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Firefly: Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ Browncoat

May 24, 2016

This month’s Minerva Crafts Blogger Network post is something a little different – not a novelty print dress for myself, but instead a vintage-style western men’s frock coat for my husband, who is off to Comic Con in Manchester this month.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds

Captain Malcolm Reynolds

My husband is a lecturer in Film and Television Studies, and one of his areas of interest is the works of Joss WhedonFirefly, directed by Whedon, is the television series my husband taught first when he started working at the University of Hull, and we have fond memories of watching it on a laptop balanced on a high chair in an otherwise empty room when we first moved here.  Firefly is most succinctly described as a western set in space.  The lead character is Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Mal), who is captain of Serenity (a spaceship).  Mal was formerly a soldier fighting for independence from The Alliance, and these soldiers wore a uniform which included a simple knee length brown duster-style coat. Mal wears his ‘Browncoat’ throughout the series, and the term is now not only used to refer to the garment itself, but to the crew aboard Serenity and even the fans of the show.


Simplicity 2895

The pattern I used to make Mal’s coat is a Simplicity costume pattern – Simplicity 2895 – a pattern designed in conjunction with a company called Buckaroo Bobbins, who make historically accurate Old West clothing and sewing patterns.  The design wasn’t 100% perfect for Mal, but it was easily tweaked.  You can read more about the alterations I made to the pattern here on Minerva’s blog if you want to know more about the sewing details.



The Browncoat is obviously the main part of the outfit – but there are lots of other parts that I want to show you here.  Firstly, my husband is wearing a red shirt, just like Mal in many Firefly episodes.  This shirt is one I made for him in February 2015 (also a Minerva make!), using Burda 6931.  I am really pleased that the shirt he is wearing under the coat is also made by me!

Burda 6931 shirt

Burda 6931 shirt

The trousers and boots he already had, but I have now modified the trousers to look make them look more like Mal’s.  I sewed a brown stripe down the side of each outside leg – just some ribbon I picked up in Boyes.  They aren’t quite as wide as Mal’s stripes, but they’re ok.  I also added buttons to the waistband for the braces I bought for this outfit.  Mal wears braces which attach by buttons, so I had to get some for the costume!  I used different buttons at the front and back because unfortunately I didn’t have six of my favourite ones.  I know this is just a costume, but I really like the way these look.

Braces - back view

Braces – back view

I also bought a gun holster!  There is no me-made element to this, but doesn’t it look awesome?!  Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find the right type of toy gun – I ran out of time to look – and money to spend, in all honesty!!

Gun holster!

Gun holster!

I’m pleased with how the costume as a whole looks, and my husband really likes it, and hopefully any fellow Browncoats at Comic Con will instantly recognise their hero, Captain Malcolm Reynolds!  My husband joked that this is the only fancy dress outfit he will ever need now for the rest of his life, except he wasn’t even joking….haha!  That’s certainly a compliment, anyway!

Now, quick, get me back to sewing novelty print dresses!!!

My April Minerva Make – Zebra Dress!

April 26, 2016

A glimpse into the inner workings of my mind when deciding on my next project for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network…

I could choose some of Minerva’s lovely denim and make a pair of jeans!  *looks at denim* Ooh that’s nice denim.  That would be perfect.  I’ll just have a quick look at the quilting fabrics

OH ZEBRAS YES I NEED THAT!!  I could make a zebra dress.

But would I wear a zebra dress?

Yes I would.

But I’m a mum walking kids to school and everyone’s in jeans wearing black and I’ll look out of place.

But if I make it with an A-line skirt then it’s practical and it won’t blow up in the wind.

But really I should make jeans because that is a good and admirable skill.


No, there is a reason this is quilting fabric, it’s because it isn’t meant for dresses.

Then again quilting fabric is excellent quality and it wears and washes well and it’s 100% cotton poplin.  And look the zebra fabric is red, and red is my favourite colour!  I could wear it with black tights so it’s definitely practical.

I really ought to make jeans.


I could make jeans next time, maybe.


If you want to read about the actual making of it and see the lovely vintage pattern I used for #VintagePledge, click here!



Colette Sorbetto Top

April 11, 2016

Sometimes, I will set aside some time for sewing without a clear plan of what I’m going to do.  I usually have a few possibilities in mind, but every so often I’ll just end up sewing something completely unexpected, and that’s what happened on the day I made this Colette Patterns Sorbetto top.

Colette Sorbetto top worn with Gertie's Knit Pencil Skirt.

Colette Sorbetto top worn with Gertie’s Knit Pencil Skirt.

