so thats what SWAP means –

Bitty plans have never been a favourite place of mine, and currently my work room is full of them – the chaos annoys me.  The embroidery machine is set up as I am planning an Irish dancing waistcoat for my nephew and trying to figure how to get the design digitised.  My nieces class costume (‘traditional’ Irish dance dress that is worn in group dances) had to be altered and now done and sits at the back of the door – it was an interesting one as the dress has been through a lot of dancers and altered each time (one side seam is an inch out), however it is still hanging in there, and my lengthening of the skirt is just another in the chain.   A half finished coat sits on the mannequin with the paper pattern for the lining pinned on top.  The work table has an upcycle embroidery idea for a one-euro top (photo finish below), and I have a  plaid skirt taken apart and knit cardigan project sitting waiting to start……..


The Irish dancing waistcoat did throw things off a bit as it was a recent ask, and I want it out of the way so I can focus on the other pieces.  However, as I pulled the embroidery machine extension out, it was a good time to stitch up other samples as I want to add some embellishment to a few pieces .

While trying to see if I could get a textured black and or black velvet in the charity shops for the waistcoat and embroidery sampling, I did get this little black top for a euro in the ‘clearance’.  I was going to use it for the waistcoat sampling but the pile is not that deep and as the cut of it is rather cute, I thought I would do some embroidery on it…….and I am rather fascinated by Susanne Bisovsky so I did this motif


So admist the chaos – I have also put my sewing ‘plan’ on the wall (I also just figured with the help of google what this SWAP is in sewing blogs today……………..) – so once the Irish dancing stuff is ‘one the way’ I can get around to including these………….(edit – SWAP Sewing with a Plan….. )

winter 2016 sewing plans

  1.  the red coat – it will be a basic re-cut of a raglan sleeve coat
  2. black bobble a-line dress – this will be made from a cardigan coat – which I hope sews according to plan
  3. vogue top and cigarette pants – I will see if I can pick up black pants in the charity shop to re-cut using my pattern as I have gotten so much wear from the denim ones
  4. purple tunic and skirt – I will remake these from a purple suit…. not in a hurry to make these for a while – these have moved to bottom of list for the moment
  5. sew house seven sweater and plaid skirts – I have a sweater dress and hope to make the toasty sew house seven sweater – and some plaid which I embroidering
  6. vogue blouse 7789 peasant style – I hope I have sufficient fabric for this
  7. a crochet sweater…….I have a pattern
  8. another crochet sweater without a pattern

Now I wonder how much of this plan will go accordingly………………….






double denim skirt – The refashioners 2016

My workroom has become awash with denim……between the last few makes, I have also been picking up more jeans from ‘the euro rail’ (yup the local charity shop had to reduce all jeans to 1 euro to clear them out a few weeks ago….on one hand I gain by getting so much raw material so cheaply, but on the other hand it shows the levels of overconsumption…)

I had been meaning to try a skirt, as I have a good few dresses for winter, but want to try a skirt so I can mix and match with trousers and sweaters.  I had doodled about some ideas, and in the end the main contenders were…………………….

the refashioners 2016 Upsew Skirt ideas

It was pretty much playing about with some graphic shapes, the first being ‘the drawing exercise’ (is it a silhouette of a couple or a candle-stick…) and  then going between 2 colour and 3 colour options. I decided to go for the jigsaw idea, though now with hindsight, I probably would have found drawing 3, 4 or 9 easier with the straight lines.


The dark denim was from a dress I did last year from a pair of jeans, I didn’t wear it much and figured most of it would go into making the skirt.  The light denim was from another pair of jeans from ‘the euro rail’ (the reduced rail).   I used an a-line skirt pattern I had, and divided it into 3 parts along the dart lines.  I added the shapes to one side, and added seam allowance onto that.



The centre front and other side ended up being joined together and cut rather crudely from the dress front and dress back as there was insufficient fabric.  It is not on grain but the seam line is relatively evenly matched and I figured I could get away with it given the fabric weight, and weave.

