Speedy Sewing

Although I enjoy working on sewing projects that require a long-term commitment I also like being able to create something quickly to meet a particular whim.

The company I work for sponsors a prize in a national art competition and last Wednesday was the exhibition launch and prize giving, with me presenting our prize (alongside none less than Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones!).  I had intended to make a skirt from this vintage fabric – I thought the paintbrushes were rather appropriate.  Here it is pinned on Doris in no particular fashion.


I couldn’t make up my mind what to sew with it but having finally settled on a Clémence Skirt from Tilly’s Love at First Stitch I had really run out of time to calculate the measurements and sort out the fit properly.  It was Wednesday morning at that point and I was due to catch a train mid-afternoon. Also my poor dad was taken poorly which left me in something of a panic for part of the morning but thankfully he was fine in the end.  Why didn’t I wear something I already had you may ask – which is a very good question but I like to make life difficult for myself!

I decided to stick with an old faithful which I know I can make up quickly and is pretty much a perfect fit.  I’ve had this pattern for years and really should trace a new copy from the original which is now looking rather moth-eaten with a couple of missing corners!

McCalls 3830

As it’s a very simple shape with just a couple of darts front and back I wanted to use an eye-catching fabric and this one, bought at the Fabric Godmother’s open day, fitted the bill.  It’s a sturdy cotton canvas which was fairly pricey but I only bought a metre (it is now in the sale  if you’re interested!).


To save time I decided to underline the skirt, having just learned this technique from making the Laurel dress, to avoid making a separate lining.  The fabric has quite an open weave and does fray quite easily so I finished all the seams with a zig zag which seems to be holding up well.  Once I’ve got the hang of my new overlocker this will all be so much quicker and easier.

Due to the time constraint I ended up hemming the skirt on the machine which I wasn’t happy with but I don’t think anyone noticed on the day.  From start to finish I managed to make this skirt in a couple of hours.

I found this fabric didn’t hold a sharp crease very well which made it difficult to insert the concealed zip as neatly as I would have liked.  I like to press in a really good crease to pin the zip against to get the best finish.  I’ve since been watching Karen’s short video on using a tailor’s clapper for pressing seams etc. and I think this would have been an ideal tool to have to hand.  I’m not going to try and improve on what I’ve done, I’ve tried that before and made things worse so I shall leave well alone.

Looking down at the skirt on the train home I decided I couldn’t live with the machined hem because the stitching was too obvious.  It would have to be unpicked and re-sewn by hand.  I’d also found as I was walking around that because the fabric is quite textured it tended to catch on my tights.  I’ve now used bias binding for a neat finish and to smooth off the inside of the hem.  I used the extra hour on Sunday for this hemming task!

Here’s the finished skirt – not bad for some speedy sewing!  I’ve already worn it a second time and I think this fabric is really striking.  Not sure Ronnie Wood noticed it mind you!


The Torture That Is Unpicking

I always avoid unpicking as I absolutely hate doing it so why I embarked on what I am about to describe I do not know!

Some while ago I made a Coco top in an unsuitable (but lovely and soft) jersey fabric from Ditto in Brighton. It was far too thin and floppy and the funnel neck just wouldn’t stand up in the proper fashion.  Although it doesn’t look too bad in the photograph below it drooped within five minutes of putting it on.

I’d put it away in a drawer because I couldn’t bear to send it to the charity shop and last night I decided I would try and remove the funnel piece and re-sew the neckline. This involved unpicking not only the seam but an additional line of topstitching – all in a miniscule stretch stitch which had embedded itself in the fabric! Halfway through I wished I’d never started but by then I was at the point of no return. After what seemed like hours I achieved my aim, although there were a couple of tiny holes where I’d gone through the fabric rather than the thread.

Thankfully I hadn’t trimmed the seam originally so I was able to turn under a reasonable amount in order to hide the holes and create a new neckline.

From the outside it looks reasonably OK, although I’d forgotten how thin the fabric is and an appropriate underwear choice is essential. I think it might be more suitable for layering.

