Me-Made-May 13: Days 18 to 25

Oh dear, I am running a bit behind on these posts. Here’s a big catch-up from the 18th-25th. I have got quite slack at taking photos so you may notice that the quality’s slipped a bit (not that it had far to fall in the first place…)

Here goes!


Day 18: You’ve already seen this dress. Here’s a classic pub toilet self-portrait. You can see the extra ease in the upper chest here, I need to adjust that when I can be bothered.

Day 19: Here’s my jeans, my stripey Burda top, and my Whistles blazer. This blazer was the best buy I’ve ever made, I got it in the sale for £45 and it’s helping me to wean myself off cardigans. It’s made of knitted fabric and is super-comfy, so it functions as a kind of methadone for my cardigan addiction.


Day 20: First outfit repeat, and looking rather gormless. I decided to wear this stripey dress again. Hectic day running round Edinburgh trying to sort out everything for our wedding (next time we go up is for the actual day!).

Day 21: Cardigan repeat. Burda jeans, knitted cowl, and Burda giraffe shirt. I haven’t worn this shirt much as I really should have done a narrow shoulder adjustment, but it’s actually pretty cute even with the fitting issues.


Day 22: OMG – I’m not wearing my brogues! Not sure what happened there. I shrank this skirt in the wash so it doesn’t fit as well any more, boo. Leopard print Burda top.

Day 23: Ah, the brogues are back and order is restored. This is the lift at my work, and not the most beautiful of photo backdrops. I’m wearing my Moss skirt, a Burda shirt I made pre-blog, and a Uniqlo jumper.


Day 24: This skirt looks better with bare legs, but that would be madness in the current climate, so tights it is. My feet look enormous in this picture.

Day 25: This was actually the evening of Day 24, but I think I wore these jeans the next day too. The days are all blurring into one. This jumper belonged to my boyfriend and had major elbow holes – I took it in using my overlocker and added elbow patches using boiled wool from an old cardigan I accidentally felted.

Stay tuned for the final exciting Me-Made-May instalment at the end of this week!

Vintage Maudella dress in coffee coloured polka dot crepe

Well what do you know – it’s a bank holiday weekend here in the UK and the sun actually came out! And having the Monday off means I have a bit of extra time to catch up with blogging.

I’ve got so many new things to show you, but our internet at home has been broken, which has made it a bit tricky. Anyway, I’ve managed to get online now, so fingers crossed it holds out until I finish this post.

This is a new dress I made for a wedding last weekend in Scotland. It POURED with rain but it was a lovely day, and everyone was safely indoors (except for the poor bagpiper standing outside the hotel, who had huge streams of water running from his cape.)


I won this crepe fabric in a giveaway run by the lovely Rehanon. I think the coffee colour makes enormous polka-dots look quite sophisticated, and it was gorgeous to sew with.

The pattern has the same shoulder treatment as the Colette Ceylon, but it’s actually a vintage Maudella pattern which I won on Ebay for 99p! You’ve seen it before, but here’s the envelope again, just cos I love it:

maudella dress front

I’d definitely make this again – it’s pretty quick to put together, and the shoulder yokes are so cute! I did two things that really made a difference. I bought posh interfacing from the English Couture Company, which made the usual stuff I sew with look like old cardboard in comparison. And I worked very hard on adjusting this dress around the shoulders, so the sleeves aren’t sliding off for once.

Unfortunately tissue-fitting didn’t show me that the centre front neck was far too big. It looks okay, but I’m going to rip out the facing and bring that front seam in a bit. I’m loathe to start making muslins for everything, so I’ll just chalk it up to experience.

dress bodice on hanger

I probably should have lined this dress, but I didn’t have the time or the fabric, so I took the cheater’s option. That’s buying a slip from M&S to go underneath. Specifically, this one.

I heartily recommend doing this. A lot of vintage dresses aren’t lined and were designed to be worn with a matching slip, so there’s a precedent! I kept thinking ‘well I could make my own slip….’ but then I came to my senses and realised I sew for fun, and that would not be fun.

I also added belt loops using this easy-peasy Colette patterns tutorial, and felt very smug about it too (although one broke halfway through the night, boo. I was dancing quite a lot).

dress belt loop
Belt Loop Action!

So, in conclusion, hooray for Maudella patterns! As well as this dress and this skirt, I’ve made another piece of clothing from this English pattern company in May, which I will post about soon (she said unconvincingly).

