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Two Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dresses

January 24, 2017

Greetings.  This month for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network I have made a pink corduroy Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress.  If you want to read more about it and/or see more photos, you can do so on Minerva’s page here.  I bought the pattern and interfacing myself and Minerva provided everything else.  I love the pattern and I love the dress!

My January Minerva Make - Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress in pink needlecord

My January Minerva Make – Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress in pink needlecord, worn with White Stuff tights, Doc Marten shoes, Primark t-shirt.

Before I made the pink version, however, I made a red one, which is equally awesome!  I used a fabric called ‘Gaberchino’ which is a combination of gabardine and chino fabric, so it’s medium/heavyweight hard-wearing fabric.

Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress

Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress

I got the jeans buttons and dungaree fasteners from Abakhan in Manchester.  It was the first time I had ever used jeans buttons and they needed a surprising amount of hammering!

Hammer and awl

Hammer and awl

The dungaree fasteners are ok, although the straps are that bit too narrow for them I think, which is why, when I made my pink corduroy version, I widened the straps to match the clips.

Early morning no make up selfie

Early morning no make up selfie – I was just so excited when I put it on for the first time!

I used a twin needle and regular thread to topstitch my red Cleo dress.  I didn’t use a triple stitch or anything, just a normal stitch with a slightly longer length for some subtle topstitching.  Using the twin needle was great – I set it up on my old Elna machine so that I didn’t keep having to switch needles.

Left: my main machine Centre: overlocker Right: machine set up with twin needle

Left: my main machine
Centre: overlocker
Right: machine set up with twin needle

I didn’t make any alterations to the red dress, but I did cut a size bigger than normal as I prefer a looser fit in these dresses.  I first wore the dress for a weekend away in West Yorkshire; the photos are taken on Scar Top on our way to Haworth.  It was very, very cold!

Nautical vibes on a hill far away from the sea

Nautical vibes on a snowy hill far away from the sea

During our visit, in a shop where I crouched down to look at something on a low shelf, I heard a rip of stitching and later discovered one of the straps had almost pulled out at the back!  I have since resewn it and reinforced it, and when I made my pink version, I made sure to triple stitch it, twice!!

Red dungaree dress FTW

Red dungaree dress FTW

What I love about these dresses is how practical and cosy they are as part of an outfit, not to mention cute!  When I first started wearing them, I worried that I basically looked like a five year old.  But then I got over it.  I don’t care!  I feel great!  I love how you can layer up underneath them with one or more t-shirts (even my Grainline Studio Linden sweatshirt looks good underneath), you can wear thick, cosy tights, warm boots with extra socks for foot warmth, and then throw a big slouchy cardigan over the top (which I did right after these photos!).

Warming up with a coffee in Haworth :-)

Warming up with a coffee in Haworth 🙂

I may have to make myself at least one more version – I’ve got some lovely navy blue fabric that would look great with contrasting topstitching!

Tilly Buttons Cleo - winner!

Tilly Buttons Cleo – winner!

Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress

January 17, 2017

Well, I really wish I could be more positive about this dress, but today I’m sharing a bit of a sewing fail with you!  A friend of mine, Nicola, made this dress in some awesome bee print fabric, and she looks fab in it.  I loved her dress and the fabric, so much so that I eventually tracked down some of the fabric for myself (to make a different dress with of course), and asked her if I could borrow the Bettine pattern to have a go at making one for myself in some anchor print chambray I got in Fabricland in Bristol.  This is Nicola rocking her Bettine dress at a sewing session I led at Nicola’s house for the WI Hull – I asked and she was happy for me to post the photo of her!

Excellent Bettine Dress

Excellent Bettine Dress #girlcrush

The Bettine is not my usual style of dress, and I wasn’t sure it would suit me.  I also knew that I was likely to have some fitting issues with it, as I am tall, long bodied and…erm…curvy, so I made a toile first of all to see what it would look like, using up some leftover fabric that I really couldn’t imagine ever using again…

Tilly Bettine toile with no alterations

Tilly Bettine toile with no alterations

When I made this dress and flattened it out, it looked like the craziest shape of dress I’d ever seen!  It didn’t look very good on, either.  I definitely needed to cut the next size up, add some length to the bodice and possibly reshape the skirt a bit.  I had a feeling I might need to do an FBA, but I thought I’d try the basic changes first just to see how they affected the overall fit.



