A sort of 2014 round up, and some sort of goals for 2015

20 Feb

So after my last post, where I said I was going to try and post more this year, it’s almost the end of January um, February and I’ve yet to get any up…oops! I seem to have lost my sewjo a bit at the moment, and when that goes, everything sewing related goes with it. I do seem to go through definite phases, and when I’m not in a keen sewing phase, my blog reading, blog posting and even my use of twitter, which I use mainly for sewing related stuff, all drop off as well. Conversely, my use of facebook always increases during these phases – seemingly I just can’t keep up with it all all the time, so when one drops off, the other goes up! I am definitely in an ‘obsessed with roller derby’ phase at the moment, and seemingly I only have time to be obsessed with one thing at a time, and so my interest in sewing wanes slightly.

But I am fine with that :) I can’t do all of the things all of the time, and I am lucky that I have multiple hobbies that I enjoy doing – if my interest in one of them drops slightly for a while, it just means that I have more time for other things that I enjoy doing, and that is great! I haven’t been feeling the desperate need to sew, which has also been nice. In fact, I basically haven’t touched my sewing machine so far this year! Usually, when I get a bit of free time at the weekend, I really want to sew, but I also have about 5 other things that I need/want to do, and I can get a bit stressed about trying to fit it all in. But this weekend, when I had some free time on Sunday afternoon, instead of feeling like it was the only time I had to sew, I went over to visit some friends (and their cat!) for a cup of tea, and that was time very well spent. I’ll get back into the sewing when I get back into it :) I’ve got plenty of other projects I need to work on this year, like trying to decorate the downstairs of my house, and so it’s good to have some time to think about those.

So, this post is not the post I sat down to write today (um, and by today, I mean the end of January when I wrote most of this post, but didn’t quite finish it…), but let’s go with it! At the end of last year, I intended to do a round up of 2014, but I didn’t get round to it, so let’s call this a sort of review of 2014, and sort of setting some goals for 2015.

By my count, I made 14 items of clothing for myself last year, although there may be some I’ve missed. Of those, 7 haven’t made it onto the blog yet! At least half of those 7 were made in November/December, and I just haven’t managed to get photos of them yet, due to it always being dark by the time I get home from work! Once I add in Bonnie and Francoise, which did both make it onto the blog, that’s 5 items of clothing (as well a few smaller items – a passport wallet, a glasses case and two pairs of baby leggings) that I made in those two months, which I am pretty pleased with. The end of the year was definitely a productive sewing period for me. Of the 14 I made during the year, 8 were made with knits – I do love the knits for a nice quick win!

My makes consisted of:

– 2 Renfrews (yet to be photographed/blogged)

– Another lady skater (also awaiting photographs)


– 2 Cocos (one awaiting photographs)




Espresso leggings








– Zinnia (a bit of a disaster but I will blog about it soon)

– Margot PJ bottoms (you guessed it, waiting for pics!)

– An infinity dress

And the non-garments (only one of which has made it onto the blog so far):

– Passport wallet

– Glasses case

My grandad’s tie


– Napkins as a wedding gift for some friends

– 2 pairs of baby leggings for the twin daughters of someone in my roller derby team. They were born on my birthday so I feel a particular attachment to them, and they are incredibly cute. They have the leggings I made them in team colours, babygrows with their names and numbers on, and one of the other girls in our team crocheted them super cute jammer and pivot hats!

It was quite a social sewing year as well – I went to 4 meet ups (Rachel’s NYLon meet up in May, Charlotte’s SewBrum meet up, Lauren’s Goldhawk Road meet up and then that awesome trip to Paris (details of which I will get up here at some point!)). I also did quite a lot of meeting up with other sewists in Oxford (Claire, Hannah, Vaire, Elena and Marcie) for drinks/sewing chat/actual sewing, and we have plenty more planned for this year.

I’m pretty pleased with my sewing output this year, not least because I’ve had a lot of other stuff on, and achieved a lot this year in life in general – I’ve bought a house, changed jobs, taken up a new sport, and Marcus and I (ok it was mainly him, but I started it off by buying him the kit last Christmas) have also brewed over 220 bottles of wine and 120 bottles of beer this year!

