Yoga Mat Bag: a tutorial

How is your weekend going? I'm having a quiet one - I'll be mostly catching up with friends but I have squeezed in some sewing time to work on this scrap buster of a project. 

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I mentioned earlier this year that I have started to attend regular weekly yoga classes. I've been enjoying it so much that I have invested in a mat. I knew that I needed a bag as it's been a little tricky carrying just a rolled mat. I almost bought one at the time I purchased the mat but realised that I had all the materials at home to make my own. This has the double win of taking out a little more fabric from the study (which I still haven't summoned the courage to sort out) and is also more sustainable than buying. This bag cost me £2 purely because I ran out of top stitching thread.

I had a few essential needs when designing this bag:

  • Durability: I can be harsh on bags, especially when moving them from place to place, so I wanted something that could withstand this as well protect the mat. I was thinking canvas or similar. 
  • Ease of use: I wanted a bag I could just drop the mat into and go. A draw string closure made more sense than a long zip up the middle of the bag. Given my preference for the outer fabrics and that the mat is "sticky" a smooth lining would be needed to allow the mat to slide into the bag. 

With all this is mind, I selected a turquoise cotton canvas and some left over denim from my Miette skirt for the outer fabrics. They look rather striking together and give the durability I wanted without being too heavy. The lining is made from a black poly satin. To give the bag some more interesting features, I added a denim band to the top and added the finishing touches with some select topstitching. I'm looking forward to a more straightforward journey on Monday! 

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I took some photos and thought I would share the my construction process in case you are interested in making your own. 

Materials needed

    1. Two circles to make the base. One in denim and one from the lining: 18cm diameter
    2. A denim rectangle: 58cm x 27cm
    3. A denim strip for the top of the bag: 58cm x 5cm
    4. A cotton canvas rectangle: 58cm x 47cm
    5. The strap in denim: 13cm x 70cm 
    6. A lining rectangle: 58cm x 73cm
    7. Cord for the drawstring

How to make the bag

1. Stitch the denim rectangle to the canvas rectangle to create the main body of the bag. Finish the seam and press down towards the denim. Topstitch into place. 

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2. Stitch the long sides of the body to make a tube. Finish edges and press to one side. 

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3. Create two button holes in the denim strip that will go at the top of the bag. As a guide, I left 3-4cm between them. 

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4. Finish the lower end of the strip and press up the seam allowance. Pin around the top of the bag (right side of the canvas up) and topstitch the lower seam into place. 

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5. To create the strap, fold the piece in half and stitch along the long edge and one short edge. Back stitch in the corner for extra strength. Finish the seam and clip the stitched corner. Turn the strap out to the right side and press flat.

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6. Fix the strap in place by positioning the finished end 1.5cm underneath the denim strip. Stitch into place. You may wish to stitch this part twice for added strength. 

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7. Keeping the strap straight, pin the unfinished edge to the bottom of the body.

8. Pin the denim circle base to the main body and stitch into place. You may need to slightly ease the body in to fit the circle. Finish seams.

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9. Create the lining by following steps 2 and 8. 

10. Add the cord to the top of the bag. Insert the cord through one button hole and work around the bag keeping the cord close to the bottom between the denim and canvas until you get to the other button hole. 

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11. Finish the top seams of the outer bag and the lining. Insert the outer bag into the lining, right sides together. Pin around the top and stitch using a 0.5cm seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 6-10cm gap so you can turn the bag through. 

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12. After turning the bag right sides out, push the lining down into the outer bag keeping the top edge smooth. Carefully fold under the seam allowance where the gap is and pin into place. Topstitch along the top to keep the lining in place and seal the gap. Be sure to keep the cord out of the way so you don't catch it. 

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13. Give your bag a final press. Add you yoga mat, pull the drawstring to close and finish with a bow. You're now ready to go to class! 

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Fabric Fox Creatives: Simplicity 2393

A short while ago the lovely people at The Fabric Fox asked if I would join their team of creatives and I gladly accepted. For my first make I made a cute little coat for my mum' Yorkshire Terrier who has been struggling with the cold recently. Head over to The Fabric Fox's blog for full details. There's also a quick Q&A with me which mainly centres around sewing. 

Simplicity 2393 Dog Coat for Dinky Dogs

Puffin Super Tote

This project has been a long time in the making and was my only handmade Christmas present. In the summer Frances, my Mother-in-Law, asked me to make her a bag for Christmas that could replace her preferred tote bag which was getting rather tired.

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The brief was simple: a tote of similar size, pockets on the inside and ideally one on the outside to hold a phone, pink polka dots, water proof (if possible) and the strap needed to be a certain length in order to hang just at the right length. I can appreciate this last point - there't nothing more annoying that walking with a bag that sits too high or too low. 

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Feeling a little apprehensive (I don't have much experience making bags) I spent a number of weeks researching fabrics and looking for possible patterns. I drew a blank on water proof fabric. There is plenty of it available but it would either make a bag that felt like a tent or would be an incredibly boring colour. A pink polka dot exterior was not looking likely so I opted for water resistant and searched for matt oil cloth. At Only Oilcloths, I came across these fabulous puffins (Frances loves puffins) and quickly placed an order. I paired it with pink polka dot cotton for the lining purchased from Minerva. While the oil cloth is rather sturdy, I added a layer of interfaced cotton canvas to add extra support. 

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The pattern also took some time to find. Unsurprisingly there are soooo many tote bag patterns out there and many which featured most of the spec for this bag. Eventually I came across the Super Tote by noodlehead on Instagram. Described as an extra roomy tote with a front pocket, recessed zip and interior pockets, this pattern ticked all of the boxes. It seemed you could adapt it slightly and I liked many of the versions I saw. 

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Realising that it would be impossible to cut the oilcloth without chopping a puffin in half, I made pattern matching the front pocket the top priority. The magnetic snap was added very carefully to ensure the puffins lined up as perfectly as possible. To give a sense of symmetry the gussets were cut with the same puffin at the top. Lining these pieces up it became clear that some piping was needed to allow the puffins to stand out. I made a couple of metres of narrow piping in a Robert Kauffman navy linen. I added this to the underside of the strap too. This is one detail I did change from the original pattern. Instead of two straps on the larger sides of the bag, I added a single on to the gussets. 

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Construction was easier than I anticipated. I used wonder clips for the oil cloth and basted most of the layers well into the seam allowance as I wanted to be sure it looked as planned before stitching - a test piece proved that ripped out stitches left a permanent mark in the oil cloth. The curves at the bottom of the bag are very tricky to sew so follow the recommendation to clip the seam allowance before stitching to help it line up. Adding the interior pocket was very easy although I think I may have used a slightly too short piece of elastic as the cotton bunches a lot. It doesn't stop the pockets from being fully functional though. The one area I did struggle with was adding the recessed zip pieces to the zip as I couldn't easily get them to line up. The most scary part was the final stage - adding the top stitching around the top of the bag to keep the lining in place. It's a little off in places as the oil cloth stuck to the foot despite using tissue paper to help glide it through. 

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I'll be giving this bag to Frances next weekend. Why next weekend when it was a Christmas present? A few days before Christmas I was finishing it up and noticed that the front of the bag had a large mark towards the top. On closer examination it appeared that the laminate from the oil cloth had been stripped off. I have no idea how this happened as the piece was fine throughout the making process. I quickly ordered another lot of oil cloth and wrapped an almost finished bag. It came home with me and I started the process of unpicking it in order to replace the front panel. Not an ideal situation and the unpicking took a long time but it was totally worth the effort. 