So, I traced the next size up, added an inch to the length of the bodice, and reshaped the curve of the skirt to get rid of the excess at the hips.  I cut this next version in the chambray because I didn’t have any more fabric I wanted to waste on a toile… something I would come to regret!

This whole thing was back in November, so although I remember basting it all together to check the fit, I can’t remember if I tweaked it any further before sewing it up to wear.  I knew by this point that it wasn’t really working for me, so I just wanted to have done with it (and I hate unfinished projects so I tend to just finish them whatever).  Had I more time/patience, I would do a full bust adjustment, and that would help to add yet more length to the front bodice (but not the back), which would better accommodate my bust and long upper body.

I wore the dress to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, but didn’t get a photo of me in it.  I liked the fit of the skirt, but the style of the top just felt too clumsy and unflattering.  I felt as though I was wearing something very obviously ‘home-made’/’home eccy Becky’ – and, although I know it sounds conceited, I am used to making things that fit me well.  I did still love the fabric, however, and, as I mentioned, I quite liked the style of the skirt, so I gave the dress another chance for a day out sampling the delights of Manchester.  This time I got an obligatory photo of me wearing it, but I’m attempting to divert your attention to the portrait behind me of my friend Rachel, who is a priest, poet, author, and, of course, excellent friend.


That’s the only photo of me in that dress you’re getting.  The insides are neat though, and it’s well made even if it does look crap (trying to cling on to the positives!):


I have since chopped the top part of it off and turned it into a skirt.



It’s an improvement, but I haven’t worn it yet, and I’m not sure I will!


My Christmas Dress!

December 27, 2016

Despite my love of novelty print fabrics, my December 2016 project for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network represents my first ever Christmas-themed dress.  I loved the red fabric print with black and white reindeer, some stripy, some spotty, some floral and some plain – it seemed Christmassy but not too babyish.  Better still, it was 60” wide so I only needed 2m to make pretty much any dress I wanted.

Simplicity 'Amazing Fit' 1606

Simplicity ‘Amazing Fit’ 1606

The week before making this, I rediscovered a dress I made with Simplicity Amazing Fit 1606.  I put it on and instantly loved the style and the fit.  Recently I’ve been sewing and wearing more practical clothing: straighter skirts, layers, plainer colours, less shaping etc (pinafore dresses especially), and putting on this fit and flare dress made me feel like I was going to back to an older version of me that had got pushed to the background somehow.  This style of dress is what I think of as being my ‘signature style’ – colourful novelty print with fitted bodices and swishy skirts.  It felt good, and I wanted more!

If you want to read a bit more about the making of the dress, or see more pictures, there’s a fuller account over on the Minerva blog here.  I accessorised the dress with a plain black sash belt, and this amazing reindeer ring!  I hope you all had a good holiday period, and that despite the difficulties facing the world in 2017, you can find some happiness, somewhere!

Reindeer ring!

Reindeer ring!

My November Minerva Make – The Abby Glassenberg Unicorn Head

November 22, 2016

Howdy!  This month’s project for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network is a wall-mounted stuffed unicorn head!  The pattern is Simplicity 1218 and it’s a really cool pattern.  You can make a reindeer/stag, a unicorn, a giraffe or an elephant!  I definitely want to make a reindeer in time for Christmas, with a red nose, obviously!

Unicorn Head!

Unicorn Head!

If you want to read more about how I made it and what I used, head on over to Minerva’s blog here.  Writing and opinions all my own!

I put unicorn heads in people's offices, cos I am the mob.

I put unicorn heads in people’s offices, cos I am the mob.


Vintage Pledge Pirate Dress

November 7, 2016


So my daughter needed a pirate outfit recently, to wear for ‘Pirate Day’ at school.  I knew about this in plenty of time, but, of course, I waited until the night before to get my ass in the sewing room to create something.  How else am I gonna be motivated and focused?!  IN NO OTHER WAY because my life revolves around deadlines, time slots, and feelings of obligation.  (You’ll have to just bear with me here as I’m drafting this post after several glasses of neat Sloe Gin sorrynotsorry.)

