A Pair of (almost) Perfect Peppermint Jumpsuits

You know that feeling when you get/make a new piece of clothing and instantly wonder what on Earth you wore for 27 years before this was in your wardrobe…? Well, that’s exactly what happened with these. I made the first in a lightweight denim a couple of weeks ago and it became an instant favourite. Frankly it’s barely seen my wardrobe because as soon as it’s washed I’m wearing it again, and as soon as I’ve worn it suddenly blue washing becomes a priority…


So yes, I love this pattern. And you know what I love most about it?! It’s free.


Yep. Free.


No, frankly I couldn’t believe it either. But it’s true. Here’s the link, so you can’t call me a liar. I’d been crushing hard on this one for a while. After it was released, my Instagram feed started filling up with beautiful versions from all over the world. I’m a sucker for jumpsuits anyway – I’ve made one before which I wear a lot, and these two bring the total number of jumpsuits in my wardrobe to seven. One for every day of the week.


My only modifications were to add an inch onto the bodice length (I’ve got a long body and short legs – weird) and add infinitely practical inseam pockets from the offcuts (Yay! Pockets!). Other than that I was able to stay true to the original sizing, which is unusual for me but the loose fit and wide cut on this pattern was very accommodating on my big bum. Plenty of trunk for the junk in this one.


I’ll admit my first one isn’t perfect, but I love it anyway. It’s made from a lightweight denim I bought on Walthamstow Market a few months ago. The bust darts don’t quite sit in the right place on me – they’re a bit high and pointy, but I don’t think it matters too much. I somehow put the pockets a little too low too – its not a big problem because they’re still perfectly serviceable, it just means a have to do a little stretch every time I need my phone. So I’ve probably done myself a favour – stretching’s good for you right?

Denim Jumpsuit
Denim Jumpsuit

Both these faults were corrected in my second version, which I think is practically perfect. This one’s made from a dreamy purple Liberty Tana Lawn which I bought in the sale last year for £9 a meter! Gorgeous isn’t it?! The print is called Sandy Ray, and it’s a lot of little mountain/beach scenes in a one-way repeat. I’d been scared to use it because it was so beautiful and precious, but after making this jumpsuit in denim I knew it had to be done. I love how the simple shape really showcases the fabric, and wearing it from top-to-toe makes a bold statement. Part of me wonders whether I should have pattern-matched down the front, but I think this would have been pretty hard given that the repeat is big but highly detailed. Plus, I couldn’t be sure that perfect pattern-matching would have allowed me to squeeze this out of my 3 meters – I didn’t have an awful lot to spare, that’s for sure!

Close up of Sandy Ray
Close up of Sandy Ray
Liberty Print Jumpsuit

The pattern itself is a total winner. Admittedly, I’ve never done a full-size PDF download before and taping it all together took ages and was actually quite boring. To speed things up a bit I invested in one of these paper trimmers from The Works, which took some getting used too but once I’d got the hang of it was so much neater and quicker that cutting the edges off each sheet with scissors. It took two full evenings of quality time with the sticky tape at my dining table, but now that it’s done I’ve got it to use forever.


The instructions were nothing short of sexy. I know, weird choice of words. But I’m telling you, the written stuff and diagrams are so damn clear that I was in raptures. There was even a perfectly concise and well illustrated explanation of how to insert an all-in-one lining, which has previously had me banging my head against a wall because I totally didn’t get it, but with these instructions I got it right first time. First. Time. 

Super clear instructions
Super clear instructions

I just love them. They’ve been an absolute god-send in the recent heatwave because the cut-away back and loose fit give such great ventilation, and my fabric choices have made them super breathable. Like all jumpsuits, they combine all the effortless glamour of a dress with the comfort and practicality of trousers (which is why I love them so much!). Plus, they’re really easy to dress up or down – the denim one in particular looks just as good in town with a rucksack and slides or on a posh night out with fancy earrings and heels. It’s sort of like an LBD, except that it’s not black or a dress. Or even particularly little actually.

Cooling cut-away back
Cooling cut-away back

Now I’ve made these, I’m eager to try some more In The Folds for Peppermint patterns – but which one should I pick…? That peplum top is pretty cute..

BHF The Big Stitch – Men’s shirt refashion

Hello again, and sorry for my long silence! The famous PGCE workload has been keeping me from the sewing machine (ironic, as I’ve been training as a Textiles Teacher), but I’ve handed everything in now and have a looooong summer holiday ahead of me (win!) so I’ll be making up for lost time with a tonne of new sewing projects…

This first of this sewing frenzy is this men’s shirt, which I’ve refashioned into a smart top as part of the British Heart Foundation’s The Big Stitch campaign. For anyone who’s unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: The Big Stitch is a nationwide competition. To participate, you have to buy an item from one of the BHF’s charity shops and customise or refashion it, posting before and after photos online.

I’ve wanted to refashion a men’s shirt since they did it for the Alteration Challenge on the GB Sewing Bee (yes, I realise this was literally years ago…). There were rails and rails of shirts in my local BHF shop (most of which were incredibly corporate and boring) but I eventually settled on this large cotton-blend number with a tiny blue and red woven check. You can see the checks if you look really closely at the photos. It’s so boring that I knew I’d have no qualms about cutting into it! Judging by the two price reductions on the label it must have been in the shop a long time too – which is why this competition is so great actually, because it helps BHF get some cash and clear out old stock, whilst also breathing new life into old clothes and reducing waste. Win win!

