NOT QUITE LIFE -v- ART! [an apology of sorts]

When you keep a blog-diary you inevitably collect a lot of photos  in your media file. As it is approaching the end of another year of wearing 95% of my own hand made clothes [the other 5% allowed for tights, shoes and coats – although I have worn handmade jackets] I thought I would have a look at mine to assess just what I have, how far have my sewing skills progressed if at all and lastly just where am I going next.

However one thing that struck me about my media file, apart from the atrocious photography, is that I have only one or two photos of me actually wearing the clothes. I usually take the photos in my sewing room on the dressform  [boring] or have one or other of my daughters wear them, again usually against a wall! The ones below are of me btw.

ice cream lady 006 ice cream lady 005

This, despite the fact that the blogs I really love to read and find interesting all portray the makes being worn and usually in absolutely beautiful settings, not just a wall behind. I am thinking of Carolyn [Handmade by Carolyn] and Sarah Gunn [Goodbye Valentino] and the list goes on all over the globe. Carolyn usually has her beautiful dog with her, who almost steals the show!

Now there is nothing wrong with taking photos indoors, usually here in the UK it is advisable due to the weather. BUT to see the clothes as they ought to be seen they should be on a model, not wooden, but living – mea culpa. Now I can’t promise an improvement in my photography skills, believe me I’ve tried and this is as good as it gets, but I can try to at least rope my better half in to take some of the makes actually being worn. There! I’ve said it and it is in black and white [good job nobody reads this blog!]

Meanwhile back at the ranch here is the first make recorded in this blog and here is the most recent. No improvement in the photos but quite a bit in the production.

 red dress 004

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

SIMPLICITY 1609 – Lady in Red.

red dress 004

I just had enough material to finish my crimson Simplicity 1609 – the 1960’s tribute shift dress mentioned in my last post. I didn’t quite have enough to cut out the facings as per pattern, which were drafted all in one piece. I had to redraft the neck facing and sleeve facings separately in order to use up all available material. I didn’t line it, I shall make have made a separate undershift/petticoat to keep the fluidity of the design. Rightly or wrongly I thought that perhaps a fixed lining would ‘ground’ the shift too much. I overlocked the facings and side seams and bottom of the hem and it looks quite tidy inside but I can’t leave it without a lining of some kind because the material is quite scratchy.

red dress 005red dress 006red dress 008

For such a simple frock I was taking no chances. I find that the simpler the design the more careful the execution has to be if it is not to look ‘home made’, so as shown in my previous post I tacked all the markings, the balance lines and the darts. I also made up two toiles to get the skim-fit just right. In the end I cut it out and my first finish was just a tad too loose, so I had to go back and take in the darts at the back. I toyed with the idea of undoing the front and side seams and taking them in, but I didn’t have to and was I pleased about that!

So there you have it. I have a few projects in mind next. I really love Sarah Gunn’s Vogue 8776 cape

sarah gunn's cape


[] and would love to do it in just that tweed. However, I have a long list of ‘want to’s’ and a couple longer list of ‘need to’s’. Disciplining my mind is the problem at the moment to concentrate on keeping on task – whatever that is. My initial relief on getting back to sewing has waned a bit and I am now getting a bit annoyed with myself. I have a lot going on in the background and sewing is really my relaxation and escape I suppose, but it isn’t quite doing its job at the moment.

Looking back over recent posts I saw that in one I had listed the makes that I had not photographed or posted, one of which was my dyed ‘denim’ short sleeved blouse. This is just a plain shirt type blouse made from some no longer white cotton sheeting that I put in with other things I was dyeing navy blue. The result was quite a pleasing denim colour. I put a white collar band on it to lift the colour a bit. It is a very useful little blouse and I wear it more than I initially thought.

red dress 009  red dress 011red dress 012

Like most sewers I have to make myself strike the proper balance between sewing clothes I wear daily [such as underwear – on my ‘need-to’ list] more tops and skirts and those items where I feel I really need to stretch myself and improve my skills, coats and jackets – and yes, Vogue 8776!


