Surf & turf…

Pattern: Alex Shirt by Sew Over It, from their Sew Over It City Break ebook
Made Before? This was my first attempt
Will Make Again? Yes, with some changes
Adjustments? fudged the cuffs a bit after I messed them up
Fabric: Catch of the Day cotton, also from Sew Over It (no longer available)


The Alex Shirt is a loose-fitting shirt pattern, and that, I think, is my main problem with this shirt. I own two ready-to-wear shirts made from cotton/linen without much drape. Both of those shirts I enjoy wearing often, which I’ve decided is because the back darts give a fitted shape and waist definition that I find flattering.

On the other hand, the Alex shirt has a pleat at the centre back, beneath the yoke. There is nothing to take out the fullness and the side seams aren’t curved to create waist definition. When you also cut a size too big, and make it from a cotton, there’s no way you’re going to achieve a slimming effect.


So next time I sew this up I will make a few changes:

  • try 1-2 sizes smaller (being careful about the sleeve size, however)
  • use a drapey fabric like a silk or rayon
  • reconsider my expectations of how this will fit.

I started making this in Glasgow. I stopped because of the issues above – I wasn’t sure I’d ever wear the shirt, so I gave up, but then when I was packing to move home I kept it anyway. During Me Made May, I decided just to finish it and see how I felt.


Rather than fiddling with buttons, I did the shortcut of using poppers. I always procrastinate about buttons – is my machine going to behave on the buttonholes? How many times will I screw them up? So I always put-off starting. But the poppers are easy, and although they don’t look quite as good, given I wasn’t sure how much I’d wear this anyway, I didn’t think it was a major drawback.

I fixed up the cuffs by just shortening them and turning them over in the same method I’ve used for the Merchant and Mills Factory Dress. Let me know if you want any more explanation…

Find me on instagram – @helen_fern_and_thread

I also added these little silver lobster button-type things on the collar, which I do love. I just hand-sewed these in place, which is a little messy, but again, this might be a throw-away project!


I’m still not sure how much wear I’ll get out of this. I love the colour, it’s pretty neat which I like, but it’s a bit too tent-like for me. Tied into a cropped length is ok, but I always feel a bit ‘constructed’ when I do something like that so it doesn’t tend to last the day. Maybe I’ll wear this a bit more going back to uni, where I just want to be comfortable and smart-enough. I think I could create the illusion of a bit more shape to it with a cropped black jumper over the top.

Or maybe I’ll have to find some lobster-themed events for it…

What’s your favourite TNT shirt pattern? Have you made any adjustments to the Alex shirt? Let me know in the comments below…

Happy sewing! H xx




more kielo love…

Pattern: Kielo Wrap Dress by Named Clothing
Made before? Yes, a short version you can see here.
Will make again? Already have the fabric!
Fabric: Rayon jersey from Spotlight

I love this dress! The construction is simple, easy-to-follow, and in a stretch fabric (as it was designed for) the silhouette is unique and elegant.

I added neck and armhole bands rather than doing a facing or turning and stitching.

To do this, I cut a rectangle with the greatest stretch going lengthwise, the length of the neck/arm hole -20%. I must have done my math wrong on the neckband, and it’s certainly too wide – but actually I think this adds a bit of a sporty effect which I don’t mind. Then I attached the bands as you usually would for a t-shirt.

Actually, let’s go through what I did wrong on this make –

  • I cut out the pattern pieces sloppily. This rayon fabric is very slippy and stretchy, so I should have cut them out in a single layer, or at the very least using a rotary cutter and pattern weights. In Glasgow I bought a set of excellent pattern weights – little squares with verticle pins you can find here. I really should get some more.
  • Marking on to this fabric was also difficult – my chalk just stretched the grain, and my erasable pens didn’t show up on this colourway. to get more accurate darts I should have used tailors tacks.
  • I used the overlocker to sew this up, including the ties. The rayon jersey behaved better with the overlocker. Unfortunately trying to make a square-ended tie on an overlocker just doesn’t work – you need, really, to be able to clip the corners to get everything sharp and neat. That sloppiness annoys me.
  • Finally, I didn’t press any of the seams and, again, to be neat and sharp, I should have.

I probably won’t wear it wrapped this way round, I think it’s more flattering on me with the wraps to the front.

At the end of the day, despite these mistakes, I love this dress. I don’t have to be a perfectionist with everything. However, as Fiona from Diary of a Chainstitcher has said, using better fabrics and taking sewing slowly and purposefully would raise my garments from ready-to-wear knock-offs to garments I can be proud of. Purposeful construction and design details would also give me more things to tell you folks about!


