Monthly Archives: March 2013

(sewing for) Victory!

victory d

Butterick 5209, their repro 1947 pattern, finished in the nick of time!  I have Sewed for Victory!

I was originally going to use one of my proper vintage 40’s patterns. I have a lovely blouse pattern I wanted to make but I eventually decided it was too similar to the Mathilde that I had just finished.  I then cut out Butterick 5281. However a couple of days ago I realised I was running out of time and probably wouldn’t have time to stitch it all up from scratch. On to plan C…

I made first this pattern for the Sew Weekly 40’s challenge. I made the halter neck version, but shortly after I made a muslin of the bodice of the other view, with a back.  That was as far as I got. I was just about to give up on the Sewing for Victory challenge when I remembered this muslin.  I still had some of the fabric left to cut a skirt.  I stuck with the gathered waist but made it slimmer than the pattern required, I just think it looks more ’40’s’ that way.  It didn’t take much tweaking to add the lining and turn the muslin into a wearable dress. victory e

victory f

When I say ‘wearable’ what I really mean is ‘wearable if I stop eating for a couple of months’.  I have obviously put on a few pounds since I last made this.  Not to worry. I don’t know if I would wear this even if I could breathe in it. The fabric is actually really pretty but I don’t think the colours do anything for me. But I did it, which means I can also enter Rochelle’s fantastic Sewing for Victory give away.

victory b

Other news – I also had two Cambie’s to complete.  I am nearly there. I can do the straps before we leave then we have a long car journey today so I will try and use that time to hand sew the hems and the zippers.

victory c

Right, I’m off to finish packing.  Speak to you all in a week…

victory a

Let the Sewathon begin! First up – Elisalex No. 2

I don’t know why I do it to myself.  I am going away on Sunday. That is in three days time.  This time yesterday I had four dresses to complete – the Elisalex  from By Hand London that I want to wear to the wedding I am going to on Wednesday, two Cambie’s to take with me and my Sewing For Victory Dress.  I don’t know if I will do it but here is my first finished dress, my second Elisalex. Remember my impulse buy of baby blue polka dot poplin?


I went for the original skirt this time and I’m really glad I did. I LOVE this dress! Looking at the photos I can see that I haven’t quite cracked the fit yet. No idea what is causing the under-boob creases, but I’m hoping it is mostly due to not wearing the bra I wore when I was trying it on during the make. That would mean it is easily fixed.  Anyway I don’t think they show as badly in real life.


There are a lot of firsts here for me.  Mainly the hand sewing. I don’t know why I avoided it for so long. It was actually quite relaxing to do in front of a couple of episodes of Law and Order.  As well as the lining I hemmed the bottom and sleeves by hand and did my first ever hand picked zipper.  Not perfect, but I’m happy with it.  I underlined the whole thing with a cotton sheet to make sure it didn’t flop as the fabric was a bit drapey. It was also my first time using ric rac. I had it lying around so I thought why not? I think it turned out quite well.   And of course I had to add pockets, as outlined in this Sewalong post.


There is not a lot to say about the construction that hasn’t already been said. It came together really easily. I made a couple of adjustments after my last effort, mainly to take it in another inch at the back and at the front neckline.  Looking at the photos there are a few more tweaks I will make next time. I could have made more effort to match the polka dots at the back, and I can now see some puckers on the princess seams at the front, but I’m still happy with what I have come up with.  I did worry that all the extra pouffiness on my hips would make me look huge but i think it actually has the opposite effect, making my waist shrink.  It is really comfy and the sleeves hide my lunch lady arms (note to self- ten minutes a night with the weights really does make a difference, so just get on with it.)  Anyway, some more pics-

P1200785Taking photos must be taken very seriously…

P1200793 Not!

P1200792Of course I need to make sure I can dance in it.  I’m usually more of a ‘prop the bar up and watch’ kind of girl, but as it’s a wedding  I may be drunk enough to make the effort.

