BACK TO SCHOOL – and a moan

Not literally this time, unfortunately. I have just spent a frustrating week trying to perfect that dreaded thing that plagues us all – fit. In my case it is a bit like searching for the Unicorn [this post is heavy with mythical animals you’ll find]. Last night in frustration I rolled up the latest offering when I got to my third perfect collar which didn’t fit, shoved it into the drawer and muttered something like ‘back to the drawing board’, only not quite as polite and went down for a cup of tea, the panacea of all things. Unfortunately it didn’t work as well as normally and I decided to try something entirely different – buttonholes by hand! So I ‘Claire Shaeffered’ via DVD, Vogued,   You-tubed, beeswaxed and pressed thread, practised, and again and again, and went back upstairs muttering something like ‘back to the drawing board’ only not nearly as polite as when I was coming downstairs.

So, where is all this leading before I get like Ronnie Corbett rambling in a deck chair? The back to the school bit, I suppose [here come some more mythical creatures and ramblings] On my upward steep learning curve in my quest for ever developing skill in sewing [whew!] I had reached a nice sunny plateau. The view was pleasant and I could spend many happy hours picking daisies, i.e. making as many skirts, blouses, dresses etc., as took my fancy – and quite quickly too , quite the little production line and I soon filled my closet. But I soon realised that this was still only base camp and the climb was still in front. It wasn’t daisies that I was after. I  gained some skills of course, you can’t sew that amount without doing so, but the real skills were still as elusive as the Yheti [see?].

Right! enough of all that nonsense. I am not unrealistic in that I do know and understand that many of the skills I yearn to possess have been obtained by those with them after years and years and practise and learning themselves. I also know that although I would love to spend a week/month in class with Susan Khalje or Claire Shaeffer, this is just not possible. However we do have quite a few resources to call upon thanks to on line classes [Craftsy] other website where skilled seamstresses share their skills so generously and those most magical things of all in my. life – BOOKS. Which sadly brings me to my moan.

I own and value the Thomas Von Nordheim tailoring book. It is beautifully and skilfully written and he is clear in his instructions and his skill is unquestioned. The photography alone is worth the cost of the book, his explanations so clear and understandable.

Thomas von Nordheim 001 Thomas von Nordheim 004Thomas von Nordheim 003Thomas von Nordheim 004

So why the moan? His Publishers have let him down! No doubt they felt that such excellent writing deserved a really ‘classy’ look – but this is a book of instruction, a text book. One that you want to refer to again and again  in detail. Then here comes the difficulty, it is almost impossible to read.

Thomas von Nordheim 005

No , it isn’t my photography for once, it is light grey print on glossy paper. Straining to read this print for long can give you eye strain and headache. I shall certainly persevere, it is a lovely book and I can’t recommend the content and photography highly enough – but oh, the print! come on!!!      Rant over.

disclaimer, Ronnie Corbett is not a mythical creature, he really does exist.

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I still haven’t managed to get a picture of the cape I mentioned in my last post, but I have managed to take some of the Vogue 7469 dress I mentioned. So I will let the pictures speak for themselves, apart from saying that the beige dress is of wool crepe and turquoisy/sea greeny one is cotton jersey knit. Sorry that they are only on hangers, but I had to grab the camera when the Sun got lost and came out to find out where it was for just a brief moment.

catch up 009 front catch up 010 back

The one on the left, being jersey knit didn’t need a zip, but the wool crepe one did. I have to say they look SO much better when worn. When light returns I will try to get some pictures whilst they are being worn. They are comfortable, easy to wear every day but still can be ‘dressed up’ when you need to. A very simple but quite stylish pattern I think. It has a raised waist level, about 3cms above the natural waistline with front tucks in the skirt not darts. Very understated and grossly underrated, by me anyway initially.  As always when sewing simple patterns, care has to be taken to match the seams at the waist, sides and at the back darts at the waist. On the whole I didn’t do too badly. I intend to make this again in proper ‘bespoke’ fabric. These pieces were just in my stash and were really just hopefully wearable toiles in the beginning. Something to slip on and forget. My favourite kind of clothes really.