I placed the jigsaw shape side over the dark denim, pinned in place, and top-sewed in place – I was more organised with the second jigsaw panel, I clipped the curved edges before I turned it over with a tacking stitched, then pinned and top-stitched  They are not perfect curves, but as it was a bit of an experiment, and a casual skirt, I am fine with this (and given my increasing need for glasses, I probably am well able to overlook it!).  I used a zip from one of the pairs of jeans, and the inside leg scrap from the light denim for a curved waist facing.

Its a knee length skirt, and probably best suited for summer.  Knee length is a funny length for me, I am experimenting teaming it up with different shoes/boots/tops and have not settled on a ‘winter’ look, as tights look a bit odd from the light denim sided….. but I don’t want to cut it short either…..

Iam also thinking of trying some of these graphic skirts for some wools off-cuts, which would work out well indeed.





Vogue 6368 in denim

I have this pattern (dress only no coat sadly) for quite a while and have been looking for any excuse to try it out, I adore the shaping, and I also think that the ladies white hair in the illustration could have swayed me also!


I had a semi formal event in September and it seemed as good an excuse as any, however finding the fabric was a chore.  I wanted something with a bit of depth and not prone to creasing, and as I am far away from shopping choice I ended up settling on a denim on sale in the local fabric shop.  (The only other were some synthetic crepes – that were both flat and loud).  I had already made the denim cigarette pants from the same denim and at 8euro a metre I would get the dress for 24 euro, so even if it didnt work, the pattern pieces were so large it could easily be remade into something else……………………and the denim also looked lovely with my silver shoes.

I washed the denim to soften it a bit, and my main worry was the weight.  I really should have worried more about grading the pattern at the hips.  I graded it fine in the main, but forgot to add to the the other side as its an asymmetric cut – but I was able to compensate later as it sewed up.

Not a lot to say about the construction.  The dress went together pretty quickly, and the main difficulty was the weight of the pleats, and the omission of grading on the other side of the hips. For the back pleat I used a length of black binding to give me the extra to meet the side seam (the pleat is sewn onto the seam allowance here.  If I was sewing it again in a heavy fabric I would take the kick pleat out of the back and make it a slit and have it hang straight down – ie not anchor it at all, and I would consider something similar for the front pleat.  The sewing instructions also had the back pleat hang from the facing but I hand-stitched it down a few inches as the fabric seemed to drag it away from the body.  I probably should have hand-stitched it further, but I was afraid if I did too much, the sewing may get caught up somehow.

The back of the dress is 4 layers of fabric and when you factor in the darts that’s 6 layers so after I steam pressed the facings, I used bulldog clamps to make it look less bulky (and it worked a charm).

The dress was incredibly comfortable to wear and if I ever see a potential swanky fabric I would definitely like to make it again.    I am going to take the back pleat from this dress and turn it into a more casual summer dress.


The Shrug

When I planned the dress last spring, I forgot that September weather can be changeable so had to rustle up a shrug.  I made a modified version of the studio faro balenciaga top – and gave it extra tailoring from a vogue picture I saw.  I drafted up the pattern again, the last sample I did got used as hand bag lining, but I remembered I had drafted it far too big so I used a close fitting block as my starting point.  I was using some left over grossgrain type fabric and would have liked to have done a bias cut and absorbed some of the darts, but as the fabric has a raised stripe, it was easier to cut on grain.  I did a toile from an old sheet first, and fixed the darts using that, and also cut a curve in the back of the ‘sleeve’, and used the cut and fixed toile to alter the newer pattern.  I was going to put in buttons and did some trials but thought buttonholes looked a bit fussy so I left it was was…….. a really useful shrug for an empire line dress.

4 jeans denim dress

While I loved the denim chevron chair I saw on pinterest years ago……it was highly unlikely I was going to actually make it – but I was accumulating the denim just in case.  I always seem to get drawn to regular patterning, and while I really like the Victoria Beckham dress -I was thinking of a 70s take and make something similar to my chevron halter pattern when I saw this one – the ‘log cabin’ construction looked a lot more interesting than the chevron!  (and I would not have big bumps of denim on the way)

