Category Archives: 2014

Bernina, Bernina

Last month I had some time off work and decided to go shopping in Kingston with my Mum. My first shopping trip there was last year to seek out Fabricland – the website for this fabric shop is a bit wacky. Thankfully not reflected in real life but I didn’t buy any fabric this time (I’ve enough already!).

Anyhow, look what I found in a charity shop:


I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so excited and surprised to find it. It came with a bag containing the original manual, spare bobbins and 7 feet! 7!


Now a Bernina isn’t a light machine so I paused for a few seconds to think about how to get this beauty home since we’d travelled by train but with not very encouragement needed from my Mum I decided it was too good to leave behind.

The sales assistant kindly provided a large Ikea bag to put it in. Reader, it was heavy but I found a comfortable enough place on my shoulder to carry it home. Mum offered to help a few times bless her, but she’s retired, so no.

There was. One. Crucial. Thing I had forgotten to do – test it! My heart sank a little when once home and plugged in the machine didn’t work. Poo. However I knew the Battersea Sewing Centre (BSC) could take a look and probably fix it. In the meantime I gave the sewing machine and all the feet and other stuff that it came with a thorough clean and searched online for any info about this particular Bernina. All that I found was its a model from the 1990s and no longer made in Switzerland.

The next weekend I bubbled wrapped and placed in a suitcase the Bernina and off I went to south London. Two working days later BSC called to say the circuit board was the problem and could be replaced. Hurrah! I now have a working machine which reminds me of the textile lessons I had in secondary school. It sews really well and I look forward to making my first handmade item with it.

Knitting and Stitching Show 2014

Someone told me the Knitting and Stitching Show in October is the ‘big one’. To say I was looking forward to it is an understatement. I’m glad I bought my tickets early and didn’t hold out for a potential discount code or Groupon offer for Saturday because it sold out!

I can’t remember if I’ve been to Alexandra Palace or the Ally Pally in north London before. Possibly on a school trip but what an amazing view over London. I don’t have pics – sorry! I’ve not got used to carrying a camera to take pics for this blog. Use your phone I hear you say – its a quite old BlackBerry. Oh. Yes indeed. What I do have is a pic of what I bought:

The colourful fabric on the left is stretch cotton sateen and lovely to touch. I’ve since seen it for sale in John Lewis for £18.50 per metre. I DID NOT PAY THAT MUCH. The blue fabric is a type of cotton linen (I think) and is embroidered with little sailing boats. I hope to make a blouse/shirt with it. A couple of Sew Over It patterns and a Vogue pattern I can remove from my Amazon wish-list, bought for £4 at the show – yay! Finally the tartan is cotton, like the brushed sort but I think too thick for PJs or a shirt, maybe another Megan dress but the idea of matching up plaid correctly is putting me off.

I went to the show with my Mum and we really enjoyed ourselves. She also bought some fabric and stopped for a head and shoulder massage there too. It was very busy – lots of people and lots to see. I would definitely like to go next year.


I’ve not posted for many months as studies or the guilt of not studying and sewing instead became too much. It has been a trying year and at times I questioned whether spending many hours indoors sewing was the best idea for a new hobby. This was back in the Spring after the Saturday pattern making classes had finished. Classes that I had concluded was not efficient sewing time because I enjoyed the social side of discussing where to buy fabric and the Great British Sewing Bee too much and not getting enough done in class!


Anyhow, sewing came to a stop in May after an intense Bank Holiday weekend desperately trying to finish to making a Megan dress from Tilly’s newly published book ‘Love at First Stitch’. This was a lovely birthday present from work colleagues and I was using fabric given to me at work also some years ago. I really, really wanted to finish it to show my appreciation for the kind gifts. I had half inserted the invisible zip (200 metres to go, finish line in sight…) then a check in the mirror wearing the dress showed there was just too much excess fabric below the waist. I pinned and tacked the sides to be taken in and stopped right there. This month I finished it.

Between Christmas and April I sewed two dresses – By Hand London’s Anna and Colette’s Hazel dress (sorry about the pics, there’s not been a good time to go outside and take pics wearing these. I’ll replace in time).


