Coco Dress Hack

How do you approach your makes? Where do you get your inspiration?

I love being on Instagram and seeing wonderful garments by some amazing makers. I love following the various pattern releases and ogling fabric online. More recently I’ve gone back to pinterest in my search for garments I want to make. I’ve enjoyed pinning ideas and then going to my fabric and pattern stash and dreaming up hacks.

I’ve had this piece of fabric in my stash for a couple of years now. I bought it with the intention of making a pair of Tilly and the Buttons Jessa trousers. The rust colour and the thick polyester were giving me 70s vibes which would be perfect for the Jessas. But I kept stalling because I wondered if I would find a pair of polyester trousers a bit uncomfortable, and, if I’m honest, a bit sweaty.

I’m glad I stalled because that gave me a chance back in September when there was a sewing vintage challenge on Instagram, to stumble across this:

These amazing ladies are the famous Mary Quant models, 50 years on, celebrating Quant’s 90th birthday. I love their mini dresses, the buttons and the patch pockets especially. I liked the idea of a collar but preferred a peter pan collar. So now I knew what to do with the fabric, all I needed was a pattern I could hack.

I decided on the Coco dress by Tilly and the Buttons, a tried, tested and true pattern for me. My fabric had a little bit of stretch but not as much as the Coco pattern was designed for so I knew I would need to insert a zip so I could get in and out if it easily. I was intending to make a faux placket for speed.

I measured the button placket to come to just under my bust and made it from two rectangles stitched together and then turned right side out. I love these big black buttons I got from Dalston Mill. The Peter Pan collar was a bit of a fudge. I measued the neckline and shaped the pattern piece using such technical equipment as a plate, because I couldn’t find my curved ruler! If you have a peter pan collar from another pattern, that would make life easier. The collar is in 2 pieces which I made slightly too long so they over lap at the back, and at the moment I’m calling it a design feature! I’ll probably go back to it at some point and correct it.

When I make a Tilly pattern, I usually cut a size 4 bodice and grade to a 5 at the hips (12-14). But because my fabric wasn’t stretchy enough, I thought I should scale up so I cut a size 6- no I don’t toile, I like living on the edge!

I cut the back as 2 pieces because I was adding a zip. I do not have an invisible zip foot for my new machine so I inserted the zip with a normal zipper foot. My machine has several needle positions which was very useful here so that I could get really close to the teeth and sew a nearly perfect invisible zip. After I sewed it, I realised I could have used my old machine, which has an invisible zipper foot- oh well!

When I tried the dress on, there was too much bunching at the back for my liking so I added darts on either side of the zip. I should have cut a size 5 bodice and graded out to a 6 at the hips. The other adjustment I make on Tilly patterns is to add about an inch and a half to the skirt length.

I really love the way this dress has turned out. The Coco dress is just my style of dress. I love the simple lines, the flattering waist, the 3/4 length sleeves and it’s the right length for looking great with tights and boots. I added large hip patch pockets, borrowed from another pattern, which add to the overall fabulousness of this dress, in my humble opinion!

Following on from my previous two posts, this dress was a frugal make, no new fabric or pattern was bought. It boosted my making skills as I drafted pattern pieces and added darts and learned a bit more about adjusting to fit. It has also given me great joy! I love this vintage look! And the colour is amazing and screams Autumn.

If you’re a Tilly lover and you don’t want to go through all the hacking drama, you could achieve this look with the Francoise dress ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sew all the things? Part 2

Learning to say no

I really had no idea what I was doing when I started up my Instagram account back in March 2018. I thought it was a place where cool people went to show off their cool pictures. Or where teenagers fled to escape their parents and aunties who kept embarrassing them on Facebook!

What I really wanted was to find some other people like me who enjoyed sewing and who would perhaps inspire me and give me some tips. Well, I got that and more! I met so many lovely people, so much talent, so many ideas and makes to copy!

I still can’t believe how much I have sewn in that time. How much fabric has passed through these hands, how many patterns have been studied. How many buttons and zips have been bought. How many blog posts and reviews have been written!