And finally, the obligatory wing-shot!

Have you got any Kielo hack ideas? Let me know below!

Happy Sewing! xx h

#memademay2018 round-up and my 2018 #makenine …




I posted 20 days in total, however, I definitely wore me-made many more days than that. I think there were only 3 or so days where I didn’t, even if my one item was just a shawl.

So what did I learn from May?

  1. I don’t have a single black jersey top, or any material top, that will tuck into high-waist skirts and trousers and look flattering. Which is a problem, because I actually have a few me-made skirts which I didn’t wear at all in May because I didn’t have an outfit for them.
  2. Long sleeve tees for around the house! And also to add a lovely scarf to (of which I have many) for just coffees out.
  3. I’ve changed jobs, and I can’t wear any out-there, colourful shirts etc to work anymore. So some more basic shirts and dresses would be helpful.
  4. I’d love to have more dress/shirt combination outfits, with a bit of a 60s or 70s feel. I always pin outfits like these on my inspiration boards, but I don’t have many.
  5. I’m relishing more challenging sewing, and I have a real longing for some indigo denim jeans/trousers and shorts…

Which brings me to…

(The rest of) 2018 Make Nine!

make nine 2018

Left column –

  1. Tabor v-neck from Sew House 7 will fill some of my basic tee needs, and may also be a good tuck-into-jeans/skirts top
  2. Alex shirt from Sew Over It, in a smaller size than my previous versions, could be a great basic shirt – although I have some hack ideas inspired by 1920s fashion that I might try out on it, more to come!
  3. Lucia top by Sew Over It, for tucking into jeans! I went ‘shopping’ and tried on a top like this, and actually loved it – so we’re grand! I’m going to put some photos from that shopping trip up on my Insta stories so look out for that.

Middle column – VINTAGE!

I have so many vintage patterns and I really, really, really want to give them a go!

  1. Simplicity 9811 reminds me of the dove blouse, and will be easy to fit with those princess seams!
  2. Simplicity 1284 (vintage re-release), this has nothing to do with my lessons in May, I just love those vests!
  3. Style 1944 again has nothing to do with my reflections on May, but will be a great party/day dress come Summer

Right column –

  1. Lander Pants from True Bias would be a challenging make, to fill those longings, and also super flattering. I’ll try the shorts version first I think, in some black stretch I found at the op-shop.
  2. Ava dress from Victory Patterns will actually be in preparation for a wedding I’ll be going to, (my first proper/adult wedding!) and while it’s not until next year, it pays to be prepared! (I’m hopeful guys, invite me to some weddings)
  3. I left this one blank because there are a few patterns I’ve made successfully several times before that I really want to make more of. The Orla dress was a gem last month, and would have been better if I’d fixed the zip earlier. I love the faux-wrap front hack. I’d also love a couple more versions of the Dove Blouse, including giving it a go in a knit fabric. Then there are some Kommatia patterns, little cropped tops, which I think would be useful too (and which I’d like to add a lettuce hem to).

So there we go!

How did your Me Made May go? Link any blog post round-ups below, I’d love to read them all! Should I get into some vlogging? What do you think, let me know below.

Happy Sewing, hxx


kielo in the jungle…

Pattern: Kielo Wrap Dress by Named Clothing
Made before? This was my first attempt!
Will make again? Yes, but a long version
Adjustments? I originally made this full length but then cropped it short, and added splits to the side & back seams. I also faced the bodice.
Inspiration: check out my pinterest board
Fabric: ‘layered leaves’ crepe from Minerva Crafts


The one issue I have with this pattern is how it looks when you shorten it. The side wraps tend to bunch up towards the front, rather than folding neatly. I have plans for how to adjust the pattern to hopefully change this in future versions. For this one though, I simply unpicked about 4 inches of the side and back seams, which has given the fabric a bit more ease so it lies a wee bit flatter.


Although in this photo the splits look very high, in reality, the ties hold everything in place so you only get a glimpse of leg.

This crepe is gorgeous! I love its versatility – I could easily just wear this out for a coffee but with my clogs or these boots it’s great for dinner or a day date out. And I have a green dress I can wear under it for winter, too.

There’s a real mix of finishing techniques in this dress. I was trying my best to make the insides beautiful as well, and to prevent fraying. My sewing machine in Glasgow wasn’t good at zigzagging, although I did use this on the side seams. For the lining, I used the turn & stitch method, which I love the look of. I wish I had done french seams on the side seams, but I think at the time I wasn’t sure how that would work construction-wise, because of the ties and lining. I might go back over these with the overlocker just to give a more professional finish.


And yes, I was dancing in every one of these photos. Because, well, Lorde.

