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!


Rachel Trews…. Vogue 1507

I got this pattern as I adored the top made by Sallieoh…. and when I read this post by Erica Bunker, I decided the trousers could be worth a try.  I tend to sew the same shapes (a line dress) and in general I am relatively conservative.  I like it like that, but also figure its good to try a few unknowns now and then.  I had this 1.25m denim linen for a while (probably 4 years) and so in the spirit of use it/lose it – it was sequestered!

The trousers are pretty straightforward.  I traced the pattern to grade out for my size (between a 16 and 18 – and 12 to 14 at waist)  and as it was a multi-size it made it easier.  When I went to sew it I felt like I sewed it twice.  For such a simple sew, I made a load of mistakes – I kept sewing the pockets to the crotch as the single notch in each caught me out (note use a treble notch for pockets?).  Of course I only did it once, but when I went to fix it, I got the wrong leg and moved the pocket to that crotch….. seriously it was sewing Abbot and Costello.  The rest went well until the zip.  There have been comments online about the difficulty of getting a 6inch open end zip, and I was not going to delude myself I would find one in Galway, so I just bought an 18″ and cut it down.  It took me an age to figure the diagram – the zip I understood but the sewing of the tabs I was not so sure of (now that they are done, I cannot remember what the confusion was!)

The trousers are not fully sewn until after the zip, but I had to baste the sides to figure the fit, I should have basted more, as it was only after the zip and sewing the sides and facings that I realised the fit was not going to work.   So they were put aside for the day.  When I went back to fix – it was relatively quick.  I re-angled the zip (chalk line is original, and basted zip is the better fit),took off back facing and did a sway back adjustment at the centre back.  They fitted fine, so I decided to lower the front yoke and alter the back facing.  The original waist in the pattern is above the natural waist, but it really feels a bit too high for me (and I love high waisted anything), so I brought it all down an inch, hemming the front yoke down, and altering/removing and reusing the back-facing.

They are incredibly comfortable pair of trews and a shape I would probably not even try on in a store!   And they feel store bought probably for that reason as well as that I am rather lazy about detailing, so the detailing here is a novelty.  I pretty much wore them straight from the machine….. and took the photos an hour later, and wore them out that evening.  I love them, and the fabric is perfect.  I am wearing a pattern magic toile top with them (still playing around with the pattern but it seems to ‘go’ well with these trousers).   I have yet to make the other top for it….. but should do in the next few weeks….!

scarf to a poncho and some print too!

I got these scarves a few weeks ago in the local charity shop.   They were a donation of seconds from a woolen mill in Mayo (this charity shop sometimes gets donations from this mill), and I find it hard to pass up on wool , but I also find it hard to sew everything I pick up so I dithered for a while on whether I should get them at all.  Most of the scarves were thicker, and ‘normal’ size, but there were two wraps that were incredibly fine – and these I could not leave behind.,  I was wondering what to make, and was wondering if I should cut into them, but they work so well as shawls and scarves (I started wearing them pretty much straight away).  I decided to try another poncho!

I thought multi-coloured buttons would be a bit of fun, so got a selection and made a number of buttonholes.  As the wool is so fine, I used scraps of vilene to stabilize, and made all buttonholes the same size, but did not cut them all up the same size until I checked each button (buttons were either 14mm or 16mm).  I did 7 buttonholes each side, but it was only AFTER I thought that the 2 rows of buttons I did for the last one would not look so good here, so I zig-zagged them closed!  (they don’t look too obvious, and as its a line of 7 it has a pattern to it, so I am thinking -wishfully- it looks deliberate!)

Some Print, Some Pattern

We (sewing group) also did 2 workshops for voluntary arts week.  One was pattern drafting, and the other was hand printing fabric.  I did a pattern drafting one for a few of us, and as all good plans, they changed.  I had intended to show skirt drafting, but we ended up trying out the pattern magic book, which was good for me as I keep meaning to try the bamboo shoot top.  So I prepared the pattern again at home, and cut a toile,  printed it, and made it up.  I originally printed it with white but it looked rather dull, so I did a speckle repeat in red/orange/yellow.  The folding and sewing needs some refining, but I am glad I got to try it.  Its unlikely I will make it up as I don’t wear waist seams much, but I may use it again in another context.

