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.


New Liberty Prints Spring/Summer 2014

How’s everyone holding up this January? I’m doing okay, thanks for asking. Unlike the Arctic temperatures of 2013, the weather in London is surprisingly mild. Also, I haven’t pledged to give up alcohol/sugar/fatty foods so I’ve been consuming all three with gusto, which always helps.

To be honest I think February and March are probably the worst months of the year anyway. It’s a long slog until the Easter bank holidays.

Anyway, enough misery, here’s something to cheer you up. Liberty have released their new range of fabrics for 2014!

It’s based on the London store, with different designs representing each department. This is my favourite, and I don’t usually like novelty fabrics. But I’ve fallen hard for this one:


It’s ‘Forget-me-Nots’, and it’s based on the contents of a lady’s handbag, although for some reason they have left out the lidless biros, crumpled up tissues and chocolate bar wrappers that live at the bottom of my bag. I love how meta it is with the tiny Liberty prints on the hairspray, notebook and purse.

It comes in four colourways but this lilac and yellow one is my fave. If you like it, for heavens sake don’t buy it for £22 on the Liberty site, you can get it for £14.25 a metre at Shaukat here.

Here’s my second favourite, called ‘Holly’:


It’s based on the texture of ripped jeans, overlaid with splattered ink. I love the more abstract Liberty prints and this is a beauty. You can buy it from Shaukat here.

The rest of the collection is all very nice, but has lots of little floral prints which aren’t really my thing. You can see the whole range here.

Incidentally, did you saw the recent TV documentary about Liberty? One jaw-dropping fact that I can’t stop thinking about is that their top customers spend over £40,000 a year there. I’m not sure whether to feel disgusted or envious about this. I definitely wouldn’t pass up the chance to do a Supermarket Sweep style trolley dash in Liberty.

p.s. how do you all feel about sewing with Liberty lawn? It has a very crisp, almost cold feel to it for such a delicate fabric, with not much drape. I think it can be tricky matching it to the right pattern – sometimes I prefer it as an accent rather than a full garment. The prints are so gorgeous though…

New Look 6070 – The Last Dress of Summer

Two dresses finished and blogged in one week! What’s going on? Have I opened up an illegal sweatshop in my spare room? Have I reduced my sleeping requirements to 4 hours a night?

dress 1

Well, no. I have cheated. I finished this ages ago, 3 whole weeks before the wedding it was intended for. This advance planning is unprecedented in the history of this blog, or indeed in my entire sewing career.

This was the first wedding I have EVER attended in London, despite living in the city for 5 years and going to about 25 weddings in that time period. I highly approve and wish more people would get married here (slightly hypocritical given that we dragged everyone up to Scotland). There’s nothing better than getting a taxi home to your own bed.

It was a really beautiful, emotional wedding. The bride’s dress was beyond gorgeous, the vows made me weep, and it was sunny! This only downside was realising that I really can’t dance in these shoes for more than 10 minutes. Should have brought flats.

But anyway, the dress. The pattern is New Look Workroom 6070, which I bought in America more than 2 years ago. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match, you know?

6070line (1)

I like the use of pleats in this pattern, I think it looks quite RTW, and it’s very forgiving to fit. The only issue was my fabric, which was so drapey and badly behaved! I had to treat it with a firm hand – I interfaced the midriff band, the facing, and a 2cm ring around the whole neckline to stop it stretching out of shape, as well as stay-stitching everything in sight.

I also basted down all the pleats rather than just pinning them as usual. You can see I also added piping, which helps to add some structure, although I’m not sure now if it detracts from the fabric.


Now the fabric is a vintage piece from The Shop on Cheshire Street, and I just barely managed to squeeze this dress out of it. I did lengthen the bodice piece by 1 inch and the skirt 2 inches.

My only issue with this print? I’m not sure if  it looks like I’m wearing this dress, or that I’ve been upholstered in it. There is more than a hint of the chaise longue.

