Chemery Dress

Cherry Emery, cherry Emery, cherry Emery- Chemery!!!   This is my second Emery Dress from Christine Haynes and my second made from an upcycled duvet cover.   Whilst doing my usual scour of the local charity shops I spotted this big bold cherry print single duvet hanging from the “everything £1” rail.   How could I resist at £1?

I made no adjustments to this Emery other than those already made for my Dr. Who dress.

However, the duvet was a bit old and subsequently a little too sheer to be decent going out in without some stitching intervention.   I decided to underline the skirt portion and, continuing the theme, I used some remnants of another duvet I used last year to make a different dress.   It had big pink roses on one side, which I made the first dress with, and a white rose printed side.

I love how the roses show through when the light’s just right.   Look at my lazy hemming, overlocked the edges and then turned under and stitched on the machine.  I didn’t really think a duvet was posh enough to justify the painstaking hand stitching I did on my Dr. who dress.

This was my first ever invisible zip insertion and it went in so easily it left me wondering what all the fuss was about (until my second attempt on my Anna dress which took three attempts).   I’m pretty chuffed with it and I didn’t have the head scratching moment I had with the instructions when I used a lapped zip.

After I wore my first duvet dress to work one of my colleagues said she may have her old My Little Pony and Care Bears duvet covers at home if I want them.   Hell yeah, what child of the 80’s wouldn’t want to wear a dress with magical ponies and bears on it!

I really like the Emery dress, although I still need to do a bit of tweaking to the fit, but this dress is perfectly wearable and I’ve overheard a few comments on it as I’ve walked by people in town.   I think I’ll be making more.

Have any of you had amazing charity/thrift shop finds?


Garden Party Dress: rescued and hacked

A little while ago I had a minor meltdown whilst trying to get a free dress pattern, the Garden Party Dress by Honig Design, to fit me without making my bossom reminiscent of Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra.


I went through a million toiles and in the end gave up. I think there were several problems with the pattern for me and it just didn’t work in the fabric I had chosen (Medium weight 100% Cotton which may have been intended as curtain or upholstery material from Big Nana’s stash). However, I had already cut the skirt pieces for the dress and I loved the fabric so much I wanted to somehow turn this into a wearable garment.
Behold the pleated button-down skirt.


I used the front skirt panel for the back panel and used this tutorial to add a button placket onto the front skirt piece as I fancied a button-down skirt a la Tilly and the Buttons. I then drafted a curved waistband to add on to the skirt pieces and used the pocket pieces from the Emery dress to add pockets to the dress, because who doesn’t want a pocket. I used a constrasting yellow fabric for the pocket bag as I thought it brought out the yellow leaf pattern design and really popped.


I used my overlocker on all the seam allowances. I think my choice of thread for the overlocking on the pocket pieces was a bit dubious as I chose yellow and orange. When I was snuggling up on the sofa with my husband and the pocket bag peeked out from under the skirt he thought I had a duster under my skirt.

This fabric has so much body in it the pleats give it a great, full shape and it could practically stand up on its own. It’s a fun little skirt and I had great fun teaming it up with a purple t-shirt and my yellow scarf neck cardi. Tobi thought this colour combo was a bit over the top but I love colour and I think it works. What do you think?


I loved this skirt so much I immediately decided to make another and remembered that I had about 1.5metres of cream and navy polkadot viscose/rayon in my stash leftover from my portrait blouse and I thought it would make a great drapey version of this skirt. Now, this fabric was super shifty and I could not get the polka dots lined up and keep them that way when attempting to cut on the fold so I decided to cut on the flat and traced a mirror of the back pattern piece to tape onto the existing piece, thus making the shape of the unfolded piece required. I used my rotary cutter and mat but this was still a bitch to cut and, if you look at the line of polka dots going down the front placket, you can see that this went way off straight.


