Esme Dress

Inspired by Su from Butterflies and Lemon Drops I put Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, on my Christmas list.  Su has made two versions of the Esme dress, it is simple and stylish and perfect for everyday!


There are three options, a top, a tunic and a caftan version (shown on the book cover).  I went for the tunic length.

This is a very a simple pattern but I decided to make a toile because simple needs to be perfect (well, somewhere in that direction anyway).  Despite the fact that it looks a bit shroud-like in this neutral cotton I decided I liked the shape, especially the neckline, but the sleeves were way too long.  I ended up removing five inches from the original pattern because I prefer a three-quarter length sleeve and my arms are particularly short.  I considered taking the excess from part way up the sleeve but ended up just chopping it off the bottom as my forearms tend towards the rounded (or chubby) and this option allowed for more space in that area.


I used one of the fabrics from my visit to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show, this one came from Sew Over It.  I’m not entirely sure what it is (and I can’t find it on the website) but it is quite textured and not especially drapey.  It is also a bit more synthetic feeling than I’d realised at the time of purchase.  I just liked the design and it sewed up very nicely.

The instructions in the book are fairly basic and the illustrations not particularly informative but this is such a simple make that it wasn’t an issue.  I think the jacket I’m planning to make from the same book might require a bit more effort!

The neckline has a facing which is top stitched and I was really pleased with the way this came out.


The sleeves are eased in flat and I decided to extend the gathering by an inch or so as there was a bit too much puffiness at the top on the toile sleeve which I wasn’t keen on.  The final version was fine, although only after I was forced cut out a third sleeve.  I realised as I was basting them in that in my efforts to ensure the pattern would match up perfectly at the top of each sleeve I had forgotten to flip the pattern piece over.  I therefore ended up with two right sleeves.  Thankfully I had enough fabric left to cut another one, although I had to forgo the patch pockets.  Better to have two sleeves and no pockets than pockets and one sleeve I reckon!

The whole dress came together very quickly as there are no fastenings and I think this could be run up in an evening if one ever had a whole evening spare to sew in.

I started the dress pre-overlocker course but did manage to use it to finish the edges of the hem and sleeves before turning them up.  It worked!  I was ridiculously pleased with myself given what a straightforward process this is!


Sorry for the very poor photograph of me wearing it.  I took this when I tried it on originally and then life went a bit pear-shaped when my father was taken ill and I had to move in to help my mother look after him at night.  He’s now in hospital and I’m still there keeping my mother company.


In the current circumstances this is a brilliant dress.  The fabric doesn’t crease and you can wash the dress, hang it up overnight and it is ready to wear again without ironing.  The Esme is so comfortable to wear.  I was a bit worried that the non-drapey fabric made it stick out a bit at the bottom but I think it’s fine.

When life eventually settles down again I’m ready to sew a second version, which I might make slightly smaller as there is more than enough room in this one.  I’ll also add the patch pockets – or even some pockets in the side seam.  I may also extend the length slightly so that it is suitable for summer wear at work sans tights.

Getting to Know My Overlocker

I suspect there is going to be a love/hate relationship between me and my overlocker at least for the foreseeable future!

Said overlocker has been sitting on the table in my sewing room since I bought it at the end of last year at a bargain price from LIDL.  I read the manual, checked out Portia’s tutorials on Makery and decided I needed adult supervision.  Thankfully I received this by way of a course at Fabric Godmother – a Christmas present from my parents.  My sister made the voucher!


Saturday was the big day and I headed off to Hove with my overlocker in the car.  W very kindly drove me – mostly because he wanted to spend a sunny day in Brighton with the added advantage of parking at my sister’s house and spending the day with her.  One of their activities involved him posing in a Punch & Judy stand – I have no idea what was going on there!  We also paid a flying visit to Emmaus on the way and acquired a lovely little copper iron which has subsequently been used to successfully apply wax to his skis.  Here it is being heated up on the hob.

Back to more serious things.  There were five of us on the course and there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out to work.  Tea and coffee flowed and there were even cute little cupcakes.  The lovely tutor, Julia, was very patient as two of us were complete beginners and slightly terrified of our machines.  Everyone’s machine was already threaded (mine came out of the box with starter threads in place) so we started by learning how to tie on new threads and pull them through – very easy and at that point I thought perhaps I’d just never unthread it.  Not a chance – we then had to cut the threads, pull them all out and do it ourselves from scratch.