Here’s another photo just to prove that I can smile in pictures:


Vintage fabric prints from the V+A

Did you know that the Victoria & Albert museum sell fabric?

I think it was introduced as a tie-in with the quilting exhibition in 2010 but it’s now a permanent fixture in their online shop.

Originally all the designs were based on vintage quilt fabrics, but they seem to be adding to the collection regularly and there are a couple of gorgeous new ones.

This is my no.1 top favourite design. It’s called ‘Kinross‘ and it’s a 50s design by Edinburgh Weavers. I love the cross-hatched shading on the flower heads (or are they thistles?). I think this would make amazing curtains for a small window.

kinross_high res

This is my second favourite. It’s called ‘Medallion‘ and it’s based on the endpapers from a 1925 French fashion journal. Imagine if Vogue had designs like this on the inside cover! I would be buying it a lot more frequently.

It’s hard to tell from this image but those medallions are big, about 12cm across.


Now I’ve sewn from V&A prints before, and if they’re still using the same fabric as a base, it is suitable for dressmaking. It’s basically quilting cotton, but not that horrible stiff cotton that hangs like cardboard. Just approach with caution – it’s good for skirts, pyjama bottoms, and structured dresses I reckon.

Although to be honest I’d be tempted just to make a couple of cushion covers to admire! You can buy all the fabrics online here.

Me-Made-May-13 – weekly round-up

So I’ve decided to do my MMM round-up today instead of Sunday. I’m just a rebel who won’t play by the rules (the made-up rules I imposed on myself).

Oh okay, the real reason is that I just sewed a fancy new dress to wear to a wedding tomorrow, and I think it deserves a post of its own.

So here’s the last 5 days. They aren’t particularly inspiring so I’ve made a handy collage instead of individual pics.

Day 13 - 17

From top to bottom, left to right we have:

Day 13: Moss skirt, unblogged Maudella shirt, baggy Gap sweatshirt, awful photo. I have cropped my face for your own protection.

Day 14: Birthday dress, Uniqlo jumper, sparkly heart brooch from Tatty Devine.

Day 15: McCalls dress, cardigan from COS.

Day 16: McCalls skirt, unblogged kimono sleeve top, thrifted red cardigan.

Day 17: Burda jeans, Burda leopard print top, cardigan from COS (again), knitted cowl.

I’m getting slightly better at taking my own photo in the mirror, mainly because the alternative involves getting up early enough for my boyfriend to take a picture before he leaves for work. And extra sleep normally wins out.

Here’s a baffling question that Me-Made-May has made me ponder:

I love wearing colour. I really like pinning pictures of other people wearing colour. I gravitate to colourful fabrics in fabric shops.

So WHY ON EARTH do I sew so many black, navy, white, grey, and beige clothes? Is there a deep psychological issue here I need to address? Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

Me-Made-May-13 Week 2: featuring sunshine, rain, and a Lego robot

Another week of Me-Made-May! I’m finding this much easier than last year. If only the weather would behave itself.

Day 6 and Day 7

Day 6 – Bank holiday! Oh yeah! I’d just finished this skirt when this picture was taken, and I totally love it. Will blog about it later this week. Rest of my outfit is shop-bought.

Day 7 – Still sunny enough to wear sandals! Hooray! Me-made jeans and a very old, pre-blog shirt made from the first Built By Wendy book. It has an extremely wonky, self-drafted Peter Pan collar and doesn’t see much wear.

Day 8, 9,10

Day 8 – Went to work and ballet class. There was a teacher substitution and it turned into a ridiculously hard aerobics session. That’s why I’m propping myself up on the railing. Me-made jeans again, my double-collar shirt, and a jumper from Uniqlo. These jeans are extremely comfortable.

Day 9 – Off to see Star Trek: Into Darkness and eat a big cheeseburger at Byron. Wearing my brown jeans, my white shirt, and brogues from Clarks. Jacket is from Whistles, I got it on Ebay and it’s amazing for this weird spring weather.

Day 10 – You’ve already seen this. MMM has made me re-evaluate this dress. I really love it now! That’s what I like about this challenge. Still in intense muscle pain from ballet class. I am bravely soldiering on.

