Bianca 1 and Bianca 2 – skirt and shirt upcycle

I have been sewing a lot, and blogging less.  Some of my sewing has really been going in circles – normally I like to make something, finish and move on to the next but the last few months I have been sewing a few things at the same time, and dawdling on the finish.  Bianca making

I started these Bianca’s ages ago.  I used the Wear Lemonade Free Bianca pattern and thought it would be a cute update for this ‘blackwatch’ plaid skirt, which ultimately I think it is.  I cut the plaid as usual for the main body, but had not enough to plaid match sleeves fully so I only matched them on the cross grain.  Personally I don’t mind this as it looks even.  I did not like the Bianca collar and perhaps its because I don’t wear shirts (?) but eitherway I tried doing a more casual collar with notches.  I still think the collar is too tight but other than that its a sweet blouse.

bianca finish


At the same time, I decided I really needed a white blouse with peter pan collar so I upcycled a white shirt to make this.  To add a bit of interest I tried out a lot of the decorative stitches in the machine in a grey thread.  I have yet to put a button and loop close at the back but at least they are both now FINISHED!

white bianca shirt upcycle


Irish Dancing Waistcoats #2, sleeveboard#2

Before Christmas I was asked to make an Irish dance waistcoat for my nephew, (going for an ‘aunty of the year award here)  it was to be a ‘simple’ waistcoat (class style waist coat), and as he is the only boy in the class, there is no actual class waistcoat as of yet (this is now it!).   Anyway, the main issues were

  • I would have to embroider on velvet – this was resolved by hooping up heavy sew-in vilene and then spray basting (with the water soluble glue) the velvet in place and placing net over (I upcycled a black velvet skirt for this)
  • he lives far away (the first waistcoat was too short at centre front and centre back – as I drafted the pattern myself and wasn’t really sure what the lengths should be)
  • I had to design the embroidery to match the class costume – and this was the crux!

I did a rough drawing of a version of the motif that would fit in my hoop, and this could be flipped (there are 4 embroideries the waistcoat).  The dance teacher liked it the rough drawing so I went ahead to problem number 2 – how to digitize.  Before I got the machine, I somehow thought the digitizing process was a lot easier, (ie would do it by magic) and also was surprised at the cost of the software (as expensive as the machine).  Getting it digitized locally would have cost about 35euro, but as it was just a test piece it was probably it could have to be done twice so I thought I would look at some alternatives.  I used a 30day trial of Sierra and ended up downloading a basic license (24 euro for year) so I could practice over the year (great intentions) and I managed to get something respectable in the end with the help of a few youtube videos.  The teacher liked the waistcoat enough to let him dance in it but asked the next one be made longer with more burgundy.


When I went to make the second, I was still not happy with the velvet as stitches were drowning in it and the fabric was light.  I did have a pair of re-made worsted wool trews (from a mens trouser) that I was pattern testing on (and still need tweaking) so these were once again reused and it embroidered beautifully.  I redrafted the waistcoat and went from there.  Its pretty basic, and I used a heavier satin on the back to give it a nice weight and also lined the front panels in the same.  I did a simple band of snaps to close.


Last November when I was asked if I wanted anything in particular for Christmas (by James), I asked for a sleeve board and passed some pinterest links on how to make and on Christmas day…..I got a half made one that was too high and falling over (there was a point he deemed to ditch the original design – I am not privvy to the logic here!) – I suggested a different approach to the stand bit and a few weeks later it was ready….it took a morning to cover, I used some leftover wool from a sew and a double layer of calico over, bias trimmed and corded it.  I covered the base as the wood used was a bit rough so I did a simpler cover in denim.  Very happy with it, and no longer have to use a rolled up towel (for sleeves anyway).



Vogue 9002, trousers to top

v9004My long list of wanna-makes has had this pattern in it for a long long time.  I also wanted to make something for my sister, and when I showed her the pattern she was skeptical.  We are rather similar in temprement, and very close, but have completely opposite colouring (she’s blond) and shapes (she has long legs and opposite curves to mine), so a lot of what I will wear, she wouldn’t and vice versa.  Skepticism aside, as I went looking for the ‘fabric’ and found these in my box of ‘silks’ (I have a shoebox of swankier pieces put aside).  It was a pair of trousers which was from the reduced rail.  The fabric is a viscose poly shantung (easy to launder), and the colour is predominately turquoise which is shot with green and a slight royal blue/purple.  All in all, its gorgeous and her favourite colour.