On missing creativity

Hello everyone. How is your January going? Traditionally my most difficult month of the year, I have been surprised by how well I'm getting through it. Instead of laying under a mountain of duvets with a never ending supply of Earl Grey tea, I've been able to keep up with everything I had planned - which isn't much because overloading when you're potentially going to be feeling a little fragile is a recipe for disaster. I've been maintaining my running routine and have actually been enjoying the cold evening runs home. Another benefit has been starting yoga on a Monday evening immediately after work - such a fabulous way to begin the week. 


The slight downside to anticipating such an awful month is that you become super sensitive to how you are feeling. One aspect that has come into ever sharper focus for me is my ongoing lack of desire to create. Just a year ago you would find me prioritising making a dress or a free motion picture over doing the house work. Ever since finishing up the items for the wedding, I've not reached the third step of the creative ladder, let alone the normal eight or nine that I'm so familiar and much more comfortable with. A missing sewjo is fine - I've been here before and it is inevitable it will happen again but I have been surprised by one particular emotion that has come with all of this. 

Guilt. This is becoming the overwhelming feeling I experience when I think about sewing, when I see fabric, or go on social media and see fabulous makes in progress. This feeling is nuanced. I don't feel that I owe anything to the online sewing community - we can all pick and choose how, and to what extent, we want to interact with others. Instead I feel awful that I am not joining in, not sharing because I am not making. I'm now struggling to sit on the sidelines and cheer you all on because it opens the wound of not making a little wider every time I do. I'm avoiding our study where my sewing supplies are kept. The room is in an absolute mess and needs to be tidied but the stab of guilt of looking at my stash and all my scraps sends me dashing for the sofa and the safety of a fiction book.


Interestingly, it isn't true to say that I'm not making. I've made a number of items for others and myself over the past three months, all which had deadlines. Getting round to making them has been challenging but I've enjoyed the short bursts of stitching - the 30-60 minutes I can muster. Guilt raises it head when I struggle to get going and walk away from the table. It's also present when I think about how I want to share these items with you, to  commit to the web the blog posts that have been circulating in my head for months, and yet even that seems a step too far. 

I have no doubt that this will eventually pass. That I will find myself spending a weekend in the study rolling fabrics and putting patterns away. That I will find myself glued to my machine making all the things because the urge to stitch is overwhelming. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep the pressure off and see if I can nudge myself to a sturdier footing on the third step of the ladder. This post appears to have come from the decision to not force a post. I start a sewing course on Wednesday where the plan is to draft and stitch a jacket that will get me through the changing seasons. There is some gorgeous wool in John Lewis that is calling to be bought with my birthday money and I have some delicious silk from Vietnam that could work for the lining. The plan is there and with the accountability of the course I'm hopeful. Let's see if it works. 

Refashioners 2017: Simplicity 2442

The Refashioners inspire me every year but this is the first time I have actively decided to join in. It can't be that difficult I thought. Just take a suit jacket, add a few well placed darts, perhaps remove the sleeves or alter the collar and suddenly the jacket will be transformed. Not quite. It appears that I have difficulty seeing a completed item, imaging what it will become and then working out how to get there. Taking the jacket completely apart and eeking a pattern out of it in a game of Tetris seemed less hassle and I ended up doing that twice. Today I'm sharing the more complicated make but check back at the weekend for the other (or Instagram tomorrow). 

I'm slightly freaked by how my hair looks in these photos. In real life it is much more blonde and gold than orange! 

I'm slightly freaked by how my hair looks in these photos. In real life it is much more blonde and gold than orange! 

This item started life as mens size 40R jacket from Next which I picked up for £5.99 in one of the local charity shops. The colour caught my eye - I have nothing against the traditional suit colours but I'm not well know for wearing black, brown, navy or pin stripes. I immediately thought of a waistcoat/jumper to wear over a white shirt during the cold months but it had to have an interesting twist. I turned to Simplicity 2442 - the neckline of which I adore. 

The original jacket

The original jacket

I won't go into too much construction detail as you can ready about that in my previous posts (here and here) To make the most of the fabric, and for style, I moved the zip to the side and used the original centre back seam of the jacket. The sleeves and front of the bodice also came from the body of the jacket. To give a nod to its origin I included the breast pocket in the front of the left sleeve. The middle band and lower bands came from the sleeves. The bodice is fully lined from the original lining and has a patchwork effect as embracing the navy sleeves and grey body lining. The grey lining is a little delicate and I'm not sure how long it will last. The label says it is 100% polyester and I tend to find ready to wear linings don't last as long as you would hope. 

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Overall I'm really pleased with how this top has come out and its construction. The insides are nice and tidy - have you spotted the matching bias binding to finish the sleeves neatly? I had some doubts about how the shaped neckline would work with a collared shirt but I think it works rather well. I can see this working with smarter trousers for a more formal look. The outer fabric is a poly viscose mix and has a much more structured look and feel the poly viscose mix that I imagined but I think that adds to the charm of the style.

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I do have one issue with it though, and it is a big one. It seems that I messed up on the drafting of the bottom band and it is very tight - like unable to eat when wearing tight. I cut the bottom band on the cross grain which seemed to have a little more stretch but forgot to shape out the side seams enough to accommodate my curves. You can see how tight it is pulling in the back photo. The fit of the rest of the top is snug but not suffocating like the bottom band. I'm not sure there is a quick fix to this but I would like to find a way to fix it as I would love to wear my new creation as originally intended. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. It would be a shame to let this make just hang about unloved. 

Pomegranate Cowl by Octavia Patterns

Have you heard there's a new pattern company on the scene? The lovely Jodie today launched the first pattern from Octavia Patterns. Octavia focuses on more modern styles and fashionable designs aimed at the workplace or for those wanting something different to the vast range of vintage inspired patterns we see so often. You could say they are more like what you will find in shops and the hope is the designs will be ones that will stick around for years rather than weeks. 

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The first pattern is Pomegranate - a fabulous cowl neck blouse with short kimono sleeves. I was fortunate enough to pattern test this little beauty. I'm a sucker for a cowl neck blouse especially when paired a black skirt for the office or a pair of jeans for a night in the local pub. Throw in kimono sleeves, no closures or darts, and the knowledge I can make this in an afternoon and you could safely bet that I would be hooked. 

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Pomegranate is very easy to make but you do need to take care during construction. As you might expect, it is cut on the bias so careful handling is a must to ensure you keep the shape and prevent a stretched neckline. That said, you can still whip this up quickly and if you're not sure about how to sew on the bias check out the blog section of Octavia's website where you will find some handy tips. The back neckline is finished with a bias facing and the cowl by folding the raw edge twice and stitching into place. This is about as fiddly as the construction gets.

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For fit, I did make a few changes - namely grading between sizes and also lengthening the waist by 1.5cm as I like my tops to be a little longer. Having worn this top a fair amount there is one more change I would make to my next version which is to add more width to the back - the side seams sit a little further back than normal for me. It doesn't take away from the comfort of the top but it is something I am aware of.

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This version is made from some delightful viscose from Sew Over It. It has a close enough weave to give a wonderful drape while keeping the cowl in place. My original version was in a poly satin which has a much looser weave and gave a much deeper cowl as well as some weird drag lines across my bust. The moral of this tale is to think carefully about what fabric you use - the poly satin version is still on my dress form wondering if it will ever be hemmed and worn. I doubt it will be unfortunately. In the meantime I will overwear this version - it works perfectly for the office or with a pair jeans for a lazy weekend or dinner out. 

