REVIEW – Islander Motor City Jacket -CRAFTSY

biker jacket

   I chose this course and this pattern for several reasons. Not in any order – they are; [i] I really like Janet Pray’s Craftsy Classes. She shows you really practical and efficient ways of doing something you thought you were doing well for years [and were wrong] and [ii] I really wanted to move away from my usual style of jacket and stretch my skills a little. This jacket is a little out of my comfort zone for style and incorporates details I have never tackled before. A definite challenge and one I couldn’t resist.

With the aid of  a previous class I have made three of these jackets below with the help of Janet’s ‘Sew Better,  Sew Faster’ course and I learned a great deal, so I’m glad I took that class. Janet has a clear and simple way of explaining and debunks many sewing myths we previously accepted without question.

Island systems 004

001ice cream lady 006

So how did I fare with this latest course? I won’t say that it was without some problems. Mainly of my own making. Mostly with buying the zips.  The Motor City jacket has 7 zips. Four zipped pockets, a zip on each sleeve and an asymmetrical zip up the front. I originally bought all open ended zips and had to get the proper ones for the pockets as the open ended zips are generally too heavy and clunky to fit small pockets and unnecessary anyway.

Despite having worked through one of Janet’s classes before and eventually getting my head round her order of working to sew the previous jackets, I still had to get used to it again this time which tells me that I didn’t adapt fully to this method to use at other times. Most of us are used to sewing a garment in the designated way the pattern dictates but Janet introduces as many industrial methods of working into a home sewing environment as possible which means sewing in an order you may not be used to but speeds up the process. The sewing is divided into sections which follow a logical order and all the sewing is done in that section before pressing. I must admit that is the hardest part for me, I am so used to pressing as I go – an inefficient way of doing things, but ingrained. I must admit it is far smoother to do things Janet’s way.

This pattern is well drafted and the only difficult part for you to do is trace off the pattern accurately [rather like Burda, but less confusing] and add all the markings to your pieces. After that it is a piece of cake and it all goes together like clockwork. The instructions are clear [not like Burda] and the video and the booklet really leave no room for error.


I have finished my jacket. I made it in a charcoal fine needlecord and put in a black ‘silky’ lining, probably some form of man-made but quite soft and fine and used black zips. I had toyed with the idea of coloured zips but my natural conservatism [small ‘c’] won out.  I am very happy with the finished garment and have already worn it a couple of times. #3 daughter tells me I mustn’t wear it with a skirt only trousers, so I have dutifully worn it with trousers so far, but it does feel a bit ‘biker-chick’, definitely not something I am comfortable with,  so I shall be wearing it with skirts more often than not I expect. But I am most happy that I now have the confidence to tackle projects that at one time I would have avoided and my standards have gone up a notch. Thanks Janet.

Posted in coats and jackets, dressmaking, FIBRE CRAFTS, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, Works in Progress | 4 Comments



On Saturday I took my four youngest grandchildren [3,9,11 & 14] over to Reading to visit with Harriet, another grand-daughter who is married and very crafty [I could say handy, but her home is 19 miles away – boom! boom!]. She had done this project with a young home schooled lad she helps with his  crafts;


Aren’t they  awesome? We thought so and immediately thought we would like to do some too. The white shoes and sharpies were duly bought and Harriet kindly set her Saturday aside to help us do these;


Caleb [14] is into grown up simplicity and just wanted to do ‘elements’. I didn’t want to show my ignorance and ask. But I really loved his shoes nevertheless.


Jacob [11] is a fan of Five Nights At Freddie’s. I’ve never seen the cartoon, but have been assured these are faithful renditions of the characters. Anyhoo, my ignorance aside, I thought they were great and very well drawn.



Carrie [just 9 this week] is obviously a fan of ‘Frozen’ and designed hers with her favourite characters and snowflakes. She was rightly very proud of hers and I thought they were beautiful and envy-worthy to those of her friends who also love Frozen, who will probably be green when they see these!!


Phoebe [3 nearly 4] had a lovely brave effort at flowers on her shoes, surprisingly us all, and then decided she would far rather colour the inside of her shoes. They were her shoes and her call, so that was fine.



The problem we had to bear in mind with all this is that Sharpies will do bleed on white canvas shoes, so pretty soon in we learned that we had to halt just short of the line where we wanted to be.

Oh yes, and I had a go too. Here are my efforts [I’m not giving my age];

!9 april 2015 018 !9 april 2015 022

!9 april 2015 020 !9 april 2015 019

 On a completely different note, I have always defended my chickens against those that say they have no brains. My girls have personality and are very intelligent I’ll say. That is, until I saw this earlier this week. I don’t know if this picture is clear, but all three girls tucked themselves into a tight corner of one of the empty veggie patches to have a dust bath. Now there are several of these empty veggies patches, they could easily have had one each, but they wriggled and squiggled for quite some time, taking some time pushing each other out of the spot, ending up on top of one another. They finally compromised into this;

!9 april 2015 010

I have dug this patch over and weeded since this photo but they seem to have returned to sanity now and have shown no interest in the newly dug patch.

