The last dress of summer…

Good Golly, Miss Molly – it’s October! Coat-weather has arrived seemingly out of nowhere, stews are back on the menu and my pockets keep filling up with ‘ooh-that’s-a-shiny-one’ conkers.

I do however have one last glimpse of summer to share with you before we leave that heavenly season behind. It’s a Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress I actually made right at the start of May, but have mostly been too busy wearing to blog.


Tilly and the Buttons striped Coco 7.jpg

So first I’ll let you in on a secret – I used to think stripes were a bit, well, boring. I only wanted to wear things with big splashy prints, or fascinating intricate ones – prints that told stories. Stripes were just about acceptable if they were multi-multicoloured – but black and white? Navy? Dull! Even watching Coco Before Chanel had not been enough to convince me, because, let’s face it, Audrey Tautou could make an old sack look chic, let alone some Breton stripes.

But that was the old me, and she was a fool. The change began about a year ago with my first Agnes top. As I pranced about in that I gradually began to realise the power of the stripe. So … simple. So … easy. So … je ne sais quoi. And lo and behold, I was a stripe convert. Which is why over the past few months this blog has seen a striped cardigan, a striped Papercut turtleneck, a striped sweater, a striped Archer shirt, a striped Negroni shirt, a striped shirt refashion… and now a striped Coco. I saw the stripe – now I’m a believer.

Anyway, back to the pattern: I cut a size 3, but then took it in down the sides and the arms (but made minimal alteration to the armscye and none to the neckline) to create a closer fit. I also made it quite a bit shorter; too short as I belatedly realised – whenever the weather was warm enough for a mini dress, the dress was over-warm. I’d been inspired by some Boden striped knit dresses but really struggled to find a knit of the right stripe. This one came from Sew Over It; it’s a medium-weight poly/spandex which meant it was perfect for cooler days but a bit too synthetic for when the temperature picked up.

I’d recently discovered the concept of ‘pancaking’ my plait…
The cream stripes are actually ridges, which give a great texture and make the dress feel that little bit smarter – although they are now becoming slightly tufty…

Being a sucker for a cliché I couldn’t help but wear my nautical stripes down to the seaside, completing my outfit with – what else – a pair of deck shoes. Thank goodness there weren’t any actual sailors around to witness my sartorial tomfoolery. There was however a handy selection of their boats to casually lean against.

Tilly and the Buttons striped Coco.jpg


That’s it for this summer then, *sob*. It’s hard to accept, particularly given I’ve spent the past week preparing a sewn capsule wardrobe for my mother’s upcoming tropical adventure in south-east Asia, and therefore handling light linens and lawns. But I feel comforted when I take a peek inside my fabric chest and see denim, corduroy, wool, rich luxuriant prints and jewel colours, even, ahem, some stripes… well, whoops, I’d better get my sew on! x


The Refashioners 2016 – my ‘Jeanius’ entry!



As I write, the deadline for the Refashioners 2016 is fewer than 3 hours away. I feel like I’m bashing out this post like a last-minute essay – J’s teasing me for being such an arts student, always fired up by the pressure of a looming deadline. But you know what? I finished my entry a few hours ago. Finished with hours to spare? That’s an achievement in my book.

To be honest though, I’d sort of left it this late on purpose. I LOVED last year’s Refashioners challenge and it got me absolutely hooked on the whole refashioning business. I refashioned 4 shirts for that contest; since then I’ve turned 3 pairs of jeans into a comprehensive tool storage solution, two old dresses into children’s clothes for charity, a man’s shirt into an off-the-shoulder top and a Japanese kimono into a wrap dress. But the subject of this year’s challenge, jeans, had me rather panicked. Firstly, the last and only time I’d brought my trusty old Brother into contact with denim it had had a meltdown and required emergency treatment for a serious tension ailment. Secondly, my formative years involved some slightly dubious trends in denim, trends I was loathe to revisit…

Image result for bewitched denim

Image result for britney justin denim
What is it with the denim stetsons?

So, yeah. I felt pretty daunted.

But hell, I love refashioning, and I wanted again to be part of an fantastically fun community challenge. I mean, the worst that could happen would be ending up looking like the fifth member of B*witched two decades too late, with a broken sewing machine. No biggie.