After that, I totally made it up as I went along. Originally I’d planned to make a ruffle-sleeve top with buttons down the back, but after cutting off the collar and sleeves I had a change of heart. Instead, I added a whopping EIGHT darts (that’s two bust darts, a shoulder dart and a double pointed dart on either side) to make it fit. This was really important, as big boobs have ensured that I haven’t worn a button-down since school because the tighter fit around my bust makes the gaps between buttons gape open.

I also used some lace trim from my stash along the yoke and button-placket seams, plus a little bit on the shoulders for added interest. I wasn’t sure about the lace at first (for some reason the words granny nightie kept echoing in my mind…) but it’s definitely grown on me. I then took it in at the sides and added side-seam splits for fit and ventilation, and finally used one of the sleeves to make my own bias binding for the neckline and arm-holes.  This was a little time-consuming but worth the effort, partly because it reduced the waste but mainly because it looks so damn smart. I mean, look at it! Professional, right?!

Two separate strangers complimented this top the first time I wore it out, which in my book makes it a success. Plus I have loads of reasons to love it, so here they are in no particular order:

  • It’s really cool and breathable. That’s a blessing in this heatwave, which has frankly made the wearing of most of my wardrobe unbearable.
  • It hardly needs any ironing. Not that I iron anything anyway.
  • I didn’t need to trace a pattern or cut anything out, which as David will attest to is definitely my least favourite part of the making process.
  • I was able to use the original buttons and button holes, which saved a whole heap of time.
  • It cost less than £2. Which is crazy, actually.

The winners of The Big Stitch will be announced on 3rd August, but until then it’s really fun to have a look at the other entries. Search for #thebigstitch on Insta – the  variety of makes is unbelievable. It’s so inspiring. There’s a denim jacket made from old jeans that I’m desperate to copy, plus about a million other things to make with men’s shirts. What’s your fave?!

Also, here’s a photo of my new cat at my sewing machine. Cute.


First Make of 2018: Millennial Pink Arielle Skirt

My first make of 2018 has finally materialised! It’s the first garment I’ve made in months (when you’re doing a PGCE, free time is hard to come by and frankly I’ve spent most of what I had watching Friends) but good things come to those who wait!

Arielle is another pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. It’s been languishing in my pattern box for some time – I bought it last year as part of the 1960’s bundle, but somehow hadn’t got around to using it until now. I made the mini version, but actually cut it 3.5cm longer as I’m tall. It’s a relatively small addition, but makes a significant difference and I think the extra length makes it smart enough to wear at school.

Firstly, I’m absolutely delighted with the shape! It’s designed for a close fit, so I spent a long time redrawing the side seams (my hips were a full two sizes bigger than my waist) then basting, fitting and altering as I went along. As a result it’s taken quite a long time, but now I’ve made it work I’m confident it’ll be much quicker in future. I’m definitely going to make it again – I’ve spent most most of today dreaming of a forest-green corduroy version, so I think that needs to happen fairly soon.

To be honest, I probably didn’t choose the best fabric for this one. It’s made of a beautiful pink wool crepe I bought as a remnant in Sew Over It – basically it was pretty big (about 1.5m), but had a few marks which I think were flaws in the dying process, and was therefore reduced to £10. I couldn’t resist it – the colour is dreamy, and Arielle’s small and asymmetrical pattern pieces fit perfectly around the marks. The trouble was though that I think it’s just a little too drapey, and the facing pulls a little bit in strange places. Having said that though, I’m not sure that anyone else but me would notice – I think everyone else is distracted by the bold vintage buttons and super cool colour! I’m still pretty happy with the overall effect, I’ve just learned to use a heavier fabric next time.


I made the optional “luxury lining” from some paisley print cotton from my stash, and I think the combination of the two fabrics is so great that frankly it’s a shame nobody sees when I’m wearing it. What’s more, I found the lining surprisingly easy to insert – there are some tricky curved seams to navigate, but Tilly’s instructions were really helpful and it ended up looking pretty damn professional!


It was only this morning, as I sewed my buttonholes, that it occurred to me that what a striking resemblance this skirt bares to one that my mum made for me, circa 1997. For context, I was playing a newsreader in a class assembly, and I needed something a little bit prim and proper. My Mum had just made some – erm – lovely pink curtains for my Nan and Granddad, and had just enough left over to squeeze out a tiny skirt and waistcoat worthy of The News at Six (Years Old).


Why Do I Sew? Here are 10 good reasons…

Frequent readers (if I have any?) will have noticed that things have been a little quiet on the dressmaking front here lately. Sorry. It’s been a kinda crazy couple of weeks, but I promise to get back on it soon.

But while I haven’t had a lot of time to sew, I’ve been playing along with #sewphotohop. It’s a sewing challenge (organised by the lovely Rachel at House of Pinheiro) that runs throughout September, asking you to post a sewing-related photo every day inspired by a particular theme. There’s a chance to win prizes from the sponsors, so of course, I wanted in!

