The First Refashion

I have finished my first “Get Shirty” Refashion.  I really enjoyed making it and there is a real sense of satisfaction to be had from creating something new from something discarded.   This was the shirt I started with, bought from a Chichester charity shop.


As a virgin Refashioner I decided to stick with what I know and adapt this pattern to incorporate the button band at the back.

Simplicity Pattern

Simplicity Pattern

This is what I did ………

  • Cut up the side and sleeve seams and removed the collar to release all the fabric. I also removed the pocket.  The fabric is a really good quality.
  • Traced off new pattern pieces in a size 8 to take account of the fact that I wouldn’t have to pull the top over my head.  I had previously cut out the 10 to allow for wriggle room.
  • Traced the back pattern piece as one piece so I didn’t need to cut the back fabric on the fold (the buttons would have made this tricky).
  • Cut the back facing in two separate pieces and extended the centre edge by ⅝ to allow for turning under when finishing the facing.
  • To make sure I got the top button in the right place I measured up ⅝ plus a fraction from the top of the third button hole down and placed the top of the pattern at this point.  I had to start further down than I had originally planned to ensure that the pattern piece fitted on the fabric.  I then lined up the centre of the back pattern piece with the centre of the buttons.
  • Cut the front from the back of the shirt and the facings from the tails.

I was amazed how little fabric was left at the end.  I had to throw the collar away because it was a bit creepy all on its own – like a severed head!

From here I constructed the top according to the pattern with a bit of fiddling around at the top of the button band when I realised that folding this under to the wrong side would cover up the back of the top button hole making it unusable!  I ended up cutting it off, binding the edge with a zig zag stitch and turning a tiny machine sewn hem. Not perfect and definitely room for improvement but it doesn’t shown when it’s on.

It all came together very nicely after that and I decided to finish the hem and sleeves using a twin needle.  I’ve only used this once before and was halfway round the hem when I realised I was using the stretch version but I couldn’t face re-threading it.  I think the trick is to go slowly because speeding up seems to make the threads tangle.

Here’s the result.  Next time I’ll do the top stitching at the neckline with the twin needle too!  I should have thought of that at the time.  I did think about sewing the existing pocket on the front but I wasn’t sure and now I’m wearing it I’m glad I didn’t.

I went off to buy another shirt for my next Refashion but my purchase (£5) from the St Wilfrid’s Hospice shop was just too nice and W insisted on changing into it before we even got home.  If you were in the Market Avenue car park in Chichester on Saturday morning while the changing process took place I can only apologise!

After bumping into two lots of friends who complimented him on his lovely shirt there was no way I could cut it up so I’m still searching for a new Get Shirty candidate.

Finally Finished!

At last we have a starfish skirt!  This is the tulip skirt from Sew Over It featured in Simply Sewing magazine and I love it – and so does Doris!

The free pattern accompanied Issue 5 of the magazine and the instructions have been divided into three instalments.  My lack of patience meant that I pressed on regardless.

There are only four pieces to the pattern : front, back, one piece waistband and a pocket.  You may remember that I made a toile which resulted in me raising the pockets by 2.5 inches because I couldn’t reach them!  There are darts at the back and two large pleats on each side at the front which create the tulip shape.  I chose the shorter of the two lengths but realised at the toile stage that this would be way too short and so I added a couple of inches.

The instructions were easy to follow and the skirt came together really quickly.  I’ve never really gone in for pattern matching before but because this was such a big bold pattern I decided that I needed to make an effort to avoid it looking messy at the back.  I’m not sure of the ‘official’ way to do this so I just cut out the left hand back piece,  individually pressed under the seam allowance and then lay it on the remaining fabric, lining up the large starfish.   I then measured across ⅝” to the left, i.e. under the already cut piece, for the other seam allowance, marked this on the fabric and removed the cut piece.  I then reversed the pattern piece, matched up with the markings and cut out the right side.

I’m quite pleased with the result for a first attempt, the large starfish match pretty well across the concealed zip, although the smaller ones are ‘pointless’ in a couple of places.  The zip also went in quite neatly.