I was really taken by a fitted denim shirt-dress worn by Alexa Chung (actually, any denim worn by Alexa Chung) and decided that was my route. As I’ve mentioned before here, I love my refashions to include a nod to their original state, and thus I wanted to use the jeans, not just the denim. At the same time I really wanted to make something I would wear and wear, even if it meant making something too simple to wow and win. So I scoured the local charity shops for three pairs of jeans in a matching shade of dark denim. Amazingly, I managed to find two similar pairs of ladies flares that offered beautiful fabric with slight stretch, and the flare lines were exactly in keeping with the A-line look I was aiming for. I purchased a third pair, these ones men’s, just in case.

Using my sloper I drafted the dress pattern myself, with princess seams from the shoulder and a button band down the centre front. 8 panels – 1 for each trouser leg half from my 2 pairs! I allowed a decent amount of ease as I want to be able to wear layers underneath the dress this winter. The length of the flares from pockets to hem was just long enough to fit my short body – thank you, tall people! And so I was able to use the original hems. The really pleasing part was how the marks on the denim (slight lines for the backs of the knees, fading on the front of the thighs) could be incorporated into the design of the dress – the knee lines now sit across the centre-back waist and the lighter shading down the side panels for a (hopefully!) slimming effect.



I also used the original waistband off one pair as my top button band. It was tricky because the band had a slight curve, but I put an invisible nick in the shorter edge and stretched it whilst top-stitching so now it sits straight. The under button band uses leftover denim from one of the pairs of flares – using the other waistband would have been too bulky. My buttonhole foot couldn’t cope with the bulk as it was, so the buttonholes were done with bar tacks. I managed to get a whole pack of old Jigsaw jeans buttons in a bargain bin at the Tooting Craft Superstore. Oh, and I shaved down the pockets off one pair of jeans and assigned them a new home on the bust of the dress…


I then top-stitched each of the princess seams, on both sides, because brassy top-stitching is such an intrinsic feature of classic jeans I wanted to echo it here. Ditto with the bias-binding-finished armholes and collar. The collar is actually the only part which comes from that pair of men’s jeans. Which means leftover denim. Which means… more refashioning!

Then came the really fun part, the embroidery! I was so inspired by images across Pinterest of embroidered jeans and jackets – flowers, skulls, slogans – all in glorious bold colour leaping off the denim. (It’s funny, isn’t it, how denim acts as a neutral against all other colours? A pair of blue cotton trousers simply wouldn’t work the same way.) Anyway, I tried satin stitch for the first time, only stitched through my finger once and am seriously proud of the result. I made up the design as I went along, adding in more and more flowers until it seemed finished.



And then I did the front.




It was actually a good thing I only had a few hours left to enter the dress, or else I think I would never have stopped embroidering. Anyway, finished it is, and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it. Once again, I’ve loved taking part, loved seeing everyone else’s wonderful makes and loved being stretched – new fabric, new skills and techniques. My machine did a stellar job with the denim and now I feel fired up to go away and refashion myself some dungarees, denim pinafores, denim shorts, denim shoes… x


Japanese Kimono refashion

Hey, ho, it’s Monday again. Still, I can’t feel despondent whilst my heap of new fabrics sits brightly in the corner, reminding me of the fun of Saturday’s Sew Brum get-together. For those of you abroad, Brum means Birmingham, and for me, it now means Guthrie and Ghani, the fabric shop of brainwashing loveliness. I say brainwashing because I really, really didn’t need any new fabric at this time, and really, really, really do need to try and keep it together on the bank balance front, and yet, richer in fabric and poorer in, well, the usual way, I can’t summon up even a smidgen of regret. Not a pinhead’s worth. It must’ve been something in the tea.

Anyhoo, I promised you last week a post about my refashioned kimono wedding outfit, a garment that cost me nothing more than a reel of thread and made me feel like the million dollars I practically spent in Guthrie and Ghani.