Here are the themes and sponsors:


It was all quite easy until the 11th, when the theme was Why I Sew. And suddenly I thought “Oh my god, why do I sew?” and for at least 10 minutes couldn’t think of a single reason at all. Then suddenly I thought of all the reasons at once and they were competing for space in my brain, and I felt the need to write them down before I lost them all again. Maybe it’ll be useful one day.

So, in no particular order, I sew because…

  1. I got it from my Mama, and she got it from hers! This is the reason I gave on Insta, along with the image below. The lady in the photo is my maternal grandmother Elsie (known to me as Nanny Vogel) circa 1960, and the little girl is my mum. Nanny Vogel was a prolific seamstress – she made basically all the clothes she owned, and sold handmade leather gloves to order. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was six so never taught me directly, but she did teach my mum who is herself a very accomplished maker of small items and has a shop on Folksy. They probably aren’t the reason I sew now, but it was definitely their influence that started me off. I get the sewing gene from them.wp-image--712271993
  2. Most RTW clothes don’t fit me. I’m tall, with broad shoulders, big boobs, small waist, wide hips, short legs. I mean, we all know that clothes now are generally designed to fit and flatter a slimmer, more boyish figure. Nothing new there. In fact, I read somewhere that 75% of the clothes sold in the UK are Size 12 and under, so the fashion industry is undoubtedly biased. But to think that a clothing retailer might mass produce something that comes even close to fitting my unusual shape is kinda mad. Of course they wouldn’t, because I’m the only person they could sell it to. And I’ve no doubt there are thousands of people out there who feel exactly the same.
  3. Because it helps me break the cycle of fast fashion, whilst still indulging my love of clothes. This is a big one. Because fast fashion is rapidly eating up our planet, and destroying lives. I won’t write too much about it here, but I will recommend watching The True Cost if you haven’t seen it already. It’s a feature-length documentary by Andrew Morgan which looks at the problems created by throw-away culture. I know it sounds really depressing but it’s actually quite optimistic as it shows how we can all make a difference. Please watch it. It’s on Netflix now. Image result for the true cost
  4. Sewing gives me complete autonomy over my own image, which is the coolest thing ever. So if I ever think “Man, I really want a black sleeveless culotte jumpsuit“, I can design and make the perfect one. My choices aren’t dictated by trends, or sizing, or budget – only my imagination, and the time I’m willing to commit. It’s liberating.
  5. Sitting at a sewing machine is much more enjoyable than traipsing endlessly around Topshop, getting angry at the loud music, then crying in the fitting rooms. I’m sorry, but it just is.
  6. Sewing is cheaper than therapy. Sewists say this a lot and the phrase has become a bit worn, but there’s definitely truth in it. There’s something very meditative about making – there are elements of creativity, precision and process, which exercise parts of the brain that most of us just don’t use in our day-to-day lives. Sewing provides opportunities for quiet solitude when it’s needed, and lively interaction when you’re ready. And when you’ve made something, the sense of achievement and the thrill of having something new give you a welcome rush of endorphins. I’ve sewed my way through some of my most difficult experiences. It doesn’t solve problems, but it helps.
  7. Sewing means I’ll always be able to give a gift, offer a service and have something to wear. It’s an infinitely practical life skill which ultimately saves me some money and means I’ll never be broke. As Nanny Vogel would have said: it’s making something from nothing.
  8. It’s provided me with opportunities. Because of sewing I was able to quit my job and retrain as a Design and Technology teacher. It’s still very early days, but right now I really love it and can’t believe I never did it before. The more I study education the more certain I feel that I’ll be good at it, and the happier I am about dedicating all my working hours to something really worthwhile. And, of course, I’m writing a blog. A couple of years ago I would have been too embarrassed to publish anything, but sewing has compelled me to start writing, and find my own voice.
  9. Instead of impulse buys, my wardrobe is now made up of high-quality, enduring items that I love to wear again and again. Because there’s just no point putting so much time and effort into something I’ll never wear.
  10. Because it’s so great when somebody compliments your outfit, and you can reply “Thanks, I made it“. Seriously, it never gets old. Most people just look at you in amazement, like you’re some sort of wizard.Image result for wow harry potter gif


There are probably more, but I haven’t thought of them yet. I’d love to hear your reasons – lets keep adding to the list, yeah, and keep championing craft? And if you’re reading this and you don’t sew already, but are considering it, then try it. I promise you it’s great.

Sleevefest 2017: Ruffle-Sleeve Coco Hack

Q: What’s the collective noun for a group of ruffled garments?

A: A gathering.

(I thought of that all by myself and I was pretty pleased about it!)


Unless you’ve been walking about with your eyes shut since January you’ll have noticed that sleeves, particularly big ruffled ones, are big news in 2017. This has already been dubbed “Year of the Sleeve”, and Sleevefest is now officially a thing. Honestly, non-instagrammers, it is. Sleevefest is a competition being hosted by dream.cut.sew and valentineandstitch, with prizes being awarded for the best and most creative handmade sleeves. Entries are still being accepted until 31st August, so if you fancy giving it a go, there’s still time! Have a look at this post by dream.cut.sew for all the details.