P1200807The back view. No idea where I got that bruise?  Legs like a brickie – classy.

P1200803Did I tread in something?

Right. Three more dresses in three days.  Bring on the Cambie production line…

Elisalex No 1 -twirly twirly…..

At last, as promised, I have completed my first Elisalex.

elisalex d

I am going to call this a wearable muslin.  Yes, I know that I do this quite a bit.  I admit that it is mainly to excuse the fact that it’s not quite perfect but I can’t be arsed to go back and fix it all.  Whatever, the way I see it as long as I am learning from my mistakes and I produce something that I am happy to wear despite the imperfections then I have a winner.  And by calling it a wearable muslin it means that I do intend to go back and make it again without all the little flaws.

Anyway… you can see that I made the sleeveless version and used a half circle skirt instead of the proper one in the pattern.  With hindsight I think that switching the skirts was a mistake.  At the time I wanted something full and twirly, in contrast to the other things I had made recently.  However I think that when I realised I only had enough fabric for the half circle instead of a full then I should have gone back to plan A.  In the end I also had to add a bit extra on the bottom as well as it was still way too short.  I think I just about got away with it.

Well on the plus side I can indeed twirl in it…

elisalex1 b

On the minus side, I think that on me, without the tulip skirt it looks a bit, dare I say it, meh….?  Don’t get me wrong, I do love the this pattern. It fits almost perfectly, and the whole thing came together really quickly and easily.   And some of the others I’ve seen online with different skirts have been fabulous, Kathryns, for example, and Lauren’s.   I just think this one is  nothing special.  Nothing to do with the pattern, just my bad choice.  And it’s a shame cos look at the fabric. I got this an age ago from Fabric Inspirations. Their website really is fabric porn if you like prints.   From a distance it looks like a kind of bandana print, but close up you get little tiny skulls! How cool is that?


elisalex1 cI had to take in the upper back by about an inch and a half on either side, which is pretty usual for me. And I still need to add a hook and eye at the top, which should eliminate most of that gaping.  I used a zipper from my stash so it is not as long as the one the pattern calls for.

elisalex1 aI also made the usual silly mistakes of course – sewing one of the back pieces on upside down, then sewing the side seams before reading the next step which said add the lining first – duh.  My excuse is that the only time I have had to sew recently is after the girls have gone to bed, by which time I have usually already been up for nearly fifteen hours and done a full day at work. Which is also my excuse for failing to hoover or pick up cat toys before taking photos.  As my mother used to say – a tidy house is the sign of a wasted life.  (disclaimer – my house is actually pretty tidy but this is mostly down to my husband, who is wonderful and amazing. And my mother had a cleaner.)

Spurred on by my mistakes with this one and by Roisin’s perfect version here, (and I love anyone who references Father Ted) I have nearly finished Elisalex No. 2.  It is most definitely closer to the pattern, with the proper skirt and sleeves.  I love it already.

As for this one, I will definitely wear it. Actually I will probably wear it more than if I had used the correct skirt.  I do have a tendency to keep stuff I really love for best, a habit that I am trying to break because I rarely go anywhere that requires best clothes so it goes unworn. And I do like it, I just don’t love it yet.

elisalex1 e

My New Old Machine (and claiming my blog)

First the boring bit.  Having just switched to BlogLovin I apparently need to claim my blog my doing this:

<a href=”″>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Hope it works.

On a slightly more exciting note, after a bit of a scare when I blew a fuse in my Bernina I now have a back up sewing machine:


My mother bought it in 1970 for £36.00, which was quite a bit back then.  Knowing my dad he would have done a lot of research before buying it, as an engineer he made sure anything mechanical he bought was of good quality. They had worked out that they could just about live on their wages if they made all their clothes instead of buying them.  My mum, working on the principle that if she could sew difficult things she could sew anything, set about making my dad a pair of trousers. She says that he did wear them, but I think that is more a testimony of his love for her than her sewing skills. As I child I remember her occasionally making a pair of curtains or hemming a skirt, but I think those trousers were the first and last garment she made.

