Liberty Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas

Despite it being one of my favourite pastimes, I find sleeping a really tricky thing to do. For me to get a fully rejuvenating night's sleep, I need a number of variables to line up. Temperature, light, and noise levels are the basics. If I'm too hot, I'm restless; if I'm too cold, I'm grumpy; if there's too much noise, I move rooms almost immediately. Additional variations include comfort, hydration levels, if I'm relaxed enough, when I last had caffeine etc, etc. Luckily, I can control most of these things while walking along a careful line to try not to drive my husband mad with my many demands!

Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas sewn in Isa Liberty Tana Lawn.jpg

The bizarre and worrying warm temperatures of last month brought comfort and temperature to the forefront of my mind. A couple of degrees warmer at night is enough for me to switch from my snuggly winter pyjamas to summer ones and I remembered that I had been promising myself another pair of Fifi pyjamas since the middle of last spring. I basically live in my Summer Rose and Retro Swirl versions throughout the warmer months where they are in a constant cycle of wear, wash, dry, wear... Having a third pair would take the pressure off. 

Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Boudoir set sewn in Liberty Tana Lawn Cotton.jpg

I wanted a slightly more sumptuous and whimsical pair this time. Laying patiently in my stash was a cut of Isa Liberty Lawn I picked up in one of their sales. The fabric was chosen by an academic who specialises in Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and at the time was exploring Alice in relation to fashion and dress. The design was selected because the crescent shapes evoke some of the elements of Wonderland: the Alice Band, the Cheshire Cat's toothy grin, and the dots apparently suggest the shifting shapes and patterns beneath the surface. The dreamlike sense the design rouses makes it perfect for a pair of pyjamas. Plus, I'll take any opportunity I can to use Liberty lawn!

Back view of Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas made in Liberty Tana Lawn.jpg

This pair are the same size as my others (graded between sizes 5 to 6 to 4) and I made no changes to how I constructed them. As you might image the lawn was a dream to stitch (not sorry), going through the machine like a hot knife through butter. I savoured every French seam and got a lot of joy from the insides beginning to look as neat as the outside. Not having any inclination to make my own, I used bright yellow ready made bias tape. As the yellow is so bright, I used it sparingly at the straps and the top of the camisole. I surprised myself with my colour choice as I steer clear of yellow and orange due their frequent ability to make me look ill, although the small amount at the front seems to work well here. Looking back, I would have preferred slightly narrower tape as the width takes something away from the delicate style of the camisole.

TATB Fifi pyajams in Liberty Tana Lawn.jpg

I've worn these a couple of times and they live up expectations. The soft supple cotton drapes beautifully which is ideal for the camisole and feels indulgent to wear. I've had a good couple of nights sleep. While I can't say for certain that this has anything to do with these pyjamas, I'm willing to give them the credit. 

The Toronto Ginger Skirt

Last August, Adam and I spent an afternoon shopping in Toronto as our honeymoon drew to a close. Obviously I chose the local fabric stores over the mainstream chains in the hope of bringing home a couple of souvenir pieces. We visited Affordable Textiles on Queen St W. It didn't disappoint with fabric stacked from floor to ceiling. While I went hunting for viscose, Adam paused at the front of the shop and called me back to look at an interesting pattern full of deep, slightly muted colours which would make a cool statement skirt. Without deliberating, I purchased two metres and popped it into my suitcase. I then spent six months dreaming of the finished skirt frequently worrying it wouldn't live up to the image in my head.  While it hasn't quite come out as planned, it hasn't disappointed and I bloody love it. 

Colette Ginger Skirt made from medium weight cotton with no centre front seam.jpeg

A print like this is demanding. It needs to be disturbed as little as possible with careful thought on pattern placement. To make the most of the print's size, I chose the classic A-line skirt and went back to an old trusted pattern, Colette's Ginger Skirt. This pattern fits me like a glove due to it's distinguishing feature of providing shaping through a gently curved centre front seam rather than darts. However, I couldn't bring myself to slice up the centre of the print and made my only pattern modification by cutting the front on the fold. This change seems to have made very little difference to overall fit as it still manages to hug my lower stomach smoothly and comfortably. 

Medium weight cotton Colette Ginger Skirt.jpeg

I knew pattern matching would be required and chose to focus on ensuring the front and back matched, leaving the side seams to fend for themselves while hoping the busy print would camouflage the seams. Despite taking a long time considering pattern placement and slicing the waistband into more pieces than required to keep a continuous pattern, I was only partially successful in getting everything to line up. The pattern flows best at the front where the waistband meets the skirt and I don't think the centre front seam is noticeable. Basting the centre back revealed two options: a very obvious failed attempt at matching or mirroring the print by reducing the seam allowance a little. I chose the latter on the basis that it didn't irritate me as much. While I didn't think about the side seams, the pattern is only a few centimetres off and looks much better than it could have. 

