In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Wraps That Challenge Up

By Hand London Victoria Blazer in chambray

Oh reader:  our time has come.  Thanks for sticking here.  I may have stretched the rules a wee bit by allowing my challenge to end in (cough) June when a year was technically a month ago.

Now I’m going to state the blindingly obvious-  I made more than six garments this last year.  But I’m jolly pleased with how it’s all turned out!  My technique has improved vastly and my speed (whilst not exactly hare-paced) is better than when I started out.  Heavens- I even pin faster!

Before we continue, shall we look at my final piece for the Six Pattern Challenge?  I present my By Hand London Victoria chambray blazer.

By Hand London Victoria Blazer in chambray

This was last minute sub for a bra which was the substitute (less said of that mess the better, she says shaking her fist at the tatty pile of threads and elastics that’s masquerading as a half-finished toile in the sewing box…)  for the rain jacket.

The rain jacket pattern, by the way, I still like a lot.  I simply decided towards the end of the year that I’d had enough following rules and I wanted to make something that I really wanted.

By Hand London Victoria Blazer in chambray

So let me wrap up (with a fist pump, yeah!) my year of six patterns.  I started with the notion that if- if- I could only accomplish making these six (and if I’m honest this time last year I wasn’t convinced I could) patterns that would be an awful lot more making than before.  I’d been aching to make more…stuff.  Wasn’t sure what direction to take for the longest time.  So now I’m properly on this me-made clothes wagon I’m pretty chuffed I’ve made it this far with many more than six items to wear with love and pride!  Will I wrap up the blog now I’m done?  No.

By Hand London Victoria Blazer in chambray

This has been excellent impetus to keep making, keep getting inspired, keep learning new techniques, keep the conversation going with other makers who I now call friends.  I’m part of the community and I love it.  It’s such a joy adding my own little thread into the always-weaving story that’s happening amongst people who love to distil some of themselves into a handmade, hand worked, hand crafted, personal item.  Thanks for cheering me on here, on social media, in real life.  Now to enjoy some rule-free sewing, hurrah!

By Hand London Victoria Blazer in chambray



Pattern is the By Hand London Victoria Blazer  for my Six Pattern Challenge.  

The Chambray One- view A- the outer is of a dark blue chambray from Rolls & Rems (Lewisham) and the lining is a lovely cream polyester (I think!) something-or-other (very heavy and very drapey) with tiny black- adorable- bows from my expert-enabler mother.  Because of the nature of the lining it will not lie flat which is a burden I can bear considering it- as before noted- has tiny black bows on it.  It was shortened a small amount so I can wear with skirts and not flatten them.   Look, the pockets are wonderful.  I’m rather proud of my fabric combos.  Could probably do with a bit more room in the upper arms but my arms are skinny twigs so I’m not sure I want to grade up to the next size (any advice on such things gratefully received!).  Adios, friends.  I’m celebrating with a cup of tea and sewing a couple of darts into my next project!

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In Which A Bit Of An Enthusiast Takes On Frilly Trews And Loses

Kwik sew 3882

Dear Reader: I think I’ve been hoodwinked.  I’m pretty sure anyone who used this pattern was.  Let’s talk pyjamas.  They’re simple, surely?  In this case, a simple jersey (stretchy fabric) vest top and a simple pair of long bottoms with drawstring.  How many pattern pieces d’you reckon the trews would take?  Two?  Four?  Six?

Kwik Sew 3882

How about 10?!  I’m afraid this is very much a Case of the Over-Engineered Pyjama Bottoms.  Is it too dramatic to suggest I was exhausted after cutting all those pieces out?  Never mind stitching the many bits and bobs together until we finally- finally- had a working pair of pj’s!  The other problem is this:  there’s a massive great FRILL along the top- just where a gal wants extra fluff, right?  Wrong!

Kwik Sew 3882

She was delighted she had, at last, learned to read

Should’ve guessed when the pattern packaging showed the models wearing their vest tops tucked in.  Really.  Who on earth wears their pyjama top tucked in?  Butlers?  Statisticians?  No-one, that’s who.  Unless you have a ruddy great frill on your trews that looks weird unless you’re neatly tucked in like a starched sheet on a matron’s bed.

Kwik Sew 3882

See what I mean about that frill?  Unnecessary fluff!

That aside, the vest is fine.  I’ve worn these to death thanks to the very soft and drapey fabric.  But next time I think I’ll stick with simple and make the Margot bottoms out of Love at First Stitch!