I was going to just about make the cut, except I had to cut the a small panel extra on the right panel.  I gambled if I got the angle to mimic the centre front and was exact on grain, it may not be too noticable and I think it works fine.  I was delighted to get the sleeves cut in full, and the only squeeze were the facings but it was not by much.  I used the pleat of the original trouser (and hem) as my grain guide, and then used the wooden lat laid along the grain to work from. ( I did not full press the trouser crease lines out fully when I prepared fabric for the cut, and after the cut, I sprayed the fabric with a mix of 50:50 vinegar water and pressed to remove the crease line.)


There is a ‘thing’ I do though if the corners are a bit tight in the cut (ie, missing) and I still want to be accurate, and that is to selotape some fabric over the corner and cut and when the item is sewn, this is taken off, I did this in the underarms of the left front.


Its a lovely top to make up.  Getting a colour zipper to match didn’t happen but the green invisible one works well.  For some reason I don’t like invisible zips.  I cannot tell you logicially why.  They feel a bit flimsy and I don’t like the way the weigh into the seams of the garment, so I don’t use them that much.  Again, I was glad I did in this instance as it gave the top a finished look.



So I posted it off on Monday and she got it on Tuesday.  My big fear is that it would not fit, as I don’t actually have her measurements, but know that she takes one size up from me in tops (and one size down in jeans).  Turns out, it fits!


crochet patches – fixing it finally

I have a cardigan for a long time, well since we moved to this house 4 years ago and I picked it up at a jumble sale a month or so after moving and finding out just how cold our new house could be.  Its one of those cardigans you can put on over everything and be warmer, or wear as a temporary jacket…..its not that I like it loads, its just so useful.  I also had not noticed it had a hole in one elbow  and it way too late  by the time I went to fix it, and I pretty much made a mess of it, so the next plan was elbow patches.  I couldn’t figure a patch I liked (yes I did have that dilemma!)  but when I saw some crochet ones on pinterest, I liked the overall quirks, so made some.  I would have liked them with more pinks and finer yarn and but went with the yarn ends I had.  There is something so appealing to me these days about the obvious handmade…. to the point I value it so much more (ironic considering my chunky stitches).  Some months ago, a friend commented on my jeans – ie why were there big cross stitches on the arse of my jeans….. I had to explain that they were sashiko mending, the new-old way to darn (I was trying to be succinct)…..and went on to the point that I was nearly selling the idea that my badly done example was the way to do it (oops)…… I have a strange vanity about hand-stitching, no matter how badly its done, I see it like drawing….its all my work!crochet patches

Other than that – I seem to have made it my mission to catch all the colds and top it off with a flu (at which point I finally went to the doctor who tells me – oh flu….cant give you anything for that) so I was lying low beyond going to work etc.  I had planned to embroider cushions as presents (didn’t but did made some more tea-towels….its a polish saying and I think apt for when things are out of your control) as well as a cute collar for a friend (will be making more of these), as well as a dress (chose awful fabric for this, navy wool gaberdine – what was I thinking so now it looks like a verger, and it looks worse on, but I have planned to remake something from it in time).  My sewing plans for January consist of finishing the projects started in November, as well as a make a few patterns I really really want to try and have been on a wish list for a while.


embroidered presents



less said about this – the better………..



planned makes for 2017…………the last two patterns are for my sister, the 4th pattern I am unsure of still….the toile looks too much like a sack…..


I also got a whim for the sales and did some browsing.  I don’t have a strict no-buy-new policy, it just ends up that I have not bought new for the last few years as inevitably I am put off buying anything in the shops as its either badly made, awful fabric, or doesn’t fit, …and I also was trying on styles I love, but styles that don’t suit me…..  Ultimately I always feel the better after this experience, as I count the money as saved by not buying and congratulating myself on making clothes I like and fit me better than the store-bought.  Although subconsciously I must have had the intent to buy something, as I did get these trousers in the charity shop, and they are divine wool, fitted well, and are lined beautifully, and a swanky ‘label’  …..they only needed to be taken up, and a small ‘sway back’ adjustment, and I steamed them.   I always end up somehow wondering about the former owner of these clothes (is that creepy?)  And as they had such little (maybe none) wear, were they a sale buy?  did the long legs of these fit this person? wouldn’t it be so convenient if my legs were 2 inches longer and I didn’t have to take them up etc….. and I couldn’t bring myself to cut them, so I hemmed by turning up again as some part of me thinks that in some years when I donate back to the shop, a long legged person will get them and need to take them down….