Colette Ginger A line Skirt.jpeg

When choosing the fabric in Toronto, I couldn't fully identify it. Its weight suggested a medium weight cotton but it was very stiff and had a sheen to it with an unusual texture suggesting  it had a coating of some kind. I was advised that it was a home furnishing cotton which had been treated to make it flame resistant. It was possible to wash it but that would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. I had no idea how the print would look after washing but it seemed a risk worth taking. The cotton softened a lot but kept some of the sheen and the texture. I suspect that it will continue to soften with wear but the print seems very stable and unlikely to be affected by further washing. 

I have no idea if it is related to the treatment or if its just the weave, but the back of the cotton is rougher than normal and doesn't feel good against the skin. To wear this skirt frequently, a lining was definitely needed. I paired the cotton with a gorgeous deep jade bemberg from my stash which is impossible to photograph correctly. The lining is attached only at the waistband. To get a professional finish on the inside, I inserted the invisible zip using my tried and trusted technique that removes any hand stitching. I enjoyed the moment when the zip went in perfectly on the cotton at the first attempt with seams and print lining up beautifully - something that rarely happens. I heavily clipped the inside to allow the waistband corners to look as sharp as possible, helped substantially by the under stitching along the waistband. To create a flawless hem, I diverted from my original plan and hand stitched it into place. I had wanted to machine stitch it but didn't have a thread would blend into the print well enough - the black under stitching on the inside waistband is quite noticeable. The hem is overlocked, turned up by a centimetre and secured into place with catch stitch. 

Invisible zip placement in Colette Ginger Skirt.jpg

I adore this skirt. While muted, the colours and print are brightening up the dull grey days we are still experiencing. The style fits perfectly with my preferred winter silhouette of a skirt and top with tights and boots. It's very well made when I compare it to my other earlier Ginger skirts and should stand the test of time. I get a little confidence boost everything I look at the skirt and wear it. I don't think you can ask for more in a make. 

Summer Shift Dress

It's always a sad moment when you realise you will soon need to say goodbye to a well loved and well worn dress. About eight years ago I bought a couple of summer dresses for the office from Oasis. I still have them but only one has been consistently pulled off the rack, week after week throughout the seasons. I love this dress because of the way it makes me feel when wearing it, it's happy bright flowers backed up by a lovely shade of purple and its fit - which is pretty good for ready to wear.

Shift dress copied from ready to wear clothes.jpg

Recently I have been trying to find a replacement for it and have been trying on various takes on the shift dress. I couldn't find any that worked as well. I came to the conclusion that this is because most of the styles don't have much shape at the front. My dress has long French darts on the front with a bust dart. The back also features long French darts but with a small additional diagonal ones which point towards the centre back seam. The closest sewing pattern I have found to this is Tilly's Francoise but it isn't quite right for what I wanted. 

In the end, I traced off the dress and made it from the delightful Boca Raton in purple from Alexander Henry's Rio collection. You can read the further details including the changes I would make to the second version over on the Fabric Fox blog

Megan Nielsen River dress

Are you able to name your most worn handmade item(s)? I've no doubt that I've said on many occasions that my latest make either is or will become mine. However, this time I feel confident in saying I have found them. A year ago I had the pleasure of testing the River pattern for Megan Nielsen and I have worn at least one of my two versions every week since finishing. 

Megan Nielsen River reversible dress in scuba.jpg

When the call came out, I was initially drawn to how the pattern is reversible. It seemed great to have a item you could change up just by turning it around. Once I got my hands on the pattern I was impressed at just how versatile it was. Would I make it out of a woven or knit? Would I prefer the round or v neck at the front? Should I mix up the fabrics and choose a contrast for the raglan sleeves or add piping for definition? Do I add pockets or not? And finally, dress or top? So many options! 

After staring at my stash for a long time, I finally pulled out an African wax print which had been waiting to become something fun. I knew then that I would be making the dress version - I wanted to show off the print as much as possible. I went very simple in this version and changed the neckline slightly. The neckband didn't work well with the print so I switched it for a bias finish. The cotton makes for a perfect spring and summer dress. These photos are from our trip to Bruges last year where the Spring weather was stunning and I was apparently tired! 

Megan Nielsen River dress in African Wax Print.jpg
Megan Nielsen River raglan dress in African Wax Print.jpg

When River came out for a second round of testing, we were entering autumn and I had just purchased a floral scuba from Fabworks. This time I followed the instructions for the neckband which went in perfectly to create a nice crisp v neckline. I also appreciated the other changes - the hem became a longer and felt more appropriate for the cooler weather. As with my first version, I chose to keep the make simple. The scuba is fabulous and so comfortable that it feels like I am wearing secret pyjamas during the day. This version can be very casual or dressed up a little for the office with a pair of black winter boots. 

