The best of ’14! #sewingtop5

This has been a good sewing year for me, I’m glad to say that I’ve learned a lot about this amazing craft. I’ve also set up and continued to write this blog and had the pleasure meeting some really nice people along the way, bring on #NYLon 2015!

As it’s that time of year I thought i’d do a little round up of my fave makes so far but then I also came accross Gillian’s Top 5 of 2014 so thought I may as well jump on board! Only thing is that I think adding in my worst makes will suck the fun out of me writing this, you know how it is when a sewing project goes wrong! So I’m gonna keep it positive for your sake as well as mine!

Here we go with my top 5 hits…

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Highlights of 2015…

(1) I love going to the theatre but hardly ever go so earlier this year I made an effort to actually go. Admittedly my theatre-going has tailed off during the second half of the year but I still got to see some great productions most notably Les Mis (AWESOME), but also The Commitments, Kingston 14, Wicked and Spamalot.

(2) Hubby and I visited Bath twice this year, once for our 4th wedding anniversary and once as a half term getaway. Its a beaufiful city and we really enjoyed both visits. We went to the roman baths, cinema, did some shopping (including fabric shopping of course) ate great food and I even got a tour around a farm!

(3) My hubby graduated with a Masters in Education. I was so proud as I watched him walk accross the stage in his cap and gown ♥♥♥

(4) Live football, as in 2 trips to West Ham football ground once to see a friendly between Argentina and Croatia and once to see West Ham Vs Swansea. Usually with football on the TV I can take it or leave it but I do really enjoy a live match, the atmosphere is brilliant.

(5) I’m finally making dresses from a pattern – I’m in love with By Hand London patterns and, as you can see from above and in other posts, I have made quite a few skirts and dresses from their range. And the Kim dress was ordered yesterday and should be on its way to me as I type!

Reflections – what have I learned this year?

(1) Well staying on dresses, I fitted my first dress. Hello Elisalex. This was actually the 2nd one that I made but the first one that fitted properly, almost…

(2) New recipes – I’ve made an effort to try out new recipes and have added spicy shrimp, veggie stew, roasted broccoli with parmesan, and stuffed trout to my cooking knowledge. I once read somewhere that most people know how to cook about 10 different dishes and pretty much have those things on rotation most of the time. I think that’s pretty much true for me so i’ve been trying to break out of that rut!

(3) I learned (am learning) the art of embroidery.

(4) I learned that it’s very important to make time to rest – although it can be quite difficult!

(5) Not so much learned but I remembered how good it can be when you make the effort to be social. NYLon 2014 and the social activities and friendships that have come of of that have definitely been a highlight of 2014.


Goals for 2015

(1) Buy a house

(2) Start a Counselling Psychology course part-time

(3) Try out new sewing techniques – i.e. shirt and trouser making – the Deer and Doe Bruyere shirt and BHL Holly Jumpsuit are calling my name…

(4) Become more active

(5) Still thinking about the last one…

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!



Top 5 of 2014


My Christmas Party By Hand London Flora Dress

I’ve kept my love of By Hand London’s patterns no secret. I’ve made a couple of Elisalex dresses, a few Flora skirts and I have the Sabrina dress pattern cut and ready to go. I also have my eye on the Holly and the Victoria. But even though I’ve had this pattern for about 6 months now this is the first time that I’ve made the Flora dress, I can’t believe that I left it so long! To be honest I was put off by the thought of having to fit the bodice – I made a fair few adjustments to the Elisalex bodice and wasn’t really too enthusiastic about going through that process again but hey, sewing the same bodice over and over again would get a bit boring if I never fitted another design so I went head first into making it and had another great reason to get started – the work Christmas party!

The bodice was super quick and easy to put together and thankfully I didn’t need to make many adjustments. I shorted the bodice by half an inch took in the side seams by a quarter inch and the centre back seam by a quarter inch. I shortened the skirt pieces previously when I made my navy flora skirt and I can’t remember how much I took off but it was a fair bit as I’m not that tall and like an above the knee skirt. I’ve become a fan of a side zip instead of at centre back but as I was making the bodice for the first time I wanted to follow the instructions to the T so I went with the intended centre back zip. Although it’s possible, I find it hard to zip the dress all the way up plus I’ve added a hook an eye to the top so I think I’ll need hubby around to get me in and out of it!