So, what do I want out of 2015? I’m not going to set myself too many overly specific goals, as I don’t want to feel under pressure, but there are a few things that I’d like to try and achieve this year:

– Make a coat – I made a toile of Minoru a couple of months ago, but after realising that it was a bit small and I needed to size up, I didn’t have the energy to retrace the pattern! I would like to get on and make this made. I’d also like to make a Robson, but we’ll see how we go ;)

– Make trousers – I’ve got a couple of trousers patterns I’d like to make at some point, but I really want to give the Ginger jeans a go this year. I’ve got the pattern, I’ve got suitable fabric, I just need to get the hardware for it and I think I should be good to go. I’m doing a trouser fitting session with some of the other Oxford sewists tomorrow, so that should start me on the right track!

– Make a shirt dress – I’ve been desperate to make a Hawthorn for ages, and I also have plans to make a Bruyere. I get put off by the buttons and buttonholes, as I’ve had bad experiences with them, but I just need to get over that. Or just put poppers on them.

– Make leggings for my roller derby team – This seems like a good place to restart my 2015 sewing given my current pre-occupation with roller derby. It’s a fairly big commitment, but I like a challenge! And I would love to see our team all in matching leggings! I’ve spent the last few months trying to source some decent printed lycra in the right colours, and finally found some from Spandex World. Now I just need to figure out how to get 20-30 yards of lycra over from the US! If anyone happens to be going over there, or coming over here, and wouldn’t mind bringing some over for me if I get it shipped to them, please let me know! I’ll happily pay for an extra case on the flight, and reward you suitably ;)

When looking through my blog for what items I’d made last year, I came across the goals I set myself for last year, which I had completely forgotten about! But having a quick look at those, I haven’t done too badly:

1. Conquer fit!

Ish…I definitely did this on my Sew Dolly Clackett Anna, but other than that, I haven’t really needed to. I have been sewing a lot of knits, at least in part because I wanted quick wins, and then meant avoiding dealing with fitting issues. I still want to try and get a few more fitting alterations nailed, but knits work for me too!

2. Attend some blogger meet ups

Definitely did this one, and they were all awesome!

3. Actually finish my projects

I’ve been much better at doing this – mainly I think because I was often sewing things to deadlines because I wanted to wear them for a particular event, and so not finishing them was not an option! Not been quite so good at finishing my blog posts…

4. Make the most of my sewing time

I’ve got a bit better at this, having a dedicated space has certainly helped, although my space is far from completely organised. Still room for improvement, but I’ve made progress.

So it’s been a slow start to the year sewing wise, but it’s given me some time to focus on other stuff, and I have no doubt that my sewjo will return vengeance at some point! Right, I’m going to hurry up and publish this post before it sits in my drafts folder for another month! Have a great weekend everyone!


I hope that in this year to come, I make mistakes.

31 Dec

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

– Neil Gaimon

I think that is a good sentiment to live by :) I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already – I actually can’t – for I think the first time ever I’ve worked the entire run up to New Year (including today, booo!) and it’s made it feel distinctly un-New Year like! We’re having people over tonight for a wine and cheese New Year’s Eve so I’m looking forward to that!

I have a couple of finished item posts almost ready to go, but this is just a quick one to say I hope you all had a great Christmas and have a fantastic start to 2015. We hosted Christmas at our place for the first time this year, and it went really well. I think my mum appreciated not having to cook Christmas dinner for once as well!

I’d like to say thank you all for all your support on the blog this year, both from those of you who sew and my other friends who don’t, but still enjoy reading. Every one of your lovely comments means a lot to me.

I’ve had such a great sewing year (and a great year in general!) – I’ll do a round up of it in the new year, but it has been epic! I’ve made so many things, met so many awesome people, been to sewing meet ups in London, Birmingham and Paris, made some great friends and finally got a sewing room!

I’ve been thinking about things I want to sew and new challenges to set myself in 2015 – including buying less fabric! And so I do hope I make mistakes, because that will mean that I am making new things, and pushing myself, and learning as I do. I’m also going to make an effort to try and blog a bit more regularly – not because I feel I have to, but because I enjoy it and, according to my little notebook, I already have 17 different posts to get written/finished and posted, and that’s before I even sew anything else – I’d better get on it!

Have a wonderful new year whatever you are doing, and see you all on the other side!