The other print I did was on a dress.  The pattern I drafted was for a dress based on one I saw on the Finery London website (I just love their clothes).  I thought it would make a handy work (as in gardening etc) smock style dress, and cut it from a sheet.  I drafted a quick pattern,  and thought to do a plaid style pattern.  The single line looked effective (and out of line) but I left as was, and did the plaid effect for the pockets.  I have not bothered to finish this as I forgot that these shoulder darts can look severe – too much like the 80s and in all the dress is a bit of a sack!



Ultimately, I am not too bothered these are still at toile stage as it was good to change it up a bit, as I forgot how much I like printing by hand, and repeat patterning…. so much so, that we are planning another print session for later in the summer!

workroom and wardrobe

My workroom is now a bit tidier – and photos to prove it!  I have a temp table to layout and cut…. and a sewing table, I store my fabrics in a cupboard behind the mannequin.


Top shelf is all old bedlinen which I make toiles from…. I have occasionally to stop myself buying white sheets especially – but when the charity shop sells them for a euro, what can I do….. (I can only buy if they will fit in this shelf)

Shelf 2 is clothes to be remade… a lot of these are bought in the last 2 years, and I have stopped buying pretty much from the charity shops until these are used up/sewn up.  I was slowly turning into my father…. ‘sure you couldnt leave that quality behind….’ and so much so that this shelf was overflowing, so I donated back and will keep on using this.  I am still amazed at the quantities in the Charity shops….

Shelf 3 is odds and ends… handbag bits I can’t get rid of that I need to fix, small bits of trims, and old linings that may or may not get used!

Shelf 4 is ‘stash and stuff’.  Stash is in one bag, and stuff….. well its overflow stuff from Shelf 2!

I also drew some sewing picture plans….  The last one taken down (single sheet/less ambitious),  some on this got done, and some got changed.  I like drawing out these pics.  The are intentions, not promises and it helps me clarify what I want to sew, what will make flexible wardrobe pieces.

Like others, I find 20% of my wardrobe is worn 80% of the time…. actually these percentages are arbitrary, I really don’t know the exacts, but at times there is ‘the uniform’ which I wear when I have wood to chop/chores to do/don’t know if it will rain or not, and then there are the clothes I wear when I am being a bit more social and a bit more confident of the weather (what can I say, I live on the atlantic seaboard)

My summer uniform for the last three years has been, black cut-offs (thrifted and only sewing involved ripping a fringe off the legs), crochet top (best ever),  issy miyake top (2nd version with permanent pleating success), red short cardi (perennial).WIN_20160504_12_57_07_Pro


New enty for last year, was the ‘cigarette pants’ and pillow case top, galactic top (crocheted by my sister, I made one too but gave mine to her!), and the cardigan here is a thrifted…. at least 15 years ago….. so lord knows how old. Main summer shoes are a mix of old sandals (irish sandals can never wear out….) and my mohops (probably not the most comfortable but you can change the ribbon for new shoes).


I am hoping that the new ‘uniform’ choice could be the black linen culottes I hope to make…………as lord knows there are enough co-ordinating blouses in the mix!



Shibori wrap dress…Simplicity 5404

I cannot believe its nearly May already (note – I started writing this post 3 days ago but then went to paint a room…..), the days here have been beautifully bright, and horribly cold, and somehow, I decided to shelve some slow-starting blouse projects and make a summer dress!

I dyed this fabric last year.  The vat of indigo dye seemed to go on dying forever, and I was running around getting any spare bits of white fabric and trying random ties at the end of the dye-spree, and this length of jersey was one.  I bought it a long time back and its that really thin curly jersey, so it was destined to languish for a while, and even after dying, I wasn’t really relishing cutting out on it.  I had tied random knots in it to tie-dye, so the dye marks go in varying directions.


This 70s pattern did have the cutest look, and what had I to lose?  I wasn’t sure where selvedges were and was really going to have to be careful to get everything cut, so I cut the skirt pieces first on either down grain or across, while trying to the the random dye streaks going in the same direction.  the 2 bodice pieces needed to be cut 4 times and again, squeezed it it, the tie belt was shortened, and one had to be made from 3 bits, but I managed to get it all in. (sign of relief)

Sewing it was okay – I really wasn’t looking forward to it as it was inclined to curl a bit and the worst curls was the belt as that had the straight lines, so I had to put iron on vilene strips along the edge to give me some control, I had such low expectations for the fabric, that all outcomes would be good eitherway.