Finally a few optimistic photos of things to come.

!9 april 2015 013 Apples and pears!

!9 april 2015 012

Posted in FIBRE CRAFTS, handmade, Life a Work In Progress | 1 Comment



I apologise for the radio silence. This has been due to two things; I have been very busy Craftsy-ing and have signed up for several more classes – drinking in all the help I can get, also for a few days I have had another post all drafted and just waiting for my BH [better half] to take some photos of me actually wearing the outfits I have completed that haven’t yet been blogged about, but life has entered a bit of a conspiracy on that second one but hopefully I will have something to show soon, hence the title of this post.

I have to admit to going a bit overboard with signing up for yet more classes, but these are all so good. I have the excellent Pam Howard on Modern Jacket Techniques and Jacket Fitting Techniques[two separate classes]. I have another brilliant Janet Pray on [would you believe?] The Motor City Express Jacket, which is a biker jacket complete with 7 zips! Now there is going outside your comfort zone. But I can’t wait to get the pattern [which comes with the course and is sent from the US] and get started. Of course, I will need more fabric – that goes without saying, but meanwhile I am trying to make some sort of order with the fabric mountain   stash I already own. Lastly, but by no means leastly on the sewing front, I have Kenneth D. King’s Pocket Construction class which is so clearly and superbly given.

These four classes will give continuing excellent guidance for all sorts of sewing skills and applications, not just for jackets and pockets. They give you an insight to the excellent standards that professionals adhere to. Sewing can be a bit like driving, the longer at it probably the more bad habits you acquire. These Craftsy courses for me are a bit like an Advance Driving course.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Craftsy had a 50% sale! So I also bought a Beyond the Basics [weaving] OK-ish but nothing really that new to me, but enjoyable, also ‘The Weekend Duffle Bag’ which looks fun to make. So there you have it, the Confessions of a Craftsyholic. Still sewing behind the scenes!

Posted in dressmaking, FIBRE CRAFTS, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, Works in Progress | 3 Comments

S O ~ S L O W L Y – refitting Vogue 2615

I would like to pretend that I am taking things slowly with this remake/refit of Vogue 2615 because I am doing things properly and getting it right this time. The truth is I  am not quite sure yet just what I am doing.

rugs 003   rugs 004

The original fitting problems are no longer there since I have lost about 16lbs in weight since first picking the jacket apart and I need to start all over again.

So, when in doubt – research! I have several books on pattern fitting, but I couldn’t really find anything that exactly covered the problems I was experiencing here. I checked Craftsy and signed up for several more classes [when in doubt throw money at the problem].

Because I had done such a number on the pockets previously one of the first classes I signed up for was Kenneth D King’s ‘Designing Details -Pockets’. Worth every penny and although I probably started sewing before most of you were even a twinkle**, I learned such a lot and had so many ‘light-bulb’ moments, that even had I not had this project on hand I would have had to invent one just to try out his techniques. I don’t know if I then got side-tracked because I found myself signing up for more classes not directly related to fitting; i] Sew Smarter, 30 Professional Techniques. and ii] Sew Like a Designer – fashion details. Very useful for improving my sewing and finishing skills, but not specifically useful for fitting issues.

So how am I getting on with the fitting? s.. l.. o.. w.. l.. y, so slowly. I have been pinning, tacking, trying on and undoing ad nauseam. I got out the original paper pattern [which I had altered slightly on the Swedish tracing paper version] to see if this helped. It didn’t help as the bulging over the bust seemed to be inbuilt into the pattern.

In general; I am redoing the buttonholes. They are a little bit wider but not as clumpy, i.e. thinner ‘lips’ which I prefer. The hymo interfacing began to fray around the edging with all the unpicking and handling, so I stabilised the edges on the overlocker. The list grows exponentially longer it seems. As I do one thing, two more things pop up to be seen to. I have a feeling this project may well outlive me!

** years of sewing don’t always equal skill unfortunately!

Posted in coats and jackets, dressmaking, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing, Works in Progress | 3 Comments


‘Change is the end result of all true learning’ Leo Buscaglia

Largely self evident I would have thought,[if no changes are necessary then you already know what you are doing but that’s just me, perhaps it is more profound than that]. It’s true nevertheless and some changes are having to be made if improvements are to be made around here. So I shortlisted a couple of previous makes to see what could be done.

We could start with this little number, Vogue 2615

rust jacket 002

 previously blogged a year ago in March 2014.

