My Minerva outfit reveal: floral crop top and pencil skirt

So it’s taken me FOREVER to write this post, and you’ve probably already heard about the Minerva meetup on a million blogs.

You know about the Raiders Of the Lost Ark style craft warehouse, the amazing dinner at Blackburn Rovers FC, and the red carpet line-up, as well as the realisation that the £3 taxi ride exists when you leave London.

So this post is just about my outfit. Thanks to Katie for taking some of the photos (you’ll be able to spot them, they’re the good ones).

The outfit

I knew I wanted to make something different, and in the end I came up with the idea of a pencil skirt and crop top:


Originally I was going to sew some kind of crazy one-shouldered 60s pencil dress, but when the fabric arrived (this beautiful John Kaldor stretch cotton) I knew I had to do something simpler. The print is huge! And I didn’t really fancy a shift dress. So co-ordinates it was.

The pencil skirt

It’s a By Hand London Charlotte skirt, which is really straightforward to sew. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Cut a size 12 but added length to the waistband, which I interfaced.
  • Lengthened the darts 1.5cm each at the front, as I was getting a strange fold of extra fabric there.
  • Interfaced the edges of the invisible zip.
  • Added a back vent using this tutorial.
  • Lined it with this stretch mesh.

Stretch cotton is absolutely perfect for this pattern, I’ll be looking for some more to make another one. Although you need to add a vent – not sure how you could walk in it without one!

Minerva outfit 2The crop top

It’s a Burda pattern – 05/2012 #131.

I cut out a size 34 and had to make some serious changes as it was huge. I took the sides in a lot, cut about 4 inches off the bottom, added back darts and neck darts, and swapped out the button band for a zip.

Here’s how it looks on the back:

Minerva outfit backI did make an effort to match the pattern on the back pieces, but I didn’t bother with the sides. You’ve got to pick your battles.

Everything else

Cutting out was an enormous pain. I did it all on a single layer as the print is so huge. I didn’t really want to end up with a massive flower over an anatomical feature.

My inspiration was this outfit from Jonathan Saunders which is slightly more classy:

Jonathan SaundersIt’s pretty tricky to know exactly how much midriff to expose, but I was limited due to zip size.

The separating plastic zipper is from Jaycotts, and I had to choose between the 14 and 16 inch variations without knowing exactly how long the top would be. In the end I went with the 14 inch, which worked as the skirt was so high waisted.

crop top zip close-upZIP ENHANCE

Will I wear it again?

The acid test. As a whole, I reckon the outfit works, and I might get it out for a wedding this summer. It turned out slightly more cartoonish than I intended, but I think I rocked it anyway.

It seems highly unlikely that I’ll wear the crop top with another skirt – the Charlotte is the most high-waisted skirt I own.

I did try the top on with another skirt, but it was all a bit 90s looking. I distinctly remember wearing a tie-dye crop top to a school disco in about 1996, so I think I’ll leave that style the second time round.

The skirt is a different issue. I’ve already re-worn it loads! It looks really good with a denim shirt, if I say so myself:

pencil skirt and denim shirt

Thank you Minerva!

Huge thanks to Vicki and everyone at Minerva for organising such an amazing day. I’ve been a terrible network member lately, massively behind with projects and blog posts, but I really enjoy being part of it all, and I sincerely hope I’ve managed to shift some fabric for them. They deserve it!

Also a big thank you goes out to all the ladies of the online sewing community, for being awesome.  I’d be living a much sadder life if I’d never met all these amazing women. Although I’d probably have spent less money on fabric.

Picture 3
Spoolettes forever

Minerva Blogging Network: Chambray shirt (Vogue 1323)

I’ve finally jumped on the chambray bandwagon!

chambray shirt 1

Yes, I may be five years behind the rest of the blogging world, but at least I got there in the end.

This is my latest Minerva Blogging Network project, and the pattern is Vogue 1323. I’ve wanted to sew this ever since I saw Erica B’s heavenly version in hot pink.

Mine isn’t quite as slinky, but it’s a lovely little spring shirt and was fun to sew. You can read my full post about it on the Minerva network here.

Chambray shirt closeup

The fabric is gorgeous but it does tend to wrinkle. I promise that I ironed the shirt before I took these photos, even if you can’t really tell.

Somehow, even though I spent ages matching everything, the pockets have come out wonky at the bottom. Look at the photo – the pocket on my left is about a cm lower than the pocket on my right.