I think I would have committed hari kari if I tried to get it straight any longer so I figured that it would do. I made absolutely no attempt to pattern match because this fabric was driving me crazy.
Construction was exactly the same as the skirt above but the finished result looks quite different due to the different body and drape in the fabrics.

This fabric is a little sheer and so I decided to make a half-slip to go underneath it. I used this tutorial fromGertie’s blog for better sewing and I had some lovely soft jersey, in a light green, in my stash that I bought in a charity shop. There was about 2 metres at the bargain price of £2.50. I also had some stretch lace in the stash which came from Big Nana. I had a bit of trouble in the construction of this- I overlocked the side seams and attached the elastic (from stash) with no massive problems, although Gertie’s tutorial says a good steam after attaching the elastic should shrink it back but, I think because this elastic is a bit old, it didn’t want to fully contract back. The problems really came when attaching the lace. No matter what tension I put my machine on I was still getting massive loops of thread on the wrong side and I didn’t notice until I sewn one side of the lace down already. I rethreaded the machine and it resolved the problem, thankfully. This slip is so comfy to wear due to the stretch fabric and I can go out in confidence that I wont lose my dignity (if I ever had any) if standing with the sun behind me or if there’s an errant gust of wind.


I’m really happy with these projects. It was my best attempt at drafting a waistband and it fits really well. The only thing I’d do differently next time is to do my buttonholes from top to bottom rather than left to right as it pulls open a little at the waist.
Have any of you ever managed to rescue a project that was heading for disaster?

Me Made May 2014- Round up


Well, we have reached the end of Me Made May 2014.    I apologise for the infrequency of my Instagram/Twitter pics- I have a hectic life and many hats to wear and unfortunately the ‘Blogger’ hat sometimes slips.  You may remember my pledge  for my very first Me Made May was to wear homemade garments on at last four days a week.   My modest pledge was mainly motivated by the fact that, at the time, I only had 27 wearable garments in my hand-crafted wardrobe.   However, I excelled myself.   See below a collage of my different outfits during the month.

As I’ve only been sewing for just over a year and had a limited wardrobe to choose from I knew I’d find gaps to fill with handmade lovelies.   I was really pleased, though, to only have one or two days in the whole month when I didn’t wear something I’d made.   Here’s what I learnt from this month.

  • Trousers: For many years I’ve pretty much lived in RTW trousers or jeans.   There is a great lack of handmade trousers I can call on.   I’ve got the royal blue burda pair and an un-blogged wide leg pair hacked from the Kasia pattern, again from Burda.   Both of these projects weren’t entirely succussful and I don’t even wear the Kasia ones as they were hacked in the early days of my sewing and aren’t especially comfortable or well-drafted.   However, I have discovered that I like wearing skirts and dresses.   I’ve been a bit of a tom boy most of my life and so girliness is a bit alien to me but I like it.   I don’t think I can go completely without trousers though, so I need to get me making some more.


  • T-Shirts: Most outfits I like to wear a comfy, slim fit t-shirt.   My work dress code is business casual and so a lovely handmade skirt with a t-shirt is everyday wear for me.   I have a few Plantain t-shirts but they’re long or 3/4 length sleeves so I need some more short sleeved tees for summer.   Luckily for me, it just so happens that I’ve recently been a ‘print at home’ tester for an Independent pattern company soon to release a tee pattern, so I’m going to be making up a few of those.


  • Cardi’s/Coverups: With the British weather you need layers to be able to whip off quickly during the five minutes of sun before you have to throw it back on when the clouds come over again.   I have one handmade scarf neck cardi which I love but it’s massive and yellow, and when I wear it with jeans I’ve been informed I look like a minion from Despicable Me.   I would like some cropped cardigans to go with the high-waisted items I own, for the vintage look.   But I’m a rubbish knitter, I had to give up when a problem with my neck was making my hands go numb whilst I knit.   So I shall have to investigate other options.   Maybe expand my drafting skills.