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If you want to make your own version be sure to snap up the pattern this week as you'll get 20% off. I doubt you will regret it.


As a pattern tester, I received the final version of the pattern and I was under no obligation to post. 

Great British Sewing Bee Live

On Friday I had a fabulous day out at the Great British Sewing Bee Live. I went with the intention of trying to see everything, to chat to fellow sewists, and to come home with limited fabric purchases. 


Arriving on time with Hannah, we decided to start with browsing some of the shops. There was everything on offer and I found it a little overwhelming to decide what to buy. All our favourite shops were there as well as some that were new to me. It would have been so easy to drain my bank account and come away with metres and metres of fabric as nearly all the stalls were related to dressmaking unlike many of these big shows. As I haven't been sewing much from my stash, I didn't feel I could justify buying without a plan so focussed on what I didn't have but needed. In the end I limited myself to two purchases. I picked six fat quarters from Fabrics Galore for some Christmas stockings I making for a charity sale.  The other purchase two metres of some absolutely delicious wool blend from Fabworks for a pair of trousers. 


We attended the Super Theatre were it was great to see the alteration challenge live. Refashioning items is not a strength of mine and I found it very impressive to see three shirts transformed into girls dresses in just 45 minutes. I also really enjoyed browsing the Liberty exhibition which featured clothing from across the decades. I spent ages looking at the many details in each piece and seeing how they showed off the fabulous prints. 


One aspect of the event that appealed to me was the workshops and I managed to attend one. The aim was to make a faux suede or leather clutch bag in an hour. I chose this one as I hadn't worked with either of these fabrics before and thought it would be a good introduction. All materials were provided and pre cut to save time and an instruction sheet was also provided. The process for making the bag was simple and quick - fold under the lining seam allowances and place over the leather, stitch along the bottom seam, add the snap, fold up the bottom of the bag and stitch from the bottom of one side all the way around the point to the other side.


While it was a quick make and the instructor was clear and supportive, I felt that the session was too rushed and there was pressure for the participants to keep up at a speed that some clearly weren't comfortable with. I came away with a finished bag but it isn't one that I will be using as it isn't finished very well - my snap is off centre, the lining is peaking out the sides and my stitching is very uneven. However, it was a good introduction to working with faux leather and I learnt some useful tips during the hour. I'm also likely to unpick the bag and use it as a pattern to make another but with a longer time allowance. The size of the bag is very good and could be used for a number of purposes - a night out or holding documents.


As if all this wasn't enough, I managed to catch up with a number of familiar faces over lunch and became a Love Sewing Magazine Cover Star - such a fun addition to their stand. 

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GBSB Live have just announced the dates for the next show - 8-10 June 2018. I've already popped the dates in my diary and started a little savings pot so I can take more advantage of what is on offer! 

New blog makeover

This morning I want to introduce my blog makeover!

For a fair few months (read at least a year), I have longed for a much fresher and more modern looking blog but have struggled to make blogger work in the way I wanted. Then the site started to mess around with my photos for reasons I couldn't work out and I decided the time was right to make a move. So here we are! A new look which is optimised for all devices. 

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While a lot has changed, you'll find everything here that was available in the previous format and I've kept the same fonts and some colours. Many pages have been tidied up and refreshed to have more relevant content. The navigation bar is now at the very top. You'll find the search and archive options in the side bar as well as a sneak peak at my Instagram feed. 

It was a little hard to say goodbye to the turtle that my brother designed a few years ago but I think this new design represents where I've got to now.

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I hope you enjoy having a mooch around and do let me know what you think. This is my first time designing a site from scratch (luckily without needing to know any code!) and reformatting everything so I would also like to know if you encounter any broken links or photos that don't load. I think I have caught them all but you never know when dealing with over 200 posts! 

Itch to Stitch Anza dress

This dress began with a conversation in the kitchen at work over a cup of peppermint tea. My colleague was having a clear out and had rediscovered a suitcase of fabric from Egypt, Pakistan, and Africa that she had bought a number of years before but life had got in the way of her plans. She asked if I wanted the fabric on the condition that I gave away anything I didn't want. Great deal, right? A lot of fabric entered my house and I kept a few items - some Egyptian cotton and a few metres of black Africa cotton.

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While ironing the African cotton after washing, I started to get excited and I knew what this piece was destined to become - the Anza dress by Itch to Stitch. I had been looking for an excuse to purchase this pattern and one had conveniently fallen into my lap. It's a lovely moment when a pattern and fabric find each other with ease. 

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For those unfamiliar with Anza, it is a relaxed, unlined jumpsuit or dress with a cinched waistline featuring both elastic and a drawstring. It has a front buttoned V-neck bodice with pleated breast pockets with buttoned flaps and fairly deep side pockets. It comes in a wide range of sizes including cup sizes. Depending on your fabric choice, it could be made for numerous occasions. 

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The cotton is a rather wonderful. It has a subtle diamond pattern woven throughout which you don't notice until you're up close. It was easy to work with making stitching the dress a mostly smooth experience. It does have a down side though - it attracts everything! Pet hair, threads, general dust etc that I can look completely dishevelled by the end of the day! I chose to underline it with a plain black cotton because it felt a little too transparent. The pattern doesn't call for this and it has made the dress crisper and a little warmer than I had intended. The bodice is finished with plain black buttons which aren't my first choice but they were all I could find in Oxford that were big enough. This pattern does require you to pay more attention than usual to the size of the buttons due to the front facing being topstitched into place giving the illusion of a wide placket. The buttons need to be able to stand up to that and anything smaller than the suggested size might look odd. 

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Based on the finished measurements, and a quick paper fitting, I cut a size 8 at the bust grading to a 10 at the waist and hips. I made no other changes although with hindsight I should have lowered the waistline by a centimetre to achieve a more comfortable fit. The other change I would make is taking up the hem a little - it falls just below my knee which isn't my thing but I can definitely live with it in this version. This was my first time using a pattern that offered cup sizes and I liked that I wouldn't have to think about an FBA. Given the relaxed feel for the dress, the sizing seems to be about right.

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While there are many steps to complete this dress, it is a straightforward make. I did find some areas tricky but this down to my fabric choice and just not really paying attention! The breast pockets took way longer than they should have but I was determined to get them as close to perfect as I could and spent longer pressing these than any other part of the dress. The waistband caused the most frustration though and this is purely down to the thickness of the cotton and its fraying superpower. This part is cleverly designed as the band allows both the elastic and the draw string to be added in the same area with (what should be) minimal fuss. The elastic is added before you fully close up the band and the drawstring is added through two small button holes in the same band. A quick note on hemming - the pattern asks you to hem the skirt pieces separately before you stitch the side seams and I would recommend this. I skipped it and found it difficult to get a smooth neat curve with the fabric bulk and therefore my topstitching is off at either side - not that you can notice in black! 

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There's a lot to like about this pattern. I'm rather fond of it's casual feel, the clean lines on the bodice and the comfort of cinched waistline. Perhaps the best part is the side pockets. They are deep enough to be actually useful. I judge a pocket on whether it can fit my whole hand with my phone. I still have room to spare in these! As ever, I have thoughts of more versions in some brighter colours but as these would be more lightweight versions they may have to wait until next Spring...