Kwik Sew 3882

Yes, I always look this put-together (stop sniggering) and relaxed after catching my z’s…

In other news– and here’s a bit of a spoiler (wink)- I’ve successfully mastered the Six Pattern Challenge I set myself a year ago.  I haven’t, however, made myself Mistress of Time and therefore we’ll all have to wait till next week for the finale…


Details: Jim Jams are the Kwik Sew 3882 pattern, made up with a cheap-as-chips drapey something-or-other from the lady on the corner near Deptford Lounge.  It was about £2 or so for three metres!  After a zillion washes (yup, I made this quiiiiiite a long time ago!) it’s almost flannel-y and wonderfully soft.  The vest is a grey marl jersey from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham, reasonaly priced undoubtedly but not something I remember now.  It’s lovely and soft too.  It’s fairly roomy but cosy and I’m sure could be used for tank tops for general wear, if I were tempted, without any problems.  The trews are made with a 6mm/1/4″ seam allowance for some bizarre reason- now I’m a Grown Up Stiticher I know that’s a SA you’d use for quilting- not a pair of oft-washed bottoms!  Consequently, they’re sort of falling apart.  All that aside and even with the unloved frill, these get worn all the time!  Except in public (until today, that is…)

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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Has Her Apple Cart Upset (to Delightful Result)

Friends, what do you do when a beautiful shirt dress pattern comes your way?  You incorporate it into your Six Pattern Challenge, of course.  Now, when I added M6696 to the challenge, it was my favourite (if you’re a regular sewing blog reader I’ll bet you know which one it is without even having to look).   I couldn’t wait to sew this one up!  But first, get some skills, woman.  So I did.McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

First we had what turned out to be a wonderful pleated skirt pattern (here and here).  Then we had a cute jersey Summer throw-it-on dress.  Then came the over-engineered pyjamas (to be blogged) and The Dress That Must Not Be Named.  All good for working those skills and building up to a glorious fit & flare style shirtdress.  And then something happened to pique my pride.

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

It got popular.

Shirtdress in Liberty seasonal Farhad, grey

M6696 became the pattern to blog about in 2014 and it somewhat upset my apple cart.  The apple cart being my imaginary world of uniqueness.  What to do when everyone makes your (how proprietary of me!) dress?  Pondering here, pouting (a little) there, I finally smelled the coffee and decided just to get on with it.  It’s one of the challenge patterns and not one I wanted to swap out (I’m allowed, according to my totally arbitrary set of rules, to do so to one pattern only).  So I swallowed my foolish pride and just went with it.

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

I’m glad I did!  It’s as lovely a dress as I’d hoped and, aided by a speedy make thanks to a few days at my parents’ house with my mother’s sewing room available all hours (lucky me!) I realised that this must not be a one-off.  No!  I have at least one more of these to make (with sleeves next time).  I so enjoy wearing this dress!

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress


Details: Dress is the McCall’s 6696 shirtdress pattern, made up with another wonderful Liberty lawn second (style: Farhad available here)in just the right, soft, grey with a great little early-mid 20th century print detail.  I made the sleeveless version and kept the gathered back.  Because I’m daft I made three bodice toiles for this- but the first was cut in the wrong bust size- the pattern comes with separate pieces for various bust sizes.  Once I’d put that right I ended up doing a small bust adjustment (toile the third) which was a first and I’m pleased with how simple it was to do!


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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Meets The Dress That Must Not Be Named

It happened.  I was scared of the day when it would.  I was right to fear.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty Fabrics

See what my face did there? Guess how this is going to go…

The dress that didn’t work:  you lovingly cut, pin, sew and all the rest and weeks later (never said I was quick at this sewing stuff) you find yourself throwing The Dress That Must Not Be Named in a corner and sulking every time it gives you the side-eye.  It knows.  The Dress knows you don’t like it because you poured effort and enjoyment and energy and money into it.  It knows it’s not at fault.  It knows that sometimes, a style doesn’t suit.  Could be fabric’s drape.  Could be the colour/patttern combination.  Could be personal style and body shape.  Could be all of those.  Probably.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

Just daydreaming here.  Don’t mind me, imagining other, better handmade garments.  YOU HAM.