I was half way through the cut of the denim top refashion, when I figured to expand pattern to make the dress, change darts and get the denims laid out.  I had the denims on the table for a day while I sewed up the other projects, and then thought I would just rip them up to try out the lay-out, and after an hour or so, had sewn up the back of the dress!   Seriously this dress had a momentum of its own from the get-go.   I made the front the next morning.  I did know that the jeans legs front and back were not equal and should have been a bit more patient with measuring (as if – in truth, I also figured its easier to power ahead, and make something or forever dither) so I did have to put an extra piece in a lower panel (I figured if I mirrored it at the neckline it could look balanced).   I also had to patch in 2 small bits onto the sides of the back as I had miscalculated the cut, and so I could sew the side seams, but they are tiny

Future Fixes

  • the darts could be incorporated better into the seams
  • seams could be top stitched
  • pockets could be added to the next one (yup I think I will make this again

I was really surprised at how quick the dress went together, I sewed it/patch-worked it up from the bottom triangle, and I finished the seam with a zig zag.    The neck, armhole, and hem are all finished with bias tape.  There is a side zip (and I have 4 jeans zips to add to my harvested zip collection)

The biggest challenge of the dress was trying to figure out the denim and this I think is a general ‘conundrum’.  Only one pair of the jeans had stretch in them (the denim at shoulder) and it did not rip that true to grain.  The rest were roughly the same weight.  I think getting weight and tone similar is the most difficult as some are a truer indigo than others, but when it all came down to it, it was a lot easier once I got sewing.  I played about with the length and went for knee length in the end, but it seems to work nicely at a variety of hem lengths.


I am totally enamored with this dress, and apologies for the creased look in the photos, I had just been wearing it all the morning!.    What I really love is that the diagonals look like huge brush strokes and when a friend suggested how well it would go with  chunky beads..I started to consider getting red chunky beads, or even crocheting a necklace! (I don’t really wear jewelry).  Its also a dress that I hope to wear summer and winter….and I probably would not have made it only for seeing the fantastic refashioners posts on my facebook feed, they are all so inspiring.  Big thank you to Portia at Makery for hosting!


4 jeans denim dress






lots of plans but I changed them – first denim refashion

I had a very good plan for the next month, but when the refashioners came out, and I was seeing all the wonderful makes – they were happily swept to one side so I could finally attack the stash of denim.


I did a denim dress last year, and it was meant to do a patch work version of a McCalls pattern, but found out not all denims are equal, and matching them was a bit overwhelming, so I made something simpler.  At the same time, I also thought I could make a tonal denim quilt, so I had asked my sister to give any used denims from her family  (which would have been for a textile recycle) to me, so I got a fair bit over the past  2 years.  I also had just made a cute pattern for a cap sleeve top, and upcycled some linen shorts (which are not still waiting to be ‘faced’ as I started sewing this denim in the middle of it all!) – and I also started making a denim dress which I am now just finishing – I really did get distracted by the refashioners, and it was also a great chance to make something from the denim stash.

The denim I used is from a pair of jeans I intended to use last year, so they were already taken apart.  They seem to have a purple rinse and did not really ‘go’ with much else, the shade has great depth.

The sew for both was straightforward, and neither need closures as its a boat neck.  The neckline and arm holes are finished with some bias tape.  I have quite a few sleeveless tops but liked the idea of a small cap sleeve so my arms would not feel bare, and I could wear a tee shirt underneath!


The darts give it some shaping at waist – and worn here as double denim….. I have not tried it on with much other stuff yet, I think it should work well with culottes or gauchos?

a summer jacket (from a euro coat)

coat upcycle simplicity 5256We went for a midsummer picnic this year.  It was rather brave as it was well wet and very windy.  Some years ago a group of us went one amazing midsummer picnic in the Burren (Limestone hills in neighbouring county) and it was a spectacular sunset, and every year since we have tried to do one (and each time it doesn’t come off).  This year we made it a definite, and decided to go to a lovely beach and cliff nearby.  And I wore my ten-year-old-2-sizes-too-big windcheater.  Which I have had for years and its awful.  Its mank.  Fine for walking woods and doing firewood, but really……I decided that night I was not going to go to next years midsummer in that jacket.