Onto the fabrics, this dress was certainly a stash buster as I didn’t have to buy a thing. I had about a metre of this gold fabric which I bought ages and ages ago but didn’t really have a plan for (see, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with impulse buying fabric!). I think it’s some kind of poly. The skirt fabric is a black cotton sateen that I bought in the summer. I fell in love with it because it’s just so soft and was the perfect weight and drape for a swishy skirt like this one. The lining is a mix of fabric scraps, red polycotton for the front bodice lining and some polka dot cotton for the back. One of the things I like about By Hand London is that they include a label in with each pattern – I’ve always forgotten to sew it in to my other BHL makes but this time I remembered and I think it makes my dress extra special …


The Christmas party isn’t for another week yet so sadly for me there’s no pics of me having a twirl, or playing about outside with hubby as the photographer which happens to be my favourite part of putting together a blog post! Despite this I hope you like the finished article (which includes my new party necklace)…


Flora skirt no.4 and a night out for my kidneys…

I love this pattern. Big time. And given that I’ve made this pattern three times before I feel quite confident with it. It’s a quick make usually but this time around I wanted to really take my time to try and get a perfect, neat finish. This was my first successful attempt at adding a lining to a skirt (my last flora was underlined but this one has a loose hanging lining) and also my first attempt at attaching a lining to an invisible zip by machine. I so glad that my buddy Louise educated me about how awesome Craftsy is because I learned how to attach the lining to the zip by enrolling on their class ‘Mastering Zipper Techniques’ which is not only really informative but it’s free! I’m just about to get started with an embroidery class that I purchased about a week ago but I’m just waiting for some materials that I need for the class to be delivered. I’ve already started getting some ideas together, thank you Pinterest! I particularly like this one and probably need to take note of this advice!


But back to Flora no.4… This time I went for the straight hem variation as I wanted a skirt that I can wear to work/everyday. Although the dipped hem variation is my favourite of the two options I think it would be really quite dressy in this type of fabric – cotton sateen.

The construction was straight-forward mostly. I cut the back piece on the fold (after cutting off the seam allowance from the pattern) and added a left side zip instead of one at the centre back. I French seamed the right seams on the lining and shell fabric and added a waistband as per the BHL online instructions. As adding a lining and attaching it to the zip were new to me these were the bits that I found most challenging. I really took my time over this but when it came to hemming the lining I realised that I had sewed the lining in the wrong way around so it’s a bit weird, but luckily all hidden on the inside of the skirt. Next time I’ll attach the lining to the skirt with wrong sides together and turn the hem up to the wrong side of the lining. I’ve still not yet mastered the art of attaching an invisible zip but i’m getting there.

All in all I am happy with my new skirt although it’s not the 100% perfect garment that I had planned. It’s been a learning experience though and I’m glad that I learned about adding a lining, attaching it to the zip and also had another go at adding an invisible zip.

In the spirit of taking my time over this skirt I bound the inside of the waistband to hide the rough edges – I had some matching navy binding but that was a bit boring so I went for this contrasting red instead, I think this is one of my favourite bits 😃


Although intended as a work or casual skirt I wore this out to a charity event on Saturday night. ‘An Evening with CKD‘ is a great charity that has been set up to raise awareness of chronic kidney disease in the afro-Caribbean community. Not only was the event really entertaining with the live singers and comedians, it was also really informative about CKD. I learned a lot, in particular that the prevalence of CKD in people from black and minority ethnic communities is much higher than in the white population. It’s not clear why that is but the main take home message was to get your kidneys checked! – which can be done by having a simple blood test and keeping an eye on your blood pressure (high BP can be an indicator of poor kidney status). I’m going to see my GP anyway this week so I’m definitely going to ask about getting the test done. Congratulations to Amma Rose on producing such a brilliant event!!!


And here I am in the finished article…



And just because here’s one of me and my hubby ❤️



Ease-y, breezy, New Look 6030 skirt

I was in desperate need of a really casual skirt so I had a look through my pattern stash and found the New Look 6030 pattern which fitted the bill perfectly. I ordered some denim on eBay but had half a metre of some leftover denim in my fabric stash so attempted to make a toile of view D of this skirt (without the tie belt or pockets as there wasn’t enough fabric for all of the pieces).