Amazingly I managed to do this without too much difficulty, although stupidly I hadn’t twigged that we had four different colour threads for a reason, i.e. to match the colour coding on the machine so that just made life even more difficult for me.  Here’s the machine all threaded up.  I was so excited I had to post a picture on IG straightaway!

I even took a photograph of the tension settings so I wouldn’t forget where they were originally.  What I want to know is who the heck actually came up with the idea for this monster?  At least I pretty much understand how the sewing machine works and when it goes wrong I’m happy to poke around to try and sort it out.  The insides of the overlocker are a complete mystery at the moment.

There were piles of scrap calico to experiment with and the tension on my machine seemed to be the best behaved with everything looking pretty good straightaway.  We played around with different fabrics, altering the tension to suit each one. We then :

  • Learned about the differential feed
  • Changed stitch lengths
  • Removed a needle and disengaged the stitch finger to reduce the stitch width
  • Sewed a blind hem.

My first problem was with the sample of chiffon which became completely entangled and I had to spend some time with tiny scissors and the tweezers poking it all out.  Not to worry, I have no plans to make something in chiffon.

One of the things that impressed us was being able to do gathering by changing the differential feed.  Apparently there is also a special foot you can use that gathers one piece of fabric whilst keeping the other one flat.

Here’s my gathering sample – I’ve just realised the flowers are upside down!


The final event of the day was making either a snood or a skirt with an elasticated waist.  We were invited to take our own fabric but everyone chose to pick and buy something on the day.  A difficult choice given we were surrounded by fabric.

My mistake was to choose a really lovely jersey – with raised stripes.  There was obviously no way that I was going to be able to match the stripes as the day was almost over and we wanted to try and finish.  We drew up our own patterns direct onto the fabric with chalk,  based on our waist and hip measurements.  My first go at seams was pretty good but I had made the tube too big having measured myself over three layers of clothing. Whizzing down the seam again threw everything out.  The elastic went in quite well, although I think I cut it a bit too short so there was some undesirable bunching.  However, all in all I was quite pleased with it and having thought I would never wear a jersey skirt I decided I probably would.

Julia then demonstrated a blind hemming technique which gives a band effect at the bottom of the skirt.  I decided to wait until I got home to try this as we were running out of time and I didn’t want to rush it …. and this is where it all went wrong.  I pinned everything in place last night, checked the machine on a scrap of folded fabric and then launched into the real thing.  The machine went haywire with crazy loopy stitching all over the place. I then spent about an hour unravelling everything and re-threading with much weeping and wailing (actually it was more like much swearing).  It is now working again but the hem was ruined and having chopped it all off to start again I’ve ended up with a skirt that only a child could wear as it is so short.

I shan’t give up.  I can see what an advantage an overlocker will be so I’m going to buy some more fabric without stripes (maybe a scuba knit) and have another go at the skirt.  I thought I’d also try some nice simple projects – maybe a plain t-shirt and a cover for the overlocker – to build up my confidence.  In the meantime I have Julia’s book to study.


I really enjoyed the day, it was very relaxed, the other students were lovely and I would definitely recommend it to overlocker virgins.  One very important thing to report is that despite being surrounded by all that fabric I didn’t buy any, apart from the piece to make my skirt.  Such restraint.

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

I reported in my last blog post that I would be visiting the Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia on Saturday with Clarinda Kaleidoscope, Butterflies & Lemon Drops and Red W Sews.  The threatened snow didn’t materialise, although there was a sprinkling of icy hail on the ground when we arrived at Clapham Junction.  We were taken by surprise at the length of the queue to get in but it moved pretty quickly once the doors opened.

We agreed on a methodical approach, moving along each aisle in turn so we didn’t miss anything.  I’m not great with crowds and this is one of the things that puts me off these shows. It does end up being a bit of a battle to move around in the busy areas – especially with the many trolleys being towed round filled to bursting point!  I do also wonder about the relevance to knitting or sewing of some of the stands!


