I was recently reminded of Michaelangelo’s famous quote at aged 81yrs old that he was still learning, which fits my philosophy perfectly. If anything, I am the perennial student. If you want to tell me how to, I’ll listen with pleasure. [caveat; with the exception of on-line games, with apologies to my grandsons] .

I have been a bit confined under the weather the past few days, nothing serious, but it means that I am only able to potter about for short periods and have only my laptop and some hand sewing to keep me occupied, which anyone who knows me well knows that is not enough! Enter sewing blog land, Pattern Review and Craftsy.com and their on-line courses. Thankgoodness!!

When having four small children under five curtailed my working life, I took it as a marvellous opportunity to take classes so that I would have the right qualifications to do what I wanted to do when they were all in school. Because I didn’t have to be anywhere at any specific time, I could manage my day around the children, the house and actually managed to get two hours nearly every day to study, sew or whatever. carpe diem. [Now you know why it's one of my mottos.] Although that doesn’t apply today, I still like to make use of every moment of the day if I can and I have to say that even on days like the past few, I still feel happier at the end of the day if I can see that I have actually done something. [housework doesn't count - that's like the poor, its always with us].

Working on the principle that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade, I enrolled in one or two [actually five, but who's counting]  excellent on line courses. One I have already mentioned; Craftsy’s “Sew Better, Sew Faster”,with Janet Pray.



 This I really like. Janet is so easy to follow so that even if you are not a seasoned sewer, you could make the jacket pattern that goes with the course. It was this picture on Goodbye Valentino’s blog of Cissie Wellon’s jacket that hooked me in.

img_5150 Isn’t that just fabulous? Sarah was reviewing her course with Susan Khalje in this post, so of course, next up was Craftsy’s “The Couture Dress”with Susan Khalje, another excellent tutor. couture-dress-imageHere is Sarah’s picture of her dress when she did the course last year.


Given my love of the couture method of sewing anyway, I felt that I had come far enough on my journey with my sewing machine[s] to be safe going back into comfortable territory. My preferred tutor before this was Claire Sheaffer, but I think Susan is as good, if not easier to follow, as Claire. The third class is Sew The Perfect Fit with Lynda Maynard.sew-the-perfect-fit

I haven’t watched more than the preliminaries with this one, but she promises to be another excellent teacher. The good thing about Craftsy is that you can have ready access to the course, the teacher, have questions asked etc., and they never expire. Three good courses which I shall enjoy watching, learning from, and using for as long as I continue sewing! BTW I have no affiliation with Craftsy, but I do like to share what I think is good out there. The other two courses are Kenneth D King’s Clone Your Favourite Garment” from Pattern Review [ I have already done this many times before but just wondered if there was a better way] and Altering Jackets by Angela Wolf. I haven’t as yet at time of writing this looked at the last two, but Angela’s course I will definitely be looking at before continuing with my rust jacket alterations as mentioned in my previous post. The same course facilities are available at Pattern Review  as at Craftsy, permanent access etc., If you can’t get to real life classes [as in the Susan Khalje class reviewed by Sarah in her post above] then this is the next best thing, I think. If you are a perennial student, like me, have a look and see what is out there.

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Echoes of childhood there! But the reason for it is this jacket;  No I haven’t been attacked by a large dog, I did this deliberately and what is more I did it to the other side as well!.

metal shed 009
I made the jacket a few weeks ago and when I finished it, it looked like this,

rust jacket 002

and I have to admit it was a bit of a “that’ll do pig” moment   [ref.BABE, just in case your wondering].  Can you see what I mean? It is not often I invite people to look at my bust area, but really? –  just look! Even allowing for my lousy photography you can see how out of proportion it all is and I am certainly not that well endowed.

I knew I was in a bit of trouble when the jacket kept being put back in the wardrobe. It has never been worn and would probably never have seen the light of day again if it wasn’t for the lovely Janet Pray and her Craftsy course “Sew Better-Sew Faster”. Never mind the Sew Faster bit, although that can help sometimes, it is the Sew Better bit that got me.