Megan Nielsen RIver dress in scuba.jpg

The pattern has a fair amount of ease in the waist - too much for me to feel comfortable wearing the dress as it is. With both dresses, I style them with a belt which feels a little subtler than the fabric waist tie the pattern suggests. The ease is partly why I haven't yet made the top but I would probably size down for it. I'm a big fan of the depth of the hems, which is the same at the sleeves. It adds a decent amount of weight to cotton and helps it hold it shape. 

Megan Nielsen River Raglan dress in scuba.jpg

Another great feature of this pattern is just how easy it comes together. This is a dress you can whip up in an evening or take very, very slowly over the weekend. This pattern really is a winner and I've had to resist the urge to make a version for every day of the week! 

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. 

Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 4.jpg
Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 6.JPG

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.

Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 3.jpg

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. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 3.jpg

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. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate.jpg

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.

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 4.jpg

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.

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 2.jpg

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. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 5.jpg

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. 

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.

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress 6.jpg

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. 

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress 3.jpg

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. 

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress 2.jpg

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. 

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress.jpg

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.

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress 4.jpg

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! 

Itch to Stitch Anza Dress 5.jpg

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...

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. 

Closet Case Bombshell.jpg

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. 

Closet Case Bombshell 3.jpg

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.

Closet Case Bombshell 5.jpg

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. 

Closet Case Bombshell 4.JPG

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! 

Closet Case Bombshell 2.jpg

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. 

A piped satin Granville

I'm back from another unanticipated blogging break. The past few months have flashed by in a bit in of whirl - there are several reasons for it but the most exciting one is we have started planning our wedding for next May. I've been researching venues, florists and bands. Not to mention reviewing multiple silk, satin and lace samples and working how to construct my dress. I start  the pattern this Tuesday. I will share the full process but unfortunately you're going to have to wait until Spring to see the details.

Despite the frenzy of researching and organisation, I did manage to sew quite a lot in the summer. The next few posts will be unseasonal but with the change in weather it will be nice to have some sunnier photos to look at!

Sewaholic satin Granville shirt 3.jpg

I took part in Hannah's OWOP activities but shamefully didn't manage to capture it. I did, however, create a new Granville shirt in honour of the week. My stash had been home to 2m of white satin since our trip to Barcelona where I got it for 8 Euros. It was always destined to be a shirt but I got cold feet about creating it. OWOP proved to be the spur I needed. 

Sewaholic satin Granville shirt.jpg

This make was all about the design and no changes were made to the pattern. To break up the white, I opted for self made black piping. The black satin was a nightmare to work with but some strategic basting and a slow pace on the machine eventually stopped it twisting. It was fun to work with the piping and to be honest, I made up the placement as I went along. I knew I wanted simple lines and the button placket, cuffs and yoke were easy. I paused on the collar - the cord in the piping proved to be too thick to sit neatly at the points so only the top line is piped. 

Sewaholic satin Granville shirt 2.jpg

The satin wasn't the best to work with. It frayed more than I thought it would and it's bouncy nature meant I had to work at a slower pace to get the desired result. I used a mix of seam finishes - French seams where they are visible, overlocking for all others and the cuff, inside yoke and inside collar stand were closed by hand to ensure a good finish. The shirt is finished with small Liberty covered buttons with grey and black leaves. They blend in with the white nicely while providing a little more interest. 

Sewaholic satin Granville shirt 4.jpg

I'm hoping this shirt will get more wear in the coming months. Sadly it is currently an wardrobe orphan as I'm in need of a new pair of black trousers for work and it feels too dressy for my other options! 

What have you all been up to? Any news to share? I'd love to know while I gradually catch up. 

Tea Leaves Betty Dress

If you were lucky enough to receive Liberty coins to spend, what would you buy? I found myself in this fortunate position after helping out with some tartan for the wedding of some friends last year. Adam bravely came with me and after what felt like 30 minutes of dithering, I walked out clutching a couple of metres of the beautiful Tea Leaves B cotton lawn. They were destined for one pattern only - Sew Over It's Betty Dress. It seemed to be a pattern and fabric match made in heaven. 

Sew Over It Tea leaves dress 3.jpg

The modern tea leaves prints are described as "a contemporary interpretation of classic blue ceramic designs using an intuitive, illustrative hand. Inky tones bring a subtle batik feel and echo the Japanese origins of the subject matter creating a story characterised by Far-Eastern influence." I was drawn to the batik look - I love how the green merges into the deep purple background like it has been painted with water colours. 