  • Spending time with like-minded friends who don’t think that stroking fabric is weird! Travelling with Su made the train journeys fly by – we didn’t stop talking!
  • Meeting Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani who was demonstrating at the show but was having a sit down on Tilly’s stand when we saw her. She is so lovely and certainly blooming with her baby due in six weeks.
  • Catching up with Caroline from Sew La Di Da Vintage who I met last year at her shop in Lyme Regis (when I took these photos). She was selling her patterns and showcasing her amazing doll kits. I’d already seen Lou Lou but she’s now been joined by Bertie. I wish I’d taken a photo of him – he has a monocle!  Clarinda Kaleidoscope bought a pattern from Caroline for a gorgeous and glamorous deck suit – and later found the perfect fabric to make it up. You can read all about it on her blog here.
  • Seeing Tilly take the time to advise Becca (Red W Sews) on her Orla top which had a misbehaving hem facing!
  • Last, but obviously not least, looking at all that fabric.  There was a pretty wide choice and it would have been difficult to come away empty handed.  It would be fair to say that some of us bought more than others!

My choices were :


An Ikat design fabric from the Sew Over It stand – and cut by Lisa Comfort herself who was doing an amazing job in a tiny space.  I’m planning an Esme dress from the Lotte Jansdotter book I got for Christmas.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to look as stylish as Lotte in her various versions of this dress!


I’ve traced off the pattern (I just know I could never cope with a Burda pattern – this was quite enough of a faff for me and there are only three or four simple garments and some bag patterns on the sheets!).  I think I’m going to make a quick toile to check the fit as this dress has no fastenings and the temptation will be to make it too big!

An organic barkcloth with a 50s vibe from Higgs & Higgs for a skirt – pattern yet to be decided.   I’d seen this fabric several times on Instagram and it resembles the iconic Calyx design by textile designer, Lucienne Day.  I have some offcuts of the (very expensive) reprint of the original Calyx fabric given to me by my sister which may also be turned into a skirt.

A VERY bright pink denim from Fabrics Galore – also for a skirt and definitely one with pockets.

I think I was quite restrained.  I was bearing in mind that I’ll be at The Fabric Godmother this Saturday on a course and will almost certainly come away from there with more fabric!












Where did my Sew Jo go?

I’m hoping it’s just the time of year but since the beginning of 2016 I seem to have been overcome with some kind of mental paralysis every time I think about sewing and I’ve been incapable of getting started on any new projects up until last weekend apart from one Anya bag for myself.  I’ve not even bought any fabric which is decidedly weird!

It is now the beginning of March and I think it is high time I got my act together.  Several things have happened (or are about to happen) which I hope will turn the tide.

Number One

I met up with the amazing Zoe (from So Zo What do you know?) for a lovely lunch in Brighton a couple of weeks ago and have now taped together the pattern for a Dolores Batwing Dress.  I’m hoping this will be a nice straightforward project to ease me back in gently.

Number Two 

I spotted some little fabric baskets over at MakeAmyMake.  There is a link in her post to a YouTube tutorial which is in German.  I watched it initially without speakers so the language wasn’t an issue and the baskets are so straightforward to make that you really don’t need to hear the instructions.  My prototype came out pretty well but it then dawned on me that you really need to use a fabric that works both ways up for the lining otherwise the turnover at the top is upside down!


I went on to make three more as a birthday present with no real idea of what I was going to put in them.  I made all three during the second half of the rugby on Saturday afternoon and decided to fill them with three little succulent plants in recycled jam jars.  They were very well received and I think making these ‘utensilios’ as they are apparently called could become addictive.  They are a great stash buster.  The linen fabric below was a remnant from Ditto which I bought years ago.  It is lovely (I have a feeling it was Armani!) but the colour just didn’t suit me so I’m glad I’ve finally found a use for it.

Number Three

I am off to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia on Saturday with Clarinda Kaleidoscope, Butterflies & Lemondrops and Red W Sews.  I have my entry ticket, my train ticket and I can’t wait!  It had better not snow.

Number Four

Linda from Remake Remodel Recycle nominated me for a Liebster Award.  I’ve not had a chance to focus on answering her questions yet (or think up my own) but I will!  Thank you Linda.

Number Five

I’m off to The Fabric Godmother for my overlocker course on 12 March.  Apparently we make a skirt as part of the course and I may just wait until I get there to choose some fabric.

If all these inspirational activities don’t sort me out I don’t know what will!