She starts off with what you might think are just basics and if you have been sewing for more years than most people have been alive you could just think “yeah, yeah……”. But she really has some gems [obvious ones, granted - but ones I hadn't thought of] right at the beginning.  I will do a review of what I found particularly helpful in another post, but her professionalism and common sense really appealed to me and although the jacket made during the course is nothing like the one above, I made a mental note ” no more that’ll do pig” – get it right “.  SO the jacket came out, the lining came out, the front seams came out, more fitting, more pressing, more sewing and then putting all back together, what fun!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I did promise some pictures of my lovely new sheds, which I am sure you have all been dying to see. But even if you’re not, here they are – they still fill me with delight when I look out of my kitchen window. All I can say is ‘thank heaven for little girls, because they bring lovely sons-in-law into your life who can do things like this.[Only joking girls]

metal shed 005 wooden shed 9.4.14 002metal shed 001

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I haven’t done any sewing since the week before The Wedding.

But my me-made outfits were still in evidence.  I wore this dress
navy dress 007

with a collarless yellow jacket, [which unfortunately I haven't got a photo of] to the family meal the night before the wedding. To the wedding I wore this  black wool skirt with this silk top and with a green/blue tweed ‘chanel’ type jacket. For the evening reception I wore this handsewn colourful jacket

handmade 003pistachio 007 black skirt 009

over a self drafted princess-line sheath dress in black crepe that I made about three years ago. Three self sewn outfits [with the exception of the yellow jacket and  the tweedy chanel-type jacket] for a lovely family weekend in a beautiful setting in the Wye Valley in Wales at Kieran and Emily’s wedding – a beautiful bride and lovely bridesmaids, great fun.

Since coming back I have been Uber busy -fortunately the weather has been kind to us and the projects in the garden are largely finished, two new sheds and a long path laid down the side of the garden, a nice little paved bit outside the chickens and new wooden shed so that even in the wettest parts of Winter I will not be slipping and sliding around in the dark – oh yes, I have had a new garden security spot light put up – all this courtesy of  my gorgeous American son-in-law Tom, thankyou, thankyou Tom! Love you to bits. Pictures up next post.












Posted in Blouses, coats and jackets, DRESSES, dressmaking, handmade, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, shirts, Works in Progress | 1 Comment


The little glimpse of something I gave a couple of weeks ago is now finished and ready to go to Wales to Emily and Kieran’s wedding on Saturday; first up, the last thing to go on ~ the label;P1060726 It is now on this

P1060732 P1060724

Now for the brilliant last minute rescue;- The lovely accommodating Debbie Holland from http://www.longarm-quilting.co.uk  agreed to actually do the quilting at really short notice. The pattern she used was one she recommended from Anne Bright’s repertoire and it turned out to be exactly right. She even trimmed it up ready for binding. She did such an excellent job – took all the stress out of what could have been a very stressful time for us – I really can’t recommend her highly enough ~ even if you are not contemplating making a quilt top, do go and look at her work, and a nicer lady you couldn’t hope to have on your side. If you are thinking of making a quilt top and want a really good, professional finish then do give her a go and the added bonus is she is far more reasonable than any other I’ve ever come across – a bonus all round.

As I said in my previous post I only sewed half of the squares as my token contribution, just eight in all but in each square there were 53 separate piece = 848 pieces in all 16 squares, all cut out by Abigail, who also sewed the 16 squares together for the top and made and attached the binding, so when it came to the quilting she ran out of steam and time [and probably the will to live by then given who and what the quilt was for], so enter Debbie Holland – phew! Thanks Debbie.


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I have been sewing of late of course, but until now have not been able to take any photographs ~ so posting my sewing would be a bit pointless I thought.

First up another rendition of my now go-to pattern for a straight skirt Burda 8849 in a piece of natural ‘brocade’ linen fabric left over from over eight years ago when I made a skirt for my #2 daughter to wear with a fabulous East jacket to her daughter’s wedding. The jacket was so fabulously embroidered that only a natural linen, not light weight and of interesting design was a suitable foil. It worked beautifully. The sudden warm phony Spring weather prompted me to think of lighter colours and I was surprised to find there was enough left for me to make this skirt once again.

navy dress 006navy dress 004

Next up is Vogue dress with a slight homage to the 1960′s. I made it out of an Italian wool/poly mix in navy blue. I originally bought the fabric to make kiddie’s coats but found the colour a little dark for that and went with the bright red wool/cashmere instead  in this post http://lifeaworkinprogress.com/2013/05/07/the-best-isnt-always-better .

