Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cambilex – when Sewaholic meets By Hand London


I was going to call this the Bastard Love Child dress, but bastard is the wrong word to use. I really really love this dress, which is probably why there are so many pictures, sorry.

I got this gingham in Kestrel Makes Spring Sewing Swap from my partner Louise, aka Tabatha Tweedie from Thread carefully.  I love other people’s gingham creations,  I have pinned a gorgeous gingham Vivienne Westwood dress on my Pinterest but I have always talked myself out of using it. The reason? School dresses.  I know that there is no way I am going to be mistaken for a school girl, but I also don’t want to be accused of dressing like my eight year old daughter.  However when I opened my Spring sewing Swap parcel I was really happy. As I said, I really love other people’s gingham creations and there would be no talking myself out of it this time.

After seeing Louise’s and Winnie’s I amost made a shirt dress. I also wanted a quick make to wear this weekend so at the last minute I decided to make a Cambie, inspired by Roisin’s here and here which are about as un-school dressy as you can get.

I wrote about the problems I had with the fit on my last Cambie here.   Since then I have had a revelation.  I was reading this post on the Colette Hawthorn Sewalong, about shoulder adjustments, when I saw this:

‘For narrow shoulders, the armholes sit too far out and off the shoulder. There is also an excess fabric across the upper chest and upper back.’

I always have to pinch an inch or so out of the back and front of things I make because of excess fabric. With my last Cambie I also made the straps shorter, which messed up the proportions of the bodice. Maybe instead of faffing around with all these adjustments I just needed to do one for narrow shoulders.  I’m afraid I couldn’t be bothered to get too technical, so I folded my existing pattern rather than cutting and measuring, etc…  Despite this I think it’s worked! I finally have a fit on the Cambie that I am happy with.  Actually it is a smidgen tight,  but not uncomfortable so.  I think it is because I made the back seam allowance quite wide so that I could do a lapped zip again, as they are my new favourite kind of zip.  As you can see I lowered the back again, because I wanted to.

Once I’d got the bodice done I realised that it still needed a bit more va voom. And which pattern has the most va voom of any pattern I own? The Elisalex of course.  I absolutely love the curves I get from the Elisalex skirt so I decided to use it with the Cambie bodice to guarantee there would be no mistaking this for a school dress. I missed off the cambie waistband as the Elisalex skirt joins quite high up on the original pattern.  I made a rough attempt to line up darts and pleats, which turned out pretty good.  And there you have it – the Cambilex.

I bribed my daughter to take photos down at the Harbour.


P1210838I think I still need to work on breathing in photos.


Looking at the photos it does look shorter at the back than the front, but I don’t think it is in real life.





We got to the harbour early so it was pretty empty.  By this time tomorrow however it will be heaving as the crowds descend for the Whitstable Oyster festival.  I’m not a big fan of oysters myself. If I want something chewy, salty and slimey why would I pay for the privilege when I can just pick my nose and eat it?  However the Festival is not just about oysters. It is paradise for foodies with local producers selling everything from cider to olives. There are live bands, competitions, something for everyone in fact. It makes me really proud that this is my adopted home town. Come on down and join us, but if you do don’t even think of driving unless you enjoy sitting in queues or driving in circles for hours looking for a parking space. Your best bet is probably to come here by train.  And here are a couple of photos from previous years to give you a taste of what to expect:


Maybe see you there?

We have a winner!

Sorry, I did mean to post this yesterday but I was in the pub. Pitiful excuse I know, but not only was I with a dear group of friends who I don’t see nearly enough, but it was half price food Tuesday at the Vanbrugh. ‘Nuff said.

Okay, you’ve waited long enough…..big drum roll…..

The winner of the pattern, Simplicity 1609 and a couple of metres of African wax print fabric is………….

IMG_2209Well done Helen! If you email me your address I’ll stick it in the post. Can’t wait to see what you make.

While I’m at it I also need to thank  grtescp for giving me a Super Sweet Blogging Award, and Joanne at Sew Little Time for nominating me for another Liebster Award.  I’m sorry I’ve been a bit crap about acknowledging these and I  promise I will get round to doing the necessary soon.

Right, I have a hem to sew and an episode of Luther to catch up on….

