yes, you read right. I figured we needed one last motivating factor to crack on with our pledges. (£2339 raised so far, over at the Justgiving page!)

On Saturday 12 September, I’ve booked a private space in The Parcel Yard, on the concourse of Kings Cross station, London. Kings Cross is one of the main travel hubs in the city, which makes it nice and easy to get to. You don’t even have to leave the station to find the pub – no chance of getting lost! It’s bang next to the Harry Potter shop.

If you did want to leave the station, there are lots of nearby sewing destinations to visit:

Central Saint Martins is a five-minute walk away, with the fantastic Granary Square and view over the Regents Canal. This is where I studied a pattern cutting course.

Drink, Shop Do is also a five-minute walk away on Caledonian Road. This cafe is a hub of creativity and cocktails.

Sew Over It Islington is an 18-minute walk or 15-minute bus ride away. (The shop opens at 12pm on Saturdays.)

Ray Stitch is a similair distance away, as is the magnificent knitting hub that is Loop.

And if you want to be really adventurous with your plans, Walthamstow market is 20 minutes away on the Victoria line!

So, you can turn this into a real day out. I’ll be in The Games Room at The Parcel Yard from 12.30pm-4pm on Saturday 12 September. Join me for a drink and a spot of lunch. (I’ve eaten here before several times and the food is great, affordable and to suit all tastes. The wine’s not bad, either.) You can show off your Made Up Makes and we can all celebrate over the amount of money we’ve raised. I have big plans on the totaliser front. I think there’s more we can achieve…

Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ll join us for the Made Up Meet Up! All you need to do is turn up.

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