After a time of extreme highs, you can't always anticipate how you will be feeling afterwards. I had an inkling that my sewjo would be depleted after finishing my wedding dress in March and, if it happened, I hoped it wouldn't be for too long. Instead of bouncing back, my motivation for making *anything* decided to take a long holiday and vanished completely. I believe this was because I needed a rest both physically and mentally, and because I was having a huge internal battle over my identity (this post sums it up better than I ever could). It is only now that the battle is over (I stuck with my original) and that life is settling down into a more normal routine that I am feeling my sewjo come back. It hasn't yet fully unpacked its bag though and disappears for day trips when I try to force it. 

This complete disappearance was bad news for me. Like many others, I rely fairly heavily on sewing as a form of mindfulness to help me keep my thoughts in check. It rivals exercise for being my most effective tool. Discovering that one of my fool proof techniques for nudging or maintaining my mood could no longer be fully relied upon was slightly alarming and made me realise that I needed to expand my creative arsenal. 

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Doing nothing isn't in my nature which led me to I experiment. Over the past six weeks, I have worked on my English paper piece quilt so it now covers half of our bed. The repetitive nature of hand stitching seemed less intimidating - I could stitch a few hexies and leave it. Before I knew it, the quilt had doubled in size. I love how it is turning out.

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I dabbled with some new free motion embroidery designs. I didn't have any expectation for them - good job as only one turned out ok! However, the mere process of doing this has given me some more ideas for when I can get back to it. 

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I've never considered myself as someone who is able to draw but I have always wanted to. Without any expectation, and partially through desperation, I signed up for an online course to learn the basics of drawing. I'm only experimenting with line drawings at the moment but it's nice to see I might have potential if I keep practising. I'm currently obsessed with vintage pattern envelopes and will be using them as inspiration going forward. 

While none of these have the same effect as sewing, it is great to be learning some more creative skills. They do help in their own way and I am looking forward to continuing with them. Another positive is they have been enough of a distraction to stop me constantly thinking about when I will sew again. I already am and have an almost finished Itch to Stitch Anza dress which I'll be sure to share with you soon. 

GBSB Live Winners plus a Discount Code

This post was updated on 23rd July - see below.

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway over the past week. Jumping straight into it with an imaginary drum roll...

The winners of the five pairs of tickets to the Great British Sewing Bee Live, randomly pulled from the box, are:


Congratulations to Rachel, Sabs, Alice's Sewing Adventures, Penguin and Pear, and Batwidow! Please contact me at iwanttobeaturtle[at]gmail with your name which I will pass onto the organisers with your email address. 

UPDATE: I've heard that Batwidow has been super lucky and won two different draws for tickets. Being a lovely soul, she asked me to redraw so the next lucky winner is:

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Congratulations, Jodie - contact me as above to claim your tickets. 

For those you of you were unlucky, or missed entering, I can offer you a discount of £1.50 on regular tickets. You can purchase tickets here - just enter the code BAT into the promo code box. 

I'm counting down the days to this event and I hope to see many of you there. 

Giveaway: Great British Sewing Bee Live

Few words cause more excitement in the sewing community than "Great British Sewing Bee" and there is certainly a buzz building again this year. I'm sure you've all heard that the show is taking on a new format and is going live, yes live, at the ExCel in London on 21st-24th September. 

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The event looks pretty amazing with so much to try and fit in a single visit. A must see is the Super Theatre where Patrick Grant and Esme Young will talk tips for tailoring and dressmaking before a live sewing bee challenge takes place. Fancy trying a new skill and meeting some of the former contestants? Take a workshop! It'll take you time to narrow them down and I suggest reviewing them with a cup of tea. 

Want to add to your stash? You won't be short on choice as there will be over 200 of your favourite suppliers there including Girl Charlee, Guthrie & Ghani, Melissa Fehr, The Foldline and Tilly. A lover of Liberty prints? There's the chance to see some archive pieces from the 1930s through the 1970s. As if that wasn't enough they've also includeddressmaking drop in clinics to help you solve that issue preventing you finishing a piece and a made at home fashion catwalk! Check out the website for further details on all the offerings. 


So hands up - who wants to go?

I thought so. I'm pleased to be able to offer five pairs of tickets valid for a visit on the Thursday or Friday (pick the Friday and we can say hello!) To be in the running, leave a comment below telling me which part of the event you are most keen to attend. This giveaway is open until Thursday 20th July 2017 with the winners announced on Saturday 22nd. 

Handmade wedding stationery

Hi everyone, thanks so much for all the wedding dress love! It was great to share all the details with you and to relive the process. I have one more wedding related post.

Handmade wedding stationary.jpg

I wanted to share our wedding stationery which were also handmade and a joint effort between us. It was very important to me that the day reflected us as a couple and I had a strong desire to have as large a handmade element to it as possible. I stopped at the dress and the stationery as anything else would have been too much. We knew early on that we wanted the designs of our stationery to compliment each other and ideally to involve fabric - cotton as its easy to work with and also leant itself nicely to the venue. 

Free motion embroidery save the date.jpg
Free motion embroidery wedding invitation.jpg

The hardest part was choosing the designs. I was doing a lot of free motion embroidery at the time and realised this technique could give an interesting look. Adam was still intrigued by the Girih tiles we had seen in Lisbon during the summer and shared a few designs. A couple of trial runs later and we chose two designs - one for the Save the Dates and one for the Invitations. We had a very loose teal and purple theme to the wedding and chose a teal and purple polycotton from our local fabric store. These would be paired with metallic silver thread (more on that later). The motifs and words would be framed in a silver card and then mounted onto a A6 white card. 

Handmade wedding stationary 2.jpg

You'll see in the photos that a third motif was added at a later stage. We were struggling to come up with a nice name card design. I originally wanted to stitch the names directly onto card but the machine foot left very visible dents. When our caterers provided us with a very detailed menu for all dietary needs, Adam suggested personalised menus for everyone in exactly the same style as the others. I continued to stitch the motifs but added the third partly for speed but also to prevent boredom! While it increased the workload, I really loved being able to add this personal touch and thought they looked great on the tables. I cannot take any credit for the design of any of the insets - Adam took care of those. He managed to match the colours almost perfectly to the fabric. 

Free motion embroidery wedding stationery.jpg
Handmade wedding menus.jpg

The process of making all the motifs and words was one I both loved and loathed. Tracing the designs took rather a long time - I used carbon paper to ensure I could see the lines in the dark colours while stitching in the winter months. Drawing and cutting the silver squares and rectangles seemed to take too long too. But that was nothing compared to the fights I had with Hemline's silver metallic thread. More often than not, it was a nightmare to work with. It got stuck around the bobbin case or snapped at the needle more times than I care to remember. There were magical times when it worked in harmony with my machine and I stitched and stitched in the deluded hope it would never end. It will be a very long time, if ever, before I chose a thread like that again! 

Free motion embroidery wedding stationary 2.jpg

I love how all of the cards are the same style and how those of the same design are all unique. This is the part of handmade that pleases me the most - each item has its own personality and quirks. I was delighted to hear that they were well received and one couple pointed out that we had included something for both the seamstress and the engineer. I guess we fulfilled reflecting both us as we had hoped.

Free motion embroidery table layout.jpg

In addition, Adam designed and made our seating plan. We decided to name our tables after some of our favourite places in Europe. Choosing a vintage inspired look, he created polaroids of the places and postcards with the names of the guests before linking them with twine to a map. We used teal pins to help tie it all together. The whole thing was secured to the wonderful architects board that comes with the venue. 

Handmade wedding travel table plan.jpg

Thanks for your patience while I shared all of these details. We will be back to more normal sewing activities from next week - tune in for an exciting giveaway! 