Pirate dress

Pirate dress

So, I had two options: make a fancy dress pirate costume, or make a normal dress using some pirate fabric.  Bearing in mind I had, that day, attended my daughter’s pirate-themed assembly, in which she heroically played the part of Ann Bonny the famous female pirate, wearing, erm, an old pair of stripy pyjama bottoms and a red tshirt, amongst her peers who all looked the part in amazing pirate outfits (even if they were all mainly from Asda), and me, her own mother, even going as far as to wear my own pirate dress (the Sewaholic Cambie, if you’re interested); I wanted not only to sew her something handmade to make up for my lack of adequate costume provision for her class assembly, but also to create something different to everyone else’s outfits, so I decided on a normal dress in pirate fabric, also reasoning that it would be something she could wear frequently (because why wouldn’t you want a pirate dress for everyday wear?).  This decision was in no way influenced by the fact that it would be easier and quicker.


I had a look through my children’s dress patterns and found this vintage Simplicity Jiffy 5291 pattern from 1963 for a swinging sixties shift dress!  The pattern was sent to me a while ago by a friend who likes sewing but who has two boys 🙂 After quickly taking my daughter’s measurements I decided to chance it.  I figured a loose fit would be quite handy because I wanted her to be able to wear a tshirt underneath to keep her warm.  This decision was in no way influenced by the fact that this is a single size pattern.


The sewing was easy peasy and super quick.  The only zip I had in my stash was a regular dress zip in turquoise, so I thought the best way to conceal it would be to do a lapped zipper, and I’m mega pleased with it.  My daughter was really pleased with her new dress the next day and I’m hoping she’ll want to wear it again soon!  I reckon it will fit her for a few years yet – bonus!

Lapped zip

Lapped zip

This is the second vintage pattern I have used in 2016, which I know is not a major achievement or anything, but I do usually sew modern patterns, so I’m pleased to be able to include it in Kerry and Marie’s 2016 Vintage Pledge.


I’m also quite pleased that in the writing of this blog, I managed to produce a sentence with 146 words in it.  My husband thinks the semi-colon in that sentence should just be a comma, and probably he is right, but I wanted to clearly separate the ‘what people wore’ part of the sentence from ‘what I chose to make in relation to what people wore’, so I’m keeping it, because I like it.

Daughter in pirate dress with my son in the pirate outfit I made for my daughter three years ago. CUTIES!

Daughter in pirate dress with my son in the pirate outfit I made for my daughter three years ago. CUTIES!



My first Colette Moneta dress

November 2, 2016

A few months ago, the director of Sew Essential, Lucy, contacted me to ask if I would consider writing a blog post linking to their site in exchange for some freebies.  Clearly I said yes, and I’m here to show you my new dress!  I chose the Colette Patterns Moneta pattern, which has been on my wishlist for aaaaaagges, and some John Kaldor jersey to make it up in.  Lucky me!

Yay new dress!

Yay new dress!

Having made many, many versions of the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress, you might surmise that I was not in need of the Colette Moneta dress pattern, but to you I just say HAHAHA NOPE.  They are different – different necklines, different sleeves, different skirts.  It’s always a pleasure to work with a Colette pattern – for me they are a tried and trusted, familiar, independent brand that just completely nailed it: they came at just the right time to the sewing community with their beautiful, vintage-inspired modern sewing patterns and they’ve gone from strength to strength.  You’ve got to admire Sarai and all her team, past and present, for having exactly the right vision.

On Ilka' Moor baht 'at

On Ilka’ Moor baht ‘at

Construction-wise, the Moneta dress is pretty darn simple.  Oh the joys of sewing with knits!  No darts!  Hardly any pattern pieces!  Can be whipped up in a few hours!  I reinforced my neckline with 1/4″ elastic, and I used the same width of elastic to shirr the skirt, simply because I didn’t have any shirring elastic to hand.  It worked out fine, thankfully.  I sewed it mostly on my overlocker, with a few stints on the sewing machine.

Neckline mid-construction

Neckline mid-construction

I made version 3 of the dress, straight up, no alterations.  This version has an unlined bodice and 3/4 length sleeves – perfect for autumn and winter.  I didn’t make a toile, as I know from previous experience that Colette Patterns work for my body shape, and the stretchiness of the fabric would allow for any slight imperfections.  Bonus!