I wanted to line the skirt to help support the ‘tulipness’ of the skirt and used a crisp, spotty lawn that I’ve used before and always seems to appear on the remnants table in C & H Fabrics.  As before I used Tilly‘s instructions for inserting a lining with a concealed zip which works like a dream and gives a really lovely finish.

I particularly like the pleats at the front, perfect for helping to conceal any sticking out in the tummy area!


The problem came when I arrived at the hemming stage.  I can only think that I must be an odd shape but the hem dipped down a substantial amount at the front and I just couldn’t get it right.  Cue a visit to my mother to stand on a stool and rotate while she pinned and my sister offered helpful comments.

Finally it was level but this involved a variance of more than an inch from front to back!  I then had to unpick and re-sew part of the hem on the lining, which I had already done in line with Tilly’s instructions, as it was poking out at the front.  I finished the hem with bias binding.


I think it was all worth it.


I do have a confession though.  I was so keen to get started on this skirt that I didn’t wash the fabric first and I just know it is going to shrink – which will be a problem as it is a perfect fit.  I can’t bear to think about it but given that I am the sort of person who can’t wear anything white for more than about five minutes without getting it dirty I could have a problem on my hands.  I may have to resort to dry cleaning, which I really don’t like,  and keep the skirt for special occasions.

Simply Sewing Magazine : the next instalment

Having found the last issue of Simply Sewing magazine quite inspiring I decided to invest in Issue 6, not least to see the next stage of the instructions for the tulip skirt even though I’d already pressed ahead with it regardless.  In fact these primarily covered the addition of belt loops and piping at the waistband, neither of which I needed!


The free gift with Issue 6 was a piece of faux suede fabric.  I have a major aversion to the feel and smell of real suede but the faux version is much more acceptable, feel and smell-wise.  There was a small supplement with some suggestions for using the fabric including patch pockets and an embellished collar.  I decided to tackle the Japanese knot bag.  The instructions were easy to follow, although top stitching around the  edge of the shorter handle (through which the longer handle slips to secure the bag) was a bit fiddly.

I lined the bag with some cotton fabric and was really pleased with the result. The bag is a great shape.

I made another zipped purse from some silk fabric I bought at a fabric sale in Petworth.  This one was for my goddaughter’s birthday and the fabric would also be perfect for a glamorous evening version of the knot bag (my sister’s idea).  I’ve held off making a garment from it because of its ‘crispy’ finish but I did find that ironing softened it up a bit so it might be OK  – and I won’t sound like I’m wearing a paper bag!

The red lining was a scrap from a pile of old fabric given to me by my mother.

I am turning into a bag lady … I’ve now made this cover for my new notebook/tablet.  All I did was draw round it onto some paper and extend the rectangle by 2 cms all round to allow for a 1 cm seam and a further centimetre for manoeuvring the tablet in and out.  The stripy fabric is lined with some chambray and I incorporated some wadding on each side for added protection.  I cut this to exactly the same size as the tablet.  The wadding did cause me a bit of a headache when I was turning the bag through the lining because the tacking I’d used to secure it temporarily to each side came adrift.  I managed to resolve the problem by sticking my hand through the turning hole and smoothing it out.

Going back to the magazine, it was almost worth it for the knot bag idea.  There are some nice home accessories using lovely fabrics – including some useful storage boxes. There is also an article about The Makery in Bath, an interesting item on sewing bloggers and some cute embroidered bunny building blocks.

I’ll go for anything rabbit-related!

Summer Baking

I was recently given a jar of homemade raspberry jam and to do it justice I made some scones last weekend.

I remembered reading an article in The Guardian a while ago on making the perfect scone which I managed to track down here. I decided to go with Rachel Allen’s version which uses a combination of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar as a raising agent and egg and buttermilk as the liquid ingredients. If I’d had any spare milk I might have added this as I found the mixture a bit too dry to combine well but I managed with what I had.

