Slouchy mix match aubergine suit

This suit was better in concept than execution. The fabric isn’t at fault – although a soft linen probably needed a better choice of patterns. It was purchased a couple years ago at a Santa Cruz, CA fabric shop just down the street from where I used to live in college. I made the trousers first, from a Papercut pattern (Nagoya pants) and made a mistake in measuring and adjusting. This resulted in the trousers being far too large around the hips and backside, and I went through numerous attempts to make them fit properly. I’m still not sure I’ve managed it. The pattern also would look better with a stiffer and heavier fabric. Despite sewing for 30+ years, it’s still very possible to make many many basic errors!

I then cast about in my patterns for a jacket that would match. This was not planned from the outset – again, a mistake. This is the classic Vogue Chanel style jacket – and again, this is probably not the right fabric or treatment for a successful make. The jacket is a bit more successful than the trousers, but I’m not thrilled with either and suspect this won’t get much wear.

It’s a disappointment, especially for someone time poor, to spend so much time making something that isn’t great, fits well and that you love. Don’t get me wrong – it’s super comfortable, and it’s not terrible – but it’s not something I see in my closet and get excited about.

Lessons that I seem to need to keep learning:

  • Don’t buy fabric on spec – only buy it because it’s the right thing for a pattern you’re making
  • Choose the right fabric for the pattern – and don’t just match up what fabric you have with a pattern you have and hope for the best
  • Take time with the measurements and when you can see it going wrong during the make, take the time to fix it then and there!

And despite this failure, and the lessons above, the next thing I made was – you guessed it – finding some fabric and then picking from patterns I already had and hoping for the best…


The mysterious purple cable and lace knit

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. My rate of creation has slowed since having kids, but that’s not the only reason. Getting things photographed when they are worn seems to be a task that I struggle with.


In any case, my lovely work colleague finally took a shot of this lavender cable and lace number, which I’ve had for 1, maybe 2 years now. I’ve worn it several times – it’s a good ‘in between seasons’ piece. But the down side is I have no memory of which pattern it’s based on. I only recall that it came from a magazine. Big help eh?

The bottom ribbing was lengthened (nothing I hate more than a too-short jumper) but otherwise, knit as written.

Liberty Work Shirt

IMG_20170110_105838058I struggle to get button down shirts that fit correctly. Getting the right bust size so you don’t have a “between button peep show”,  without it looking like a tent is hard enough. Then there’s getting a shirt long enough in both the waist and the arms. So I have, over the years, attempted to sew my own shirts for a more custom fit.

The advantage of the V9029 pattern is the use of princess seams, which allows for an easier full bust adjustment. Having said that, I didn’t end up needing one as I went for a slightly fuller fit for comfort. Still, it’s nice to have that option. I lengthened the body but didn’t need to lengthen the arms.

IMG_20170110_071038025This is a nice pattern, with just the right amount of detail to make it a good work shirt without so much detail or technique that it becomes a pain to sew. Some of the detail is lost in the pattern of the fabric, but I reckon this would look smart in a solid colour as well.

The fabric is a Liberty print, purchased for £15 per meter – so overall the shirt cost about what I would expect to pay for a standard off the rack shirt. I’ve no plans to make another just yet, but the next time I feel the need for a new work shirt, this will be at the top of the list for patterns.

Monkey bread for the end of the year of the monkey

img_20170101_180117579Funny how you can forget things for a really long time and then, BAM! – out of the blue, a childhood memory comes back. I hadn’t thought about monkey bread for decades until I agreed to do some cooking with the Year 1 children at my daughter’s school. As I cast about for a baking recipe that would be simple enough, and interesting enough, for a bunch of 5-6 year olds, I remembered making monkey bread with my mom.

Now, in the end, I didn’t make this with the children. First of all, when I made it with my mom, we made it the easy way with pre-packaged dough. As I so often find with American recipes, the shortcuts that help just aren’t readily available here (I’m looking at you Bisquick). And secondly, let’s face it – it’s super unhealthy. So, the school children got quick and healthy-ish banana muffins. And my kids got to make full-on monkey bread with me on New Years Day*.

So, for my European readers who have no idea what monkey bread is or how to make it, check out the from-scratch version by James Martin. It’s pull apart bread, all cinnamon-sugary and sticky. <drool>


It was pretty darned successful, and tasted pretty much the way I remembered. And also – super messy to make. But delicious. You’ve been warned.