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A lady can change her mind can’t she? Well, I certainly can, and have. In this post I made a point of saying that my so called ‘mystery’ Burda M104 jacket  wasn’t meant to have a lining. I put one in and took it out again. It didn’t seem quite finished to me though and even although I wore it a couple of times and it seemed fine I wasn’t quite satisfied with the finish.Well, this time I put it back in again and it was fine. I even played around with the embroidery stitches on my new machine. A long way to go there, I think.


It took me a while to figure out what was wrong in the first place and it was the first principle of dress making – making sure that the grain of the fabric runs perpendicular to the hem/floor. It was the front facing and front of the jacket which weren’t on the true together. This made the front of the jacket swing to the side. Then when I went to put in the lining, trying to force it straight it bagged and looked most peculiar. This didn’t show up so badly without the lining but nevertheless was there.  Such a basic, elementary thing, but so important as we all know it makes all the difference between success and disaster. Fortunately I managed to put it right.

So this time I am taking no chances. I am sewing Simplicity 1609.Simplicity 1609

I was drawn to it  by pure nostalgia after watching the Children in Need edition of Great British Sewing Bee and one of the Hairy Biker Dave Myers’ make in his  episode’s final makes.[There are lots of clips on YouTube]. It was so reminiscent of the shift dresses I used to make that I just had to give it another go. Sometime ago I managed to get 2yds of quite a loose woven woollen material in a lovely warm red. I think it cost me about £7 and has been in my stash for quite a while. I had a  shift dress in this colour when I was making shift dresses  so I deemed it just right for this. So back to basics;


I tacked both the vertical grain line and the horizontal. All the pattern markings were tacked as well. I considered that as the design is so simple the balance just had to be right to hang well. I also have a matching lining to go in. Whether fitted or a slip type underdress I haven’t decided. We’ll see how it goes. I have to change my overlocker thread to crimson so that I can clean up the seams, not quite looking forward to that, although why I don’t know it is never as bad as feared, why do we hate it so? I also have to source a 22″ red zip, a trip into town I think.

And finally, the almost final stage of the pistachio ensemble. The lining is in, not without a bit of fiddling. I wanted to attach the hem of the lining to the jacket. It just didn’t work. In the end I just hemmed the lining and let it hang free. The material is so temperamental it shows every bruise. I still haven’t decided how to close it. Top-stitching around the edge of the jacket made it ‘frill’, and that little episode took a lot of unpicking, so I am a bit wary of trying a buttonhole. The jury is still out on that.

DEBBIE 014     DEBBIE 015

Jacket; Burda 01/2003/M104; Skirt Burda  8849 ;Top self drafted. Dress; Simplicity 1609

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The inclination to sew has only just crept through the door this week, after being absent for a couple of weeks or so due to a sudden and unexpected indisposition and being confined to bed. Usually this doesn’t deter me from doing something, but perhaps the fact that I couldn’t raise the energy to even think about it tells you something of how I felt!

There is sewing to show, however. I had already completed a couple of things and had only to take the photos. I need to do this to keep  up the record of things I’ve been making [good or bad] as it does help you keep track of any progress in your sewing skills, and even a blog which nobody reads but you is an excellent way to do this. What it hasn’t produced so far is any noticeable improvement in my photographic skills, but we can’t have everything, so please bear with me.

First up is my version of a skirt I liked in a well known UK store, which made its name in underwear [it was rumoured that Maggie Thatcher bought there!]. I first saw it in a vibrant yellow, which I preferred but I could only find this colour, which they also do. My friend tried one on – and they were obviously designed for the younger market as they were quite short. It is a long time since I wore skirts several inches above my knees, in fact I never did, just on the knee or below was more my style, so I drafted mine a decent length for me. My version is not quite the exact of the original store one, but I like it.

Nov 2014 004   Nov 2014 003 The pockets are faux.

