Portslade Sewing Meet Up

Who could refuse an invitation from Zoe to an exclusive visit to Ditto and The Fabric Godmother during the bank holiday weekend?  I’ve been to several of Josie’s open days at her fabric headquarters but this time we were visiting Ditto’s unit in Portslade where the online orders are processed and Gill has been holding some open days recently.

Mr Jane Makes kindly dropped me off at Ditto after finishing his park run (a personal best at 25:40) and chose to change from his running gear into ‘normal’ clothes when we arrived.  Emma from @dressmakerssocial did mention later than she’d spotted him out of the window in his pants.  I hope she gets over the experience soon!  He has no shame.

I’ll spare you a photograph of him in his smalls!

In addition to Zoe and her friend Rea it was lovely to meet up with :

I nearly forgot – Zoe also brought her adorable baby, Frankie.  Given that he had to spend several hours being passed around his adoring fans he was as good as gold!

Being faced with all this fabric as we walked into Ditto was overwhelming!  This is just part of one room – there’s another one too!  There was also a table piled up with homemade cake.

I never remember to take proper photographs but the image on the right shows Sal, Louise and Vicki having an animated conversation whilst clutching fabric!

We were very well looked after by Emma’s daughter who took orders for hot drinks and her son recorded an interview with everyone, asking them to choose their favourite fabric and say what they were going to make with it!

As if that wasn’t enough fabric for one day – off we went to The Fabric Godmother.  Josie had very kindly prepared lunch for us and Claire supplied chocolate brownies.  Claire has something of the Mary Poppins about her and is able to produce pretty much anything you might need from the depths of her handbag including plastic bags for take away cake!

Some people were more restrained than others.   I’ve been committed to curbing my fabric buying recently, sticking to using up what I already have and seeking out secondhand fabric in charity shops.  However …. I had already spotted an eco jersey on Ditto’s website which is produced without the use of harmful chemicals and once I’d seen it IRL decided it would make a perfect second Gable TopHere’s my first one.

At The Fabric Godmother I succumbed to some mustard/gold denim.  I’ve had this fabric before to make a Brumby skirt which is now too big for me and although I’ve done a lot of alterations recently I just can’t face unpicking the waistband and dealing with all that gathering.  I may not necessarily replicate the Brumby but the fabric will definitely become another skirt.  I was also looking for some grey denim which I also found at TFG.  This may well become a Cleo dress.  I’m very late to the Cleo party but Louise’s version in sparkly denim finally decided me.

One of the highlights of the day was our goodie bag from Josie.  I didn’t open the package until later in the day when I discovered we had all been given a length of this amazing floral fabric and a pattern!  So generous. It is not something I would normally choose for myself but it is beautiful and I’m going to think very carefully about what I make with it to ensure I do it justice.

With fabric and cake in hand I headed off for Portslade station to catch a train back to Brighton to meet up with Mr J-M at my sister’s house.  Thankfully it’s only two stops because the train was rammed with Brighton supporters who had clearly already been to the pub and were singing some fairly inappropriate songs, the lyrics of which I won’t repeat here!  They were probably not as cheerful by the end of the day after losing the match.

A huge thank you to Ditto and The Fabric Godmother for a great day and for the great organisation by Zoe, Stevie and Claire.

Double Denim

Happy New Year!  I can’t believe I’m back at work and Christmas is all over and done with.  I’ve already written about the lovely #stitchingsanta gifts I received and on the sewing front I was also lucky enough to be given :

  • A one day overlocker course at The Fabric Godmother – I know this is the only way I am ever going to make the best use of mine.
  • A walking foot for my sewing machine.
  • A bumper box of assorted pins from Merchant & Mills
  • Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, which I’d heard about from Su over at butterflies and lemon drops.  The book comes with a set of paper patterns and the Esme dress will almost certainly be the first one I try.
  • A post-Christmas present from Gill over at vintagerockchick who sent me a lovely handmade zipped bag, needle case and brooch as a thank you for winning my book giveaway!


I’ve done almost no sewing over the Christmas break apart from a less than successful top from some rather extravagant silk jersey which I will gloss over for the time being.