The Anna dress (left) was an easy sew and I really like the bodice. The fabric is viscose (I think!?) and cost £4 per metre in a shop in Walthamstow market. This fabric was tricky! At first the zip bent away from my back, giving me a hump so I unpicked  and reinserted the zip but taking in the excess fabric either side. I don’t know why that happened, could the fabric have stretched that much? Well, it worked and I wore it the next week to Easter/Resurrection Sunday service.

The Hazel dress (right) was much more straight forward, made using African print/Dutch Wax fabric bought in Petticoat Lane market a few years ago. Unfortunately I ruined it by over enthusiastically trimming the waist seams with pinking shears…


Eek! I carried out emergency first aid with some interfacing and a patch of fabric. This seemed an OK fix until I wore it to work and it fell off. Yep, my cardie stayed on for the rest of the day. I’ve not  worn it again but it is my first ever handmade dress so I still love it.

This post is long so just to tie things up in case you’re wondering what happened with my 2014 sewing goals and the pattern-making classes……

1. Participate in a sew-along. Not happened and not sure it will before the end of the year. If you know of any coming up let me know!

2. Sew gifts for friends and family. Again, nothing to see here. I’ve just not had the time or motivation.

3. Make clothes to wear regularly and buy less RTW stuff. Nope to the first and yes to the second. Having a sewing machine, patterns and fabric and ‘technically able to sew anything’ I’ve shopped for clothes a lot less this year. For my short holiday in Dublin I only bought a maxi dress (I’d like to copy) to wear and just wore good stuff I already owned.

Pattern-making class – I got as far as cutting sleeves, skirt and bodice to make a dress but had trouble with fit because I changed my mind about the style of the skirt late and became too scatty about it all i.e. completing my homework late on Friday night or early Saturday morn before class frazzled my nerves. The pieces are in a bag waiting for my return.  What I liked about the class was learning how to use a block to make a bodice to fit my (or someone else’s) measurements. What I liked the least and reflects my skill level at the time was the little structure to the course. It was more like a workshop with the tutor on hand if students got stuck rather than stage by stage teaching in garment construction. All of us were making different things at the same time. Since then I’ve made a few things and I think I’ll appreciate this way of learning more if I sign up for classes next year (will finish dress first). Back in January I wouldn’t cut any fabric without first understanding thoroughly how to make whatever it was from start to finish. Now I’m more relaxed and OK with figuring it out as I go.

I’m really enjoying getting back into sewing and writing this blog. Well, that’s enough from me!

First Skirt Complete!

blanketskirt_1I’ve finished my first skirt on Saturday – YIPPPEEE! It’s taken weeks to turn what seemed like masses of fabric into this cute skirt.

To create it I followed the instructions on Tilly and the Buttons’ blog on how to make a blanket skirt. I searched online for guidance on how to line it but only found one mention of sewing the lining and skirt fabric together when adding gathering stitiches. So I cut the front and back skirt pieces out in the lining fabric. I say lining fabric but it was a pink polyester fabric bought for £2 per metre in Ridley Road, not the usual thin lining stuff.

When I had made up the gathers and pinned to the waistband the skirt was massive! Fullness of the skirt plus fullness of the lining made for quite a bulky skirt. It didn’t look nice.

So I cut out the lining as close to the seams as possible without disturbing the gathering stitches. As the side seams were already done I couldn’t cut the lining without unpicking the skirt. I really didn’t want to do this. I wanted to finish my skirt! As you can see:

blanketskirt_5Trimmed as close as possible to the stitching.

This does affect how the skirt hangs, sticking out at the sides, giving it a slight trapezium shaping (that’s an a-line skirt right?). I can live with that (and the small guilt of a job less than perfectly done), this is the first skirt I’ve ever made afterall!

Without the lining the skirt looked better but still too bulky so I chopped a lot off the bottom. Then I was happy.

I sewed buttonholes on my machine for the first time and it was easy! Only glitch was lots of looping (is there a technical term for this?) at the back but re-threading the bobbin and top thread fixed this.

Once done and twirling round in front of the mirror I see the checks don’t match. That the pattern doesn’t flow all the way round the skirt. Grrr! I hadn’t thought about this at all but far too late to fix. I can imagine what Patrick Grant would say.


blanketskirt_4 If its possible to line a gathered skirt let me know!?

The fabric is cotton, bought in Paris while on holiday there in September. I spent ages in the shop, unable to decide which colour to buy, I’m glad I went with this red-pink one.

What did I learn?

Made a placket and used the buttonhole foot for the first time
Made a gathered skirt that I can wear (yippee!). Although experienced sewists will spot the mismatch.
Next time match pattern fabric precisely for a more professional finish and maybe lower the waist, it’s higher than what I would usually wear and I kinda look wide in it.

It’s my first completed garment so I will always love it but the imperfections are niggling me. I love to buy skirts that fit really well and made from nice fabric so this is the first of many I hope. I will make this skirt again improving on this first version.

Enjoy your weekend!

Pattern Cutting Class: Week 4


It’s the penultimate week of my my course! One more Saturday morning sewing session left. Eeek! How much have I done? Not enough that’s what! Above you can see my African print cotton – mustard yellow, red curved lines and cherry pink swirls. It is a lovely pattern and (I hope) turn into a lovely dress for me to wear. Yep, I’ve opted for something that’ll stretch my skills i.e. sewing sleeves and using an overlocker for the first time. So far I’ve made the bodice and sleeves (to be attached) out of calico so I can test the fit. I want to attach a gathered skirt to the bodice but having done this before I won’t make a test piece in calico. The bodice fits really well. How exciting to make something completely from my measurements and it fits!?!

My thoughts about the course are mixed. I would have liked to spend more time on creating blocks but the  goal is to have a finished garment by the end of the course therefore more time is spent on construction than understanding blocks. I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know. Pivoting blocks to add darts in the correct place still confuses me. I think I’ll have to buy the recommended course book: Metric Pattern Cutting for Womens Wear by Winifred Aldrich to learn more.

What’s really nice is seeing what the students that started last term  are making and get their advice. The class gives you freedom to make whatever you like and get support from the tutor and class mates along the way. Knowing how to use a sewing machine or have an idea how one works is needed this course so not for absolute beginners.

Did you notice in the pic that the sewing machine is a Bernina? Threading this beauty felt so familar I must have used one similar when I was a school.

The class takes place upstairs in Bethnal Green Library and its a lovely bright space with large tables, surrounded by thick reference books and dark wooden furniture. I could work in there all day.

There’s a possibility of the class running again soon after half-term and although I didn’t learn a lot about blocks the dedicated time to sew on a Saturday morning is under serious consideration.

My plan is to work on the dress during the week so I’ll have minimal to do in the final class and think about when I’ll wear it for the first time *squeal*. Sorry, I am new to sewing and it delights me so.


Artist Textiles Exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum


At the end of last year Channel 4 showed a short fly-on-the-wall documentary series about Liberty – the high end luxury store established in the West End of London since 1875. The series gave an insight to its staff and preparations for Christmas. For me, the most interesting part by far was how the in-house design team (see a short clip) create the beautiful printed cottons and silks that Liberty is  famous for. Did you know that every employee at Liberty gets to have a print named after them? What a perk! *swoon* I’d love to have a print named after me.

Watching the programme I realised I hadn’t much thought about where print designs come from – be it florals, animals, fruit or geometric shapes and the colour combinations. Whether bought in an expensive shop like Liberty or the local market, the print design started off as an idea drawn by someone, somewhere. That’s obvious isn’t it? But not the first thing that comes to mind when fabric shopping.

I was again reminded of this when visiting the Artist Textiles Picasso to Warhol Exhibition yesterday after my pattern cutting class (expect an update on this next week) which has just opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition looks at the work of 20th Century artists (futurist, constructivist, pop, cubism, surrealism to a name a few tribes)  translated to fabric for garment making and centred on the post-war womens wear (mens clothing featured very little, 2-3 ties – I guess men didn’t wear ‘colour’ back then). with background jazz and swing music to match.

Post WWII, the British economy was in a poor state and trade needed reviving. The government supported the Cotton Board to increase exports of textiles. To help with this manufacturers commissioned artists like Henry Moore to create designs for printed fabrics. In France the same was done with Henri Matisse and the surrealist artist Salvador Dali did likewise for the New York based textile company Wesley Simpson. There are examples of their work and others such as the dress above (poorly captured by my camera phone, sorry).

Also on display are prints by well known artists Andy Warhol, Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso and fashion designer Zhandra Rhondes.

There is also a exhibition of the journey from an idea to printed fabric or greeting card by British textile designer Sarah Campbell. See how once briefed e.g. by Marks & Spencer, Sarah develops her ideas from drawings to test prints on fabric to the eventual final product sold in shops. This is one of her designs:


Is it worth a visit? I think so. I would have liked more detail, more history but perhaps that’s stepping into the V&A Museum’s terriority. It was good time thinking less about my sewing to do list and taking a different view of the fabric I stash and sew.

The Artist Textiles Exhibition is on until 17 May 2014.

Pattern Cutting Class: Week 1


Today I attended week 1 of a pattern cutting class at Bethnal Green Library, east London and I really enjoyed it!

Over 5 weeks I’ll learn how to create a pattern to suit my measurements. No commerical patterns will be used. I love this as I think it’s true dressmaking.

We were introduced to using blocks to make patterns and pivoting these for correct dart placement the waist, shoulder or bust line. I found this a little confusing, pivoting the wrong bit or to the wrong place. I hope to grasp this in the coming weeks!

The tutor and class mates are all lovely and keen to learn. I’ve got some homework before the next lesson which I must do if I’m to make a dress.



And If You Ever… Fall In Love Again…*

Thanks to the 90s boy band E17 I’ve never forgotten that this postcode equals Walthamstow – the home of the longest street market in Europe.

When asked where’s the best place to buy cheap fabric the first response is usually this market. There are many blog posts about it for example here, here and here. I’ve been meaning to visit for ages and thought a trip there this weekend before going back to work would be a good idea.

I should have waited. Too soon after the New Year, the market lacked atmosphere and the weather was a miserable grey. The TMOS (The Man Outside Sainsbury’s) I had read so much about wasn’t there with his marvellous stall. In fact there were no fabric stalls out but all of the fabric shops minus one were open.

Wandering listlessly between shops I realised when not buying cotton fabric I’m really unsure about what to buy. I’m not a fan of jersey, polyester or anything like nylon. Although I was persuaded by the reeaallly cheap prices to some fabric…


Both are variations of polyester I think. Yes, I did just say I don’t like polyester but the light pink was 50p a metre! The other (to use for lining?) was £1 a metre. Bargain!

Hmm…what shall I make…?

I plan to return to Walthamstow market later in the year, when the weather is warmer.

*Go here to see one of E17’s best hits (a cover of a fab rnb song).

2014 Sewing Plans


Firstly, Happy New Year!

Well, aside from the recent Christmas Baubles I’ve just not been sewing. Nothing. At all. With two weeks off for Christmas I’ve had time to catch up on the happenings in the sewing community online and finally do some sewing.

I turned by attention to finally sewing a test piece of the Colette Hazel dress using Calico. Most sewing bloggers did this about a year ago and my original plan was to sew it over the Summer but clearly that didn’t happen. So I’m sewing a summery dress in December/January and really wishing it was July *sigh*.

Anyhow, I’m keen to keep learning so here are my sewing goals for the year:

1. Participate in a sew along. What is a sew along? It’s when a group of sewers decide to make something at the same time e.g. when a new pattern comes out and they blog about their progress online and support each other. For a beginner like me it would be great to be a part of!

2. Sew gifts for friends and family. Where time permits I would love to give handmade gifts this year (including handmade cards).

3. Make clothes I can wear regularly and buy less ready to wear stuff.

Sounds acieveable I think!

Have a wonderful 2014!