Wedding dress - the reveal

Thank you all for sticking with me while I shared the details of how I made my wedding dress. I'm sure this is the post you've been waiting for - how the the dress looked on the day and some wedding photos. Ok, I got carried away and there are lots of photos focussing on the dress. If you want to see more of our day and the venue, visit this post by Gareth, our fabulous photographer who supplied all of the shots below. 

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The first sighting of the dress on that glorious day in early May was when Gareth took it for its own short private photo shoot. I had asked him at the beginning to get some photos of it as I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity and thankfully he was game! He took the dress to the Cotton Quarter where our ceremony took place. 

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This was the first time that the dress had been hung and, without the security of being on me, I was a little worried that the weight of the skirts would cause it to drop. I temporarily added a couple of ribbons to the bodice, secured with safety pins, to give some extra stability while the dress was on the hanger. 

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I couldn't have put the dress on without help and my bridesmaids, Emily and Rachel, came to the rescue. 

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After the waist stay and the top button were closed, we all pulled the bodice tightly towards the back to ease the pressure on the invisible zip at the waistline. Rachel closed the buttons on the back while Emily took charge of ensuring the skirt layers laid flat.

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It was pretty amazing to be finally wearing it! I was completely amazed by how closely and perfectly Kerry, our florist, had been able to match the roses to my dress. I also want to thank Ellie for the make up and performing a small miracle with my hair which didn't want to stay put. 

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Amazingly the dress came through the day unscathed - no tears in the lace and no alcohol stains. Just a few small grass stains from the short walk below. 

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This is an even more impressive achievement when you consider the amount of crazy dancing that happened during the party. 

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We hired an amazing band, Hipster, who kept our guests entertained with a couple of hours of fabulous live music. I ditched my shoes and bounced around for the whole evening! 

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I honestly couldn't be prouder of this make.

Wedding Dress - Skirt and finishing touches

This is the last construction post of my wedding dress! I'll cover creating the skirt, adding the bodice and the finishing touches.

You may remember in the photos of the dress toile the skirt was narrow and the train rather short. I was keen to fix this in the actual dress as it felt limiting (both in style and movement) and I wanted to show off the beautiful fabrics as far as possible. With a limited amount of fabric, the width of the skirt and therefore the length of the train was determined by the width of the silk satin. 

Handmade wedding dress satin skirt patern.jpg

At 132cm wide, the early indications were that this would be close to what I had originally wanted. At the cutting out session, we took the skirt pattern and sliced it up the middle, laid it on the silk satin and spread it as far as we could. By this time I had my shoes and they demanded an extra 8cm of length to be added at the bottom. We smoothed out the curved hem before cutting out allowing extra wide seam allowances. These would give us greater flexibility in ensuring the silk satin and lace skirts lined up neatly when they were fixed together. 

Cutting out the lace skirt was a little emotional. I wanted the beautiful scalloped edges to skim the floor at the front and be complete all the way round the skirt and ideally for the train to finish in a smooth curve. The lace had other ideas - to achieve the smooth curve I would need to clip the lace and add a large part by hand. This was based on the assumption that we would cut the lace length ways and piece the skirt together using applique seams. Seeing it all laid out and imagining how it would look made me realise that it didn't feel right. 

Handmade wedding dress shellet lace cutting out.jpg

While I was cutting out the silk, Chris was laying out the pattern pieces on the lace and experimenting. By placing the pattern on the cross grain it was possible to cut the entire skirt in one very large piece. No side seams, no applique needed! We wrapped the lace around me to check the drape would work and I got very, very excited. Cutting this way would allow the lace to shine as it was intended. There was a compromise though - to keep the full scalloped edge it would have to end in a gentle point rather than a smooth curve. After seeing the drape of the lace, I decided that maintaining that was more important and chose to adapt the train. As an added bonus, it halved my workload!

Handmade wedding dress skirt 2.jpg
Handmade wedding dress skirt.jpg

As with the bodice, the silk satin was mounted onto silk organza. When testing the fit, we took out quite a bit of excess at my hips (a standard issue for me) to ensure that we got the gradual A line. I finished the seams in both the silk satin and the lining with French seams. Alterations were needed to the lace skirt as well - we had to raise it at the waist by about 8cm and ease it into the waistline while ensuring that the lace matched up along the centre back. The back of the lace skirt was left open. Now came the most complicated part - adding the skirts to the silk satin bodice. 

Handmade wedding dress back bodice.JPG

I completed the lining first, attaching the skirt at the waistline to the lining of the bodice. I then inserted the invisible zip to the lining and the foundation carefully keeping the silk satin out of the way. Thankfully the zip went in perfectly first time. Following this, the silk satin and lace skirts were basted to the silk satin of the bodice and stitched into place. The centre back seam allowance of the silk bodice and skirt were pressed under and slip stitched along the zip. Keeping the silk from bubbling at the bottom of the zip was the trickiest part and the thread was ripped out a number of times. 

Handmade wedding dress.JPG

The lace overlay was added next - hand stitched into place at the side seams and anchored loosely at key points along the waist line. All of a sudden, the dress had come together with only the centre back closing to add. It felt like I was on the home straight although there was still a lot of work to complete and time was slipping away. 

Handmade wedding dress lace.JPG

Completing the centre back required long strips of silk satin cut on the bias - somewhere between 7-8m. To minimise the number of joins, I cut the stripes as long as possible - about 70cm - before they became too distorted. I needed two strips at 3m for each of the centre back seams and enough to create about 130 rouleau loops. Despite sounding a lot, the loops were relatively quick to make as the silk turned out on itself easily and were cut to the exact length needed. 

Handmade wedding dress back.jpg

To ensure everything lined up, I basted the bias strips onto each of the lace centre back seams. A quick fit revealed that I needed to let out the middle of the lace bodice as it was pulling too tight across my shoulder blades. I finished the left seam first as it was the simplest - the bias strip was stitched into place with the machine and the pressed towards the centre of the dress. The raw edge was folded under before being slip stitched into place. To keep the top and bottom openings clean, the extra silk was folded up/down and before being anchored by the slip stitching. 

Handmade wedding dress back 2.jpg

The right side was more intensive as the loops needed to be included. The bias strip was machine stitched into place and pressed towards the centre of the dress. On the wrong side I matched up the loops to the edge of the seam allowance. The loops were added with the following pattern: 1cm between the ends of a single loop, a 0.5cm gap and repeat for the whole length of the dress - 126 loops in total. 

Handmade wedding dress back rouleau loops.jpg

Each loop was pinned and then basted tightly into place. The raw edge of the binding was folded over and covered the raw edges of the loops and hand stitched into place. To secure the loops, they were hand pressed towards the opening and secured into place with a few tiny hand stitches per loop. Even though I broke up the hand stitching into small chunks and took frequent breaks I developed severe cramps in both my hands. Once recovered slightly, I began the process of stitching the buttons on to the left hand binding. The buttons are covered in the same silk satin and were created by Harlequin based in Essex. They were super quick, returning the buttons a few days after I sent off for them. 

Handmade wedding dress back buttons.jpg
Handmade wedding dress back buttons 2.jpg

Adding the binding, loops and buttons took three days in total - the only part of the dress I can actually put a time frame on! While the dress features 126 fully functioning buttons, only the top 50 were used to put the dress on. 

Handmade wedding dress back 3.JPG

To fully finish the bodice, I added a rouleau loop and button to the top to help with the strain on the invisible zip. Finally, I was at the hemming stage and went to see Chris for the final time. She kindly measured the hem while I stood in my shoes. The silk satin skirt is hand stitched to the organza using the slip stitch. 