The make is Merritt, which was apparently the industrial name for Singer and the other name of the founder, Isaac Merritt Singer. I haven’t managed to find much else out about the machines.  I did find out that the Statue of Liberty is supposedly in the likeness of Isabella Singer, IM Singer’s second wife.  They married when she was 22 and he was 52. And their son Paris had a child with Isadora Duncan.  I love little snippets like 2-1So how does she sew?

On taking this machine out of it’s hard case the first thing I noticed was the smell of oil, which reminded me of my dad. As I mentioned he was an engineer so he would have made sure it was well maintained even though it wasn’t exactly over used.  I couldn’t get over how smooth and quiet this machine is. I’m afraid on that front it puts my Bernina 1008S to shame, despite being about forty years older.  I love the little table extension thing as well.  It is extremely heavy, I don’t think my sewing desk would hold it so I had to use the kitchen table. And it doesn’t have an easy option for buttonholes.  However it is an absolute joy to sew with. Unfortunately despite the fact that it is so nice to use I think the Bernina just pips it when it comes to stitch quality, so it probably will remain a spare rather than taking over as my main machine.

So there it is, my new old machine. Does anyone else use a Merritt, or know anything about them?  I do feel a bit extravagant now that I have two machines, but there is no way I am going through that sense of panic I experienced when I thought my Bernina was broken. Sorry to be such a drama queen but my sewing time is too precious.

A tale of immense will power and panic buying.


A couple of weeks ago an old school friend came to stay.  I wore my first Mathilde blouse and got loads of compliments and at some point after the first (several) bottles of wine I agreed to help her make one for herself.  We set a date for tomorrow evening and I said that I would provide the fabric and pattern.

This morning I went to my stash and amazingly could not find anything suitable! Okay, I do have quite a few suitable fabrics but nothing that is a) to her taste, b) not earmarked for another project or c) non – slippery.

There was nothing for it. I would have to shop, and hope that I had enough will power to avoid adding to my own extensive stash.

Yeah, right.

I am lucky enough to have this shop almost at the end of my road. I couldn’t get a better photo because the man in the doorway was starting to look scared. And yes, it really was that grey out today.

4 (2) It’s a lifesaver if I run out of anything but not good if I want to browse, because I am physically incapable of leaving there without buying something.  And the staff are so lovely it would be wrong to disappoint them…

I arrived a few minutes before it opened so I spent the time window shopping.  How gorgeous are these dresses in the whiting post?

5 (2)6 (2)

The ones inside are even better.  Before I started sewing I would have had to treat myself, but these days I find it hard to justify buying something that I can make for a third of the price. They do have sales though…

I love this shop – Pearl and Hemingway.

3 (2)They do gorgeous vintage and vintage inspired clothes and accessories, What Katie Did lingerie and swimwear, fabulous hats, and what did I see when I was peeking in the window this morning?  Yes, they have started stocking fabric too!

0 (2)Luckily it wasn’t open yet.

So did I manage to stick to my no fabric purchasing resolution?

Yes and no.


The floral cotton polyester blend is for my friends Mathilde – she didn’t want me to spend a fortune on her first attempt at garment sewing.

The baby blue polka dot cotton poplin is mine, all mine (sinister laugh…)  But my resolution remains unbroken. I said I would refrain from fabric buying until I had used six pieces from my stash.  So let’s count:
Two tiramisus, polka dot and floral – that’s two.
Macaron – another two, the black cotton and the tattoo print.
My first Mathilde – another stash buster.
I can’t really really count my second Mathilde, as that was new fabric, albeit won rather than bought.  However on my sewing table (okay, small desk in the corner of the kitchen) is an almost completed Elisalex – I couldn’t wait for the sewalong.   After making my muslin I was already so in love with this pattern that I just had to steam ahead and finish it.  I have also cut out my Sewing for Victory dress.  So that is two more I have used form the stash, which means I can officially fall off the wagon.  Yeay!

