Patchwork progress…

In February OH and I booked a long weekend in Cornwall for the summer, one of the objectives being for me to stop off for a visit to Truro Fabrics. I saved up for the visit and was pleased to get to the till with my haul, just inside my budget I hoped.


Some maroon loop backed sweat shirting, some random print jersey for a Lady Skater dress, spotty denim, grey double voile cheesecloth, oatmeal jersey, some GORGEOUS heavyweight checked linen and some bits and bobs. Just then OH returned from being outside, presumably to tell me hurry up and said he would pay for the lot. Thank you very much !!

In previous posts I have been using up scraps making a patchwork bedcover, according to the pattern I had finished making it as it is an unquilted item, but I have had a couple of comments to say it will look lovely when its finished (what do you mean it will look lovely when its finished !? It IS finished)

Anyway I have just been on a one day patchwork course at the local adult education centre and as part of that there was a brief demonstration of ‘free motion quilting’ which I had never heard of before. The instructor said that only way to be able to do it was to practice a lot and showed us some essential patchwork feet for sewing machines.

Having not spent my intended fabric budget I rather rashly invested in a free motion foot for my machine and realising that people might be thinking my bedcover is not finished because its not quilted I started to practice on that. This is definitely a case of ‘ignorance is bliss’. My very random bed cover is now in the process of becoming a quilting sampler, but oh my word its such fun.

I have realised that I am completely insane for starting to practice this new skill on such a huge item and the work is really very physical but incredibly involving. It doesn’t matter at all to me that its all wonky and am enjoying the process immensely.

Here are some of my quilting experiments

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Its going to take ages to do the whole cover, by which time my I hope technique might have improved a bit.


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The week I tried patchwork

I love reading other people’s blog posts and a few weeks ago I came across this post from mensew with this really sweet patchwork quilt he has made for a nephew.

I really like the look of patchwork and inspired by this post and by the ever mounting bin bags and laundry baskets of leftover scraps from various dressmaking projects I decided to have a go myself. I bought an instruction book from a local shop, the selling point being that it claimed to be ‘…for the complete beginner’.



The book advises that the beginner should start with a small project such as a lavender ball, but looking at my vast pile of offcuts I knew I would have to go for something a bit bigger. I therefore chose the last project in the book, a double bedcover. The individual patches are large varying from 13cm square to 33cm  square which I knew would make more inroads to my leftovers. These are the templates I made from a cardboard box.


It took two whole days to go through and iron all the pieces and assemble the necessary piles of patches, but eventually I ended up with the right number of squares and rectangles and was able to start sewing (having reduced my scrap mountain to one bulging bin bag of pieces all less that 5″ x 5″).



The project caused a lot of hilarity among the ladies on my pattern cutting course who also do quilting….’You’re making a what…?…’ ‘Are you sure …..?’ ‘HOW big….?’

Undeterred, I started anyway. The instructions in the book are really clear and although you are supposed to develop techniques by working your way through the projects in the book from the lavender ball to the bed cover it’s still easy enough to go backwards and forwards to refer to the bits you need.

Blocks began to appear…..the corners were in the right places and I was beginning to feel quite pleased with myself.


Then came joining the blocks together, and before I knew it I had enough for my hallway, or a single bed !


Another day’s work and it was too big for the hall so here is my double bed cover in the garden, it measures 240cm x 180cm.


I think it’s lovely ! The beginning of the book advises choosing a base fabric with at least six colours and picking fabrics of those six colours to complete the rest of the cover. As you can see I’ve obviously had a theme going on for the last few years as these random scraps are all from the same colour palette although once I had started sewing I deliberately removed all my blue pieces. I am slightly disturbed by the two pickle jar pieces next to each other on different grains and may remove one of them.

Anyway I am very excited by progress so far. I know the difficult bit is going to be putting a back on it but I WILL get there ! I might even get the opportunity to use the quilting table attachment which came with my sewing machine but which is still in its box and being used as a footrest.

I have also signed up for a patchwork course at the local adult education centre so maybe they will give me some pointers…. I may be some time……..



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So, at the Knitting and Stitching show with my friend Ruth, standing in a queue at the Doughty’s stand, a lady near the front of the queue pulled out a roll of fabric, shrieked ‘SNAKES’ and shoved the roll back in. Intrigued, when I got to where she had been standing I pulled out the roll and found this…never mind the snakes, look at the beautiful beetles ! Love at first sight.


Earlier in the show I had bought the Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas pattern and decided to make them out of this fabric. I cut out most of the pyjamas although I decided that the ‘shorty’ bottoms on the pattern were just TOO short for me and lengthened them to a ‘pirate’ length . Then I faced a slight dilemma. If I cut the bias strips out of the fabric as instructed in the pattern there wouldn’t be enough fabric left for anything else but if I used bias binding there would be…I ordered some bias binding from Minerva crafts. Unfortunately when it arrived I didn’t like it but discovered some in a drawer that I liked much better !