I’ll admit that at first I was sceptical. It was all a bit Laurence Llewellyn Bowen for me. (Don’t know Laurence? He’s an interior designer/minor Brit celebrity who shot to fame on hit TV show Changing Rooms in the 1990’s, and is mostly remembered for wearing outfits like this:)


laurence sleeves

That said, I’m not stubborn or afraid to admit when I’m wrong! Pleats, gathers and frills of all sizes have stealthily crept into the mainstream over the last 12 months, so it’s now socially acceptable to add a camp little flounce to just about anything, and for any occasion.

And it’s easy to see why. Well placed gathers can draw the eye to the slimmest parts of you body and enhance fuller areas, whilst also helpfully skimming over any bits you’re less keen on. A gathered skirt, for instance, cinches in the waist whilst also drawing attention to (or giving the illusion of) a peachy bum. Have a look at my Recycled Plastic Skirt again, as evidence. And gathers on sleeves or trouser legs can play with proportion, making ankles and wrists look slimmer. And that’s before you even get to how the fabric in gathered garments moves with you, swishing and swaying with your every move and bringing new life to your outfit.

Plus, gathers are ridiculously easy to sew. Aesthetics aside, it also reduces the need for lengthy fitting sessions and fiddly darts. You just need one measurement – the length of whatever you’re joining you gathers into – and bam! You’re away.

Which brings us nicely back to the garment I’m here to discuss…

Following the success of my Secret Patchwork Coco a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to make Coco by Tilly and the Buttons again. It’s really easy to sew up, the shape is super flattering and its simplicity makes it a great wardrobe-builder. It’s made from super-soft pale blue cotton jersey (Saeed’s in Walthamstow, £8 p/m), and, yes, this time I did have enough fabric. In fact, I even managed to cut out the sleeve ruffles from the off-cuts, which made this a really economical make.

The sleeve ruffles are just rectangles cut 2.5x longer than than the sleeve hem on the original pattern (I used the 3/4 length version, but I suppose you could use the full-length sleeves if you wanted to make something really flamboyant). The rectangles are then gathered and applied to the sleeve while it’s still flat – the sleeves of Coco are assembled flat anyway, which is great because I normally hate setting sleeves and have been known to cry actual tears over it. I neatened the seam by over-locking the seam allowances together and pressing upwards towards the shoulder, then top-stitching with a zig-zag all the way around for a really neat finish. I only made one turn in the new hem, so that the ruffle stays light and can move easily. I then assembled my Coco as usual.

From the original instruction booklet for Coco, showing how the sleeves are constructed.

If you have time, make sure you search for #sleevefest2017 on Insta. It’s  really cool to see all the gorgeous hacks and details people have come up with.




I’m very conscious that I haven’t blogged yet about the New Craft House Summer Party, as promised in my last post. This is absolutely no reflection on the event itself – it was a really really lovely evening, and everyone there was so very welcoming. It was lovely to finally meet so many of the sewing bloggers who’s inspired me – in fact it’s fair to say that in a lot of cases I was quite star-struck and scared to approach people. The outfits on show were absolutely incredible – so good, in fact, that they added two Honourable Mention awards to the Best Handmade Outfit competition, because the standard was so high (I mean, just look at the winners in the bottom photo! Don’t they look divine?!). Plus, it was nice to be in the company of other people who request to touch other people’s clothes, just to see how the fabric feels. I’ve always thought I’m the only person who does this and my friends laugh at me for it, but it turns out I’m not alone! Loads of sewists do it! We can’t resist!

Among other things we chatted about our favourite indie patterns, places to shop for fabric, fashion ethics, and how sewing makes great therapy. But the truth is that I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I would have liked – this has been a sad couple of weeks for me for reasons that I’m not ready to discuss, and I was distracted. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any photos (gutted, actually) and small talk sometimes felt a little bit laboured. So if you took the time to speak to me, then thank you, and sorry if I seemed weird. But please don’t be in any doubt at all that it was a really lovely event and it lifted my spirits hugely. It’s just that I don’t have a great deal to show for it. But the New Craft House girls have written a lovely post about it, and there’s already talk of another party at Christmas, which is really exciting. So thank you, lovely sewists, for lifting me up. Sewing people are the best people.

Party winners
Thank goodness someone remembered to take photos! This one’s pinched from Instagram.

New Look 6446 Culotte Jumpsuit

I’m in love with this jumpsuit. Seriously. I’ve found my sartorial soulmate.

Why do I love it so much? Well, basically, because it makes me feel like the lovechild of a kick-ass ninja and Coco Chanel. And because no item of clothing has made me feel this fierce since I got a Spice Girls branded mini skirt in 1997. (That was also amazing. I was the coolest damn 6-year-old you ever met.)


This awkward pose totally doesn’t do the outfit justice

It’s a New Look 6448. You may well have seen this pattern before (maybe you’ve even made it?) as it’s been quite a hit with sewing bloggers. A bit of research turned up these beautiful versions by Emily, Janicke and Lizzie B. So when I saw it reduced in the Minerva Crafts Summer Sale, I totally couldn’t resist. I made Version C, but the pattern also includes dress and mini versions. Perhaps I’ll try making the others in future. Perhaps I won’t. It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Anyway, the pattern itself is pretty clear and user-friendly. There’s a lot of pattern markings to transfer, which feel like a drag at the time, but then a jumpsuit has to fit in so many places that the markings are absolutely essential. Trust me, you’ll be glad you make the extra effort when the time comes for construction.