Which way do you love the kielo – short or long?

Happy sewing! xxh

So I’ve sewn a sallie…

Pattern: Sallie Jumpsuit by Closet Case Files
Made Before? I tried…but that’s a story for a different blog post
Will Make Again? Yes
Adjustments: I followed the tutorial Heather Lou wrote on hacking the jumpsuit into a romper, and omitted the pockets because I felt they’d be too bulky.
Fabric: knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics, it has a bit of a spongey texture to it but I’m not sure of the composition
Inspiration: check out my pinterest board

While I will make this again, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I think the shorts are pretty unflattering – that’s the widest part of my body anyway, and the combination of elastic waistband, bunching, and horizontal stripes only accentuates that. The fabric was a perfect choice though because it has enough structure and weight to not be clingy.


The pattern itself is well-written and instinctive. If Heather Lou could just make patterns for my whole wardrobe I’d die happy!

I added a pompom trim to the arm and leg holes, which I love. And I love that I can wear it with this vintage embroidered belt I inherited off my step-great-grandmother. So that’s a win.

The neckband isn’t perfect – I’m still trying to suss out how to get those v-neck bands snag-free. Any tips?


I did attempt pattern matching, and I feel like it was successful, at least across the front of the shorts. The only let-down is the CF seam where the waistband joins the shorts – that little slither of white annoys me, although a belt hides it. As for construction, I did this all on the overlocker, except for the pom pom trim which was sewn by hand.

Next time I make this, I’ll probably slice about 1.5cm off the neckline – I think it’d be a tad easier to get on and off if it was wider, and a touch more flattering.

What’s your favourite romper pattern? Any tips for inserting bands on v-necks? Let me know below.

Happy sewing! xxh


The shirt that almost wasn’t…

My first Glasgow Make to get on the blog, and entirely inappropriate weather-wise.

Pattern: The Factory Dress by Merchant and Mills
Made before? I’d made two full dresses for my Nanna last Christmas, unfortunately without the instructions so they were successful wildcards…
Will make again? Yes, I love this shape, the lack of buttons, and how easy the collar is. I might try it with a gathered skirt next time.
Fabric: Vintage drapey something I found in a Vintage/antiques/odds-and-ends store in Glasgow’s West End.

factory top front

I found this amazing large floral print and had to have it. There was probably 2.5m to start with. And I promptly butchered it.

The original idea was to use the free Peppermint Magazine Peplum Top pattern (produced by In The Folds), and hack it with a peplum to make an approximation of my favourite peplum top. That went all sorts of wrong. I misunderstood the instructions for the shoulder panels, fudged the lining several times, tried to cut away the lining, couldn’t find bias tape, etc etc etc. I ended up with a mangled top but a beautiful peplum. I shelved the project for several months…

Then, after a not-amazing trial of the Alex Shirt by Sew Over It, I decided the Factory Dress, with its center front seam, lack of buttons, and simple collar construction, was the shirt pattern for me. I knew there’d be enough of this fabric left to make a toile so I went for it.

I then discovered that the shirt was more than a little cropped. I had wanted a cropped style, but this took it a little too far…enter the afore-mentioned peplum!

factory top peplum

When I first tried this on I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The collar, and the peplum, and the billowy fit with semi-outrageous print felt like mayyybe a tad too much. But then I wore it cycling into work, and it was beautifully cool and floaty. I also love it paired with  a cropped jumper, so that the collar looks sophisticated popping over the top, but the peplum peeks out and adds some eccentricity. A little eccentricity goes a long way in starting me-made conversations…

factory top back

A little note on the construction – most of my seams here are french seams, except for around the collar, where I couldn’t work out how to do this technique. I still haven’t managed to convince my new machine to zig zag on woven fabric. Anyone have any tips?

What’s your favourite pattern hack? Have you tried to hack the Factory Dress? I think it is an underrated pattern, what do you think?

Happy sewing! xxH

Shetland Wool Week Wrap Up!!!

Catherine has joined me in Scotland! Of course, her holiday here ‘coincidentally’ coordinated with Shetland Wool Week…


We spent the week in an Airbnb in Lerwick, after the overnight ferry ride from Aberdeen. This meant we had a good base in which to cosily knit and watch Downton Abbey! I didn’t do many classes during the week – I didn’t feel that my knitting skills were up to many of them, although I would have loved to have tried a beginners brioche class.

We went to a brilliant enamelling class though, with a local Shetlander Helen Robertson. The day started with learning the basics and making a big button, then we made a shawl pin, a little box for stitch markers, and six small buttons. Helen’s mother Joan was there and cooked us a tasty lunch, as well as supplying us with endless tea and homemade shortbread!

