Stumpwork Yoshi

My almost 14-year-old step-son recently asked me if I’d make “one of those circle things I do” for him and his specific request was Yoshi from the Super Mario Nintendo franchise.   As this is the first time he has ever asked me to make him something I could hardly say no.

With every project I undertake, whether it’s dressmaking, hand embroidery, knitting or crochet, I like to develop my skills.  So I thought I would put to good use the Royal School of Needlwork Stumpwork book I picked up from a charity shop last year for the bargain cost of 50p.   Yoshi’s face seemed to lend itself to a raised element, with his giant green nose, so I decided to use a needlelace slip technique to create his face.   In stumpwork embroidery, a slip is any separate piece of embroidery worked off the frame and then applied to the main embroidery.   There are lots of different ways to make slips, they can be wired; which is great for elements you want to stand out from the fabric such as petals of a flower; can be made from counted canvas, needle painted or plain fabric.   I decided to use needlelace, mainly as it is a technique I have not yet tried.


Couching for needlelace slip

The process starts by tracing the shapes you wish to make.   I added a couple of milimetres to the edge of the slip as I intended to pad it, meaning it would need to be slightly larger than the original shape.   I should point out that I haven’t really used the right embroidery floss for this.   Ideally a Perle thread should be used but I only have stranded cotton at the moment so that had to suffice.

Once you have traced the shape the tracing paper is then stitched onto a backing fabric with either a herringbone or running stitch.   The tracing paper helps to protect your needle from the backing fabric and creates a barrier between the needlelace and backing fabric.   You then couch a thread around the outside of the shape, which is known as the cordonnet.   This is the framework for working your needlelace over.


Needlelace slip starting to appear.

The needlelace is created with buttonhole stich, working from left to right, taking the working thread underneath the cordonnet  once you get to the end of the row and working the stitches like corded buttonhole stitch, taking your needle under the first loop of the previous row, underneath the cord and over your working thread.   I’m not great at tutorial’s so here is a great link to a tutorial for a needlelace heart.

Once I’d created all the shapes I needed, it was time to start assembling the piece.   First of all I used some cotton batting to pad the areas of the embroidery I wanted to stand out.


Padding and starting to apply the slips

I then used a single strand of floss in the same colour as the slip to carefully stitch the edges of the slips to the main fabric or each other, where appropriate.


Needlelace slips assembled

Finally I used an attached woven picot, similar to that used for my Wave piece, to create Yoshi’s spikes down his back.   His mouth and eyes were finished off with satin stitch.


Yoshi’s finished face

I love the effect this created, I think it gives him so much more character.   To make the hoop actually look like a finished piece I created a border of Yoshi eggs and the brick blocks from the classic Mario games.


The finished piece

I had great fun making this piece and I was put in the post to my step-son today (he lives about 100 miles away from us now after we moved from Hampshire to Warwickshire in 2015).

I hope you enjoyed me waffling about this piece.   If anyone is interested, I have finally decided to open an Etsy shop and have already listed a few items, including my Wave piece.


It’s Alive!!

A harsh fluorescent light flickers into life, illuminating a stark white room.   Mysterious machinery crowds the room.   Beeps and flashing lights threaten to overwhelm the senses and the smell of chemicals and disinfectant fills the nostrils.   In the centre of the room there is a surgical trolley and a swarm of people of undetermined sex, swaddled in green scrubs and surgical hats, surround it.   Their eyes look worried and their motions are frantic, clearly trying to save what could be a lost cause.   The camera angle moves and we’re now seeing the trolley from above and the patient in critical condition lying in its centre.   It’s not the usual patient, it’s a laptop with its screen lit up in the ominous colour blue, the colour of computer death.

“Clear!” calls the leader of the green scrub brigade, rubbing together two metal plates in his hands, with wires spiralling down to the high-tech defibrillator perched on a stainless steel trolley next to him.   The scrub brigade step back, holding their breaths for the jolt they know is coming.

ZZAAAAAPPPP! Beep beep beep…

A flashing cursor appears on the screen with the words “Loading”.   The green scrubs lean forward, taking a collective gasp.   The screen flashes into life…

“Welcome to Sewcial Warrior” it reads.   “it’s alive!” call the green scrubs, high-fiving each other and celebrating a blog saved from oblivion.