Handmade wedding dress skirt hem.jpg

It is 1cm in depth, double folded and I rolled it back to ensure the hand stitching is completely invisible. The hem was very lightly pressed to remove any remaining pin and basting marks while maintaining the smooth curve of the fold. I did this over a couple of evenings as my hands still hadn't fully recovered from the loops and buttons. The lining was finished in the same way but went through the sewing machine and was fully pressed. A quick review of the dress to ensure all the basting thread had been removed and it was finally finished - five weeks ahead of the wedding. 

Stay tuned for Saturday's post for photos from the big day! 

Wedding dress - Lace bodice

The lace overlay bodice was the part of my wedding dress that worried me the most as it was the part that could so easily go wrong! In addition, we didn't have a plan for it until we got the lace. The reason for this is because we wanted to check the character of the fabric and also work out how to show it off to its full potential. 

Handmade wedding dress shelley lace.JPG

The Shelley lace is a wonderful ivory lace comprised of a tulle base, which has been embroidered with a rich, lustrous thread to form the floral design and is finished with a light dusting of sequins. The edges of the flowers and leaves are subtly edged with a silver thread and the lace has matching scalloped edges on both sides. The tulle base makes it delicate to work with and very easy to distort the shape. 

To answer some of our questions about how to cut the lace, I spent an hour in front of the mirror in my partially completed dress with Chris draping a sample lace piece. The first option was to use the scalloped edge as the neckline, positioning the large design just above the scallops down my centre front and using the curved edge of the lace as the cap sleeves. It looked lovely but the neckline was very high and moving the scalloped edge down looked odd. In addition, the pattern would be upside down to the skirt which I wasn't too keen on. 

Handmade wedding dress lace bodice.JPG

After a quick cup of tea to refill our ideas box, we turned the lace and added the scalloped edge to the waistline. In a magical moment we had found how to position the lace to allow the full design to shine. It did actually twinkle as the sequins caught the sunlight of the fading afternoon light. The tulle base had just enough stretch to allow us to maintain the fitted look across the bust although darts would need to be added at the back as I am too hollow for the stretch to cover it smoothly. In order to have the delightful scalloped edges on the neckline and cap sleeves, I would have to stitch them on later. 

Creating this bodice took longer than any other part of the dress. It required a lot of concentration, careful handling of the lace so not to stretch it and so much hand stitching. Once cut, all seam lines (excluding the scallops) were stabilised with a narrow piece of silk organza selvedge and all stitching lines marked. I found that I had to complete this step in short bursts to ensure that I didn't get frustrated at the slow progress and accidentally distort the shape.

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Neckline whip stitched into place before adding the scalloped edge

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Again, I basted the bodice together including the darts before heading back to Chris' for another fitting. At the fitting, we added darts to the front to pull the lace in tightly to keep the fitted look. My fears of distorting the shape had come true and we had to ease the neckline slightly to a strip of organza 2cm shorter than originally cut. We let out the left side seam to ensure it matched up perfectly with the silk bodice side seam. The final alteration was to take in the back of arms by 1cm to give a more balanced look. 

Handmade wedding dress shelley lace bodice with darts.JPG

I used a narrow zigzag for the side seams and darts. To finish the seams and neckline, I graded the organza and folded over the lace before whip stitching it into place. 

Handmade wedding dress shelley lace bodice side seams and cap sleeves.jpg

So far, the bodice and skirt (details coming in the next post) had been kind and didn't require applique seams. That changed with the shoulder seams. Wanting to make the most of the lace design as well as needing to avoid bulk, I carefully trimmed around one flower on each side before laying them over the seam. The seams were machine stitched either side and the flowers carefully secured into place with tiny hand stitches. I relied heavily on Bridal Couture to ensure I was doing this correctly. 

Handmade wedding dress lace bodice applique shoulder seams.JPG

Shoulder seam before applique seam

Handmade wedding dress lace bodice applique shoulder seams 2.jpg

Shoulder seam after adding applique seam and finishing seam

Stitching the shoulder flowers was a good introduction to the hard work ahead to finish the sleeves and the neckline. Each one needed a scalloped edge added and the width of them was rather narrow. This was mainly for comfort as too much depth would have restricted movement and felt constricting. The other considerations were not covering too much of the design in the bodice and having the flexibility in the edges to allow for a smooth line. To add the scalloped edges, I placed the dress on my dress form and carefully positioned where the larger flowers should go, ensuring no more bulk was added at the shoulders and basted it firmly into place. 

Handmade wedding dress shelley lace bodice with applique lace neckline.JPG

Lots of snips into the tulle later and more grading towards to the embroidered thread to ensure it laid flat and looked like a natural part of the dress, I began the slow and somewhat tedious work of hand stitching. Again, distorting the shape of the neckline was my main concern and I chose to stitch the lace while the dress was on the dummy. This helped keep the fabric in place but it took a lot of odd positions for my arms to keep the smooth line! 

Handmade wedding dress shelley lace bodice 2.jpg
Handmade wedding dress shelley lace bodice.jpg

At this stage, the bodice was still completely unattached to the dress. In order to secure it, the side seams were tacked onto the side seams of the silk satin bodice and anchored at the waistline in key places underneath the larger flowers. The back was left free to allow for the details to be added and prevent any ruffling. 

If you're still with me, thank you so much for sticking around! We have one final construction post focusing on the skirt and my favourite part of the dress - the centre back details before the full reveal. 

Wedding dress - The Pattern and Silk Satin Bodice

With the design of my wedding dress finalised, Chris and I set about making the pattern. We knocked out the first draft in two and half hours by taking one of Chris' standard size blocks which fitted well. From this standard block we made some minor tweaks - pinching out some excess across the upper chest and diagonally from the bust up to the sleeve, enlarged the waist dart slightly, and flared out the hip line to allow the bodice to fully close.

Handmade wedding dress toile 2.jpg

I made a toile of the strapless bodice in calico (the overlay would wait until we had the lace) and it fitted almost perfectly just requiring a few millimetres to be removed from the front princess seams to achieve a closer fit. We added the skirt to get a sense of the full dress. The skirt toile was rather narrow with a small train which was fixed in the real dress. It did feel pretty amazing to try on the toile as it was the first real idea I got on how the dress would actually look.

Handmade wedding dress toile.jpg

The rest of this post is dedicated to completing the sweetheart bodice. The bodice took a lot of patience to complete - despite being simple in design, achieving the flawless look required a slow and steady approach. 

Following the success toile, I began working on the foundation of the dress. It was essential to get this part right as this would take the strain of the weight of the dress. With the bodice being so fitted as well as needing to take the weight of the lace skirt and prevent any stress on the lace overlay, I needed a very sturdy fabric.

Handmade wedding dress bodice pattern.JPG

I chose a closely weaved white cotton twill with very little give to provide the stability needed. In a process that would feature throughout making the entire dress, I marked all the seam lines and basted the pieces together to check the fit before committing to actual stitching.

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Handmade wedding dress cotton twill bodice with boning 2.jpg

Because of the close fit and the fact I wasn't adding cups, the bodice required a lot of support. 

To start I stitched 8mm Rigilene boning directly onto the twill at all seam lines and the back darts. The seam allowances were pressed to one side with the boning added on top - this added another level of protection to the silk satin from the edges of the plastic. After wearing the bodice for a short time and jumping up and down a lot to imitate dancing, I realised that additional support was needed especially at the front.

