It was the third one that nearly killed me

OK, so that’s an exageration, but by the time I was finishing the third and final last minute Christmas make I was feeling pretty rough. That’s what coming down with a stomach bug does to you.


Still, if you will leave taping and cutting out the pdf until first thing Christmas Eve morning (the house was blissfully quiet as I was the only one up) and cutting and sewing until after the kids are in bed and you’ve walked your mum home (I’m thinking it was about 9pm, it’s a bit of a blur now), then you don’t have a lot of choice if you need to get it done in time. Let this be a lesson to you me.

I was fairly confident as I knew a tshirt dress, with only 5 pieces (front, back, 2 sleeves, neckband) would be a pretty quick make, but I hadn’t counted on how rough I would feel. I even switched the pedal over to slow mode to help me cope (usually only used when kids are on the machine).

But, I did it, well almost, it didn’t get hemmed until a  couple of days later but it did get worn on Christmas day. And I decided to skip the planned step of adding in some side pockets.


So, this is Nivalis number 2, sized up 2 sizes from last time, one size because the last one is quite slim fitting with not much growing room and the second size because this fabric was a bit thicker and not quite so stretchy as last time (I think it might be ponte). Probably I should’ve only sized up one size as now it’s really quite long, but never mind, she’ll grow.  Also, I left off the tabs this time (that was planned, not just because I ran out of time).

This is not a cardigan

It all started with a dare. After a lot of dithering I finally took the plunge and asked for a Sewing Dare.  And the reply I got filled me with dread…

You said you desperately need warm tops in your life – so I dare you to make some kind of cardigan! So many great patterns out there… or hack a tee-pattern into a fitted or waterfall cardi. Go forth and sew cosy!

Nooo, not a cardy!  I simply don’t wear cardies. But a dare is a dare. Suffice to say I have been overthinking my knee jerk reaction to the cardy challenge, what constitutes a cardy and whether there is a style of cardy that I might actually wear ever since I read this.


In the mean time, while I muse on this, I have made one of my wardrobe staples that I wear instead of a cardy, a long sleeve t shirt. I decided to make another Coco Top as the last one that I made gets a lot of wear. And I even remembered to read the blog post that I wrote about it before starting and I tried it on (double organisational points for me) resulting in me raising and bringing in the neckline still further (it’s annoying when my long sleeve top has a lower neckline than the top underneath and I have to make sure they match each other as well as matching my bottom half), making  a small sway back adjustment (which I’m not sure I did effectively) and lengthening the sleeves by an inch at the three quarter length line.


What’s that up in the sky?

I think I bought this spongey thick purple knit with a subtle flecky sparklyness to it with a coco in mind. (I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t buy some of the charcoal grey colourway too, sold out now). And it will match more things than the last one (big flowers may be ace, but they’re not always much easier to match to the rest of my wardrobe than my stripey tops are).


Why it’s Super Mum                                                                                                                                                 (as photographed by The Boy, accessories photographers own)

Have you noticed the decorative stitching yet?


Yup, the neckline, cuffs and hem are hand finished in herringbone stitch.


This wasn’t the original plan. It started due to laziness. Last time I made a facing to finish the neckline as I thought the pattern as drafted was a little on scruffy side for a neckline finish. But I’d just altered the neckline, and I couldn’t be bothered to alter the facing too, so I decided to try some knit bias tape that I bought (online, then found locally, sigh).  I stitched it on to the right side, pressed, turned, tacked down, then wondered how to sew it down. Straight stitch would pop (the new smaller neckline definitely needs stretching to get over my head), as in my experience does a twin needle. Stretch straight stitch (aka lightening bolt) looks awful as topstitching, and I wasn’t sure that zig zag nearly an inch out from the neckline (as the pre bought bias binding is quite wide) would look ok. I don’t have a coverstitch machine. I tried to search for a knit bias tape finish but was unsuccessful, I only rediscovered the excellent grainline one for wovens, and realised that I should’ve undererstitched. While pondering what to do next, my mind turned to sashiko style stitching, inspired by all the lovely mends I’d seen on the Make do and Mend group. I tried out a zig zag (hmmm), a straight running stitch (not stretchy, as predicted) and a herringbone stitch and decided on the latter, using some white cotton that had belonged to my grandmother in law (so presumably is for quilting in some manner).


I was a bit worried that it looked too homemadey (I don’t usually do handstitching on anything as I’m a bit slapdash and scruffy at it), so I started with one cuff and worked my way up. LSH was very impressed, he thought the top had looked too plain (not used to seeing me in solid coloured garments obviously!) and the herrbingbone lifted it. Today I just happened to call into my local fabric shop and I was asked by one of the lovely assistants how I got thread that thick to go through my machine 🙂 So it passes that test! Now fingers crossed it washes and wears ok! (And no, I will not normally be wearing an entirey purple ensemble, but I have perilously few pairs of trousers and these were the ones that were clean today).