Day 11, 12

Day 11 – I met C-3P0 on a trip to John Lewis. He wasn’t very chatty. I am wearing my Beignet skirt, an unblogged kimono sleeve top, and a jacket from the Whistles sale. Plus me-knitted-cowl. I reshaped the side seams in this skirt so I wear it a bit more, but it’s not my favourite. I don’t like the shape of the pattern as drafted, it’s like a weird cross between an A-line and a pencil which doesn’t really suit me.

Day 12 – Eating quesadillas at home and frantically sewing a dress to wear to a wedding next weekend, then going out for a lovely pizza with friends. Wearing my brown jeans again, my Burda stripey top (you can just see it), and more shop-bought stuff.

This was a great week! I’m really pleased with how much more stuff I’ve made than this time last year.

p.s. In unrelated news, I am getting married exactly two months from today! Eek!

How messy is your sewing space?

This week’s Friday theme on the Me-Made-May Flickr group was ‘Your Sewing/Knitting/Creating’ Space.

So I got my boyfriend to take some quick photos of me in our spare room, which doubles up as my sewing area (as well as a bike storage shed/workshop).


And readers, I’m ashamed. Ashamed at the state of my sewing space.

Okay so this was before work, so I didn’t have time to tidy up.  But I can’t even pretend this is an exceptional circumstance – no, it pretty much always looks like this.

Here’s a breakdown.

sewing space

Those scrumpled up pieces of tissue paper in front of my sewing machine? They’re vintage pattern pieces for the next project I’m working on. I hurriedly shoved them there while attempting to clear up a bit the other night.

What you can’t really see is that I always sew on a desk covered with random pattern pieces, fabric scraps, used sewing needles, spools of thread, old cups of tea, and various other detritus.

The two worst bits are:

  • The amazingly shoddy, £15 ironing board I bought from the discount store. The legs wobble, it has a hole burnt in the cover, it leaves marks on anything you try and iron, and it gives you static shocks to boot.
  • The shelf of fabric on top which is where I crumple in all the pieces I can’t fit in my clear plastic boxes. (The boxes themselves are from IKEA and are great, and my boyfriend put up all these shelves for me when we moved in which has made life a lot easier.)

I see these gorgeous craft spaces on blogs, with neat rows of ribbons on reels, and fabric all stacked in colour-coded squares. Am I the only one with a less-than-beautiful sewing area? Is it even possible to sew without trailing thread throughout the house and creating an almighty mess?

p.s. I made this dress last year but have never worn it, I just didn’t like it when finished. It’s based on the Burdastyle kimono jersey t-shirt pattern I always use. Me-made-May seemed like the perfect opportunity to try and give it some love.

England’s Dreaming, punk couture, and the Met Ball

Have you seen the pictures from the ‘punk chaos’ themed Met Ball? They’re splashed all over fashion blogs at the moment.

The Met Ball is an annual event, this time in honour of the ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’ exhibition in New York.

Punk? No. Fugly? Yes.

The theme of ‘punk chaos’ was tricky for the attendees. Rich people don’t want to look like Nancy Spungen, according to the New York Times (although who does want to look like Nancy Spungen nowadays? Apart from Italian punks hanging around in Camden).

Most people went for tried-and-tested punk shorthand, ie:

  • Safety pins. So many safety pins.
  • Mohawks/spiky hair.
  • Ripped fishnets.
  • John Lydon sneer.

It’s inevitable that nobody would really get it right. I don’t think punk was ever a red carpet thing. But punk definitely was a fashion thing. It all started in a clothes shop, didn’t it? Punk was the definition of style over substance.

There’s an amazing history of punk by Jon Savage called ‘England’s Dreaming’, which is one of my favourite books ever. It’s all about how fashion created and defined punk, from an arty, threatening, exclusive London clique, to the dumbed down mainstream of spiky mohawks and Sham 69 gigs.

Read the book and you’ll get a picture of punk as being all about DIY and dissatisfaction (as well as a nasty undercurrent of teenage stupidity, fascist chic, and random violence).