If you know Rosie, please say Thank You from me….

IMG_2168A couple of weeks ago as I was parking my car a girl came running over.  She explained that she had locked her keys in her car. As it was the same make and model as mine would I mind trying my key to see if it worked?  She said she knew it was a long shot but she was getting desperate, she had been waiting over an hour for the AA (emergency car people, not Alcoholics Anonymous) and it was a really hot day.

Her car was parked just up the road from my house. Unfortunately my keys didn’t work so I invited her in for a drink and a snack and a chance to cool down.  I obviously don’t look too much like a serial killer and she wasn’t completely put off by my delinquent children because she took me up on the offer. Once inside she spotted my sewing desk and dress form, which was wearing my nearly finished Hawthorn. She complimented me on the dress and  told me that she was on a work placement in Whitstable as part of the fashion design course she was studying for in Rochester. We chatted for a while and I felt a bit mean chucking her out when I had to drop my oldest at her music lesson but when I got back  back ten minutes later I saw that the AA man had arrived and was looking at her car. When he left I went to check that everything was okay and she could get home.  He had managed to get her into her car so she thanked me and headed home.

Fast forward to that Friday. I arrive home after a particularly stressful school sports day. Do Not Ask.  To a cardboard box on my doorstep with this note attached:

IMG_2167 I carried it inside and couldn’t resist opening it straight away.  It was stuffed full, so at this point I bribed the kids with snacks and TV so I could have a proper uninterrupted rummage.   Anyway the patterns below are just a small sample of what was inside:
IMG_2203 Some nice basics. I could see myself making all of these, especially the Parka.

IMG_2202Loads of really cute kids patterns that my girls are already nagging me to make for them.

IMG_2195IMG_2183I got really excited by these. There are some amazing traced or self drafted patterns, the ones above are just a few of them.  I am dying to know who Penny is and what she looked like in her pink boiler suit.  You can’t help feeling a connection to whoever made these up. And I remember that green and white computer paper with the holes down the side from when I was a kid.

IMG_2206Some more fab patterns here. I really like the long shirt, and the little girl’s coat, and that skirt.  And I can totally see how the empire line wedding dress could be updated. Please ignore the cigarette that has somehow rolled into the picture. I have no idea how it got there.

IMG_2205And check out this fabulous blouse. I particularly like it in white, with what looks like a sheer top section.

The above are just a small selection of the patterns.  I was pretty gobsmacked when I saw them, I can’t quite believe that anyone could be so generous. So I would like to say a really big (and belated, sorry) Thank You to Rosie.  I hope your car gives you no more trouble and that Karma will be shining on you for this kind deed and bring you all sorts of good things.  You are an absolute star and you totally made my day  🙂

Simplicity 1610 maxi dress and a giveaway!

maxi dress dForgive me but it has been over a week since my last post. It was sunny, we had guests and the beers and suncream distracted me from the important job of recording my makes. But I have been sewing.

One of the things I discovered through doing Me Made May was that I need more me made maxi dresses. On sunny days there is nothing easier to wear than a long dress that you can chuck on over a swimming costume and wear about town then on to the beach.  So when Simplicity contacted me to see if I wanted to try a pattern I immediately checked out their long dresses.  I selected either Simplicity 1610, one of the Project Runway patterns, or 1612, a knit dress, and when the package arrived they had very generously sent me both, plus an extra pattern to do a giveaway!

With the temperature rising I couldn’t wait to get started.  I used an African  Wax Woodin print from Empire Textiles.   Six yards cost me £18.00 and although postage was a little pricey it arrived the day after I ordered it. I didn’t use all of it, I have about two and a half metres left, but more about that later.

Anyway, the pattern:

Like all the Project Runway patterns this one is modular, so you can choose from two different bodices, with or without sleeves and cummerbund and with a  long or short skirt. And it has pockets!    I’m looking forward to making up the version with the short skirt and sleeves, I think it has the potential to be as good as the famous 2444.  However with the sun shining I really, really needed that halter neck bodice and long skirt.