Yes, I really didn’t know how Instagram worked and what went on in this corner of sewing lovers social media. I didn’t know that people would approach you and offer you stuff, I didn’t know you could be asked to freely advertise, I didn’t know about the endless competitions and challenges that could lure you in. It can be quite overwhelming and heady. If you’re a new maker and new to Instagram, beware!

I remember the first time I got a message from Minerva crafts asking if I’d like to join their bloggers network and get free fabric each month in exchange for a blog post. I was so excited- free fabric, yes please! These fun trousers were my first make for them. They are the Carrie trousers from Sew Over It and are well loved and well worn.

As well as being part of Minerva crafts bloggers network, I’ve also pattern tested for 4 different companies, and this is really fun. Trying out a pattern before it comes on sale, looking for any mistakes and being a small part of the design process is really exciting. Pattern testing has been a great way for me to develop my skills and try different styles.

I’ve pattern tested for some really great companies. Here are some from @patternscout @tillyandthebuttons and @aliceandco

But recently I got to a place where my desire to sew all the things was getting in the way of other things I loved, namely my family and rest! I would often find myself saying yes to every offer of a free pattern or free fabric and entering every challenge. I ignored the fact that free isn’t always as free as it seems. If I got free fabric, then I would often buy a new pattern. If I got a free pattern, I would often buy new fabric. And then there are all the notions, and all your time. Some of the companies I test for pay a stipend for fabric, others give you an extra free pattern. All this is great, but none of it pays the bills.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful, neither do I want to bite the hand that feeds my likes! This is how instagram works, but this isn’t how sewing needs to be all the time. I love getting freebies and I love pattern testing. And I’m really happy to give a shout out to someone else doing their hustle. But as an unpaid job, it can sometimes create so much work and even some stress, that I have to pause ask “woman, what are you doing?!” Am I actually spending less, am I enjoying this and is this improving my skills. Even if the answer is yes to some or all the above, am I just making for the sake of making?

Daughter #1 is our eco warrior and she tries to keep my making in check with a “mum, do you really need that?” thrown in every now and then. And I’m glad for it. Part of making for myself is my way of combatting the fast fashion industry. It’s also about me being less materialistic, trading several quickly made items for fewer slow and careful makes. So does it make sense to be grabbing every “freebie” that comes my way?

So, I have been learning to say no, I do not have to sew all things. What other people do is their business, but I felt the need to slow down. I think I’ve settled down a bit after those giddy days and I’m choosing who to sew for and when. I’m deciding which challenges to take part in and which to just cheer along from the sidelines. I’m taking control of my sewing and finding the space to explore other things.

I will always make room for pattern testing though. For me it ticks two boxes: I enjoy it and it helps improve my skills. In fact these sewing experiences have given me more confidence to sew for others, and who knows where I might go with that!

I’d love to know if you resonate with any of this, perhaps it’s just me!

In summary, sewing is a liberating, fun and creative hobby. The Instagram sewing community is largely a great place to meet like minded people, to be inspired, to be encouraged and to learn from. Just don’t let it control you! Sew because you love to. Set your own agenda and goals, and you really don’t need to sew all the things ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sew all the things?

I think I have made rather a lot of things over the last 2 years. Sewing is a hobby that I really, really love. There is great enjoyment in choosing fabric, pairing it with the right pattern and then turning these flat pieces of fabric into a garment that looks good and fits well.

There is a bit of smugness in knowing that what you’re wearing is unique, that it really is not on the High street. Even if you happen to make the most popular garment in the sewing world,  I’m looking at you Ogden, Indigo and Zadie, to name but a few, you can still make it absolutely yours with your fabric choice, or with a hack here or there.

Sewing for yourself is also a massive boost in the feel good factor as you get to know your body and get comfortable with a tape measure. As someone who has struggled for years to accept my body and has found buying ready to wear clothes more of a chore than a joy, it’s great that I can make things which are just my size. You also get to know your style, and what shapes and silhouettes work for you. Ah, it is a beautiful, liberating and uplifting thing to be a maker!