This is DEEPLY annoying, as I swear they were even at one point. I think I caused the wonkiness when I sewed the placket.

Here’s an in-progress shot, you can see that the left pocket has already started to creep down…

chambray shirt in progress

I’m not convinced that I sewed the bottom of the button placket correctly, as the instructions were brief and v obscure. So that may be the reason.

Oh well, I don’t think anyone will notice.

If they do, hopefully they’ll just think I have one bosom larger than the other. Better that than shoddy sewing skills.

French seams on armhole seams

The instructions for the rest of the shirt were good. They tell you to do french seams all over the shop, even on the sleeves, and I obediently followed. It makes for a lovely clean finish, which is good as this fabric does fray a bit.

chambray skirt back

I don’t always do what it says on pattern instructions, but I tend to think they know best, even if what they’re saying is obviously ridiculous. Also, I always read instruction manuals, which may be a connected habit.

Just a small insight into my psyche there for you.

You can buy the kit for this project here for £34, which includes everything down to the thread (chosen by clever Vicky at Minerva, and it’s a perfect match). You even get a trouser pattern thrown in by Vogue for no extra! How can you resist?

p.s. You might recognise the trousers from a previous Minerva project.

chambray shirt 2

Minerva Project April: Green ponte Anna from By Hand London

I made a new dress!

It’s my latest Minerva project and you can see the write-up on their (new and improved!) blog here.

Green dress 3
Here’s the details:

Pattern: The Anna from By Hand London

Fabric: Ponte in ‘Forest’ from Minerva Crafts (this stuff is the best ponte ever. Highly recommended).

Bookshelves: IKEA Billy

Green dress 1

Verdict: I like this dress but have only worn it once – the boatneck feels oddly formal for everyday wear. Also, I am waiting for bare legs (or at least nude tights) weather to return.

green dress back

green dress 2

Buy the kit here, or visit the Minerva blog for more details.

Triple sewing news excitement

I logged into WordPress for the first time in ages yesterday, and couldn’t believe that I haven’t blogged for nearly a month. A whole month!

I haven’t had twins, become the new head of the UN, been working shifts on oil rigs or taken up dry-stone walling. So I’m not entirely sure where the time has gone.

I don’t even know if anyone is still reading this blog apart from my Mum (hi Mum.)

Anyway, whether I’m just talking into the void or not, I’m back now and there’s lots of exciting sewing related news to talk about. So hold on to your hats:


By Hand London Kickstarter project


You must have already heard that the multi-talented women from By Hand London are setting up their own fabric printing business. They have a Kickstarter set up here, and they’re so close to their target with just 9 days left. So go and pledge now!


Minerva Crafts Meetup

I am attending the Minerva Crafts Meet-Up

Another amazing craft business to shout about. The wonderful Vicki from Minerva is organising a meet-up in sunny Darwen on the 14th June (no, not that Darwin, it’s actually in Lancashire).

I’ll definitely be there rocking a new homemade dress, I hope you can come along.


Me-Made-May 2014


After last year’s triumphant Me Made May, I’m so in for this year.

Although I wear homemade clothing nearly every day, MMM always helps me to come up with new outfits, encourages me to fill gaps in my home-sewn wardrobe, and gives me tons and tons of inspiration. My favourite part is checking the Flickr group and seeing what everyone else is wearing and making.

One more thing…


And it’s my favourite time of year. I remember being freezing nearly every day of last May so I’m loving the sunshine.


Have you started your spring sewing yet?

Minerva blogging network: Leopard print Plantain

What is it about elbow patches that’s so appealing? You can’t see them when you’re wearing them. They bring up memories of geography teachers. And they’re not very useful, unless you salute people for a living, or have another job where you frequently bend your arms at a sharp angle.

But somehow they still make a garment totally irresistible. They’re the main reason I sewed up the new Deer & Doe Plantain top for my latest Minerva project.

top 2
You can see my post on the Minerva Network here, and buy the kit for this project here.

The fabric is a really nice thick double-knit, with thin stripes on the reverse. I turned up the cuffs to show the two sides:

top cuff

Here’s the enhanced elbow patch close-up. You can see the major error I made with this top, which was to make it way too tight.

I should have sized up as this fabric isn’t very stretchy. It’s still wearable, but if I make it again with a thick knit I’ll reduce the seam allowance.

back of top

I finished the neckline with stretch lycra binding from Minerva Crafts which is my new favourite thing. This pattern has a very low neckline, it must be the French influence. I hoicked it up an inch when cutting out.