Looking at the pattern pieces I was a tiny bit worried.  There are quite a lot of them to start of with. There was no need to worry. Not all of the pieces were for this version (of course – duh).   And this is actually a pretty quick, simple make with some nice touches. I’m still not too good at technical talk but it has princess seams that made it really easy to fit.  You put a bit of elastic along the back on both sides on the seam allowance, which stops it gaping and holds it up a bit more,  and I love the way you make each pocket out of one piece that folds over to also form the yoke(?) of the skirt. I missed out the button loops at the top of the straps and used a pale turquoise button and button hole instead because I was in a hurry to finish before the sun went in and turning those pesky little tubes inside out would have taken too long.

IMG_2190And yes, those pink dots are actually sparkly! They look fabulous when they catch the sun. I lined the bodice with a mauve sheet and stitched up the front pieces to avoid any gaping cleavage incidents.


IMG_2193I’m afraid I shied away from pattern matching. I know I should’ve made the effort but I really needed this dress finished quickly in case the sun didn’t last -I know those of you living in the UK will understand.  And to be honest too much time looking closely at this print was making my face hurt.  Okay, that might have been the sun. Or the beers in the sun. And I can’t possibly tell you my husbands first comment when he saw the dress. Okay, I might if you ask but but I’m hoping he has a unique way of looking at things and nobody else will see what he saw….

After my last zip disaster I intended to move it to the side but I got into the zone and totally forgot until I had already sewn in the lining so I did a lapped zipper on my machine and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It’s a damned sight better than my last one anyway.

maxi dress eI persuaded the husband to take pictures in the garden. Then when he made me look like an Oompa Loompa I bribed my eldest daughter.

maxi dress cmaxi dress amaxi dress bmaxi dress fAs far as wearability goes this one has passed all the tests. It held up to a day on the beach which ended up as a barbecue and evening drinks. I started out with it over my halter neck bikini then later wore it with my detachable strapped bra with one strap on halter style, because my days of going bra-less are long behind me. As my boobs would be if I did try. There was no gaping or falling down, the bra remained hidden and the print means that any ketchup, beer or suncream stains just blend in.  Result.  I will definitely be making this again in this length and I also want to make the shorter skirt version so watch this space.

Anyway, did someone mention a giveaway?  As well as the two maxi dress patterns Simplicity also sent me a copy of this:

I absolutely love the little scalloped collar on the green one, and the bow on the blue one. If you want to see it in the wild Gertie has just made them both up here and here, and she’s also done a little tutorial on how to do the collar.   And as I love you all so much I’m also going to throw in the remaining two and a half-ish metres of the African Wax print I used for my maxi dress.

To enter leave me a comment below, I’ll give you until midnight next Monday the 22nd July and I’m happy to send it overseas. Good luck!

Hawthorn and Hutstock – a perfect summer’s dress for a perfect summer’s day.

IMG_2180Yes, that is Mr T. and I grinning like a loons after too much cider in the sun while our children went feral yesterday at Hutstock,  Whitstable’s Premier beach hut based music festival.  One of the many reasons why I love living here. But ignore the freakish expressions for a second and check out the dress. You may recognise the fabric. I got it at the Birmingham swap, donated by Stitching Odyssey Marie and I promised her I would put it to good use.


When Colette released the Hawthorn pattern it was love at first sight. I downloaded it immediately and decided to make up the peplum blouse using Marie’s bathing ladies fabric.  However when I pinned out the pattern pieces I realised that if I took an inch either side off the width of the skirt I actually had enough fabric for the sleeveless dress. The instructions say you need about 2 3/4 yards of fabric but I think the piece I had was about two metres.  I cut a size zero at the shoulders, grading out to a four at the bust and a ten at the waist and hips.

This was a surprisingly quick and simple make.  The dress came together so easily it was unreal. I was a bit wary of the collar and all those button holes but there were no issues at all. This version without the sleeves would definitely be accessible to a beginner, and if I had an unbroken stretch of time I could knock one together in three or four hours. As it was it took me a week of evenings. I did intend to follow along with the Sewalong but I got impatient to finish.  The fit is pretty good too. I did take it in a bit more at the side seams for a closer fit, but apart from that I made no adjustments. I like how it is a slightly looser fit but still follows the shape of your body, making it perfect for warm summer days when you don’t want to wear something that feels too fitted but still want to look like you have made a bit of an effort.  And I think Colette may be paying attention because for the first time with one of their patterns I didn’t lower the bust dart and it still hits in exactly the right place.