Handmade wedding dress cotton twill bodice with boning 3.jpg

I added 5mm Rigilene to the front of the bodice between the princess seams up to the point where the fullness of the bust starts, two short strips placed diagonally on the sweetheart neckline and a full strip on each of the sides. 

Each piece of boning was covered with self made bias tape from the twill and covered all the raw edges of the seams. As it was tricky to manoeuvre the boned bodice through the machine, I hand stitched a few of these covers in place. Despite the weight of the twill, the covers didn't provide too much bulk. To give even greater security, ensure a closer fit at the top of the bodice and stabilise the sweetheart I added twill tape - I didn't want to take any chances with the lace overlay.

Handmade wedding dress cotton twill bodice with boning.jpg

The next step was to add the waist stay. I chose a baby blue grosgrain ribbon to act as my something blue in case I decided to take part in that old tradition. The stay is anchored to the bodice either side of each boning channel and is finished with two hook and eyes. I can recommend the clear instructions from Claire Schauffer's book if you're unsure how to finish a waist stay. The final action on the twill was to finish the raw hem. I added a light weight ivory bias tape from my stash to ensure everything looked neat and tidy.

Handmade wedding dress cotton twill bodice, boning and waist stay.JPG
Handamde wedding dress cotton twill bodice and waist stay.jpg

For the outer shell of the bodice, I used the beautiful rosewater medium weight crepe back silk satin. Before cutting into it, I made a change to the back of the pattern by converting the darts into seams to give a much cleaner finish. 

Handmade wedding dress cutting out.jpg
Handmade wedding dress bodice pattern 2.jpg

All of the silk satin pieces were mounted onto ivory silk organza to provide some stability. 

Again, I basted all the pieces together and mounted it to the twill foundation to check the fit. It needed tweaking ever so slightly on the front princess seams. Thank goodness for silk thread - with the amount of basting needed there was a chance the silk satin would snag slightly but this threat was minimised with a new needle and silk thread. 

Handmade wedding dress silk bodice 5.jpg
Handmade wedding dress silk bodice 4.jpg
Handmade wedding dress silk bodice 3.jpg

All the silk satin seams in the dress are French seams with the exception of the princess seams. The curve around the bust was too severe for a neat finish so they were trimmed and locked into position on the silk organza with a hand overcast stitch. The lining, made from pale pink Bemberg, was completed in the same way and construction was uneventful. 

As a cute detail to the bodice, Chris suggested adding a narrow cord to the top of the bodice. I spent quite a long time covering a very narrow cord in the silk satin. It took so long as the silk satin kept shifting and required basting into place before going through the machine a couple of times to keep the width consistent. Adding the cord to the bodice also took longer than I anticipated as it needed carefully placing and handling. Once in place, I laid the satin shell onto the twill and stitched it into place.

Handmade wedding dress piping silk bodice.jpg
Handmade wedding dress silk bodice 2.jpg

The seam was hand overcast into place, clipped where necessary to maintain the shape. To add the lining, I pressed under the seam allowance, basted into place, and hand stitched carefully using the slip stitch. This allowed for a very neat finish and ensured none of the lining peaked over the cord. 

Handmade wedding dress silk bodice.jpg
Handmade wedding dress inside bodice.jpg

As you can see in the photo above, I needed to add an opening to the lining to allow the waist stay to come through. Keeping with the quality of this make, I opted for a technique similar to a bound buttonhole facing. Sally did something similar and I really liked the look. I would say the holes are a little too big but their size allowed the waist stay and the dress to move naturally with me.

Handmade wedding dress bodice wasit stay.JPG

The final step to completing the bodice at this stage was to baste all three layers together along the lower edges and the centre back seams to keep them nice until needed. 

Wedding dress: Inspiration, design, and fabric

Today I'm beginning to share the details of the dress in full. It'll take a few posts to get to the reveal as I wanted to share the process of constructing it. Thankfully, I had a fairly strong idea of the style of dress I wanted from the beginning. I wanted it to be full length, all the lace, fitted to the hips followed by a gradual A line skirt to allow for a elegant, flowing look. I also knew that I wanted something different from the traditional full white or ivory wedding dress - I wanted a little pop of colour but I wasn't sure what that looked like. 

From the extensive internet searching, I fell in love with the Adele dress by Amelia Sposa with its beautiful illusion cap sleeves, vintage lace and buttons all the way down the centre back. I also loved the illusion back although I knew this wouldn't be something I could replicate as I wouldn't be comfortable with that much of my skin on show! 

Adele Front.png
Adele back.png

Source for both photos here

Before committing to replicating the style, I decided to visit a bridal shop to try on some actual wedding dresses. I wanted to be certain that I had the right design from the beginning as I didn't have time to start again if I got it wrong. In addition I wanted the experience of trying on dresses of all styles and many with a price tag I would never be able to afford! In 90 minutes I tried on about six different styles. The experience confirmed that I wanted a full lace dress. It also told me that I needed a fair amount of structure and support in the bodice, that I wanted a longer train that I originally anticipated and that the dress needed to be fairly lightweight - I really struggled to carry the heavy dresses in heels. 

I did find a dress that I would have bought if I hadn't already decided to make my own. That dress is Carolyn by Augusta Jones. I loved the boat neck with the scallops and the gathered lace to one side was lovely and extremely flattering. The picture below is in ivory but I tried on a blush version. Perhaps the most important part of trying on this dress was that it reassured me that my instinct to include some colour was absolutely right. I took my mum, Adam's mum, and my bridesmaids with me to the shop and it was interesting to hear their differing opinions on the styles and colours - there was a strong preference for the traditional white or ivory. Ultimately I wanted the dress to reflect me - and I needed to go for something a little different to the classic traditional colours.


Source here

A day or so later, I still couldn't get some of the features of the Carolyn dress out of my mind so I drew up the design which incorporated elements of both Adele and Carolyn. As you can see from the sketch below, it includes illusion lace at front and back, cap sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, and buttons the full length of the dress. The bodice is very fitted and the skirt flows gently to the floor ending with a train at the back which is perfectly curved. I wanted to achieve a simple, elegant, almost flawless look with some key details. I was sure that I would be able to make this in the allocated time and quickly started ordering samples. 

Handmade wedding dress inspiration sketch.jpg

The trickiest part would be finding the lace as I'm sure picky with the designs. At the recommendation of Twitter, I ordered several samples from Platinum Bridal Fabrics. They have some exquisite designs throughout their site and it would be so easy to convince yourself you need the more expensive laces! At the same time, I ordered multiple samples of the medium weight silk crepe backed satin from Beckford Silk. I've ordered from Beckford before and was impressed with their fabrics. All of the samples from them were subtle colours. I then lost hours to comparing the different colours with the different laces, seeking different opinions. Eventually I paired the rosewater silk satin with the Shelley lace and knew I had my combination. 

I purchased the following fabrics to complete the dress:

1m Cotton Twill (Whalley)

4m Silk Organza (Whalley)

4m Crepe back silk satin in Rosewater (Beckford Silk)

3m Pink Bremsilk (McCulloch & Wallis)

4m Shelley lace (Platinum Bridal)

Stay tuned for the next post which provides detail of the pattern and constructing the bodice. 

You’re making your wedding dress, right?

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet in this corner for a few months. There is a very good reason for this - Adam and I got married in early May!

The day was just wonderful - the best day I have ever had. Our family and friends were good enough to join us in Derby so Adam's grandpa could be there. We booked the fabulous West Mill as our venue and it couldn't have been more perfect or more fitting as it is a converted cotton spinning mill! Some of the floors are appropriately named - you get married in the Cotton Quarter and party the night away in the Spinning Room. It truly is a magical place. 