I’m alive!!!!   Sorry for the blog hiatus, completely not intended.     Life just gets in the way when you have two small kids and work full-time.   I will always prioritize my sewing time over blogging time, so that’s why I’ve not been about much.   Anyway, my bad blogger status means that I’ve neglected to blog about some of my makes from last year, some of which were my favourite of the year.  I originally drafted this post to include some of the makes I missed blogging about last year then realised I hadn’t actually taken the pictures I was visualising in my head.   I’ll blog about those makes asap but for now I wanted to say I’m still here.

Vintage pattern pledge

Lets start with the bits I need to own up to.   Back at the beginning of 2014 I joined Marie from A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Sewing Pattern pledge and pledged to sew 5 of the lovely patterns I have accumulated in my stash.   The confession is… I made one muslin and that was it.   This was partly influence by the fact that most of my vintage patterns are in sizes that are wildly different to my current measurements and I’m not confident enough in pattern grading to get these to fit me.   This experience has also made me realise that, as much as I love following all the weekly/monthly/yearly challenges in the blogosphere, I’m rubbish at achieving them.   I think it’s partially down to my love of selfish sewing- somehow when it’s a challenge with a deadline it takes the fun out of it for me.   So I’m resolved to not officially pledging to any challenges this year and just sewing my own way in a relaxed fashion.   Stress in other areas of my life is sky high at the moment and I don’t need my hobby to be tainted with that too.   I will continue to drool over everyone else’s makes and you may see the odd thing from me this year that ties to a challenge, but don’t hold your breath.

Current work in progress

I have been lost in the depths of trouser fitting for what seems like an eternity.   I’ve been simulataneously working on a pair of Jedediah Pants from Thread theory for Tobi and I bought, with my birthday money, (back at the end of November) the Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case files for me.   I’ve been living in one pair of poorly fitting RTW jeans for an eternity and Tobi has lost a lot of weight over the last year or so so none of his trousers fit him either.   We’re both looking forward to having trousers that fit properly.

Keep your eyes peeled on Instagram for regular updates on my works in progress.   I find it so much easier to micro-blog on Twitter and Instagram than I do to find the time to sit down and write a whole blog post.

2015 Sewing plans

I don’t really have any sewing plans so far, although there are a few pieces of precious yardage that I’d like to get sewn up this year.   I’ve been finding it really hard to motivate myself to sew in the evenings so the pace of my creations may be a little slower than previously.

Hopefully the next time I post the blog wont need artificial resuscitation again and I’ll actually be able to tell you about those pesky unphotgraphed makes.   What plans do you have for sewing this year?   Are you already planning your Spring wardrobe

Ninja Palazzo Pants

I’m a bad blogger.   I’ve got pics all ready to rock and roll but no text typed.   I don’t know about you but when I get home from a stressful days work and it’s already dark outside all I can motivate myself to do is snuggle up in front of the television and drool over Idris Elba in Luther.   I’m not good in the Autumn/Winter anyway and suffer from a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder, so my mood and motivation are even lower in the dark days.

Anyway, there has been something this month that has really kept me motivated, helped me meet loads of new seamstresses and kept me inspired.   It’s #BPSewvember over on Instagram.   If you haven’t seen it, this is an idea that Amanda from Bimple and Pimple came up with.   There is a sewing related theme for each day of the month and the idea is to post pics relating to the theme each day.   As I type we’re on day 20 and amazingly I have kept up and posted a picture each day.   I have also lost at least 50% of my productive working day by browsing that hashtag.   I think I’ve said before that I don’t really have any friends who are into sewing so getting a sneak peak into others sewing lives is a rare treat.   Check it out if you haven’t already, it’s addictive.   Here’s a selection of some of my pictures this months so far.

The Make

So, onto some actual sewing then.   You may recall me saying when I posted my Welt Pocket Tutorial, that I was working on a pair of culottes from a Burdastyle magazine.   Well, the culottes were more of a wearable muslin for the real deal, palazzo Pants.   I used this pattern from burdastyle for this make, although it came from my copy of the magazine rather than the website.   For the wearable muslin I used a cream poly cotton that was in my stash which I believe was given to me by a colleague.   My measurements were slightly larger than the largest pattern in the magazine so I had to grade up the pattern slightly.   I added two inches at the waist and three inches at the hips.   Construction was actually fairly straightforward once I had deciphered the aforementioned welt pocket instructions.   Surprisingly the fly zipper instructions were much clearer than the welt pockets.   This was much first ever fly zipper and I really couldn’t get my head round it until I read Jen’s tutorial over at the Grainline blog.   Thinking of the fly zip as a lapped zipper with an underflappy bit helped me make sense of it all and it came together fairly easily.