On Thursday night we headed to the Shetland Textile Museum for a talk on Victoria Gibson – a talented knitwear designer who settled on Shetland. I wasn’t, to be honest, expecting much. But our host Lizzie was exuberant, interesting, and had a thorough and entertaining knowledge of Gibson’s design, business, and home life.

Photo from Shetland Textile Museum

I was particularly inspired by Gibson’s fading technique. She would use three strands of yarn in knitting, and introduce one yarn of the new colour at a time, to ensure a subtle fade. There was one rainbow jumper on display which showed this to great effect – brilliant, bright, contrasting colours without any jarring transitions.

I’m sure Catherine will have more to say about Victoria Gibson and Lizzie’s fantastic exhibition, so I’ll move on to what we’re really here for…the haul!

Everyone at Wool Week was wearing the official wool week knitting pattern – the Bousta Beanie designed by Gudrun Johnston. I hadn’t even bothered trying to knit this, having never attempted two strand colourwork before. But over the course of the week I fell in love with everyone’s beanies and the beautiful colour combinations…and then I saw this book…

photo from

And, I went a bit wild…

1, 5, 6, 7 & 11 for Intarsia, 3 & 4 for a beanie from Knitting From the North, 8 & 9 with natural white (not pictured) for a Barley beanie from Knitting From the North


First on my needles has been the Barley mittens from Knitting From the North, made up in Mermaid and Natural White (not pictured). I’ve actually already had to frog these and restart – remember to check Ravelry pages for these projects. The 80 stitch cast-on was huge! The colour work pattern is actually fairly instinctive, however, so otherwise I’m not struggling.




Early on, we went to Jamieson and Smith out of town, and I fell in love with this beautiful Aran weight yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners, made from Shetland wool. Catherine very kindly bought me a skein. I thought and thought about what I wanted to knit. I didn’t want to spend months and months wrapping my head around another jumper pattern, but I also didn’t want to knit yet another little hat. One night I was snuggled up in my mother’s shawl – and I had a brainwave. What better than a cushy, cosy, big shawl to wrap up in at the cinema or when out at the pub?

the croft yarn

I’ve decided to make the same pattern as Catherine, the Gryer by Isabell Kraemer. I’m letting myself play around with the stripe and eyelet pattern, however, and using the pattern mostly as a guide.


I also chose a selection of 2 ply jumper weight yarn from Jamieson & Smith, to have a play with some intarsia knitting. At the Shetland Textile Museum there was a beautiful long cardigan with an art nouveau floral motif knitted in intarsia. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo, but I have got a vibrant Pinterest board (ever expanding!) dedicated to knitwear you can check out…I’m hoping to make a scarf using this yarn, just to get a bit of practice and play around with the colours.

Wish me luck! Will you be at any crafty festivals over the next year? Please give me some suggestions in the comments below! I’m hoping to make Edinburgh Yarn Festival again in 2018 – will you be there?

Happy crafting! xxH

A tale of two cleos…

I wasn’t convinced by the samples of the Cleo pinafore from Tilly and the Buttons. The curve from the waist to the hip was too pronounced for my taste (or so I thought), and I felt it made the garment unflattering. Enter the flurry of bloggers’ versions! I particularly fell for Dominique Major’s brocade version.

Pattern: Cleo Pinafore from Tilly and the Buttons
Made Before? only these two versions
Will Make Again? Yes
Fabric: olive print cotton from Spotlight, with an unbleached cotton lining, and fern upholstery brocade, also from Spotlight.


The first version I made was in this olive print cotton from Spotlight. I knew the fabric would be too light-weight for the Cleo, so I fully lined it with an unbleached cotton. Funnily enough, I made this while my parents sat in the same room watching a tour of Greek cooking! I was craving Ouzo or Retsina, let me tell you…and some haloumi…

The pattern was straightforward, easy to follow, and the top-stitching not as hard as I thought it would be. I do think the key to top-stitching is to not really give a shit. Sure, there are wobbles in it and the pocket stitches are a tad hap-hazard…but no-one other than me knows, and certainly, no-one cares.

Rather than using a button or buckle, I bought a snap fastening kit off etsy and fixed on these little black ones. Snap fastenings may be the key to my sewing success…I’m debating how childish shirts with snaps would be – like, an entire wardrobe of shirts with only snap fastenings…


The second version I made from this beautiful upholstery fabric, also from Spotlight. I cut the facings from the unbleached cotton Id used in the previous version. Unfortunately, the fabric is still too thick in places – for example, you can see here my snap has come out because there was too much bulk.