Two weeks later, there are coats on the euro rail, I bought 3 (which means I now have 5 coats to upcycle…no pressure).  I had great plans for this green coat, but in the end went for a simple make using Simplicity 5256 as one or two small holes appeared in the fabric when the 80s detailing was removed.  The worst hole was a few inches up the sleeve, and I decided while sewing that to sew an obvious patch, which could look like a deliberate  detail (and I am sticking to this).


There were no darts, so I ‘graded’ the pattern by tracing it without seam allowance (how technical is that!).    The only concessions I had to make, were the sleeves had to have a seam down the centre, and the hood has a small insert in the back.  The sew was straight-forward, and the only changes are that the pockets are side opening, and I did originally put them in -wrong….   I was going to reuse the strange lining (and padding) but didn’t (I thought it would be ironic, but luckily there was insufficient fabric), so I used some green lining from the lining scrap bag for hood and sleeves, and left over check lining for the main.  I had hoped and thought I may re-use some of the epaulets etc but it was beginning to feel a bit fiddly and was simpler to leave as it was.    Its turned into a useful jacket – very pleased with it, as it will also serve as a working model for the next coat to jacket remake!



culottes to blouse – one euro buy

I am developing a habit of justifying buying from the one euro rail on the basis that they are all moments away from landfill…… and am equally surprised at the amount of ‘good’ stuff that ends up there.  The downside is, I have to sew a bit faster so I am not hoarding. I did a photo of me wearing the original, but can’t seem to find it, which is probably just as well as they looked rather awful – more big knickers than culottes!

I got these silk culottes last month.  The silk is a lovely shade of lilac, and they were a home-made pair of culottes from probably 1982.  The maker went to great trouble to sew tiny machine stitches (I have given up on sewing tiny stitches for silk – I truly don’t see the point, as ultimately they are a pain to undo).  I took it apart with some difficulty, rescued zip and reused lining, cleaned and starched the fabric and set to making a blouse.

I had decided on a boat-neck tucked blouse and made up a pattern and made up a toile, and then made up the blouse.  I have not done a lot of this style of tuck/drapes and am happy enough with the way this came out, but would like to try some more to experiment a bit more with these styles.

The cut was straightforward (centre seams on straight grain – I could have tried putting the front off grain but thought to play it safe for first time).  I sewed seams, and tucked the front and back, then attached the lining to neck and arm openings, before sewing shoulder seams and then hemming.  As with all good plans, I decided to change mid-course, and changed the direction of the tucks by the time I used the silk so as the centre seams would be more hidden, so I don’t think they sit as well as they should, but I had gotten rather tired of fixing them so I just finished them off!

I had a bit of a do to attend last weekend, and I thought the top would look so amazing with a pair of black dress trousers. Ha-how wrong was I – either I have gotten bigger or the trousers smaller, and in truth its the former, so I decided 2 things:- one, never eat sweets again (…wild gamble…) , and two, to make a pair of new trews.

I bought some stretch denim on sale 8euro a metre, and ran up a pair of cigarette pants from last years pattern.  I was surprised what a quick sew it was, they were done in an hour or two, and I even did pockets!  And bonus, they work with the summer halter make from a few weeks ago!



Shirt to Sunbather

Another quick sew, and my summer sewing seems to be taking shape, a lot of the colours I am using co-ordinate well, and I am using up a lot of what was in the ‘press’.  I had seen a few of these tops on WeSewRetro, and I got the pattern from Etsy.

I used a charity shop shirt, harvested the buttons, and cut out the top gathered piece in 2 pieces, as well as having to divide the pattern piece for the back wraps in two.  I made a grain error (ie cut it off grain) in the end wrap pieces but it makes no difference really.  There is enough shirt left over for a button back version of this!  I used about 5m of store bought bias binding (2euro), and lined it with left over sheeting (its a thin sheet/like flour bag fabric).  My lining was cut the same as the fabric, and sewed to the fabric before the top was constructed.

Very quick make….. however the temperatures here have taken a dive so it may not get worn for a while!