(And just because a blog post needs pictures, here’s some photos of us attempting to get my sister’s puppy and our family dog wearing Christmas hats – at the same time! Not an easy task!)Foto 1 Foto 2 Foto 3

Finished: A Francoise in a day

18 Dec

I have had a crazy time sewing the last week or so – 3 garments sewn to deadlines within 8 days, but I’m now done and I can recover a bit, and think about other things, like actually getting ready for Christmas!

Having said that, the deadlines were all self imposed, and I actually work very well to deadlines in general, so it did at least make me productive! The first of the three garments was pattern testing the men’s version of Fehr Trade’s new Surf to Summit top. I’ve hadn’t yet sewn anything for Marcus, as he doesn’t wear shirts a lot, which would be the most obvious thing to sew for him. When I saw that Melissa was looking for pattern testers for a men’s sports top, I realised that would be the ideal thing to sew for him. I’ll share my version at a later date but for now, if you want to purchase the pattern, you can use the code 10OVER20 to get 10% off any order over $20.

The surf to summit top was sewn up last Saturday afternoon, I then moved on and made up my Bonnie on Sunday afternoon, in time for the sewalong deadline on Tuesday. Thank you to all of you who voted for me in the contest – I found out today that I came first, so thanks! After that it was onto Francoise, which I’d been planning to sew up since Tilly released the pattern, but just hadn’t had time to start. I figured that if I was going to make it anyway, I might as well make it in time to enter the sewalong competition, so the pressure was on with that! I made up a toile on Saturday and made the actual dress on Sunday. My dress didn’t get shortlisted to win the contest, but you should definitely go and check out all the amazing dresses that did.

Really wish I'd taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

Really wish I’d taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

I wanted to do something a bit special with Francoise – the sewalong competition was a chance to really challenge myself and try something different. The great thing with the pattern is that it is so lovely and simple that it makes a perfect canvas for playing around with interesting fabrics and new techniques. I warn you now, this is a bit of a lengthy post, but I figure some of you might be interested in how I put the dress together. I won’t be offended if you skip through just looking at the pictures though :)


I originally had plans to use guipure lace for my Francoise, removing the lace from the darts so that the folds couldn’t be seen, and stitching it back together where the darts were. But despite shopping trips in London and Paris and a bit of searching online, I didn’t come across any lace that seemed quite right.


I still wanted to do something with lace, and was browsing the White Tree Fabrics website when I came across this lovely blue lace, and decided to try and do something with that. It looked so nice on the black they had it photographed on the site, that I decided to use black as my base colour. I wanted the skirt to hold its lovely shape, so wanted something with a bit of body, and I also wanted long sleeves, so needed something with a bit of stretch. After a bit of searching, I came across this black stretch brocade from Minerva (I actually bought it from their ebay store as the postage was cheaper).

It’s a bit hard to see from the photos, but the fabric has a texture a bit like bark on a tree. It’s also quite a bit stretchier than I anticipated, and, unusually, the stretch runs along the grain, rather than being across the cross-grain. I wanted the stretch going across the garment rather than down it, so I cut the front and back of the dress on the cross-grain. Luckily the dress is short enough that that wasn’t an issue. I cut the sleeves on grain, as I figured having the stretch going down the length of the sleeve would be more beneficial for movement. The lace didn’t have any stretch in it, so I cut the lace sleeve on the bias so that it wouldn’t be quite so restrictive.



I decided to roughly model this dress on this RTW dress that I own, having the lace as a partial overlay. My dilemma was how to attach the lace to the dress in a fashion that wasn’t going to look a complete mess. Because the RTW one has a different fabric under the lace panel, the lace is just encased in the seam between the two different fabrics.


I had a few rough ideas in my head of ways I might be able to do it, could find absolutely no information on the interwebs as guidance, and so basically just made it up as I went along and hoped for the best!