All that being said, there can be a lot of pressure in the sewing world to make all the things and that can take away some of the joy of making. We can put that pressure on ourselves, turning our nose up when we see the poor quality or high cost of something in the shops- “I can make that myself ” we say. Other times it’s as we scroll through Instagram and see the volume of garments some makers are churning out or feel we have no new content to put on our feed and then that pressure to “make something now!” looms large.

We come into sewing for different reasons. Mine were financial, for pleasure and for my own development. So as I’m making, I like to reflect on these reasons so that I don’t get sucked into the murky depths of having to have a new make or two every week. Taking a bit of time to think after I’ve made something is for me, a healthy part of my making. Taking stock of what I have, what I need and what I would like, and checking that my drive to sew something is not coming from an unhelpful place, either externally or internally is so helpful.

In my head I’m devising two or three blog posts under this “Sew all the things” title. In this the first, I shall be thinking of some things I haven’t sewn yet, and some that I have no intention of sewing! Do you have to make *all* the things? Of course not.

I have enjoyed developing my skills in the making of all kinds of garments from t-shirts to jeans. I’ve inserted invisible zips and exposed zips, I’ve hammered in snaps and jeans buttons and attached buckles. I love making dresses for every day and special days. Shirt making has been surprisingly fun for me, collars and placket towers have been wonderfully pleasing to conquer.

But there are a few things which I haven’t made and would quite like to. On my sewing table presently is The Kelly Anorak by ClosetCore patterns. I am not yet excited to be making this but I know I soon will be.  This one falls into the ‘for my own development’ category, it will be a challenge. I want to line it and there are so many pieces to contend with. Last April on one of those sunshine and showers days, I left my raincoat on the bus, I think. Since then, my frugal self has been wearing a cast off from daughter #1, which is a tad small and not my colour. I’m hoping to have a bright coral replacement by October.

Another thing I’d like to make one day is a tailored, lined blazer, and I’m feeling lured by the Jasika blazer, again by Closet Core Patterns and the Francine jacket by Sew Over It. That might be something specialย  that the 50 year old me (no longer such a long way off) might sew for my self- in a tweed.

And now I move towards the things I do not intend to make for myself. First off, and sitting on the fence a bit is a swimming costume. Whilst I  think it would be lovely to make a gorgeous vintage swimsuit in a fabric of my choice and that, hopefully fits well, I’m not sure I can be bothered to manoeuvre that slippy, stretchy fabric and manipulate it into a bathing suit. The same goes for activewear. Yes, I’m tired of my running trousers slipping down my waist and needing to oik them up every few strides, but I’m not sure that a me made pair would fair any better.

And then there’s underwear to which I say “really?” I get that there are people who are consciously trying not to buy any clothing and to be totally me made, and I salute them. For me, smalls are just a step too far. Maybe it’s because I love to show off my makes and I know for sure that I won’t be parading in my undies on social media any time soon! Each to each.

What about you? Are you all for a head to toe me made wardrobe or are there some things you just don’t want to make for yourself? The thing is wherever you fall on this there should be freedom, don’t be forced or guilt tripped. Resist the old fear of missing out. We laugh at FOMO but it can be a  real joy stealer. Remember your reasons for why you got into sewing in the first place and check in on those regularly. 

The Stevie Tunic – Ankara Everyday

So, I made a dress for my birthday. I didn’t want to make anything too fancy that would sit in my wardrobe and not get much wear and I wanted to make something quick in beautiful fabric! So I teamed this gorgeous red and gold ankara fabric from Dovetailed London with my beloved Stevie tunic, with a twist. But let me back up a little.

The Stevie tunic is a Tilly and the Buttons darling of a pattern that I love. Why? It’s a quick, easy make, so wearable. It’s hackable, has a dress and top version with a button or tie closure at the back, and can be worn all year long, layered with cardi, tights and boots for cool days. I have made 8 variations of Stevie, 6 for me and one each for my sister and daughter. I don’t usually navigate towards tunics or shift dresses because I prefer a more fitted shape on me and yet I am drawn to the shape of the Stevie, it has a 60s mini dress vibe which I love.

