Sewing Conundrums

Does anyone else :

  • Sew faster when the thread is running low in the hope that this will make it last until the end of the seam?
  • Hold their breath when sewing something tricky?

I’ve definitely been doing the latter when trying to sew the curved finish to the hem band on this top!  I have already the shorter version from this pattern in a stretch shirting.

It is a favourite top which I have worn a lot and the Cost Per Wear (something W is very keen on and for many of his garments can be calculated down to an infinitesimal figure) must be pretty low. I then attempted to make the longer version in white linen but abandoned the hem band because I just couldn’t work out how to attach it at the sides. It was unfortunate that the white version never got worn because it made me look like a dentist or something similarly medical!

I had seen a Marni denim top on Net-a-Porter which I really liked but not at £250. I see it is now reduced to £175 in the sale. A bargain!   I thought it bore a resemblance to the above Simplicity top so ordered this Robert Kaufman fabric from M is for Make (very efficient service) on the recommendation of Flossie Teacakes for attempt number three.  She is right – it is a lovely fabric and a perfect colour.

I had got to the point of sewing the shoulder seams when I began to think the top was going to end up too small to actually get into because of the non-stretchy nature of the fabric (there are no fastenings) but in fact that is not a problem and the end result is actually quite roomy.

Back to those curves ….. I still couldn’t get my head round the instructions in the pattern and there was much talking to myself followed by unpicking – as well as the breath holding – until I realised that I had missed one vital point which involved clipping the seam allowance on the main part of the garment to free up the curve for stitching. It still took a couple of goes and some freehand curve drawing with a disappearing ink pen before I was reasonably satisfied, although I think it could be improved. I wasn’t sure about the way the hem facing is fixed to the inside and then turned to the outside and topstitched but I think it makes quite a nice feature.

The final outcome is so much better than I anticipated. At about the time I was worrying about the finished size I was writing a blog post in my head saying how disappointed I was with the make but I’ve completely changed my mind. The fabric irons beautifully and I’m definitely with Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani whose latest blog post extolls the importance of ironing to ensure that handmade garments looks as good as they possibly can.  Lauren has reviewed three ironing accessories including these Silicone Finger Guards which look slightly weird but could be very useful, especially when pressing anything very small or detailed. I hate day-to-day ironing but there is something very satisfying about the final ironing of a me-made garment.

This morning I decided to mount a search for my sleeve board, which I think originally belonged to my grandmother, to make sure I got a good finish on the sleeve seams and hems.  It really does make life easier – although it could do with a new cover.  There’s a project for the weekend, much easier than making a cover for a proper ironing board!


What do you think? The designer version is on the far left (obviously!).  I’m going to road test it this evening with this striped linen skirt.

Happy weekend.


I Made Shoes!

Well, actually I made espadrilles rather than real shoes and I certainly don’t think I’m going to be the next Emma Hope but I’m really pleased with the result.

One of my favourite Ladybird books as a child was The Elves & The Shoemaker and, having made the first espadrille, I rather wished the elves would come and finish off the second one overnight!

I really just wanted an excuse to mention the book because these were fun to make and it was quite exciting to see the shoe shape coming together.

I ordered the soles from Guthrie & Ghani and followed the instructions available online here.  You know how people say “make sure you read the question/recipe/pattern. properly before you start”.  Well I didn’t and so failed to notice the sentence that said “Important: Mirror-invert the front section for the other shoe”.  I didn’t do that but to be honest I don’t think it made too much of a difference in the end.

I also wish I’d read through Lauren’s blog more diligently and noted the reference to inserting elastic at the back.  More about that later.

I used the fabric already mentioned in a previous post and 20cms of each was more than enough.

The paper pattern supplied with the soles only goes down to a Size 3 (36) so I added in an additional line (in red) for the next size down.  If I make another pair I think I will grade down a bit further as they could do with being slightly tighter.

Both fabrics were quite sturdy so I didn’t bother with interfacing but I think I will probably do this next time as it would result in a sturdier finish.

Sewing the pieces together and pinning them to the sole is very straightforward.  I never use these pins for dressmaking but they are ideal for this purpose as they are much easier to push in.  Take Lauren’s advice and make sure the pins go right into the sole and don’t stick out the other side or they will jab you in the hand when you are sewing!