It might just be my discomfort with florals – I don’t really wear or sew them. But the fit of the dress makes up for that. I’m really keen to make this again with long sleeves for the winter, in a plain crepe fabric (maybe an aubergine-y purple?)

I need a bragging moment now. Check out how well I managed to match up the piping on the back! It’s not perfect but it’s probably my best midriff matching ever. High-five to myself.

back zip

Also, I hand-sewed the hems on the skirt and the sleeves. I KNOW. This is probably the first time I have hand sewn a hem since I made my friend’s wedding dress (pre-blog) but this fabric really needed it.

I think this is probably my Last Summer Sewing of 2013 – it’s time to think about autumn now. Unfortunately.

Spring Sewing Swap!

Readers, do you swap? I am, of course, referring to exchanges of the sewing variety. I recently took part in my first postal swapping event, which was kindly organised by the lovely Kerrie of Kestrel Finds and Makes.

I was lucky enough to be paired up with Amy of Sylko Twist, who I first met at the HUGE swap earlier this year, and even better, she put me to shame by sending her stuff early!

Is there anything better than a big mystery parcel? I think not, especially when you get it at work and sneakily take it to the kitchen to tear it open and paw through all the lovely stuff. Amy sent me some gorgeous things. First, the fabric. This was all beautifully wrapped up in tissue paper and ribbon, unlike the sorry parcel I sent her…


Check out these beauties! On the left we have a semi-sheer knit in some fabulous colours. I think I’m going to leave this until the colder months (although that’s all relative in the UK at the moment), and maybe make a Hot Cocoa sweater. Or possibly another little knit dress. There’s loads of it so I have a myriad of options!

On the right is a beautifully drapey crepe type fabric – I’ve already decided this is going to be a Scout Tee with long sleeves, like Shivani’s lovely versions. The print is too awesome to let any darts or pleats get in the way.

Next, some amazing patterns. I have some cunning plans for the jumpsuit on the left. I am a huge fan of the pattern art (and the pattern) in the middle – Upper arm bangle! Manicure inspection! 60s hair! And the shirt dress on the right is completely perfect, will definitely be making a version of that.


But that’s not all! Amy also included a card of beautiful buttons, which I think she must have hand-stitched on herself. They are almost too pretty to use, I may have to just admire them. Plus there was some gorgeous ribbon and lace trim.


Finally, the icing on the cake – a parrot tea-towel! These may not technically be parrots –  if any Australians want to chime in to identify them, please feel free. They’ll always be parrots to me though.

And what’s that on the left-hand side? Could it be…I think it could be…yes it is….

parrot jumper

A parrot jumper knitting pattern!! Goodness knows where Amy managed to find this, but it’s made me very happy. At my current knitting speed it would take me over 20 years to make this, but I can dream…

Thanks to the lovely Kerrie for organising this swap, and the gorgeous Amy for sending me such beautiful things!

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.

Sweatshirt skater dress + frozen fabric in Tottenham

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments about my jeans! I am working on a second version in some strange brown stretchy fabric, and my post about how I made the first ones will be up EXTREMELY SOON.

In the meantime though, I wanted to show you this dress I made. I said I would only sew separates this year, but I made this in less than 3 hours so it doesn’t count.

sweatshirt dress wide

It’s inspired by sweatshirt dresses I’ve seen in the shops, like this one from Madewell, and this one from poor old Aubin & Wills (shut down for good, although I got some nice jumpers in the closing sale. Every cloud…)

This was ridiculously easy to make. I used the basic t-shirt from Sew U to make the top half, and then a half-circle skirt for the bottom. The neckline is my old standby, and the sleeves are just turned up twice and stitched in place. I zig-zagged elastic to the waist seam allowance, and then topstitched it down.

dress bodice

It’s all sewn on the overlocker except for one feature that you might recognise:

tiny stupid pocket

Yes, it’s the return of my faithful friend, the Tiny Useless Pocket! How I’ve missed it.