Whilst mooching around in the store looking at the RTW new styles I saw a little black jacket I liked. It had interesting fastenings of little bows. I drafted a pattern from my favourite jacket which is on the same style[-ish]. I had some dark grey wool that I thought could be used as a practice piece. The result is not quite what I envisaged – a bit boring really, but I’m a little pleased with the detailing. I lined it in case I wanted to wear it, but I don’t think I will. Changes I would make if I made it again; shorten it, lower the front neck a smidgen, and put a little more shape in the front princess seams and in the side shaping. It looks a bit shapeless on the dressform, but here it is for what it’s worth.

Nov 2014 008Nov 2014 007

My current project is using up the fabric left over from this skirt.pistachio 008

I called it ‘pistachio’ for want of a proper name for the colour. It is a ghastly fabric to work with really, and if I thought the skirt was difficult then the jacket is a nightmare! I thought I would like to line it with a heavier lining – not quite sure if it is a good idea yet, still working on it. This is a picture in progress;

Nov 2014 001Nov 2014 002

Hopefully the little issues currently making my head ache will be resolved soon and I can show you the finished article.

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Do excuse the dreadful puns, but my cautionary ‘tail’ has a serious note. My #3 daughter’s cat has just returned after being missing for almost a week. My daughter was distraught; there are coyotes in the woods not far from where she lives and she was convinced her cat had been on their menu.

The Monday had been a public holiday in America and the weather had been warm and beautiful for October in Upstate New York so most folk had been busy mowing and putting their gardens to bed for the Winter. You’ve guessed it! The cat had noseyed its way into someone’s shed or garage and been accidentally locked in. Those of us who are cat owners, or had a cat at one time, would most likely have had a similar incident. When the owner of the garage or shed  next opens the door, the cat shoots out. Pierre was incredibly lucky. Normally by now Winter sets in there and folk have no need to get their tools out again until Spring! Winters there are very cold [sub-zero] so it could have been goodbye Pierre! My daughter and her family had done a neighbourhood check, but of course no-one had seen her [despite the name, Pierre is female]. SO the moral of the tale is – please check for any visiting pets before locking up for Winter. Mind you it can happen any time of year, but incarceration would be for a shorter time then as we go in and out of our tool sheds. So please be extra vigilant.

Really my timely reminder isn’t mine at all, but Patience Strong’s. It amused me and I copied it out and then forgot about. Feel free to be amused, irritated or both – but there’s an irritating ring of truth here somewhere;

TIME IN HAND By Patience Strong.

[a counsel of perfection!]

When a busy day you’ve planned – give yourself some time in hand – so that jobs don’t overlap. Try to leave a little gap – between the things you have to do – a tiny pause enables you – to get your balance with no need – to rush around at breakneck speed – never poised or punctual. Try to make an interval – so that there is time to spare – instead of hurrying everywhere.


Sometimes it’s beyond your power – to arrange a crowded hour – in a way that leaves a break – giving you a chance to take – a few brief moments to unwind. To be ahead and not behind – thus conserving energy – for the next activity….Up to most things you can stand – if you have some time in hand.”


Not much more to add to that !



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Here in England our unpredictable weather becomes even more unpredictable and certain items of the wardrobe tend to yo-yo in and out of the closets. Unless we are very organised the agenda for Winter sewing becomes a moveable feast with changes in the weather. I mention England rather than the UK or Great Britain as a whole solely because that is where I live and I well know that throughout these islands the weather varies enormously ~ even in what part of England you live, tiny though it be!

Then there are the Winter Collections to savour! Not that I buy RTW any more, but I do like to meander the stores and see what styles and colours are new [and usually I mutter something like “oh, that’s back again. I remember that in ‘*’ and again in ‘*’] but it does give you ideas and fresh perspective of construction and colour ~ and the styles are usually translated in the patterns we buy. The only fault I can find is that after a few stores the similarities and identical colour palettes all blur into one. One or two things did catch my eye, however, and I managed to re-create a similar style to those I like in a jacket and a skirt. I wasn’t really brave enough to take photographs and had to mentally make notes of the particular elements I liked. I only made one return visit to the stores to check a detail I hadn’t been sure of and have to say that although the jacket was meant to be a practice piece [not a toile – too much work went into making it] I quite like the finished styles although not particularly enthused about the dark grey fabric of the jacket. The only adjustments I might make in future to the drafted pattern is to lower the front neck opening and perhaps lengthen the body a smidgen.