And I now have all the essential supplies for tomorrow’s session ready to go.


Finished- my Marguerite Mathilde.

IMG_0785It took a lot longer than expected. Not because I had any problems, just because work etc. got a bit manic last week. Anyway, here it is. You may recognise the fabric – it is the stuff I won in Marguerite Designs giveaway.  As soon as I received it I was itching to make it into another Mathilde, and it has turned out just as lovely as I’d hoped. So thanks again Diane!

Please excuse the dodgy i-phone photos, (and the small clingy person who can’t understand why anyone would want to take photos without her in them, especially as she was so good getting her jabs earlier.)

IMG_0786IMG_0787As before this was a dream to sew. I made a couple of changes this time round. I lowered the neckline by about half an inch and added a couple of inches to the length. I should have graded it to allow for my big hips but with buttons it’s not a major issue, I just undo the bottom one. I moved the top button higher up to try and eliminate the problem I had with the top corner folding over and looking like the two sides were uneven. This meant that I needed eight buttons rather than the seven recommended in the pattern, although as it happens I could have left off the bottom one as I ended up unbuttoning it due to my aforementioned immense arse.



Orange buttons again!  These are the ones I was originally going to use on my first Mathilde, but they weren’t quite the right colour.  They are a perfect match for this fabric – see, everything happens for a reason.IMG_0789


And to finish here are couple of pictures of me and my Mathilde enjoying a lunchtime pint in one of my locals, the Duke of Cumberland. Just to prove that I do actually wear the stuff I make.IMG_0804


So many plans, so little time and zero will power when it comes to new patterns.


So I have been trying to sew but those inconsiderate people at work keep demanding my time to do the job that I am paid for. They have no sense of priorities, clearly.  Anyway, for the last week I have been trying to finish my next Mathilde.  It is soooo close, so hopefully I can finish it tonight and get some photos up this week.

I am suddenly aware that we are well into March and I have things to do.  March is the month for the Stashbusting Seasonal Change challenge.  I have also quietly signed up to Rochelle’s Sew for Victory Challenge. I haven’t made to much of a song and dance about this because I wasn’t sure if I would actually finish by the deadline, but I love the whole forties look, and her blog – Lucky Lucille, and I have fabric and patterns in my stash already so I don’t really have any excuse not to.

Likewise Julia’s Mad Men II challenge. I lurked last time, lusted over everyone else’s creations but work got in the way and I didn’t even get round to finishing my Sew Weekly Mad Men dress. Of course this means I already have a Mad Men UFO. This one doesn’t need to be done until the middle of April so I should be able to do it this time round, shouldn’t I?

I really wasn’t going to do the Elisalex Sewalong. I have already broken my no new patterns pledge with Mathilde but yesterday for some strange reason the postman knocked. And what did he bring? My oh my- a special delivery super quick from Sewbox!    I have no idea how it got here, honest guv…..And oh look, there’s Cambie in there too…..


On top of all this I am going to a wedding next month in Dubai. I was planning on wearing my bombshell dress but I have such loathing for it at the moment (long story, I may tell one day) that I know will definitely not get it finished in time.  So I need a Plan B.  I was also planning on making a maxi dress to wear out there, something like my favourite blue maxi dress that I made and talked about for a Sew Weekly challenge last year,  but in the bird print silk that I’ve been hoarding.

blue b

And maybe something else summery as well – I quite fancy a variation on Gertie’s sundress from her book. It’s also about time I jumped on the Cambie bandwagon.

There is no way I am going to get all of this done in by the end of March unless I pull a mega sicky from work and persuade someone to adopt my children for a month.  However I think I might just be able to combine a couple of these challenges.  A Stashbusting Seasonal Change Mad Men Elisalex Wedding Guest Dress with a Forties vibe maybe?  Is that cheating?  Or even possible?