I followed the following suggestions in the above article :

  • Don’t use a rolling pin, just pat the dough out
  • Don’t twist the cutter – I couldn’t find a fluted one so my scones were plain rounds
  • Use Italian 00 flour for a lighter scone

The end result was pretty good.  The scones rose beautifully and had a really light texture.  Here they are with the delicious raspberry jam and some clotted cream for the perfect Cream Tea.

Continuing the summer fruits theme (which I hope you’ve noticed is carried through into the crockery) I also made a summer pudding for Sunday lunch. The recipe is very simple, just three ingredients, but the overall effect is delicious.


  •  Approximately 8 slices of white bread, crusts removed. Some recipes specify day-old bread but I just used cheap and cheerful thick sliced white bread
  • 1 kg or thereabouts of mixed summer fruits I used raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Red, white or blackcurrants are also good if you can find them
  • 150g caster sugar. The amount of sugar you need really depends on how sweet your fruit (and tooth) is so taste and adjust accordingly


Start by lining your bowl (mine holds 1 litre of fluid) with cling film, leaving the excess hanging over the edge. This makes it so much easier to turn the pudding out when it is ready to serve.

Wash the fruit and keep whole, although some of my strawberries were enormous so I cut them in half.  Put the raspberries and blackberries (and currants if using) in a pan with the sugar and three tablespoons of water and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the juice is running from the fruit. This only takes a couple of minutes. Add the strawberries and heat for another minute.


Pour the fruit through a sieve, catching the juice in a bowl.

Now line the bowl with the bread, dipping each piece in the juice so that it is soaked on both sides. This ensures that you have any white patches in the finished pudding.

I started by cutting a circle about 8 cms in diameter and placing it in the bottom of the bowl. Then take four squares of bread and place around the edge of the bowl. Some recipes say to leave the bread standing above the rim but mine was pretty much level. This should leave four small triangular spaces which you can fill with carefully cut pieces of bread – a bit of a geometrical puzzle!

Tip in the fruit until it is almost at the top of the bowl.

You then need to cover the top of the bowl with more dipped slices of bread. I started with one square and then filled in the gaps.  This will end up as the bottom of the pudding so it doesn’t really matter how neat it is.

Bring up the overhanging cling film to cover the pudding and add another sheet just to make sure it is sealed. Place a small plate on the top and weigh it down with a couple of tins. Place the whole thing in the fridge, ideally overnight. I would recommend standing it on a plate because the juice does tend to overflow and the top shelf of my fridge was a pink sticky mess by the next morning.



To serve: Peel back the cling film, cover the bowl with a serving plate and turn upside down. The pudding should plop out in a very satisfying manner and you can then just peel back the cling film. Serve with cream, crème fraiche or ice cream.

The Refashioners 2015

If you don’t already know about The Refashioners you should check out this post from Portia at Makery which gives the background to the series and details of this year’s challenge.

For 2015, alongside the big hitters from some well-known sewing blogs, Portia is inviting everyone to take part and become a Refashioner. The theme is “Get Shirty” and Refashions must predominantly involve a button down man’s shirt but the final outcome is up to you!

If you want to take part you can share your creations via Instagram or Pinterest and there is a prize (deadline for entries 31 August).

I’ve decided to give it a go and spent half an hour last Friday lunchtime checking out some of Chichester’s charity shops for a suitable candidate. Is it acceptable to sniff the underarms of charity shop shirts in public? I came up trumps in Barnardos with a really fabulous shirt for just £3.99 but when I got back to the office and checked out the name on the label I discovered that J.Lindberg’s shirts retail from £80 – £120. This one is IMMACULATE and having washed and ironed it I decided I just couldn’t take the scissors to such a lovely shirt in case my Refashion turns out to be a disaster.  It is now in W’s wardrobe.

So, up early on Saturday morning and back into town for another look (and sniff) round. I was focusing on large shirts so I know there will be plenty of fabric to play with and found this one in the Cancer Research shop. I can’t remember how much it was but it was another bargain. It’s by Thomas Pink so excellent quality and is certainly large. So far I have washed and ironed it to be photographed on Doris and then washed it again after removing the pocket. I also followed Portia’s advice on removing stitch marks.

