Desert Island Patterns #4

A change from garments this time round for my desert island sewing.  Back in 2015 the lovely Zoe from So Zo, …. What do you know? put a call out for pattern testers for her new bag pattern, the Anya.  I’ve always liked making bags and thought this would be a challenge I could manage – I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to test a garment pattern!

This was my test version …..

I’d had the fabric for ages and was never sure what to do with it  but I think it worked well for a bag.  I have a confession to make.  Before I made this bag I’d never sewn a buttonhole on my machine!  It was a lot easier than I’d imagined.  I never wear shirts/shirtdresses because I don’t like collars (another of my odd garment phobias!) so my buttonhole making has pretty much been limited to bag making – and a pair of children’s dungarees from a vintage pattern.

The Anya is an excellent pattern – it’s quick to make but covers a number of techniques in addition to the buttonhole including pleats, inserting a lining and top stitching.  Perfect for a beginner.   It’s a great way of using up leftover fabric and makes a really nice gift.  If I’m stranded on a desert island for an extended period I’ll be able to come back with a stock of ready made presents!  It’s also pretty spacious and one of these days I’ll add an internal pocket to make it easier to locate small things like keys.

Talking of gifts – next up are Anya bags I’ve made as gifts with a close up of a nice neat buttonhole.

And finally two more made for me.

The first one is made from a Lucienne Day design fabric, Calyx.  This was originally designed for John Lewis in the 1950s but was reprinted a few years ago and I was given several pieces by my sister. I have enough to make a dress too.   The bag was made for a tea party at The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in January, held to launch a series of events to mark what would have been Lucienne’s 100th birthday this year.  The other bag is made in a beautiful mustard/gold denim from The Fabric Godmother with a vintage fabric lining.  I have a new piece of this to make a skirt for the winter.

I don’t mention the festive season by name at this time of year but if you do sew gifts this pattern is definitely worth considering!


Chi Stitch #3

Despite torrential rain – and the fact that some people were enjoying a holiday somewhere warmer and drier – Karen and I were really pleased with another great turn out for the third meeting of the Chichester sewing group.

What I really enjoy, apart from the opportunity to chat to like-minded people, is seeing the range of activities that people bring along to work on.  This month I managed to get a shot of Cathy’s amazing denim circles quilt and she also made a fabric belt to match the vintage dress she’s making to wear to Revival at Goodwood.  We also had cushion making, shirt making, a baby quilt, jean alterations and someone mending the school production’s angel costumes!  Karen and I were working on current projects – mine yet another Esme dress (#1 in my Desert Island Patterns) which now just needs hemming. UPDATE : I started this post immediately after the meet-up but failed to finish it.  The dress is still waiting to be hemmed!

There was cake and thanks are due to What Corrine Did Next for her flapjack and Nutella Brownie recipes.  The flapjack recipe mentions butterscotch golden syrup which I wasn’t able to find but they were delicious nonetheless.  UPDATE : Corinne messaged me on IG to tell me she’d tracked it down on special offer in the Co-op!  I doubled the quantities to achieve the depth of mixture I needed for my tin.   There were also some salted caramel and chocolate cookies but I forgot to photograph them!  I’m very happy to be baking again.  I stopped after Mr Jane Makes’ heart attack but as he now runs about a million miles a week he’s allowed to have some treats!

I’m going to be helping Karen out on her stand for one day at The Great British Sewing Bee Live next month and I’m planning a dress in one of her fabrics so I can be the best possible ambassador for her wares.  I also want to look my best in case I meet Patrick Grant! She brought along a sample of the fabric and I’m really looking forward to using it.  UPDATE : I now have the fabric and am ready to start cutting out.

The next meeting of Chi Stitch will be on Wednesday 13 September at St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Hope you can join us.



Sewing Group #2

Karen and I were both nervous about the second meeting of our new sewing group.  What if the first one had been a one hit wonder and nobody turned up?  We needn’t have worried.  We had another great turn out and the hall was a hive of activity!

We failed to take a single photograph but thankfully the lovely @cathysewsstuff assumed the role of official photographer.

We had crochet, sewing, embroidery, cutting out (first ever dress from a pattern) and a cosy patchwork quilt from felted sweaters.  I can’t wait to see this one finished.  Our official photographer was also making a quilt from denim and fabric scraps from some of her previous makes.  I wish I had a photograph to show you, it’s such an unusual design.

As mentioned in my last post, I cut out this pattern to take along.  I’d picked it up from the swap table at the first meeting so I was pleased to be making use of it.