My plan was essentially to cut out all the pattern pieces in the lace, put in the darts as necessary, then probably baste them to the base fabric pattern pieces, maybe baste the dress together, decide where I wanted the overlay to end, probably zigzag that on, and then trim away the excess lace. That was kind of what I did, but after discussions with my friend Clare, I decided to change things around a little. I am so pleased with how the lace bits worked out :)



For those of you who are interested, these are basically the steps I took

  • Make toile (I didn’t want to go to all that work and then find out it didn’t fit!)
  • Cut pattern pieces from main fabric (and forget to mark darts before I’d taken the pattern pieces off, so had to go back and do that later – I suggest you skip that bit)
  • Cut all pieces (in full) that would be required for lace overlay – front, back, and one sleeve.
  • Mark darts in lace – it hadn’t occurred to me before this point that I couldn’t just draw them on with chalk/dressmakers’ carbon like I normally do, so I did a bit of google and decided to thread trace them. This then left me with the problem of how to detach the pattern piece from the lace (I wanted to have a running stitch marking my darts rather than tailor’s tacks). But due to the tracing of the darts with my tracing wheel, they had kind of become a bit perforated (even though it was a blunt wheel!), so I just popped them out in the end! Definitely glad I traced the pattern! I also only traced half the darts in the lace – because the overlay was going to be asymmetrical, I knew I wouldn’t need the darts on both sides, so I didn’t bother tracing them all out.
  • Sew darts in main fabric as normal
  • Sew darts in lace fabric along my stitching, and then remove the thread I used for tracing. Sewing the darts in the lace actually worked out better/less fiddly than I thought it was going to.
    Foto 1
  • Remove the bulk of the darts from the lace – I didn’t want the dart showing behind the lace, and wasn’t sure if there was a ‘proper’ way to do it. I just ended up trimming them off really close to the stitching line, using my thread snips which were the best tool I could find for the job. Hopefully the stitching will hold up, time will tell I guess!
  • Baste lace pieces to backing fabric pieces. I debated basting by hand, but at this point I was really running short of time, so I did it by machine (it worked fine). I basically basted every edge where they were going to be together in the final dress – i.e. for the left hand back piece, I basted all the edges (except the bottom), but for the right hand one, I just basted along all the neckline/raglan seam lines, and partway down the centre back seam. I left the side seam unattached. Similarly for the right hand side of the front. Because I hadn’t put in the darts in the lace that I wasn’t going to use, it wouldn’t have been easy to line it up well enough to baste those other edges (and would have involved removing it later, which I really didn’t have time for! I was pleasantly surprised as how well all the darts etc lined up in the two fabrics.
    Foto 2
  • On the wrong of the fabric, drew a line where lace overlay to end. I did this on the back piece first, as it was a simpler piece. I made sure that the overlay wouldn’t cover any of the back dart on that side, because I hadn’t sewn the dart into the lace. I only did this on one of the two back pieces at this point, for reasons that will become clear in a minute…
  • Make sure the two layers of fabric are lined up. Because I hadn’t basted all the edges, I put a number of pins just inside where I was going to sew, to make sure the lace stayed flat to the black fabric.
  • Sew a line of basting stitches along the line I drew so the two layers of fabric were now attached along where I wanted the lace overlay to end. The lace that’s staying on the dress should now be basted to the backing all around.
  • Cut away the excess lace along the line of basting stitches. Again, I used my thread snips and cut as close as I could to the stitching line.
  • Use a short zigzag stitch to essentially applique the lace onto the backing. I use the line of basting stitches as a guide, aiming to get that in the middle of the zigzag. I used a zigzag width of 4 (out of 5), and a length of about 0.5. This was the bit that I was really hoping wouldn’t go wrong, as I didn’t want to have to unpick any of the dense zigzagging!
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when I finish the section and it actually looks really cool!
  • I then put my two back pieces side by side, and drew the line onto my other back piece – I wanted it to basically be one continuous line across the dress, hence waiting to do the second one until after I’d sewn the first. I could have done it just based on the line I drew, but I figured it would be more accurate once I’d sewn.
  • Realise that you have drawn a perfectly continuous line but haven’t taken into account seam allowances, so go back and re-draw. As it was, my pieces have ended up perfectly lined up (no idea how!), but it doesn’t matter, but only because of the way they worked out – the one on the right finishes higher than the one on the left, so it kind of looks continuous down the zip, if that makes sense. It wouldn’t look so good if the right hand one ended lower than the left hand one started.
  • I then repeated the above steps for the other back piece. I did accidentally get the lace folded up and caught in the basting stitches, so I just unpicked a small section and re-did – another reason to baste it first, so that that doesn’t happen on the zigzagging.
  • I then did the same on the front piece. I basically held it up against me (inside out), pinned it to my t-shirt at the top and tried to draw the line on where I wanted it to go. Again, I made sure to avoid the lace overlay covering either of the darts.