I’m not going to try and be too clever with my first refashioning project.  All I know at this stage is that I want to preserve and use the button band.  It seems a waste to jettison something that would probably take me ages to produce myself having never attempted to make a shirt.

I’ll keep you posted on progress.

A Sewing History

W was away at another festival this weekend so I was free to fill my time with lots of creative activities.

My sister and I spent Sunday at my parents and when my mother suddenly appeared with a cardboard box and demanded “come here you two” we thought we were in trouble. Thankfully not!  She’d been having another clear out and produced this beautiful tablecloth and napkins which were given to my grandmother as a wedding present in the 1930s (I’m showing my age now!).  It is hand embroidered but whether it was made by someone she knew we’ll never know.

My sister very generously said I could have it and it has already been on a tentative run through the washing machine at 30° and is looking brighter.  I might be a bit bolder with a gentle stain remover on some small marks next time.  I am definitely going to make use of this, perhaps a vintage~style tea party.


Next out of the box was this little blouse.  I can remember seeing it occasionally over the years and always thinking it was really sweet.  It was made by my grandmother for my mum during the last months of the Second World War because she was going to have her photograph taken.   Fabric was obviously hard to come by because of rationing so I think it was possibly made quite short with elastic round the bottom to hold it in place under a pinafore dress.

It was coming apart at the seams under the arms so I repaired it last night and gave it a quick wash and press to revive it.  It has french seams and is fastened by press studs under the frill so the buttons are just decorative.  It was lovely to handle this little garment and think about my grandmother having made it all those years ago.

And here is my mother wearing it on the 13 April 1945.  Apparently when they arrived at the photographer they realised my mother had lost one of her hair ribbons so there was a mad dash to replace them.  I’m not sure where my grandmother managed to find these at the last minute!  One thing I have definitely inherited from my mother is the unruly hair!


My sister didn’t miss out.  She already has this adorable little vintage brooch, again from my grandmother, and yesterday she added this amazing bracelet to her collection.  It still has the original elastic holding it together.

My grandmother was quite a stylish lady, here’s a photograph of her in her twenties – very daring – and one of my grandfather who was a real character.

Further reports on the weekend’s activities to follow.

My Sewing Space

We were busy at the weekend and the result of this was no sewing time.   I did manage to make another zipped purse on Monday night as a present for my sister because I can’t stay away from the sewing machine for too long.

I think this might be my favourite one so far,  but it is in the post so too late to keep it for myself.   Now the lined and zipped purse is on my list of achievements I’m thinking of making a large one for carrying round my new notebook/tablet on which I write this blog. I will incorporate some wadding for added protection.

Last night after sustaining a kitchen related injury which I blamed entirely on W at the time – although it wasn’t really all his fault – I decided to flounce upstairs and launch into a tidying-up operation in my sewing room!

I know I am really lucky to have my own room in which to create.  The room used to belong to one of W’s girls but now they are grown up they no longer need their own rooms at our house and so I claimed this one for myself.  It is fairly small but I also have the big table in the conservatory to use for cutting out, subject to the limitations previous referred to (extreme temperatures, bright sunlight in the middle of the day and piles of dead and toasted insects during the summer).  I also have a pile of Selvedge magazines in another room.  I’m beginning to understand why W thinks sewing is taking over the house!


I am quite an organised person but sewing and craft stuff can very quickly get out of hand and I am inclined to keep all sorts of bits and pieces, including tiny scraps of fabric, just in case they might come in handy.  Yesterday evening anything that really wasn’t ever going to prove useful in the future was cleared away and I emerged with three large bagfuls of rubbish.  Everything is now where it should be and easy to find.  The very tidy pile of fabric on the shelf consists solely of large recently purchased and pristine pieces of fabric which have not yet been turned into garments.  There is a LOT more hidden away in baskets under the table and elsewhere.  The table is from IKEA and is just a top supported by two trestles which are great for providing extra storage.  It doesn’t usually look this clear on top!

Also under the table is a large basket containing knitting and crochet needles and a half-finished cardigan which I am fairly sure I don’t have enough yarn to complete (this was started YEARS ago and the yarn is no longer available).