Sew Over It Tea leaves Betty Dress.jpg

After making a number of changes to my first version, I didn't make any further ones to the pattern with the exception of the skirt. The lawn was wide enough to allow me to cut the full width of the skirt which, with the drape of fabric, makes for a lovely swishy skirt. The fit is pretty good still although the back gaps a little more than I would like - a fact I found out only after I had completed the dress. I chose to fully line this version. This is partly because I didn't want to use the fiddly facings but mainly because of the lightweight nature of the fabric. The lining is a white bemberg and while it is lovely to wear, it is awkward to use. Any slightly breeze moved it when cutting out and don't get me started on how much it shifted during the hemming stage. Still, the effort was worth it. 

Sew Over It Tea leaves dress 2.jpg

This dress took weeks to make as I've found my sewing time rather limited over the past few months and you can tell this in the guts of the dress. The major benefit of this is the dress spent a great deal of time pinned to my dress form meaning the skirt dropped as much as it ever would. As my time got pressed, I opted for quicker techniques which of course meant bringing out the overlocker. Originally all of the seams were due to French seams and I had planned a narrow double turned hem for the skirt. Instead I have an overlocked centre back seam in the skirt and the hems are overlocked, turned up and stitched in place. I suspect I will change the hem at some point and lose a centimetre in length. It seems that this dress deserves better. 

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One area I am pleased with is the zip. I used a pale pink concealed zip and you can only tell because of the zip pull. In addition, I managed a clean finish on the inside with the lining which I'll share next time with a demo of how I achieved it. 

I'm sure I've said this before but this may just be my favourite handmade dress... 

Retro Swirl Fifis

Hello there. It's been a while again since my last post - I continue to be distracted by work and Adam and I took a little break to go to London. It was a lovely couple of days where we had lunch at the Shard with fabulous views and watched Wimbledon next to the river near Tower Bridge.

Tilly and the Buttons retro swirl Fifi Pyjamas.JPG

I took with me my latest pair of Fifi pjs. I have been wearing the Summer Rose pair almost constantly and that's usually a sign that a second make is needed. The fabric is a cotton poplin called Retro Swirl in Cerise Pink and comes from Minerva. I purchased it after needing a cheap midweek pick me up and the print is rather fun. I had thought that some of the swirls were blue and bought pale blue satin bias binding to match. When the fabric arrived I discovered that the swirls are actually purple but the colours still work together.

This pair demonstrates how much a fabric can change an item. This cotton is quite stiff and doesn't have a lot of drape, even on the bias. As a result the pjs don't move so well with with the body making them less comfortable. The shorts are worse than the top and added to the fabric, I think I stretched the elastic a bit too much. I'm hoping that a couple of washes will soften the fabric. 

Tilly and the Buttons retro swirl Fifi Pyjamas 2.JPG

I stitched this pair in quite an unfocussed way for the design. While finishing the shorts, I added bias binding the hem and liked the effect. This led to unpicking the top of the cups on the top to add binding there instead of just turning the fabric over and stitching into place. If you decide to add binding to this area I would recommend you do this before you've put the top together to make life easier for yourself. While the outside looks nice and neat, the inside is a little messy for my liking. Overall I think I prefer the full bias binding finish - it looks very clean.

Tilly and the Buttons retro swirl Fifi Pyjamas 3.JPG

I'm playing around with the idea of a more luxurious pair but that will have to wait - I have other greater needs for a summer wardrobe but I'll definitely be revisiting this pattern again.  

Growth Pond Wrap Dress

This item began with the fabric. Browsing Fabric HQ after the free motion embroidery class in January, I found myself at the counter buying two meters of Art Gallery Fabrics knit. I knew from the first touch that this was destined to become an Ultimate Wrap dress. 

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The fabric in question is Growth Pond from the Bound collection by April Rhodes - it is spring like and the print gives a sense of being in the peaceful outdoors overlooking a large pond full of grass. As we have come to expect with Art Gallery Fabrics, this knit is of high quality. It is wonderfully soft, lightweight, and lovely to work with. 

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the sleeves as this is what I notice the most when wearing my original. The main difficulty I had centred on the facings. This fabric likes to roll and not necessarily in the same direction! I couldn't get the facings to lay flat towards the inside of the dress - stabilising the seam with clear elastic, under stitching, and hand tacking in key places didn't solve the problem. Eventually I ripped the facings out and replaced them with knit bias tape. The problem was solved instantly. The bias taped is stitched down with a purply grey thread and is barely noticeable from a distance.  

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I'm completely in love with this dress and it will definitely be one that is worn to death. The smooth fabric feels wonderful against the skin and it's lightweight nature makes it perfect for a spring day. Although it doesn't hold up well in the wind, as shown in the photos, it is fabulous to wear - like wearing an all day hug and I'm not sure there is much more I can ask from it. 