Could be that when you showed your Husband the dress he says: “oh look!  It’s a Summer Sack!”.  Thanks Mr Enthusiast.  And then he saves the day by not only photographing the Nightmare Frock but-  BUT-  suggesting you put jeans on, tuck it in and see where this ship sails.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

Ooh now look here- bits I love!  See why I want to hack this into a shirt?

Stop the liner.  He’s a genius!  This dress you’re witnessing is, someday, going to make an EPIC shirt to wear with my high-waisted skinny jeans.  I’m going to grow my hair and pretend like I’m Stacey Sutton on m’ranch in an 80’s Bond film.  I’d put a picture in for you but all I can find are pics of her in silky jim-jams with a gun.  Great pj’s though.  And excellent hair.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

And the less said of this dress from here on in, the better!




Pattern is the McCalls M6600 for my Six Pattern Challenge, but made to much better effect at Sew Dixie Lou if you’re looking for inspiration!  I used a Liberty voile with a tiny red leaf print which feels glorious but from afar looks pink!  The contrast is Liberty babycord.  

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In Which A Bit of An Enthusiast Admits To Ignoring A Favourite Thing In Lieu of A New Favourite Thing

Tweed Grey Hollyburn

Dear River Island Favourite Favourite Grey Tweed Dirndl Skirt with the secret, tiny flocked black hearts on the inside- you were my first love.  My first skirt love, I mean.

Tweed Grey Hollyburn side

You started a passion for skirts with sweater tops and tees, skirts with big belts, skirts with cowboy boots, skirts with cute Mary Jane flats… five years of Skirt Love which you kindled.  But time passes and threads start wearing thin.  It’s not that I wanted to replace you- I just wanted to preserve you, you see.

Tweed Grey Hollyburn pocket & tab closeup

Which is why Hand Made Favourite Grey Tweed Hollyburn Skirt appeared on the scene and you were, sadly, relegated to the drawer.   I do have a guilty start when I see you lurking under a pile of pajama bottoms.  But you see, Grey Tweed Hollyburn is new and handmade and has lovely crisp pockets and cute vintage buttons on the tabs… well, you know how it goes.

Tweed Grey Hollyburn

It’ll need washing before too long and then you’ll see the light of day again.

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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Sort of Shops the Look

Ever tried “shopping the look”?  Me neither.  Never seriously because- and I’ll let you in on a little secret- I’m a rubbish shopper.  This also means I’m a cheap date which is good news for Mr Enthusiast but not good news for my wardrobe.  Here’s another secret for you, gratis:  if you sew your own clothes, you do not have to shop the look.  You can make the look your very own.  

Thrilling, non?

Where do you get your inspiration?  I’m pretty keen on the entire wardrobe worn by Jess Day, the lead character in sitcom New Girl.  Totes snazzy.  So when I saw this dress I decided, again:  I can make the look my very own.

Jess Day's Navy Dress

Image source

This dress.  Ooh lala.  It’s so pretty- the navy colour, the flat piped accents, that (as described on Modcloth) “fit and flare” style.  Erin's Flair for the Classics Dress from Modcloth

Image source


Navy and Mustard Megan Dress

When I laid my eyes on that dress I knew I could use it to inspire my own cute dress- I still had the recently-made Megan dress on my mind.  This time I wanted to try adding some details to a garment (such as piping)- and I had a scanty metre of this weird and adorable bargain bin Liberty cotton print in a lovely dark blue.

Navy and Mustard Megan Dress

The idea was sealed, Instagram stitchers quizzed as to which colour accent to use (mustard won out!) and away we were.Navy and Mustard Megan Dress back

I worked hard to make this dress in time for a lovely weekend away (here I’m standing at the promenade outside the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill- such a wonderful little town!) and it showed me how much work goes into those details- it’s fully lined with a hand picked zip, flat piping on the sleeve hems, in the waistline and piping at the neckline.

Navy and Mustard Megan Dress


There’s also the faux placket down the front with the bow and cute buttons from grandma’s tin.  Phew!  I’ve worn it on two big occasions-both times with the Shrek legs (must find better tights options!)- and loved it!

All there is now is for me to leave you with this Jess Day quote.  A little insight into yours truly, if you like:

 I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out.

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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Holidays By The Seaside, Wears a Megan Dress and Keeps Warm-ish in a Hand Knitted Cardigan

Black and White- Megan Dress from Tilly Walnes' Love At First Stitch and Knitted Cardigan from Craftsy Class My First Sweater

Readers, you know how this works.  You make some things and then what with one thing and another weekends roll on by without so much as a quick snap of said Sewn Items.  Happily this weekend changed that- we were on the South coast and a glorious beachy walk gave the perfick opportunity to look like a total amateur in front of a film crew who were faffing about with light meters and horse poo and whatever else techy guys on that particular (equine) film set get up to.