* That’s the Western New Year, not the Chinese New Year mentioned in the title. The Year of the Monkey will end on Friday 27 January.

Slinky Thurlow

IMG_20160408_093049718_HDRSince having kids I’m increasingly in the position of having way more in my pattern and fabric stash than I can possibly get through. I’m trying not to buy new things, but it’s tricky when the Knitting and Stitching show comes round each year and it’s just minutes from my house.

These trousers, however, are a triumph of sewing from the stash, as the pattern and fabric have been knocking about for ages. They weren’t originally intended for each other either. The fabric was purchased in Ipoh, Malaysia, probably about 10 years ago. It was intended for a suit, but when I tried to make said suit, I realised the pattern was for a slimmer version of me, so it just wasn’t going to work. It’s a lovely, drapey synthetic that washes well – perfect for a pair of work trousers.






I have had the Sewaholic Thurlow pattern for maybe 3-4 years. It has all the things I like in trousers – a slight boot cut, back welts, proper pockets. And it’s a nicely constructed pattern too. My only issue was that it sits a little low. But all in all, I’m pretty happy with these.

IMG_20160408_070042231I made a muslin, which was a good move, as I ended up adding to the crotch curve to correct for a bit of tightness in the back. Otherwise, no adjustments were needed, not even to the length which is usually an issue for me. These took about 6 weeks to complete, doing 5-10 minutes a day when I could. Not sure I’ll make them again, but am happy to finally have this fabric out of the stash and into the closet.

Alice in Wonderland becomes a Librarian

IMG_20160210_091959959When I was a teenager, I discovered a lovely green and blue plaid woolen dress in my mother’s closet. She’d made it when younger and said she was so sick of it by the time she finished making it (with all the pattern matching, etc to be done), that she didn’t wear it much. She was happy for me to have it and I wore it ALL THE TIME. I still have it, even though I haven’t been able to fit into it in decades, and though it’s a bit worse for wear, I still love it.


Back seam along invisible zipper

Back seam along invisible zipper

Perhaps this dress has a similar fate. It was finished sometime in 2014. I wore it once before becoming pregnant again, and so it languished in the closet until I returned to work earlier this year. This is my first ever attempt at matching plaids and, while Butterick 4386 isn’t the most complex pattern I could have chosen, it was still challenge enough to get everything lined up. In the end, I’m very pleased with the matching – the back on each side of the zipper lines up very well and the pockets are spot on. It’s an accomplished make, from fine medium weight wool fabric.

IMG_20160210_070251805But it’s not a firm favourite in the wardrobe rotation yet, for two reasons. The first is easy to fix: I need to find better accompaniments – from the shoes to the tights and the shirt underneath. Currently, I’m stuck with white. And that brings me to reason number two – when I wear this with white tights, I feel like Alice in Wonderland has grown up and become a librarian. Maybe I’ve been in Britain so long I’ve internalised the distaste for white tights (even without fully understanding it). Or perhaps I just feel I can’t quite get away with white tights at my age. In any case, until I find a better complete ensemble, I think this lovely dress may stay closet-bound. Maybe my daughters will discover and rescue it in 10-15 years.

Snowflake in hell sweater

IMG_20151006_141309375My daughter, like so many children her age, loves Frozen. So I really thought that a sweater with snowflakes on it would be right up her street. I was pleased when she came home, saw the finished product and said “I love this”. This love, however, did not translate into a desire to wear. This little item has stayed firmly in the drawer, despite numerous attempts to get her to wear it. To which she always says “Um, no”. Hence the name – because I have accepted there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that she’ll ever wear this thing. I have since taken it to nursery, to sit in her ‘extra clothes’ box, in the hopes that when she gets all her other clothes wet or covered mud and paint, she might actually wear it. If not, I’ll be once again pinning my hopes on her younger sister.


This would look better if I blocked it or ironed it, but since no one is going to wear it, what’s the point?

The pattern is the NORD vest (available to buy from Ravelry) and it knit up just fine. I did use this as a reason to learn to properly strand 2 colours of knitting and got pretty good at having wool wrapped in both hands. One hand/colour then knits continental and the other knits English (see this page on Carolyn Knits for a good example and explanation). And I think the finished product is nice – if only someone would wear it!