I was also able to grab a photo of this.

catch up 006catch up 007

Being pathologically unable to sit without something to fiddle with, I have been using up my stash of wools in the evenings to make this granny square throw. So far in this one I have crocheted 180 squares. It is getting heavy and fits the top of a 4ft. bed. so I have started another! Keeps me occupied whilst watching TV as it is pretty repetitive. The only challenge being trying to keep each square colourways different from each other. Hopefully I will have more to show next time, till then…..


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In keeping a record of my recent makes here on this blog I mean, not in the Mrs.Bucket sense! So much so that I have to read my own blog to find out what I have done. Not good.

Trouble is when I finish something and want to photograph it the weather is usually so dark and gloomy that I daren’t risk it with my level of skill in photography, which is quite bad enough when the light is good. So many grey days in Winter. But I did say that this blog was mainly to record my makes – so here goes on the more recent ones. I think I left off with the Little Red Dress and the satin lycra slip, shown below. [click to enlarge].

Simplicity 1609lingerie 7186red dress 004lingerie 002

Since then I have made three versions of the Simplicity 1609 and another slip in white cotton jersey and cotton broderie anglais trim, much cooler than the silky one for under Summer dresses. When the sun returns to the UK I will try to remember to take photos [such faith, I said when not if].

I also made the Vogue 8958 cape in a red/black wool. I made the shorter, hip length version. I made it quickly, finished on the overlocker and wore once. I am not enamoured with capes any more, I think curiosity was the driving force behind the make more than a desire to own one. I might wear it again with trousers and boots as it is more suited to that style than with the skirts and dresses I normally wear. It would have to be worn with a polo necked long sleeve jumper underneath [like the model here] though because I found it drafty, again my photo will have to follow, sorry.


I’ve also made a couple of dresses from a pattern I’ve had for a long time and have not really thought much of, but is a lovely make and very wearable. It is Vogue 7469, just look at the schematic of the dress. It is very easy to fit and so easy to wear. I haven’t made the jacket, but I have a wedding to go to in June so this outfit may be a contender.

better vogue 7 469      vogue 7469 schematic

Well having teased enough with a boring blog about patterns with no-show makes, I will try and have a good session of photography [if there is such a thing in my world] and have a show and no-tell session next time.

p.s. another fail; I haven’t managed to ‘sew along’ with Watson, but will catch up one day I hope. If you’ve lasted this long, well done and thanks.

P.P.S. If you really want a good read, go over to GoodbyeValentino, Cissie Wellons has done a guest blog for Sarah and is very inspirational.

Posted in Blouses, coats and jackets, DRESSES, dressmaking, FIBRE CRAFTS, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, Works in Progress | Leave a comment


Last Monday I went to pick up this little lady. A thirty odd mile journey in the pouring rain. I was feeling quite excited, the picture on Ebay showed a 1950’s Singer 66 in what looked to be beautiful condition.


The pictures didn’t lie. The decals and paintwork were pretty good for the age of the machine. It either hadn’t been used very much or the owner really looked after it, there is no way of knowing. What I did very  quickly find out though was that there was no plug/lead or foot pedal! It had been listed as a ‘barn find’, which I presume is a euphemism for lucky find.  I’d picked it up in the middle of a housing estate in the town that John Betjeman had written his derogatory poem, not a barn in sight. It appears that it had belonged to the chap’s mother, but neither he nor his wife knew anything about sewing machines and had no idea where the pedal had gone. A pity that little detail hadn’t been in the listings, but it was still a lovely looking machine and I could always get a new foot pedal from Ebay hopefully.

Once I got it home that bad news hit. It was seized up solidly. The fly wheel could not be turned at all, not a centimetre! On closer inspection it seemed that the whole machine was covered in thick Marmite and lint balls.

Now I love to get down and dirty [with machines that is]. So – long story a bit shorter [not much] – I stripped everything and washed it down with acetate and then cleaned it up. A clean oiling and everything was moving once again after some hours, I might add!

I then felt confident enough to go online and buy a new motor and foot pedal from the very helpful Martin at ‘sewingonline’ at Ebay. I sent him pictures of the plug socket, NEW KID ON THE BLOCK 001  but sadly he didn’t have a lead/pedal in stock for that, so I got the set brand new instead [cheaper actually to do that]. I also bought a new rubber belt, a neoprene belt came with the new motor but I used the rubber one anyway as it went on easier.