Having said all of that the next two projects I have lined up for myself are dresses but there is a t-shirt in amongst the mix too. How about you guys?   What did you learn this Me Made May?   I’ll leave you with my favourite selfie pic from this year’s selection.   Really shows my love of colour.

The Contortionist’s Blouse & The Velvet Kitten


You Should be in for a treat this evening, ladies and gentlemen.   This is actually the first blog post that’s been written on a computer rather than dashed off quickly on my iPhone or Kindle.   Now lets see if i can get the knack of WordPress- you’d think I’d have found this out before launching the blog but I tend to get excited about ideas and can’t hold myself back to plan sensbly before leaping in, feet first- I guess that’s how I ended up having my daughter a year after I got married and my son less than two years later.

Anyway, I want to share a newly finished outfit for you this evening.   This one was a labour of love, I can tell you.   As you may remember my fabric generally comes from two sources 1) Big Nana’s Stash (husband’s grandmother) or 2) Charity shops.   This outfit combines fabric from both.  I’ll tell you about the skirt first as I made it a while ago and don’t have ‘in construction’ photos of it.

This is a gorgeous red velvet pencil skirt, or ‘The Velvet Kitten’ as I like to call her as she’s so strokable.   After I made my first Pencil Skirt, I was rummaging in Big Nan’s stash of fabric, that I got to claim when she gave up sewing, and found a piece of red velvet that I just knew had a future as a new skirt for me.   Unfortunately it was about three inches too narrow.   I had more red velvet but it was probably about 12 inches long and so the nap would have been going in completely the wrong direction if I’d tried to piece that into the skirt.   So I made do with black and gave it a black waistband to tie it in a bit more and make it look less like I’d just bodged it together.


Argh! My buttons are wonky from sitting around all morning!

I made a school-boy error of using velvet for the waistband facing so that pulls me in somewhat with the extra bulk.   Please excuse the hideous back fat on display!   I interlined this skirt with….. ummm some brown lining like stuff I found in the stash!   No idea what it is but it’s probably man-made fibres and it lead me to the discovery that I really needed a new iron.   It was creased to buggery when I pulled it out of my fabric chest and in the process of pressing it, pre-cutting, my £3.60 bargain Argos iron had leaked all over it leaving hideous water marks.   Oh well, it’s on the inside and also helped me convince Tobi that I needed to spend a bit more on a iron- can you believe we didn’t own one until I started sewing properly about a year ago.

The only amendment I made to the pattern was to make the waistband straight.   I made the curved one that is in the pattern with my first skirt but without the boning etc. and it just doesn’t hold up when wearing it all day without the boning.   Oh yeah, the other major change I made to this was to cut out the right size, rather than two sizes too big like the last one!


Note to self, crop out shopping centre mop bucket before uploading photo next time!

So, Lets talk about the top, named the Cortortionist’s blouse because those buttons at the back are damn hard to do up on your own.   I looked like I was doing the funky chicken around my bedroom this morning getting dressed.

I was inspired by A Stitching Odyssey’s Peter Pan collar blouse.   I completely fell in love with it when I saw it and have been lusting after something similar since I clapped my beady eyes on it.   Marie used a Simple Sew pattern but, as usual, I don’t have two penneth to rub together to buy the pattern so I decided to use Getie’s (what a surprise, are you starting o see I’m a bit of a fan girl?) bow-tied blouse pattern- she even has instructions for a handy Peter Pan collar variation.

So I had my pattern but what about the fabric? Big Nana’s stash revealed nothing suitable but one of my charity shop fabric trawls did.


That’s my daughter’s knee halfway up the right-hand side. She insisted on sitting next to the fabric while i worked out how much I had.

You are looking at (well, probably squinting as it’s so small) three metres of drapey animal-esque possibly man-made (I burnt a scrap and the edge went melty) Crepe.   I was super bargaintastic!!!!   £4 for three metres!!!!!   That’s how I can sew on a budget.   The collar fabric was offcuts from a pair of RTW work trousers I cut down into shorts last summer.