I did make a quick toile from an old bed sheet to check the fit.  I went with the bust measurement because the rest of the dress skims the waist and hips.  I have to admit that if something doesn’t really work at the toile stage I usually decide it’s not for me unless all that’s required is a minor tweak here and there.  I’m in awe of people who can undertake complicated fitting manoeuvres!  I didn’t have enough fabric for the collar so will try that on another version and I decided to go for the short sleeves.

I cut out the fabric in advance and despite plenty of chatting I managed to sew all the darts (front and back), shoulder seams and make up the neck facing.  I did unpick one bust dart and re-sew it when I got home because I wasn’t 100% happy with it – but I was just being picky!  More on this pattern when I’ve finished the dress.

There was cake … these are salted caramel and chocolate cookies! There were also chocolate brownies made by Karen.


We’ve now booked dates for the sewing group for the rest of the year :

  • 9th August
  • 13th September
  • 11th October
  • 8th November
  • 13th December

Hope you can join us for all or some of these dates at St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm. Watch this space for details of some upcoming special events!

Chichester Sewing Group – NEW!!

I’ve previously mentioned my friendship with Karen, founder of The Draper’s Daughter, which started on Instagram when we discovered we both lived in Chichester.  Over the last year or so, inspired by the amazing Stacie of Brighton Sewing Bee and Sewmance fame, we’ve been talking about the possibility of setting up a monthly sewing group here.  I’ve always been envious when I’ve seen photos on IG of what they get up to in Brighton but it is just a bit too far to go for an evening after work.

Life then got in the way and nothing happened for a while but we’ve now bitten the bullet and booked a venue for the inaugural session!

Like the Brighton Sewing Bee, the aim will be to give anyone interested in sewing the opportunity to meet up with like-minded people to make, sew, chat and eat some cake.  There will always be cake!

Photos courtesy of The Draper’s Daughter!

The sessions will be informal and open to everyone regardless of skill level.  We hope that the group will develop gradually to meet the needs of the members.  There won’t be a formal teacher but we intend to invite special guests to share their knowledge and experience and we will also build a skills bank based on members’ interests with the aim of persuading some of them to run sessions from time to time if they are so inclined.  There will be absolutely no obligation to do this!

In the longer term we may be able to provide a couple of sewing machines at the venue but in the meantime just bring your own along and we will arrange for extension cables so that everyone can plug in and sew.  You don’t have to sew on a machine, just bring along your embroidery, knitting, hand stitching or whatever else you are working on if you prefer.  If you have a sewing conundrum you need help with – the group may well be the perfect forum to find a solution.

There will also be a fabric and pattern swap table each month.  I’m sure we all have things in our stash that we know we will never use but could well be just what someone else is looking for.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 14 June at St George’s Church Hall from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Click here for the address and a map.  There is parking so you won’t have to carry your sewing machine very far.  There will be no charge for the first meeting – have this one on Karen and me.  After that we are proposing a ‘sub’ of £5.  This is definitely not a business enterprise and all funds will be used to cover the cost of hiring the hall, equipment and future activities.

The first meeting will give everyone a chance to introduce themselves and we’d really like to have a democratic process to help decide on a name for the group.  Come along with any suggestions and we can maybe put them to a vote!  We can also talk about everyone’s ideas for possible future activities, speakers, visits etc.

If you are interested in joining us please direct message Karen or me on IG – @janemakes or @thedrapersdaughter – or alternatively email me on or leave a comment below.

We’d love to hear from you.




Sewing Gifts

This is a very belated post for which I apologise, particularly to Sheila from Sewchet.  Sheila is the organiser of the annual #stitchingsanta gift swap which I have taken part in for two years running.

Just before Christmas I came home from work to find a ‘we tried to deliver a parcel’ card on the doormat.  Normally this would mean it had been returned to the main sorting office in Chichester but this time the card included a map of Fareham (a 40 minute drive away) and a bit of scribble I couldn’t read!  To cut a long story short I eventually tracked the parcel down to a post office counter in Chichester that I didn’t know existed within a Tesco Express!

Unfortunately Christmas had come and gone by then.  The final discovery of my parcel really did cheer me up after a less than happy Christmas, especially when I realised it was from Sheila herself!  What an honour!

The unwrapping of all the gifts took some time.  Here’s some of the parcels before I started.


And here’s everything I found inside!

The little felt robin is so sweet and will be saved until next Christmas along with the festive buttons and the beautiful quilted table runner.  When I finally get around to doing some proper sewing I’m looking forward to trying the pattern weights as I’ve never used these before.  Sheila also include a couple of patterns, a Liberty sewing book which has some great projects, a hand-covered notebook, a tissue holder (I always have tissues in my handbag so this is perfect) and some lovely fabric.  I’ve not measured it but I think there is enough for a little summer dress.