I spent some time identifying a needle that would be strong and sharp enough to go through the sole and the fabric easily.  Lauren recommended a leather needle but the ones I found looked rather small so in the end I bought this set of five craft needles.  I used the one on the far right which I believe is a sail needle and it did the job very well, although I do have slightly sore fingers today from pushing it through.  I didn’t want the blanket stitching to be too obvious so I used an extra strong thread in a light colour rather than the thicker, yarn-like thread that was used in the instructions.


Everything went together really easily.  I tried the first one on several times during construction and I did have to overlap the front and the back sections more than the 1.5 cms mentioned in the instructions to get a good fit, hence the plan to cut the two sections slightly smaller next time.

Having finished the first espadrille I realised that the insertion of some elastic between the two fabrics at the back would have made all the difference in terms of keeping it on your foot!  In her blog post Lauren inserted this right at the beginning with the sewing machine but I made life difficult for myself by having to unpick the top of the back section after it had already been sewn to the sole and inserting it by hand.  Not a particular neat finish but I knew I would never wear them if they kept falling off .  I used the 9 mm wide elastic shown above.  It was slightly easier for the second espadrille as I added the elastic before I sewed the back to the sole but still after the outer and inner fabrics had already been stitched together.


And here is the final result!

I’m pretty pleased with these although I don’t think I’d want to walk too far in them.  The third picture looks like I am levitating off the ground but actually I was sitting down with my legs sticking out to get a better view of them!

W thought he might like a pair but I really don’t want to be sewing all the way round the soles for feet that fit a boot this size!


I’m thinking stripes for the next pair.

Belated Thoughts on Me-Made-May

This week has been a bit hectic so my thoughts on Me-Made-May are a bit late.

My original pledge was to wear one me-made item on at least three days a week and to add one new item to my me-made wardrobe each week.  I didn’t want to be too ambitious because I really didn’t think I had enough things to make a daily commitment possible.  I’m pleased to say that I exceeded my own expectations by wearing something me-made every day apart from two Sundays when I just grabbed the first thing that came to hand.  There were quite a few repeats but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and I was generally very happy with what I was wearing each day.  Although I hadn’t really planned it, I also managed to avoid buying any ready made clothes for the whole month.

I think my favourite/most useful items during the month, apart from the new things below were my floral frock, a stretch shirting top which goes with lots of my skirts  and a chambray skirt (not pictured) I’d stopped wearing because the fabric had shrunk in the wash but the lining hadn’t.  A five minute fix was all it took.

Floral Dress Vertical Striped Top

I added the following to my wardrobe either by sewing new garments, finishing half-completed projects or adapting previous makes.

I found the whole process quite inspiring and have definitely been encouraged to expand my efforts on the me-made front.  I’ve realised there are a lot of gaps in my skills (and wardrobe) and I need to be more ambitious and confident – particularly in trying new patterns rather than sticking with the ones I know will work.  I’ve now got my Grainline Morris Blazer pattern and hopefully I can get my head round that over the next few days.  Having looked at the images I’ve just included I think I need to inject some more colour so perhaps this green ponte from Guthrie and Ghani will be the answer for the blazer.

I’m making progress on the self-drafted shell/vest top.  Rather impatiently I used some expensive (but really lovely) jersey from Clothkits to make the first ‘proper’ toile and I really should have waited for the cheap and cheerful jersey I’d ordered from Tissu Fabrics to arrive, which it did this morning.  It was a bargain at £3.99 a metre.  However, the top is coming along and I think this attempt is wearable, although the fit under the arm isn’t quite right yet.  Just the hem to go.  I really want to take it up a bit at the shoulders to raise the neckline (and hopefully improve the fit under the arm) and then I think it will be almost perfect.  I’m not sure if I’ll mess this one around or make the changes to the next version.

Stripy Vest

Having spent some time on the Guthrie & Ghani website the other evening I discovered that they sell espadrille soles.  I really want to make my own espadrilles!   I have quite small feet and can never get them to fit properly.  I don’t know how I missed Lauren’s blog post last year but hers look great and they only use a very small amount of fabric.  Given that Boden are now charging £60 for theirs I think these are well worth a go.

Have a good weekend!