The dress isn’t really shown at it’s best in the rest of my Hutstock photos  (and nor am I 🙂 ) so I took some extra pics this morning.  P1210693P1210685P1210679P1210709

Oh go on then, a quick dance…..P1210696As you can see I am a bit tired after yesterday’s festivities.

I also tried it with my big fluffy petticoat thing underneath, for a bit of a fifties vibe.


P1210643I quite like how it looks and I think maybe I should have worn it like this for Hutstock – the extra layers of petticoat might have provided a bit more padding, I woke up with incredibly bruised buttocks from sitting on the stones.

P1210662Of course youngest child wasn’t about to be left out…

Not much more to say except how much I absolutely fecking love this dress.  It really is perfect for summer.  And other people thought so too. I have never had so many complete strangers coming up to me and complimenting me on my dress or asking where I got it. And not just at the festival, where people had, lets just say less inhibitions.  I was even approached in the supermarket and when walking down the high street.  It is a definite win and I have more planned.
So finally, for those of you not lucky enough to know Whitstable, a couple more shots of what you missed…



Pretty dress, face like a Klingon – Cambie No 2

P1210634I rushed to finish this on the last day of June as my last make of Indie Pattern Month. Although I think it is now finishing this weekend, so fingers crossed and children permitting I may actually have one more Indie pattern sewn up before it ends.  It is of course Sewaholic’s cambie, my second. I actually started this in April but finished it in June, so it counts, right?

I used a John Kaldor chiffon that my friend Penny gave me when she was de-stashing.

IMG_2158Yes, chiffon.  I know.  What was I thinking?  It is very girly.  It also has little creases as part of the design.  It is an absolute bitch to sew but I persevered because it’s pretty and the sun was out and when the sun is out you need pretty floaty dresses.  I cut it exactly the same as my Nautical Cambie, including lowering the back, and lined it with a cotton sheet. I also used the sheet to underline the bodice pieces to make the chiffon easier to handle.

On Sunday morning the sun was shining, the children asleep and hopefully the neighbours too so I headed into the garden for some pics.  I started out at the back of the garden.  Dangerous territory.  Next door have a clear view from their windows.  It is one thing prancing about in front of the odd stranger on the beach but I will have to see my neighbours every day.


Grinning like a loon.


Checking out the foliage.  Doesn’t everyone wander round their garden in full make up and a flouncy dress at six thirty on a Sunday morning?


Hang on….. Is that the sound of next doors’ patio doors being unlocked?

I chickened out and retreated to a corner of the garden closer to the house and out of view of neighbours windows.  I did not however take into account the effect of direct sunlight on my forehead. Who is that child scaring Klingon?


The cat doesn’t seem too scared. He thinks I am smuggling cat munchies in my cleavage …


Twirly twirly…. I think I have said it before, twirling must be taken very seriously.

Actually I am a little disappointed with this dress.  Not the pattern because I love my last attempt, and not so much that I won’t wear it. However the fit on this one is just not quite right.  The straps still don’t sit properly on my shoulders, and look at the back. I hand picked the zip and it looked perfect on my dress form but when I put the dress on this happens:


There are other issues too, which is annoying because I can only think of one thing that I did differently with this one that I didn’t do with my Nautical Cambie.  It comes up too high. I think this because I tried to make the straps a bit shorter as that was the only thing that bothered me about my last Cambie. Instead of making the straps fit the shoulders better the bodice has just been hoicked up to meet them, so the neckline now comes up too high.  Or maybe the bodice is too long?  I think that is definitely the case at the back.  Instead of shortening the front straps, if I shortened the back near-ish the top then it might make the straps sit better on my shoulders. And the bodice looks a bit shapeless.  Maybe I could have taken a bit more in at the side seams? But I’m just guessing here.  What do you think? I would love to hear your suggestions.

P1210600It is not unwearable by any means, and now I know what I need to do to improve my next Cambie. Because this pattern is totally addictive and I am already planning another. And the cat seems to like it.