I made it to wear to The New Craft House Sewing Summer Party, which I’ll be attending tomorrow with my lovely friend Sam. I’m really really excited about that too. I bought my ticket months ago when it was first announced – I love The New Craft House girls and have read their blog almost from the beginning in 2013. Anyway, there’s going to be a competition for the best handmade outfit, so I had to made something new, right?

Admittedly I don’t think this one’s going to win any prizes for creativity. I’m sure there will be plenty of stiff competition, and lots of the phenomenally talented sewists in attendance will have used flamboyant fabrics, embellishments, pattern hacks etc. Searches on Insta have shown me fabulous things covered in pineapples, ice creams and lace. Whereas I’ve just made a commercial pattern, in black fabric. But I adore it, and this jumpsuit is the best prize I could ask for anyway!

To my credit though, I did make some sizing adjustments. I started with a size 18, then took the trouser leg side seams out by 2.5cm each, to accommodate my wide hips. I also raised the waistline by 2cm, allowing a bit more bum space (remember how I’ve said previously that I’ve got a long body and short legs? Well, it makes jumpsuits very difficult to wear!). It took a bit of time to redraw the pattern but it was definitely worth it as the bottom half was perfect on the first fitting. For the bodice, I cut out a straightforward size 18 because the measurements on the envelope matched mine exactly. But after sewing it together, it was a bit baggy under the arms, so I took in the side seams a bit which worked a treat. This meant that I didn’t manage to line up the back darts, but the fit is so good that I’m really not bothered, and it’s on plain black fabric anyway so it’s barely noticeable.


Here are some reasons why I love the shape and fit so much:

  • The straight neckline and wide straps are really flattering on a big bust. It shows a little bit of skin without being too booby, and the straps are wide enough to cover bra straps, so I can have adequate support in the right places.
  • The massive front bodice darts are also a god-send for bigger boobs. There’s never been so much room in the front! Plus this means that the bodice narrows considerably on it’s way to my waist, instead of just hanging off my boobs like most RTW clothes do. Ok, the points of the the darts are a little bit, er, spiky (shall we say reminiscent of Jean-Paul Gaultier for Madonna?) but I think that makes it all the more sassy!
  • The super-wide legs cut a really striking silhouette – somewhere between 70’s Disco and Nautical Chic – and transforms my bum from wide-and-wobbly to biggest asset! And they’re bang on trend. Plus being wide and cropped makes them perfect for cycling. (Not that I cycle much, but that’s beside the point.)
  • It’ll look just as good in winter, worn over tights and a shirt or jumper, as it does in August on it’s own. 
  • It’s work appropriate, right? I think you could classify it as relaxed tailoring, which in my book is as good for the office as for throwing some shapes on a dance floor.
  • It has pockets. Big ones! Just right for my phone and debit card. Hallelujah, praise be.
  • The bodice is lined, so it’s just as beautiful inside as out. This also makes it super-comfy to wear. (NB: You have to hand-sew the lining around the waist which is pretty time-consuming but looks sublime.)


The fabric is 100% Cotton Drill which I picked up from Walthamstow Market. It’s seriously gorgeous – drill is similar to denim but is softer to the touch and has a distinctive diagonal weave. It’s got no stretch at all and was easy to work with. It’s really strong but also so buttery-soft that it’s almost velvety. Plus it was only £3 p/m. No, that’s not a typo. It was only THREE POUNDS PER METER. The poor man at the stall, I virtually bit his hand off when he told me the price. I bought 3 meters, since that’s what the pattern envelope suggested, but actually I only needed two. For the bodice lining I picked up some navy organic linen from Fabrications Hackney, and that was a total bargain too – it was the last meter, so it only cost £2! And I only used half of it. So all in all, this make has cost me £7 (or £7.80 if you include the invisible zipper, which was also from Walthamstow Market). That’s unbelievable value, isn’t it?

My absolute favourite thing about this is it’s versatility. I spent a lot of last night laying awake thinking of more ways to wear it, and what fabrics I’ll use to make it in future (because now I’ve got one, I want a whole wardrobe full.) It’d look great in so many styles, right? Super-size florals – dreamy. African wax – sensational. Maroon velvet, for Christmas parties – I’m frothing at the mouth. Man, you’re gonna see soooo many of these on the blog from now on.

I’ll post about the Summer Party after it’s happened – probably Sunday? – but in the meantime I’m interested in your answers to these questions:

  1. What’s you’re favourite pattern, and why?
  2. If you’ve made this (or any jumpsuit) already, how did you get on? Any further tips? Can you show us photos?
  3. If you’re going to the Summer Party tomorrow, what will you be wearing?! Can’t wait to meet you!

Please feel free to comment below! Cheers!

Pattern Hack: A Shorts Story

This is David, my boyfriend of 8 years, looking pretty fly in the shorts I’ve finally made for him. No, that’s not a couple of white threads I forgot to trim at the bottom. Those are his legs!