The fabric is a medium weight jersey with a very silky and drapey hand.  It’s actually 95% polyester and 5% spandex.  It works brilliantly for this dress which benefits from a fabric with good drape.  It’s so silky and smooth that it almost reminds me of swimwear fabric.  It feels lovely next to the skin.  The dress won’t get me through the depths of winter unless I cover it up with a massive jumper, but it’s definitely a great dress for autumn and spring (and, let’s face it, British summer!).  I love the hot pink 🙂


Thanks to Sew Essential for providing the pattern and the fabric.  As always, opinions and writing are all my own!

Grainline Studio Moss Skirt

October 17, 2016

This is quite possibly the sewing project that has taken the longest stretch of time to complete.  I’m embarrassed to say that I ordered the fabric and the pattern for this skirt from White Tree Fabrics back in March to make for the White Tree blog team, and I only finished sewing it on 10th October!! Part of the reason for this, aside from my inability to get around to anything without a deadline, was that I made a toile of the skirt first and found out that I needed to sew the next size up instead.  It was meant to be a ‘wearable toile’, so I sewed it with the same degree of care and attention as I would the final garment.  I really hate leaving things unfinished so I just carried on making it even though part-way through I knew it would be too small.  Perhaps I can give it to a thinner friend or something!

Moss Skirt Toile made in green gabardine

Moss Skirt Toile made in green gabardine

I then got sidetracked for a few months with other sewing and my big commission, and then school holidays, but finally the skirt made its way back to the top of the queue!  I bought a nice chunky metal zip and some toffee-coloured topstitching thread, used a button from my button box and some scrap fabric leftover from something else.

Supplies at the ready

Supplies at the ready

I really like Grainline Studio at the moment.  Their designs are really simple and wearable: they give you the power to sew the kind of things you’d buy from a shop and wear to death.  This skirt is a very satisfying make. The instructions are good on the whole.  My only gripe is that they tell you to align the serged edge of the fly guard with the topstitching of the fly facing – whereas on their online tutorial they tell you to align the folded edge instead.  In my toile version, I followed the instructions in the paper pattern, but for my final version I followed the instructions from the online tutorial and it looks a lot better.  It’s not a big deal in terms of construction – it’s purely a cosmetic preference!

Grainline Moss Skirt fly

Grainline Moss Skirt fly

I’m really pleased with my topstitching.  I used special topstitching thread rather than doing triple stitch with regular thread.  It would have been better if I’d had a topstitching needle, as they have slightly larger holes to get the thicker thread through, but it was just about ok with my machine’s needle threader.  It took me a while to figure out that I needed my machine on the highest possible thread tension in order to make the topstitching neat on both sides, and that I was supposed to use topstitching for the top reel only and keep regular thread in the bobbin, but thankfully I worked that all out on a few scraps of denim rather than on the actual garment.  I wasn’t able to do my bar tack with the top stitching thread, which was a shame, or the button hole, so they are just sewn in navy blue instead.  Next time I must remember to buy a reel of regular thread the same colour as the topstitching thread!

Topstitching at the back of the Grainline Moss skirt

Topstitching at the back of the Grainline Moss skirt

The denim itself was great to work with.  Although it’s a 14oz heavy-weight cotton denim, I found it no problem to sew.  I made sure to trim and grade my seams where indicated so it didn’t get too bulky.  The skirt is a snug fit, but like all denim, it seems to have a bit of give in it the more you wear it.


I had read quite a few reviews of the Moss skirt saying that their waistband pieces were too short by several inches, but I’m happy to report that I didn’t find anything wrong with the waistband piece at all.  Perhaps this was in the early version of the PDF pattern, but my paper pattern worked just fine for me.

Pocket lining!

Pocket lining!

The skirt is short on me.  I didn’t alter the pattern and I’m about 5’10”.  It’s shorter than some of my other stuff but it suits the style of the skirt and it looks good with boots and tights which is exactly what I wanted.  I think next time I might prefer to use a skirt hook and eye rather than make a buttonhole on the waistband, just because I think it looks neater, but to be honest I hope no one will really see the waistband anyway, as I like my tops to be a bit longer so I’m less likely to accidentally flash my belly!

Button fastening at top of fly

Button fastening at top of fly

Thank you to White Tree Fabrics for providing me with the pattern and the denim fabric.  I shall endeavour not to take so long over my next project for them!  Eek!

Grainline Moss back view

Grainline Moss back view

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