200 followers milestone – Coco and Igor DVD Giveaway

I have reached the remarkable milestone of having over 200 followers to my little corner of blogland and I am thrilled to bits.

I started this blog as a way of documenting my makes and to share some of the tips and techniques I have learnt over the years. However I was not expecting the many wonderful upsides of blogging with fellow sewcialists coming back to say that something I have posted has inspired them to have a go, whether it is something entirely new that they would not have attempted before, or a little tip they were unaware of. This wonderful sewing community with its funny, inspirational, generous, insightful, clever …I could go on, participants, has turned out to be one of the most joyous aspects of my sewing life.

By way of a thank you to all my followers, first up – group hug (oo0oo) and secondly a little give-away.


I recently watched this DVD, principally because I watch pretty much everything to do with Mme Chanel and because it was billed as being especially stylish and I have to say, it did not disappoint.

Almost everyone has seen Coco, the film with Audrey Tatou, which is an absolute favourite of mine, as I believe it to be the most accurate depiction of her life and Audrey seems utterly believable to me as she has the charm I understand the real Coco possessed, displaying the single minded determination which would have been required to make it, especially for a girl of her background and means, at that time.

This film differs in that it is based on a fictional account of the possible affair between Coco Chanel and the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. I won’t go into detail on the story nor offer a critique of the film but just say that the clothes, as you can imagine, are especially wonderful…..a little taster…..










Please note that this DVD is particularly saucy, so you might not want to watch it in front of grandma!

To win a copy of the DVD just leave a comment below and I will draw the winner on 1st July 2013.

Good Luck and Thank You x


Tracing a Burdastyle pattern – and introducing Pepper.

I’m an avid fan of the Burda monthly mag. I think for the cover price and number of patterns in each edition, this magazine is a must in most sewistas’ pattern stash. Admittedly, on the odd occasion there is nothing worthy of note and more than once I have looked it over from cover to cover and been left a bit deflated. That said, I have gone back over the same magazine at a later date and lo and behold something I had overlooked suddenly inspires. Also, and this is more likely the case, another blogger’s make, often re interpreted, leaves me scrabbling for the referenced copy in an attempt to shamelessly imitate.

The biggest bugbear is of course the tracing of the pattern from the maddening pattern sheet!

Everybody has their own way of doing this, however I suspect the most common way is to trace the pattern through tracing paper.

I thought I would show you how I copy these patterns – in fact all my patterns.  I never cut from a pattern sheet, I like to keep the patterns whole – there is a particular kind of pleasure to be had from re folding the pattern back into the envelope – Yeah, I know, I don’t get out much!

I use a method which involves a pin tracing wheel through the pattern onto copy paper. This negates the need for tracing paper which one would have to peer through and given the number of pattern pieces in each sheet this can be problematic.

First up I cover my cutting table with a piece of towelling (this was leftover from a previous make) which gives a degree of thickness that allows for the spikes of the tracing wheel penetrate through, enough to leave their mark on the paper  but not the surface of the table

SONY DSCNext I cover with an old linen tablecloth. This does two things, it anchors the underlay and the texture of the linen gives a smooth surface to work on when using the tracing wheel.

The brown paper is laid over and weighted.


Pattern selected – in this case this an A- line casual skirt

SONY DSCNext up the tracing materials consist of the correctly selected pattern sheet, tracing wheel, pencil and for adding the seam allowance a seam gauge.

SONY DSCAs previously mentioned lay the pattern sheet over the copy paper and weigh down. I like to use a small puppy who goes by the name of Pepper!! Please let me introduce to you our new puppy girl, a little cocker spaniel who is just the cutest sweetest thing! We are totally smitten. She is 10 weeks old and is our second family dog. Our first lovely dog Barney died 3 years ago – he was a Beardie Collie, completely bonkers and the children’s best pal growing up. We have taken this time to come to terms with losing him and deciding on our next pet.


Locate the pattern pieces by circling and once traced with your tracing wheel mark off .



trace the pattern pieces, add the seam allowances use your French curve to neaten edges, the finished pieces prior to cutting out.

I tend to set aside a day for cutting out patterns, I almost never sew and cut out in the same day, I feel it’s a different mind-set and in actual fact I find tracing and cutting out fabric quite therapeutic.

Finished cut pieces ready for fabric cutting.


…..and my lovely assistant….


Application: The GB Sewing Bee – Filming Autumn 2013

SONY DSC                                   SONY DSC

Hi, Just a quick post to show the additional make of this little top previously  posted The Great British Sewing Bee make# 2 from the Book , in cream vintage lace, over cream viscose and silk. Neckline and inside armholes are bound with self-made bias binding, as outlined in previous post.

