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I may be gone sometime…

11 Apr


Now I’ve written this title, I’m wondering whether alluding to the last known words of a fearless explorer facing certain death is entirely in good taste. Ah well.

Anyway, I have taken possession of The Sewing Machine (hurrah!) so forgive me if I hibernate a little.

I combined the trip with a 2 hour visit to Bath’s amazing Victoria Park playground to keep the wee girl happy, so I didn’t feel too guilty when I then carted her along to Husqvarna Studio to pick up my Janome XL601, complete with add-on quilting package (swoon).

The first thing I did (OK, the first thing, after wrestling with the bobbin winder and wrangling with the automatic needle threader), was to sew some ‘proper’ one-step buttonholes onto Storm’s Puppet Show dress.

I practised a lot first, which was just as well. Ahem. The best bit was when I tried to start a buttonhole with the feeddogs down, thus zig-zagging on the spot for several seconds before realisation hit, which led to me having to practically cut out the bobbin. Duh.


I got the hang of it in the end. They aren’t perfect, but a damn sight quicker, and neater than any I’ve sewn by hand.


The Machine is not top of the range by any stretch, but it has a few cute embroidery stitches, and I particularly like the one you can use to create a scalloped hem. Sweet!


I feel nervous about getting rid of my old heavy-duty machine, which mum taught me to sew on, and I’ve had about 20 years. But I suspect a minimalist is not allowed two sewing machines by any stretch. Uh oh.

Buttons. And a Lisette pattern review (Simplicity 2211)

2 Apr

Do you like buttons? Me, I LOVE me some buttons.


I am quite restrained when it comes to collecting them. For ages my button collection fitted in an old Altoids tin. There are a few too many now to get in the tin, but I try to keep it reined in.

This week though, was time for a button splurge. After much procrastinating (waaaaaay too much stocking stitch for my liking) I finished my Chickadee cardigan this weekend.


I’d already lined up some stunning buttons from The Makery Emporium, which has become my go to place for pretty Japanese painted wooden buttons. I bought nine of these large chintzy ones..


…and also, some tiny ones with tropical looking orange flowers, to decorate a blouse I just finished in time for our mini heatwave.


The blouse is by Lisette for Simplicity (pattern 2211, view E) and this was a dry run for some Liberty Tana Lawn which was too perfect to risk on a first attempt. It’s just as well I did the dry run – I managed to sew the collar on inside out (duh) and had to cut it off and bodge the neckline.

And then the sleeves turned out to be smaller than the armholes, which made it kind of hard to gather them in, as per the pattern – definitely a grading error as I followed all the seam allowances exactly. Luckily my lovely repro feedsack fabric was 130cm wide, not the standard 115cm, which meant I had a little spare, so I recut a new pair of sleeves two sizes larger and used those.



Shame about the ‘wasted’ fabric. It’ll go into a quilt one day. The blouse only needs a metre of 150cm wide fabric if you fancy making it (a little more if you use quilting width).

I do have some glorious vintage glass buttons, which I bought at the first Knit Nation. They are from L Nichols, a company set up by the daughter of buttonmaker Lionel Nichols to sell off her huge collection of buttons he made in his lifetime. She releases them in collections a couple of times a year. Each set is totally unique and priced accordingly. Ahem.


Nearly two years on, they still haven’t found their perfect project. They nearly went on the feedsack shirt, but it just wasn’t quite right.

Their time will come…

Love your buttons, change your buttons

14 Feb

Cheap clothes = nasty buttons. Sad but true.

My cheap clothes come from charity shops, so they’re cheap for a different reason, but often they still can’t escape the nasty button curse. Evidence, if you will…


Yes this top is a little bobbly, but I love it, and it’s got loads of wear left.

Quick fix.


Get an AMAZING button, like this one (I wish I could remember where it’s from. I still have one left – try The Button Queen for similar).

Carefully cut off the old button. You’ll probably find the buttonhole is slightly the wrong size for your new button, so cut the hole a millimetre at a time (on the inner edge of the garment) or sew it up a little (on the outer edge of the garment). Both these fixes will move the button away from the garment edge. Maybe sew around the edge of the buttonhole for good measure to neaten it.

(Handsewn button holes are way prettier than factory sewn ones)

Sew on your new button, and finish by winding the thread around the bottom of the button, and fasten off.


This will raise the button from the surface of the garment slightly, so it’ll sit nicer.

Stand back and admire your lovely new garment. A nice button will make you happier if you are wearing it, than if it’s in a button jar.

I am obsessed with buttonholes and buttons at the mo, as I’ve just written all about them for the next issue of The Knitter  – it hits the shops on February 21 if you need to know more…

Vintage tartan for a steal

30 Nov

I do love a charity shop bargain, but this may just be my find of the year – a length of proper tartan which dates from about 1969 I think, found in pristine condition at St Peter’s Hospice (our local shop are celebrating their 30th anniversary today. Happy birthday lovelies!)