He was desperate for some new shorts as he’s lost a few pounds this year after taking up marathon-running and triathlon (don’t ask – apparently he “enjoys it…“), and the only shorts he had were really baggy. The pattern is a hack of the Cargo Shorts I made for my dad on Fathers Day, but with a few changes:

  • No cargo pockets on the side, at Dave’s request. I was very quick to agree to this as when I made them for my dad they were very time consuming. “No, you definitely don’t want those, they’re too bulky”, I said, without a moment of hesitation.
  • Shorter length. I made them to the normal length at first, then shortened them at the very end, so that he could try them on before making up his mind. I ended up taking them up by a massive 13cm! He really does wear short shorts…
  • I replaced the fake pocket flaps with jeans style patch pockets, using the original pattern markings to place the top corners. More useful, and fewer button holes! Win win!
  • The waistband is twice as deep, allowing for wider belt loops that can actually accomodate a belt. If you read about the shorts I made for my Dad you’ll know that on the original pattern they’re very small – more for decoration than to serve a practical purpose. But with the depth doubled, they’re infinitely more usable. Which is handy, because the shorts are actually still a little bit big, so he’ll be needing those belts…
  • I added another button to the waist fastening. It needed it really, with the bigger waistband, otherwise it would have gaped open. Awkward…

Here are some photos of both, so you can compare and contrast. The ones with the red background are Dave’s, and the blue leafy background are Dad’s.


The patch pockets at the back look pretty cool

They’re made from the same fabric, although weirdly the colour looks quite different in the photos. I had loads left over after making my Dad’s – I’d deliberately over-bought for fear of messing it up! The pocket linings are made from remnants of green cotton left over from a quilt I made last year. In fact, everything I needed for this project came from my stash. I’m not sure if that’s good because I’m being resourceful, or bad because it shows I’ve been hoarding stuff?!

These were pretty successful. If you remember, I had some trouble with the zip-fly last time but this time around it worked a treat. I also realise that I top stitched it in the wrong place last time. Oops. I don’t think Dad noticed…

They look great though don’t they?! Dave’s are quite smart whereas Dad’s were way more casual. I find it amazing how a few small hacks can completely change the look of a garment.

I also have to point out that he’s teamed the shorts with a Choose Love tee by Katharine Hamnett, in aid of Help for Refugees. All the profits from the sale of these go directly to the charity. But they’re also made from super soft organic cotton, in factories where the workers are paid a fair wage. It’s a great choice for an ethical wardrobe.



I don’t like to praise David too much in case his ego explodes, but I think he looks pretty bloody handsome in this photos. He was reluctant to pose at first, squirming and telling me it was too awkward, but boy oh boy did he get into it! In his own words, “David Gandy better watch his back, there’s a new David on the modelling block”. Pft. Typical.


My Recycled Plastic Skirt (yes, really!)


My understanding is that the manufacturers melt down loads of old plastic before stretching it out into super-fine threads, before weaving them together to make fabric. I mean, I am completely FLABBERGHASTED by this, and yet really, I wish I wasn’t. Because that’s the way it should be, right? Plastics which aren’t bio-degradable should be reincarnated as beautiful, durable items that we’ll wear time again, instead of filling up landfill and the oceans. How great would it be if recycled fabrics weren’t surprising, but the norm?

Those of you who follow me on Insta might remember that I first posted about this fabric when I bought it back in June. It came from Fabrications in Hackney, which is a great little place offering classes in sewing and knitting, repurposed fashion and home accessories (who knew there were so many things you could make from old shirt sleeves?!), craft supplies and ethical fabrics supplied by Offset Warehouse. It was also a total bargain as it only cost £5 a meter, meaning I could also treat myself to some red organic cotton denim which is still in my stash. I was even given a free cotton tote instead of a carrier bag for my purchases, so they scored bonus points for their green credentials there too.


It’s a recycled polyester which gives it the most beautiful shine and really makes the colours pop. I’m not normally into pink, but combined with orange, red and black in this design I think it’s completely irresistible. I love the print too – it’s irregular and requires no pattern matching (win!) but doesn’t have the saccharine sweetness of pink florals. Moreover, it hangs beautifully. It’s got a really lovely drape that looks like silk, and it’s got a nice lot of movement.

I spent quite a while deciding what to use it for. I toyed with shift dresses, vintage-style pussy-bow blouses and culottes, but couldn’t get the idea of a gathered skirt out of my mind, so eventually decided just to embrace it. A gathered skirt really is one of the simplest garments you can make, but I’ve been trying to challenge myself with more difficult makes lately and didn’t want to succumb to the quick-fix instant gratification of a skirt you can whip up in an afternoon. But in this case, the temptation was too much.

As with other gathered skirts I’ve made previously, I used this tutorial from By Hand London as a starting point, except that instead of an invisible zipper I made a lapped zip and two button fastening to make use of what was already in my stash. Construction went very smoothly, and the only difficulty I encountered was that the fabric moved an awful lot (which is great for wearing it, but a nightmare when you’re making it!), so I had to use plenty of pins and add more basting than I normally would. I also used bias binding to create a faced hem, firstly because I love the high-quality finish it gives but also to help weigh the skirt down a bit. It’s very lightweight and catches easily on the wind, resulting in a few Marilyn moments (and the potential that some of the people of Walthamstow have now seen my knickers…!).