The weather was quite gloomy first thing this morning so the pictures aren’t great but they give the general idea.

When it comes to yarn-related activities, I love crocheting squares and I have knitted quite a few bags in the past.  This strawberry one was my own design and when I look at it now I have absolutely no idea how I managed to do it!   However, larger knitting projects are really beyond my abilities and having adapted one of the cardigan sleeves to make it shorter I now have no recollection of what I did to it to enable me to repeat the process on the second sleeve.  I did spend some time last night untangling everything so perhaps I’ll have another look at it on a quiet evening.

Doris insisted on wearing her favourite skirt for her photo (have I mentioned my tendency to anthropomorphise?).  My Janome sewing machine is a relatively recent addition which I’m really pleased with and the storage baskets, tins and boxes have been accumulated over the years and are great for keeping things organised – and I’m determined to keep it this way.

I’ve still not finished the hem on the starfish skirt, although the lining is hemmed.  I’m having trouble getting it straight and turning it up the same amount all the way round leaves it dipping at the front.  W has agreed to help pin it up.  If that doesn’t work I’ll take it round to my mum at the weekend and stand on the coffee table!

A New Look Blog

I decided to try out a new look for my blog now that I feel like I’m here to stay. After trawling through what seemed like thousands of WordPress themes I decided on this one because it was nice and simple!  It is still a work in progress but thank you to Kyrie for her technical assistance!  I’m also now signed up to Twitter!

I wish I’d taken these photographs.

We have some lovely friends who are lucky enough to spend part of the year in Normandy where they have a cottage with a beautiful garden.

They grow lavender along the garden path and this morning was harvest time. The cut lavender has been tied up in bunches to dry and apparently it smells fabulous.  Some of it will be coming back to Chichester and I have been offered a share.

I am planning some stylish lavender bags for gifts and after a quick Pinterest search I have lots of ideas.

Now for a tiny sneak preview of the starfish skirt by way of introducing you to the new addition to the family – currently known as Doris!  She is rather better endowed in the shoulder and bosom area than me so the jacket toile fits her perfectly.  Hopefully the final version will look the same on me when I have cut a smaller size.  I bought her to act as a photographic model rather than to actually fit clothes on.  She was quite cheap (sorry Doris) so perhaps I’ll invest in a slightly slimmer version as it is rather a struggle to wriggle her into a skirt and zip it up.  She is decidedly uncooperative despite her stylish necklace!


Just the hem to go before the final reveal.  Hopefully Doris will come into her own assisting with hemming.  My mother used to have us standing on a sturdy coffee table while she pinned up hems and we got a (fairly) gentle slap on the leg when she needed us to rotate!

Happy weekend!

Fabric Splurge and a Tulip Toile

Note to self : always make up a toile when trying out a new pattern, it makes all the difference!  I finished one for the Sew Over It tulip skirt from Simply Sewing magazine on Friday evening and discovered the following :

  • I love the shape of the skirt
  • The shorter length is definitely too short
  • The pockets are far too low down for my (short) arms to reach
  • I do not have the patience to wait for the next issue of the magazine for the rest of the instructions so am just going to get on with it

As a result of these discoveries I raised the pockets by 2.5 inches and added a couple of inches to the length of the skirt.

The pattern instructions are very clear and comprehensive,  although I questioned using the same seam allowance for stitching the pocket pieces to the side seams initially and for the main seam allowance.  I decided to do what I’ve done previously, ⅜ for the initial stitching and ⅝ for the main seam.

On to Saturday morning and a visit to The Eternal Maker, (a) because they are out of town and have their own parking and (b) because they have a very nice coffee bar which is an ideal place for W to sit and read the paper while I shop!

I came away with these three …


The blue chambray will be used for the Cynthia Rowley jacket.  It is a really nice weight and I think it will work well.

The double-sided (stripes and spots) jersey is seriously lovely.  It is made up of two thin layers joined together and is incredibly soft.  I’ve not decided what to make with it yet but probably a Coco-type top if I can squeeze it out of the amount I’ve bought.