 Before After

Although the intensive unpicking activity has made the already annoying pain in my neck and shoulder worse at least it gives me an additional item for Me-Made-May as I’m beginning to run out of options! W is off to the HowTheLightGets In festival at Hay-on-Wye today so, although I’ll miss him, I’ve got a free weekend to spend at the sewing machine!

Too Bright for Comfort!

So far I’ve stuck with my Me-Made-May pledge.  I’m not planning to photograph every outfit (and certainly not me wearing them!) but I will mention the highlights and the less successful ones.

I was very happy in the newly repurposed top with the patch pockets mentioned in a previous post and ended up wearing this on Saturday and Sunday which was rather lazy.   It is very comfortable despite the slightly too-tight sleeves which I think are a result of me forgetting halfway through making it that the seam allowance on Hot Patterns is only ⅜ rather than ⅝.


Yesterday was a different story. The sun came out so I decided to pair the new bright green Coco with a floral skirt (Simplicity 2655). Far too much colour all in one go for me and I couldn’t wait to get home and change. This Coco top has not been an entirely happy make. The fabric is a very ‘springy’ jersey which kept curling up at the edges and I don’t really like the feel of it. I had decided to omit the side slits which was a mistake and it just wasn’t the right length. Despite the horrors of unpicking the microscopic stretch stitch that my machine produces I decided to take the plunge so the top is now shorter with side splits (tricky having already trimmed the seams). I think it will be OK in future without the floral accompaniment!

I am playing it safer today with an old favourite from Simplicity 2192. I love this shape and the fabric is a stretch shirting (not suggested on the list of recommended fabrics) which is really comfortable. I did try making it in white linen but somehow it resembled something a dentist might wear so that went to the charity shop!

I showed this next top in its unfinished state in my last post and it was completed on Saturday.   Another unpicking session took place, this time on the sleeves due to less than straight stitching, which resulted in a tiny hole. I was going to try and repair it but in the end I just chopped off the sleeve hem and started again and in fact the new sleeve length is better.  It does look a bit boring on the hanger but I’m looking forward to wearing it because the fabric is so lovely and soft.

 Grey Top Finished

My skirt today is another old favourite (Simplicity 2343 minus the frilly edge to the pockets) which is showing signs of wear so last night I cut out a new version. I don’t normally wash fabric before I use it but I wanted to be sure this denim from Clothspot didn’t shrink or fade too much.  It was fine, just not quite as crisp as it was originally.

I had an unplanned visit to West Dean at the weekend. W, my partner, went out on his bike while I was visiting my parents and decided to implement his Fort Knox security measures on the front door. I had swapped bags and failed to transfer all the necessary keys and was therefore locked out! We agreed that I would drive up to meet him and this gave me the opportunity to visit the Visual Arts students’ selling exhibition to help fund their Summer Show. They were only taking cash so I was restricted to one purchase which was this lovely image by Cathy Griffiths. There was also some beautiful jewellery by Julia Tauber from the Metals Conservation Department.

Finally, one more Morsbag given away and one more made. I’d like to try and finish three more tonight as I have an ideal opportunity to give away four tomorrow which would take my total to 14 given away and only six more to make.


I did it! I signed up for Me-Made-May. This is my pledge :

I, Jane of janemakes.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to make better use of all my hand sewn garments and aim to wear at least one Me-Made item for five days each week for the duration of May 2015. I also challenge myself to make one new garment every week during May to add to my collection.

I decided that I just don’t have enough suitable outfits to provide enough variation to commit to one item every day of the week but I’ll see how I go. I hope the weather warms up soon because a lot of my clothes are definitely summer-orientated.

Today is the first of May and I am wearing my olive striped Coco top with a denim skirt. I always worry when I first wash a handmade item because I tend not to wash fabric before cutting out and I dread things emerging from the washing machine shrunk to half their original size. Mind you, when I made my first ‘proper’ skirt a few years ago I fully expected it to disintegrate into its separate pieces the first time I wore it!