I did manage to do my christmas card as usual – although one friend was quick witted enough to compare to the Aldi 4 bird roast!  And obviously I meant to post this one sooner on the blog………..but I was fixing a cardigan!  I am off to Dublin for my ‘second’ christmas with my fab sis,  (working in retail seems to overtake the actual day as it just becomes one day off – so my focus is always on the days after which I enjoy so much more), and I am thinking I may call to the lovely Murphy Sheehy Fabrics as the vogue coat needs 3 metres of fabric and has a bias sleeve….

Happy New Year!


happy christmas 2016

Clap your hands – say yeah…..

I have a sweater that I wish to embroider, and this is not it!  This DMC motif came up on my facebook feed and I liked it for a sweater, but didn’t want to put it on the other project so thought if I saw a cotton knit in the ‘charity’, I would give it a try as I do little hand embroidery and had never done it on a knit…….

embroidered sweater, before and afterI used the Seamwork Astoria pattern (again) and modified it by lengthening sleeves and body.  This time instead of the crochet edging I hit on the idea of taking the ribbed cuffs and using them as the neckline – and yipee – it worked!  I also whipped it up in no time as I used the sewing room overlocker (I recently started volunteering in a community sewing room – its still in a development phase as only open a few hours here and there but will be interesting to see how it works out).  I still don’t believe I need an overlocker but am definitely finding them super handy for knits.


Figuring on transferring the design was a bit of a conundrum, and putting it in a hoop was a disaster.  I enlarged and traced the design on tissue and wanted to see if I could sew through it (of course I could but it kept ripping).  So in the end, I backed the jersey with knit vilene, and used the temporary fabric glue to apply the tissue design and it worked a treat.  (I got this fabric glue to help me machine embroider velvet so its great to find another use for it).  I put a board in the middle so I didn’t pick up fabric from the far side of the sweater.

sewingI did a basic chain stitch, and did Yeah in a paler shade.  I deliberately did not buy new thread as I wanted to use up what I had, but I think I should have done Yeah in more of a contrasting colour.  Some of the red floss, was a 8 strand that I was given with random left over craft bits, and although I got to use it up (I did 2 strands) it was very knotty so glad to see the end of it!

yeah-embroidered-sweaterI forgot how pleasant hand stitching is.  I am hoping the next sweater works well, its a wool knit, and so far the stitches seem to be drowning in it!






red coat remake

Probably one of the more exciting things that happened this week was whenever I got to change flavours in cough sweets.  I have been rather bogged down by a sore throat/lost voice all week, so sounding like Kathleen Turner (how cool) but punctuated by hacking cough (how not cool) and feeling a bit peeved by it all and with only myself to blame (as I went out with a cold, came home with no voice).   I did manage to refocus the sewing, and finish this red coat .

red coat remakeIts probably my longest sewing project as it was done over the course of 6 or 7 weeks, and yet it only really took 2 or 3 days.  The coat is a divine cherry red wool, in an 80s cut, and the buttons were of the same ilk (and just look plain old tacky).  So I took it apart, brushed it and steamed it and rested it for a few days before the cut.  The lining was in good condition so I took a chance and put it aside to reuse.  I used the same self drafted pattern I used on last years coat, and decided to cut front from front etc, and reuse both the pockets and the buttonholes (as there was not enough fabric to redo the buttonholes) and in all this seemed all like a good idea and both the coat and lining were sewn up in a day, over a month ago…… and left there.  After making it up, I decided I was not sure about the darts (I have since relented and like them but would omit/change them if I was using this cocoon-style coat pattern again), and then I dithered on how best to finish (there is no best way, the only way is to get on with it).

red coat remake

In truth, the only delay was finding better buttons, and I ended up using ones that came from the button box that are a dark metal.  They are the right size and seem to work well. So then it was trying to tweak the already attached front facing into joining the rest.  I cut the back facing from the left over scrap and also made the sleeves longer but adding a deep cuff, I thought I wanted the coat shorter, but preferred it a bit longer when I had it near done, so I added bias binding to the hem to maximise the length.  I left the wool label in place…..but don’t think I will ever ever reuse those gold buttons…..

red coat remakered coat remake

Finishing took a day, and I was rather pleased. So I steamed it and clamped it and broke the Ann Ladbury rule (of resting coats overnight on hanger or manequin after making and pressing) and wore it straight away.

toasty sweaters and plaid skirt


I have been sewing quite a bit lately, and as I am easier sewing than writing about it,  I am only getting around to this post now…..(I never liked writing in school – I can touch type, but the minute I start I seem to forget what I meant to say.) Conversely,  this blog has been brilliant for me to have a focus my sewing projects – so I have grouped the last few completed sews!