Once I’d done all of this, I could finally start actually sewing the dress together! That was at 8pm… I was so happy when I could finally sew the sleeves onto the front and back of the dress. Short break for a roast dinner that Marcus had very kindly cooked while I was sewing, and I was back at the sewing machine at 9pm, with only side seams, hem and photos to do…oh, and the neck facing…and the zip…and all those other little fiddly bits I’d forgotten about.


Ooh, bird!

I was going to finish the seams I’d already done at this point, and rethreaded my overlocker with black thread, but it would not play ball. The looper threads were really, well, loopy. I had a quick attempt at fixing it, but still no joy (thinking about it now, I think it’s probably that the thread wasn’t sitting between the tension discs properly), so I aborted (due to time constraints!) and my seams are as yet unfinished…


I sewed the side seams with the standard 1.5cm seam allowance, but when I tried it on, the dress was a little loose. I could have just taken it in at the centre back seam, but I didn’t want to lose lace detail there (or mess up my carefully lined up continuous lace pattern), so I took an extra 1cm off each side seam. I think the loose fit came from the amount of stretch in my black fabric. I made a size 3, and didn’t need to make any other adjustments. I could possibly lose a little more from the side seams around the waist, but it’s also fine as it is.


The black fabric I used is also quite ‘bouncy’, so the seams didn’t lie very flat, but I trimmed them down and gave them all a good steam, and they started behaving much better.

The facing went without too much drama, although I did also topstitch it to stop it peeking out (bouncy fabric). This seems to have given the neckline a slightly odd shape though – above the topstitching it doesn’t lay flat, but stands up a bit. Almost like a teeny tiny funnel neck. I’m not sure there’s much I can do to remedy this now, I think it’s due to my fabric being quit thick. I’m going to call it a design feature. Luckily the zip when in with no issues which I was VERY relieved about given what happened last time I tried to put in a zip when working to a deadline. When hemming, I did a line of basting stitches all the way round, to hold the lace and the base fabric together. I also used that line as a fold line to turn the hem up.


And with that…I was done! That was 23:20. Quick application of make up (I did not look my best after spending almost all day at my sewing machine), clear enough space in my sewing room so that I had a bit of wall space to take photos in front of…take photos at 23:30…not very good ones to be honest – it was (obviously) dark by this point, and the light in my sewing room is shocking. Annoyingly, if I want to use the remote control with my camera, it only works on auto mode so there’s nothing I can play around with! I was going to ask Marcus to take some photos, but he’d given up on me and gone to bed half an hour earlier! Finally got photos done, but my laptop then went on strike and took about 20 minutes to download them! Anyway, I finally got my pics off to Tilly at exactly midnight. Talk about cutting it fine! I took some more photos before work on Monday, but I’m a little underwhelmed by them as well to be honest – it looks much better in real life!


I felt that this was a party dress and so I ought to have a glass of wine in my hand. Except it’s water in the glass. I’d already drunk the wine.

But I’m really pleased that I actually managed to pull this off and get it done in time – it was no small task, and I did at more than one point, wonder whether I was totally crazy, and think there was no way I was ever going to get it done. I’m also really pleased I decided to challenge myself with this dress. When people find out that I sew, they often say ‘oh you’re so creative’, and I’m really not. I’m good at following instructions, which is basically what a sewing pattern is. I am not good at thinking creatively and making up my own stuff. Pretty much the hardest part of this dress was deciding what shape to make the wiggly line for the lace overlay. I’m pretty happy with it, although I wish I’d made the back one slightly more wavy! I’m just glad I decided to think outside the box a bit, rather than just sewing it up exactly as per the instructions like I usually do. I also really enjoyed the process of working out how I ought to put it all together (I probably wouldn’t be saying that if it hadn’t worked out so well!).


Phew, right, that was a long one! Well done if you made it this far, have a cookie (or a mince pie)! After all that deadline sewing, I’m looking forward to having nothing pressing that I need to do tonight and having a bit more of a relaxed week to prepare for Christmas!

chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


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