This fabric is from the semi-mythical knit warehouse in Tottenham. I ventured there one day with Julia of The Secret Life of Seams, and we both returned to tell the tale, with only the first signs of frostbite and enormous bags of fabric to remind us of our epic journey.

It was one of the coldest days in January, and my feet slowly lost all sensation as we rifled through hundreds of rolls of fabric, but it was worth it. I got all this for £11.50.

knit fabrics

I think you can tell how cold and miserable it was that day by the fact that I subliminally chose only monochrome fabrics.

Anyway the sweatshirt stuff is on the far right – it’s not really sweatshirting, but some kind of double-knit that resembles it. On the far left we have sequinned knit (£5 a metre! Pricey!), then quilted grey jersey, then knitted ikat, and finally some brown and black giraffe print that is destined to be a Dixie DIY Hot Cocoa sweater, if I can ever remember to print off the pattern.



I was wildly enthusiastic about this when I got it home, but then I googled ‘sewing with sequinned fabric’ and my enthusiasm rapidly faded. The plan was for something like this, but I might put it on the back-burner until I feel in the mood to remove sequins from seam allowances (urgh) and then sew individual ones on to cover bald patches (double urgh).

Anyway, back to the dress. I have no idea what the fabric content is, but it feels like a poly/cotton mix. It’s incredibly comfortable. And, bonus, it has enabled me to levitate!

sweatshirt dress jumping

Happy February!

Autumn fabric haul

Recently I got bitten by the autumn cleaning bug and had a massive, remorseless clearout. It began with a simple wardrobe tidy. But once I started on the pit of tangled old belts, holey jumpers, and unloved shoes, I just couldn’t stop. I was chucking stuff out left, right and centre in a cleaning frenzy!

One thing that got the chop was a bag of old fabric scraps. Do you keep these? If you sew a lot, you end up with so many odd pieces. I know Pinterest is full of ideas for using them up, but they’re nearly all useless. I have no need to decoupage my make-up brushes, or make a ‘post-it note holder’. I prefer my post-its naked, if it’s all the same to you.

I do keep the bigger pieces for collars/pocket linings.

(Top tip – offer fabric scraps on Freecycle. You’ll get tons of replies. Last time I gave mine to a school project to make a UK map out of textiles. Which is awesome.)

I ended up with a severely diminished wardrobe, and an empty fabric stash. So the Peter Jensen sample sale came at exactly the right time.

It was madness in there – I went with the lovely bloggers Elisalex, Kathryn, and Alison at 10am, and it was nearly stripped bare by noon, with just a few forlorn scraps left. I’m suffering from non-buyers remorse quite badly (why didn’t I buy some of that orange lace??) but here’s what I did snaffle:

2 metres of mustard yellow cotton canvas – £4

This is almost like a heavy cheesecloth, in a very bright mustard colour. It’s probably going to be a pleated skirt from this vintage pattern. Having trouble deciding on a pleat/pocket combo.

3 metres of denim – £3 (a pound a metre! Why didn’t I get more??)

Er, another skirt? This fabric is super-nice, it’s very drapey for denim and is a great 70s blue.

2.5 metres of khaki stiff cotton – £10

This is DEFINITELY (probably) going to be a Minoru, if I have enough fabric. Although I need to actually buy the pattern first.

3 metres of cappucino coloured dotted swiss – £7.50

This fabric is gorgeous. The photo doesn’t really do it justice – it’s more of a milky coffee colour with lighter dots. No idea what to make with this – suggestions welcome! Elisalex also got some, I might wait and see what she makes and then copy it sneakily.

I also got all these buttons and a scrap of orange-y fabric with an unusual sueded texture, which is too small to do anything with really. Still, it was only a pound.

Total spend? £24.50. BARGAIN.

I could have bought so much more, but managed to restrain myself. My main plan this autumn/winter is to sew lots of separates so I was looking for suitable skirt fabrics.