This latest Stevie is hacked with a ruffle and exposed zip at the back and side seam pockets. The ruffle was made by gathering a tube of fabric to the desired width across the back seam. I then sandwiched it between the lower back and upper back. The ruffle could be made out of a single layer of fabric finished with a narrow hem or overlocker. There seem to be a lot of ruffles on clothing these days and that back seam was just crying out to be ruffled! The exposed zip is something I’ve wanted to try for ages, I love the effect it gives this garment. I made a size 4 grading to a 5 at the hips.

Ankara fabric works well for a Stevie. It is a pattern with few pieces which means prints can be shown off beautifully. The Stevie I made for my daughter was also in ankara.

My daughter’s version is made with a large scale print. Her’s has cuffed sleeves, a button closure and a patch breast pocket which was pattern matched almost to perfection! Can you spot it?

Perhaps if you have just a small amount of ankara you could try making the Stevie top, to change up your usual tee and jeans combo.

As much as I love the Stevie, I’ve got a little round up of similar tunics or shifts that you could try with waxprint: the Carnaby dress by Nina Lee London, The Camber dress by Merchant and Mills, the Lulu dress by Sew over it, the Farrow dress by Grainline Studios and Vogue patterns V8897. I’m really wanting to try out the Carnaby dress.

Remember, ankara is a medium weight waxed fabric and will tend to give garments a more structured, stiff-ish look, it is not drapey. I love the shape it gives the Stevie tunic. The Stevie makes a very casual, every day dress but the right ankara fabric can lift it into a party dress!

Twinning is winning!

If you follow #sewingstevie on instagram you will see a few other Stevies in ankara. I’m hoping that they’ll be few more now!

The Nenuphar Jacket – Ankara Everyday

The Nenuphar jacket by Deer and Doe is a winner for African waxprint, in my opinion.ย  The pattern actually suggests more drapey fabric but I love the structure that ankara gives to the garment.

There are two options to play around with, this three quarter length sleeve version with patch pockets and another with long gathered sleeves. The patch pockets are generous and have a v- notch in the top that echo the v- notch of the collar band.

I get excited about easy to make patterns,  I guess I am a lazy sewer. There are no difficult steps. The lower back piece is gathered before attaching to the upper back piece. I point this out because I don’t love the process of gathering but I do quite like patterns with gathers and ruffles. During this make I actually snapped the threads as I pulled the gathers, not nice. But other than that all went smoothly with this pattern. The instructions are very clear and it was a quick make.

I actually cut out the pieces for this jacket last year from this vibrant fabric I won in an Instagram challenge.  For some reason I didn’t make it up until I was prepping for Ankara appreciation week.  This was my “with jeans” look, teamed up with denim shorts and trainers. A dead casual, relaxed look.

This bright, bold Ankara fabric in my favourite red and yellow just lifts the denim, smartens it up a bit while still being fun. A good top to wear with the nenuphar is the True Bias Ogden Cami beloved by almost every sewist I know! I made this one out of scraps from another project and could only fit the pieces on if I cut the front and back as 4 separate pieces rather than 2 on the fold. I french seamed the pieces together and I quite like the Ogden with centre seams.

Nenuphar and Ogden, a happy couple!

The Nenuphar jacket is unlined and makes a great summer alternative to a denim jacket. You may may want to opt for French or bias bound seams for a super neat finish. I French seamed the easier seams and for quickness, I just used my overcast foot and zigzagged the sleeve seams. I really love everything about this jacket, the shape, the length sleeve of version 1 is more me, the quickness of the make and that it is so good in ankara. I’m on the look out for fabric with blue tones to make another.

If you’re not really a dress or skirt person but are looking for ways to incorporate Ankara into your wardrobe perhaps a jacket is the way to go. The nenuphar opens up options for colour blocking, for example, you could have just a hint of ankara by just msking the collar piece ankara. Or for the more bold, you could play around with two coordinated ankara fabrics. Here are a few other jackets I think would look good in ankara: Simplicity 8418 – bomber jacket, Cambria Duster- Friday Pattern Company, Butterick 6739- Wrap jacket and the Jasika blazer – Closet Case Patterns. I’d like to have a go at some of those one day but for now I’m enjoying my nenuphar. I’d love to know if you make one from waxprint!

The sleeves make me smile!