The pattern is really clear and easy to follow. All the seams are French seams so the insides look really nice. The only problem I encountered was this….the bobbin thread running out with about 5 stitches to go….so irritating !


Me in my pyjamas.



With the remaining metre of fabric plus the offcuts from the pyjamas I reckoned I would have just enough fabric to make view A from McCalls 7360, a TNT pattern.

I theory I DID have enough fabric but when I laid the pattern pieces out I became aware that I would have to think about pattern placement and pattern matching, especially as I wanted to make sure that the beetles were prominently placed so it was very squeaky fabric wise but I succeeded and I love my little shirt. I couldn’t find any buttons I liked that didn’t detract from the print, so I have used dark grey ‘color snaps’ instead.


I’m especially pleased with the pattern matching I achieved on the pocket.


I have cut out all the beetles from the remaining scraps of fabric and shall be using them to decorate a cushion I think.

2.5m of fabric well used.


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As soon as I saw this pattern I knew I wanted to make it up in a double faced linen I had been eyeing up on the Merchant and Mills website for some time. When the fabric arrived it was lovely, a soft, loose weave linen just like in the picture. Being good,  I put it in the washing machine straight away, all on its own, 30C, gentle wash , line dried and it rewarded me by becoming as stiff as a board and all wonky grain wise. I had to dampen the fabric and pin it out as if I was blocking knitting to get it straight again, it was still really stiff though.

I hadn’t appreciated quite how linear the pattern on the fabric is and found it really hard to get the pattern to match on the pockets because despite the fabric being so stiff its a really loose weave and any handling pulled the weave out of alignment again. And it frays, very easily. In fact I would say that this linen is the most difficult fabric I have worked with, even worse that the viscose velvet and that’s saying a lot.

I couldn’t decide which face of the fabric I wanted to use for the large areas and which for the small so in the end I did the front and back in different colours, getting the best of both worlds.


By the time I started sewing I was getting the measure of the fabric and took great care with my pivot at the collar join which I am really pleased with.


I was also careful enough to get the armhole facing colours matching too…


The dress is fully lined with a chocolate brown silk crepe de chine which was a breeze to sew after the linen although it did take a few attempts to attach it properly at the neckline because with the collar in between the front and the lining it was really difficult to see what was happening where, but got there in the end.


I then left the dress to hang for 3 days before hemming which I did by making a bias strip and attaching that to the bottom hem to give extra weight.

The dress has turned out pretty much as I wanted, a crumpled look linen shift. The only thing that is annoying me is that despite my efforts to line up the weave on the pockets


The pockets seem to have ‘dropped’ leaving this bagging effect


Not quite sure what, if anything, to do about that.


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V8499 and my new gadget

This week I decided on a whim to sew V8499. I have been really interested in this pattern for ages but have never bitten the bullet to sew it up because it’s not the sort of thing I would normally wear. This week has been rather stressful for a variety of reasons and I needed to sew. I had a bit of fabric left over from my Tello jacket and fancied a bit more topstitching as there’s nothing like concentrating on it for making you forget whatever else is going on so I bit the bullet with V8499.


I went for view C as that would use up all my remaining fabric. There are described as very loose fitting and my goodness yes they are although I think with the flat front they don’t look as bulky as they could. After a happy day of topstitching I had the pair of trousers finished apart from the hems. They were SO wide though and I decided to gather the bottoms into a hem.


Having finished the trousers I have to say I absolutely LOVE them. BUT they are so far removed from what I would usually wear that I don’t know if would wear them to go about my daily business. This has led to some philosophical musings on why I sew and what I wear and why these trousers pose a difficulty for me and why I like them so much.


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I think I just need to man up and wear things that I love.

On another note, when my sewing machine broke in October and had to be sent for repair I was told off for not having it serviced regularly and to prove the point the repairers sent the machine back along with a ziplock bag containing all the stuff that they had extracted from my machine which contained various broken needle tips, the glass heads from some pins (I know, don’t judge !) and enough lint to stuff a very small cushion. Feeling abashed I have resolved to love my sewing machines more and to that end I have purchased a tiny vacuum cleaner for clearing out after each sew.

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It was not very expensive but was the most highly reviewed mini vacuum on Amazon. It charges up via USB and has a couple of nozzles, one with a brush and one narrow and rigid.

Bearing in mind that the machine was clean before I started this was the state of it after the V8499 project, and I had only used this particular machine for the topstitching.