Yes, those are blue starfish and yes I am making the tulip skirt out of this fabric!  W looked decidedly unsure when I showed it to him in the shop but now it is well on the way to being finished I think he is convinced by the choice.  I love it and think this could end up being one of my favourite makes to date.

I made another zipped purse at the weekend from the Simply Sewing pattern, this one was for a birthday present to hold some fancy lip balm and cuticle cream.  I did make a small piece of bias binding from the spotty fabric for the zip pull but the binding was too wide for the tiny hole and ended up in tatters – hence the pink ric-rac.  The binding attempt was another first – following instructions in Simply Sewing (that magazine really has proved worth the investment) and using a tool I bought ages ago and had never even taken out of the packet.  It is SO easy to do I might have a go at making a longer length.

 The floral fabric was left over from this dress.

The big reveal of the starfish skirt will follow soon.

Toil(e)ing Away

Sorry about the title, it came to me while I was cleaning my teeth and just wouldn’t go away!

Having said in a previous post that I rarely buy magazines I then remembered I had bought another one a while back, tempted by three free Simplicity patterns.

One of them was this jacket which I thought would be a good starter pattern as I’ve never made a jacket before and I am somehow more nervous of starting the Morris blazer now that I’ve read through the sew-along with Grainline than I was before!


There are two versions of the jacket, one plain and the other made up of several separate bands on the front and back to create a striped effect. I think you can guess which option I went for, the likelihood of me managing to get all the stripes to match up across the front was just too remote. The version I picked just has one band along the bottom of the jacket and the sleeve. I particularly like this design because I have short arms and these bracelet length sleeves are just normal length on me!

I decided on this occasion to make a toile to get a really good fit. The pattern goes up to a size 14  and I thought the model on the packet looked a bit ‘trussed up’.  That wasn’t a look I wanted so I cut the largest size so I could work down from that.

Everything went together very easily. I don’t recall ever having set in a sleeve before and as this was just to establish the right fit I didn’t go to town on easing them in particularly carefully.  The toile certainly doesn’t bear close inspection but I got the general idea and I’ve now watched a tutorial on YouTube (I know, I should have watched that first!).

I really like the sleeve and hem bands and there is an opportunity here for some colour blocking or fabric combinations.

The jacket is lined in the main fabric, turned through the armhole and then the lined sleeves are then inserted. That sounds really straightforward when you type it but I’ve yet to decipher the instructions and I think I’ll need more than an on-line tutorial to get me through the real thing.  I may need one of you to come round to my house to help.

Back to fit. A size 14 is too big! I don’t know why I thought it would be OK because I’ve only just made up a Cynthia Rowley design and there is more than enough room in the size 10.

Jane's VersionTo make sure I could judge the front opening of the jacket I sewed under a ⅝ hem and the front overlaps quite a bit which it isn’t supposed to, although I’m not planning to include the hook and eye fastening at the front as I would never do it up.  The shoulders are also a touch too wide (although they do appear quite wide in the pattern photo).   I’m going to go for a 12 so that there is still room to move.  I think I will take the sleeves in slightly as the part that comes close to my wrist is really designed to be located around the forearm so is a bit too flappy.  As I’m always getting caught up on door handles it would be advisable to reduce that flappiness.

I was then on a toile roll so decided to trace off the tulip skirt pattern previously mentioned which was free with Simply Sewing Magazine. I did this in a bit of a rush and the pieces got a bit messy with Sharpie ink smudges all over. After I’d cut them out I got rather confused with the front pattern piece which is so much wider at the top than the bottom because of the large pleats to create the tulip shape. I’m not entirely convinced about this shape for me but hopefully the toile will decide me one way or the other.

Yes, I’ve spotted the fly which landed on the table just as I was taking this photograph! Our conservatory is an insect graveyard at this time of year due to the oven-like temperatures reached during the day. Pattern cutting activities have to be restricted to very first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid heatstroke.

I hope I’m not the only one to find it almost impossible to trace off the right lines in circumstances like the one on the right above!

Fabric shopping tomorrow as I’m sure I don’t have anything suitable for either of these garments …….