The dress goes together easily, halter pieces sewn, the halter is lined in same fabric so edges enclosed.  I followed the instruction, and with hindsight probably should have used some twill tape or iron-on vilene for the halter as I am unsure if this will stretch more in time (I may yet top stitch it) – although the pattern didn’t state it.  Also, I had allowed a small bit extra at the waist (my waist is now 29 not 26) but ended up taking the bodice in after first fitting.

The dress is pretty much together, and I am pleased with the pattern.  The unfinished hem ends at knee, so it will get a tiny hem, and the halter back is too low for bra which is fine for this one, but if I was to make this again, I would put a bit more height in it.  Its lovely one, but lord only knows when the weather will be right, my optimism is intact for it, as I am thinking of dying a pair of old flip flops if I can get a denim leather dye!



I have to hand finish the hem, and the skirt fronts, and adjust the halter join,  which was to be done this weekend – in-between coats of paint, but I was pretty defeated by the first primer coat (who knew that a beetroot red lay underneath that wood-chip wallpaper) – but I have plenty of time next week for it – and not quite beach weather here yet.

Other than that, my ideas of what to make are bigger than I have time for so I am drawing them all out in a notebook and seeing which ideas make it to the top.  I swore once that I would never wear culottes again, and yet its looking like I will be making a pair soon, and now am further encouraged by a comment from Aimee from the ‘Wrong Doll’ who thinks they flatter the pearer shape…. so………… never say never

Swink – Crochet remake

I was only crocheting a year or so when I made this ‘sidesadle cluster’ top (on left) in Alpaca.  I didn’t fully comprehend the qualities of alpaca and this pattern, so I ended up with a rather unwearable top (equivalent of wearing a mink vest – on a hot day).  I had it aside for a remake, but was conscious there was little yarn as whatever I had left over at the time was used to make a hat for a friend and trim matching gloves!  But then along came some knitting skills and the swink pattern on ravelry…..

Unraveling the original make was a pain – alpaca hooks in on itself,  but got there in the end.  I had fully intended on knitting the bands as per the pattern but as my knitting is far from effective, I just crocheted in single crochet going down a few hook sizes (size 5 I think).

Its a very quick make and I still have to trim with some buttons (didn’t think of it until I saw this photo – I think it would benefit from a button detail).  And its wonderfully warm.  It was perfect to wear yesterday as our weather is still cool, but its beautifully bright so its tempting to wear less layers. (and I got to wear the patterned blouse!)


swink – with salt and pepper hair……




1 metre make – Advance 5232 Liberty Silk

I am sure I am not the only one who either buys too much or too little fabric.  Some time ago, I bought 3/4 metre of this Liberty Silk (because it was relatively expensive I bought ‘too little’).  Its really lovely.  I could not figure out what to make with it, but eventually  tried out Advance 5232 – a lot of the 40s patterns are  economical with fabric (post war fashion etc).  I had photographed the cutting plan at the time, now on other laptop… but suffice to say, it all just fitted in.  The back seam is cut on the selvedge (.75cm is the print and the rest of the seam is the cream selvedge edge).  There were tiny scraps left.



There are probably a few things I should have figured in sooner.  One being, I rarely wear prints, I feel they are fussy, and the second, I find small gathers a bit fussy too, and yet here I was!

I also used the silk setting on the Brother Jones Machine, which was a bit silly as really all it did was sew tiny tight stitches that I cannot undo easily (I did not know this is what it would do as I never had a machine with this setting).  So the blouse is half made (no hems) and in wardrobe (it was taunting me in the work room).

It was only a post on WeSewRetro Facebook that got me thinking about it again – that it will have to be finished.

I am going to take off the yoke as the top stitching is uneven and too far in, but didn’t really want to start until I figured whether the collar should be changed.  Would a solid colour collar look better?  Neither colour I have here is correct, and now that I have photographed a block colour beside – I think I am better with leaving as is….. the yoke will be removed and sewn back but not top-stitched – and a button and loop on back.


took off the yoke today, reattached, hemmed and button and loop – now finished and it looks far better without the top stitch! Also located the cutting layout photos!