Why Reinvent The Wheel?

Simplicity 1882

Whenever I pull on my double gauze Tantalising Tulips dress I think, Dang! This is a nice dress. I really need to sew another one. Then I saw this cotton sateen selling for £3 a metre from The Man Outside Sainsburys. Can you believe I nearly walked away from it? Thank goodness I came to my senses and bought a couple of metres.

Simplicity 1882 Collage

I then hit a weekend where I had no plans and the need to distract myself with some meditative sewing. The Simplicity 1882 ticked several boxes:

  • I’d sewn it twice before.
  • Which meant all fitting issues had already been addressed.
  • It didn’t need lining.
  • I loved it!

So, with no need to make a toile, I plunged straight in. This is such a sweet pattern. The several pattern pieces break up a heavy print. It has a sweet collar and bow and – if I’d bought more than two metres of fabric – really excellent pockets. But two metres wasn’t quite enough, and even with some fabric and pattern jigsaw manoeuvres, I couldn’t squeeze pockets out of this make.

Simplicity Hem

It’s worth taking the time to hand sew your hems. Hand stitches sink into this cotton sateen, hiding from view. Cotton sateen is an extraordinarily forgiving fabric that is easy to work with, can be tossed into the washing machine and has that bit of stretch that makes life more comfortable. It also has great density of colour and is pretty affordable.

Simplicity 1882 William Morris Gallery

Every step of the way on this dress I kept thinking, Something’s going to trip me up. I waited for something to go wrong. It never happened. The zip went in first time. There were no problems with fitting. I didn’t even have to rip out a sleeve! I felt as though this dress was telling me something.

Well, one thing it did tell me is that if you have a pattern you like, that fits well and you know how to sew – why waste time reinventing the wheel? At least now I know how Dolly Clackett knocks out a dress in a weekend, often returning to well-loved patterns. There are no flies on that woman. She knows what she likes and she likes what she sews. Not a bad recipe for life.

Simplicity 1882 close up

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Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over It Vintage

Sew Over It Vintage

It’s no secret that I’ve become a big Sew Over It fan over recent months. This is almost entirely down to the opening of Lisa’s second shop in Islington. Her launch venue in Brixton was a long way from where I live, but Islington is a hop, skip and jump down the road.

Suddenly I was able to pop in, take lessons, admire Lisa’s fabric curating, see dresses on mannequins … and buy patterns. Since then I’ve made four Pussy Bow Blouses, three (or is it four?) pairs of Ultimate Trousers, a lace dress – and I’ve just invested in the new Vintage Shirt Dress pattern because I’ve seen it in the shop and it’s awesome.

That’s a really long way of saying that I expect more of the same from Lisa’s latest book! This is a master business woman, a work horse, a vlogger… She isn’t going to deliver anything shoddy between hard covers, is she?

I’ve mentioned my fatigue with beginner-friendly sewing books. What I like about Sew Over It Vintage is that the reader is asked to draft their own bodice block and from there … draft their own pattern pieces! This is a bit mind blowing for me and very empowering. Could I … I mean, but I don’t know how to … hold on you’re telling me … it’s what? It’s not that hard?! Throw down the mantle, Lisa. I might just pick it up.

Especially when I see some of the gorgeous styling in this book. Box pleat skirt, anyone?

Box Pleat Skirt Sew Over It

There’s a cowl dress I also want to try, and this 1920s inspired top – gosh, I love the 1920s. The ‘vintage’ title reflects the fashion-through-the-decades approach. (Personally, I’m sad that the 1980s don’t feature. Where is my pattern for Madonna’s Like A Prayer dress, Lisa?!)

1920s blouse sew over it

There are simpler projects, too. My blog post about sewing a tie receives some of the biggest hits here at Didyoumakethat, so this pattern alone is going to be popular:

sew over it tie

And if you have the materials, you can make your own fascinator:

sew over it fascinator

Personally, I have few occasions in my life that call for the wearing of a fascinator. There are other projects in this book that I probably wouldn’t engage with, but enough that I definitely would engage with. (I can’t wait to draft my own kimono dressing gown – swoon.)

I think the publisher could have done more to flag the interesting USP of this book – that  it empowers the person in the street to draft their own simple pattern pieces. And am I allowed to say that this book looks a tiny bit generic? Which is a shame, because I think it’s actually very clever. As is Lisa. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Watch out for other blog reviews of this book from Handmade Jane, House Of Pinheiro and What Katie Sews.