McCalls 7241 – A simple sew

While I have been sewing for years, that doesn’t mean it been anyway consistent, or even improving, if anything, in the in-between times when I was no longer sewing regularly or our of necessity, I had gotten worse, and this fabric was a case in point.  I picked it up some years ago on a whim thinking I would just whip up a tunic and I cut it slightly off grain on one side (slippy fabric)  as well as a less than perfect choice of lining (I cut the lining off a skirt and inserted it……. and only wore it once or twice as it was so badly made

So last year, I unpicked it and starched it, and couldn’t figure what to make, so I put it to one side of a while.  Two weeks ago, I had a particularly  rotten day at work (which to be fair never happens as I only work part time and with nice people) and came home grumpy and decided I needed a treat and got this pattern on a whim ignoring the postage costs vs pattern costs……I am glad I did as it was a quick sew, and a fun piece and while  I could have drafted it, there is something nice about being given all the steps and tested pattern,  and I am shallow enough to be easily swayed by those cute illustrations.

Recutting was a bit of a squeeze and I used pen to mark out (naughty).  Recutting also showed up the original bad cut.  I lined it this time in a fine cotton (its like handkerchief fabric) from the TWI remnant bin and it was perfect as it has woven lines which helped in keeping the hem even.  No facings as the lining does that, the ties are threaded through the top and the bottom is elasticated.  This top would also work well for vintage scarves I think.    I had hoped the pen marks would not be visible after laundering but no such luck…. but I am sure they will go in time!

A very quick sew, and very pleased with top (another style I usually don’t wear), and I have always loved the print on this fabric, and some good came from having a rotten day at work!

Action shots are by number one photographer and roller blade buddy Catriona….



grey skirt to grey dress (and still a grey skirt)

When I was 20 I went inter-railing and had my rucksack packed with stuff, including vintage dresses (3) and floral McHammer style pants (it was the 80s), leggings and lots of teeshirts, plimsoles and sandals…… and a few basics.  We met lots of wonderful people and I loved it all.  I remember meeting one girl, who had a much smaller and simpler rucksack, metal water canteen (like from the army) and who seemed to have a total 2 jersey skirts and 3 tee shirts and each combination looked so effortless, and ready for all occasions….. and funnily enough when I was working on this skirt, and how to make it multi-functional,  I thought of her (and how much I would like to inter-rail again….)


The skirt was in the charity shop, beside a rail of 1euro coats (seriously a whole rail)…. I adored the charcoal shade, and I wasn’t sure what it was, skirt or dress.  Its a bias cut, and had a half bubble effect at the front hem (elastic was sewn inside on the front hem), and there was one belt loop at the back –   I tried it both ways, as a dress and skirt and it seemed to be both.

I had a feeling it was a never-worn-sale-buy, and when I took it apart, sure enough, there was a green sticker that some stores use on the label, and no wear signs at all.  The skirt was a zip to the side, and both side seams sat a bit more towards the front, with the right side more so.  The back had two long darts, and a belt loop over one.

I put it on the mannequin a few ways, and finally decided on

  • taking out the elastic on the front hem, and re-heming the lining, and the front of skirt
  • make one strap which would tie with buttons, and go to a v shape at the front
  • to put a second belt loop on the back, over the other dart
  • to put a button hole under each one
  • to have a loop on the inside middle front of the skirt and to run the straps through this

I took some fabric from the belt (nearly half) and folded it over and sewed to make the strap.  I got the flattest buttons from the button box and used the super buttonhole maker (but still lined up one button-hole slightly off).  I undid the front loop and redid it.  Originally I didn’t like how the stitching showed, but after finishing, I also noticed that sewing the loop to the facing didn’t secure it enough, and also the dress sat up at the front, when I put the dress backwards, it sat level at the hem, so I resewed the loop with more even stitches, as at least its was now to the back!  The waist darts of the skirt, now acting as chest/bust darts!


I have been wearing it as a dress and I love it….I prefer it un-belted but have the option to belt it, and  I am still figuring a top for if I wear it as a skirt (thinking of maybe a white vest or a wrap top?)


I am rather chuffed to have a new summer dress as a few of my summer clothes got re-donated as they don’t really go with grey hair (creamy yellows).  I am finally getting used to the new hair colour as its now evening out and growing longer, as I love the texture of my own hair (dyed hair has the texture of a fake wig) but as I only really see myself in the mirror twice a day, it still takes getting used to seeing photos of myself!