Just noticed a hair on the fly on this zip- sorry guys I moult like an Alsatian.

These were intended as a muslin but I was so pleased with the finish I decided to chuck them in the washing machine with some Pillar Box Read Dylon dye to see if I could make them wearable.   They came out somewhat pink but I still quite like them.

I know culottes seem to be all the rage and the moment and Lily Sage & Co has put up some amazing versions here, here and here (she’s even just made her daughter a version here) but I’m just not sure if this style suits me.   It certainly confuses my children as they have an unhealthy obsession with crawling on the floor under my skirts and they cannot work out why it doesn’t work for the culottes as they look so skirt-like.   They are growing on me the more I wear them though.   The fit was so good once I’d made them up that I stuck with the flat pattern adjustments I’d made for the culottes to make up the real deal palazzo pants.

The dreaded welt pockets.


For my palazzo pants I used a navy blue something that I was given by a colleague.   I have no idea what the fabric content of this fabric is but it’s a bit scratchy, like a coarse wool.   I think it’s synthetic though as it didn’t press brilliantly.


For my wearable muslin I had a hard time remembering which direction the arrows for the very wide front pleats pointed so I laid them out towards the centre front as I preferred the shape that this gave the front of the culottes.   However, the pleats are so wide they got a bit in the way of the fly.   So, I double checked the pattern when I made up the trousers and sure enough, they’re meant to be laid the other way.   Doh!   Again, a pretty straightforward make once you have mastered welt pockets and fly zips.

I used a new technique to hem the palazzo pants as I’ve just bought a load of new presser feet for my sewing machine and in amongst these was a blind hem foot.   So, I decided to avoid the inevitable hand sewing and stitch a blind hem on my machine.   This is a bit more visible than it should have been because the thread colour was a little too light for the fabric.   However, I like the finish and it was quick and relatively easy.   The blind hem foot it my new best friend.


Look how wide these trousers are.

I feel like a ninja in these trousers and have pulled a lot of very silly poses in the office while wearing them to work.

I had no problems fitting these trousers whatsoever.   I think it’s because they’re so wide that it compensates for any fitting issues there may have been.   The top I’m wearing with them is another matter though.   It’s my third version of Gertie’s Bow Blouse from her first book “The guide to better sewing”.  So as not to overwhelm you I’ll blog this separately at some point.


I’m not sure about these trousers.   I had visions in my head of looking elegant and sophisticated but think it comes off like a ninja tree-trunk as they fall from my widest part, my hips.   They’ve only been worn to work once and I still may shorten them to make them 3/4 length culotttes.   Particularly as I keep nearly killing myself when going up and down stairs as my feet get tangled in the excessive flappy fabric.


Culotte length:

Fabric: Free

Zip: 69p from a charity shop

Thread, interfacing and buttons: all in my stash

Dylon dye: Approximately £7

Total: £7.69

Palazzo pants length:

Fabric: Free

Zip: £3 approximately

Thread, interfacing and buttons: all in my stash.

Total: £3


All The Fun of the Fair- Blog Hop & GIVEAWAY

Hoppity skippety jump- welcome to my first blog hop!

I was recently contacted and asked to take part in the blog hop for this adorable new stuffed toy pattern book, All the Fun of the Fair by Australian Designer of Melly and Me fame, Melanie McNiece.

This book brings the reader five adorable toy patterns, based on the fair ground theme- there is a pony, a whole parade of elephants, a Lion, a Seal and cheeky monkies. It’s available in paper-back from October and if you pre-order the book through you receive a free electronic copy of the book

Now, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this book, being primarily a garment sewer, but the patterns were too adorable to pass over. I’ve only made one soft toy in the past and this was a knitted armadillo. I was therefore a bit apprehensive about my abilities and the skills I’d need. I decided to make the seal, who looked the most straightforward of all of the patterns. I’ll tell you this for nothing, it was easy peasey!

The instructions throughout are clear, with very helpful diagrams and a section in the back for the special stitches you will need in the construction. I certainly needed these as I haven’t done any embroidery ever so I needed some hand holding. The diagrams were clear and easy to follow and also had instructions on how to sink the knots into the body of the toy so they’re not seen- I had no idea how to do this previously and so my last toy make lost his eyes pretty early on. The templates are printed on pages in the back of the book, meaning that you’ll have to trace off the majority of them, as some pieces overlap or need joining together (Mr. Seal’s body piece is in two parts which are joined together when tracing off). This is no big deal though as the pieces are quite small and so this step took me ten minutes, maximum. The pattern pieces are full-size and to scale and also include a ¼” seam allowance.
I wasn’t sure about the make as it progressed but the part that really cinched the deal was as I started stuffing him. Slowly but surely I started seeing just how cute this little fellow is. When he was done my two children, aged 5 and 3, immediately fell in love with him and demanded a version in girly colours as well as all of the other animals from the book. Sure enough the girly version was lovingly nursed into being, before being promptly thrown over our neighbours fence by my daughter.