J spent a year living in Japan and this kimono was a gift from his host family to his mother when she went out to visit. Actually it had previously belonged to the daughter of the family, but apparently her newly divorced status was incompatible with this kimono’s style. (I’d be fascinated to learn more about the different kimono features and how they reflect social statuses…) It’s wasn’t a piece one could simply throw on as a dressing gown, and so it’s spent years admired, but wrapped and unworn. How exciting it was, and satisfying, to give something so beautiful the new lease of life and fresh purpose it deserved!



The kimono consisted of 4 main pieces of cloth (2 for the body and 2 for the sleeves), plus 2 long rectangular collar pieces, and a silk lining throughout. All the other shaping was created with folds; once I’d unpicked the folds the full fabric length was around eight feet.


The entire thing was meticulously handstitched; the invisibility of some of the stitching was simply astounding. It also came wrapped in this rather wonderful hand-painted paper.

I’d known from the moment I saw it that it should only make a full-length dress; I couldn’t envisage myself wasting those fabulous long panels. I also knew I wanted a style that would honour the original garment; I enjoy the challenge of refashioning in a way that’s more than just reusing fabric. Consequently I settled on the idea of a wrap dress, with grown-on, or ‘kimono’, sleeves. I’m going to be a bit dull and descriptive now, so feel free to skip ahead to the pretty pictures 😉

I started by completely dismantling the kimono; detaching the sleeves, the collars and the lining. I then cut the kimono in two around the waist area, giving me a rectangle for the wrap skirt. The longer of the collar pieces became the waist tie, but because I wanted the painted flowers to appear on the front, I cut the piece into two and rearranged them before reattaching. The original ‘bodice’ area was retained; I wanted to keep the shoulders seamless and to keep the painted flower on the left breast. I actually used my By Hand London Anna dress bodice as a starting point; the back is pretty much straight up Anna, whilst the front uses the double tucks but has a newly drafted wrap. The shoulders are also obviously altered in order to avoid any seam; I simply laid the pattern pieces down matching them at the neckline and drew in a new sleeve.

The skirt was far too wide and voluminous at the waistline so I added shaping via new side seams and back darts. The skirt and the bodice are attached to each other directly, with the waistband stitched on top. The left-hand skirt portion however extends further over than the bodice; I wanted the bodice pieces to be low-cut and only just cross over each other, but the skirt obviously had to wrap further for modesty’s sake. The left-hand portion is finished with a rouleau loop that attaches to a button on the inside of the right-hand portion.

I then hand-stitched the waistband/tie across the right front only; it otherwise hangs freely allowing it to wrap across the left and tie at the centre back. The ends were hand-finished.

I machine hemmed the sleeves but then opted for hand-stitching the neckline and bottom hem. I tried to mimic the immaculate running stitch I’d found in the original; I can’t say I completely succeeded on the immaculate front but I’m pleased nevertheless. The stitching is neat and, I hope, echoes the sense of craftsmanship that lay behind the original garment.

The original hand-stitched centre-back seam

My hand-stitched neckline hem
Whilst it required a bit of head-scratching, it wasn’t a difficult make overall and I’m so pleased with the result. Moreover, the brilliant bright green is not a shade I would ever have chosen for myself, but I was surprised by how much I liked it. The only downside is it’s definitely NOT an outfit to wear on a windy day; I spent much of the wedding with one hand clutching a glass of bubbly and the other my skirt…



The wedding was held in an extraordinarily beautiful hilltop castle, and I felt like a Bond girl wandering the grounds in my extravagant gown. Like a really short, windswept Bond girl.


I’ve got to dash now because I’ve only just started my Refashioners entry and, gulp(!), the deadline is Friday! So, ciao for now! x

Under the Tuscan sun: McCalls 6696




Ciao, bellas! It’s been just under a week since I returned from a wonderful few days in Tuscany, centred around a friend’s fabulous wedding and involving so much bruschetta I am probably now 20% tomato.

I had bought this pattern and this Fabergé egg-inspired Liberty lawn way back at the start of summer 2015, but for some reason the two languished unmade for five seasons. I couldn’t bear to leave the pair for another year, so whipped up this dress for our trip, knowing it would be the last hurrah of summer. In spite of the Russian inspiration, I also feel there’s something rather fittingly Italianate about the print.

