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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Sporty Summer Sewathon Swings Into Action!

StrawberriesLet’s do this, peeps! Are you ready to share your sporting makes, Wimbledon on in the background, strawberries to hand? Have you raised your heartbeat today? I have! I cycled out to Epping forest to give my new sportswear the ultimate test. Could I actually cycle in my new culottes?

The answer? A resounding YES.

CyclingNot only that but as I threw my leg over the crossbar, I was confident that there was no knicker flashing, thanks to the secret short detail. So demure!

Vogue 6112I made these using a vintage Vogue 6112 pattern and a light wool crepe. With two layers of fabric skirting your curves, you don’t want anything too stiff or voluminous. This crepe did the job really well, though I think this could be even prettier in a lawn print, don’t you?

I’m wearing the culottes with my latest Tiny Pocket Tank which I find perfect for walking the dog, cycling and wearing with PJ bottoms. In short, the ultimate go-to summer top!

So, that’s me. What about you? If you leave a comment below linking to your Sporty Summer Sewathon blog post, you automatically gain entry into the giveaway. Same goes for if you want to email me a photo on didyoumakethat[at]fastmail[dot]fm. To remind you, this giveaway is open worldwide and there are two prizes to be awarded to whoever inspires me most:




Minerva Giveaway

  •  Basic sewing kit including a pair of scissors, thimble, unpicker, wrist pincushion, hand sewing needles, pins, point turner and button gauge and a tape measure.
  • An assortment of 16 metres of fabric from Minerva Crafts including caravan print cotton poplin, plain black microfibre crepe, coral pink crinkle fauz suede, silver grey sateen suiting, ivory two-tone patterned linen and pink floral print lace.

I shall set a closing date of Tuesday 8 July, midnight GMT. Then I shall have lots of fun choosing two worthy winners.

Are you working up a sweat? Thanks for joining in the fun!


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Sporty Summer Interview With Fehr Trade

With only a few days to go until our big reveal (um, haven’t actually finished my project yet, I’m not panicking at all) I thought I’d avoid my own deadline by interviewing Melissa of Fehr Trade.

I first met Melissa when I began sewing blogging several years ago. I’ve even gone out running with the fastest woman in London. (I died on my backside.) So I know firsthand what an accomplished Sewist Melissa is, as well as being a totally inspiring runner. I really shouldn’t have been surprised when she turned her exceptional hand to pattern drafting in what must be a very challenging arena – sportswear.


Melissa has done a fantastic job of launching her own pattern line of sportswear, passionately supported by people who are seriously active. She’s also currently hosting her own Spring Race Challenge, with the same deadline as the Sporty Summer Sewathon. Two giveaways for the price of one!

I was intrigued to learn all about the trials and tribulations of drafting patterns to sweat in and what Melissa thought to… Oh, I’m not going to share any spoilers here. Why not read for yourselves?

I absolutely love the unusual design elements you bring to your sportswear (especially the latest VNA top with its intriguing back treatment). Could you give us a short run down of the key factors that contribute to your design choices?

M: All my designs so far have started with me noticing a hole in my running wardrobe and wanting to make something to fill it! For instance, I thought Ooh, I’d really like a close-fitting pair of shorts that won’t chafe when I run. So I went off and developed my Duathlon Shorts pattern. I also try to pay attention to the northern hemisphere seasons, too, so early on in the year I plotted out a plan for 2014’s pattern releases and I’m working through those now. There’s definitely wiggle room built in, though. With the pattern I’m developing right now, I ended up straying quite far from my initial idea but in a better direction, I hope!

How long does it take from concept through to finished pattern, ready to sell?

M: Well, for my first two patterns it was a good three months of work, but I’ve been getting better with practice so the bits that used to take me the most time (digitising, grading, and illustration drawing) are now down to a day or two. But I also design my patterns in amongst all my other work for clients, so the elapsed time is probably closer to two months now, with two weeks of that set aside for user testing. I’m fully aware that my testers are enthusiastic fitness and sewing geeks just like me, with real lives and other commitments, so I always make sure they get at least two weekends to test, and there’s never any expectations around posting or promoting what they’ve made.

Obviously, you’ve bravely entered brand new territory with the launch of your pattern line. What lessons have you learnt? Would you do anything differently, if you had your time over again?

M: Hoo boy, I’ve learned a LOT over the past 6-9 months! It doesn’t matter how much you sew, nothing really prepares you for making the leap to doing this for a living. I guess a few highlights were:

  • Be your own tester, but don’t be the sloper (ie: I learned I have freakishly long thighs)
  • You can never do too much measuring, remeasuring, and checking of the pattern
  • Do it yourself where you can, but know when outsourcing will save you time (and ultimately money)
  • Trust your instincts and your testers
  • Don’t procrastinate, but remember to take rest days (just like in exercise!)

What are the unique considerations for sewing sportswear?

