Parka of glory – McCalls 6531

Behold the greatest thing I have ever sewn:

parka 2 800

A parka!

Okay so it’s not a real parka – it doesn’t have a proper fishtail and it isn’t lined. You probably couldn’t wear it on a scooter down to Brighton without your fellow mods laughing at you.

But I’m really proud of it all the same.

parka 1 800

This has been a long time in the making. I bought the fabric more than two years ago and the pattern and notions (it’s McCalls 6531) in April 2013.

I was planning on making it for autumn ’13 but that came around a bit too quickly…as did spring ’14…and then autumn happened again, as it tends to do.

So I actually finished this exactly when the freakish warm spell in London ended about two weeks ago.

Excellent timing as usual.

But again I don’t really care because I love it so much.

It was really fun to make. It’s an unusual shape for a jacket, with two-part kimono sleeves – I made version C.

mccalls 6531

Because it’s an unlined jacket, I decided to flat-fell every seam, even on the curved side/underarm seams which was a bit of a pain.

The insides look beautiful now though. Coats and jackets are probably the one item where people do see the inside so I guess it’s worth the hassle.

parka inside 800

The only fitting change I made was to lengthen the sleeves 2.5 inches to accommodate my gorilla arms.

The length, the pockets, and the elastic placement were absolutely perfect for me, so I think it must be designed for tall people.

parka back 800

I was worried that the dolman shape would be a bit 80s but it’s actually great for wearing big jumpers underneath. I made a large so there’s lots of room to move around.

parka sleeve
SO NATURAL AT POSING. At least you can see the sleeve shape.

This pattern has lots of fun details, like tabs so you can roll up the sleeves:


parka side 800

And cording and toggles at the top and bottom (the middle is elasticated)

I considered going for boring old brown or green cord, but I saw a parka in Whistles once that had neon binding on the hood, which was my inspiration for this.

parka toggles

The fabric is beautiful. Even though it’s unlined, the cotton twill is very sturdy so it keeps out the wind chill. And it only cost a tenner!

However, all the notions I had to buy were a lot more expensive. Here’s the rundown:

Open end heavy duty two-way zip from Jaycotts- £4.80

Two packets of antique brass snaps from Jaycotts- £8.60 each, ouch (one pack is not enough, especially if you’re crap at hammering and keep breaking them. I speak from experience).

Amazing neon cord and stoppers from – about £12

I also had to buy three spools of thread for all that flat-felling.

Incidentally, I never could have made this without my special Bernina edgestitching foot. I love it so much.

parka open 800

The pattern and instructions were actually very good, although they don’t mention seam finishing at all so you need to factor that in before you start.

The one annoying bit is that the pocket flaps aren’t functional – just decorative. I put a snap on them for looks, but didn’t bother with the corresponding bit underneath.

parka pocket 800
Pocket flap of lies

The trickiest bit was topstitching down the flap that covers the zip. 8 layers of thick twill – my poor Bernina was groaning a bit going over that. But we made it in the end.

I seriously think this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It turned out exactly the way I planned out.

parka 3 800

I can’t think of anything else to say about this jacket, except that I love it, I want to marry it, and if I ever lose it (fairly likely given past experience) I will cry for at least two weeks.

p.s. I also made the skirt using the Home Stretch skirt pattern, but as it took 20 minutes I don’t really think it’s worth blogging separately.

p.p.s. Sorry for the excessive photos but seriously I LOVE THIS JACKET

p.p.p.s. I also have new hair! I should blog more often, at my current rate I’ll have a new hairstyle with every blog post.

McCalls 6355 – white broderie top

I am currently on the train to Edinburgh, on the way to GET MARRIED, OMG. It seems like a good moment to blog about a top I recently made, while I enjoy my free wine, free food (brownies!!) and free wi-fi. First class rail travel is amazing.

mccalls white top

Hot sunshine-y weather has finally arrived in Britain. It’s no big deal or anything, we’ve only been waiting eight bloody years. Everyone in London is looking very over-coordinated, they’re all wearing carefully hoarded holiday outfits to work and it shows. Maxi-skirts a go go.

I have responded by making an all-white top, because if anything says summery it’s a chocolate ice-cream spillage just waiting to happen.

The pattern is trusty McCalls 6355. It’s worth having a simple top template like this in your stash –  you can make so many variations. For this one I just drew a line in the front and back pieces to create a yoke. Couldn’t be easier.

mcalls white top 4

This was a super thrifty little make. The main fabric is left over from another McCalls blouse I made last summer. The yoke is a very small old tablecloth I found in a charity shop about 6 years ago and have been hoarding ever since.