Here’s the front where you can see my standard ‘take the photo already’ face.

top 1

And that’s everything. Apart from one last thing – I miss blogging!

I’ve been so busy in January with a new job and various other New Year type things that I haven’t had a chance to write any posts.

I have tons of sewing projects to post about and lots of half-finished screeds in my head, but no time to get them out into the world. This sucks. Hopefully I’ll be back to a regular blogging schedule soon.

p.s. did you see the Great British Sewing Bee starts again in two weeks?? I am seriously, sadly excited about this.

Minerva Blogging Network: Burda polka-dot trousers

This month’s Minerva project sprang from my wish to make a pair of trousers that involved no topstitching whatsoever. It was also inspired by the totally awesome pairs that Rosie from DIY Couture makes, and these overpriced Moschino polka dot trews.

Here’s the result:

polkadot trousers 1

You can see more about the project and the fit changes I made on the Minerva Blogging Network here.

These trousers have caused no small amount of controversy within my household. My husband thinks they look like pyjamas. I do own a pair of pyjamas made from extremely similar fabric, so I can see where he’s coming from, but hopefully the fabric is sturdy enough not to look like I’ve just woken up and strolled to the corner shop in my loungewear.

spottytrousers 3

The pattern is from Burda magazine 11/2013, available on the Burda site here, and it’s pretty good, with a shaped waistband and well-drafted pockets. I didn’t bother making a muslin, just compared them to my existing jeans pattern, and the fit isn’t bad, if a little bit tight.

If I’m totally honest, the main reason I chose this pattern is because there are four pieces to trace, and no welt pockets. Although this doesn’t help to support my ‘not pyjamas’ case.

They also have a turn-up cuff thing going on which I like although it’s not that noticeable in this fabric.

polkadot trousers 2

I’m not sure if I’ll be wearing these much, but I’m glad I made them. They might be more use in the spring.  I’m not convinced this is the most flattering style for the pear-shaped of us. Also, I think this pattern might work better in a slightly heavier wool fabric, as the knees tend to bag out a bit.

Still, I’m counting these as my first win for 2014. I made a wearable pair of non-jeans trousers! Hooray!

polkadot trousers 4

Read my Minerva post about these trousers here.

You can buy the polka dot stretch fabric here – I think it would make an amazing fitted dress.

Or buy the full kit with zip and fastening is available here.

Download the Burd pattern (11/2013 #110A) from the Burdastyle website here.

(sorry for the terrible photos. This is about as light as it gets in Britain at the moment.)

Double Zipped Pencil Skirt – Vogue 8603

What’s better than just one exposed zipper?

Two exposed zippers, of course!

skirt full length 2

(If you’re not a fan of visible zippers, you might want to look away now.)

They may be old hat, but I still love an exposed metal zipper, and they feature heavily in my latest project for the Minerva Blogging Network. Incidentally they’ve just added lots of amazing new bloggers, check the Network page to see them all!

The idea for this skirt started a few months ago when I pinned this double-zippered number from Net-A-Porter. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try and rip it off.

net a porter skirt

I already had the perfect Vogue pencil skirt pattern – 8603. It has two seams down the front (and the back). Basically, all I had to do was insert the exposed zippers into the front seams, and Bob’s your uncle.

Of course it ended up being slightly more complicated than that, but somehow it always does…

The fabric from Minerva is a dark grey flannel, flecked with lighter grey specks. It’s an intriguing mix of polyester, viscose, and lycra, and is beautifully thick, almost like a boiled wool, but stretchy like a ponte. I would love to make a biker jacket in this stuff.

skirt zips

I agonised for ages about how to line this thing, eventually settling on underlining with this lovely posh jacquard fabric, and then using this tutorial to put the zippers in.

As an underlining technique, I just pinned the lining and fashion fabric together, and then overlocked the edges. This is not the approved way to do it (you’re supposed to baste them together), but I am lazy, and it worked out okay.

I also added some lining rectangles just stitched onto the seam allowances as zip guards, and I cut the facing out from a plain black cotton to eliminate bulk. You can sort of see this below in an unfortunately blurry photo.

zip shield

I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and I wish I had some better photos for you. As usual, I was finishing this right before deadline, so the photos are a before work job in the stairwell. My jumper is excessively crumpled and I had to bin half of the shots because of low-light, blurriness and/or shocking eye-bag footage.