This fabric and I had serious falling’s out in the process of making this garment.   It just wanted to slip slide all over the place and, as it’s pretty heavy stuff, gravity kept dragging it off the side of the sewing table whilst I was sewing.   It started at the pinning stage, where I had to use pattern weights and pins to keep it held down and secure.


Then I had pattern marking issues. To actually make a mark on the fabric I had to rub so hard with my chalk pencil that it damaged the weave of the fabric, so I had to resort to teaching myself a new technique- tailor’s tacks.   They’re surprisingly easy and another trick to add to my arsenal for the potential Sewing Bee.

Gertie’s blouse pattern calls for double knit but, ever fearless, decided to go with the crepe anyway.   Silly me, didn’t think (much) about the stretchiness of the other material.   The crepe felt like it had a bit of stretch to me, but in hindsight I think that’s just where it is so uncontrollable in your hands it deceives you that it’s stretch.   Anyway, the sizing turned out a bit snug (but wearable) around the tummy section so if I make another one I’ll alter that.   I would alter this one but I’m afraid there’s no seam allowance left in which to do it.   More on that later.

I’ve made one of these blouses before and I find the neckline a tad too high, so I dropped it an inch at the front and widened at the sides by an inch.   It worked- I’ve worn the top all day today and didn’t tug at my throat once.   The collar was self draft and I’m pretty chuffed with it, although it’s not quite sitting right.   It’s hidden by my hair in the pics but if I wear it up it looks slightly like my collar is trying to take flight.   I think it’s either an interfacing issue or that the notches I made on the new neckline weren’t in quite the right place so the collar’s placement is a bit off.

Moving on to the buttonholes.   I was completely star stuck the other day (this is relevant, just wait for it) when Llaydbird Lauren kindly responded to an e-mail I’d sent and said she’d seen my Colette Meringue and liked it.   That completely made my day and also in my response to her I reflected on the construction of the skirt.   I commented that I usually rush my sewing because I’m too impatient to wear the finished article but, I’d taken my time on this and it had paid off in less mistakes and a slicker looking finished article.   Here’s where the goddamn buttonholes come in.   Gertie’s pattern has bound button holes.   The last top I made I chickened out and machine stitched my button holes at the end.   But on this one I decided to take my time about it and made the bound buttonholes.


Front of my buttonholes


Back of my buttonholes

I used Gertie’s instructions, although I’ve heard that Karen at Did you Make That?’s ebook is really good too.   Enter the final element of this fabric nightmare.   The buttonholes were a pain in the arse to shape with this bouncy, springy, alive animal fabric and all of the handling I had to do to get them right meant the seam allowance frayed hideously.   I glanced up and half my seam allowance had disappeared.   To rescue it from disintergrating further I whipped out my overlocker and went over the edges in most danger, cutting off as little as possible.

I didn’t think about seam finishes until I had already done one shoulder seam.   Doh!   I kept both shoulder seams with a plain seam and overlocked the seam allowance afterwards.   However, I used French seams on the side seams, mainly to keep in any stray edges and it looks pretty.

All-in-all, I’m pretty funkin’ chuffed with this outfit.   I had compliments at work and even from one of the security guards in the shopping centre in town (my office is above the centre).   He surprised me as I work in an office full of women and they all look blankly at me when I talk about my sewing and the fitting process.   Not Joe, the ex-army security guard, his wife is a seamstress and I had an animated conversation with him on my way back to work about making a muslin and mitred corners on the curtains she makes.   She gets him to hem and press them all for her.

Thanks again to the lovely Chelsea Fellows, who took my outfit pics for me.



One last look at my awesome buttonholes, cunningly hidden by fabulous red buttons.   I will now bid you adieu as I have waffled far too much.

Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest board on Sewing Bee techniques.   I’ll update it tomorrow after the show with all the things they do in episode four.   So excited!