How glad I am that I did all that, because I now have this gem. It is a straight


stitch only machine with no reverse. It is however classed as a heavy duty machine on the lines of the 201, which I own and love dearly. So all in all I am happy with the machine, it cost me just under £80 in total which is a good result considering. I bought it for £40 [which I still think was a good bargain despite the problems] and I spent another £35 on the motor and foot pedal [including p.+ p.] and a couple of pounds on the rubber belt and a lot of elbow grease and enjoyable work. It still needs a little fiddling with tension, but it does sew evenly and fairly quietly. It is in a box base and that acts as a sound board I think, but it can’t be take out [I’ve taken it out to try] because the feed dog and stitch mechanism sits lower than the legs and would catch. I might pad the box, but it as it is fairly quiet anyway I might not bother. If you’ve managed to get this far without yawning, well done and thanks.

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lingerie foldedHow I love that word – it is so emotive, for me anyway. It conjures up a luxurious leisurely-ness, a lingery-ness [and yes, I do know it is not pronounced lingery]. Now I would be first to own that I prefer plain. Plain colours to prints, simplicity to embellished etc., except when it comes to lingerie. I am one of those who loves elegant simplicity on the outside, but underneath a whole other story. So needless to say I love nice undies. Hence my latest make.

lingerie 002


I had grown tired of waist slips. Women always wore full slips when I was growing up and for a very simple reason ~ less chance of having to hitch your slip up from showing beneath your hem if it slips through any cause. Even with lined skirts you sometimes need a slip as well and hitching them up round your middle can do a lot of damage to your silhouette! It also mitigates against an unauthorised flash of flesh when blouse parts company from skirt!  Full slips keep your outline much smoother under blouses and skirt as well as dresses, especially fitted ones.

I had just enough of this silky tricot based fabric to cut the pattern pieces for the front and back bodice. The ‘skirt’ of the slip is cut with a centre seam and darts. I had to fudge the back into one centre piece with two side pieces by slicing down the pattern at the back dart-centres to the hem. The straps were made by folding  and stitching lengthways white satin bias ribbon and using the clear plastic sliders I bought for bra making. Finished with hardly an inch of fabric to spare. The fit of this Burda pattern is smooth and comfortable. I have already made it again, but that is for another day.

lingerie front seams   lingerie back view

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As all of us that make our own clothes will own, eventually we run out of hangers and hanging space. The latter we can sometimes fudge by folding and packing away the ‘older makes’ or those we don’t wear too often. That way it doesn’t look as though we ought to call a halt to our sewing production. However, hangers or lack thereof, sometimes present a different problem. Hence the title of my post [bear with me].

A couple of weeks ago I reached the stage where I had made about three new dresses and four blouses and didn’t really have the hangers to put them on [oh, and another skirt]. My #’s 2 and 5 daughters were visiting and I happened to mention to #2 daughter that I was thinking of buying all white hangers for my sewing closet. I think I said something on the lines that it would be nice to have them all the same. My #5 daughter then said ‘oh, mother that is so anal, please tell me you’re not!’ Now I understand #5 completely, I am not a ‘matchy-matchy’ person in the least myself so I do know where she is coming from, however I do like things to look nice without being too fussy, but judge for yourself – I think it looks neater, you may not notice any difference.[Hangers bought from in case your interested]. Trouble is, I need a few more!!

January 2015 #1 014edited white hangers 002Again apologies for the quality of photography. These are my most recent makes, like all dressmakers there are other closets hiding other stuff, but we wont talk about that.

Watson update;- I am behind in my sew-along plans – because that other work in progress -life – has intruded, but I will catch up eventually.

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I have to say that I have never joined in any sew-along, knit-along or any other thing-along, but I have come to this via a very roundabout route. To cut a long story etc., losing a bit of weight recently did not just mean I had to alter my skirts and dresses, but I have also come to realise that my undie things will also need adjusting starting with my bras. I have the ubiquitous Kwik Sew 3300 bra pattern so loved my many of course, but decided this time round to change route. I have Norma Loehr’s book ‘Demystifying Bra Making and Construction’ on Kindle and had a bit of a light bulb moment when I read this bit;

While some of the parts of the bra and their function are obvious ( the cups contain the breasts) others are not (the band supports the cups, not the straps).