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Sewing With Italian Polyester Chiffon – Gelato Required

neon chiffon CollageLovely Annie of The Village Haberdashery said she had a couple of metres of neon chiffon to spare. Could I make something with it? You betcha! Could I photograph it to accurately reflect the colours? Maybe. The ice-cream photo is the most accurate, in my opinion.

Pussy bow collar

I knew immediately that this fabric would become my fourth version of the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse. (Fifth if you count the failed attempts with silk chiffon.) This time, I made version 1 with the edgier key hole collar treatment, which I thought suited the brushstroke print.

Neon chiffon pussy bow blouseI took a lot of care over the cutting out, pinning together the selvedges and then sandwiching the fabric between paper pattern pieces and a large roll of paper. Below, a detail from this stage. This makes a big difference to the accuracy of cutting out floaty fabrics. It’s a technique much better profiled herebetween paperAfter the cutting out, everything went swimmingly. This poly chiffon behaves itself. All I really advise is testing stitching and serging on swatches of fabric, before you get stuck in to the blouse. Otherwise, you’re good to go! This is not a chiffon to be scared of.

I really, really love this pussy bow blouse. It’s a classic and so easy to wear. I wonder how many more I’ll make… Would you sew with chiffon?

sewing in chiffon

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Homemade Memories Winner

homemade memories

What an emotional week, reading everyone’s shared food memories as part of this giveaway. Not every childhood happy, but all of the memories vivid. My own favourite recollection is reading Mary Poppins, lying on my bedroom floor next to the radiator, eating cooking chocolate stolen from the kitchen. Bliss.

So, to a winner! It’s Thea, who shared memories and even a recipe for Chocolate Melting Moments. I’ll be in touch for a postal address.

What are you sewing this weekend? Myself, I’m not sure I can sew a stitch in this humidity. On Sunday I shall be making something I’ve never made before. But more on that to come.

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Kate Doran’s Homemade Memories – A Giveaway

Kate Doran

Earlier this week I attended the book launch for Kate Doran’s debut cookbook, Homemade Memories. Published only four days ago, this title has already been featured on the front page of The Guardian, in The Times, Marie Claire and The Stylist. It’s currently the number one bestseller in the Baking Pastries and Pies category on Amazon. This book is gonna be big!

I am lucky enough to know Kate. We worked together last year, so I can attest to her incredible work ethic, integrity and creative passion.

In her spare time Kate blogs at The Little Loaf. Not about sewing, but about food. Specifically, the food of comfort and memories. She’s devoted herself to recreating treats from our collective childhoods. From those chocolate bars you always found in your favourite corner shop, to the ice-cream memories of playing in the park and the bourbon dreams of a plate full of biscuits. Add recipes for homemade mint marshmallow, a twist on a certain chocolate treat – Mr Ambassador, you spoil us! – and your very own caterpillar cake, and you realise your inner child needs this book.

mint marshmallow

So, it’s a good job I have a copy to share! And because this is a sewing blog, I’m throwing in two metres of ice-cream printed fabric. I dare you to eat homemade ice-cream whilst wearing your homemade ice-cream dress.

signed bookTo have a chance of winning, leave a comment below sharing your favourite childhood treat. This giveaway is open internationally and the closing date is midnight GMT Tuesday 9 June. Good luck!

Thank you, Kate.

homemade memories

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Does Creativity Need To Be Chaotic?

creative chaos

This is one corner of my sewing table right now. I daren’t show you the rest. I’m a firm believer that creativity doesn’t need to be chaotic, yet chaos has snuck up on me.

It’s an inevitable by-product of sewing, for sure. When you’re frantically ripping out a zip, you don’t care where the torn threads drift to land. If you’re head down on a toile there are shreds of fabric, broken off pieces of chalk, measuring tools … probably a discarded item of clothing on the floor that you’ve abandoned climbing back into. Why not just sew in your underwear? Heck, why not just sew in the nude? No one’s watching. We hope.

But I don’t think this chaos enables the process, and in an ideal world I keep it out of my creative space. I’m sure there are people who don’t agree with me, who will say that a happy state of chaos is part of the fun of creativity.

What say you? Is chaos a necessary part of creativity or is your sewing space a shrine to minimalism? And does a sewing machine bring out the naturist in you?

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A State Of Bewilderment Brought On By A Dress

factory dress

I’m not gonna lie, guys. This dress really lives up to its name. If I was going on a first date, I wouldn’t think, I know! I’ll wear my factory dress. The one that goes really well with a hair net and safety boots.