What’s your favourite finishing technique?

Sleeves – a work in progress

“I have a sewing project idea I wanted to ask you about”, said my husband (he knows how to get my attention) “removable arms”. My initial response was that I wasn’t sewing him robotic arms, but it turned out he meant
removable sleeves, also known as arm warmers, made for cyclists. “You could use up some of your left over bits of knit fabric, they wouldn’t have to be identical”. Right, interest well and truly piqued.

I did a quick online search and the ones I found are all flash looking in high performance fabric with “gel grips” (to hold them up I suspect). Oh, and they were black, cos that’s all technical right? (although hubby found some garish bright ones on sale online somewhere).

Hubby doesn’t think so much of high performance fabric. He doesn’t do high performance cycling, just commuting, and in his words, the high performance fabric smells horrible after you’ve worn it twice and doesn’t last long.

I started with an old t shirt and some grey marl ribbing of not that great quality (at the time I bought it I was so excited to find ribbing I didn't notice).

I started with an old t shirt and some grey marl ribbing of not that great quality (at the time I bought it I was so excited to find ribbing I didn’t notice).

So, I made a prototype from an old t shirt and which I draped around his arm and pinned to get the right size. Then I made a fairly sizable double layer cuff from my least favourite ribbing in the stash (I had no idea if this would work or not and ribbing is hard to come by in these parts) to go at the top. I guesstimated how much narrower to make it. My thought was that if yoga pants stay up with a wide knit waistband then this should stand a chance and it would probably be more comfortable than using elastic.

Sleeve shape cut after it was draped and pinned

Sleeve shape cut after it was draped and pinned, looking promisingly sleevish

I also added a cuff at the bottom of the sleeve after consulting with hubby. I cut it randomly narrower cos it felt right and he was pleasantly pleased with the result.

There wasn’t enough t shirt left to make a whole second one so I cut up another t shirt. I thought I’d drawn out the pattern I’d “used” first time around correctly, so it should’ve been the same size, but actually it came out baggier. Still, I left it like that for him to test.

Worn under a t shirt they looked suitably cycley (somehow the matching cuffs make the mis matched fabric look like a trendy design feature).

ready for a test ride

ready for a test ride

So, what was the verdict?

He was pretty happy when he tried them on. When he got back from work he commented that cycling is more jiggly than sitting still, so I need to modify them with a tighter top cuff so they don’t fall down. He also realised they work best put over his shirt sleeves (which I thought would be obvious). But I think they have potential (and probably better quality ribbing would work better too, if I can bear to spare some).

I like the fact that I managed to rustle something in an hour or so – quicker and cheaper than ordering online! This sewing malarky can be quite fun and useful at times can’t it.

What’s the most random sewing request you’ve had? And did you make it?

70’s vibe

So, I finally finished the latest t shirt – whatdyathink?

No idea where the golden glow is coming from

I have no idea where the golden glow is coming from in this photo.

I’m pretty pleased with this one. I’m glad I went with the navy sleeves, I gave up in the end and bought a t shirt especially for the purpose in a charity shop. £3.50! The metre of 70’s stylee fabric was only £4.99 I think, so that’s not really a bargin for much less than a metre of usable fabric. Still, I now have half a navy t shirt in my stash, just in case.

The sleeve, this is a picture of the sleeve, ok

The sleeve, this is a picture of the sleeve, ok

Can you tell the photo’s are all selfies? I decided to use them anyway for your amusement. Plus I haven’t had chance to get anyone else to take a photo and now we have relatives staying, so that’s unlikely to happen for a few days and in the pre guest arrival tidy up I even packed away my sewing machine and ironing board, so now I’m blogging to try and keep me going until my next sewing fix (I’m fantasising already, but just realised that the fabric needs prewashing and I can’t easily access my stash right now, argghh).

Anyway, the t shirt is another one of Maria Denmark’s Birgitte basic tee (which my mind has accidently renamed a less glamourous sounding Bridget in my head, sorry if that’s slipped out in in text anywhere, I’m afraid it might have). This time a scoop neck, which I like but I wouldn’t like too many like this, I’m used to a higher neckline. The length is as on the pattern and it’s perfect – I’m so pleased to have a fitted t shirt that doesn’t risk exposing me to the world. I tend to find in shop bought clothes, baggy mens style t shirts are long, fitted womens ones are short. Hurrah for being able to make my own clothes.

a bit of puckering on the neckline, but I can live with that

a bit of puckering on the neckline, but I can live with that

And my adjustment to the pattern? Would it surprise you to know I did a full bust adjustment, as per Maria’s instructions. So, this time, I traced the pattern, found my bust apex as before by measuring the distance between my bust apexes (yup, that is as weird a thing to do as it sounds, just makes sure no one walks in on you holding a ruler up to your chest), marking a line on my pattern piece half that distance from the centre front (parallel to my centre front), then holding the pattern piece up to my body and marking the apex on it. I do the hold and mark a couple of times and then use my brain’s in built statistical analysis algorithm (a.k.a. eyeballing it) to mark an appropriate looking depth point on my line based on my splodgey marks.