I have been reviewing the limited number of hand sewn garments in my wardrobe and there have been a few minor repairs to undertake. I noticed a small mark on a favourite striped top which no amount of stain remover would shift do I decided to add pockets to disguise it. I had none of the original fabric left so I used some grey knit fabric (more about this below) and fashioned some patch pockets. This fabric is very thin so I used a double layer and I’m quite pleased with the result.

PocketsThis pattern is from Hot Patterns – the Plain & Simple Fitted T Redux. It has a back seam which gives a nice fit, although it does mean extra care when using stripes. I started another top from the same pattern last night in a plain grey knit fabric and it is well on the way to being finished. I bought this fabric some while ago in Lewes but I can’t remember where from. It has some cashmere in it and is lovely and soft. I was a bit nervous about using it because I thought it would be difficult to handle but it has been quite well behaved so far. I spent a long time attaching the neck band because it looked like it wasn’t going to fit but I was very determined. I did top stitch it because the fabric tends to curl up a lot at the edges and this has done the trick.

The bright green Coco is finished.   I left the side splits off this one. Here’s a possible outfit for Me-Made-May!

New Outfit

I have several other projects lined up. I bought some fabric from Clothspot the other day. I discovered the site when searching for stretch cotton shirting and bought a remnant for £7.50 (2 metres). I’ve never even thought about making a shirt but this is a lovely crisp fabric with a slight stretch and if I can overcome my fear of buttonholes I’ll give it a go. The other two fabrics in the pile are a fairly robust denim (to become a skirt) and a black ponte roma which will probably become a Coco top with a funnel neck to replace a favourite Cos top which accidentally ended up in a hot wash with a pile of towels.

New Fabric

Have a great Bank Holiday weekend.

Another Coco, a new skirt and a confession

I have to confess to failing to finish the Brighton Pavilion dress mentioned in my last post. I’m still trying to decide whether to sign up for Me-Made-May before the end of tomorrow and I will need that dress if I’m going to be able to get through a whole month wearing handmade items! If I was Hila over at Saturday Night Stitch with a fabulous new blazer I would be a lot happier.

Whilst sorting through my fabric stash for suitable leftovers for my Morsbag challenge I came across several pieces of dressmaking fabric that had been hanging around for a while. One of them, which I think came from Ditto, is some kind of stretch fabric but not a jersey, it feels a bit more like a thin neoprene to be honest! There wasn’t quite enough for Simplicity 2655 (which is a favourite of mine) so I had to make the facing from a small piece of brown polka dot fabric and my overall pattern matching wasn’t brilliant due partly to the limited amount of fabric and partly to a lack of attention to detail. The overall effect is OK and the design is so bright this will hopefully distract anyone from noticing the pattern matching.

Talking of bright colours, I recently popped into The Cotton Wool Store in Petworth and bought some bright green jersey fabric to make another Coco top. I’m not sure what has come over me recently because I’m not usually seen in bright colours or prints but I seem to have had a complete about turn recently. The top is not yet hemmed but I’ve managed to use another piece of lovely Liberty bias binding for the neckline and I was so pleased with the cuffs on the previous version that I’ve used them again. I think they finish the sleeve off beautifully and they are so simple to do.

On the day I was there The Cotton Wool Store was also holding a sale in the town hall and I just couldn’t resist a visit. I picked up two metres of this amazing silk for £8. It is quite a heavy fabric and the flower pattern looks like it has been printed onto the surface with gold paint. I’m planning a very simple evening skirt.  I think that with the very stiff nature of the fabric a dress or top would make me look like a cardboard cut out!

Fabulous Fabric

On the Morsbags front, the current tally is :

  • Bags made : 10
  • Bags given away : 9
  • Bags still to make : 10

After the trapped pin incident on the first bag I decided to secure the handles in place with a small piece of double sided sticky tape before sewing which was very successful.

All the recipients so far seem to have been delighted and I hope all the bags are being put to good use.