The Best Way To Start A Knitting Project

Sleeve Knitting

Always begin a knitting project with the sleeves. That’s what a wise woman told me last summer and almost a year on, I’m really glad I listened. I’ve really enjoyed launching into the above cardigan from the Debbie Bliss Mia pattern book in a fabulous denim wool. There’s only one problem. The knit is coming up too dense.

I always have to go down a size or two in knitting needle to achieve the proper tension. This time I’ve gone down too much. Yeah, my tension square is the right size but all that lovely cabling and pattern is getting the life squeezed out of it. There’s no spring to my wool.

It’s time to rip it out and start again. On bigger needles. Maybe knit a smaller size. Much better to learn this hard lesson by casting on a sleeve than a back piece. I’ve saved myself a lot of wasted energy. That’s my knitting tip for the day! What’s yours?

bamboo needles

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The Ultimate Accolade

Chambray Ultimate TrousersHere’s a little quiz for you. Who do you think recently said, in a surprised tone of voice: You know, those trousers are really quite flattering on you!

a) My bestest friend, who thinks everything I do, say and wear is brilliant because I am brilliant.

b) A male friend, who thinks clothes are functional and exist simply to stop us all from walking around naked.

c) My mother.*

What can I say? When my mother speaks, I listen. Yes, I made a fourth pair of Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers.

* Love you, Mum!

Close Up TrousersThis outfit is ALL the colours. I used some royal blue Robert Kaufman dot chambray. It’s a really gorgeous fabric with a subtle sheen.

ultimate trousers detailsI assumed my fourth make would be straightforward, but I’d forgotten that the Ultimate Trouser fit needs to be tweaked with every variance in fabric. There’s zero stretch in this chambray (unlike my previous versions – one in stretch denim, one in triple crepe wool) and adjustments were made accordingly. A person skips basting and trying on at their peril! Fortunately I didn’t, and I now own a comfortable and flattering pair of trousers for the warmer weather.

I can’t resist a close up on my new satchel. I’m getting to that stage in life, where I sometimes need reminding what my name is. Accessories help.


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The Magical Art Of Fabric Manipulation

Easing in

I love this photograph. It sums up one my most favourite aspects of sewing – the magical art of fabric manipulation. Sometimes it really does feel like magic!

Ever heard the saying about a large object meeting an immovable force? In sewing, the confrontation between two apparently inflexible surfaces does not need to be the end of the story. It can be the beginning. Or the middle. Part of the journey. I’m over reaching again, aren’t I?!

shoulder seams

Look at these two pieces of fabric. That’s a back sleeve piece about to be attached to the back bodice at the armhole seam. The seam on the sleeve is 3cm – 3cm! – longer than the seam on the back bodice. It needs to be eased in. This is to accommodate the roundness of your shoulder. Breaking news – the human body is made up of curves and orbs, not straight lines! Artists know this.

The ease also gives your arm the room to comfortably move when you want to reach for another piece of chocolate. So, really, the moral of the lesson is: all sewing patterns are drafted around the human being’s need for chocolate. (Ah, that it was so.)

How does one ease a wider piece of fabric into a smaller piece of fabric? Pins. Lots of pins. Lots and lots and lots of pins and tiny little hillocks of fabric, as in the first photo. Looks like it shouldn’t work, doesn’t it? But if you’re careful enough and slow enough, it does. You don’t need a magic wand at all!

Eaten any good chocolate, lately?

shoulder seam Collage

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Vogue 5098 – First Bodice Toile

Vogue ToileWork has commenced on the Vogue 5098. Step one, a bodice toile. The good news is that the pattern largely fits according to my body measurements – hoozah! The more challenging news is that there are more than a few tweaks to be made. That’s okay. That’s why I’m making a toile.

Toile AdjustmentsThe above pinned out section takes account of my hollow upper chest. I trace the adjustment (with one of my new Frixion pens!) and then pinch out the adjustment on the pattern piece.Toile Collage

pinching pattern pieceI also have quite significant tweaks to my back bodice. I’ll be cutting out and sewing a second bodice toile. Even then, I suspect more tweaks may be in order. Might I persuade my lace dress sewing teacher to let me try on my toile for her after a class? She’d be able to guide me on final adjustments.

It’s hard to adjust fit on your own – very hard. Why don’t fitting meet ups happen? I’ve been asking this question for a while. Maybe I should organise one.

vogue bodice toile

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The Best Fabric Marking Tool You’ll Ever Use

Frixion pens

Tailor’s chalk. It’s just not that great. There – I’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room! As an alternative my Clover Chalk Pen is pretty awesome, but this week I learned about a new-to-me marking tool – the Frixion pen. This baby may just change my sewing life.

These pens aren’t aimed at Sewists, but they are readily available. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket. I was confidently told this and chose to test the claim by wandering into the supermarket nearest my office. There they were, hidden away on the bottom shelf of the stationery section – three for £6. I don’t think I’ve ever yelped in a supermarket before.

The pens have a fine tip (great for detail) and use thermo sensitive ink which can disappear beneath the heat and steam of an iron. (There may be a faint chalky residue left behind, so bear that in mind.)

I’d also been told that if you put your fabric in the kitchen freezer, your marks would become visible again. Could this be true? Might a person magic back dart markings or fit adjustments? I decided to conduct an experiment.

marking fabric

pressing fabric

After removing the marks with a hot iron, I placed my fabric in the freezer.

fabric in freezer

In the time it took me to eat a packet of crisps whilst browsing Instagram, the below reappeared…

final fabric

Neat, huh? Have I just changed your sewing life, too?

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Curating Colour


Work has commenced on the Vogue toile. That severe angle above is a kimono sleeve gusset. The V stitching is there to reinforce the corner. I’m going to have to sew an entire seam into that severe angle. Wish me luck!

buttonhole instructions

I’ve realised that this dress involves the insertion of a single bound buttonhole. Instructions are above. A bit different to my own 41-page set of instructions! But I’m excited to play again.