As usual, my great sewing plan is shifting, which is usual, as sometimes when I take apart items there is less fabric than anticipated (ie what worked out perfectly on paper is compromised in reality).

The first for remake was this fine wool dress.  This dress was on the clearance rail in the charity shop (still can never believe what ends up on this rail).  The dress would have worked perfectly if it was either 1983, or I still had a 23″ waist, and as neither was true, I thought to try out the SewHouse7 Toaster Sweater.  The only cut issue was the sleeves, but I figured I could cut them and sew with minimum seam allowance so I trimed half the seam allowance from the armholes of the arm-scythes also, and I would also have to leave the plackets in place on the sleeves until the end.

purple-toast - sweater upcycle

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but sometimes I will sew like its a race to finish…..and not try on till the end (how bright is that) so all was well until I tried it on pre-hemming, and noticed that a sleeve was in backwards….. the placket was the wrong way, but I also noticed the funnel didn’t sit up at all as the knit was so fine, and it was inclined to stretch across, so I decided to pop some iron-on vilene to the neckline facings.  The sleeves are very long so I just hemmed them and put a button to stitch a ‘closure’.  The hems are a herring bone stitch, I tried a few and this one seemed to look best on the fabric.

I was curious how it would look on a heavier fabric, and had been dithering over the re-make of this bobble wool cardigan. It was a cardigan coat which was donated to the charity shop without its collar (poppers for it still in place) and had been much used so it was a bit pilled, a bit pulled and had a few holes.  It is 75% wool and the fabric was still in mainly good shape, despite dragged buttonholes!

bobble-toastOriginally it was to be a simple sleeved a-line shift with patch pockets based on a tunic pattern from 2 years ago, but I wasn’t happy with the way how it would  cut out and patched together.  Luckily I left it fro a day or two as I decided to try the toast pattern again.  Realistically I don’t need this many sweaters, so I was also deciding on who to try and give them to (still working on this) but I also really like these sweaters.  I was well glad I didn’t do the tunic as there would have been too many seams and the bobbles in the fabric shift a bit while sewing.  Toast#2 worked out well with the heavy fabric, both sweaters are lovely and incredibly quick to run up.

And there is fabric left over from both! I am thinking of a tablet sleeve from the bobble leftovers.

I had also ‘pulled’ out the embroidery arm of the machine as I have to do some Irish dance costume tests, so I started messing about with motifs and what else it does.. (and then got even more way-laid by embroidering tea-towels – housewarming gift to a wine sommelier! I have put the photos below).

embroidered tea towels.............

The scallop skirt I made last year I love, but the grey feels a bit severe and ‘work-y’ so I gave it to my sister (so far a hit).  I had this plaid scrap.  Its a funny plaid, originally I thought it was from an old school uniform, but the wool is such a fine quality, I now don’t think so.  It was from a bundle of wool scrap in the charity shop and ther was less than a metre with two chunks missing.  I patched it back together and cut the pattern out.  I did embroidery on the skirt but I really wasn’t sure of what I wanted or what way it would turn out, but I also knew thinking about it would not achieve much either.  Its done now and not what I wanted.  Originally I was going to pattern the motif but changed to a more concentrated motif.  I shoulda / coulda done a more grid or linear one, and think I would have preferred that, but am quite happy with this.  I love the simple shape of the skirt.  Such an effective pattern.




and finally – I got a new shears! (yipeeeee) The small Janome set I have are still good despite the taped handle, and not retired just yet.   I have been trying to buy a proper shears for some years but never found one I liked that cut right and felt right.  When I saw Ernest and Wright were to be at the Knit and Stitch this year, I hi-tailed it up and bought this…. and 2 other smaller fancy ones (I could have bought everything!).  I had dithered between the 12 and 10inch but as my cutting table is small (160cmx90cm) and my cuts are small (ie, not long lays of fabric) so I would be lifting the scissors more, I settled on the 10inch (which is realistically a better weight for me).  Its gorgeous and incredibly comfortable and love using it.  My brother in law saw it later that day, and called it a ‘colt 45’….. (I was feeling very smug indeed).

Claires Scissors and the Colt 45






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.