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Denim skirt – Thinking ‘Outside the box’


I had a piece of colourful denim fabric in my stash and wanted to do something different, make it stand out from the crowd! Time to think ‘outside the box’

Being inspired by the current trend of ‘asymnetrical’ I redrew a favourite skirt pattern to incorporate a band/panel across the hip at the back and down to the centre front.

So, I now needed to find a piece of fabric for the bands that would compliment/contrast with the colours in the denim. If you have ever tried to find a fabric with the same colours then you will know just how difficult that can be.

I started with a piece of silk twill fabric that has a ‘zig zag’ design. I selected a couple of machine embroidery threads the same colours that are in the denim fabric and had a play with the embroidery stitches on my machine. You know the ones – we have them on our new modern machines but rarely use. After a little play around with a scrap of the silk backed onto a lightweight wool I came up with a simple design by just stitching along the design lines using the saddle stitch. Using the lightweight wool as a backing gave additional weight and body to the piece, now a similar weight to the denim.

I stitched sufficient lengths for the panels and then cut them to the pattern pieces later.

To finish, I top stitched around the inserted panels using a twin needle with the 2 different colours of machine threads.

The skirt is also lined with silk, to add body and for ease of wearability.



Dress/ Dressmaking

Blue Sequin Dress

Needing a new dress for a ‘Black Tie’ dance I took myself off to the local fabric shop and purchased some blue allover sequin fabric.

Because of the beauty of the fabric it didn’t need a complicated style. I used a Butterick pattern 4778 which I have had for many a long year! It’s a simple princess line with a low cut front, a square cut low back and a sexy little split at the left front side! Not having used this pattern for some years (and put on a few pounds in the meantime) I had to make a few adjustments to the pattern to make it fit. To ‘bling’ it up, and you can always add bling for a ‘Black Tie dance’, I added a few bows with diamonte in strategic places. The dress is fully lined using a silk lining.

P1090780 P1090779 P1090778 P1090777 Dance dress3 dance dress2

Coat/ Dressmaking/ Hats

Competition Coat

A few weeks ago I made a tailored coat from a multi-coloured fabric with piping on the seams and buttonholes etc, it took many hours to complete and I was rather proud of the result, I know some of you have seen it.  Well, I entered it into a competition in an American sewing magazine which I subscribe to and to my surprise it was selected as 1 of 5 semi-finalists. It is was the down to the public to vote for their favourite from the selected 5. 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was at being chosen as a semi-finalist, and even more thrilled to report that I WON the competition with my coat. 

So thank you to all of you who voted for me. 

The Coat

I made this coat using my own drafted pattern and a length of fabric from my ‘stash’. The coat has been underlined with silk which gives it a luxurious weight and feel to it. I used horsehair interfacing for support adding additional layers to the shoulder area and the top back.

For the main body of the coat I used a quality textured fabric which graduates in colours from a mid-grey through to navy/black and back to grey. The fabric also has a ‘circle’ design with flecks of black on top.  The fabric was carefully prepared so that the design of the fabric flowed around the coat without interruption, matching up the colours and design at the seam lines. I added a raspberry/red piping to highlight the princess style design lines on the front and back of the coat, the collar, the side welt pockets, the sleeve back seam and at the top of the sleeve/shoulder area. I also used the piping for the bound buttonholes at the front opening and on the sleeves. The buttonholes are then further adorned with silver ornaments stitched alongside. The buttons are covered in the same fabric ensuring that the buttons graduate in colour to match each placement area on the coat.

Backpc P1080576 Shoulder detail 91498bc0-d0da-4a1d-aaf4-740259358896

The coat is fully lined using the same raspberry/red fabric as the piping for the main body of the coat whilst I used a grey silk for the sleeves. The lining is attached on the inside with a grey piping at the front and back neck facings edges.  And finally I embroidered my own label on the back neck facing.

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Then finally I made a matching cloche hat with the left over pieces of fabric.



Waste not, Want not – My new Bag

I had a pair of jeans that had shrunk in the length but as they were a good fit otherwise I decided to shorten them to make them into a ‘capri’ length. It was a great success and I have worn them quite a lot in the recent warm weather!

The Leftovers

However the 2 ‘legs’ I had cut off were lying around waiting for me to either throw them out or do something with them. I have also just purchased a Betty Boop embroidery design from the internet and was wondering what to do with that too. So I thought I would try out the design and used one of the ‘legs’ from the jeans. The design is so big that it took over an hour to stitch out, I was quite thrilled with the result but then thought ‘what can I do with it now?’ I went to bed that night and contemplated it!



The result of my contemplation was to make a bag using the ‘legs’ and a contrasting fabric for the lining etc.

This is the result…………

Betty Boop Bag Bboop2

Dress/ Dressmaking

Tracy’s Wedding Dress

Well it was Tracy’s long awaited wedding to Shaun last Saturday and fortunately the good weather we have been having held out, it was a beautiful day. Tracy has been so excited about their wedding for a long time and had put in such a lot of hard work in preparation. So apart from the usual things one has to do to organise a wedding such as book the church, wedding reception, catering and paper work etc, she spent many hours exquisitely making free machine embroidered flowers and nose gays which decorated the ends of the pews in the church. She made them in her favourite colours of purple and gold which was the theme for the day. Tracy’s sister, who is also good with a needle and thread made the very lovely table decorations for the reception again in purple and gold hand sewing some 38,000 beads into place!  


The Dress…………….