I’m have a 29″ waist and 35″ hips so going by the pattern sizing on the envelope I should have cut a 14/16 at the waist grading to a 10 at the hip but I cut a straight size 10 as from measuring the pattern pieces there seemed to be a lot of ease at the waist. After basting the front and back pieces together and trying it on for fit the skirt was huge! So I took in 1.5″ at each side seam and it fitted a lot better. Hurrah! Until I got to the the part where the yoke was to be added and then I realised I had made a mistake. Silly me measured the front and back pattern pieces instead of the yoke ones (which sit on the waist) and also hadn’t added the yoke before I tried on the basted together skirt pieces. So what I thought was the waist of my skirt wasn’t. Argh.


I continued anyway as I thought it would be good to complete this as a practice for my next version with my new fabric when it arrives. I really like the pattern and it was easy and fairly quick to make and perfect for what I need in my wardrobe. I also I think it will look even better with the pockets and waist tie belt.

So what about the sizing? Well it fits, just. The finished waist is 28″ so is a little tight. I could wear it but I think it would get uncomfortable after a short while!


Luckily my denim arrived really quickly so I could get going with skirt no.2 and this time I sewed a straight size 12. It came up a little big again so I took in the back seam by about 1.5″. I added the pockets and made the tie belt which I really like and also did some extra topstitching around the yoke/skirt seams to hold the seam allowances down. All in all I really like this, it is just what I was looking for. Next time though i’ll sew a size 10 which should be the perfect fit.

I wore this skirt while out with the Mr on Saturday and it was SO comfortable! I think I can wear this in so many combinations with different tops and shoes that this will get a lot of wear I’m sure. If I make another it will probably be in a different coloured denim, maybe black or a patterned denim, because I do like the versatility of a denim skirt, everyone needs one!

So here’s the finished pic of my new skirt…


Simplicity 1363 top

I have been wanting to add a few new tops to my me-made wardrobe and this is one of the patterns that I ordered recently as I was looking for a loose-fitting drapey top.


I made this up in an afternoon in this viscose print that I bought a couple of weeks beforehand. This was my first attempt at sewing with viscose – it’s was a little tricky as it had a tendency to move around a bit but I really do like the drape of the fabric so a little trouble is worth it in my mind.


Although described as ‘easy-to-sew’ on the pattern envelope it wasn’t all plain sailing for me. I found attaching the neck band to the front and back pieces a bit difficult as well as making the button loops, which I gave up on and used bias binding instead. The instructions say to make a narrow tube of fabric and then turn it inside out but I found that it’s just too narrow to turn in on itself, so out came the binding. I also got a bit over zealous when clipping the seams and cut right through the stitching! I managed to save it though by covering the snip with interfacing on the wrong sides of the fabric.


I found this little buttons in Rolls and Rems (Lewisham) which I think are quite nice…


I cut a straight size 4 and the fit is good. The thing I like most about this pattern is the dipped hem and that the seaming allows for mixing colours and patterns. As I’ve used only 1 fabric here you can’t really see the seam detail but the next time I make this I’ll definitely mix maybe a patterned back and front with plain side panels. I think it could even be hacked into a nice summer dress!


It looks a bit straight up and down on the hanger so I had to go outside…




Posted in Top

Fit is not a destination, it’s a way of life… Elisalex dress no.2

I mentioned this dress briefly in my Selfish Sewing Week post but didn’t want to go into too much detail as that was already a long-enough post! I’ve adored this pattern for AGES and treated myself to it for my birthday this year when I made a wax print version for my big night out to the theatre. I did make a toile then but there were still a couple of fit issues; the shoulder seams needed taking in a bit, and the waistline needed to be raised (the waistline has a tendency to rise up constantly, I think that’s because I am shorter than the model that the pattern is designed to fit). Despite these flaws I still love that version of the dress but felt the need to make more adjustments for Elisalex No.2.


The fabric I used this time is a cotton sateen print from the legendary ‘man outside Sainsbury’s’ in Walthamstow market. It’s a medium weight fabric with a bit of stretch to it and it’s really soft, almost like a brushed cotton, so it’s perfect for the cooler weather.


After cutting out the pattern pieces I pinched out the excess fabric and pinned, which was a bit tricky as I had no helper! But I think it went okay. After 3 or 4 ‘fittings’ I was finally able to transfer all the alterations to the paper pattern pieces ready to go for next time.