One thing you can’t tell from the pictures is how heavy this skirt is. Seriously, it weighs a ton and feels very luxe, what with the fabric, the lining, and the two massive metal zippers. I will probably get toned abs just from hauling this thing around (although it’s actually very comfortable).


Here’s a top tip – if you use Wonder Tape to stick the exposed zip down before sewing it, you can easily line the edge of each folded seam up with the edge of the tape – see picture above. It’s pretty magical.

(And if you don’t own any Wonder Tape yet, why not? How much more do I have to bang on about it before you give in and buy some? It can only make your life easier.)

I hand-sewed the hem to the underlining, and didn’t press it as I didn’t want to mark the fabric, but I think it does actually need a bit of steam on there just to flatten it down.

skirt crop 2

The zips do look a bit rippled in the pic above. I ironed some  interfacing to the edges of each seam to stabilise them, but the zips do bend a lot when you sit down, so I think some rippling is unavoidable.

If you like the look of this skirt, you can buy a kit from Minerva here including the fabric, lining, pattern, and two zips, for a mere £31.71, thus saving you £93.29 on the price of the designer item. Bargain!

(exposed zipper haters, it’s safe to open your eyes now)

Minerva Blogging Network: Black skinny jeans (Burda 7863, again)

For my latest Minerva project, I’ve made another pair of Burda 7863 jeans. I am nothing if not predictable.

jeans 2

You can read my Minerva post about these jeans here. I used some silver stretch fabric that sadly lost all of its sparkliness in the wash, but I think this is par for the course with metallic fabrics unless the sparkly thread is woven in.

Luckily the base fabric is pretty dreamy anyway. It’s a very stretchy denim. Oddly, the stretch runs from top to bottom, rather than from selvedge to selvedge, so I turned the fabric 90 degrees when cutting out.

Here’s a close-up of my topstitching and one of the rivets – you can see the fabric looks almost grey in certain lights, which I rather like.

jeans topstitching

How long does it take to make a pair of jeans?

I thought it might be useful to have an estimate of how long it takes me to make a pair of these. My timings are vague, and I sew quite slowly, with many breaks to change podcast/make cups of tea/hunt for snacks. Hopefully someone will find it helpful anyway.

I usually sew jeans in 4 or 5 separate sessions. Here’s the order I use, which is different from the pattern.

  1. Cutting out, interfacing and changing the thread in my sewing machine and overlocker: 2 or 3 hours, including a long and frustrating hunt for my twin topstitching needle.
  2. Sewing the pockets and the front fly, attaching the back yoke and topstitching, sewing the back legs together: About 2 hours.
  3. Attaching the back pockets, sewing the front legs to the back legs, topstitching the seam with a twin needle, basting the side seams to check fit: 1 and a half hours. You can do this a lot quicker without basting the side seams, but every fabric varies so I prefer to check how they fit at this stage.
  4. Attaching the waistband, sewing the side-seams, sewing the waistband facing, topstitching the waistband and side-seams: About 3 hours of sewing, depending on how annoying the topstitching decides to be. NOTE: If you are using a metal zip that you have to shorten with pliers, add an hour on to this. It’s a huge pain.
  5. Sewing on belt-loops, attaching rivets and buttons, hemming: About 1 hour. Making the holes for the rivets is time-consuming.

The only fitting change I made for this pair was this flat seat alteration from the legendary Anne Rowley, star of the GBSB. I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as having a ‘flat seat’, but it does seem to have eliminated some of the wrinkles under the bum. However I think you can never entirely get rid of these, especially with stretch fabric.

jeans back

I’m fairly happy with the fit, except for the legs, which have drag-lines in odd places. I think this might be my last pair from this pattern for a while.  I’m not done with trousers yet, but for my next pair I’m going to go a bit smarter (and skip all of the dreaded topstitching).

jeans 1

If you’d like to make your own version of these jeans, you can buy the kit from Minerva here.

UPDATE – Public service announcement: please be careful with your zips!

After writing this post and sending my project details to Minerva, this happened:

photo (17)

I zipped the slider right off the first time I wore them! This is completely my own fault. I got a bit over-zealous with the pliers and took too many teeth off the zip, leaving room for this catastrophe to occur.