I’ve made some additions because the dress was very plain being designed to go under a three-quarter length coat as an ensemble. I wanted the dress on its own so added some pocket flaps on the front and a little half belt across the back waist. This also enable me to pull it in a little bit to give it a bit more shape.

navy dress 007navy dress 013navy dress 008

I have to say that this dress looks much better on than hanging on a hanger on a picture hook, but then so would a sack I expect, but this is not a sack thankfully.

Now finally just because; navy dress 002navy dress 003 cats will find anywhere to be comfortable won’t they?





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No, not machines, but these small, more modest items that personally I couldn’t be without. We all have our favourite gadgets and these are certainly not all the items that sit in the plastic box on my sewing table, but these are the ones that are always in use.

tools of the trade 011

Not surprisingly, the item I use most of all this is little item;tools of the trade 011 (2)

My ‘un-picker’ or seam ripper as it is really called. There are some days I use this little item more than my sewing machine! For me, strangely, it takes any fear I might have about sewing. With a little care any stitches in the wrong place can easily be rectified and you can go on to get the finish you really want. It really pays to get as skilled with this little tool as it does your machine I think.

Next up, a seam gauge, an item I didn’t have for a number of years.tools of the trade 012

Why I have no idea because plenty of folk have said on their blogs how useful they are and they are not just for hems! This little guide makes sure that my seams are straight [the nightmare of my early teens in stockings, where sadly it wouldn't have helped] and that all my seams and darts meet in the right places. I have even been known to use it for hems too.

One of my pet hates in sewing is the tailor tack- for a number of reasons, and not just laziness. One is that having gone to the bother of sewing them all in you then have to carefully take off the tissue pattern without tearing it and then you have to separate the fabric pieces without losing the tack in one half. Not easily done in my sewing room.

tools of the trade 013

That is why I value my chalk pencil. I prefer this to ‘proper’ French chalk as it is more easily brushed off. This particular one is a propelling pencil and comes with different coloured sticks.

Every sewer needs scissors, and these are really embroidery scissors bought from the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court [there's name dropping for you] but they are exquisitely handy for those really tight little places where precision is vital. Shown here with my favourite silver thimble, never far from my hands when I’m sewing [yes,really!],

tools of the trade 014

Lastly a handy rigid metal 12 inch ruler,tools of the trade 016 useful for drawing straight lines of course and measuring larger spaces than my little seam ripper can reach. I also have the conventional fabric tape measures but they can stretch. As I said, not all the things in my plastic box, but those I wouldn’t want to lose. What are yours?

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For more than a couple of years now I have dithered about getting an overlocker. My previous thoughts were that they were far too much trouble and probably more than they were worth. Then a visit to the Stitching and Quilting Exhibition at Sandown a couple of years ago and a demonstration of the latest Babylock overlocker almost convinced me that it would be a good idea. Fortunately sanity was restored once the heady atmosphere of the exhibition had faded [that and the £1300 plus price tag] . In any event I was only just becoming reconciled to my sewing machine after my long  love affair with hand sewing and couture techniques, so getting another machine seemed a bit unnecessary.

However, after more than a year of RTW fasting and making and wearing all my clothes – [on my sewing machine for the most part] – I thought that perhaps now I could handle an overlocker.  I do still love finishing by hand, and will continue to do so where necessary, but some of these tasks an overlocker can accomplish in half the time and probably just as well if not better with some fabrics, [stretch fabrics for example].

So, after much YouTubing on how to thread and operate one, I was convinced I could manage one, but I was still not very ambitious and decided to get just a basic model that did differential feeding so that it could be used for gathering. I eventually  went for an ex demonstration model too, saving another £30 or so, I also got a box of polyester threads and a scissors set to boot. My thinking on this was that if I decide an overlocker is not for me [i.e. translated into I can't hack it] then I haven’t lost a great amount and wouldn’t mind giving it away. But as it happens I am quite happy with my new toy – and hope that I will be able to use it successfully, I have quite a few projects lined up and I just love the way it cuts the edges so neatly – no more scissors on zig zag stitching for me. Here is my new toy; a Cooperlock differential feed overlocker.


Posted in Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing | 2 Comments