These are the alterations that I made to the bodice:

* I took in the bust seams by 3/4″ at the top tapering down to 3 1/4″ above bodice bottom edge

* I took in the side seams from the underarm tapering down to 7/8″

* I took in the shoulder seams by 1/2″

* I took in the centre back seam by 1/2″ from the top tapering down to 5 1/2 ” above bodice bottom edge

* Once all this was done I then shortened all the bodice pieces by 1 5/8″

* I also lowered the armscyes by 1 3/4″as after I altered the shoulder and side seams they were too small. Lesson learned!

The only alteration I made to the skirt was to shorten it by 4″ (I had already shortened the skirt pattern pieces by a fair amount the first time around).


I didn’t rely on the pattern symbols when it came to assembling the pleats as I didn’t think they would match up with the princess seams since I had shortened the bodice. I just assembled them so they all lined up nicely. You can just about see the pleats and princess seams here, the busy pattern does kinda hide them though…


Other pattern alterations
I inserted an invisible zip in the left hand side seam instead of at centre back. My first Elisalex has a back zip as per the instructions but I do find it awkward to zip up and now that this dress is complete I really do prefer the side zip. It’s also actually invisible unlike some of my previous attempts! I realised that to get a zip in as invisibly as possible it’s good to hold down the zip teeth as they go through the zipper foot. Like this…



This time around I omitted the lining and bound the neckline and armscyes with this orange bias binding that I found in my stash. I quite like using a contrasting binding as I think it’s just a bit more fun. It’s like a secret that only I (and now you) know about ;o)


Finished dress


I love it! This is one of my favourite patterns and I can’t wait to make my next one. I think I just need to add an extra 1/2″ to the bodice (I took a little too much off this time of I’m honest). I really like this plain black version made by Bec Stitches, it looks so classic! I think Elisalex no.3 will be an all black version too, French seamed throughout and lined for a neat finish.

For now though, I’ll have fun twirling about in this one.




Red shoes! Love, love, love…



My favourite outdoor activity is going back inside where it’s warm.

I knitted this scarf ages ago and it’s just been sitting in a drawer waiting for me to blog about it. In fact, I knitted this before I even had a blog! It’s for my hubby and I hope it will keep him warm and toasty when it gets cold ❤️.


This was my first attempt at a cable knit which wasn’t that hard once I got used to having an extra needle to contend with. I used a pattern that I found online at Keep on Knitting and it took a while but I think it was worth it as I definitely like the finished product.

The knitting project that I’m working on now is a knitted headband to keep my ears warm in winter! I started ages ago but the forgot about it so at the moment I’m working to get it finished. Here is what I’ve done so far.


I hope it finished by the time it gets really cold!


What a wonder, it’s Coco no.3!

I’ve got a feeling I’m going to make a lot of these. And to be fair, why not? It seems like everybody in the sewing blogo/twittersphere is in love with the Coco pattern and I’m no exception. I’m on to my third and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last, primarily because I still have some pink ponte knit earmarked for a Coco which I bought back in May at the NYLon2014 meet-up! (The weather had just turned really warm when I bought the fabric so I thought I would save it until it gets a bit cooler).

Before I start, let’s talk needles. So there I was, wondering around a well-known, department store haberdashery, looking at all the lovely, overpriced stuff, when I had the bright idea of buying a stretch needle specifically for this project. £4.50 and a journey home later, I’m sitting down at my machine comparing my brand-spanking new needle with the Universal needle that I just unscrewed. Erm, I swear they look the same… And I looked pretty closely. Here, have a look yourself…


Granted, the needle did a good job but so did the needle I used last time which was a Universal. So the moral of the story is… If it ain’t broke don’t fix it (and save yourself some cash along the way)!!!

I’m not sure there much to say about the make itself. It’s all pretty much the same as before, fairly quick to sew, used a zigzag stitch, walking foot etc etc etc, you know the drill. The only exception is that this time I remembered to not sew right down to the bottom hem, leaving space for the side splits.

The real JOY of making this though was down to a little packet of something called wonder tape, who knew how special this was! I used it (for the first time ever) to secure the turned under neck hem instead of pins. OMG why didn’t someone tell me about this stuff! It held the fabric much more secure than pins and it was SOOOOO much easier to get it all to lie flat. Ive got one little pucker in the neckline which I can live with but it was still much easier than pinning and hopefully next time with a bit more patience I’ll get it perfect. So please go out and buy some, if you haven’t used it already it will change your life!


This top has a slightly looser fit than my last coco despite using the same pattern pieces, that’s due to the fabric being a little lighter-weight and stretchier than the fabric I used before. By the way, this time I was working with a lovely, soft, cotton jersey that I bought from a little shop in Bath when I was there for my wedding anniversary with hubby in August. I think this top is perfect for the next couple of months though while we’re in between the really hot days and freezing cold ones.


(Not the best pic, I know, but it was so hard to get the right light against the whiteness of the top 😕)

I’m definitely looking forward to my next Coco especially now that I’ve discovered wonder tape – have you got any fab tools in your sewing box? Please share!


McCalls 3341 skirt no.4

Today started off as a bad sewing day. I started to make a pleated skirt this morning but halfway through gave up as the fabric really wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It was too lightweight to achieve the structured look that I wanted to so I gave up, deflated.


However, this afternoon I made a comeback with my trusted skirt pattern McCalls 3341 of which this is my 4th one (talk about value for money)! This fabric is sort of a twill/drill and comes all the way from Florida when I went there on holiday last year. At last, I’ve got around to using it and now I’m happy :o)




Sorry I can’t go out this week I’m too busy sewing… #selfishsewingweek

Did you know that this week is selfish sewing week? Hosted in part by Imagine Gnats who says that it’s all about celebrating ourselves so I’m just going to jump in head first and celebrate with some of my recent fabric buys – Yes, I’ve bought more, I can’t help it I’m addicted! Thanks to Watney market I bought some polka dot cotton for some PJs, a really soft, patterned viscose destined to become a top and some beautiful red velvet which I’m still deciding what to make with…

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To be fair it’s always selfish sewing week for me because I RARELY sew for anyone but myself – I find it so stressful because I want to achieve perfection if I’m making a garment for someone else, something that usually never happens.

Well I had quite a few things in the pipeline for my autumn/winter wardrobe (which I spoke about in my post here) so I started off early by spending last Thursday evening and Friday dedicated to cutting patterns and fabric. I find that when I want to make something it takes ages to get into the sewing because of tracing or printing the pattern and cutting out the fabric so I wanted to get that out of the way all at once. Then I could just sew!

On Thursday evening I cut out the fabric for a Deer and Doe Plantain tee and a Tilly Buttons Coco. I really like Quirky Peach Sally’s tunic version of the Plantain tee and might go for that hack for my next version if I like the fit of this one. And the Coco, what can I say? It’s a wardrobe staple for me now as this is my 4th one. I love the fit, the shape and that funnel collar. I bought the ponte roma fabric way back at the NYLon2014 meet up back in May, hosted by the lovely Rachel from House of Pinheiro. We went to Goldhawk road and there was so much fabric to choose from, luckily Lindsey was on hand to help me decide!

Friday was a mega cutting day with Simplicity 1317, a By Hand London Flora Skirt (totally inspired by Heather Lou from Closet Case Files’ version) an Elisalex Dress and last but not least a Colette Sorbetto top. I cut the pattern for the Simplicity pyjama shorts but I didn’t have enough fabric – aaargh!



So how did I get on with all that sewing?

*Coco top – Love, love, love.

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*Plantain tee – I like this pattern but I think the neckline may be a little to wide for me so I’ll probably take it in a little next time. Just like the Coco this top was really easy to make, in fact the process is pretty much the same.


*Colette Sorbetto – made with a facing instead of bias binding the neck and armholes. Also inserted a back invisible zip and French seamed the shoulder and side seams.


*Simplicity 1317 – You win some, you lose some. This was a loss. The top was really easy to make except for attaching the neck binding. I know that the neck binding piece should be slightly smaller than the neckline but I think it’s just too small. It was really hard to get it to stretch enough to fit and as a result I have puckers all the way around the neck. Because of this I knew I wouldn’t be wearing this out and about so I didn’t even trim down the seam allowance around the neck – I’ll probably just wear this to bed and around the house! This is a size xxs but next time I make this pattern I’ll cut the neck binding in size xs and see how that fits. I also think I’ll make the 3/4 sleeve version.

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*BHL Flora skirt – made with a side zip instead of at centre back and following instructions for attaching a waistband from the BHL website. Also underlined in a black anti-static polyester lining.


And last but not least, my absolute favourite…

*BHL Elisalex dress – made with a side zip and bias bound neckline and armsyces.


Wow. It’s been an epic sewing week and I’ve loved every minute of it. 6 garments in 6 days and I don’t even feel like I need a break from sewing yet. Bring on selfish sewing week 2015!