Four Tips For Storing Sewing And Knitting

Homemade Dresses Hanging Up

First of all, thank you so much for your support and encouragement following my last blog post. I had no idea how people would react and it was the first time I’d put my plan down in words for others to see.

As Robin commented, whenever I doubt myself I can go back and read the comments. If you’re facing the freelance challenge yourself, I definitely recommend scouring the comments for deep wisdom and top tips – from the importance of a good accountant, to remembering to switch off.

Now, on to something less demanding! Reader Florence asked how I store my wardrobe of handmade clothes. Nothing sophisticated, but I do have a few tips to share.

Enough wardrobe space

I recently inherited a wardrobe from a friend, intending to throw out one of the two I already have. Now I have three wardrobes. I love the fact that my clothes aren’t cramped into a bulging space that makes it impossible to see what I have to wear.

The down side is clothes are being forgotten as I tend to migrate towards my favourite wardrobe. (And honestly, I don’t need three. I really must get rid of one, especially if I’m serious about turning my spare bedroom into an office.)

inari tee dress john lewis linen

My latest make – an Inari tee dress in linen bought from John Lewis, Oxford Street

Decent hangers

Once upon a time, everything hung on those wire hangers you get for free from the dry cleaners. In fact, when I first moved down to London after university, my clothes hung on plastic children’s hangers that I begged from my local M&S because I was too skint to actually buy clothes hangers.

There’s nothing like starting your life from scratch in a city you don’t know, with a student overdraft and a poorly paid first job. Ah, youth! But Hackney looked after me, and I’ll never stop loving Hackney for it.

I digress!

These days, I use matching wooden IKEA hangers, padded hangers for anything delicate and these brilliant cascading hangers for multiple items. Below, my collection of Sew Over It pussy bow blouses.

cascading hangers

I even buy vintage hangers when I see them…

tailors hanger

Don’t forget the drawers

For my hand knitted items, I store them in a drawer. I don’t want the shoulders stretching out on a hanger. You can be quite certain that I regularly refresh my Hanging Moth Proofer. I’ve had too many woollens destroyed, and those critters like the good stuff.

handknitted items stored in a drawer

Under bed storage has been useful too (these cheap as chip boxes do the job for me) but mainly for storing parts of my sewing history. Curious to know if any readers recognise either of the below!

underbed storage

vogue coat

I hope that was useful! There are some items I’ll never throw out, no matter how much space they take up. Memories are made of this.

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blogged recently about my decision to open up to sponsors here at Did You Make That, and promised some context once the dust had settled. Having realised that the mental dust is not going to settle for many months to come, I thought I’d take the plunge and mention a few changes in my life anyway.

I mean, if you say it on a blog, it has to be real, right. Right?!

It’s not that dramatic or interesting to others, but it’s massive to me. After nearly a quarter of a century in full-time employ, I have decided to leave my current job to launch publishing services in my chosen field.

In any given 24 hours, I am cycling between exhilaration and terror. The terror is good and necessary – it means I’ll plan. The exhilaration is important, too. If you don’t have passion, pack up and go home.

Down the years, whenever I’ve faced professional challenges, I’ve found myself relying on a very simple mantra that goes round in my head. I know I’m a good person and I know I’m a good editor. If I can’t succeed with those two truths behind me, I’m not sure I want another version of success.

Simplistic, yes. Often the best models for life are. But then to back that up – research, research, research. So if you have any advice (and bring on the good and the bad) for the freelance lifestyle, launch in below! I’m a total self-starter. I need my friends around me.

So far, I’ve been blown away by the support, advice and expertise freely shared by the publishing community. I hope you’ll support my decisions, too, though I shan’t share much of the journey here unless it feels pertinent and inspiring. I am intrigued to see how the blog develops when my life changes this summer.

So, these are the reasons I’ve decided to open up to sponsors. There’s a little dog who needs keeping in her favourite dog food! Not to say, a blogger who may not entirely be able to curtail her devotion to making things.

Making things. Let’s see how that one goes, shall we?

Sincere thanks to all the people who read and comment, who have become friends in real life or electronically. I hope you know how important you are.

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Butterick 5880 – The Toile

toile vintage dress

I am busy making a toile of the Butterick 5880, ahead of my contribution to The Big Vintage Sewalong. I wasn’t going to bother with those notches in the neckline, but having tried them out on the toile I now really love them.

notched neckline

I do need to improve my sewing of the notches. They’re not great. I’m thinking:

  • Shorten my stitch length
  • Stabilise with silk organza

Anything else you’d recommend doing?

The bodice has needed a lot of adjustment, but that’s not unusual for me. An FBA, pinching out excess fabric in the upper chest, a second toile. It’s not that onerous. Once you get into the zone, it’s in equal measure intriguing and satisfying. Always nice to know you’re not wasting fashion fabric!

butterick toile

pen on calico

I scribble on my calico with nothing more sophisticated than a biro, and I use a long stitch length to make the sewing – and unpicking! – quicker.