Two rather more successful makes were completed in the nick of time to wear on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  I was hemming both of them on Christmas morning!

First up is a third version of the Colette Laurel Dress in a lovely purple stretch denim which I bought from Ditto Fabrics when the Sew Bees visited Brighton on their inaugural meet up.  I washed the fabric twice before I used it (as advised) but I don’t think there was any shrinkage – although the colour does run.  This is quite a ‘springy’ and dense fabric and I found it slightly tricky to get a good finish on the points of the darts.  I unpicked one of the bust darts several times before I decided enough was enough!  The fabric didn’t like being unpicked and I ended up with a couple of white marks on the surface.  In the spirit of Karen’s recent post I am not going to Ablogogise about any shortcomings in my handmade clothes, at least during January, but she does say that it is OK to

share less than glowing details if they will help a reader with a construction, pattern or salutary lesson

I know at least two other people who read this blog bought the same fabric it was acceptable to mention that unpicking is better avoided or at least undertaken with more caution than I exercised!  Thankfully the minor problem was largely resolved when I washed the finished dress because the colour was still running slightly which helped blend in the tiny white marks.

I hadn’t planned to add the cuffs to this version but rather to cut the sleeves slightly longer as I’m not that keen on where the length sits on my arm.  Unfortunately I forgot all about this at the cutting out stage so then had to go with the cuffs.  I did find it quite difficult to pull the gathering threads in the sleeve head and the cuff.  I think they may have become emeshed in whatever provides the stretch in the fabric?  The result was rather uneven gathering on the cuffs but I decided against making a second attempt – I was running out of time and they are perfectly acceptable.

Despite these two issues I really love the fabric and it is a fabulous colour which is hard to appreciate from my photo of the finished dress.  Here it is before it was made up.


In the end I think the cuffs add a dressier look which was just right for Christmas Day.  This is a REALLY comfortable dress to wear and the fabric feels lovely on, very soft and flexible, and it doesn’t crease.  I could have got away with a smaller size (which I did for my silk party version) but I wanted something suitable for lounging around in (and eating!).  I’ve already worn it three times so this Laurel is definitely a winner.


The Boxing Day outfit was a second Brumby Skirt made from a mustard denim purchased at The Fabric Godmother’s open day.  I made the first one for Karen’s Made Up Initiative and whilst I loved the shape the fabric I used was just a bit too stiff and I felt like I was wearing a cardboard skirt!

I started the latest version some while ago but due to another cutting out error it had been abandoned until I could face putting it right.  I failed to decipher the notes I had made on my traced out pattern to remind me that I needed to extend the waistband slightly whilst keeping the rest of the skirt the original size – which is what I’d done the first time round!

Before discovering this I had come up with two pretty good (but almost certainly not original) ideas.

  • I’m not great at topstitching and this skirt has two lines of it right down the front.  I used two strips of masking tape to mark the stitching line and off I went, ending up with two pretty perfect lines of topstitching.
  • If you are using denim or other thicker fabric the pattern instructions recommend using fine cord which you zig zag to the fabric and then pull to create the gathers at the waistline.  This worked well with my previous Brumby but I discovered I had no cord to hand.  You need something fairly strong which will not snap so I decided to try dental floss!  It worked a treat and made it really easy to pull the gathers along.

These are not great photos but they give the general idea.  You can see that my presser foot is still stained pink from its recent encounter with some boiled wool!

The waistband went on beautifully the first time round, I pulled out the dental floss (which came out much more easily than cord) and I went to pin the skirt on Doris to see how it was shaping up.  I thought she’d put on weight but it was at this point I realised I’d cut the waistband too short.  Things went a bit downhill after this.  Unpicking, trimming, re-gathering, re-attaching the waistband, taking it off again because it didn’t look right, sewing it on again.  I think all this comes under the salutary lesson referred to above and I would also add that I will use a more substantial interfacing in the waistband if I make this skirt again because it doesn’t stand up well to a day’s wear – unlike the cardboard version which remains completely rigid regardless!

What I love most about this skirt is the pockets which are just fabulous!  I think it is essential to follow the suggestion to stitch a short way along the pocket edge by the seam to reinforce it, especially if you have a tendency to shove your hands in pockets like I do.