Overnight I discovered that this dress journey may entail surprise elements that no one – myself least of all – could ever have predicted. Details to come!

curating colour

Finally, I leave you with a question about what I’m going to rather loftily call curating colour. Do you find this challenging? (Above two very bright pieces in my stash. A neon pink silk twill and a neon orange … something.)

I noticed that TMOS often has two or three fabric rolls that compliment each other, arriving from the same retailer source. He pulls them out so that I can see how two fabrics work well together.

This led me to realise that when we wander into a clothes store, a lot of the colour curating has already been done for us. Everything perfectly selected and matched, according to seasonal trends. When we begin sewing, we cast ourselves adrift on a sea of colour! What to pick, how to choose, where to begin? Mistakes are made along the way, and I suspect we have to re-learn what suits us.

Have you conquered the curating of colour? Or do you have a stash of clashing fabrics?

neon colours

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Hold My Hand, Please!

vintage patternI can’t remember when, where or why I bought this vintage Vogue 5098 pattern, but I can’t stop looking at it. It sat on my desk for a while, and I snapped it on Instagram. Every morning as I sat to put my make-up on, I’d gaze at this envelope drawing and think, That’s really lovely.

What has stopped me from sewing this dress? Fear – it won’t be an easy fitting project and I might fail in public. Blogging – the perceived need to supply readers with fresh content on a regular basis. Life – it’s been demanding, but I’m bored of talking about that. Lethargy – too many patterns make it a bit too easy to skip past the ones that take more thinking about.

So why not slow down, dig deep, and challenge myself? It’s time to find my backbone and attempt a pattern that I don’t know how to sew. Isn’t this how I started my journey in the first place?

pattern piecesHere are the pattern pieces – 12 of them in all. Fortunately, only one of them is damaged and needed repairing with masking tape. (Masking tape is better than sellotape because a) it can be peeled off and repositioned and b) it won’t melt beneath an iron.)

masking tapeThere are no pattern markings, but each piece is numbered.

pattern numberAnd there are kimono sleeves. I’ve sewn those babies before and know how much they hurt! But hey, bring it on. Which view would you go with?

vogue 5098Taking out the pattern pieces gave me a lot of food for thought. Does blogging lend itself to improved sewing skills? Sometimes. Can blogging get in the way of your learning? Sometimes. But you do what you can do. So cross your fingers, everyone, and don’t hold your breath! This isn’t going to be a fast make. But I think we can all cope with that, can’t we?

When was the last time you sewed something that scared you? And I ask that question as someone who is genuinely scared!

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Does Sewing Teach Self Knowledge?

LaceI’ve enrolled in another sewing class! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. To have the mental and physical energy for three hours of midweek learning is a breakthrough.

As I attended my first class, I stood amongst a small group of fellow students and a brilliantly expert teacher. Whilst cutting out fabric, we compared notes on pets, The Great British Sewing Bee, wedding dresses and online fabric shops. I could talk or not as the mood suited me, make eye contact or choose to peer at my fabric. No judgement here.

After five years of sewing, I finally realised why sewing classes work so well for me. They suit my personality. The truth is, I’m an introvert who loves to be sociable. I can have intense periods of chat, chat, chat … and then almost as quickly I need deep quiet and solitude. Sewing classes give me both. No one ever judged a sewing student for going quiet, and concentrating on a seam line. It’s just sewing! And once that seam is cut, you can go back to comparing notes on footwear. (Heels or trainers?)

Sewing has helped me discover self knowledge and it’s helped me manage my personality – powerful tools to carry forwards in all walks of life. If, like me, you’re an introvert in a world that often demands extrovert skills, you might enjoy this book that I’ve been reading and nodding along to. It’s true what they say, it’s the quiet ones you should watch. (Want to watch me make this dress?)

Have you discovered self knowledge through sewing? And are you an introvert or an extrovert – or both!

pattern piece

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C Is For Capsule

Capsule Wardrobe

For an Easter weekend away, you need a capsule home made wardrobe – especially when travelling by train and crowded car, with a dog in tow.

From left to right, my Coco top, Ginger jeans and Wild Horses dress. I am very, very, VERY impressed by how the Ginger jeans have stood up to the wear and tear of beach walks, dog retrieval bends and lunges, and the eating of pub lunches. Having said I’d take a break before making another pair, I’m now wondering when I can make another pair. Do you know any good UK sources for decent denim?

For such a weekend, you also need a capsule crafting project. In this case, self striping socks using this wool

Capsule KnittingAnd you need a capsule family. These don’t come cheap and they’re a constant WIP, but they can quickly become a TNT.

Capsule FamilyHappy Easters, everyone! Doing anything exciting? Or lazing around like me?

Easter Weekend Collage

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Wild Horses

Batwing Dress Collage

Remember I said I needed a palate cleanser, after my Ginger jeans? This is it! A quick and easy make from a batwing dress I rubbed off years ago for a friend. She is still wearing the version I sewed for her, so I thought it was time to make a second version for myself.

There really is nothing clever or sophisticated going on here. Two pieces only, identical apart from the neckline shaping. A nice belt to give you waist definition, and job’s a good’un. Actually, even without a belt it makes for a very comfortable and stylish weekend dress – which is exactly how I’m going to wear it down the pub in a moment!

Batwing Pattern piece CollageI’m really pleased to have finally used my horse fabric, bought on a mass outing to Goldhawk Road last year, I believe. Memories are fading. Much better that these horses run free than stay cooped up in my stash cupboard.

Have you ever traced or rubbed off a pattern from a simple shop bought item? I recommend it!

Batwing Dress

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