The trim down the front was a gift from the lovely Amy in our recent swap, and the trim on the sleeves was a present from the equally lovely Rehanon. The bias binding finishing the neck was made from the lining of this dress.

Basically, it was all free! Hooray!

mccalls white top 2

I did a faux-buttoned back (apart from the top one which is real), as you can pull this over your head with no zips or fastenings. The buttons are left over from the Peter Jensen sample sale.

I was heavily inspired by this Whistles broderie top, so basically I have saved myself £65.


Plus I look slightly more cheerful than the Whistles model.

mccalls white top 3

Yay for summer! Of course I am going to Italy now so will probably miss all the nice British weather, there’s a cloud to every silver lining, as we pessimists like to say.

I hope you are all enjoying summer, or having a nice winter if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. I probably won’t be able to blog again for a while so I’m sending you lots of happy summertime vibes in the meantime! See you soon dudes!

p.s. it turns out that swap shop thing I did was actually a styling competition. Obviously am not expecting to win but I currently am right at the bottom with 2 votes, so if you can be bothered to vote for me by tomorrow, it will save me some public humiliation. Thanking you in advance.

McCalls 6355 – black and white dress

Look! I’m outside! And I’m not wearing a coat!

black and white dress

These photos were taken in the lovely Abney Park Cemetery here in Stoke Newington. It’s now a nature reserve, but is still filled with hundreds of graves.

So, it’s possible that the indistinct halo near my left hand is a friendly hovering spirit, mysteriously caught on film. Yes, definitely a spirit and not a big greasy smear on my camera lens.

I did try and persuade my boyfriend to take more pictures after I noticed the big smudges but he wasn’t having any of it.

abney park chapel photo

The park is a great place for a walk, spooky and quiet. Just be warned, there are large numbers of single men hanging around looking nonchalant, and they’re not just there for a pleasant stroll. So it’s best to cough loudly before you go down the tiny overgrown paths…

I still can’t believe the weather got above 10 degrees this weekend. It was like the Mediterranean out there. My face was warm for the first time in months.

Of course I immediately got a stinking horrible cold, which I’m putting down as an allergic reaction to sunlight.

black and white dress side

Anyway, the dress is McCalls 6355 which I bought in a pattern sale. It’s kind of the most boring pattern in the world, but it’s a handy basic to have lying around.

It includes bust darts AND front and back fisheye darts, which you can include or leave out depending on the fit you want. Plus you can sew it in a knit or a woven.

black and white dress back

I sewed the back darts and the front bust darts, and then shaped the side seams to make it less boxy. I did the whole thing on the overlocker, which is my best friend at the moment, and then added black ribbing to make the cuffs and neckline finish.

black and white dress cuffs

It’s a very local dress. The black ribbing is from Ultimate Craft, and the fabric is part of my mega-haul from the mysterious Tottenham warehouse of knits. The pattern is actually knitted rather than printed or woven.

black and white fabric

Anyway it’s not that much to write home about but it’s comfortable, didn’t need a zip, and took me less than a day to sew. HOORAY.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an urgent appointment with a Lemsip and some Strepsils.

McCalls 6439: Draped skirt pattern

You’ve probably noticed that pattern fever can sweep through sewing blogs like a bad bout of flu. But poor old McCalls always seem to get left out. I hardly ever see people sewing their stuff, although I’m not sure why.

Anyway, Jaycotts had a half-price sale on McCalls patterns at Easter and I snapped up loads, including this dress and this blouse, and 6439 which is a draped skirt with pockets.

I can only find one review for this pattern online, but I reckon it deserves to be more popular. It’s basically a slightly more involved version of Simplicity 2451, which the world and his wife has made. And 6439 has 4 different options! Now that’s value for money.

I made view B. Here’s the front,

McCalls 6439

And the back:

There’s not much you can do to make photos of a plain grey skirt look exciting. The best bit are the double fold pockets. The instructions were Burda-level opaque, so a lot of guess-work was involved in making these. I think I may have pleated something the wrong way round, but whatever. It works.

The fabric was a end-of-roll bargain from my favourite shop in Edinburgh. I don’t know what’s it’s called, but it has that wibbly-wobbly silky feeling, almost like Viyella.

This was pretty quick to make. The biggest hold-up was silently arguing with myself about whether to add a lining or not (it’s not in the pattern). Eventually my practical side won out over my lazy side, and I used this weird polyester I’ve had lying around for ages. Which makes it more appropriate for winter-wearing.

I highly recommend this pattern! Go forth and make your own versions! I want to try view D next, which looks pretty crazy.