Now to find the time to actually sew. Anyone got a couple of spare hours for sale? Will swap for digestives.

Friday Fabric Fun: Peter Jensen sample sale and stretch denim

Attention, London-based sewing types! I have some Friday fabric news for you. Ready?

Designer Peter Jensen is having a fabric sample sale (this link now works properly, sorry!) next Saturday, the 27th October, at 10am. This is rather exciting. He’s known for his unusual prints, like this umbrella fabric:

Photo via Style Bubble

Or this bird print, which you might have known I’d be a fan of:

Or this slightly over-the-top-but-amazing-with-it alpine cabin print:

Now of course there’s no guarantee that they’ll be selling any of this stuff – it may just be a load of old calico they need to shift. But I’m definitely going to go down and find out! Is anyone else interested? Slightly concerned that it will just be a horde of 20 year old fashion students with sharp elbows, so would be nice to have some fellow home sewists along.

On the same topic (sort of), I have a fabric dilemma. Where you can buy interesting stretch trouser-weight fabrics, online or in London?

I’m not saying I would wear these, necessarily, but I’d at least like to have the ability to make them

Coloured and patterned jeans have been all over the shops for ages now. But fabric stores don’t seem to have caught up yet. Everywhere I’ve been just has a small, sad selection of cheap-looking stretch denim in dubious shades of blue.

I’ve got the pattern already – Burda 7863, inspired by Handmade by Carolyn. And I’ve got some practice/wearable muslin fabric from Tissu. But I need more! Any suggestions? (I did find this Ebay shop but that’s about it).

Scout woven tee in yellow gingham

I made a new top! It’s a t-shirt pattern designed for woven fabric, from grainline studios.

Scout woven tee in yellow gingham

Here’s the details:

Pattern: Scout woven tee from grainline studios, which you can buy here

Material: (Allegedly) Paul Smith yellow gingham from Fabrics Galore, left over from my sunshine dress.


  • I added a pocket, because of my sick compulsion to add stupid tiny pockets to everything.
  • I put three lines of shirring just below the shoulder seam line.
  • I folded my neckline bias binding to look a bit like faux piping, which is not in the instructions.
  • It was tiny bit too big, so I tapered in the sides quite a lot. I sewed a 8, next time will prob go for a 6.

Sadly we have not suddenly sprouted a graffiti wall in our flat, these photos are from a bike-ride down the canal to Victoria Park.

I really like this pattern. It’s very customisable and it’s QUICK, coming in at just 2.5 TAL units*. If  you put a seam down the back, as I did, you can make it with a tiny amount of fabric.
* ie. I listened to two and a half This American Life episodes while cutting out and sewing.
I love the drafting on this with the slightly forward shoulder seams. The sleeves are just a tad too puffy for me, but that’s mostly down to my material, which is a fine but very crisp shirt fabric.

Hopefully this will be the first of many. It’s perfect for those special patterned fabrics that need a simple pattern to really show them off. Highly recommended.

Craftaganza, Sunshine, and Brighton

It’s taken me a week to write about this, but the Craftaganza market last week was really fun!

It was held in a beautiful building, an old church. I used to walk past it when I was a student at Brighton but I’ve never been inside. It’s a great space.

Zoe lined up some really amazing sellers and I did a bit of sneaky shopping. My lovely boyfriend also bought me a pair of Erica Trogal feather earrings, which I can highly endorse.

It was a scorchingly hot day. Brighton was packed, the train down from London Bridge* was full to the brim, and people were crammed everywhere along the sea-front.
* my new candidate for least favourite London station. Finally Euston has a worthy competitor in the hideousness stakes.

We didn’t make it onto the pier because it looked off-puttingly full of people, but we did see the sea, photo evidence above and below.

It was strange walking round Brighton again. The atmosphere hasn’t changed at all, it still has that charming, ramshackle energy that’s so much less polished and stressful than the way London feels.  All the old shops are still there, and lots of new ones too! But I was glad to see that the pick and mix shop on the North Laine was still present and correct.