It’d been a while since I’d tried a new big 4 pattern, and I’d forgotten the whole mega-ease business, so the dress (size 12, C-cup) is definitely on the roomy side. But nipping in the waist with a belt mostly fixes that, and anyway, it leaves more room for bruschetta.

We started taking photos in this lovely park, but it seemed like every mosquito in Tuscany suddenly arrived for a Nina-feast and I basically had to hotfoot it away after a couple of shots with rapidly swelling legs. Not pretty.

This is a hugely popular pattern amongst the blogosphere, so I won’t go into further construction details except to add that I folded out the gathering where the back meets the yoke (leaving some gathering at the back waist) following the example of Fiona at Diary of a Chain Stitcher, raised the waistline by a sizeable 1.5″ (it probably should’ve been 2″) and shaved 4″ off the length. The short length did result in a bonus knicker show for anyone behind me on the breezy ladders to the top of the Torre del Mangia, but a spot of inadvertent flashing has never put me off my stride. 




Siena was marvellous. I’m one of those terribly backward people that can’t really understand the point of modern architecture and so all that unadulterated oldness was right up my (narrow, winding, cobbled) street. Walking the city was like watching a firework display; after a while you simply run out of oohs and aahs, even though the next thing is always more incredible than the last. Bellissima!

Anyhoo, I’ve two more Italian outfits to share with you over the next few days, including the dress I wore to the wedding – a refashioned kimono! x

Where we stayed: All’ombra della Torre. Where we ate: Antica Osteria da Divo.

Simple Sew Bardot Dress – tips for adding a broderie anglaise overlay




It’s quite incredible to me that I managed to sew anything this month in between all my obsessive Olympics-watching, gasping and cheering. Sometimes I wish the Olympics was on ALL the time, and other times I’m so grateful on behalf of my productivity that it’s not. Anyway, in the productivity versus watching-all-the-cycling battle I’m pleased to say productivity just about came out on top and this beaut of a dress is the result. It’s my first make as part of the Simple Sew blogging team (woop!). The Bardot Dress really is a simple sew, so of course I had to complicate matters with a broderie anglaise overlay. The broderie anglaise came courtesy of the wonderful White Tree fabrics, and I used a Paul Smith navy poplin from Fabrics Galore for the base fabric. I did spend a bit of time figuring the ins and outs of adding this overlay, so thought I would share my tips and tricks with you below.

First things first, when cutting – should you wish to use the scalloped edge of your broderie anglaise for the hem of the skirt you can simply align the skirt pieces to the bottom and omit the upwards curve of the hemline by continuing the side seam to the scallops. (Beware: this works because the Bardot skirt loses a lot of its flare once pleated; it wouldn’t work on a more flared skirt.) Don’t forget if you’re doing this to check in advance the length you wish the skirt to be; you can see I’ve ignored the hem allowance of the skirt pattern piece with this placement as I wanted a slightly longer skirt length, but you may want to remove the hem allowance from your pattern piece before cutting.

I’d like to say that the uneven lay of the fabric along the bottom edge was a deliberate attempt to show you both layers, but that would be a lie. Oops.
The Bardot dress comes with two sleeve options: cap or mid-length. The cap would be impossible to cut with a scalloped edge, but the mid-length sleeve has a straight hemline which is just begging for scallops (now there’s an odd phrase). You can use the full length of the pattern piece or do as I did and shorten it like so:


I cut the pieces identically out of the navy poplin, with the exception of the sleeves as I wanted those to be a single layer only. I cut the poplin skirt to the same length as the broderie anglaise even though I knew I wanted it shorter, so I could adjust the difference at the hemming stage. Once you have cut your pieces it’s time to tackle those pleats and darts. You’ll want to treat the two fabrics as one at this point, so no seam allowance shows through your outer layer. The trick to this is pins, pins, pins (you could even run lines of long tacking stitches at criss-crosses across the pieces if your fabrics are particularly shifty).

Your darts and pleats should come out looking like this:

Stitch the sleeve pieces to the bodice and press the seams to the inside of the bodice, out of sight.