I’ve seen skirt lengths like this before, but this is the first one I felt compelled to buy, as it was a mere £1.25. Which is an absolute steal for about 1.4m of good quality wool cloth.


As stated on the nifty hanger label, it includes a leaflet about a making up service for ‘ladies who do not make their own skirts’ (shock horror). You can have a fully lined skirt tailored to your specific measurements, for £2.25. Something tells me that leaflet’s not going to work any more…


There is also a form to join a sewing club inside. These are making a resurgence these days, which is a marvellous thing.


I suspect this bit of Old Mcdonald tartan will become a cushion cover rather than a skirt, as it’s not quite enough to make a kilt (as I’d originally hoped) – I wouldn’t be able to get enough pleats out of it. But given that it’s immaculate after 40 years it should last a good while.


I’ve been a bit obsessed with tartan recently, and have been experimenting with weaving on a small loom – my scarf (below left) is the result, but I’m going to try for something a bit more authentic next time. Och aye, indeed.


While I was shooting this, Storm managed to crawl under the bed and get herself stuck, so I had to break off to extricate her…


Stand by tomorrow for the first of lots of lovely festive posts! Yes, it’s nearly time to say the C word!

Oooooo, new design in The Knitter!

31 Aug

The latest issue of The Knitter is out and I’m super chuffed – my design is on the cover!

Here it is…

It’s knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed and Kidsilk Haze and is called Rothko.

In all good newsagents as of Monday. Hurrah!

Thanks to Frances, who did such a splendid job of knitting it, and Belinda and Sarah, who helped with the first and second drafts, when I couldn’t see the wood for the trees…

Designer profile: Sarah Hatton

26 Aug

A slight twist on Fabulous Pattern Friday this week.

Last week I wrote my weekly FPF post for The Knitter, about Sarah Hatton’s fabulous Classic Cardigan and I was going to do a similar version here, but I felt like that wouldn’t be doing her justice.

So here are my top 5 favourite SH patterns. Drumroll please!

Classic cardigan/

This is from Sarah’s website, which she launched after going freelance. Don’t you just dig that fabric trim?

Honeysuckle/ Rowan 45


Honeysuckle is also available in The Knitter, issue 7 and it’s my personal favourite, knitted in Rowan Kidsilk Haze. If you’re going to make it, it’s worth considering knitting it in the round rather than flat, to avoid having to seam it.

Wallis/ Rowan 38

Wallis sweater

Batwings rock. don’t they? This one has a simple lace pattern and a great drape. Thanks to JadeBlade for letting me use her fab pic.

Patti/ Rowan Studio 1


How cute is this? It’s in Felted Tweed DK, which has got to be one of my favourite yarns ever. OK, those pleats mean a lot of fabric, ergo a LOT of knitting. But totally worth it. Plus, you can download the pattern for free from the Rowan website. Hurrah!

Embrace/ Rowan Studio 14

I love Fair Isle like you wouldn’t believe, and this is just perfect; reminiscent of all those 40s Fair Isle yoked twinsets, but with a totally modern shape. I couldn’t find a ‘free’ pic of this, so here’s a link to the loveliest version of it I’ve ever seen.

Which is your favourite Sarah Hatton design? Recommendations please!

Making a tutu in under one hour. Speedy (non) sewing!

1 Aug

When I saw this sparkly pink net on sale in John Lewis, well, I couldn’t really walk away. The fabric was £4.50 for just over a metre (the end of the roll, so I got a little extra for free). The elastic for the waistband was £2.75, but I only used half of it.

It’s made a great little present for my daughter.

Here’s how:

(1) Wrap the elastic around your child’s waist and measure how much you need for it to fit comfortably, plus 1cm. This tutu style adds thickness to the waistband, making it smaller, so bear that in mind.

(2) Sew the ends of the elastic together, overlapping about 1cm. I oversewed all the way around the overlapped pieces, and then made a crossed stitch over them as well. If you haven’t got time to do this, just safety pin it together.

(3) Take your fabric and fold it in half lengthways, and half again. This will make it easier to then cut it into strips about 50cm long and 4cm to 5cm wide. Don’t worry about making all the strips exactly the same. It will look better if some are thicker than others.

(4) Take a strip and fold it in half.

(5) Place the loop facing downwards across the inside of the elastic.

(6) Pull the cut ends through the loop, and tighten against your thumb, evening up the loop as you do.

(7) Yank the final bit of the fabric through the loop, without bending the elastic.

(8) That’s it! Now repeat it for all your strips.

(9) Lay out your tutu in a circle and check the length of all the strips. Trim them so they’re approximately the same length, but don’t be too exact – again, it’ll look better slightly uneven.

That’s it! One sparkly tutu, in less than an hour for less than a tenner!

To give due credit, this is not an original idea of mine. Someone selling tutus just like this at a craft fair told me how to do it. Which is pretty darn generous, donch’a think? Wish I could remember her name, especially as Storm will be eternally grateful for her ‘ballerina fairy skirt’ Awwww.