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.

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.

New favourites

New favourite colour combo:

My boyfriend put together this amazing tulip and daffodil bouquet which is eye-poppingly full of spring: sherbert orange, violet,  yellow and green all mixed together.


New favourite blog:

The Costume Rail 

I just discovered this blog by a professional costume designer and maker. I love her analysis of film, tv and theatre costume, and there’s also brilliant posts on fishtail dressesvintage underwear, and novelty knitwear.

(incidentally I am still using Google Reader to save all new blog finds. I’m living in denial.)

New favourite dress:

Picture borrowed from Me and My Polar Bear

This amazoid galaxy Elisalex dress sewn by Emily of Me And My Polar Bear.

Would you believe this fabric is actually a duvet cover from Tesco? As soon as I saw this dress on Twitter I bought the same bedding set (you can get it here). It’s pretty stiff poly-cotton though so I’m still working out what to make with it. I think another Elisalex would be a stalking move too far…

New favourite pattern:

McCalls 6531. It’s a kimono sleeve anorak pattern. I’ve still got some lovely khaki waxed cotton left over from the Peter Jensen sample sale (the gift that keeps on giving) and thought the two could combine into a summer jacket. I’ve bought a separating zipper and everything.


What do you think though? Too 80s? I was going to make the long version with the pockets, but on reflection the shorter jacket might actually be nicer… (Please ignore the McCalls styling, as usual)

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.

Summery white shirt (but no summer yet): McCalls 6512

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last screed on blogging and narcissicm, all the comments were so interesting and insightful.

I started this site because I wanted somewhere to rant on in tedious detail about all my obsessions, which I keep from my friends to avoid boring them into a coma. I really enjoy getting feedback and comments, which were mentioned as reasons for blogging, and I do find this site keeps me more motivated and creative.

The bleeding edge of online fashion has long ago left the bog-standard world of blogs to jump to specialist Tumblr sites, Pinterest, and other innovations, which means that the really interesting and specialist stuff can begin to explode (witness the huge number of sewing blogs that have sprung up in the last couple of years). When blogging becomes just another normal method of communication, the novelty of it doesn’t matter so the content becomes more important. More types of people get involved, so there’s so much more variety. Which is great if you are both incredibly nosy and love reading, like me.

Anyway, enough waffling. here’s my latest creation, McCalls 6512. I can’t rave enough about what an awesome pattern this is. Here’s a line-drawing of the magnificence:

Check out that sexy saddle sleeve! It’s like a superhero hybrid of a raglan and kimono, I think it may have magical powers. The styling on the envelope is rather terrible as usual with McCalls, you can see it here.

Here it is in REAL LIFE.

I sewed version A almost straight out of the envelope, but I lengthened the sleeves a couple of inches, the body 1.5 inches, and then had to bring in the underarm/sleeve seams by about 1cm. I did french seams throughout, except for the pesky sleeve/body join.

The fabric is a lovely embroidered cotton voile, from my favourite Edinburgh fabric shop.

The awesome pockets and sleeve tabs make it look super professional. I’ve had absolutely no unsolicited compliments on it, and I suspect that’s because it looks like I bought it in Next. Which gives me mixed feelings. Would it make more sense to sew items that are less generic? In other news, I’m not happy unless I have something to worry about.

The hem line is nicely curved, and the shape is loose-fitting but not baggy.

‘Try and look natural Kathryn. Oh never mind.’
Bun enhance
Extreme elbow close-up

Because it’s a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, it comes with lines on the pattern telling you where to do a FBA, a swayback adjustment, and a few other fitting things. The instructions are also really good. The sleeve parts do look a bit like a strange jigsaw puzzle when you first try and put it together, but it all makes sense eventually.

I’ve already relied heavily on this top for Me-Made-May. I know that having a basic white shirt is one of those boring women’s magazines recommendations, but it does actually turn out to be very useful! Who knew?

McCalls 6512 shirt
This is my ‘looking into the distance pose’. It’s not very good.

Apologies for my posing ‘skills’ and general air of blotchiness in these pics. Obviously I’m not as narcissistic as I thought or I would try a bit harder with the old photos, but there you go.

I am definitely going to make the version with the long sleeves and bow next. YOU MUST BUY THIS PATTERN. If not you’ll be filled with regret when it inevitably goes out of print, and you have to buy my copy on ebay for a vastly inflated sum. Do it now!

McCalls 6503: 1950s style dress

Summer’s here guys! I made a new dress to celebrate. Here I am enjoying the sunshine on my balcony.

McCalls 6503 1950s dress

Oh alright. This is me pretending there isn’t a biblical downpour going on around me. The constant, miserable rain in London is really getting me down. Personally I blame Thames Water. As soon as they launched their huge media campaign telling us all to conserve water due to a massive drought in the South of England,  the weather gods decided to take the piss by ordering 40 days and nights of constant drizzle. It’s very ironic, or something.

McCalls 6503 back

The pattern is McCalls 6503. I went a bit mad when Jaycotts had a half-price pattern sale and bought loads. McCalls are the only one of the big 4 that I haven’t sewn from before, and I was really impressed with this pattern. The styling on all their envelopes is uniformly terrible though. Exhibit A below:

The garish fabric totally obscures the lines of the dress, not to mention the truly nasty 80s shoes and whatever’s going on with the hair styling. See how much better the midriff and bust gathers actually are in real life:

I think this dress has a very 1950s look, with the midriff band, the cross-over bodice, and the gathered skirt. It even closes up the side, so you could go really authentic and do a lapped zipper, although I couldn’t be bothered on this version.

The fabric I used is not vintage, but it’s along those lines. It’s from Fabrics Galore and I’ve hoarded it for about 3 years. The print is so crazy I needed to do it justice. Here’s a close-up:

Yes, it’s a black and white line-drawing of some scarily intense ballet dancers. My boyfriend described it as looking like ‘a scene from hell’, and there is a slight hint of Dante about it. These are not pink tulle wearing ballet dancers. They are ripped and will probably cut you if you get in the way of their jetés.

At first I wasn’t sure about this dress. I love the print on the fabric so much I should probably have made an everyday item with it,  not something so costume-y. .But after wearing this dress all day today, I’ve come to appreciate it more. It’s super comfortable, and looks okay with a cardigan and tights, which is no doubt how it will be worn for 51 weeks of the year.

I added lace trim to the collar, and black piping to the midriff seams (the piping was another score from the Brighton meet-up! Thanks Clare!). I also added some big old pockets which are always necessary.

The only fit changes I made were to lengthen the bodice an inch, the skirt two inches, and the sleeves one inch. I also took out a bit of the fullness in the bust gathers, as recommended here, but I think they could be left in if you’re working with a lighter fabric. I didn’t need to do a FBA on this as the style is very forgiving.

Prior warning: this dress needs a lot of hand-tacking to hold down the cross-over bodice, otherwise it will never sit right.

Now all I need is for it to stop raining…