Last but most definitely not least were the mittens made from a recycled sweater.  These are fabulous and I’ve worn them a lot – I had to give them a quick press before I took this picture.  I love the little flower decoration.

Thank you so much Sheila, I really appreciated everything in my parcel!

#StitchingSanta 2016


Having signed up for Sewchet‘s #stitchingsanta again this year I was determined to be organised and plan my sewing well in advance. However ……. despite the early good intentions I still ended up finishing everything off at the last minute so I’m relieved to know that my parcel has arrived.

Wrapping everything up focused my mind on this year’s gift wrapping theme.  Yes, I always have a theme!  I really LOVE wrapping presents even if I do end up ‘cutting and sticking’ into the early hours.  I try to use up supplies I already have – and always use plain brown paper for the basic wrapping.  This year I wanted to include black and white stripes but, believe me, there was no black and white striped wrapping paper to be had around here apart from some tissue paper from Paperchase which I decided would have to do.   I’ve also bought a few lengths of ribbon and some pink tissue.

I never seem to be in my house during daylight hours at the moment so these photos are rather poor but I think the black, white and pink theme is pretty obvious!

There was only a tiny length of that butterfly trim left from a previous project so my recipient is very lucky!  Stamping shapes out of paper is SO satisfying.  I just wish I’d found the gadget given to me as a present years ago which corrugates paper and card before I wrapped these up.  It’s brilliant and I’m corrugating everything now!

The purchased gifts were scissor-related so I printed a gift tag to match.


I hope everything is well received.  It’s quite nerve-racking sewing for people who sew!

This will be my last post in 2106 so thank you for all your likes, comments and encouragement.  I hope everyone has a Very Happy Christmas and here’s to a creative 2017.

A Fine Sewmance

Earlier in the year I popped over to Brighton for the first Sewmance event.  It was well attended but I found the venue a bit claustrophobic.  It didn’t matter though because I met up with some sewing friends which is always a good thing.

Stacie from Brighton Sewing Bee found a new venue for the winter event on 12 November and St George’s Church in Kemptown was a great improvement.  Stacie & Co had worked so hard to get the space ready for the day.  When @vintage_charity and I arrived around lunchtime the church, bedecked with beautiful quilts, was heaving!  We bumped straight into Louise, who we’d planned to meet up with,  and then into Zoe with her absolutely adorable new baby – a lovely surprise.  That baby got a LOT of cuddles!

We had a stroll round to see what was on offer, listened to Josie/Fabric Godmother’s Sewing Story and then decided we needed a snack.  I think Stacie and her helpers had prepared all the food – she seems to have boundless energy as well as being lovely.

I spotted someone buying the gold spot/stag fabric I’ve just used for a skirt from Anna at The Eternal Maker – and the same gold zip!  We  had a quick conversation about using gold thread for sewing the zip.  Whoever she was we will be skirt twins.

I also recognised and introduced myself to another Louise from Not Sew Simple whose blog I’ve followed for a while.

Overall we were pretty restrained (although The Fabric Godmother had some very tempting fabrics) and I came away with just two purchases.  The fabric kit for a baby make from The Eternal Maker as mentioned in my last post and these bangles made from knitting needles from Yellow Bear Wares which are very satisfying to wear.  Mostly though we sat – or walked – around and chatted to fellow sewers – which was just perfect.  All the workshops were very busy – especially the ones where you could make your own floral headdress – and there were plenty of these on show.


It was a real shame the weather was so awful on the day but it didn’t seem to put people off.  Stacie is planning a summer Sewmance, possibly at the same venue, so look out for details of that.

Obviously there were lots of me-made clothes on show in the room.  I decided I wanted something new to wear but with almost no time I went for another Annie A-line Skirt (definitely a TNT) using a really nice remnant picked up in C & H Fabrics a few weeks ago.  I’m hopeless at identifying fabrics but this was a lovely weight with a bit of stretch and the print is a kind of faux tweed.  I love this pattern, it comes together so quickly, although I did decide to add a lining because I thought the fabric might be a bit clingy with tights.

I was pretty happy with my concealed zip and I love the bias bound finish on the waist facing.  I must mention and recommend the iron-on interfacing I bought at The Eternal Maker.  It is woven to replicate fabric and I much prefer the finish to the stuff I usually use which often rucks up at the edges or creases when it’s ironed.

We did find our trip to the loo in the church quite entertaining.  We’d rather hoped it would be through the door marked Alleluia but instead it was quite a route march up and down stairways and through multiple doors, dodging a mop and bucket in the middle of a puddle (of water).  We wondered whether we’d ever find our way back!

Thank you to the amazing Stacie for all her hard work to put this event together.  There was talk of a fabric buying/pattern swapping/sewing chat event in Chichester in the not too distant future.  If anyone would be interested, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.