After a minute of vacuuming we were back to this


and the filter on the vacuum cleaner looked like this


The device comes with a few filters so you can wash out the debris and use them again when dry. This is definitely a more efficient way of keeping the machines free from lint than the little brushes that come with a sewing machine so I hope it will help keep the machines happy and sewing well.





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Tello jacket

I first noticed The Tello jacket at the GBSB show last summer when I saw a sample on the Dragonfly fabrics stand. I bought the pattern and some blue and white japanese fabric to make the jacket the same as the sample.  I’ve never made it up and my colour palette for 2018 is very different. I’ve also been sewing with jersey a lot recently and wanted to sew something with a stable woven fabric, I wanted to have another go at a hong kong seam following my failure with the V9275 jacket. The Tello requires both a stable woven fabric and hong kong seams. Time to make it up.

I bought some denim described as ‘bronze’ from Guthrie and Ghani although I was very disappointed with the colour, no way would I call it ‘bronze’ it is more charcoal grey and caramel, but hey ho.

I’ve made one Pauline Alice pattern before and as before I am really impressed with the clarity of the instructions and accompanying construction diagrams.

Th very first thing to do is to make up the zipped chest pocket. The instructions tell you to cut out the pocket lining from folded fabric so you get a pocket lining and a mirror image but I would observe that if you want the lining fabric to show right side out on the inside of the jacket you need to cut out two pocket linings the same way. Unfortunately, having discovered this, I then didn’t have sufficient fabric to cut a third pocket lining so the one I have ended up with is pieced.


The hong kong seams were much more successful although having bought the required 9m of bias binding I then found it wasn’t quite enough and so the sleeves have a different colour binding to the rest of the garment.

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I really like doing top stitching and this was a perfect opportunity to practice my parallel stitching as I have never managed to get a twin needle to work.


My one slight regret is that I thought it would be a good idea to edge the buttonholes with the topstitching thread. I had a practice go with the topstitching thread on top and bottom but that was too bulky and kept getting tangled. Then I tried with the topstitching thread on the top and ordinary thread in the bobbin. That worked beautifully so off I set with the front of the jacket. I started at the bottom and achieved three lovely buttonholes but on the fourth everything went wrong. That middle buttonhole was sewn and unpicked five times (it would have to be the middle one !) before the sixth attempt was acceptable which was good job because the fabric was starting to suffer. Again the last and top two buttonholes took a couple of attempts each, the top one especially, where the reverse shows as you would never do it up is not brilliant but I don’t know how to make it better.

On the upside I LOVE my buttons which came from Backstitch I think they just soften the look of the jacket overall.


(That fabric is not bronze, no way)

Anyway, I’m quite happy with the finished jacket. It fits, and if the top buttonhole was better it would be pretty much perfect.


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V9275 – A comedy of errors

I had never heard of this pattern until I saw it on The Fold Line’s blog and I really like Kate’s finished garment. A long line bomber jacket, how perfect ! Then I saw Karen’s version and that clinched it. A must have.

I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks when I came across this fabric from My

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It’s sweatshirt fabric with a bright geometric print on the outside and a long pile fleece interior. My idea was to make the jacket but to simplify it by not lining it and having the fleece side as the interior.  As it turns out this was a very BAD idea.

The fabric when it arrived was lovely, a bit thicker than I had anticipated but not a problem to use in an unlined garment. I cut out the pattern pieces a size smaller than normal as I had read from both Karen and Kate that the garment came up very large, and I also took 2.5cm off each shoulder. I attempted to match the pattern but it didn’t fit exactly across the pattern pieces ( I did my best), I also made facings for the fronts and back neck in lieu of the lining.

I made the pockets using two layers of the main fabric rather than one layer of fabric and one of lining, using the fleece sides inside the pockets for warmth


and attached them as instructed to the side seams. Due to the two layers of thick fabric the pockets then dragged downwards pulling the sides a bit out of shape. In order to resolve this I sewed the pockets carefully to the front piece to hold them up which worked well. It was the apparent that I would need to finish the edges of the fabric somehow as it was shedding fleece everywhere. My overlocker took violent exception to the fabric and jammed and shredded and made a horrible mess so I gave up with that and had the bright idea of doing Hong Kong seams…well that ended up looking like this…


absolutely awful, lumpy, bumpy and wiggly. I left the garment alone for a few days  and eventually realised that I could never live with a garment with such a horrible interior. I decided to line it after all. I’d sewn quite a lot of bias tape on by this time and my initial thought was to sacrifice my lovely fleecy interior on the altar of my own incompetence and line over the top of it, no one would ever know.

I ordered some chocolate brown stretch lining from Minerva crafts and stupidly didn’t check it when it arrived, when I unpacked it this is what I had purchased, a diaphanous lining that wouldn’t hide even a microscopic bit of orange bias tape.