Roma Midi Skirt – Ankara Everyday

I really, really love this gorgeous African wax print (ankara) fabric and I really, really love the Roma midi skirt by @halfmoonatelier

I bought this fabric as a remnant from a seller on instagram, @ailz_ . It was less than a metre and I was initially thinking of a top. But as I was prepping for Ankara appreciation week I decided that a quick and easy straight skirt was what I needed.

@therealalexisbailey

I came across this roma skirt by @therealalexisbailey on instagram and knew that I needed to make one.

It looked so simple and was just the shape I wanted, with no fasteners and a cute side patch pocket, which I left off on mine as I didn’t have enough fabric. In fact, it looked so simple that in my arrogance and my quest not to buy all the patterns (see Megan Neilsen River Hack post), I thought I’d draft my own copy. But then guilt flooded over me, I  shouldnt be copying someone else’s pattern and for ยฃ9, surely I could help out a gal doing her hustle. So I  clicked.

The pattern is for a straight skirt which falls below the knee, with a lovely curved hem creating a side split. It has an elasticated waist. The pattern allows for you to make it more or less fitted according to where you take your measurements. It can be finished with a folded hem or with bias binding. @therealalexisbailey has a sewalong style tutorial showing you how to do the folded hem around the curve.




This is a skirt that can be made in around 2 hours. It’s also a skirt that works really well with ankara fabric. Just 2 pieces and an optional pocket so you can really showcase your fabric with little interuption to the print. With larger prints you can have fun with pattern placement too. I love this ankara roma skirt by @timetosew with the bands of colour and pattern.

@timetosew finished her roma skirt with bias binding and it is made from a lovely ankara print.

This skirt is a casual, modern take on the classic pencil skirt and can be dressed up or down.

A more casual look with tee and trainers.

Following #midiskirtroma I was surprised to see so few makes. I’m not a great fan of elasticated waists because although they are comfy, they create a fuller silhouette than I want around my tummy and bottom. But this skirt shape has minimal pouff around the mid section and the straight shape is pleasing.

If you followed #sewingankarafabric on instagram last week you may have been blown away by all the amazing, showstopping makes. But I want to show you some ways in which ankara fabric can brighten up a basic garment, making waxprint work for every day. The roma skirt is definitely one pattern to use. It is a good one for left over fabric from a 6 yard bundle perhaps, or if you’re just wanting to test run ankara, buy one yard and make this skirt. Let me know if you make one!

Megan Nielsen River Hack

Sewists can feel like collectors some times. We collect fabric, patterns, books, tools and haberdashery like they’re going out of fashion. It’s not a cheap hobby and it takes up a fair bit of space. But as well as collecting all this hardware, we collect skills, achievement and joy and that keeps me going.

For a while now I have felt conflicted by how much I feel the need to buy every new pattern or pattern book that hits my insta feed, and how much I need to watch the pennies and just actually make the patterns I do have. And then there’s the whole business of hacking. Can I be bothered to hack and draft my own pieces? Is it wrong to copy someone else’s design?

The thing is, there are so many patterns out there and because all these designers are keeping their eyes on the catwalk and high streets there are so many similarities. And while I really want to support independent businesses, and I have my favourites, I need to support my purse too! So, recently I decided to practice and develop some of the skills I’ve been collecting by hacking and mashing patterns.

A few months back, I fell in love with a gorgeous blouse by Style Arc, the Harmony top. It has beautiful floaty sleeves and a lovely simple boxy shape. I really wanted to buy it but I held back. That litte niggling voice saying ” you have similar boxy blouse patterns already. You could hack those sleeves” grew louder each time I wanted to hit purchase.

Eventually, the right fabric came into my hands and an idea was born.

The River blouse and dress by Megan Nielsen is a really simple make. I had made the dress last year, also with hacked sleeves, that time elasticated cuff. The pattern is for knits or wovens. It has a raglan bodice which I’m really loving at the moment. The River is also reversible in that the front and back pattern pieces are identical but one is crew neck and the other is v- neck. You can choose to wear it whichever way you like.

Everything about this make is easy. The instructions are clear and the fit is casual and comfy. I made the medium size with no fit adjustments.