Also, to let you know how to apply to be one of the contestants on the next series filming of the GB Sewing Bee in Autumn 2013. Take the link and apply,  I received this directly from Love Productions, the team behind the series, unfortunately as I used to work full-time as a costumier I’m not eligible to apply – bummer :(. The rules and application are on the website; www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/beonashow/great_british_sewing_bee so if you are in the UK or rolling in dosh and can jet in for filming – hark at you!, then give it a go. Who knows you could be the next media darling, elbowing your way into the London nightclubs and sharing a ciggie with Kate Moss or Mossy as she’s known to her pals.Good Luck!!

Blouse-a-thon AKA Stashbustin!

cut blouses

cut blouses

Not sure how this happened! but I have given myself the no small task of finishing  7 blouses, yes, you read that right seven!! as in days of the week, as in Snow White’s dwarfs, like the movie, rhymes with heaven errrm… not in this case!  Lets talk stashes, how big is yours? Mine is nothing to write home about, some peoples are huge, would fill a warehouse, could cover a nation, not mine…..paltry and yet small as it is, looking at my stash day in day out is just depressing. What goes through your mind when you pick up a fabric in store and then make your way to the cash desk, order a specific yardage pay your hard earned cash take it home and place in your stash box? Only for you to revisit at some point in the future and ponder “what was I thinking!” Or was it a bargain? too good to lose “its Liberty lawn!” I hear you say, Yeah, its brown!

Hence the myriad of blouses,  firstly blouses work for me, I can feel restricted in dresses and flushed in woollens and my “certain” age, makes blouses a must have, especially in natural fabric. I, like most women have a predilection for silk and I buy it, particularly when I see good quality at a good price, by the truck load. But no more – or at least till the next time I get to Paris (more about that later)

Where is all this going I hear you say!. Well, I have decided firstly to use up all that I have in my stash and not visit a fabric shop until I do. Secondly to forgo the stash concept entirely and only buy when I have a specific project in mind. This is no small task -however this was how I operated as a student many years ago without the luxury of buying on a whim, and  I have to say I was so cautious in my fabric choices that I took an age to choose but was rarely disappointed in the finished results. If I have learnt anything about fabric and its suitability for a job then its from this episode in my sewing life.

vintage stash

vintage stash

A couple of caveats – this one runs too deep – any purchases of vintage fabric at markets, fairs etc is exempt because firstly they are usually very cheap and secondly how long are we going to be able to avail of these fabrics? Is is good for the environment fitting in with the reduce, reuse and recycle ethos; the quality is usually exceptional and sadly I can already see this resource drying up. The other caveat is the Paris fabric market. I don’t get there that often the quality is fantastic, range unbelievable and price is often very good.

I have just finished reading the wonderful, albeit shocking book “Overdressed by Elizabeth L Cline” and although the main target of the book is the “fast fashion” industry and its global impact both in terms of work and the environment. I now feel a bit uneasy about stockpiling fabric stashes. That said, the sewistas of the world are given bragging rights with a chapter on our creativity, resourcefulness and minimal environmental impact. In fact people making their own hand-made garments is seen as one of the solutions of countering the fast fashion juggernaut.

I shall host a give-away of the book in a later post. Fist up is the mammoth blouse-a-thon and the patterns


Swing Your Pants! – Give-away


Well I wasn’t sure I would ever get to this stage with these but we are here! I rolled up my sleeves, stiffened my resolve and my upper lip – no tears here – no Sir, I kept the faith. I would be lying if I said we didn’t fall out -and then there was the rugby tackle- less said about that the better! Yes me and my Swing Pants have been through a lot, but I never gave up and in fairness they stuck (or should I say clung by me) and that is why we are standing here, together today; and it has to be said, with a modicum of happiness.

SONY DSCHow did we meet I hear you ask – Well! I remember as if it were yesterday, It was one of those slow days, a Sunday just after lunch lolling on the sofa minding my own business, mooching around, browsing as you do, when there quietly lounging on a low slung chair – at the wonderful Vintage Fashion Library – WW2/Swing 1940s.  were the pants of my dreams – literally! I’ve been hankering for these for some time;  you know that way you can’t describe what you want but you’ll know when you see it? Well that’s what happened to me. You see the reason is that, …..well how can I put this?,….. its like this, well….. erm…its just that, well…………………. I HAVE A BUM! There I said it! phew!, feel so much better for that! You see me and my bum, well we get along mostly but my bum is not a fan of trousers (pants). First off it likes to be fully covered, no builders bum, no low rise, no skinny, cropping, boot cut – my bum joins forces with my thighs and its armageddon in the trouser department.! The other thing is that I’m not too tall and the distance between the ground and my bum is getting less every year – despite the lunges. Now I don’t want  ya’ll coming back to me saying ” Call that a bum? This is a bum” and sending me pictures of your magnificent posteriors – like anything its all relative or in my case my mother to be precise!!