Megan Dress from Love At First Stitch

I’m told we missed seeing Ms Kidman and Mr Law being filmed on the same beach by a mere weekend.  The nerve.  Anyway, the dress.  Yes.  There’s not much of a story here- my very kind husband bought me Tilly’s book of dressmaking, Love at First Stitch for our wedding anniversary back in July.  What a pretty book!  Great projects, too.  But my least fave?  The Megan Dress.  I mean, I loved the jersey version in the book but the woven ones I’ve seen I just don’t love.  Then a while later I went browsing round my local market and the fabric lady had a thick stretchy jersey knit in black and white stripes.  Ping!  Went my braincakes.  Stripes!  Stripes and a solid!  A Megan in stripes and a solid!  At last I could reconcile with that pattern and I’m so pleased I did.

I’m not going to lie- the insides are a nest of iniquity and the stripes are kind of wonky on the bottom front but the bits I like, I REALLY like.  I love my zip insertion; I love how the stripes match across the zip at the back; I love the cute sleeves and how they seem to line up nicely perpendicular to the floor.   I love how it feels to wear in the soft fabric and the deep hem (it was a lazy moment of not wishing to cut the skirt shorter, but I like the look now) and how it looks with bright tights (I think Miss Demeanour would approve of that sentiment, being the Disco Tights in the Daytime Queen and all).  I even went so far as to make a little detachable collar should the fancy take me.  It’s love!

There’s a third make in these pics- my cardigan.  I took 8 months to knit this thing but it’s my first more technical project (i.e. not a knitted scarf or handwarmers or tea cosy!) and I’m so enjoying wearing it!  If you’re interested in moving your knitting to the next level but cardi’s are too scary (as they were for me) I can recommend the craftsy class My First Sweater – does what it says on the tin.  Not the most exciting class to watch but it’s a good one and easy to follow!

Black and White Striped Megan Dress from Love at First Stitch


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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Dabbles in Free Cutting Dressmaking

Lookee- I made a dress at a workshop!  With Chinelo of Sewing Bee fame herself!

Chinelo Dress 1

Let’s pretend I’m doing the hula- properly– here.

I probably just about missed it with the weather on this one, since both times I’ve worn this dress it’s been with a cardi and by this point Autumn is well and truly here (as in, I bought a squash and turned it into fake-but-real canned pumpkin (pardon me- squash) to make all manner of Autumn-themed treats).  But- BUT- I really do like it!

Chinelo Dress 3

Look- the thing is it’s not exactly my finest hour of dressmaking.  It’s pretty shabby in places (oh my-that zip!  It’s a shocker!), the straps a little too apron-y for my liking and I probably need some new- ahem- underpinnings to work with the scooped back or face looking flatter than the top of Table Mountain on a clear day (see photos for proof).  But most of it was made on a whim (see here for an earlier post with more class pics) with the aid of the one and only Chinelo Bally who pretty much gave me free rein on this baby and guided me through it.

Chinelo Dress Scoop Back

When I got home I decided that it needed lining to give that bodice a bit of oomph and- proud moment- I replicated what I’d learnt at the workshop a week later.  In my house.  Without help.  So, with replicated bodice part deux snugly attached, zip finally on and the straps dilemma sorted (I went with ties for a halter thanks to some excellent brainstorming with mum in law) we now have a fitted bodice dress, with halter ties, circle skirt and scoop back.  Happy dance (but only next Summer, when I can wear it again)!

Want to see the most ridiculous photo everrrr?  I was messing ’round with my kids and this…thing… appeared.  That used be a balloon dog.  Now it’s just kind of rude and hilarious, as balloons often are in the most festive way.  Enjoy me being a dork!



In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Allows True Love To Flourish in the Form of a Sencha Blouse and some Beautiful Threads

Hallo ducks!


A long, long time ago, in a life before sewing my own garments, there was a piece of fabric. It was beautiful. It was fluid. It was textured. It was grey. It was patterned in a navy all-over thirties-style/modernist geometric thingy.  It belonged to Someone Else.