Any toile tips that you have to share? So far, I’ve only attacked the bodice. Next up, the skirt sections including that awesomely huge draped overlay. I want to practice the construction. Not sure I can promise photos of me wearing the finished toile!

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Inspiration Island

Miette Collage

It’s funny to knit a cardigan, whilst wearing the same cardigan! This is the Miette Cardigan, which I last knitted three years ago. Yikes! It has proven to be a real trooper. So much so, that I decided to make a second version.

Miette Knitting

I already know the fitting adjustments this cardigan needs for my body, so I’m hoping this won’t be too challenging a make:

  • Lengthen the bodice
  • Lower where the bust shaping begins
  • Knit a size larger than the pattern tells me
  • Increase the width of the button bands

And job’s a good’un. That’s the theory, anyway.

I’m knitting up a storm on my current trip to the Isle of Wight. Y’all know I love this place! It truly is like stepping back in time.

Isle of Wight Collage

I’ve even found some sewing patterns and various vintage pieces…

vintage sewing pattern

I’m on Inspiration Island, for sure. Are you enjoying your creative weekends? I do love when the weekday world hits pause and we can all mutually enjoy rest, inspiration, making and ice-cream!

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Winding A Hank Of Wool Jack Style

wool and toilet roll

Reader, Jack Of All Craft, suggested a different method of winding a hank of wool and it involved … a cardboard toilet roll tube!

I never, ever thought I’d feature bathroom staples at Did You Make That. Just goes to show that I know nothing. I decided to try this alternative method of winding. The cardboard tube helps release tension in the ball and makes the winding process easier.

No words needed for instructions; just follow the photos below.

Toilet Roll Collage

Now, I need to find something else in the house to use. How bobby pins can be an alternative to pins? (They can!) Why wooden spoons help you turn belt loops. (They do!) What to do with that pile of paperwork that sits on the sideboard, unloved and ignored and sending out its vibes of guilt, until you throw the papers out in a fit of pique? Manure the garden? Answers on a postcard!

Thanks, Jack Of All Craft!

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How To Wind A Hank Of Wool

malabrigo worsted

It’s time to start a new knitting project, which means ordering more wool. On this occasion, Malabrigo Worsted, a super-soft wool though with a tendency to felt.

Many of the smaller wool manufacturers supply their wool in hanks rather than balls. As far as I can tell, this is for two reasons:

  • Scale of enterprise – winding balls of wool takes expensive machinery.
  • Aesthetics – hanks of wool are pretty!

Please let me know if there are other reasons.

Hanks do need winding into balls of wool. Don’t try to knit straight from a hank. You’ll end up with a knotted bird’s nest of wool that could prove impossible to unravel.

There’s equipment out there to help you wind your ball of wool, but so far I’ve winced at the cost. For now I rely on my hands!


  • Hanks of wool
  • A pair of scissors or snippers
  • Two chairs
  • That’s it!

Unloop your hank of wool with a gentle twist.

hank unfurled

Snip or unknot the series of thread loops keeping the hank together.

snipping wool

Don’t try to start winding this into a ball with the hank of wool resting in your lap. Won’t work. You need tension to keep the strands of wool cleanly separated. Enter the chair backs of most chipped magnificence!

hank of wool

Turn on the telly, place a glass of wine within reach, find a loose end of wool and start rolling. That’s it!

start rolling

I need five hanks of wool for my current project, but I’m not morphing them all into balls in one session. Why not?

  • I lose the will to live.
  • There’s a theory that ball tension starts to stretch the wool if it’s hanging around for too long, waiting to be used.

tension square ii

A tension square is knitted, blocked, pinned and measured. (Always knit a tension square. They make nice mug coasters!)

knitted coaster

And then it’s time to begin knitting. Preparation is everything, in knitting as in life. Actually, preparation and coffee. They’re everything. Actually, coffee. That’s everything.

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Sponsors Welcome

email didyoumakethat

A short post today, guys, to let people know that I am opening  up the side bar of my blog to sponsored ads.

If you’re a creative business interested in placing an ad, all details can be found here.

If you’re a faithful reader, rest assured that the same levels of passion, integrity and community will continue to fill this blog. I hope you all know me well enough by now to be confident of that.

And if you’re curious as to why I’ve made this decision, more to come – just as soon as I’ve had chance to catch my breath.

Happy Wednesdays! Let’s all raise a glass to getting over the mid week hump and to new chapters.