Here’s the finished article and it is another really comfortable wear with plenty of room for festive eating.  This photo is actually from the second wearing for a trip to London on Saturday.


I think it goes very nicely with my fox brooch from Tatty Devine.  The top I’m wearing with the Brumby is this one on which I spent hours getting the curved hem band right and then never wore because it was too long and didn’t really work for me.  I took the bull by the horns, chopped off all that hard work, re-hemmed it (without the band) and now it is just right.


I read recently about a blogger’s husband who spends up to 40 minutes taking lovely photographs for her.  Ha! This doesn’t happen chez JaneMakes I’m afraid which is why my photographs are taken in front of the mirror with my phone!  I definitely need to up my game somewhat and to that end I’ve ordered a tripod and remote control thingy to experiment with.

Apart from this I’ve not really made any specific sewing resolutions or plans as I’m not that good at sticking to them and once you’ve gone into print there is more of an expectation to achieve!  However, I am determined to continue with limiting/avoiding the purchase of new RTW clothing and, as a result of the cutting out errors documented above, I am going to try and take a more focused approach to my projects!  To assist with this I have a late Christmas present heading my way, the Maker’s Workbook from The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop.


I’ve just bought the Grainline Moss Skirt pattern and the new Colette Phoebe from Guthrie & Ghani so hopefully one or both of these will be appearing here soon.  The fly zip insertion in the Moss will be a first for me so I hope I can master that!



In my last post I announced my eschewing of RTW clothing but also mentioned that I may not be quite so self-controlled when it comes to buying fabric.  Josie at the Fabric Godmother held her second open day on Saturday and the temptation was almost overwhelming!  The place was bursting at the seams with an fabulous array of fabrics (and sewists) and there was some serious swooning going on!

One of my main reasons for going along was to meet up with Becky from springystitches.  I’ve been following Becky’s blog for some while and she was one of my original inspirations.  She was as lovely in real life as I thought she would be and she was wearing this very dress on Saturday.  Given the amazing choice I think we were both pretty restrained.  I had planned in advance to buy some of this mustard denim and I wasn’t disappointed.  It is great quality and I think may become another Brumby skirt.

I really love the shape of this skirt which I have previously made in grey denim but the fabric is just a bit too stiff and I feel rather like I’m wearing a cardboard skirt!  I also failed to master the exposed zip the first time round so there is unfinished business here.

Becky and I both homed in on the Venice Modal and Silk Jersey which is the softest, smoothest fabric ever!  I went for the Plum.  The picture on the website doesn’t really do it justice and I’m not sure my own picture does either.  It is so silky I suspect it will shown every bump so will have to be made into something drapey.  I certainly won’t be using it for my first overlocker project, I have something very cheap and cheerful for that!


That was it for me – just two purchases (plus some matching thread) but there were several other fabrics I had a good look at which may end up being ordered online.

On our way to Hove we decided to call into Emmaus in Portslade.  Emmaus is a world-wide organisation which enables people to move on from homelessness into a supportive community.  The residents are known as Companions and work full time collecting and reselling donated items.  Our first experience of Emmaus was in France where we visited an enormous complex with room after room piled high with crockery, glassware, pictures, books, fabrics, tools and, most incredibly, complete sets of 1950s kitchen units! I do sometimes regret that I didn’t buy some of the French linens which were considerably cheaper than I’ve seen them elsewhere.  Another time perhaps.

The set up in Portslade is much smaller with a shop, a café and a garden centre.  There was some promising looking vintage clothing and a really beautiful art deco cabinet but what we actually came away with was a pair of vintage motorcycling goggles for W!  I hope you’re ready for this photograph.

You may be able to make out some writing on the box in blue biro which reads “glaze this area only”.  Someone has obviously had the goggles glazed with their own prescription lenses and what is amazing is that this appears to match W’s own prescription.  He’s thinking of making use of them on the ski slopes this season.   He’ll certainly attract some attention!



Seasonal Change

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been packing away my summer clothes to make room for autumn/winter wear. This activity has made me realise that only two new RTW items have been added to my wardrobe since the beginning of the season when I signed up to this year’s Me-Made-May.  It was pretty satisfying to see how many me-made clothes I was putting in my bag when we went away recently.