So what to do? I get fed up with skirts and dresses all the time – which I wear a lot to work so when the weekend comes round I want to lounge, I’d love to slink but that just looks ridiculous and could cause an injury.

My answer was to go back in time, yes when all else fails and the tyranny that is modern fashion has given you a bitch slap then its back you go to a time when grass was greener, summers where warmer – Could it be that it was all so simple then?…. or has time re written……..Sorry I’m back! sneaky old Gladys and her pips! So back in time to when practical pants where in vouge and Vouge, they covered, they skimmed, they covered your shoes so you could wear a heel, there’s no fly front – cause we don’t need that, bit baggy in the crotch – this is good – no camels round here thank-you-very-much!, just a proper pair of women’s trousers for someone of my shape and ahem… vintage!


The fabric Woman! tell us about the fabric I hear you cry! ok,ok…. the fabric is a linen and I think poly mix I bought a batch when I was in Paris last year at the market in the Fabric District for a next to nothing – the buttons cost more! It has a chalk-pinstripe and a nice charcoally grey all adding to the allusion of lengthy limbs. The pockets and side buttons are my favourite detail as is the fact that they sit properly on the waist.


So to share the joy I have decided to host a give -a-way of this most sacred of Pant patterns. I won’t lie to you, you will probably have to alter the pattern but you should be making a muslin anyway for all your garments – you know that- so this is good practice for those of you who like to wing it and then regret it – so two gifts really!! The pattern is designed to have button openings at both pockets, bit like sailor pants – but I just put them on one side ( a zip would work too) and I can still get in and out of them. The pattern said 28″ waist but came with a caveat that a previous maker felt they were more of a 32″, I just made the darts wider. The crotch was a bit low, even for me so I measured my rise (sitting on a chair) to my waist and folded the excess of the pattern at the crotch-line and lowered the waist.(and of course the pocket placement) accordingly. These are fairly simple alterations and ones you would probably have to do for any pant pattern. You won’t be disappointed after the extra effort.

SONY DSC brown paper copy pattern – adjustment at rise

To be in with a chance of winning the original pattern complete with instructions, just leave a comment below. I will pick one at random before the end of the month. Good Luck.



As an aside, in Scotland to”swing your pants” is a colloquialism for dancing.!!

The blouse is featured in an earlier post Jasmine by Colette Patterns.

Design Illustrations

I thought I would share this little book with you, its for anyone who loves drawing and fashion illustrations. This is another blast from the past and I particularly love the quirky nature of the illustrations and variety of designs. This book is out of print however I noticed that the author has a number of similar books on sale at amazon.

The book gives templates of figures to allow for you to draft your own design, these are put onto card which you draw round – lightly. This is like a croquis – which you make using your own body measurements albeit scaled down, however I don’t think drawing your proposed designs and creations to see if they suit or not is the main object of the exercise. I always sketch draw/design whatever I intend to make (I do this freehand,  drawings can be seen on previous posts) so I can get a feel for the design, the fabric and details I intend to use/incorporate. It allows for you to think of the type of fabric and what works on a deeper level and I write notes next to the drawing, from pattern amendments or number of buttons etc.


I would encourage everyone to sketch their designs because at the very least its a wonderful record to keep of your achievements and I love to see how close the finished article is to the initial design. I know that patterns come with their own line drawings however the fabric choice can dramatically alter the appearance and feel of a garment.

I use nature study type notebooks for my sketches, a large one for adding design notes. The left hand side of the notebook is blank, for sketching with the right hand side ruled feint, for note taking. I can then trace through the outline from the previous design, a rough guide. I keep a small notebook in my handbag for when inspiration strikes – I have been known to skip along after someone in the street noting the cut of a suit or cuff detail.- This I then draft into my larger book which I use as an aide memoir when cutting out/drafting the pattern and making up.

Often you can forget how productive you have been in the past, but a quick look through your own design books serves as a collective visual reminder of past achievements, lessons learned and on how far your sewing has come.