Self drafted work trousers

This post has been a long time coming. As long term readers will know, one of my main fitting issues with clothing are my narrow hips and trousers are the item that reveals this issue this more than any other. Finding a good pair of rtw without any stretch is almost impossible and results in huffing and puffing while browsing in the shops. I realised that the only way out of this pattern was for me to draft my own and, in January, the stars aligned when a work trip was cancelled and I got the final spot on a trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch.

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Over four weeks we created our block, tested it, made any necessary changes, learnt how to insert a fly opening, and then drafted our first pattern. It took a few tweaks to perfect my block and I'm thrilled that it fits perfectly around my hips. For my pattern I wanted a fairly classic design that would fill a massive hole in my work wardrobe. This pair feature front darts, a fly opening, side pockets, a back yoke which includes in seam pockets and a narrow waistband closed by a popper. To keep the side pockets safely in place, I chose to use a pocket stay. Getting the stays and the fly to look very neat on the inside was a little bit of challenge to work out but it all worked out in the end. 

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Due to the classic design, I decided to keep the details to the minimum - just some top stitching on the back yoke. I wanted the gorgeous grey wool (bought from Goldhawk Road) to stand out. It is a lovely quality wool that is smooth and itch free, and easy to work with. It is fabulous to wear - comfortable yet stylish and perfect for work. 

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Now a sensible pair of trousers on the outside called for a party on the inside and I chose a cracker of a fabric for the pocket lining and stays. The pink and orange are as bright in real life and this cotton had been waiting patiently for its chance to shine. I love how the colours work with the grey and it makes me happy to know the colours are there. 

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I've worn these quite a lot over the past three weeks and I'm generally very happy with them. They are a little big around the waist and I think I can solve this by making the darts a little bigger. I'm looking forward to making more of these and to creating new designs - I just need to find the time to get back to pattern drafting. I have an experimental pair ready to toile to see if they are a good idea or not for me and I'm dreaming of shorts. How do you find making trousers? Have you drafted your own? 

Summer Rose Fifi Pyjamas

Hello, there. I trust you all had a good weekend and made the most of the sunshine. It was lovely in Oxford and getting the suncream out for the first time was wonderful. In anticipation of the warmer weather and thinking about a summer holiday, my thoughts have wondered to my summer wardrobe and specifically night wear. I knew a lovely set of summer pyjamas were needed and when Minerva kindly got in touch to offer some fabric, I found the perfect match of pattern and fabric to create the Summer Rose Fifi pyjamas. 

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The fabric is called Rose Floral and it is a cotton poplin. I was drawn to the pink roses which remind me of country garden and times gone by and this nostalgia only grow when I saw that the print had a vintage/tapestry look to it. The roses are set on a black background - not my first choice for summer but it does lift the pinks well. When I originally received the fabric I thought it would be too thick and not have enough drape to make Fifi but all my concerns were lost after prewashing and wearing these for a night. The poplin has all the properties of a good cotton - good weave, some drape, incredibly easy to cut, press and stitch. I loved working with it and love wearing it. I decided not to go with the self-binding that is included in the pattern and opted for a hot pink bias binding that was in my stash. I had originally opted for a pale pink to match the roses but my machine (for a reason I can't fathom) just ate it. The hot pink doesn't give the fully romantic feeling I was going for but brings a fun modern vibe to them. 

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I took my time choosing which size to cut. While I love a lot of ease in my pyjamas, I also find a lot of them have too much around the hips for my liking. Based on the finished measurements I went for a 5-6-4 combination and it is largely spot on. I think I need slightly more room in the hips for when I'm pottering about on a lazy morning but they were fine to sleep in. 

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For a such a small item, Fifi took longer to stitch than I anticipated. This is mainly because Tilly had the foresight to finish these with French seams (my favourite finish) and you need to handle the bodice more carefully than most of other makes due its bias cut. However, the extra effort for the seams and the binding is totally worth it - it gives you a make that is gorgeous on the outside as well as the inside. The suggested technique for adding the elastic to the shorts also ensures a good finish - you stitch the elastic to a raw edge, fold over twice and stitch in place encasing all the raw edges and stitches. Such a simple but effective way to achieve a smooth, polished look. 

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I'm delighted with how this set turned out and this summer will see them being in high demand due to their comfort and prettiness. I may just have to make another pair to ensure these last! What's on your sewing table right now?

Note: The fabric for this make was provided by Minerva Crafts. Pattern purchased separately. 