Normally this time of year – the changing of the Seasons, brings its own collection of goodies for me in the way of various ailments and indispositions and this is the reason I have been absent from my post lately – no blogging, sewing or taking pictures – can’t be asked the way I feel at the moment, but hopefully very soon. Meanwhile, here’s some I took earlier.


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Missing perhaps, but certainly in action. Sorry for the long silence, I’ve been a bit under the weather and I just haven’t got around to taking the pictures. Trouble is I have forgotten what I’ve shown and what I haven’t, so I am having to go back into my archives to have a look myself!

Whoah! I just realised what a rubbishy post the last one was! A medal to anyone who bothered to read it. I was certainly mean with my explanations, had I been reading it on another blog I would have been very miffed as I like all the details with other peoples’ makes. So if you can bear it I will briefly fill in, otherwise we will be here all day.

First up, the dishcloth cotton knitted short sleeved jumper;catchup 001

It is of course the easy-peasy Sea of Jeans pattern once again [ check on Ravelry, my Ravelry ID is Creatifcrafts – it really is easy]. It really is dishcloth cotton too, that washed up to a lovely creamy white and very soft fabric.The patterns were taken from a Treasury of Stitches, The Knitters’ Bible “Stitch Library” – sorry to mislead, this is a much better collection i.m.h.o. They and are ‘Twist Stitch Chevron’ and ‘ Nosegay’. Both have 16stitches, so the stitch count had to be adjusted to accommodate the patterned panels and the stocking stitch panels in between.. As can be seen, I put the Chevron as side panels, I also just did three panels of Chevron in across the back, as I didn’t fancy the bobbles at the back.  The only difficulty I had with that was the two patterns had a differing number of rows, which I solved in a very basic way; -pencil and paper. I wrote down the corresponding row numbers in two columns and ticked them off as I went, rather like a school register [if you remember that far back!]

Hopefully these are more informative pictures. The top and skirt;


The top really is just a sleeveless shell. It just slips over the head, no problem. I used to put a zip in the side underarm seam [upside down, so the open end was at the hem]. This is how good RTW used to make them in non-stretch fabric for fitted tops, but I realised after a while there was no need in these looser boxier tops. The only difference with this particular one was that I had to piece together odd pieces out of the remaining scraps of the material to make up the front and back which makes for seams in odd places as can be seen in the above photo, but it all adds to the charm! As I said in the previous post, the skirt is a straightforward [‘scuse the pun] straight skirt. Just three main pieces and I added side seam pockets. Instead of darts I made tucks as in this grey polka dot summer skirt, blogged previously. sea of jeans 005.

Now,  here’s a list, just to remind me of the pictures I need to take for next time – these are the items made recently but not blogged or shown;-

1. ‘denim’ blue short sleeved cotton blouse; 2. white art silk sleeveless top; 3. beige/cream patterned cotton jersey tee; 4. plain beige cotton jersey tee; 5 plum coloured soft plushy-wool type skirt with front mock slit pockets; 6. charcoal grey Italian wool jacket with bow/press-stud fastening and 7 a black cotton jersey tee. The three tee-tops are from the Alabama Chanin pattern that came with this book DSC_2647 and all the patterns are incredibly simple, straightforward and well fitting relying on embellishment to make it something out of the ordinary. However, I still haven’t got round to making a proper stencil

and having a go at the real deal [below]; [photos from Alabama Chanin website]


My own freehand attempts below – blogged previously are as far as I have got on this one.catchup 008  catchup 009

My head just hasn’t been in the right place, although I did draft the pattern for the charcoal grey jacket this week, which I am secretly quite proud of! [not so secret now though]. That is a tale all of its own but more of all that later when I’ll try and catch up a.s.a.p with the photo’s – promise.

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I have a camera ~ so this will be a pic-heavy post with minimal words I’m afraid in order to catch up with finished items before they’re forgotten. Once again I apologise for my photography – I may have another camera but my photography skills haven’t improved. I also just snatched a few minutes to pop these on my dress form to take the snaps, no styling I’m afraid.