I was looking through my box of scrap fabrics, because I was trying to find a scrap large enough to use as a lining for something else, when I came across quite a large piece of this lovely cotton lawn sent to me by Minerva for my Eliza M Audrey dress.  I measured it and found I had just under a metre left over, but because the fabric is 58″ wide, it had potential!  With it being such a silky, lightweight cotton, I thought it would make a great top.


I used the Sorbetto pattern when it first came out in 2011 to make a top which I didn’t much like, truth be told, a top which has since been given to charity.  I hadn’t given any further thought to the pattern until it suddenly called to me from the depths of my pattern stash!  It was the perfect pattern for this bit of fabric!

I wore it to London and here I am in the William Morris room of the V&A museum eating THE BEST CAKE EVER

I wore it to London and here I am in the William Morris room of the V&A museum cafe eating THE BEST CAKE EVER

I didn’t have enough of the fabric to cut bias strips, nor did I have any store-bought coordinating binding, so I used the tutorial on the Colette Patterns website to make ‘continuous bias binding’.  With two 8″ squares of fabric, I made more than enough bias binding to bind the neckline and arm holes of the top, which is great because it matches exactly and it isn’t stiff and scratchy like most of the ready-made stuff.

After making the bias binding, I then fed it through my bias binding maker to help fold the raw edges in before pressing

After making the bias binding, I then fed it through my bias binding maker to help fold the raw edges in before pressing


The top was super simple to make, and because it’s a relaxed fit I made no alterations.  In hindsight, it could perhaps do with a swayback alteration, but even if I made another version, I can’t promise I’d be willing to devote the time it.  The fact that the back is cut on the fold complicates it further.  It’s just a simple top and I’m lazy.

Colette Sorbetto top - back view

Colette Sorbetto top – back view

The top looks nice with my Gertie Knit pencil skirt, and is good with jeans.  A surprising, useful, and pretty addition to my Spring wardrobe!

Scuba Skater Dress

April 4, 2016

A few weeks ago I went to London for the weekend to stay with my friend Vicky.  Our main plans for the weekend were to go to a fancy gin bar, go fabric shopping, and do the Warner Brothers studio tour (i.e. the Harry Potter tour).  We did all of those things and more, but what I want to show you is a dress I made with some fabric I bought that weekend somewhere along Goldhawk Road.


It’s a digital print scuba fabric.  I’ve been seeing scuba pop up on a few blogs recently, and I was quite intrigued by it.  I like sewing with stretch fabrics, particularly quite sturdy ones.  When my eyes fell upon this vivid print, I couldn’t resist buying some!  It isn’t as thick as I expected scuba fabric to be, and it has a lot more drape than I thought it would, too, which is good because it means it’s more suitable to wear.


I only bought 1.5m because I was fairly confident I would have enough to make a Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress, and I did, just about.  What made it slightly tricky was that the pattern repeat on the fabric is quite large and I wanted to align it nicely so that the centre of the pattern ran down the centre of each pattern piece.  To do this, I had to trace out single layer pattern pieces, and in order to place the sleeve pattern in symmetrical positions, the sleeves were cut upside down (but you can’t tell!)


The Lady Skater is always a quick sew, and I was able to make the majority of this during my son’s naptime, with just the side seams to close and the hem to do in the evening.  For the hem I decided to try a fluted hem on my overlocker, and I’m really pleased with the results.


I wore the dress to the Manchester Gin Festival, which was held at Victoria Baths, a Grade II listed Edwardian building housing three (now disused) swimming pools and Turkish baths.  What an excellent and interesting venue for a gin festival!  Naturally I had to have a few photos in these amazing surroundings!




Liberty Leftovers Top!

March 27, 2016

Hello, and Happy Easter to you!  Remember the beautiful dress I made for my daughter using Liberty Carline fabric provided by Minerva?  Well, I had just under a metre left over of this lovely fabric and I was determined to squeeze something else out of it – preferably something for me!

I dug out an old pattern I’ve not used for a while – Burda 7798 – and just about managed to fit the pattern pieces onto the remaining fabric.  To manage it, I had to shorten all the ‘skirt’ pieces by an inch, and omit the bias strips for finishing the armholes and neckline.  Instead I used ready-made bias tape in a plain ivory – as it is turned to the inside it isn’t noticeable anyway.


The construction of the top is much like making a very short dress – the bodice is pleated into the neckline and then under the bust is the ‘skirt’ which is cut on the bias and has a centre front seam.  At the centre back there is a centered zip.  I like the shape of the top and have pretty much worn out its predecessor – it’s in a sorry state but I still can’t quite bear to part with it!