The Smoky and Red Arrows Anderson Blouses

Good evening, everyone. I've hoped you've all enjoyed a glorious long weekend. Ours has been lovely, we've spent time with family and friends and ventured outside to start clearing out the green house. It still needs more work to remove the grim and moss from the glass but I'm hopeful I can start using it next month. The long weekend also meant I could get some photos of two tops that have been part of my wardrobe for quite a while!

When the Anderson Blouse by Sew Over It was released, I was transported back to about five years ago. I owned a lovely deep blue blouse with a cross bodice made from jersey and billowing sleeves made of crinkled georgette. I wore it often and hated the moment I had to retire it due to overwear. Now was my chance to make a similar shape and different versions were created when I unpacked my stash. 

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The Smoky (white) Blouse was made first. Given the loose nature of the blouse, I went straight ahead without making a toile. The worst that could happen would be a wearable toile and this blouse is more than that. I made a few changes directly to the pattern - 1 cm to the back side seams, brought the shoulder seam in slightly, lengthened the sleeves a few centimetres based on my experience with the Ultimate Wrap Dress, and graded down a few sizes from the shoulders to the waist. 

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The finished measurements suggested there would be too much ease for my comfort level and I don't like to feel like I'm drowning in fabric around my tummy (it makes me self conscious). The grading down works well for this version. For the second version, the Red Arrows Blouse, I lengthened the bodice substantially as I struggle to keep the Smoky Blouse tucked into my jeans without the fear of revealing too much! I much prefer the security of the Red Arrows Blouse. I chose not to add any hand stitches to either blouse as I like how they flow freely and decided to wear a cami underneath.   

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I love seeing how two fabrics can make a difference to a pattern and bring their own personalities. Both of these fabrics came from the Birmingham Rag Market and were a few quid a metre. The Red Arrows has a lovely drape, is very light and cool to wear. It also creases as soon as you look at it. The Smoky is a heavier polyester with a good drape but has more structure and is slightly warmer to wear. You can see the difference between them in the gentle gathers at the shoulders. 

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The Red Arrows Blouse feels more casual too. It works very well with jeans, not so well with my formal work skirts - that's the strength of the Smoky Blouse especially when paired with a black skirt. This top is definitely a winner for me and there will be a third version in a gorgeous Art Gallery cotton as soon as I've prewashed it! What's currently on your sewing table? 

The Ultimate Wrap Dress

For a few years I have been without a staple in my winter wardrobe - a wrap dress. When my last RTW fell apart, I had already begun to sew my own clothes and therefore didn't replace it. I figured I would make one but that involved picking up knit fabrics. Ah, knits. Apparently easy to work with but also fear evoking for some. I wouldn't say I have ever developed a fear of using knits, more I never found the time to read up on how best to approach them. Having a lot of spare time in between houses changed that and I finally dived into The Colette Guide to Knits. Suddenly my plans for a wrap dress jumped to the top of list for new year stitching.

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My pattern of choice is Sew Over It's Ultimate Wrap Dress due to its classic design. I always note the month and the year I trace a pattern on the pieces (a quick helpful indicator in case my measurements have changed since tracing) and laying out the pattern pieces revealed I had the same plans last January but for some reason didn't get round to making the dress. The benefit of waiting a year means you can learn from other people's experience and I made a few tweaks to the pattern before getting my fabric ready. I raised the neckline a fair bit to ensure decent coverage and remove the need for a cami and lengthened the dress. 

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With my new found enthusiasm and excitement to complete this dress, I chose to live dangerously and didn't make a toile. I thought about making one to help with my lack of experience in fitting knits. The thought stopped when I realised it's only fabric (and not made from unicorn eyelashes) and I could chalk up a failed dress to experience so I chose to hope that the slight stretch in the fabric would cover any areas that might have been too small. Turns out my risk paid off and this dress fits much better than I thought it would - in fact, just like the RTW ones I used to own and my initial alterations have worked perfectly. After wearing it for a full day, there are some additional tweaks I would like to make for my next version which is already planned. These include lengthening the sleeves which are a few centimetres too short for my liking, the shoulder seams need to come in, a smidge needs to be added to the back so the side seams sit where they should and I'll reduce the length of the ties - they are seriously long! 

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I figured that this dress would get a lot of wear and I wanted to it be comfortable, cozy but smart. The fabric came from my stash is a beautiful petrol coloured interlock bought from the Village Haberdashery (other colours available here). The colour is very difficult to capture in the photographs and it has a strong green hue in real life. The quality is fantastic and is soft to the touch, wonderful to wear, and it ticks all of the boxes. There is a very strong temptation to never take it off! It is very stable with some stretch and was a perfect introduction to using knits (I like to start simple and build from there). The only issue I had with it was getting the neckline to lie flat once the facings had been added - a row of under stitching and a long press solved the problem. A very satisfying part of the project was how quick it was to make - I cut it out during an evening and stitched up in an afternoon. Who doesn't love a quick project? 