So, apex found, I followed the instructions add in lines (handily that line parallel to the centre front is one I already need), slash, spread and tape extra bits of paper in place. Not too bad.

Then to eliminate the dart that’s been added. Originally Maria suggested just pinching it out and ignoring the bulge, but I realised when making this t shirt that she has since updated her advice on include how to remove the bust dart. My initial thought was “noooo, more complicated steps”, but in for a penny, in for a pound – and not too long later I had an adjusted pattern. I find the steps that look complicated when you’re researching them are actually easier to get your head round when you have the piece of paper in your hand to manipulate, maybe that’s just me?

From then on, it was pretty straight forward to construct. Oh, I altered the sleeves to be a little puffy – I’m not sure it’s that noticable but at least I learnt another new pattern adjusting trick. And I pilfered the ribbed collar from an old polo shirt to make the neckband, which maybe I shouldn’t have done as it’s a little stiff, but it’s ok when I’m wearing it I think.

awesome fabric

Close up of my awesome fabric

The fit of this Birgitte is much better than the last one because this proper FBA adds width further down the t shirt too, unlike the easy method, and that is width which I clearly need (try as I might to deny it).

Hmm, not sure

The last Birgitte, for comparison, although it’s a slightly unfair comparison as the fabric on the 70’s one is stretchier and generally a bit better

So, I think I may have got myself a tried and tested basic t shirt pattern, well at least until I go and change shape again. Woohoo. Now my easily distracted brain will want to figure out something more complicated. But for now I award it a Certificate of Basic Competence in FBA’s on Jersey.

And now for something completely different…

Sorry, I lied. I’ve been making another t shirt. From part of my Brighton shopping haul.

70's stylee on the left

70’s stylee on the left, sort of abstract clouds with stars in shades of greyey blue

This time another Brigitte, but with a round neck and an attempt at a proper FBA.

Actually, despite the FBA instructions having got even more steps in since I last looked, that part seems to be going ok. Not that I’m quite sure yet. Because I haven’t finished it. The problem is the sleeves….

I decided this top was crying out for slightly gathered sleeve heads. (Nope, no good reason, but then I am related to the boy. I found a tutorial a bit like this (i.e. I have lost the original tutorial I was following and this seems very similar) and got to work. Puffy sleeve adjustments you hold no fear for me now that I can sort of do a FBA!

Soon I had a new pattern piece drafted by the oh so scientific method of make the new gappy bits at the top the width of my smallest cooking pattern weight. But was it puffy enough, or too puffy? How to tell? Enter Smugly Sensible Husband – can you pin on a sample one?

Rummages through fabric sprawl and finds scrap of old polo shirt that has been cut up already. Hand sews erroneous cut in fabric together, cuts out sample sleeve, hand gathers and tacks into place, tacking underarm sleeve seam and top of side seam together too.

Look how unexpectedly great the navy sleeve looks with the print of the main t shirt

Look how unexpectedly great the navy sleeve looks with the print of the main t shirt

Sleeve is lovely, spot on. Almost a shame to cut sleeve in actual cloudy/starry fabric as the navy blue looks so darn fine, but then I don’t have enough of this blue and plus it’s too thick for the main top. Go to cut cloudy/starry fabric. It’s not big enough for the altered sleeve, only the as drafted sleeve. Unless I cut it at 90 degrees to the right angle, which surely will result in wierd drooping of sleeve over time. Remember navy blue t shirt that I never wear as it’s branded with my old work logo all over the front. Surely the back will be big enough for two sleeve heads? Go to find t shirt, search high and low, but it is sadly not there, suspected given to charity shop in a now forgotten organised frenzy. Sulk. Briefly wonder about cutting sleeves from the oh so soft 3rd and as yet unused fabric but decide against that as there is only a metre and that top will need it’s own sleeves. Sulk some more. Put out Facebook request for unwanted navy blue t shirts in the vain hope that loyal friend will bring one round immediately.

Amazing proto type gather effects from scientific pattern altering method (imagine I'd sewn it properly rather than badly hand tacked it with large rushed stitches)

Amazing proto type gather effects from scientific pattern altering method (imagine I’d sewn it properly rather than badly hand tacked it with large rushed stitches)

Go and buy wine. Say goodbye to husband who is going out for well deserved night out. Check facebook. No replies at all let alone from generous friends about to rush round with fabric in my hour of need. Sulk some more. Drink some wine. Post yet another rambling blog post.

Now, where is that Lola Pattern….