First up another ‘Jeans Top’, this time in dishcloth cotton would you believe?

catchup 001

  catchup 002

Not a lot to say about this top, I chose two separate patterns for the panels just to keep my interest  whilst knitting the third version of this very easy top.

Second up is the mystery jacket Burda M104 ensemble. Skirt is just a straight skirt with side pockets and tucks instead of pleats. The top is sleeveless shell top made from button through dress that had seen better days and just yielded up enough fabric [with a lot of engineering] good enough for this top. [Skirt and top are self drafted patterns].

catchup 003 catchup 005 catchup 006

Lastly my version of Alabama Chanin -made before I got the Mylar sheets to attempt the proper stencils just because I was impatient to try it out. I cut out the T-shirt pattern that came with the book and just free handed a drawing in tailors chalk and made it up as I went along. I quite like the finished version, even although it isn’t the ‘proper’ thing, which hopefully will come later. Made in two layers of 100% cotton jersey in olive/khaki combo.

catchup 008 catchup 009catchup 011

I’m happy to say that all the above look much better in ‘real life’ than my photography gives them credit for.  I also made the ‘A’ line skirt in the cotton jersey in the same olive green from the book – this photograph is almost too bad to show, but I have no shame!

catchup 012I have made another couple of tops, one in jersey and one in an ivory embossed silky fabric, but these will have to wait for another day. Glad to be back.

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

I’M HOOKED! but sadly invisible….

Lets start with the invisible bit. My camera wont stay on, there is something wrong with the on/off button and even holding it down hard won’t keep it on, so although I have lots quite a bit to show, a skirt and jacket, a couple of tops, another jumper and a brand new sewing machine*@#!!


This is a product picture, I can’t even take any pictures myself, but this is a pretty good picture of it. When I can borrow a camera from my #5 daughter I will take more. My Frister Rossman is fine, but only does one kind of buttonhole. It was a good basic sewing machine for those like me two  years ago just starting [or in my case] re-entering the world of machine sewing. I shall put it on Ebay most likely. I will also put one of my Singer vintage 99K’s on at the same time – I don’t really need two. So now I have three sewing machines and an overlocker, so I think that is enough, don’t you? I know my DH does.

What am I hooked on? This


I have been lusting and lurking around Alabama Chanin and all their absolutely out of this world gorgeousness, but really thought it was for the younger ones amongst us. But then I saw Carolyn’s Mum’s outfit on  and I was converted. You must go and look. I have the book and I have the samples and cotton jersey on the way tomorrow – so way to go Moseley! [my yankee s.i.l.’s nickname for me]. I have been practising my stitching and cutting, and when my mylar sheets come later this week I will get going practising my stencil cutting. A busy but happy time ahead my crystal ball tells me. See you again when I am more visible.


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I have sometime spoken in the past about my happy place. I have more than one, as we probably all do, but this one is sewing related.  So this is just a continuation of my previous post with pictures that speak for themselves.

003 004


Many happy, industrious hours are spent here. Whilst it may look like a surplus of sewing machines they all have their uses- the Singer 201 let into the surface in front of the window [previous post] is my main machine for straight stitch. Nothing, nothing can compare to the quality of the stitch on this machine, truly a Rolls Royce! The other vintage model on the window sill is a hand cranked Singer 15-90 which belonged to my mother, and on which she made my clothes when I was a child. In its time it has been a treadle machine, an electric machine and is now hand operated. I still have the light and motor, but has no foot pedal at the moment, although it could be obtained from somewhere, Ebay most probably. This has purely sentimental value, and does still work remarkably well as it would do being a Singer of that era. On the table on the left are my Cooperlock, a good basic overlocker, another workhorse and my Frister Rossman,  which I use for buttonholes and stretch stitches. Oh, I must mention my chair – a charity shop bargain for £20. It is a comfortable swivel office chair, which allows me to swing round and scoot from table to table, such fun and so convenient.

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