Everyone I have shown my little chip-chip to (as my children named the seal) have been blown over by how adorable he is and how professional he looks.

whoops just realised my washing’s in the background in this picture!

These animals have torn me away from my love of garment sewing for a while, which shows just how beautiful the patterns are.
If you like the look of this book head on over to to have a look. They also have a large range of other sewing books which you may find interesting.


The best bit is that I have been generously given a paperback copy of this gorgeous book to give away to one of my lucky readers. So, if you would like a chance to win a copy of this adorable book please leave me a comment below and tell me which animal you’d make first. The competition is open until midnight UK time on Monday 13th October when I will pick a winner at random. The competition is open internationally. Good luck
Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book, free of charge, to take part in the blog but the opinions are all my own.

Vintage Pattern Pledge progress

Hello all. Hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend and enjoyed the beautiful sun which has finally made it’s way through the rain clouds. I’m so much happier when then sun’s come out and life seems a little bit easier, despite the fact I’ve had two very whiney children hanging off me all weekend.

I thought I’d update you on my Vintage Pattern Pledge. I decided to make Simplicity 7508 from my vintage pattern stash.


I chose this because, as usual, the cover sketches look so glamourous and chic that I had to have it. Also one of my sewing goals for this year is to improve my fitting skills and as this pattern walks you through the fitting process it seemed ideal. Plus it was already in my size, more or less.

A muslin was a necessity for fitting and so I dutifully went about cutting it out. The pattern says you need a whopping 3.25 metres for this very simple sheath dress. I could believe that but sure enough when I places the pieces out they were too wide to be able to do them side by side as so I did use just under 3 metres.


Luckily, in Big Nana’s stash there is a whole roll of medium weight poly cotton of some description with a hideous gingham and floral print that is ideal for making muslins. It looks grim on though. I quickly basted it togethersans zip. I tell u what, it’s got some weird darts in this design. I shall dub them banana darts as that’s what they reminded me of when I was stitching them up. Long diagonal curving waist darts that are slightly tricky to sew.

I quickly threw the muslin on, without sleeves and roughly held it together where the zipper would be then used my tried and tested fitting method of squinting at myself in my reflection in the patio windows. Erm…. Not good. I looked like a condom full of custard. I promised Joanne of Sew Little Time that I would blog a picture of me in this hideous creation if she’d blog her fitting fail on the Emery Dress she made. However, I clearly can’t wear a half-made muslin to work for my buddy to snap pics for me and the light’s too rubbish in the evening to take one at home so I have ducked out I’m afraid. Suffice it to say that A-line sheath dresses do nothing for me.

I was hoping this dress would be a learning experience for me- working with older patterns (1968 doesn’t seem quite as genuinely vintage as other patterns), fitting and my first non-stretchy set in sleeves. However it has been a learning curve in a different way and I’ve learnt that I need a silhouette with a defined waist otherwise I look like a sausage. I’m being a bit cheeky and counting this as one of my Vintage patterns to count towards the pledge. One down, two to go.

Don’t forget, it’s sewing bee tonight and, as with last week, I will update my Sewing Bee techniques board on Pinterest during the show with tutorials for you to master the techniques they use in the show. I can’t wait to see what they make tonight and who will be saying goodbye. Enjoy!

Vintage Pattern Pledge

Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge

I love a good vintage pattern, although confess to have only sewn reproductions until now. So when I spotted Marie, at A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Pattern Pledge it seemed like the perfect excuse to crack out some of those patterns I’ve been ogling.

I love me a charity shop bargain and over the past few months I have picked up


These and…


These and…



So it would be such a shame for them to go to waste. Therefore I, Louise Tomlinson-Sylvest, do pledge that in 2014 I will sew up at least 3 of these patterns.

I’m not being super adventurous on how many I’ll make because money is always tight for me and I’ll probably have to buy fabric specially for these projects and therefore quantity will be limited. I’m liking the look of the 60’s sheath- Simplicity 7508 (the pattern has a 1968 copyright). Stay tuned to see how I get on.