Then in April there was ;

metal shed 009 rugs 003rugs 004

As I realised that the horrendous fitting issues around my bust were just too much to ignore. The lining was unpicked and the princess seams undone, resewn and undone again and I got as far as accepting that all fit issues start at the shoulders and then it was put to the back o f the sewing closet shelf sine die [legal speak for ‘another day]

Although I vowed no more ‘that’ll do pig’ moments in my sewing, there were evidently quite a few with this make. So what was wrong, apart from the horrendous fitting issues around the bust? Well, as I was unpicking yet more of poor old Vogue 2615 I made a list and I don’t think it is yet exhaustive;-

  • the pockets were actually different widths!
  • the pocket flaps were different depths!
  • the buttonholes were ‘podgy’ [can’t think how better to describe them],
  • and the fitting issues in the princess seams were trying to be resolved by taking in sewing seams instead of manipulating the fabric and doing it properly!!!!!

It is now looking like this, a little sad for itself;

brown jacket 003 brown jacket 002 brown jacket 004

Seams opened, buttonholes removed [apart from the hole!] and pockets taken out. Then began the desperate hunt for the scraps of left over rust wool fabric. I hunted for days and thought I would have to opt for dark brown faux suede to redo the pocket flaps and buttonholes, but I eventually found enough to in the new craftroom shed to remake what I had removed, phew!

There is also the issue of dodgy shoulder seams and the sleeves will need to be refitted. Quite a bit to be getting on with don’t you think. So where will I go to learn how to correct this catalogue of errors? If indeed they can be corrected?

Fortunately for all us there is a wealth of blogland and internet help out there and I am currently trawling to re-find all of the excellent advice on fitting issues. I already have lots of books on the subject but you can’t beat actual examples that ordinary sewers like me have made.  I am also looking at other sewers’ works of excellence to give me the inspiration and impetus to keep on with this jacket. It may never be my favourite item to wear and it may look like a dog’s dinner by the time I have finished – but I shall have learned an awful lot along the way and that is what this exercise is all about really. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have been drafting and sewing a couple of skirts and lining stuff [skirts and dresses that didn’t have lining included either in the pattern or at the time of making]. I am waiting to be able to take photos of actually wearing the skirts, when I do I’ll post them.

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


I got so wrapped up in my rant about the print on the Von Nordheim book yesterday that I forgot entirely what the whole point of ‘my back to school’ post was supposed to be. My A.D.D. is working very well at the moment, I just wish the rest of me was too.
Being the perpetual wannabe student I love learning just about anything, but the obvious flaw in that is even if you learn how to do something, you don’t necessarily excel at it and you could become a bit of a jack of all trades with the usual consequences.

Sewing covers so many bases. There is the obvious practical purpose of being able to make most things that you need or takes your fancy and that quite properly satisfies many sewers, me included for the longest time. Somehow that isn’t working so well lately. Spinners often categorize themselves as either ‘production’ or ‘process’ spinners. I tended towards being a ‘process’ spinner. So what kind of sewer are you? I strongly suspect that most answers will be along the lines of ‘it depends’, but usually you lean one way or the other for most of the time. How to know? I think that if you get intrigued by new patterns with quirky seamlines or if a technique sometimes thought of as difficult makes you just want to grab some fabric and try it, then you are probably a process sewer. If you are motivated more by the thought that you need a pink blouse or a blue skirt or a pair of jeans, then I would say that the product is the uppermost motivation. Most sewers are a bit of both. Product is important to me of course, I still love being able to dress each day in ‘me-mades’ but to be honest process satisfies me most of all, so on balance I would say I lean towards being a process sewer.

Don’t we all love and admire beautiful skills? From time to time I surf You Tube just to look and admire the tailoring videos. I can easily drool over the beauty of a bespoke suit. Likewise watching the seemingly effortless speed of beautiful handmade buttonholes in the hands of  a master. So back to school for me. I am revisiting old makes to critique my level of skills then and if I have raised my game now. I have already culled blouses that really don’t satisfy my current level of satisfaction. It may just be  wonky topstitching, untidy inside seams or uneven buttonholes [even if these things don’t show!]. Even if scrapped totally, nothing shall be wasted but reused. Some may even get correction and be back in circulation.

I am feeling happily anticipatory. I shall take things slowly on the learning side and practise, practise, and practise as much as I need, but that is not to say that I shall stop production sewing, that is essential otherwise there is no point is there? There has to be a final product. Sewers are lucky they can combine both. Our garments can get more and more technically difficult and satisfy our need to improve our skills at the same time. We just need to stop and take stock from time to time and see if we are still getting the same satisfaction from what we are doing, I do anyway.

From time to time I shall show what I am doing and perhaps where I went to learn how to do it. It won’t be geographical unfortunately, but then that is good in that others can get to ‘go’ there too. I hope it will be helpful to any who want to accompany me. Thanks for staying with it this long!

Posted in dressmaking, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, me-made wardrobe, Sewing | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in dressmaking, handmade, Life a Work In Progress, Sewing | Leave a comment