The next Craftaganza event will be in June, and if you’re anywhere near Brighton, I definitely recommend popping down, it’s going to be epic. I’m really impressed with how much work Zoe puts into organising these things, on top of a full time job as well.

Zoe also gave me the greatest gift one human can give another: parrot fabric!!

Parrot fabric

This is just a small close-up of the magnificence. Don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet, it’s too amazing to cut without some serious planning first. Possibly I will just frame it and admire it every day.

She also gave me this gorgeous hand-made bag from wax print fabric, which was really overwhelming and too nice. I love it, the colours are brilliant.

Amazing bag in African print fabric

So that was my weekend, a week ago. Hope you have a good one coming up!

Put a bird on it

I’m totally obsessed with birds at the moment. Or more specifically, tropical birds. They’re just so colourful and bright and hilarious-looking, like a big joke that nature is playing on us.

Photo from National Geographic

I can’t get my own parrot or macaw (they’re really a big commitment) so I have to make do with a Pinterest board instead. See how technology can improve our lives.

Now, when it comes to fabric, I am fussy about bird prints. I’m not really into small, boring repeats. Neither do I want to see owls, swallows, or generic bird silhouettes. I want massive tropical birds and I want them now! Like this one:

Parrot print dress

This dress may be silly in many ways but I love the 60s silhouette, and of course, the giant parrot.

For something a bit more jaw-dropping, what about this Alexander McQueen  dress from 2003?

I love the way this hangs between being both an over-the-top carnival costume, and the most beautiful evening dress in the world.

I already have this gold, mirrored parakeet necklace by Tatty Devine:

Tatty Devine gold parakeet
Tatty Devine gold parakeet

The shape reminds me of the giant condor that’s been etched into the Peruvian desert, one of the Nazca lines.   Nobody knows why the lines are there.

And finally, what about this Peter Jensen dress? I am not a peplum fan, to be honest, but the parrot print is nice.

Peter Jensen Parrot Dress from SS12

All of this lovely parrot print fabric doesn’t seem to be trickling down to London fabric shops, unfortunately (although Peter Jensen’s studio is actually in Dalston – maybe I should hang around outside and check the bins).

All I could find was some Liberty print fabric called Pauly Parrot, which is too small and tasteful for me. I did also track down this macaw print vintage fabric on Ebay:

Vintage Macaw Print Fabric by DaisygatorHome on Etsy

I’m very tempted to be honest.

Do you have any unusual fabric obsessions?

Digital print for home-sewers

Have you ever used a digital fabric printing service?

A friend of mine is in the early stages of launching a UK based fabric printing service, which will be aimed at home-sewers. This idea has got me pretty excited, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone on this side of the Atlantic offering digital prints to those who sew for themselves.

But, she needs our help! She’s set up a short survey to gauge demand amongst sewing types, and I promised to help spread the word. If you fill it out, you’ll be in with a chance to win £100 worth of vouchers to be spent once the company is up and running.

You can take the survey here, and they have a Facebook page here if you’d like to keep up with progress on the project.

Digital print has brought us some jaw-dropping clothes and home wear, like this from Mary Katrantzou (from her spring 2012 collection, although if you haven’t checked out her A/W 2012 stuff, go and do that now. She has prints of HB pencils! 80s radios! And typewriters!)

Image from style.com

And this from Agi and Sam, a menswear label. That coat on the right is a digitally printed tweed pattern on wool. I do love a bit of fabric trompe l’oeil (they also make potato smiley face leggings)

Image from thefader.com

And I think I found this through Pinterest – it’s a design by Claudia Caviezel for a Swiss designer called Jakob Schlaepfer. The colours are just amazing.

Image from Claudia Caviezel Faces of Design profile

Do you have any favourite designs using digital print? How do you think  it can be used by home sewers? And would you wear leggings printed with a reconstituted potato foodstuff?