I hope you don't mind me indulging in a few posts about this day and its handmade elements. I'll start with my wedding dress as the professional photos are almost ready so it shouldn't be too long before the big reveal! Today I want to discuss the one question which follow the congratulations for any sewer - "will you make your wedding dress?"

 I thought it might be interesting, and hopefully helpful to those considering this question, to share some of the factors in my decision to make mine and some useful resources and tips I picked up along the way. We'll get to the actual details of the dress in the next post. 


The entrance to The West Mill

Pause at the beginning

It is a tough decision to make at a time when you are making hundreds. Organising a wedding of any size is a big undertaking and when you add in the dress making process, it has the potential to become completely overwhelming. I can get so excited that I can make creative decisions without really thinking about them in detail. So while I knew, very deep down, that I would ultimately be making the dress, I forced myself to pause for a couple of weeks. I used the time to carefully think it through, to research and to read about other people’s experiences and ensure this was the correct decision for me.


Without doubt, this was the biggest factor for me to consider. We’ve all been there when a project that is taking longer than anticipated. A wedding dress is one of those projects. You need to give yourself as much time as you possibly can especially as you’ll need to build in time for research, receiving samples, fitting, and practising techniques with your selected fabrics. I’d really recommend giving yourself that extra month or two – essential if you have the Christmas break in the middle or you’re considering extensive amounts of hand stitching.

I had eight months from booking the venue to saying “I do” and I was seriously concerned that this would be too short a time. I didn’t want to be putting the finishing touches to the dress the week before the wedding. So I set a deadline and worked backwards. I started the dress at the beginning of November and finished towards the end of March. If I had my time over, I’d have started at the beginning of October as I felt the pressure a little towards the end.

This next tip may sound obvious but it is something that I forgot at times during the winter months. Set your sewing time to allow you to enjoy this process. Build in enough time for short breaks to allow working in chunks and step away when it is becoming a little much. I found my full day sessions were much more productive and enjoyable when I paused fairly frequently. I also avoided late night sessions and doing too much when I was tired as this is not when I do my best work.


Potential stress

This is also worth taking the time to think about and it was one area that Adam asked me to consider. He was worried about the additional complexity and to do lists and therefore potential stress that this undertaking might bring on top of organising a major event and balancing a prolonged busy period at work. What would happen if it all got too much and mistakes were being made? How would I deal with that? I had locked him out of the process as I didn’t want him to know anything until the day. My answer - a sewing support network.

Support network

Adam had raised a very fair point. If it all got too much, he would be on the front line but without the details and the ability to help. I filled this gap with a few close sewing friends who were only too happy to answer questions, act as a sounding board, or calm me down over whatsapp. I’d recommend having at least one other person who understands the craft that you can turn to for help and support.

While Hannah, Leire and Kelly did a magnificent job, I decided to take this one step further and ask a professional to act as a partner/consultant. I’m extremely fortunate to know Chris Eady, a local freelance designer and pattern cutter. I met her a few years ago when I took one of her pattern cutting courses and stayed in touch. Chris is a wonderful, patient, extremely generous and talented woman and I knew she would be able to guide me through the process when I got stuck, point out techniques I hadn’t considered, and hold me to a high standard! It’s not an understatement to say that she is one of the biggest influences on my stitching – my makes dramatically improved after meeting her and it only seemed natural to bring her on board. Going down this route won’t be an option for everyone, nor is it something what you might want to do, but it worked so well for me and it’s only right to give Chris the recognition she deserves in this story.

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This was an interesting issue and one I didn’t think about until I had started. I don’t have a dedicated sewing room and as I had decided that I didn’t want Adam to see the dress before the day I needed to be creative. I ended up working mostly in our study and banning Adam from going in there. While I managed fairly well, it wasn’t ideal as the room is small and quite cramped. If you can, use an area that is spacious and is somewhere you can leave set up to continue working. Cutting out at home was impossible so I hired a room in a community centre for a couple of hours.   


My rather cramped sewing conditions for the dress. Although it is amazing what you can make in such a small space!

Also make sure that the space is easy to keep clean and tidy – you don’t want to find your snips or your cup of coffee perilously close to your fabric (slightly ashamed to say this happened with alarming frequency).


There are many sewers out there who have been down this path with amazing results and have generously shared their experiences. Here are a few that I found particularly helpful:

Sally at Charity Shop Chic

Melanie at Poppykettle

Melissa at Fehr Trade

Ree at Ree Sewn


Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje. This really is the couture wedding dress bible of its reputation. I found it particularly helpful to understand fabrics (especially lace) and handle them and how to construct the dress. As you'll see from future posts, I didn't add a corselette but the content of this book was super helpful as well as incredibly interesting. 

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer. The perfect companion to achieving a high quality finish. I used this book in a hand holding exercise, even on techniques I knew well! 

Closet Case Files Bombshell - a sewing rite of passage

Last year, I received an invite to a hen party - a spa weekend. How delightful! I signed up immediately. Three weeks before the event, I realised I needed a swimming costume but I had missed the nice summer ones in the shops due to the change of season and those that were available seemed ridiculously expensive. What to do? The only thing I could - fall back on my sewing skills, download the Bombshell pattern from Closet Case Files, take a deep breath and attempt to make it myself. 

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Like many, I had lusted after the Bombshell since its release but I needed an occasion to justify making it. Our summer breaks tend to be city based without the need for swimwear. I watched in envy as many versions popped up over the internet including Sophie'sAmanda's, and Kelly's. Seriously, who can resist all that flattering yet softly sexy ruching which makes this a pattern suitable for all women. I've honestly not seen an unflattering version. It's like a cheerleader on the side praising and embracing all shapes and sizes. 

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I couldn't wait to get started. I feel making a swimsuit is one of those sewing rites of passage which include conquering trousers, jeans, active wear and lingerie. You know, those projects that seem to be rather intimidating until you get going. Time to tick another one off the list. I'll admit to wanting a decent level of hand holding while making this and followed Heather Lou's excellent sewalong. Each session takes you through enough steps so that you gain confidence while not overdoing it.

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I struggled a little to find some decent fabric but eventually came across this navy spandex knit from Girl Charlee. A mid weight four way stretch knit, it has a floral design in taupe with dots scattered between the flowers. It's still currently available. I don't normally like brown and navy together, especially with big prints (the flowers are about 4cm each) but this is rather lovely. I chose to self-line the swimsuit as I couldn't be bothered to find a neutral coloured liner. It seems to have worked out ok. I picked up the elastic on eBay. 

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While I had faith that the style would suit me, I knew I wanted to provide as much cover as I could. It had been a long time since I had worn something so close fitting and I was going to be with a bunch of strangers so feeling good when wearing the Bombshell was essential. This led to a bit of head scratching about which size to go for and whether to make any alterations. I went down the internet rabbit hole which confused me a little more. In the end, I cut the size as directed by the pattern without any alterations. I believe the pattern is made for the average height of 5' 6" (I'm a tad shorter) and some measurements of me and the pattern led me to believe that I didn't need to add any length. This turned out to be the right decision as the suit fits perfectly! 

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The final verdict? Does this live up to expectation? Without doubt. I couldn't believe how good I felt in it when I pulled in on at the spa and slipped into the pool. I completely forgot about any body hangups that had been playing on my mind in the days leading up to the party. There is something a little magical about wearing this one piece with a cheeky, playful side. If you've thought about making this pattern but haven't found the time or confidence to do so yet, go for it. I promise you won't regret it.