For the sleeve, I added two flounces to the original sleeve using a flounce from another pattern I had. I needed to widen the flounce to fit this sleeve width and I cut one flounce to be a little less deep that the other. I stitched the more narrow flounce over the wider one and attached them to each sleeve before sewing in the sleeves according to the River pattern instructions. ( notice the thread I didn’t trim- oops)

I really love this blouse, it feels and looks great on. I’m so pleased with the way this hack worked out, it’s exactly the look I was going for and didn’t cost me any extra. I will definitely be returning to this pattern.

The nice thing about working with patterns you’ve already made before, is that you know that you like the style and fit on you. Also you already have all the paper pieces traced and cut. If you’re anything like me, I find that to be the most tedious part of the making process.

I don’t know what your thoughts are about hacking or about tweaking your existing patterns to look like another pattern. The way I see it, in the making world we are all borrowing ideas from each other.

The River pattern is a great one to make as is but it also serves as a great block to make hacks from. I have more ideas for it whirring in my head. But if you liked this blouse but don’t have the pattern or can’t be bothered to hack it, then the Harmony blouse from Style Arc looks worth getting ๐Ÿ˜Š

Megan Dress Hack

This beautiful piece of fabric had been sitting in my stash since February 2019. It is a really bold cerise with yellow and black swirls, on my favourite fabric to work with, African wax print or Ankara. A sewing friend and fellow minister’s wife bought it for me at a time when I was grieving the death of a friend. She wanted me to look forward to the hope of a brighter future, one that my lovely friend was enjoying right now. A future free from pain and filled with great beauty and colours so gorgeous and rich. It was such a beautiful gesture which meant a lot to me.

I wanted to use the fabric to make something special, a dress. But not too special that I would hardly wear it. I didn’t think it needed to be fussy, the fabric is statement enough. It didn’t take me long before I decided that I wanted to make the Megan dress from the book, Love at First Stich by Tilly Walnes. I think my lovely friend would have laughed to know I was wearing a dress called by her name!

Although it didn’t take me long to decide, it did take a long time before I actually cut into the fabric. Fear of messing it up, fear of crying as I sewed it, fear that I wouldn’t like the finished garment. So I waited until I was ready.

Love at first Stitch is Tilly Walnes’ first book, it’s for beginners. I got it for Christmas 2018, having sewn for several years and made many patterns by Tilly and the Buttons. I bought the book mainly for the Mimi blouse and the Megan dress. I love the sixties vibe of the Megan, and it’s simplicity. Having stalked the Megan dress on line for a while, I’d seen several versions including some in waxprint. I’d also read about some issues with the neck. So for my dress, I lowered the neckline. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I will fix that later, for now, my hair covers it!

I made a straight size 5, based on the finished garment measurements. For a more fitted look I should have gone for a 4 bodice, grading out to a 5 at the hips. But I wanted a little space to eat all the cake! I also lengthened the hem by 2 inches which is my usual adjustments for Tilly patterns. I fully lined it too. I don’t really like facings, I find them lumpy and they show through the garment. I like the smooth finish and luxurious feel of a lined garment.

I also decided that I would like to add a little more drama afterall. I think that 3/4 length sleeves look good on a sixties dress and they suit me. So I added the flounce sleeves from the Indigo dress by Tilly and the Buttons. Now, I have to confess, the Indigo and I are not friends. I have a partially finished one languishing in my wardrobe. The whole wide, gathered smock thing does nothing for me. I need more shape and fit to a garment. However, I do love the sleeves, so here they are.

The cotton wax print fabric makes for a nice, crisp flounce which I rather like. I really don’t like gathering, the gathers here are not evenly spaced but I don’t care, it still looks good!

I really am pleased with this dress and so glad I finally made it. It does seem poignant that I made it during lockdown at a time of a global crisis, when thousands of people are dying. Was it pointless for me to be focusing on beautiful garments at a time like this? I’m not sure. It gave me joy to make it, it gave joy to all my family, I’ve had more praise from them for this dress than anything else I’ve made!

Fancy Shirts

I made a shirt last year and I loved it so much that I decided that 2020 would be the year of the shirts. The shirt I made was the Byrdie Button up by Pattern Scout, I was testing again.