I’m really pleased with this one! It’s really flattering, drawing attention to my small waist and away from my ginormous hips, and even creates the illusion of me being quite leggy (I stress that this is very much an illusion – despite being tall, I actually have an unusually long torso and relatively short legs. Weird, I know). And I really love telling people that it’s basically made from old plastic bottles! It’s a great talking point, and makes me feel much better about having to wash up old plastic packaging before it goes in the recycling bin!

Has anyone else worked with different kind of recycled textiles? If so, please do get in touch, because I think it’s a great idea and would like to incorporate them into my wardrobe a lot more. And if you’ve had successes (or disasters…hopefully no disasters…) with gathered skirts, I’d love to hear about that too!



Rachel’s Bangin’ 1950’s Dress

This is my good friend Rachel. No, she’s not a time traveller. You might recognise her from Instagram, diligently commenting on all my sewing posts, because in addition to being extremely beautiful, she’s also an absolute babe. Ain’t she gorgeous?! And isn’t that dress completely sublime?!

And here’s the fun thing about this dress: she made it. Yes, she had a bit of supervision from yours truly, but without having sewn in over a decade she made this with her own fair hands and I think it looks banging.

At this point I think it’s fair for me to take a little bit of credit because, back in May, Rachel became a bit obsessed with seeing my me-mades every day. She’d studied Textiles at school (receiving an A* at GCSE for a Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired gown, no less… she might have mentioned it once or twice…) but hadn’t sewn since, but MeMadeMay gave her a push to rekindle her love of craft. At around the same time she was invited to a 1950’s themed wedding. “Perfect opportunity to make something“, she thought, and dived straight in by ordering this gorgeous Vogue V8789 Pattern.

Now, the thing about this pattern is that it’s a reproduction of a 1957 original. On the one hand that’s great as it’s true to the era (very much Dior’s New Look!), but on the other hand the instructions were near-on indecipherable and the sizes differed wildly to what we’re used to in the 21st Century. It was certainly a far cry from the modern patterns I’m used to, with their colour photographs and online sew-alongs. Suddenly we realised just how much more adept women in the Fifties must have been at making their own clothes (it was considered an essential skill then, and passed down through generations. I read a great article that touched on this in the Guardian a while back). Not to mention how years of post-war rationing had made them so much slimmer than we are now. It’s therefore super-important when working with vintage patterns to carefully take your measurements in advance, rather than just plumping for your “normal” ready-to-wear size. Rachel (who is very slim anyway) made the dress a full two sizes bigger than she normally would, so it’s definitely worth the bit of extra effort to avoid potential disappointment.

So anyway, the pattern arrives and panic quickly ensues as Rachel realises this might be a bit ambitious for a starter project. No bother, though – we turned what was originally just meant to be a fabric shopping date (that’s a thing, right?) into a full-blown-oreo-biscuit-fuelled sewing bonanza!

We started by buying fabric from Saeed’s in Walthamstow, where we were totally spoilt for choice. We were actually looking for fabric with a border print but abandoned that idea after realising that meant Rachel’s choice would basically be limited to scubas, which aren’t at all true to the era. After a lot of careful deliberation she opted for this romantic light-weight cotton lawn for £8 a meter, and some mustard-yellow chiffon for the cumberbund (which is basically a fancy belt for anyone who, like us, had never heard of it!). Blue and yellow are Rachel’s favourite colours, and the small floral print had the added benefit of no pattern-matching required. Happy days!

fabric and pattern

Next problem: the pattern told us we needed five meters of fabric. “FIVE METERS?! Are you having a laugh?!” (Rachel’s actual words). Even the lady helping us in the shop thought that sounded excessive. So there we were, in Saeeds, pulling out the pattern and agonising again over the instructions all over again, until we concluded that it could only need that much if you were using a border print, and needed to pattern match. Sure, that’ll be it. So optimistically, we purchased the 1.87 meters that Saeed had left in Rachel’s fabric of choice and decided it would be fine. Of course it would.

At this point, anyone who’s read about my Secret Patchwork Coco will notice a theme emerging: I never seem to have enough fabric.

We knew we’d need to use it economically, so we tried lots of different pattern layouts before cutting it out. We made the bodice first, so that we could use whatever we had left for the skirt. We also omitted the inner belt because it seemed like an unnecessary waste of material and we couldn’t work out what it was for anyway. I started Rachel off by showing her how to resize the pattern and make tailors tacks, but other than that she did all the prep herself. Then I showed her how to use my sewing machine and make darts, and off she went! Like a duck to water. The fit was all important for this style of dress so we made a few tweaks to the fit by taking it in a little at the sides and making the darts longer, so it fit her like a glove. We even exceeded our own expectations by making rouleau loops for the button holes (neither of us had done this before, but it turned out to be quite easy!).

Only at this point as we embarked on the skirt did we realise that we probably should have bought closer to five meters of fabric after all. It transpired that we were supposed to cut through four thicknesses of fabric rather than two, although we only worked this out from the tiny diagrams – it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the instructions! So we only had half the fabric required to make the iconic full Fifties skirt we were aiming for.