Loehr, Norma (2013-04-08). Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction (Kindle Locations 122-124). Orange Lingerie LLC. Kindle Edition.

Now who’da thunk that? here’s me thinking that the straps kept the little baggages from falling on the floor,[apparently there’s one born every minute] Now the Kwik Sew pattern does not have a band, it has wires. Ms.Loehr suggests both band and wires and although Watson has no provision for wires, I am thinking that the fit of the band should alleviate the necessity for wires. I have yet to catch up with the preparations and download the pattern and I have a bit more reading of Ms.Loehr, but I thought I would get this down in print so there would be less chance of my reneging on my decision. That is no guarantee mind you, just lessens the odds. I’m hoping it will be instructional. I need to move along from my comfort niche [it’s not as big as a zone]. We’ll see.



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timthumbHUVSUP0J red Monet timthumb

Just a very quick note to say that Simple Way, the leather bag kit people I told you about, have just informed me that they are having a JANUARY SALE – starting today and ending on the 31st January.

If my post aroused interest – do go over and have a look. Happy hunting!

n.b. I have no affiliation with Simple Way at all – just love their stuff.

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I am offering grateful thanks to Jane [] who did a post on ideal gifts, and she linked to this;


Which led me via a convoluted route to the ever helpful Kate at [do check them out!]. They do all wonderful things in leather, ideal for those us who like to have our wardrobes and accessories handmade. They even have ready mades for those who aren’t keen to do it themselves.

timthumbshoes handmade

The handbag is the Kelly bag of course, and is probably going to be my next make, but meanwhile, back at the ranch I have made two of these [yes two!!]

red MonetThis is the Monet bag, it comes ready cut with the holes punched and the needle and leather thonging to sew it all up – what could be simpler? I made a black one first [bought through Janes’ link from Fabric Godmother] and then this one in Very Berry Red, which I love, from the Simple Way themselves. I also bought one for my daughter Abigail to make and she loves it as it accommodates her i-pad beautifully. Not content, I also bought us both two kits for these;

timthumbHUVSUP0Jyellow purse

So even if you have had no interest so far and are just curious – and if like me you love to try and learn something new, then check these out. They are so reasonable and I agree with Jane, they would make lovely presents, although it may be a bit late for giving next week, but there are always reasons to give aren’t there?

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Since my recent sudden and quite unexpected illness I have lost a bit of weight, so most of my sewing recently has been alterations. Ugh! this would usually bring on a long list of things I would rather do than that. However it gave me a good opportunity to go through my wardrobe, cull those items that really weren’t worth the alterations, discovering other items that would now fit comfortably and not snuggly  and finishing items where the fit was more spot on. Truth be told I had let a few pounds creep on but told myself I was still in the ‘size range’ I normally had so what? We can usually tell ourselves anything we want to hear but given the opportunity I took it and that is why the prospect of alterations was not half so bad as it might have been. I now have fewer skirts, but that means an opportunity to make more! There’s always a silver lining when you’re a seamstress [not literally of course]. I now have a valid reason for looking at more patterns and using up some of the store of fabric I have.

There are still staple items I need, but I have bought the pattern for a cape! Sadly the one I coveted was Vogue 8776, as seen here in Sarah’s make from Goodbye Valentino,

sarah gunn's cape

which looks absolutely great on Sarah but on looking at the pattern, which although Out of Print is still available in their OOP section, I decided that it wouldn’t be as easy to wear and move around [e.g. driving ]


I wasn’t too sure about the horizontal arm opening, I think it would tend to lift the whole cape and be a bit restrictive,  so I  have bought Vogue 8959 instead;


not quite as exciting to make perhaps but which I hope will be more wearable. On a more mundane plane, I have T-shirts and a T-shirt dress to make and I quite like Carolyn’s post on the Watson Bra pattern []. It looks nice and comfy and I have just the stuff. I feel my list of things growing exponentially already!

Posted in coats and jackets, dressmaking, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, skirts, Works in Progress | Leave a comment