Variations on a theme – the copy Marella

I have just finished the two blouses highlighted in the post “Reincarnating closet gems” featured previously.

I showed earlier how to copy a much loved vintage piece and I finished that post with a wearable muslin of the design. Today I feature variations of the design using the design fabric I had initially intended to use.

Firstly is a printed cotton voile, bought on my recent trip to the Paris fabric market – not for everyone I suspect – but I love its vintage feel to the design and feel it could be straight from the 40-50’s.


The treatment was to make the ties more of a feature therefore I changed so they would be wider with point finished ends and gathered into the neck, which has been lightly interfaced. This means I can leave loose for a more relaxed look or tie in a bow for a more severe take. I also changed the cuff detail adding a deeper two button interfaced cuff – black crystal buttons – love;

and widened the sleeve, down the length, for more gathers giving a bell cuff effect.

Second up is a fine printed silk bought as a remnant- this is so lightweight that on a number of occasions I was tempted to throw in the towel and just make a scarf! First trial was making up self fabric bias trim as I did not want any interfacing in the garment due to its shear-ness and weight. This was fiddly in the extreme.


The collar and ties are the bias trim, as is the front opening notch and placket and I finished the sleeves with the binding also. I lengthened and widened the sleeves and fixed a bow detail. There is no opening for the cuff and they just slip on. With this one I finished a lot of the work by hand as the machine stitches are a bit ruthless with this fabric and I suspected if I had to rip any out then that could be fatal!

Both blouses finish at hip level as I intend to wear them loose over jeans, however because both are very lightweight they can be worn tucked in to a skirt or trousers for work without adding bulk to the waistline. All internal seams are French seams.

The fabrics are lovely to wear and all in all I am very pleased (see expression!) with the result. I wanted to make something in a shear floaty fabric for a long time, more for the experience of working with them than anything else and this was the perfect exercise and I now feel more confident for future similar projects.

I hope this inspires to get out of your comfort zone once in a while – In any event, one can never have too many scarf’s

Glasgow Harris Tweed Bike Ride 2012

Had to share this wonderful video by Jamie Vincent Gillespie of the recent Glasgow Harris Tweed Bike Ride. Unfortunately I was out of the country at the time so an opportunity to indulge both my passions Harris Tweed and cycling was missed! Never mind there is always next year. Enjoy

Take a look at Tweedvixen’s Blog where Alison champions this fabulous fabric.

Vivienne Westood Harris Tweed Lust Have! for me this jacket from Dame Vivienne Westwood made from Harris Tweed and cut in her inimitable style is a work of sartorial art! I would love to have a go at making something like it.


Old faithful – Vintage two piece1950’s

I recently submitted a post highlighting the frog closure and it got me thinking of how fastenings can change the look of a garment. Basic buttons give a utilitarian feel and yet just by changing them to something a bit more stylish/unusual a piece that would normally be only worn casually during the day can carry on into the evening dressing up anything you put with it.

I have had this jacket for about 25 years, I picked it up at a local church jumble sale, (I remember my friends thinking I was mad! – it wasn’t “in” at the time – but it screamed quality) with a matching skirt for the grand sum of 50p. I wish I could go back in time – these were called second hand clothes then, even although then the suit would have been about 30 years old, now they are known as vintage and I probably wouldn’t pay the price a boutique would ask for.  The skirt is long gone but the jacket has been a the stalwart of my closet. I’ve worn this with jeans, skirts, wide trousers, you name it. I will be forever on the look-out for the same wool fabric to replace the skirt, I have made a straight skirt (from a vintage basic block – I shall post a tutorial on drafting this soon)  in the same colour and to the untrained eye and from a bit of a distance it looks to match. But for me a miss is as good as a mile – aren’t we our own harshest critic!?

button holes pre

The buttons were replaced almost immediately as this would have been a day/work suit. I took it in the waist then too and this gives it a more structured shape, though I tend to leave it open, now!

close up grey

I wanted to show also the newly hand-worked buttonholes, as you can see the originals were rather worse for wear. I picked up the buttonhole twist abroad and did not have the jacket with me, in the shop this thread looked to my mind a perfect match – but I see now its more blue.  I’m not completely thrilled with the outcome, if I had a better colour match in the twist it would have concealed my lack of buttonhole sewing skill, however it will tidy up and prolong the life of the jacket which is the main aim afterall. The lining will need replacing soon and I will get a  proper look inside, I will then do a compare and contrast with the construction of a modern jacket, post my findings and we can all weep together at what passes for tailored clothing these days, even at the higher end.

Would love to hear of your “old faithfuls”