It’s nice to make some tops for a change as I wear jeans a lot more these days.  I think a dress made with this fabric would be amazing for a special occasion or a sunny day, but I wouldn’t wear it all year round, whereas this top can be paired with jeans or a denim skirt and tights for a more wearable look.  I just so rarely feel like doing the epic full-skirted look when I’m trundling my kids to school and back!


I do love the shape of this top – I want to make more tops like this.  Some plain ones would be really handy as well for when I’m feeling like I want to be completely boring😉


My March Minerva Make – Michael Miller Mdress

March 22, 2016

This month for my Minerva Crafts Blogger Network project, I used some bee-yootiful fabric that I had been coveting for a while – Michael Miller Wing Song – to make a dress.


I combined the By Hand London Anna pattern with the Colette Patterns Peony, and gave it my own little twist.  It worked out pretty well!  If you’d like to read more about it, you can do so on Minerva’s site here.  In addition to me waffling on talking about the project in more detail, there are more photos, plus a bonus close-up of my crazy happy face if you make it to the end!😉


Thanks to Minerva for providing me with the fabric, zip and thread for this project.

In My Heart of Hearts dress

February 29, 2016

Whilst reading Issue 23 of Love Sewing magazine, I came across Elisalex’s tutorial for adding a heart-shaped cut out to a garment.  For the purposes of her tutorial, she had used the By Hand London Flora dress.  Although the heart cut-out could be added to any finished garment, I was inspired to start from scratch and make a whole new frock.

This is my late-night, no make-up, just-finished-my-new-dress photo!

This is my late-night, no make-up, just-finished-my-new-dress photo!

My previous Flora dress is a little loose now, so I traced the next size down.  When I made the dress the first time, I had to tinker with the fit a bit to get it right.  I adjusted the waist darts in the same way as I did last time and made a toile in some leftover liquorice allsorts fabric.  It was too short in the bodice, so for the second toile I lengthened the pattern by just under 2″ as I am quite long bodied and I find that often waistbands sit higher on me than they ought to.  The result was better.  I wanted a very close fit this time because the last dress I made seemed to just skim over the bust and it didn’t come in underneath close to my midriff.  However, for the final version I added a bit of extra ease at the side seams.


The fabric I used was from Plush Addict and actually I bought it at the same time as I bought the Lickswishy Sweets fabric, which is what I used for my previous Flora dress!  I love the bright, spring-like shade of green and of course I am a sucker for things with hearts on.  The hearts on this are so tiny though that, even from a short distance, they just look like pin dots, and from even further away, they are indistinguishable and ultimately they only serve to make the shade of green appear lighter.  I think this is why I waited so long to use the fabric – to my mind it might as well be a solid colour.  This dress with the heart cut out seemed a good way of adding more interest to a dress made with this fabric though.

Flora dress styled for winter with boots, tights and a cardigan!

Flora dress styled for winter with boots, tights and a cardigan!

The heart cut-out made me kinda nervous.  To work hard on the fit of a dress, make it up and finish it perfectly (if I do say so myself!), and then CUT A GIANT HOLE IN THE FRONT – yep, I’m not ashamed to say I was a bit apprehensive.  What if it went wrong?  What if it looked completely shit and I had ruined the dress?  I did, however, have enough fabric left over to make a new bodice should it all go tits up, and knowing this gave me the confidence to do it.  Also, y’know, I reminded myself to get a grip: it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

Styled for summer with bright yellow wedges! I much prefer it this way! (The creases are mainly because this was after a whole day of wear.)

Styled for summer with bright yellow wedges! I much prefer it this way! (The creases are mainly because this was after a whole day of wear.)

I used the same fabric as I had for the dress (and incidentally the bodice is also lined with the same fabric because I bought over 3m of it for some reason).  The process went absolutely fine, and to keep it secure, I slip-stitched the edge of the heart on the inside to the bodice lining, meaning it’s not going anywhere and it isn’t visible from the outside.

Out for coffee in the sunshine! The Flora dress design is notorious for showing bra straps!

Out for coffee in the sunshine! The Flora dress design is notorious for showing bra straps!

I’m pleased with the placement of the heart and how it sits.  The top of the heart sits nice and flat most of the time, and I like the way the V allows a peek of cleavage.  It just transforms a very plain dress into something a little more eye-catching and unusual – I’ve never seen this technique used on RTW clothing.

I don’t think I’ll be adding heart cut outs to all my dresses, but it’s good to have one!

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