I’ve worn it all day. When I catch sight of myself in a mirror, I don’t cringe away. I kind of like it. No, I do – I like it! Still, there’s no denying that it’s a pig to photograph. Which suggests it’s not that flattering in real life.

Factory Dress CollageOne error I made was being too literal in my choice of fabric. I thought this cotton suited the aesthetic of the dress. It does – and that’s the problem. I honestly wouldn’t look out of place clocking in to a war time factory to grease engine parts. But what if this was in a red linen or a bold print?

factory dress envelopeAnother error I made was in ignoring the envelope photography. The dress is swamping the model, so what did I think it would do to me? I did a lot of unpicking and sizing down – two whole sizes. And my dress is still roomy. Oh well, I know now – and so do you! Go down a couple of sizes. Trust me.

factory dress instructions

I didn’t find the instructions super-easy to follow. They’re fairly basic. The sketches suit Merchant & Mills aesthetic but I repeatedly found myself asking, ‘So, is that the wrong side or the right side?’

I’m not giving up on this dress. Get it right, and I have the perfect cool throw on for summer. I think. I hope!

I’ll admit, my issues with this dress are more than fabric and pattern alone can answer to. My body is changing – I’m in my mid-40s now. I’m trying to find what suits and sometimes I’m failing. I’d never have believed this transitional period would be so challenging, but it turns out it is. I’m not sure that sewing a factory dress helps!

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From Our Own Correspondent

Holiday photo

Oh, man! Ever felt the sudden and urgent need for a holiday? I did. Ever sat propped up in bed and watched your finger tremble over the keyboard, before pressing, ‘Confirm payment’? I did!

But I’m here. I’ve come away. It’s blissful.

I had a vague aim to finish sewing a dress, imagining photos taken on a golden beach – but in the end I decided against unnecessary deadline stress. (And the dress was awful! Unpicking overlocked seams when I should be packing? No, thank you.) All I really needed were a couple of sarongs and a swimsuit. Oh, and my Tiny Pocket Tanks. These come out summer after summer. Something that packs easily, to throw on with shorts, indulging my fondness for Liberty tana lawn? There really is no argument. I’m wearing the yellow tulip version as I type!

Tiny Pocket Tank CollageIs my holiday doing the trick? I think so. Early signs are good. I’m knitting, reading, sleeping and writing. I can’t remember the last time I did any creative writing outside of this blog. It feels good.

And today I discovered that Handmade By Carolyn visited the same resort, only a month ago. I wish we’d met. She’d have looked cool and composed. I’d have been the pathetically sunburnt Brit. How does a person apply Factor 50 sunscreen to their own back? Answers on a postcard, please!

Photos of the holiday to be found on Instagram. Photos largely involve cocktails.

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Inserting A Zip Into Lace

back zipWhen I think of zip insertions, I recall the lyrics to a Beatles song: The long and winding road … I probably inserted, ripped out and re-inserted this zip about five times. Thank goodness that these days I at least have the sense to baste first.

This was a particular challenge because of the single layer of lace in the upper back bodice. I first inserted the zip with no reinforcing of the seams. Big mistake. Every time I did up the zip, I could feel the lace pulling and stretching. This was a ruined dress waiting to happen and I wasn’t having that.

I did a bit of thinking. I know! I’ll reinforce those raw seams with selvedges from some silk organza. A great theory, but in practice the cream silk organza was very visible through the lace. Not good enough. Not good enough at all.

Organza selvedge Collage

I ripped out the zip (again) and racked my brains. What could I do instead? Selvedges, selvedges… I knew my instincts were moving in the right direction. After all, selvedges provide great stability. The lace! I could rescue a selvedge from the lace. So, that’s what I did.


I hope you can see in the photo below, where a strip of lace selvedge has been basted to the raw seam on one side. On the other side, you can see the inserted zip.

lace selvedgeThis worked! My zip insertion felt much more stable and I no longer had to worry about the back bodice stretching out of shape or my zip tearing free of the seam. A bit of lateral thinking did just the trick.

So what is it for you? Selvage or selvedge?

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The Most Dangerous Experiment In Knitting

Circular Needles

Ooh, Karen. It must be really annoying knitting when your circular needles are so curly.

You’re right, readers, you’re right! So annoying, I decided to embark on The Most Dangerous Experiment In Knitting.

I took a warm iron and a clean tea towel…

tea towel

I stretched the plastic tube out beneath the tea towel and pressed…

Circular Needle Collage

Et viola! A much easier circular needle to work with. I’m living life on the edge, peeps! What’s the most dangerous experiment you’ve performed in the name of making?

plastic tube

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