So, there was nothing for it but to remove all the tape I had applied up to that point. It took AGES.


I then cut out the lining pieces and set about sewing in the shoulder darts, but no…my machine was having none of it. After a fruitless hour of trying different tensions, changing needles (stretch, ballpoint, fine, universal), stitch lengths, varying the presser foot pressure, nothing, not a stitch would stick.

By now I was beginning to have a sense of humour failure but every time I looked at the fabric I would love the pattern on it a little bit more and I hate admitting defeat.

I am making this jacket as part of #SWAP18 and I had also purchased a lot of oatmeal jersey for the same project which I decided to use as an alternative to the slippery brown stuff for a lining. This worked a lot better and I was even able to use my original facings.


it was incredibly difficult to sew bits of this as the two layers of fleece plus two layers of jersey were so thick that even my supposedly ‘heavy duty’ machine had trouble sewing the hem but I got it done in the end. I had finished. As I triumphantly tried on my garment I realised that I had twisted the left arm lining and sewn it in 360 degrees from where it should have been, aargh !. More unpicking but finally…finally…Success ! With the sweatshirting, the fleece and the jersey lining this is a very warm and snuggly garment. If it hadn’t been for the successive disasters with the interior this would have been quite a straightforward make but overall I’m pleased I persevered and I still love the pattern on this fabric.

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Swoon patterns India boho bag

I have a box where I keep leftover fabric pieces which are smaller than 1m length but too big to throw away and it’s full. The patchwork bedcover I made earlier in the year gave me a temporary respite but the scraps are fighting back ! I need to find something to do with them so as a test I decided to have a go at the Swoon patterns India Boho bag. The pattern comes in two sizes, large and small and I decided to make the small one with a corduroy outer lined with linen. It’s a straightforward make with the only complication being two pocket zips. I used two 5in zips instead of the 7in ones specified, only because I had lots left from an eBay purchase a while ago.

This is the bag I had intended to make but actually I prefer the reverse side

So this is the way round I’m using it. I didn’t expect the bag to be fully reversible but it is. I’ll do this one again..

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Designin’ December Part 2…The Dress

Well at the end of Designin’ December Part 1. The pattern….I noted that I had not sewn with velvet before and now that I have I won’t be rushing to do it again in a hurry…

To recap, I decided to take part in Linda Maki’s Designin’ December, the point of which is to ‘copy’ a designer garment that you like but wouldn’t actually buy for whatever reason. In my case the price tag of this dress at £500 is the line in the sand that I cannot cross..


I purchased 4 metres of woven viscose velvet in a colour called Bordeaux from Stof and Stil and after much research I also ordered 100 silky tassels from a Chinese website on eBay as ordering them in the UK would have meant that just the cost of the tassels would have been over £100 as against Chinese price of under £20.

The fabric arrived pretty quickly and once I had got the pattern sorted out (see previous post) I was able to cut out the dress body from M6959 and my self drafted raglan sleeve amendment. I also lengthened the skirt and flared it out slightly at the bottom.

I had read quite a lot about sewing with velvet before I started and used my walking foot together with lots of pins in the seam allowances but the fabric STILL slipped all over the place, how is that even possible ? I also hated not being able to press the seams. I hadn’t realised quite how much I use the iron for pressing my projects. Steaming and finger pressing the seams just doesn’t cut it for me.

I also took advice from The Closet Case on wrap dress construction and added 2 poppers on the wrap section of the top for modesty. I also lined the skirt to give it some weight although with the tassels on the hem this probably wasn’t necessary.

After a month the tassels hadn’t turned up so I researched an alternative trim which was a feathery lace and was resigned to using that when LO ! A  small parcel arrived from China, surely it didn’t contain the 100 tassels I had ordered ? but actually yes, they were all present and correct. Each tassel is enclosed in its own little tube and expands massively once released. They are nice and silky and actually exceeded expectations.

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I then started attaching them to the dress, it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t get them to lie in the orientation of my inspiration picture as they have a natural inclination to hang downwards which I guess is gravity doing its work. I decided not to try and defy gravity and instead attach them the way they wanted to hang.


I din’t quite need all 100 that I had estimated but only used 63, each attached with a french tack stitch to keep them mobile.

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So this is the finished garment. I think it’s not far off the designer original I set out to copy. However with me not being 5’9″ and tiny size the worn effect on me is rather more Oscar Wilde Dowager but that’s fine. I shall sit in the corner at the works party tsking at the antics of the younger generation occasionally saying….A HA..NDBAG ?!?! What larks !

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, researching patterns, selecting the fabric, sourcing the tassels, adapting the sleeve pattern, but will probably avoid sewing with viscose velvet for….forever !!




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