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All of this gushing means I'm now off to prewash the fabric for my next version (which may or may not be some Art Gallery jersey I treated myself too). Have a great weekend everyone - is there something on your sewing table? 

Green Moss Mini

So after saying there will be delays, I'm back almost on time with a new post! Thanks for all your good wishes for the potential house. All is still going smoothly and I've now turned my attention to slowly packing up the flat in an attempt to avoid that pre-move crush. Well, that's that theory anyway! I've cleared out some of my patterns and fabric and this weekend will be tackling the monstrous mound of scraps that I seemed to have accumulated. I can't quite believe how much of a hoarder I have been with the scraps! If anyone has any sensible ideas of how I can clear them out, please let me know in the comments. Textile recycling seems to a winner at the moment.  

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Anyway, enough packing talk - I have my favourite self-sewn skirt to tell you about. This skirt started with the fabric. I popped into Darn It and Stitch hoping to bag a payday treat a few months ago and they didn't disappoint. I walked out with this gorgeous green cotton twill and plans to match it with the Moss Skirt by Grainline Studio, a pattern I had been meaning to buy for ages especially after seeing those made by Carolyn

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I wanted the twill to be centre stage with this make and kept it simple. I was very tempted to continue my obsession with edge and top stitching but it seemed too much. Instead, I kept it to the back yoke, pockets, waist band and at the hem. The twill washed well and construction was plain sailing as it behaved itself perfectly. It also a delightful fabric to wear although it crumples extremely quickly as you can see from the photos. As this was intended to be a summer skirt, I didn't line it. I'm starting to regret that decision a little as I would like to keep wearing it throughout the autumn but it sticks to my tights forcing me to constantly pull it away from my thighs - not a good look! Like many of us, I wanted some interesting pockets and chose this feather cotton fat quarter from my stash which also came from Darn It and Stitch. It's a shame you can't see them but it makes me happy to know they are there. 

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What surprised me most about the Moss skirt is the fact that I didn't need to make any changes to the pattern. It fitted right out of the packet without any excess around my hips - a standard problem for me. The length is that of the pattern and at the beginning I thought it was a little too short but I got used to it very quickly. The second surprise was putting in the zip. I have limited experience inserting a fly but this method was so easy and clear to understand. I'll definitely come back to it for future projects. I'm very tempted to make a winter version, lengthening it slightly and definitely lined. Another project to add to the list... 

What are your seasonal sewing plans? 

A Simple Nicola

Hi everyone, thanks for the great response to my Mary Poppins outfit. Fancy dress won't feature again for a long time, I suspect. Today, I have a very simple make to share with you. As I was slowly packing for our holiday, I realised that I didn't have enough dresses for the evening to take with me. I'm happy to spend most of the daytime in shorts or mini skirts with a tank top but I like to feel a little more put together for the evening. I don't have to look too smart, just a little more "normal".

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I had a spare afternoon and decided to whip up a simple dress. I had been meaning to make another Nicola dress by Victory Patterns. I absolutely love the wrap and the shape of the skirt and I'm reminded just how much when I wear my original. However, the sleeves, despite being a lovely feature, can be a little cumbersome, especially if you want to wear a cardigan or jacket over the top. This time, I skipped the sleeves and I'm so pleased I did. This version works perfectly underneath a cardigan. I finished the arms with narrow white bias binding, a technique which has now cemented itself as my favourite way to finish arm holes. You can see how this dress came together in pictures here

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In addition to being short on time, I was also feeling a little burnt out from my sewcation. This really affected the way I approached this dress. I decided not to line the dress, mainly because of the high summer temperatures. The hem is a narrow hem - simply overlocked, turned under once and hand stitched in place. This still gives me the opportunity of lining the skirt should I want to in the future without it being a lot of work. The fabric is a French crepe by Robert Kaufmann purchased from Barry's during last year's Sew Brum meet up. It is a fabulous fabric and I will definitely consider buying more in a different print for future projects. 

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The bit that bothers me the most about this dress is the fit of the bodice. After taking forever to fit the first version, this one feels too big around the bust. It is one more indication that my needed pattern adjustments are changing and I have to accept the fact exercise has changed my body and I need to stop being lazy with the fit. If I want to repeat patterns I made over six months ago I will need to check the fit and be prepared to start over if necessary. I think I can get away with it with this dress as it is though. What do you think?

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Despite my reservations over the fit, I love this dress. It has quickly asserted itself a "must wear each week dress". The crepe is delightful to wear, needs very little pressing after washing and dries incredibly quickly. The colours work across seasons and I can see me wearing this in the autumn with a slip underneath. Yay for versatile makes! Are you sewing this weekend? If so, what's on your sewing table?