The lovely hoarder that is my mama kept this gorgeous fabric tucked neatly in a drawer- who can blame her- but every time I went for a visit I would sneakily fondle this luscious pile of threads in a covetous manner. I mean, I didn’t go all Gollum or anything quite as tricksy Hobbitses as all that but… you get the idea. Then one day I discovered Colette Patterns (still pre-garment sewing) and knew that the Sencha Blouse and this fabric were meant for each other. They made a secret avowal of their love in my head and finally- finally- I convinced mama to hand the goods over. It was a mental battle of wits and not a little glint in mother-dear’s eye told me this fabric had better find a good home with me or I might never inherit the family collection of sewing items (I have it on good authority- my sister’s- that if she can have the oak four poster and the jewellery then I can have my pick of the China, Books, Vintage Ephemera and Sewing Related Goods. My brother (the youngest) will get the House because, of course, he’s the male and it was entailed on him by a stroke of good fortune on my (the eldest’s) part since I am just No Good at DIY or house projects. I also think the weather Up North is abysmal. He can have the place.)

Back to the handover. Glint dealt out, I swiftly put the precious goods in my suitscase and never looked back. Today I present the finished project. This blouse is every bit as lovely as I imagined and although there are no crisp lines to my darts, this georgette? Chiffon?- I’m still no good at identifying fabric- never was going to hold them. It feels lovely on and I’m extremely smuggety-smug at my muslining.

This is still a brave new world for me- I sewed the muslin of view 2 up (although the eagle-eyed among you will spot that this is version 1) and stared at a mirror for a good long time. No ideas. Google searched. Realised that I Just Need To Get On With It: i.e. opening out the tight bits and pinching in the excess from the loose bits. Well, it worked. Hence the smugness. To wit: I will be posting in the future a pointers post about changing the neckline and the armholes for personal comfort since there was very little out there to go on- perhaps it will help someone else. Oh- more smugness- the whole is French Seamed and rather pleased I am with that.

Please tell me you love the buttons? Grandma’s tin is coming in wonderfully useful- and I hope I’m not imagining that these are probably vintage glass buttons reclaimed from some elderly garment a long time ago. They look old. The feel old. And they’re just beautiful. I like to think a former family matriarch wore these in an-altogether-different era.


By the way-  I am working on the next pattern of the 6 Pattern Challenge but this just had to be sewn first!

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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Delves into the World of Stretch Fabric

Hey kids- I trust all’s shiny?  It’s been said before but it’s cooking hot in London and we’re all in shock.  Calm down, London, it’s only Summer.  I know, I know, it doesn’t usually happen so now we’re all secretly hoping the rain will stay for a week so we can wear knits and drink more tea (not that the heat is stopping the tea drinking.  One must stay hydrated) and eat pies and soup and Stay In.  London is weird when staying in becomes an event.  Staying in is what we do!  All over the internet people’s new Summer dresses (because we can get away with sewing more than one Summer dress and not have to be practical about it- viz. “if I sew another Summer item it’ll just never get worn.  I should sew something for our climate.  I really should”) are making an appearance.  So guess what?  Here’s mine!

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress

Butterick 5211


It’s the Butterick 5211, View A.  What’s new here?  Well, let me tell you:  I finished the second pattern in my six-pattern-challenge! Ahead of time (yeeehaw!).

The benefits are manifold:  I get my prize (a new pattern- double yeehaw!);  I’m getting a bit quicker at sewing processes;  I’m learning how to use small chunks of time to complete a garment (yay Marginal Aggregation of Gains!) and I’m learning new techniques.

This last was a double delight to me whilst reading Sarai’s wonderful memo to newbie stitchers– that lady comes up with gems of wisdom all the time.  What a treasure!

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress B&W

Kind of looks like a sack here. These pictures are terrible. Note to self: bribe the photographer with better treats next time.


New techniques here include using jersey (properly, using a pattern), changing a pattern for woven fabric to accomodate the use of said stretch fabric and trying front bodice lining instead of a neck facing (to make a neat neck and armhole seam).  Also- I’m in love with the overlock stitch on my machine!  It’s blimmin’ fantastic and makes for a really neat edge.  Oh, and twin needles.  Nice hems, what?

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress

When your photographer tries something new… like sprinkling a hosepipe whilst operating one’s iphone.


So you’re dying to know what’s next, right?   We’re ahead of schedule so I’m going ahead and fitting a Sencha blouse because  I don’t have enough blouses to go with all these skirts I’ve been sewing!  Until next time!

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