It’s helpful to adjust the construction order of the dress at this point to accommodate your overlay. Instead of stitching the skirt panels to the bodice panels and then doing the long side seams, stitch the bodice sides and the skirt sides separately. This enables you to finish the skirt pieces as two separate layers, which gives the skirt more movement and frees up the underskirt for hemming. The outer and under skirt pieces are already attached at the pleats, so you just need to keep them separate as you sew up the independent side seams. Don’t forget you want both seams (underskirt and overlay) facing the same direction, so right sides together in both cases. Use the pleats to guide you if things get confusing!

Pinning the underskirt side seam, with the overlay well out of the way.

Pinning the overlay side seam, with the already-pinned underskirt seam well out of the way.
After finishing and pressing your seams, it’s helpful to do a basting stitch all along the skirt waistline to hold the two skirts together, being sure to match the seams. Then you are ready to pin the skirt to the bodice, matching the darts to the pleats and side seam to side seam. You’ll be sewing through four layers of fabric here, and even more at the darts etc.

All that’s remains to do now is insert the zip and hem the underskirt! You’ll once again treat the two fabrics as one when it comes to the zip insertion. If you wish to add a ribbon waistband as I did, stitch this on before you insert your zip so the ends are sealed inside.

I added a grosgrain ribbon to accentuate the waistband, with a little hand-stitched bow at the centre front. 
Below the zip you can then return to independent seams for the under and outer skirts. Finally, I hemmed my navy underskirt a good few inches higher than the hem of the broderie anglaise.

Eh, voila! Adding an overlay to a dress is as simple as that! The Bardot Dress is perfect for showcasing such dainty fabric and I feel positively Kate Middleton-esque in the white and navy combo. (Except I’m not sure Kate Middleton flashes quite so much shoulder!) Anyhoo I even created a little garden tea party on our terrace in this dress’s honour, because who needs to go out to dress up…


I just wasn’t supposed to start eating until the photos were done…

When your photographer catches you sneaking a bite of one of the ‘props’…
As always, I hope you’ve found this useful/inspiring and if you have any questions or comments would love to hear from you below! x

Sew Over It Carrie Trousers

Happy Friday, sewing squad!

Just a quick post today to show off my current favourite thing to wear – my Sew Over It Carrie Trousers! This pattern was released as part of SOI’s online trouser-making course; I love me an e-course and have been having all sorts of fun with trouser slopers lately so this was right up my street. I whipped these up a couple of weeks ago the day before going to Wilderness; my friend got us some free tickets just days before the start of the festival and of course I felt I had nothing to wear so some manic making was a must.

This was my first ever festival, and I don’t mind telling you I got myself in a pretty flap about what to wear. In my head, people at festivals were all about hotpants and Hunters, sporting more on their heads than on their bottoms (I’m such an old person inside). And yes, admittedly there were people at Wilderness that made me feel like a nun (sartorially and occasionally morally), but it turned out that for the most part when it comes to camping, portaloos and basically living outdoors for three days solid, most people like to look fairly ‘normal’, even if normal in this case involves extraordinary quantities of body glitter.

So I felt supremely at ease in my Carrie trousers and have barely been persuaded to wear anything else since. They are most definitely in the secret pyjama category of clothing. Plus they have pockets, and as you can see from these photos, these are where my hands now permanently reside. But thanks to this gorgeous viscose from Fabrics Galore, I don’t feel like a complete slob. Comfortable but not slobby! I’m living the dream!

Construction is very straightforward and anyway the course comes with video tutorials from Lisa so even the new-to-me waistband construction was a cinch. It’s actually a very clever waistband by the by, which enables you to fit it to your body perfectly. Just to explain, in case anyone is unclear about the design of Carrie (which I was until after enrolling on the course) the waistband is flat across the very front and elasticated from roundabout your pelvic bones all the way across the back. The elastic means the trousers feel like pyjamas; the flat front means they don’t look it. Paired with my SOI silk cami I feel really quite swish!

I also made a self-drafted jersey maxi for the festival which frankly took comfort to a whole other level and which I’ll share in another blog post. In the meantime I just need to now decide on my all-important outfit for the Sewing Weekender! Now where are my Carries… x