M: Most sewing patterns are concerned primarily with fit, but body movement is an afterthought – how many photos have we seen on blogs where people are standing oddly just so that wrinkles don’t appear? With sportswear, movement is absolutely paramount. If a garment shifts around while you’re working out, it’s going to definitely annoy you, and it may end up causing chafing, too. So I make sure I take each of my designs out running a few times during development, and I ask my pattern testers about how the garments worked for them while exercising, too. I stand behind my patterns so much that I’ve run races in all of my designs so far (except the latest – yet!), including running London marathon this year in a pair of my Duathlon shorts.


I’ve often noticed the limited range of sportswear for women on the high street, both in terms of style choice and size choice. Where do you think these limitations come from?

M: I think some of it comes from consumers thinking that somehow wearing all black will help them look slimmer or somehow render themselves invisible in the gym or out on the street, but I also think sportswear companies have a lot to blame, too. The phrase “shrink it and pink it” is said as a joke, but it’s depressing how much exercise clothing out there only comes in black or pink, and it gets even worse in the larger sizes, too, which are almost totally overlooked by RTW. When developing my first patterns, I felt so strongly about including larger sizes that I actually overlooked some of the smaller ladies and had to go back and add a size XXS in later (what was that about learning lessons, again?).

The great thing about sewing any clothing for yourself is that you get to choose the styles, colours, and prints that appeal to you, rather than what’s on offer in the shops, and exercise clothing is no different. With digital printing in particular, there are so many options out there for for colours and prints, there’s really no excuse for sewists NOT to sweat in something they enjoy wearing.

Melissa geometric VNA

You’re a huge advocate of health and fitness, without lecturing people! If you could give one piece of inspirational advice to someone with a sedentary lifestyle, who is flirting with the idea of getting active, what would your advice be?

M: Thank you! I think my main advice is to just get out there are start being active, and make it a habit, whether it’s cycling to work, or going for a quick jog in the evenings to unwind, or going to yoga every Saturday. Don’t compare yourself to other people, because we all started out slower, heavier, and more out of breath than the people you see now!

I was recently given a running top by some friends who had chosen to add the message “Beat yesterday, today” onto it for me, and I think that’s a great one to remember. You can only aim to be better at any given moment than you were before.

What a great interview – thank you, Melissa. The phrase “shrink it and pink it” makes my blood run cold, so I’m really glad Melissa has launched her own patterns to cock a snoot to that nonsense. I can’t wait to see the latest pattern!

Now, friends. Any recommendations for sportswear fabric?

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Fabric Shopping in Amsterdam (Sort Of)

Amsterdam Fabric Shopping Collage.jpgToday, I hit the mean streets of Amsterdam to check out their sewing supplies. I hadn’t meant to. Indeed, I’d actively avoided asking people for recommendations, in order to limit my addiction. I hadn’t counted on my online enablers, who kindly gave me suggestions regardless.

What’s a girl to do? I hit the shops!

First, I visited the Monday morning market at Westerstraat. There were some great fabrics and buttons.

Amsterdam Fabric Stall

Amsterdam ButtonsI found myself less enamoured of the dolls’ faces…

dolls facesThen we strolled over to A. Boeken. Fortunately, this city is very compact and I love a good walk.

A BoekenA veritable Aladdin’s Cave, split across three buildings.

So you’d expect me to buy some fabric today, wouldn’t you? Not a bit of it! I’ve been over buying of late and was hit with that ennui of, Really? You honestly need another two metres?

So I didn’t spend a single penny. Who am I kidding? I treated myself to buttons instead. What would you make with these?

Button Purchases


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Lost In Translation

Amsterdam ii


Knitting in the sunI am in sunny and gorgeous Amsterdam, where knitting in the sunshine with a glass of wine has become a top priority.

It’s heartening to see that news of the Sporty Summer Sewathon is travelling far and wide. Deadline in one week from now. Gulp! Reports are filtering through (such as this and this) and I recently braved my first run in over a year, so inspired have I been.

photo (15)

Even people in Amsterdam seem to have heard the rally call to get fit in the sun this year. Unfortunately, something has been lost in translation…

Lost In Translation.jpg

Well! Thank goodness for handlebars, that’s all I can say. I had to go and have a little lie down after that unexpected encounter.

How’s your Sporty Summer Sewathon going? Don’t tell me you’ve misinterpreted things, too!

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How Do You Use Reinforcement Tape?

Armhole Reinforcement Tape

I treated myself to some of this armhole reinforcement tape recently. Only one problem. I’ve never used it before!

I’ve draped it on the outside of my make, so that you can scrutinise. I take it I can use around necklines, too. I’m not going to be arrested and thrown in the Crimes Against Sewing Cell, am I? (Wibble, tremble…)

Have you ever used this type of tape before? Any recommendations on usage? I assume you fuse on the seam line, sewn edge on the seam line, fusible bias inside the wrong side of the bodice? Let me know if assumptions are wrong!

I bought this from English Couture, which is where I always buy my fusible interfacing. They’ve updated their website so that it’s much easier to navigate. I’d love to attend one of their courses, but they tend to be during the midweek day when I’m at work. Does your need to earn a living get in the way of your sewing? And with no realistic retirement plans in sight for most of my generation, will this ever change? And what does that say for the future of the ‘hobby’ concept? Will hobbies become more or less important? Gargh, my brain’s about to explode!

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