And if you’re interested in fashion and subculture, you should read this book. Jon Savage’s writing is highly evocative about clothes. Here are some choice quotes on sewing and style:

Vintage Sex Pistols t-shirt from 1976
Vintage Sex Pistols t-shirt from 1976

‘After two years of intermittent tailoring, Vivienne found her own style, suddenly turning her inexperience to her advantage. One day, she was tinkering with two simple squares of cloth, attempting to make a sleeved T-shirt. Then she thought, ‘Why bother with the sleeves?’, and made the simplest possible T-shirt instead, sewing the two squares roughly together, the seams highlighted as much as possible, with holes for the head and the arms. Beautifully androgynous, they fitted the torso like a glove. The heavy, pinkish, felt-like cloth made a suitable backdrop for printing slogans.’
Vivienne Westwood’s first attempts at tailoring

Poly Styrene (RIP)
Poly Styrene (RIP)

‘Take a cheap plastic bag,’ she says, ‘stick a lot of plastic flowers on it and things that nobody would be bothered to buy, then all of a sudden they become very very trendy and people want them. I had little lattice plastic bags and see-through Mary Quant shoes from the sixties: I used to buy up old stock. Anything different. Some of the things were vile but they were so vile they were cute. That was the whole thing: it was meant to be an extreme version of tack.’
Poly Styrene (of X Ray Spex) talking about her market stall on the King’s Road

Vivienne Westwood looks well ‘ard. You wouldn’t mess.

‘The first person I saw who looked totally brilliant,’ says Simon Withers, who worked with Vivienne Westwood in the early 1980s, ‘was in late ’74 at a bus stop in Kentish Town. He was called Matt Scottley and he had blue two-pleat pegs, plastic sandals, and a blue mohair jumper, with a blonde wedge.’ This was what would later be called the ‘Soul boy’ look: at the time the term denoted not only a musical preference but also some sartorial extravagance’.
The emergence of soul boy fashion – there’s a good overview of the ‘The British soul boy’ here.

The original bondage suit, designed by McLaren + Westwood.

‘We found a fabric called Black Italian: it was polished black satin cotton which British Rail used for their waistcoats. That fabric became the basis for the designed based on those trousers. I wanted to put the fetish elements in. The sense of making a trouser become tighter even though it’s wide was good: it had that energy, that ability to contract itself. So we got the zips….the straps between the legs…buckles on the calves…Dye it black: make everything black, black, black’.
Malcolm McLaren on the invention of bondage trousers

There’s also some great bits about how the band Subway Sect dyed all their clothes grey in a bath, and how Holly Johnson (later of Frankie Goes to Hollywood) used to go out in Liverpool wearing tampons as earrings and a kettle for a handbag.

So if you want to know more about punk fashion, ignore The Met Ball and get this book instead.

Me-Made-May 2013 – first week! + Maudella denim skirt

So the first week of Me-Made-May 2013 has been and gone. Here’s a round-up of what I wore on days 1-4.


Man, I am bad at taking photos of myself in the mirror. How do other people manage one-handed phone selfies? It’s so hard! I was complaining about this to my boyfriend but he just laughed at me for using the word ‘selfie’, which is basically a fair comment.

Anyway, you might be able to spot my black and white dress, my brown jeans, my Moss denim skirt, and this blue floral dress which I’ve since shortened into a top.

I’m pleased that I’ve managed to wear 90% me-made clothes, except for knitwear (can’t give up my knitwear). There’s a few new things I haven’t blogged yet. One is a denim skirt from a 70s pattern, which I also wore today:


It doesn’t look so great with tights so it’s been languishing in a drawer until this week, but I think it’ll be a summer staple.

The pattern is a Maudella classic, very kindly sent to me by Kestrel Makes. The fabric is £1 a metre denim from the Peter Jensen sample sale. Yes, I’m still working my way through my massive PJ haul.

maudella skirt

I added slash pockets from a Burda pattern, ripped off from inspired by the Hollyburn from Sewaholic. Pockets are an essential in a denim skirt, don’t you think? I also added lots of jeans-style topstitching, and a lapped zipper using this tutorial.

denim skirt collage

Here’s a top tip – don’t try and hem a heavy denim skirt by turning it up twice and stitching. The hem will keep flipping up no matter how much you iron it. You’ll have to undo the whole stupid thing, then re-sew it using some yellow bias-binding you have lying around. At least that’s my experience.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the month! My sewing has been super-productive lately, the May challenge is really getting me inspired. I’ve got lots of new things to show you as soon as I’ve got some decent photos.

Sewing maths – Pink J Crew gathered skirt

Sewing maths - J Crew

Okay, I know I already wrote two posts about how you can’t save money sewing.

But here’s the thing – it all depends on your benchmarks. So my new strategy is to compare my handmade items against more ‘aspirational’ (ie. expensive) clothing brands.

Can I sew something cheaper than Primark? Hell no. Can I make it cheaper than J Crew? Definitely!