I made this shirt from a cotton lawn and trimmed it with navy dobby. It was a make that taught me much, attaching a collar, sleeve plackets and cuffs.

I really do love wearing buttoned shirts but my machine the Janome 7025 doesn’t handle button holes well. But I persevered and made 8 reasonable buttonholes.

This shirt has been named my Nelson Mandela shirt!

The pattern offers a plain button up shirt or dress with standard collar and 2 optional patch pockets, and a pintuck button up shirt or dress with a mandarin collar. If you follow #psbyrdiebuttonup on Instagram, you’ll see some amazing versions. The options of making your Byrdie unique  are plentiful. Playing around with fabric choices, colour blocking,  pockets or no pockets, standard collar or mandarin, they’re all there.

But while we testers were busy making and sharing our makes, Casey of Pattern Scout was busy hacking her pattern. And she has her hacks posted on her blog and has a sew a long and tutorials. One of the hacks Casey posted that had me drooling was for a pussy bow blouse. I knew I had to have one. I watch the series Elementary on Amazon Prime and the character Joan Watson wears some amazing bow blouses. Yes, I spend as much time observing her fashion as I do trying to solve the mystery!

I was on the look out for the right fabric. I wanted something floaty and bold and a little unusual.

When a gust of wind helps emphasize the floatiness of the fabric!

That combination came in the form of this amazing fabric designed by Katie Kortman @katiekortmanart for Spoonflower @spoonflower. It was a fabric that I’d seen Katie Kortman in on Instagram and I loved it.

Spoonflower fabric isn’t cheap. I got 2 metres of crepe de chine using Christmas money from the in laws.  I’m so glad I took the plunge and spent more money than I usually would because it’s every bit as beautiful as I hoped it would be and it’s made a really special garment.

Casey’s hack was simple. Because she used delicate fabric, she eliminated buttons, sleeve plackets and pockets, this made for a quick make. Or at least it would have been if I hadn’t got into a muddle with the neck facing. I unpicked it several times which was not good for this fabric and I still don’t think I got it right. But the busy pattern and the bow hide and detract from that mishap.

Now, I’ve never had the sort of job that calls for smart dress and now that I’m a stay at home mum doing lots of unpaid, community and church work, you’d think I would have no need for a blouse like this. Oh no, I plan to wear this top often, just because it’s beautiful and I made it!

Excuse the booty but check out that back pleat!

As you can see from both sets of pictures I’m wearing the same trousers and boots! That was a happy coincidence. That got me thinking, how often do I make something considering how well it would fit in with my wardrobe? Not often enough really, but I do have a colour palette and that helps to match stuff. But it’s not only the colour that you need to consider, it’s the style too.

A quick look through my wardrobe and I came up with three ways to style my bow blouse with other me mades.

Look 1.

This is the Ivy pinafore by Jennifer Lauren, it’s a couple of years old now. It’s made from a grey herringbone wool and I think it looks cute with the blouse.

Look 2.


I made this Delphine skirt by Tilly and the Buttons last year, using a red wool mix. And on days when I’m wanting to make a bright, bold statement, I think this would do it!

Look 3

This look brings on some full seventies vibes! The jeans are the flared version of the Ash jeans by Megan Nielsen. I made them in this pinstripe denim.

So, I’m pretty pleased with this blouse! It’s a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

I highly recommend this Byrdie pattern, I think it may well be the only shirt pattern I need. I’ve got some other hacks swimming about in my head and I would like to make a pintuck version too. I do love that this pattern is so versitile.

I also highly recommend this fabric. I love this print so much! The crepe de chine was difficult to work with, it was a slippery, snagging so and so. But I’m not going to focus on the snags I made, instead I choose to focus on the fact that I have a really beautiful blouse!

Pattern Testing the Lulu Cardigan

The Lulu cardigan by @patternscout. Version B

This make is giving me all the autumnal feels which is very apt as I both finished it and am writing this blog on the first day of autumn.

I was very excited a few weeks ago when Casey of @patternscout contacted me and asked if I would like to be a tester for her new pattern. I had already been loving the sneak peeks of her Lulu cardigan so I said yes without hesitation.