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How Do You Use Sewing Books?

sewing books

I love my sewing books. Love seeing them sat together on a shelf. (Oddly, in the kitchen!) They range between:

  • Reference Guides
  • Technique Bibles
  • Brand Sewing – buying into a lifestyle with Liberty, Sew Over It, Tilly And The Buttons, DIY Couture

And, of course, there’s a lot of crossover in between. One book can be all three of the above. The books often come with added extras. Pattern packs, accompanying DVDs, ring bound spines, slip cases, expandable pockets. Buyers get a lot of bang for their book buck, especially if they take up a deeply discounted offer from an online website.

So, how often do I use these guys? To check a technique – sometimes. The New Complete Reader’s Digest Guide To Sewing remains my definitive technique bible. To sew projects from? Rarely – this dress being a joyous exception.

flicking through sewing book

I can appreciate the massive undertaking that every single one of these books represents, but I still go automatically to my bulging pattern drawers when I’m looking for project inspiration. Why? Honestly, I’m not sure I entirely know. Variety of range? A more accessible package? Level of instructions? No need to trace from nested patterns? Greater access to online reviews? Brand familiarity? Or all of the above?

books and sewing patterns

I’m not going to stop buying or cherishing sewing books. Heck, I also have a lot of cookery books, city guides and hardback novels on my shelves that I barely pick up. I still like having them there. I can’t imagine a home where there aren’t any books on display. Books are covetable objects that we like to stroke and gaze on. Use? Maybe less so. The big question is, if they still manage to inspire does it matter how often we pick them up?

Beginner Tip: support your local library by checking out reference materials if you’re unsure whether or not to invest in a book at the start of your sewing career.

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Tilly And The Buttons Fifi Set

Fifi camisole and shorts Tilly and the Buttons

It’s been a busy few weeks, so I needed something fun and cute to sew. Not too taxing and a project to make me smile. Enter the Fifi! God bless Tilly and the Buttons and her super-achievable sewing patterns.

Back in February, some lovely colleagues bought me this dog-themed cotton from Sew Over It for my birthday. I can’t find the same online, but this is similair. Whilst searching, I noticed that Sew Over It are currently stocking some awesome animal prints right now. Someone take my purse off me!

Animal Print Collage

But back to my dogs. I knew immediately that the fabric would make a cute and breathable summer Fifi set. I’ve already made one version in a cheap something. Sadly, the set emerges from the washing machine in a tight, angry ball of creases. Tiresome. So I wanted to make another version in a better behaving fabric.

Fifi camisole Tilly and the Buttons

The bias cut camisole has the most gorgeous drape and the shorts are super cute.

Fifi camisole

Fifi camisole in cotton

This set is a great project for practising French seams. It’s not difficult to fit and would make a great gift project – you could confidently sew for a friend with only basic body measurements to hand. But I’m not giving these to anyone. I’m wearing them as I type! All I need now is that limb-melting summer heat to justify wandering around the house in a camisole and shorts. These are just not the same with a cardie on top…

Any optimistic summer makes on your To Do list?

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Arms Run Free!

Inari Tee Dress Collage

I’m not sure a third Inari Tee Dress (my other versions here and here) would necessarily justify a blog post, if it wasn’t for the adjustments I made to those sleeves that are just too darn restrictive. If I can’t stretch to tie my trainer’s laces, I’m in trouble because I live in my trainers. (Any other city commuters out there with terrible feet?)

When I raised a question over the restrictive sleeves (difficult to stretch or raise arms) readers left some really useful comments, including recommendations for adding a sleeve gusset.

I was really intrigued to learn about sleeve gussets (comprehensive round up here) and was all set to add one to my next version of this dress. Then I thought, Or I could take a pattern that I know works and adapt their sleeve and armscye… So that’s what I did! Why make things harder than they need to be?

adapted sleeve for inari tee dress

I’m a big fan of the Simplicity 1366 pattern, its loose, boxy style not a million miles away from the Inari. That could work, couldn’t it? (In fact, looking back I see that Up Sew Late suggested this very pattern to adapt!) Above, you can see my original Inari bodice piece pinned to the beautiful denim linen I was working with. I then placed the Simplicity bodice piece on top and traced off the difference in sleeve design. A substantial difference, I think we’ll agree.

I don’t claim to understand pattern drafting one iota but I am intrigued by the above – what was working and what wasn’t. One person, Button And Needle, commented on how low the armscye comes on the Inari Tee Dress. Was this causing the restricted movement?

I think she’s on to something. With a deep armscye, you’re attaching a sleeve to a greater depth of bodice. So every time you raise your arms, you’re lifting a much bigger section of your dress. A section that may resist that movement. Am I right? Anyone out there know more about pattern drafting than me? (That would be everyone, Karen.)

inari tee dress in denim linen

Isn’t the fabric beautiful? It’s a denim linen from The Man Outside Sainsburys. I was told that it’s a viscose linen. I don’t believe that as this fabric creases as soon as you give it the side eye. But it creases in such a gorgeous way that I’m tempted to forgive it. Naughty linen! The Holly Golightly of fabrics. Too outre to care.

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