In case you were wondering, the little handmade lavender bag on the right is a prototype. There are more to be made.

One of the two RTW items was a lightweight cream cotton sweater which I have made a lot of use of but the first time I wore it a seagull landed an enormous poo on the sleeve!!  I think it must have been a sign!

On reflection I don’t think I actually made a conscious decision to change my shopping habits, I’ve just gradually realised that I feel much more comfortable wearing things I’ve made myself. I often find myself rejecting outfits when I realise they don’t contain anything me-made.  I do still buy underwear (I’ve not yet attempted me-made underpinnings yet) and shoes (apart from my handmade espadrilles).

My venture into refashioning as a result of this year’s Refashioners meant that I started spending more time in charity shops looking for suitable men’s shirts to dismantle and this has led to some great finds – and not just shirts.  These have mostly been for W but I have just acquired a Cerruti 1881 black coat (100% wool) in great condition which has avoided an expensive investment in a new winter coat.  Doris looks great in it, I just need to turn the sleeves up.

I have more than enough fabric in stock to make clothes to see me through this winter, although strangely I don’t seem to have quite the same level of self-control in fabric shops as I do in ones selling clothes!  Online offerings are also a huge temptation.  Over the last few days almost every glance at Instagram leads me astray and I ordered this lovely Japanese Selvedge Denim from The Fabric Godmother.  It really is gorgeous.  I have to confess I didn’t really know what selvedge denim was and bought it because I really liked the slub finish.  Now I’ve read all about it I shall have to see how best to incorporate the selvedge into whatever I make.

Given the earlier reference to autumn I thought I’d finish with a collage of some of the pictures I took in the Cotswolds recently focusing on that theme.  It seemed a shame not to make use of them!






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!


Made Up

Have you signed up to the Made Up Initiative set up by Karen over at Did you make that?  Click on the link – or the logo in my sidebar – for more details.  The goal was to raise £1,000 in a month in support of the National Literacy Trust.  Made Up was launched on 13 August and has already raised £1,335 so who knows where it will be after four weeks!

What Karen is asking everyone to do is make a donation on the JustGiving page and leave a comment stating a self-set challenge – it doesn’t have to be sewing or knitting but having looked at the early pledges most are.  The deadline to complete your challenge is 10 September and there is a prize!

I’ve always been an avid reader so this seemed like a great cause to be supporting.  I’ve signed up to get my Brumby skirt finished by the deadline so I had better get my skates on.  As previously mentioned, I had decided to make it from this fabric from The Eternal Maker in Chichester.  I’m not sure now what it is but I think it might be this cotton/linen blend.

I also wondered about an organic cotton denim I bought from Raystitch …..  And then I went to the Open Day at The Fabric Godmother on Saturday morning and came away with yet another choice, the top one in this pile.


One of the exciting things about this fabric is that it was cut by Zoe of ‘So, Zo …. what do you know?’ (and creator of Me-Made-May) who was helping to serve the long queue of sewists making purchases!  Another is that it is a truly lovely fabric, a cotton and linen mix with an amazing drape.  A slight disadvantage is that the weave does make your eyes go a bit funny!  I’m afraid there were other purchases made, details to follow in another post.  W was very patient, despite us getting stuck in traffic on the way to Hove.  He found a patch of grass to lie on by the car park and read his book!

I met another lovely blogger on Saturday, Clarinda Kaleidoscope, and we had a chat about exposed zips!  Here’s to more Open Days in the future, the choice of fabrics was amazing.

The final possibility for the Brumby is at the bottom of the above pile and was purchased from Ditto.  We headed over to Brighton after the excitement at The Fabric Godmother to have lunch with my sister and I just couldn’t walk past the door!  I’m really not sure about this one.  I have learned my lesson and now wash everything before I cut it out and it has shrunk A LOT.   It is quite stiff and I may turn it into an apron or bag rather than something to sit around in all day.

Decisions, decisions.  I shall make this particular one tonight.

Here’s some more garden photos, this time from my sister’s town garden in Brighton.  I take these images to make up for the fact that my own garden is rather uninspiring on the plant front!