I managed to fix this but it was an enormous pain, involving tiny implements and much fiddling. Don’t be like me – be careful out there!

p.s. apologies for how blurry the photos are in this post. I would sack the photographer but he seems to be a permanent fixture now, and he’s quite good at making cups of tea.

Minerva Blogging Network: New Look 6180

My second project for the Minerva Bloggers Network is now up! You can see it here. Warning: you might need to wear sunglasses.

pink dress 5

See what I mean? This fabric was described as ‘coral’ but in soft light it turns to a screamingly loud hot-pink. When it arrived I was very dubious about the colour. But in the end, I just had to give in to the pinkness. It won!

Here are 7 things about this project that I didn’t have room for in my Minerva post:

  1. I sewed a straight size 10, as there’s a lot of ease in this pattern. I could probably should have done a tiny FBA but for a last gasp summer project it didn’t seem worth it.
  2. New Look patterns appear to be designed for narrow-shouldered hunchbacks (ie. me). I didn’t do any alterations around the back and shoulders and it fits like a dream.
  3. I really should have added pockets in the side seams but I ran out of time.
  4. I managed to buy the perfect matching thread for this fabric without taking a swatch to the shop, which shows how memorable this colour is.
  5. I used this tutorial for turning out lovely pointy shirt collars, which worked really well.
  6. My shirt stand sewing skills are not good. I need to find a better method of doing this. I’ve got that David Coffin book about shirtmaking but I find it too intimidating to read for more than five minutes.
  7. This is not my usual style – too pink, too full-on retro. Which proves that it’s good to go outside your sewing comfort zone occasionally.

Here’s the back of this dress. This fabric is a dream to sew with. It’s a slubby linen-look cotton that presses beautifully.

pink dress3

There’s a v clever way of sewing a notched cuff in this pattern, which I am definitely going to steal for other projects. Here’s a photo, which also gives a better idea of the colour in full daylight.

sleeve cuff

Here’s a covered button close-up to finish. Originally I chose some lovely white buttons from Minerva which are included in the kit, but by the end of sewing I was obsessed with this fabric and needed the whole dress to be pink, including the buttons. The white ones will find a good home in another project.

pink dress4

You can buy the whole kit here from Minerva – it’s £21 including the pattern, which doesn’t seem bad for a new dress (although I forgot to include elastic and thread, as usual). Alternatively you can buy the linen-look cotton fabric I used in this dress here, or the New Look 6130 pattern here.

Minerva Blogging Network: Simplicity 2258

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on my last post about my image being used by a styling website. I just wanted to say that I was impressed with how quickly the CEO of the business emailed me, and I’m happy with their response. I’m sure they’ll source their photos more carefully from now on….

Anyway, on to more exciting things, like sewing!

The first thing I made for the Minerva Blogging Network is up today, and it’s a colourful cotton skirt.

photo 4

Initially, when I saw what all the other bloggers had lined up, I felt slightly ashamed of the ridiculously simple pattern that I chose.

But actually, I’ve been reaching for this skirt non-stop! It’s perfect for summer weather and super easy and comfortable to wear.  The ties at the side stop it from looking too elasticated. Also, and this is crucial, it has pockets (and a gigantic bow).

Image 3

For once I matched up the fabric and pattern pretty well. This cotton poplin is delicious to sew with and the print is crazily awesome. It also hardly wrinkles.

If you do buy the kit you’ll have half a metre or so left over once you’ve made the skirt. I’m thinking of using mine for pocket linings or for the yoke on a top like my McCalls one.

I also think this would be the perfect project for beginners. Just please, please, promise me that you won’t try and sew up the long tie pieces right sides together and then turn them out. That has to be the worst, must frustrating sewing task ever.

All I did was iron down the edges, fold the tie in half, and then sew the long edge up. In this fabric nobody is going to notice if your stitching is a bit wonky or if the edges don’t quite meet.

Here’s what it looks like before you fold it in half and sew:

photo 2

You could probably draft this skirt yourself if you have the inclination, but the pattern also includes options for shorts and capris which could come in handy, so I think it’s worth a purchase.

You can buy the kit for this skirt here.

If you like the cotton poplin fabric you can get that on it’s own here, and the pattern is here. I totally forgot to include elastic in the kit as I usually have some lying around, but you’ll need a metre of this 32mm elastic, and some black thread.

photo 1

Thanks again to Minerva Crafts, and you can read my post for the Bloggers Network here. I can’t wait to see all the other projects now!