Catherine was not convinced by this fabric. She thought I would look like a walking cushion in it. I was inspired by Dominique’s version, though, and ignored her.


I love the way the straps meet at the back! It looks like a proper pinafore! Even though many parts of this pattern look as though they are finicky, it’s actually a very easy make. Each of these versions took not much more than an hour – turning the straps through being the most time-consuming part. Tilly’s instructions are outstanding, I’d recommend any of her patterns to a beginner.

I wore these a lot in Glasgow at the start of the year, with a dark green jersey dress I bought at H&M. They bring a bit of brightness and fun to the grim wintery days. I’m planning a maroon cord one, which is in fact almost done – but I’d love to do some embroidery on the pocket or try something else special. I think there is room in this pattern for some pom pom trim…or sparkles, like Kate from the Fold Line’s version…

Check out my pinterest board for some Cleo-themed inspiration. Are you making one? Have a different favourite pinafore pattern? Let me know in the comments…

Stoff and Stil sewing plans…

Stoff and Stil have updated their website with some new Autumn and Winter fabrics, and after a couple of days successful sewing I felt I deserved a fabric hit! I’m hoping to get these done by Shetland Wool Week, which mother dearest and I will be heading to at the end of September.

1. Kielo Dress


I’m planning to make a Kielo in some beautiful fern print crepe I already own, but when I spotted this pleated jersey I fell in love with the idea of a Grecian pleated and wrapped dress. I think this will also be an easy and versatile make – I can see it with tights and long-sleeves underneath in Winter, or with sandals in Summer for a night out. Simple, understated, but gorgeous.

2. Factory or Bettine Dress


I love that Stoff and Stil include pictures of their fabric made up into garments – I would have missed this otherwise, but check out how it looks made up-


The blousy fit of this reminds me of the Bettine, and given it’s a viscose fabric I think it will be the perfect fabric-pattern match. However, I’m tempted to try a factory dress, given my recent success with that pattern, and the option of wearing that with a cardigan and the collar poking out…the only hesitation I have there is the practicality of the Factory Dress’ slightly looser skirt on the windy Glasgow streets. I might end up trying to hack the two together, what do you think?

3. Definitely a Factory Dress…


This is a potential wildcard. This cotton percale is listed as a “home” fabric and as it hasn’t arrived I’m not sure how soft and suitable for dressmaking it will be. However, I’m hoping it’ll make the perfect Factory Dress to wear in Winter, and feel subdued but slightly colourful – and I mean, it was on sale guys, who can blame me?!

I might end up making a toile of the factory dress, as I’m not sure how flattering I’ll find the skirt. The Orla dress which has been getting a lot of blog time recently looks a lot more youthful. Potentially I’ll try for the best of both worlds, making the Factory skirt gathered in the same way. I’ve also been wondering if side and back gathers, a la the Archer shirt, might be a win. I’m not going to make any promises, but a side-by-side comparison post could be interesting. I do love seeing Lisa Emerita’s process videos for those toiles….

What are your Autumn plans? Favourite online fabric stores? Wind + skirt solutions?

The best blazer…

A few months ago now, my long-lost godmother visited me in Glasgow. We spent a wonderful afternoon checking out all the vintage and charity shops in Glasgow’s West End. I found this retro fabric that afternoon, so it’s extra special.

Pattern: Victoria Blazer from By Hand London

Made before? no
Will make again? I’d love to try the duster coat hack the BHL girls have blogged about. I’d also love to do one in silk-backed crepe, with the silk side showing on the labels and cuffs. And, of course, more retro fabric versions!!
Fabric: Retro polyester of some sort from Glasgow Vintage

jacket worn

At first I was planning on a shift dress, but I eventually decided with Yvonne that a blazer would be more practical – in Melbourne, as in Glasgow, you’ll often find a fairly sunny day where the wind is just a little too strong for only a t-shirt. Given that this is a retro polyester, it also is slightly warmer than it looks – I can see myself in this on a night out in Spring or Summer back home, too.

blazer sleeve close up

The Victoria Blazer pattern is well explained, beautifully presented, and a lovely fit for me with no alterations. I think that with the spongieness of this fabric you do lose some of the effect of the lapel and the seams/ darts that run from the neckline down to the bust. I did have to sew my lapels open to keep them flat.

I wore this blazer out for drimks with a couple of (male, non-sewist) mates of mine and blew their minds when I told them it was hand-made. “Irish Dave” has since brought this blazer up when I haven’t even been wearing it, which to me is a sign I have become a Successful Human.


Anyone know of quality vintage stores in Scotland? What’s your most brilliant fabric score?