Back to Pink: A Belcarra

Well, hello there. It feels a little bit like it has been long time, no speak as I took as I took a little blogging break to coincide with returning from my holiday. I’m back now and will be sharing with you the rest of the makes from my sewcation over the next few weeks with a fancy dress costume thrown in for good fun.

Long-term readers will know that I have an odd relationship with tops. For some reason, I can never find ones that I like. There is always something that puts me off buying or designing them – perhaps I’m just too picky? Anyway, an additional top, at the very minimum, was needed for my capsule holiday wardrobe and I chose to repeat Sewaholic’s Belcarra.

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The eagle eyed among you might notice that the fabric is different to the one I had planned. The main reason for this is the Liberty lawn didn’t match the rest of my makes as well as this pink. The fabric is an unknown cotton mix with embroidered flowers over two different tones of pink. I found it in one of my local charity shops for £6 when I was stocking up on old sheets to make toiles with. It had been overlocked into a tube with a rectangle of black cotton added to the top. The black cotton had faded badly and wasn’t worth saving but there was enough of the pink to make a top.

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While I was right about the amount of fabric, I had to spend quite a bit of time working out how to cut the pattern and make the most of the flowers. Because the two pinks are separated by a definite line, I needed to make sure it, and the flowers, lined up. This left small pieces for the sleeves and I just managed to squeeze them out in the lighter pink. I even managed to get a flower on each of the sleeve cuffs.

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I made a number of alterations on this version. On the paper pattern, I raised the neckline a couple of centimeters. The one thing that really annoys me about my first version is how the top falls off one of my shoulders. (Being hand wash only is also super annoying). Trying this one on after completion showed that I probably need to take the neckline up another 1.5cm in future. It also revealed that the pattern was one- two sizes too big around my waist. I hadn’t noticed this with the silk version due to the silk’s drape but it was glaringly obvious in this cotton mix. To make it fit, I kept taking in the side seams until I was happy with the fit.

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As you can see in the photos, the fabric crumples badly. The photos were taken after wearing the top for half a day, most of which was spent walking around Lucca. We visited the garden of Palazzo Pfanner which was beautiful and quiet enough to get a few snaps for this post without the risk of another tourist photo bombing. Lucca is a worth a visit if you’re in the area and I preferred it to Pisa.

Anyway, back to the top. The sheen of the fabric and the flowers means I can wear this top in a number of ways. It feels as at home with jeans and other casual trousers as it does with a smart black skirt. I still like the shape of the top, and with some customisation, I can see a few more of these coming out of my machine in the future but how quickly depends on when I can summon the energy to retrace the pattern…

A Polka Dot Vintage Shirt Dress

Hi there. Have you had a good week? Mine has been rather tiring and trying as I strived to complete a massive pre-holiday to list at work. But that none of that matters anymore as the out of office is on and I can finally unwind and get excited about being on holiday. I'm also excited to share this make with you.

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Hot off the heels of my first Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress, is another version. I hadn't planned to make another so quickly and this was the surprise make of my sewcation. I totally blame the fabric. I had popped into Masons to get buttons for my sleeveless Granville and spotted the polka dots hiding underneath the counter. After thinking that polka dots should never be stored out of the way, I spotted this dusty pink and white beauty. I knew immediately what it would become. I honestly don't think I have ever put fabric into pre wash as quickly as I did with this, that is how excited I was to use it! 

Thankfully through the excitement came a little voice reminding me to lower the arm holes a little. They fit much better in this version although I should have taken them a tad lower to be fully comfortable. 

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Due to the easy nature of cotton, this dress took no time to complete. The most time consuming part were the buttonholes. When buying the fabric, I decided to get the buttons too. I chose small white ones and knew that I would need more than the eight suggested by the pattern. I settled on twelve. Making the button holes reminded me of a lesson I knew but had forgotten. Sewing machines are, rightly, fussy eaters. I had the prefect matching pink thread that made the white buttons stand out from the fabric. Sadly I couldn't complete my plan as the thread is of poor quality and my machine just churned it up or snapped it with amazing ease. After the second failed attempt I switched to white thread. Lesson firmly re-learnt! 

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I lowered the hem by 1.5cm on this version and used my blind hem foot. I did manage to use the pink thread for this and it worked well although it did snap a couple of times. This should have been fair warning for the button holes as I hemmed the dress before adding them. The hem is pretty neat on the outside so no one will know that the inside isn't quite up to scratch. 

Needless to say, I absolutely adore this dress. I seem to have settled on styling it with a white belt and pink sandals or white flats. It feels very 1950s, or Sandy before she met Danny as one of my colleagues told me. Do you agree?