The Lulu is a bomber style close fitting cardigan with options for a zipper, snaps or buttons and a peplum. The pattern is designed for knit fabrics and the fit and style will largely depend on the type of knit fabric you use. I loved the pattern so much that I made 2 cardigans, testing out both versions.

Fabric from Sew Over It and Dalston Mill

For my first jacket, I rummaged through my stash. I kind of wanted to colour block but I wasn’t entirely happy with the mix of patterns or weight of fabric I had. I finally settled on these two. The striped fabric is textured ponte from Sew Over It on Essex Road, Islington. I bought it last year in one of their monthly remnant sales and I knew it was destined to be a cardigan, once I’d found the right pattern. The teal ribbing is from Dalston Mill, Hackney. Both fabrics are pretty stable knit without much stretch, but enough for this pattern according to the little stretch test chart on the pattern instructions. Ponte is my favourite knit to work with, but stripes, well that just added another dimension. I was uber careful to cut the pattern out best as I could to get the stripes to match. I wish I could tell you step by step exactly what I did, but I can’t remember!

I have tested once before for @patternscout and I find her instructions so clear, informative and logical. Part of being a tester means that you follow the instructions as they appear so you can let the designer know if they makes sense. These instructions made total sense. I know I’ve been sewing quite a bit over the last couple of years but I found this pattern so easy to make and this version at least was a seam ripper free make! Whoop whoop!

Almost, nearly, pretty good stripe matching

I made a size 12, C cup. I love that Casey designs for a range of cup sizes. I recently went to the trouble of going for a proper bra fitting at a charming, old school place called Design Also, Highbury. I discovered there was more to me than I thought and the words ‘scoop’ and ‘lift’ are now a part of my daily morning ritual. If you want to know more, go visit the shop. I digress. I graded the arms up a size and lengthened the sleeves to the full Version B (cuff less) length, to accommodate my mesomorphic frame.

The finished, bomber style cardigan is close fitting as I wanted it to be. It makes a snug top over a vest or cami. I love the cropped length here with my Megan Neilsen Ash jeans. Actually, as I look at that picture above, I can’t believe that I made my complete outfit. If you had told me a couple if years ago that I’d make a pair of jeans and a jacket I would have scoffed.

After I made that version, @patternscout made some tweaks to the pattern, heeding the voices of her testers. So what could I do? I had to make another one of course!

Version B plan, frustration was looming.

Version B required a trip to the shops. Living in North London, I am blessed to have so many fabric stores and markets a hop and a skip away. Rolls and Rems, Holloway was the first fabric shop I stumbled upon when I first moved back to London, 8 years ago. My favourite thing about this shop are the remnants buckets where a bargain can always be found. But rummage as I might, this time I couldn’t find the knit fabric that I wanted. But the store had a good selection of knits on it’s shelves and this autumnal shades, floral print grabbed my attention, even though I specifically told myself to buy a solid colour. Prints draw me all the time! The fabric was a light scuba which I believe is now my favourite knit fabric. It doesn’t fray or crease, what’s not to love.

I decided to block this cardigan, teaming it with a black rib, again from Dalston Mill. However, unlike the teal rib for my Version A, this rib was really stretchy and had little cotton content. Nonetheless, I proceeded to sew the collar and side panels in this ribbing and it was a disaster. The fabric stretched and the cardigan was shapeless. Time for the seam ripper? I really didn’t have the heart for this. Thankfully, the lulu cardigan doesn’t use a great deal of fabric and the scuba was a wide piece and I managed to cut out a new bodice from what was left ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿพ.

I decided I would go for buttons because I couldn’t find any pearly snaps that I wanted, but I did find cute little antique looking buttons. So with having to basically start again, make button holes and a ruffled peplum, the fun in the make was in danger of being lost altogether. But seeing all the other Lulu cardigans sneak peeking their way on instagram inspired me to press on. I’m so glad I did because this Lulu is gorgeous, if I do say so myself!

If you like the look of my makes, do follow #pslulucardigan and @patternscout on Instagram for more inspiration. And go get the pattern, you won’t regret it!

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