Secret Sewing 2016

I don’t usually like to mention Christmas before the beginning of December at the very earliest but the very talented (and incredibly productive) Sheila from Sewchet is once again organised #stitchingsanta and, having had fun taking part last year, I signed up again.


We’ve now received details of who we’ll be buying/sewing for (there’s also a knitting/crochet option) and I’ve been checking out my recipient’s blog so I can plan what to make.  I’d already had a couple of ideas that could be tweaked to suit specific interests so all I need to do now is get on with it! The maximum spend on a gift is £10 but there seems to be no limit on what you can make/sew/knit from stuff you already own.  Looking back over the last three years –  if you are Sheila’s recipient you’re in for a treat!

The idea is that we give a few sneak previews before Christmas without giving the game away so once I get started I’ll be doing that either on here or IG.   The full story will be reported in the New Year.

My recipient last year was Sharon from Creativity and Family and I really enjoyed making presents for her.  My gifts came from Beth at After Dark Sewing.  Since then both of them have become Etsy entrepreneurs!  Here’s a selection of the gifts we gave each other.  I use the little zipped purse all the time – although it obviously no longer has the chocolate coins in it – and I loved Beth’s fabric gift wrapping.  The fabric itself became pocket linings in a pink dress.

I’m off to Sewmance in Brighton on Saturday with @vintage_charity so I’m hoping I’ll get some more inspiration there.  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with some other sewing friends, including Louise from Seams Odd, Louise and @lois.h.


Me Made May : The Final Round Up

It’s all over and this year’s Me Made May has been a really positive experience. Life is a bit difficult at the moment and the challenge of creating a daily outfit from my me-made wardrobe has been a great distraction!  I managed to wear at least one me-made item every day with minimal repeats and I enjoyed wearing all of them.  I have to confess that I failed on the second part of my pledge which was to try two new patterns during the month but that was largely due to the life being a bit difficult situation!

Here’s what I’ve worn since the last blog post.

Day 27 was a bit of a cheat because I wore my crazy new, pom-pom embellished Esme dress on the evening of Day 26 but as I had it on past midnight I decided it could count as that day’s outfit and I wanted to make sure it got included!  The fabric was from a vintage fair in Chichester and was allegedly French.  It cost me £10 and although it was a long length it was quite narrow so I only just managed to fit the dress onto it.  It frayed like mad and it has taken several goes with the hoover to pick up all the threads that have spread around the house.  Not sure why I decided on the pom-poms and I don’t know whether they will be a permanent feature – they are only sewn on by hand so easily removed if required.

The Day 30 skirt is a new make from a previously used pattern, Simplicity 2343, which has nice front tucks and pockets and is pretty much a perfect fit straight out of the packet – which is why I like it so much.  The fabric is a lovely unbleached organic cotton which I think I bought from The Village Haberdashery a couple of years ago.

Simplicity 2343

The striped top on Day 28 is also a new make from a Love Sewing magazine pattern (I’m reliably informed by their comment on IG that it was Issue 17). I’d lost the instructions but managed without them.  This top was a rescue from a striped disaster which I won’t go into, suffice to say that it had been thrown into a corner and abandoned.  I managed to cut some of the new pieces from it and had some fabric left over for the rest.

Day 29 was an alteration.  The original sailing-related skirt had in-seam pockets which made my hips look a funny shape so I sewed them up, cut them off and I’m much happier with it.  I made my boss some cushions with this fabric so I wouldn’t sit on his sofa whilst wearing the skirt!

I’ve also been giving some more of my handmade bags an outing.  The knitted ones are all from a pattern I bought from Laughing Hens. It came as a kit (Day 25’s version) and I then made two more.  They are all lined in fabric to prevent them losing their shape once filled with purse, phone, keys etc.  My favourite Anya Bag designed by Zoe, the creator of Me Made May, also made an appearance on Day 26, as did a shopping bag made from a huge piece of charity shop fabric.  I have enough of this to make about ten of these bags but there may be a skirt in due course.  The bag is from a pattern in Selvedge magazine about nine years ago.


All in all I was very happy with the contents of my handmade wardrobe and the challenge did encourage/force me to wear some things that may otherwise have been ignored and they will now be in regular rotation.  I’ve certainly felt more confident about what I’ve worn as the month has gone on.  I may cut back on the stripes for a while – there do seem to be a lot of them – and might step up the florals as I’ve decided I rather like them.

What I do need to do is make more tops – which is why I bought another skirt pattern at the weekend!

A big thank you to the lovely Zoe for creating and continuing to run Me May May.  Long may it continue.

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!