We both acted pretty cool about it, but secretly we were gutted. We toyed with the idea of having a contrast skirt, or combining the fabric we had with something else to create vertical stripes, but neither of those would create the look Rachel was after. So instead we decided just to use the fabric we had and accept that it wouldn’t look quiet like the picture. I showed her how to make gathers (I was actually GOBSMACKED at how she got them so nice and even first time) and attach the skirt to the bodice, and after that she finished it off at home, on her housemate’s sewing machine. It took a total of two days for the pair of us working together, and a day and a half of Rachel sewing on her own at home.

I know I’m an eternal optimist, but I genuinely think that the smaller skirt was something of a happy accident. Here are the reasons:

  • If there’d been loads more fabric it would have been much more difficult to gather neatly. As it is, it sits perfectly – look how tiny her waist is!
  • Hemming would have taken FOREVER.
  • We probably would have had to make the inner belt, to support the weight.
  • The smaller skirt makes it infinitely more wearable day-to-day. It’s a very classic shape that looks vintage-inspired without being too fancy dress.
  • Times were hard in the Fifties, right?! I mean, could anyone really afford to buy five meters of fabric for one dress then?!

Sure, a fuller skirt would have looked great, but there’s no doubting that the finished garment is absolutely stunning. The straight neckline and wasp-waist make it very true to the era, and she accessorised it beautifully with white gloves, a string of pearls and a pill-box hat from eBay. It took a total of two days spent working together, and a day and a half of Rachel sewing on her own at home.

She went to the wedding this weekend (which also happened to be her birthday!) and everyone was suitably amazed that she’d made it herself. Now she’s officially got the sewing bug, and there’s talk of her buying her own sewing machine and making a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo (which is much easier, thank goodness) as well as a secret project I can’t mention here. I’m so pleased that it turned out well in the end, and can’t wait to see what she makes next!

NB: July, of course, is the month of vintage patterns on Instagram (for non-intragrammers, #vpjuly is actually a thing!). I’d love to hear what you’ve been making, and what you’ve learned. Please let us know! Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with more pics of this bombshell:

rachel dress churchrachel dress 4rachel dress 2


“Secret Patchwork” Coco

I realise I am MASSIVELY late to the party here, but I finally made my first Tilly and the Buttons Coco!

I’d been a bit hesitant to get started as stretch fabrics scared me a bit, but I realised during Me-Made-May that I needed to make some casual tops, and Coco seemed like the perfect fit.

Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t start well. When visiting my parents last week, my mum and I called in to The Fabric Place in Beeston, near Nottingham, and I found this big piece of medium-weight polyester jersey in the remnant bin for £2. “Great”, I said, “I’ll easily be able to get a Coco out of this!”. Famous last words.

As it happens, it wasn’t easy to get a Coco out of this at all. Sure, the remnant was 2 meters long but it was a funny shape with big lumps cut out of it, and after laying out all my pattern pieces it soon became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to cut it all out in the normal way.

At this point, anyone with more patience/common sense that me would have put it all away and saved it for a smaller project, but – oh no- not me! I had my heart set on a stripy Coco and I was damn well going to make one. Instead I cut out the bodice front and back, then patched together three offcuts (being super careful to match the stripes, of course!) then cut the sleeves out of the resulting larger piece of fabric. Obviously there was no fabric left for such luxuries as pockets or cuffs (which are optional on this pattern) so I had to make the very simplest top version, with 3/4 length sleeves. I was careful to make sure that the seams were on the back of the sleeves when cutting out, so they were less obvious. I think I just about got away with it, right?!

Can you see the joins here?

From the back

They’re easier to spot from the inside (modelled here but my glamorous mannequin assistant, Patsy).

From the inside

Still struggling top spot them? Does this help?

Joins run parallel to the orange lines – from the back
Joins run parallel to the orange lines – from the inside

The black and white stripes definitely help – on a plain fabric it would have been way more obvious.

Aside from that though, I think this is a pretty successful make! I spent a long time tracing and resizing the pattern; I’m very precious about my patterns, and couldn’t even contemplate cutting into the original, and I’m really curvy and often have to make a lot of adjustments, and leaving the original intact provides a bit of a safety net. In this instance there was a full three sizes between my waist and hips, creating the kind of shape that looks like it should never work, but it did. I fact, it’s genuinely the best-fitting top I’ve ever owned.

Just like the Cleo I made a couple of months ago, the pattern was perfectly clear and easy to sew up. The instruction booklet included with the pattern is free from jargon and packed with helpful tips, and the colour photos make a helpful visual reference. Once I sat down at my sewing machine I’d made it in just a few hours – there were only three pattern pieces, no fiddly darts, facings or fastenings, and no need to finish the raw edges as (joy of joys!) knit fabric doesn’t fray. It’s a great introduction to sewing with stretch fabrics, and it’s definitely given me a boost of confidence.


It’s easy to see how Coco can quickly become a wardrobe staple. I’m absolutely delighted with the result – the boat neck is flattering on my broad shoulders and big boobs, the fit is nice and relaxed and I even managed to (mostly) pattern match all the stripes! I know it’ll help make up loads of outfits, and I’m already planning more variations. Plus, now I’ve done the hard work, I’d be able to whip up more in no time.

Let me know if you’ve made Coco, and how you got on. Plus, has anyone else been so – ahem – resourceful with fabric as I have here?! If so I’d love to see/hear about it!

I’ll leave you with this perfectly captured, if not altogether flattering shot by Dave, with added speech bubble: