An elaborate hack…

This has to be one of my favourite makes to date. It has enough features that people think it is RTW, but was really easy to knock out, airy for summer, but thrown on with jeans looks much more dressed-up than a tee.

Pattern: Simplicity 2365
Made before? I’d made one version in a similar 100% cotton, but without as much hacking, and definitely got a lot of wear out of that in Summer. 
Will make again? Absolutely. I left the pattern back home in Aus, but I’m considering just buying it again to make a few more.
Fabric: 100% cotton I bought from Spotlight, designed by Cloud 9

pleated top worn

The original pattern is a tunic or shirt ending at the hips, with short or long sleeves and a mandarin collar. It features princess seams and five pintucks on either side of the center front. In this version, I cropped the two front and back pieces to where the waistline was marked on the pattern. I then sloped off the neckline into a v, starting from the mark at center front where the split in the original is meant to start. I finished the armholes and neckline with bias binding. The ruffle was simply made from a long rectangle – as long as I had fabric for – gathered and sewn in. Inside seams are finished with overlocking.

pleated top details

Can we talk about this fabric?! Spotlight has such a great range of cottons, chambray, and tencel. It’s definitely something I miss in Scotland – I can’t seem to find any beautiful prints like this unless they’re Liberty and prohibitively expensive. I also can’t find any tencel – which is such a shame, because I think a floaty tencel skirt in the same khaki as those little leaves would be perfect with this shirt.

I’m a huge fan of the pintucks too. The instructions which come with the pattern, being a big 4, aren’t fabulous. I followed a tutorial in my handy sewing bible, and after that it was easy. Particularly in 100% cotton, you just need a lot of steam and heat. And a ruler.

I’ve read online that you can also create pintucks in fabric before you cut, then cut out pattern pieces with them finished and use that as a textural element – I’d love to explore this, I’m just not sure of what pattern to try it with. Ideas?

Do you have any favourite pintuck patterns for me to try? Know where I can get some quality but affordable tencel in the UK? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy sewing! H xx



What?! A blog post?!

I know, I know, I know…it’s been a while! Sorry everyone. I have a huge backlog of makes. But finally I have somewhere to shoot photos, so here you go… one post a week, that’s my aim!

Pattern: Simplicity 1370
Made Before? yes, a black work skirt as a mock-up.
Will Make Again? Yes
Fabric: stretch bengaline from Remnant Warehouse

skirt back small

This skirt was a story of trial & error. I’d made this pattern in a black stretch cotton before, as a mock-up and for work. It was a little too big – so when I made it from this bengaline I did a size down. Unfortunately, I was watching a really good movie when I cut it out – and so the stretch runs vertically. Oops.

Once I’d sewn up the side seams, I also realised it was going to be reallllly short when hemmed. Cue two months stagnancy on my sewing desk.

Eventually after a very succesful op-shop run, I decided to use this reclaimed zip to make an exposed zipper back, which would preserve just enough width in the skirt for it to fit perfectly. I bias-bound the waist and hem to save a bit of length there as well.

skirt front small

Let’s be honest – there’s a lot of sewing in this garment that is less-than professional. I still love it though! It’s so 60s – my favourite fashion decade. I’m hoping to ‘aquire’ some bowling shoes to pair with it.

I definitely want to use this pattern again – once I sort out sizing. Unfortunately I’ve left it at home in Australia, so it won’t be until I get back. I’d love to find some really beautiful brocade or jacquard, maybe something with parrots…you can see some of my inspo for further projects over on my Pinterest.

What’s your favourite fashion decade? And do you think I should go full 60s with this one – some bowling shoes, a vintage cardi, beehive…? Let me know in the comments! 

Happy sewing! H xx

Helen’s 2017 Make Nine

Helen Says…

I know, this is a bit late – one month into 2017 already! But given it is still the first month of the year, and there’s more than nine to go, here are the new projects and new skills I want to master in 2017…



  1. Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns: Gingerella showed these off in her September Makes vlog last year, and that was when I really fell for this pattern. But I wasn’t sure – would jeans be too far over my head? Well, now I’m in Scotland, and need to make friends, I’ve signed up for a sewing class! About making Ginger Jeans! So in about 8 weeks time, you should see a new pair of olive jeans on this blog 🙂 🙂
    Skills to build: fly zip, zips in general, top stitching, belt loops, rivets
  2. Agnes Top by Tilly & the Buttons: I’ve always wanted to make this top, but the little elastic gathers at the front scare me! Now that I have my head around the Molly top from Sew Over It though, I think I’m ready for this one. I’ve also purchased a Craftsy course on sewing with knits. Basics here we come!
    Skills to build: everything with knit fabric, on a regular sewing machine (no overlocker in Glasgow 😦 )
  3. Alex Shirt from Sew Over It: I wear collared shirts All. The. Time. I just don’t feel dressy enough to go out without a collar peeking up over my jumper. Up until now, I’ve searched charity shops high and low for good ones. While I’m sometimes lucky, there are so many beautiful rayons screaming out to be worn!
    Skills to build: Collars, buttons and button holes.
  4. Nancy Dress from Sew Over It: In Love. Nothing else to say. Have the fabric already.
    Skills to build: Slippery fabrics and cutting accurately.
  5. Lingerie of some kind: I haven’t decided on a pattern for this yet, really. I can never find bras and underwear which I like, fit me, and don’t show under jeans. Plus, they’re so expensive! I wouldn’t mind spending the money on supplies though, and having matching sets a la Hollie from Hollie Dolly is very appealing…
    Skills to build: everything to do with sewing lingerie…a craftsy course, possibly?
  6. Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress: I think this in a merino knit would be a Winter staple…
    Skills to build: More knit fabric skills?
  7. Arielle Skirt from Tilly & the Buttons: A tight, short skirt with a collared shirt and jumper, and some cool patterned tights, is my favourite city outfit. I love the idea of adding interesting contrasting buttons as well. And really, Tilly can do no wrong…
    Skills to build: everything I do with skirts turns out wrong, so just making one that fits will be a miracle…
  8. Ailakki Cross Front Jumpsuit by Named Patterns: This was love at first sight! Diary of a Chainstitcher, one of my favourite blogs, did a brilliant version of this. When I get to the end of the year and am feeling more confident with my fitting and accuracy skills, I plan to give this a go for a Christmas outfit.
    Skills to build: Zips, lining, accuracy, hand sewing.

Happy sewing everyone! H xx

P.S I was planning on vlogging all of this, but my camera has stopped working on the filming mode. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring you a video soon, of the handmade wardrobe I brought to Glasgow with me!

P.P.S So many planning blogs, so few makes…..

Hard to believe!

That the other half of ‘fern and thread’ has left Melbourne and headed to Glasgow. But she has and I’m missing her! I also have weather envy. We’ve had a few days of real summer weather in Melbourne, including one hot night, and our house isn’t really built for extremes of temperatures. Instead of wallowing in deep envy maternal sadness, however, I’ve got busy and begun the annual get-organised-before-the-New-Year mess-up clean-up.

It started with a gentle pattern cull, which led to a pattern re-organisation, which led to the study because I had the bright thought of putting Indie patterns in magazine files, which meant I had to do a magazine cull in the office, which led to a bookcase re-organisation because they looked so shabby and that led to a bit of a book cull – but not as much as I would have liked – how can I not have read quite so many books?

In the middle there was the Great Yarn Storage Idea – this was before Helen left – and that led to a trip to Ikea where many things were purchased but most importantly the Yarn Storage was procured. This led, inevitably, to hauling Many Things out of the office stash store room. Which is now much clearer. Thank you, Swedish design. My yarn storage came from the kids’ section of Ikea – by far the best part, I reckon. I mean, I can never have a kitchen like they have in their walk-through-and-drool-rooms, nor will my bed ever be as ‘dressed’ or my desk as damned clear but I can have a slightly messy playroom!

Before the Accountant would put the Ikea storage together he demanded I clean up the ‘mess’ in part of the lounge. That meant more storage solutions as part of mess neat pile of crap delight were lengths of fabric. The Accountant shrewdly suggested he procure said storage solution and hied off to the cheap shop (no more lifestyle choices for me!). He came back with a plastic container large enough to bury the dog in, should she shuffle off this mortal coil before I folded fabric. (And for roughly a third of the price of my Brilliant Storage Idea.)

I am most certainly looking forward to the New Year! Stay tuned for knitting and sewing resolutions. I leave with you photos of the Copenhagen Calling cowl knitted for Helen from my own handspun. First two colour slipstitch pattern I’ve done – loved it! She has clearly got it inside out here – but there it is. Beautiful fibre from Ixchel fibres which spun up lushly. There’s cashmere and other goodies I’ve forgotten but trust me, warm as toast and as soft as a baby’s skin. 15778555_10154271985570698_2036114438_o1

Seamstress Tag

  1. Who are you? I’m Catherine – a writer who lives in the Hills outside Melbourne. I write for children, young adults and poetry for adults.
  2. When and why did you start sewing?  I started sewing because I wanted to make my own clothes. I was at boarding school and they offered evening sewing classes as an extra curriculum subject. I made a shirtwaister dress and an eight gore cotton velveteen skirt – but I didn’t allow for the nap. I can still remember my disappointment!
  3. What is your favorite/proudest make? My Marcy Tilton cirque dresses. All of them!
  4. What is your most disastrous make?  Too many to list – but one of the funniest was this horrible reversible dress – I think the pattern may still be available. Do. Not. Make. It.
  5. Where is your favorite place to go fabric shopping? We’re lucky to have great fabric shops in Melbourne. My favourite is The Fabric Store, closely followed by Clearout, then Cleggs.
  6. What is your most used pattern? Marcy Tilton’s Cirque Dress pattern – Vogue 9112. I love the way you can ring so many changes to the fabric choices and that you can use a smaller amount of cherished fabric for the bottom bit.
  7. What is your most dreaded sewing task? Buttonholes! I’m always worried they will be: crooked, too big, too small or simply stuff up before the sewing machine has finished them. My Brother refuses to sew them these days – I wonder why?
  8. What is your favorite sewing task? I love the meditative calm of handsewing. In complete contrast I love the zoom zoom of the overlocker…
  9. What is your favorite sewing entertainment ? Watching movies on my laptop. But I’m also going to try some audio books in the future.
  10. Printed or PDF? Printed, definitely. I’m slowly getting my head around PDF, but printed patterns consume less time. However, I totally understand that the PDF patterns are cheaper for indie designers and there are so many great PDF patterns available, I’m learning patience!
  11. What sewing machine do you use? I mainly use my Singer Ultimate Quilter – that would be because Helen, my daughter is using my Brother. I have an Elna Overlocker.
  12. Do you have other hobbies? I knit and spin yarn. I occasionally felt. I like cooking and particularly love baking sour dough. I’m learning French and love going out to hear good music.

The Seamstress Tag

Helen says…

Thanks so much to Hollie from Hollie Sews for putting this together! I’ve loved watching everyone responding on YouTube. Here are my answers…


1) Who are you?

I’m Helen, obviously, and I live in the Hills which is in the very outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. I’m studying history at the moment, undergraduate, and hoping to do post-grad in costume/fashion history. I’m just shy of 24 years-old. I also study French at University.

2) When & why did you start sewing?

I remember being a child, maybe 7-8 years-old, and having my mum teach me how to do blanket stitch on a little felt vest for my teddy-bear. Other than that, I started sewing clothes for myself in 2010. At the start my makes were very dodgy, and I never really learned proper techniques. I then stopped sewing steadily for a few years, basically because things just weren’t working. In the last couple of years I’ve started sewing properly again, and in the last 6 months particularly I have noticed a steep increase in my skills and confidence – basically coinciding with my discovery of Lisa from Sew Over It and the other vlogs on You Tube.
3) What is your favourite or proudest make?

Everything I’ve made in the last two weeks!! I just finished a couple of cotton tops that I LOVE, which will soon be on the blog. Also, a bow tie for my friend Ellie, 2 sleeveless dresses….and just a few days ago, a Mesa dress. The Mesa dress in particular has the NICEST neck band I have ever dreamed of making!

I think that these two weeks really represent a consolidation of skills I have been learning in the past year or so, and also show that I am taking more care, not necessarily more time, with each make.

4) What is your most disastrous make?

There were so many in my early days! One that particularly stands out though, not because it was so horrendous but rather because it was so disappointing, was a t-shirt I made for my sister. It was using the Chickadee raglan sleeve t-shirt pattern free on BurdaStyle, from the user Prudence Rabbit. Which, by the way, is a brilliant pattern if you’re size 8 or can grade patterns! Go get it! So I made the t-shirt from a thin, sheer white knit, with opaque hearts dotted all over it, and then used an old white t-shirt to line the bust area so it wasn’t see-through. Unfortunately the fabric was just too thin for my machine, and it all got eaten up. So then I added a strip of lace to the front (to cover up how messed up the seam was), but that then was hand-stitched on in the most embarrassingly awful way, and was a brighter shade of white than the rest of the top. I still gave it to my sister, and for some lovely, kind, generous, ill-advised reason she accepted it gracefully.

The next time I saw it was when she included it in a bag of clothes she was throwing away, a couple of years later (probably unworn). I actually pulled it out and decided to keep it, and even stubbornly wore it twice before admitting it was awful.

The sad part is that the fabric was very sweet, and I think if I had owned an overlocker and chosen a better fabric for the lining, there wouldn’t have been any problems. She might not have liked it still, but it would have been at least wearable!

5) Where is your favourite place to go fabric shopping?

The Fabric Store on an unlimited budget, for sure.

In my dreams, Sew Over It in person, also on an unlimited budget.

In reality, Spotlight. I could go to Remnant Warehouse which is also affordable, and have had some success recently with buying fabric online through them. It isn’t close to our house at all though, and it’s tricky-ish to get to from Uni so I haven’t gone there yet in person.

I am moving to the UK soon though, and seriously looking forward to fabric shopping there! If you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh, please let me know!

6) What is your most used pattern?

This is a tricky one, because I have a lot of patterns that I have used three times or so, but they aren’t necessarily my most favourite ones. I do tend to try loads and loads of patterns and never really get confident with any, although in the last few weeks that attitude has been changing. A top three would look like:

The Chickadee tee – I’ve made three of these, and I love this pattern. It fits me perfectly and they layer well, there are five pattern pieces but they’re small and easy to put together. I think this will soon be equaled in the knit top stakes by the Erin top from Sew Over It’s So City Break ebook though.

Vintage New Look 6425 – I’ve only made two of these so far but it is such a simple, flattering woven pattern, bangs together easily and I’ve just about worked out all my adjustments on it. If you find this pattern, I do have some recommended hacks, but I will save them until I post about the dresses I have made.

Seamwork Mesa Dress – admittedly I have only sewn two of these, but honestly they are brilliant and so, so easy. Great for layering, great neckline, great instructions. I’ll definitely be making more, hopefully a lot more before I move to the UK and no longer have access to an overlocker 😦
7) Your most dreaded sewing task is…

Buttonholes, zippers, any hand sewing.

There are so many unfinished makes of mine which just need fastening. I have just noticed a free craftsy course on zippers though, which I will be doing hopefully next week. I think if I could do zippers easily that would drastically change my top three patterns. Also if I can work out how to sew a button on using the machine!

Actually, specifically, I hate hate hate and don’t really know how to tie knots/secure the ends of thread in hand sewing. HOW DOES ONE DO THIS NEATLY????

8) And your favourite sewing task?

….side seams? Straight stitching? Over-locking?

Or, designing and planning the makes!!
9) What is your favourite ‘sewing entertainment’?

There are so many TV shows I have watched the full seasons of and now miss! But generally I netflix TV shows, although I also love listening to the Threadcult and Seamwork Radio podcasts. You’ll notice the TV shows below are a mix of detective and costume-rich drama, finished with a lovely combination of both genres…

TV shows:
Downton Abbey
Upstairs Downstairs
The Bletchley Circle
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – watch this if you’ve never heard of it, funny, Australian, and great vintage costumes

10) Printed or PDF?

I’m going to say PDF at the moment, because they force me to trace the patterns which is better in the long-term, and easier to make adjustments to, and harder to lose because you always have the PDF.

I’ve also gotten very time-efficient at cutting out, sticking together, and tracing PDF patterns and I am planning to do a blog on my tips and tricks for the whole process.
11) What sewing machine do you use?

My mother’s Brother Super Ace II, Singer Confidence Quilter or something-or-rather Overlocker which I can’t quite remember the name off…

I have a more simple Brother which I have been meaning to get fixed all year, but haven’t been bothered to spend the money on (instead I’ve spent it on fabric!)

12) Do you have any other hobbies?

I like to knit simple things, I’m currently making my first jumper. I love beer tasting! Australia is so great for good craft beers. I also love to read, although with Uni I do tend to feel a bit text-fatigued and haven’t managed it as much in the last year. At the moment I’m reading The Old Ways which is a memoir/non-fiction book about walking ancient trails across the world by Robert Macfarlane. I also love walking! Although, again, I don’t do enough of it.

Well, thanks for reading and to everyone who has answered the call of the seamstress tag! I nominate, of course, Catherine!!!

Pattern Haul/Stash and Exciting News…

Helen says…
Sorry its been so long! I’m only going to show pictures of patterns on this blog entry, rather than fabric as well, because I want to get this up quickly and give you guys something to read before I put my makes up. Catherine will be posting soon too, just as soon as I remember to pass on our password to her again (she is hopeless with remembering passwords)!
So until the end of December, I plan on making one project per week, and working on or finishing an additional project from my pile of unfinished makes. Most of these just need buttons sewn on, or to be hemmed, and there are a few garments I’ve made or bought which need some minor adjustments.
Exciting News!! At the end of December I will be moving, for a whole year, overseas! I’m doing an exchange year with University, probably to Glasgow, or if not Dublin! I’m a little daunted as well though, because I started Uni later than most so I already tend to feel a bit isolated by my age at Melbourne, and I think moving to a new country will be more isolating still. SO, if you are in the area, please please please let me know – I’d love to meet up and do some fabric shopping! I will most definitely also go to London at some stage to see Sew Over It and that street everyone goes on about, so if you’re in the UK and want to meet let me know too.
So, back to the projects/patterns. Almost everything I am planning is (hopefully) something I will be able to wear in Melbourne Spring, and also layer up when I get to Glasgow. This may turn out to be wishful thinking, but if I don’t wear it over Winter in Glasgow hopefully I’ll at least be able to in Spring. The aim then, are interesting but trans-seasonal garments. I’m trying to make quick patterns for the most part, which I can manage to make in the time I have leftover from Uni and work.
Image result for New Look 6425 vintage
Enter Pattern One: Vintage (looks 70s but actually 90s) New Look 6425
I got this at the op-shop for just over $1. It looks like an easy make, but one with a few features I can add to make a more interesting garment. If I find some lightweight wool, I’d definitely use it to make view B with the buttons up the side, and do those as self-covered buttons. For the moment though, I’m going to make View D with the v-neck, out of two fabrics. Firstly a dark green cotton with cream coloured flowers that I got at The Fabric Store (they do ship to the UK and have a great range), and secondly in a lovely silky tencel in a blue grey with little grey pineapples on, for a summery version. I think both will be able to be worn with tights, and I actually have a dark green long-sleeve dress that will go under the floral one, so both have packing potential. Best of all, View D has no fastenings!
 Image result for Simplicity 1370
Pattern Two: Simplicity 1370
This pattern was recommended by the lovely Rosa from Sewn, as something simple, very wearable, and quick to make. I’ve already made a version in black cotton sateen with an exposed zipper for work, and it does go together quickly and easily (although I need to learn how to use a zipper foot properly). I have a hounds tooth stretch bengaline from the Remnant Warehouse to make this in, which is almost a direct copy of a skirt Rosa made! I am also recycling a tablecloth of my mothers, which is a navy linen with white and red birds embroidered on it, quite South American looking. I’ll use some trims to add some details to this one, kind of a shorter version of a Frida Kahlo skirt (and much more fitted). Finally, I have an old pair of white jeans with a blue and black Aztec print on them that are too small for  me now, I think there should be just enough fabric in them to make this skit from.
 Image result for simplicity 1887
Pattern Three: Simplicity 1887
I bought this pattern because I love how the waistband is flat at the front but elasticated at the back – quick to make but a smarter finish. I’m going to make Version A, without the elastic at the ankle, and probably with some volume shaved out at the side seams so they’re a bit less clown-like. Hopefully you can add the tie to this version, because I think that’s a really lovely feature.
This will be out of a khaki tencel from Spotlight. It won’t be something for overseas, just for Spring/Summer in Aus. I have a little cropped bustier-type top with a khaki jungle print that I love, but struggle to wear. I don’t like just wearing it with jeans, because it is so cropped – but until now I also haven’t had any other bottoms it will go with. These will hopefully change that.
Image result for Vogue 1168
Pattern Four: Vogue 1168
I’ve had this pattern for a few years and have never made anything from it because it looks, well, hard. Classy, not something I could just mess up. I love the shirt, but I think I’d reserve it for a sewing class or some one-on-one tutorials because I’m not comfortable with collars. I am finally planning to make the wide leg/palazzo pants though. I bought a RTW pair last Summer, and found them luxurious and flattering to wear, lovely and cool even in a Melbourne heatwave. They cinch in my waist, hide my larger bum and thighs, and exaggerate my height which is all fab.
I’m going to make them from a dark blue tencel with paler tiny polka dots on it. The fabric will probably be a bit heavy for most of Summer here, but perfect in Spring or at night. I think that there is enough softness and drape to the tencel for it to suit the wide leg. They might just be fine for Glasgow/Dublin as well, although I’m not sure about the rain…
Image result for nettie bodysuit pattern Image resultImage result
Pattern Five: Mesa Dress by Seamwork and Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit
I’ve put these two together because I’m not sure which pattern I’ll use with which fabric.
I have 3 or 4 knits sitting at home waiting to be sewn into it, I’m just a little terrified of using a twin needle and all the other fiddling things to be done with knits. We do have an overlocker so that will make it easier, and I really should just take the plunge.
The Fabrics: First off I have two $3 a meter knits I bought on sale at Spotlight. One has a white background with a sort-of abstracted large neon floral print, outlined in black. The other is a floral again, but in much deeper colours (and is a little harder to describe).  Both have a bit of a sixties feel to them. I have three meters of the first and two of the second so I could potentially make both from each fabric.
I also have a dark blue sweater knit with a gold chevron, I’m hoping to make this in a long sleeve Nettie with a high back and scoop neckline. And finally I have a black knit with silver swirly designs which I’d also like to make the long sleeve version from for Winter/nights out.
Image result for simplicity 1284
Pattern Six: Simplicity 1284
I love sixties fashion! The boxy shapes of this pattern look as though they’ll be easy to make. I’m going to try View D, or possibly View E, maybe with long sleeves, out of a bright but dark chevron wool I bought yonks ago at The Fabric Store. I may end up needing to use contrast sleeves, I think I only have a meter of fabric.
I do need to find some lining for this which is slowing me down – although so is being terrified of messing up the beautiful wool. I think once something has been in your stash for over a year, though, you should just put aside your fear – you’re not going to wear it if its sitting in a box un-sewn, either.
                                                                  Image result for simplicity 2365
Pattern Seven: Simplicity 2365
This is kind of cheating because I have already made one version of this top, a sleeveless view B. And I love it. It was actually quick to sew up and the pin tucks were effective but easy. However, I’m going to hack this pattern to make it suit my style a bit more. I’m hoping to adjust the neckline so it doesn’t have a collar, and the neck itself is more open – maybe a v-neck or maybe just a lower round neck. It’s hard to tell in the line drawing but that top darker bit on the center front is a split. I’m also going to make a cropped version, with the pin tucks extending to the hem – this will probably look weird on its own, but tucked into jeans or a high-waist skirt I think it will be slimming. Also both for the version I’ve made and those I plan to make, I’ve omitted the sleeves. I tend to wear sleeveless tops and dresses with long-sleeves underneath in Winter, also with this made out of cotton it leaves it light enough for Summer in Melbourne.
 I have a light cotton with a beautiful vintage-y kind of odd floral pattern, and also a black rayon to make this with. I am thinking of making the black rayon with sleeves with half-circle flounces at the elbows, if I have enough fabric.
Image result for simplicity 8131
Pattern Eight: Simplicity 8131
I do like to support indie pattern makers as much as possible, so I should have bought Sew Over It’s pussy bow blouse (which I have been looking at for yonks). This one was going for cheap online though, and I don’t have much money so I just went for it. It will probably have less-good instructions and fit and I’ll end up regretting it…oh well.
I have two rayons I bought a few weeks ago for a pattern hack attempt, but I think at least one of them will end up being a trial of View B or D. I can’t decide whether I want the wide or narrow tie…I think wide?
I’m sure I have lots of suitable flowy fabrics in my stash, but the other one that comes to mind is a silk or chiffon (or something) I bought around 5 years ago from The Fabric Store. It was going to be a maxi skirt, but I had an argument with Catherine about how to construct it and I think that soured the idea for me (I know, ridiculous). Anyway, I’m glad now. It has quite a big digital print on it, with some unicorns and a full moon, in a lilac/silver/pale blue delicate colour scheme. I’m hoping to have enough for View A, although I might alter the sleeves to just be straight, not bell sleeves (those are bell sleeves, right?)
Image result for no patterns needed triangles dress
Last But not Least: Triple Triangle Dress from No Patterns Needed by Rosie from DIY courture.
Catherine bought this book and when it arrived a few weeks ago I fell head over heels for this version of the triple triangle dress. I love the African Wax print, I love the length, I just think it looks so elegant and interesting. Almost straight away I thought of this scuba we both bought a while ago, which has a cream background and this burnt orange/khaki kind-of striped pattern. It reminds me of pipes under the ocean which have a whole lot of different coral growing on them, in maybe an artsy video game?
I got on Instagram and commented on one of Rosie’s posts, asking if it would be possible to make this dress from scuba instead of the woven its designed for. She said it definitely would, and put me on to Melissa from Fehrtrade who was planning/has now made one from scuba. They were both so lovely and quick to respond, so thank-you guys! I can’t wait to make this one, and if I see any African wax print I’m going to make a version with that straight away as well!
Inspired by House of Pinheiro’s recent Instagram challenge, I’m going to tackle a stash buster in the next few months as well. My wonderful friend Ellie is a musician, and I’ve noticed her wearing bow ties on stage recently. I have quite a lot of scrap fabric in pieces big enough, so I’m going to use this Liberty pattern and tutorial to make some for her (and hopefully I’ll get to see her play in them).
OK! That was a lot! If you’ve managed to read until the end, thank-you so very much for enduring my rambling! And a few questions for you – what should I expect in Glasgow, weather and fashion wise? Have you made or been looking at any of the above patterns? How did you go, or what will you be making them in?
Happy sewing! Helen, x.

Party dresses for grown-ups

This is about little girl dresses for grown ups. I’m an enthusiast of Marcy Tilton’s cirque dress – so much so that I’ve made enough to warrant a blog post solely on the different incarnations I’ve made. I will do that soon. But my latest excursion into dress-up world is Marcy Tilton’s French apron dress. I bought the pattern because I saw it modelled at a craft show. I’d looked at the pattern & thought, hmmm those shoulder straps – quite complicated & not sure about those deep pockets. Then I saw it in person and thought, lovely mix of fabrics & what a great thing to do with left-over stretch fabrics. In other words I was sold.

French apron dressFortuitously Helen & I had an all-day sewing workshop planned, so I bought some stretch knit, cut out the pattern pieces – so many! – & took them along to the workshop. What I didn’t have were all of the instructions. Pattern companies should realise that some less-than-organised sewers cannot possibly get the pattern pieces and the instructions back into those too-small envelopes. I’ve taken to putting the little envelopes into bigger envelopes but this pattern had eluded my new system & the instructions had fallen out, somewhere. I’d looked in all the usual places to no avail. Oh well, I thought, if anyone can make sense of this pattern without instructions, it’s our mistress of calm, Anne from Sew Classy. She raised an eyebrow when she saw the one sheet I had – fortunately that was for the frightening pockets – but she assured me that we could nut it out together.

We could & we did. I’m wearing the dress as I type this. Do I love it? Well, I’d have to admit that I don’t love it yet. Quite. I think the shape isn’t particularly flattering. When I put the original dress on, the back, which is shorter than the sides, looked weird so I added a piece of the mesh fabric that was my second contrast fabric to equalise the lengths. I didn’t use three contrast fabrics because a) I’d failed to buy one & when I looked through my stash there was nothing suitable and b) I just felt it would all be a little overwhelming. This additional strip might mean that the back doesn’t hang the way the original should, but it does look less – well, frankly, less as though something is missing.


Although I don’t think it’s a particularly flattering garment, I do think it’s very wearable. The vivid colours mean that it is an immediate autumn & winter pick-me-up. The deep pockets mean that you can attend a wine-tasting & shove your sunglasses safely away. The dress is made to go with leggings – making it an ideal in-between season wear, but also extending it into winter wear – and I like the mesh lace I’ve used which means that the leggings are also on display.


I think my daughter’s quite right – Marcy Tilton’s dress patterns are little girl dresses for grown-ups. I could put a small doll in one of these pockets, or a shell collection. The bottom is swingy & in today’s strong winds, I felt I might just be blown up into the clouds. There’s something festive about wearing a dress that speaks to your inner child. Will I make another? Now that I’ve actually found the missing instructions sheets, I might.

Where were they? Oh, you had to ask, didn’t you? They were in my office. I had searched that room. I’d claimed to have been through it from top to bottom. The instructions were sitting in plain sight on the auto-tray which holds my (overdue) library books where I can’t miss returning them to the library. They were right beside those books. Quite probably I’m not emotionally ready for tailored suits and knife-pleated skirts….

Not-so happy pants…

Helen says…

As you might remember from my inspiration, I love cropped trousers (talking of inspiration, check out my cropped trousers pinterest board). That little bit of bony ankle poking through makes me feel much more slender than I actually am! Whether you’re wearing heels, ballet flats, or sandals, I just love them.

I’m also a fan of high-waisted trousers, I just find them more versatile and flattering.

Enter Burda 4632, or that vintage pattern Catherine found for 25c at the opp-shop;

View ‘b’ has belt loops and centered splits at the ankles, while view ‘a’ has welted pockets (optional) and side splits at the ankle. Both have darts at the back and two pleats on either side at the front. I made view ‘a’, and in the end left the welted pockets out (more on that later).


Enter major problem #1. All in a fluster when I found some whimsical, lovely blue checked fabric, spotted with daisies, at Spotlight, I asked for the wrong amount. I read a different pattern and got about .6m too little. No worries, I thought, I’ll just make them a little shorter or something.

Enter major problem #2. This pattern does not include seam allowance. Did I read the instructions first? No. So off I go, carefully arranging the pieces so they just fit (when I say just fit, I mean they were lying exactly next to each other, edge on edge). Then I cut them out. Then I read the instructions. Then I cry.


This fabric has no stretch, so I couldn’t just keep my fingers crossed. In the end, I made my seam allowances as small as possible, left out the pockets so there would be no extra bulk, and only put one pleat in the front. And viola! They fit perfectly…at the waist and bum.


I actually can’t walk upstairs or sit in these, because the calves are too tight. Do I have abnormally big calves?? I did try cutting off the bottom legs of the pants, so they finished just below the knee, but that looked awful. So I’ve sewn them back on, and while they look great in photos, they’re totally impractical.

Really the solution is to turn them into a great pair of high waisted shorts, which I will do soon. I’ll update this later when my heart is a little less broken.


Having said all this, I still love the pattern. I’m not happy with the fit at the back of the thigh, I wish it was a little tighter – although I understand that is not how this pattern is supposed to fit, and also it couldn’t be tighter in a non-stretch fabric. I’ve bought some cotton sateen with a slight stretch, so I’m going to try again with this and make a pair for work. I must look up how to keep those front and back folds nice and crisp, however.

Wish me luck and common sense!

Ferns and thread and more ferns…

Helen says…

I always check the upholstery section at Spotlight for bargains, and this was one of those – 100% cotton for $4.99/m. I subconsciously fell in love with this print, and have been back three times for more fabric. Than the other day it hit me why – Sew Over It and Lisa Comfort. In one of the very first sewing vlogs of hers I saw, Lisa was wearing a cropped t-shirt in a similar green and blue fern print. The bright, almost washed-out video reminded me of sitting in a colourful cafe on a Summer morning.

This print is not quite as good as Lisa’s, but like I said, the association is strong. I wanted to make a top and dress that would be comfortable on hot days, but layer-able for the crisper mornings before a hot day. On those morning I might add a light grey base underneath, or a cropped jumper on top.


1. This is the third ‘twirly top’ I’ve made from McCall M6751. It’s an easy project, although it takes a long time to do the bias binding. I was in a rush so I left out the pocket. This one hangs a bit better than my last 2 because the cotton is stiffer, it also doesn’t fly up at the back when it’s windy. I must admit, in this photo it hasn’t been ironed, so it doesn’t look as though it hangs better. But it does, you’ll have to trust me!


If you make this pattern up yourself, I would consider putting a press stud in the back to stop it flying up in the wind. Otherwise, this is a great, easy pattern and the sizing was perfect for me. Really easy instructions to and I can see this working on a lot of different women.

My only problem with this is the bias binding – although I love glitzy stuff and it’s really pretty, it’s also really scratchy even after a wash. Hopefully a couple more washes and it will settle down, but that is preventing me wearing it without a layer underneath.


2. The fern shift dress was a pretty easy pattern to work out, the only difficulty for me being the front seam – one of those fitting-a-triangle-int-a-square type jobs. Having said that, once you start it isn’t really as hard as you think, and I’m sure I’ll get better at this the more I practice. It also is a lovely seam, so flattering for my bust line and shape. So worth it.


The only adjustments I’ve made to the pattern are adding a hook and eye at the back and shortening the length. I also  machine-stitched in the zip, in my own rather uncouth method without a zipper foot. I also didn’t line the dress or use a facing, finishing the arm holes and neck with bias binding. You are supposed to use interfacing, but again I felt the fabric was stiff enough without it.

So I do love this dress, but I have one tincy problem with it – there’s a bunch of fabric around my stomach. Does anyone else have this routinely happen with shift dresses, and how do you fix it? Just scrap the idea of a ‘shift’ and add princess seams?


3. And last but not least, and in fact first in order of making, is a second fern top. This was a self-drafted pattern from a little top Catherine found for me at an op-shop. I spent ages working out how to try and make the pattern and I think I can confidently say I failed miserably. I have no idea how to draft patterns. This is definitely something I’d like to learn in the future.

A really dodgy picture of the original…

The struggle I had was working out how to insert darts into a pattern piece – I could find instructions on how to move them, but not how to insert them. I knew that bust darts were the gem of the original. In the end I decided I would sew the darts in once I’d fitted straps and tried it on. Typically, I forgot – and did all of the bias binding.

I love the idea of this, but I think I really will have to unpick that bias binding and add the darts, because it just doesn’t fit properly and looks nothing like the original.


I also did the shoddiest possible job on the straps because I couldn’t work out how to use Catherine’s tube inside-out-er gajiga-thing. If you know what I mean. Finally, the straps aren’t cut on the bias so they have no stretch to them at all, which does make it hard to tie up.

So plans? Unpick bias binding. Add darts. Take off straps. Buy some matching leather or tubing or complimentary straps. Redo bias binding. Sew on good straps. Wear and smile.

Goodbye for now, and wish me luck & common sense!!