After looking around at wedding dress styles and a few trying ons at bridal shops Tracy asked if I would make her dress for her. I was of course honoured to be asked and although it is a huge responsibility I became as excited about it as Tracy, her enthusiasm was infectious. Tracy chose a Vogue pattern by Belville Sassoon for an evening dress and we went fabric shopping. We purchased duchess satin and silk dupion in a sort of ‘latte’ colour which we felt complimented her colouring. So,back in February this year, which seems a long time ago now, I took Tracy’s measurements and started work.


Firstly I made up a toile for the dress in a muslin fabric, this is a mock up so that the style and fit etc can be evaluated and any amendments can be made to the dress design and pattern before cutting into the main fabric. On trying on the toile Tracy was ecstatic and cried as she looked upon her image in the mirror, she could now see her wedding gown coming to life!! 

After making the necessary alterations I set to and started on the real thing. Firstly I made up the inner corset with a tightly woven cotton coutil fabric and used spiral steel for the boning. Once the comfort and fit of the corset was perfected the hook and eye fastenings and petersham waist stays were added.

The main body of the dress was cut from the duchess satin whilst the the front bodice was cut from the silk dupion, each piece was was underlined with silk organza before construction. As the dress took shape there were many fittings to gauge the look and fit and we played around with ideas of how to embellish it. I made lots of roses in various sizes from the duchess satin, dupion and organza fabrics along with lots of rouleau, these were carefully stitched into place with lots of tiny pearl beads. The zip was inserted in the back seam and disguised with bridal looping and 32 covered buttons down its length. The shoulder straps were set just off the shoulder with more rouleau and beads. The hem of the dress was bound with silk organza and hand sewn into place. The lining and corset was then fitted into the dress, this then gave it support and stop it from falling. A few more roses were added to the back skirt to disguise a hook and eye which would enable the back of the dress to lifted up when dancing.

With the dress complete I then made up a little bolero jacket in the silk dupion, again underlined with silk organza. I ‘ruched’ up the 3/4 sleeves to the elbow and added bridal looping, rouleau and yet more covered buttons to echo the ones on the back of the dress. Little embroidered roses and rouleau added to the back of the jacket completed the the outfit. 

She looked absolutely radiant!


P1070645 rosesleevedetail Roses P1070647

Ring Cushion

After completion of the dress I made up this little ring cushion, appliquéd and embroidered with both of their names and of the church where they where married.







Matching Bag

The last item to complete my wedding ensemble is of course the bag, I thought just a simple clutch bag will do the trick!

For the exterior of the bag I chose to use the white silk but I needed to give it more ‘body’ so I layered up a sandwich of silk, wadding and the habotai and quilted them together in a diamond shape. Having done this I looked at it and deliberated over whether to stitch some beads onto it, I was in 2 minds about this! Firstly I had spent over 14 hours beading my dress with those little black beads and quite frankly I was rather fed up of them, but then the old saying ‘don’t spoil the ship for a h’peth of tar’ came to mind, so I set to and beaded where the ‘diamond’ stitching met. It really didn’t take me very long and I was pleased I had put in the effort.

Quiltingforbag Beadedquilting


I then cut out the ‘V’ shape for the envelope closure at the front of the bag and layered it with grey organza over grey dupion and piped the edges of the ‘V’ with black piping, this then ties up the bag with the black piping on the dress. I attached this to the quilted piece and folded to make the clutch bag. I added a magnetic clasp for the closure carefully making sure that it was lined up correctly. I made up the lining of the bag with the silk habotai and attached. Once again Tracy made another beautiful embroidered corsage to match the others and I attached this to the front of the bag for the finishing effect.

Frontenvelope Finishedbag


The Hat

Now that the dress is finished I now need to work on the accessories, so I bought this very plain white hat and I am now going to work on it to improve its appearance!!


I set to with the hat, removed the rather plain band and the internal petersham ribbon but leaving the millinery wire around the brim in tact, this just left me with the bare hat. I then spent another hour or so placing and pinning various bits of matching fabric to my dress onto the hat until I was satisfied with the design. Tracy had again made me a lovely embroidered embellishment to match the dress so I wanted to show this off to its best advantage.

With a plan in mind I set to and carefully hand stitched the fabrics and the embroidery around the crown of the hat taking the tiniest of stitches on the outside so as not to spoil the effect. This left me with rather a lot of stitching on the inside of the crown, this I wasn’t too keen on so I set to and made a lining for the crown with the silk habotai I had used to line my dress. I carefully hand stitched this into place and replaced the old internal band with a better quality petersham ribbon. This now in place I then carefully stitched the remainder of the fabric into place around the brim along with a few more beads. I finished off the edge of the brim with the white silk bias binding.

I love to wear hats and I am really pleased with the outcome of this one and think it shows off the dress to its best advantage.!!  



Dress/ Dressmaking

White Silk Dress

The Inspiration for the dress

I was inspired recently by a student of mine. She attended one of the dressmaking workshops with me and having enjoyed the experience she decided to write a blog about how she arrived with a pattern and length of fabric and left with a dress! So I thought I would give this blog idea a go!!! So here goes……………………………

Having recently finished making a wedding dress for Tracy whose wedding is in 29 days time (sorry can’t post a picture of the dress just yet!) I thought I had better get round to making something for myself when attending the nuptials. Well, you know what its like girls, I simply just have nothing to wear………………………. but I do have a pair of shoes I purchased some time ago that I have not worn, so it got me to thinking!!!!!

Why not make an outfit to go with the shoes?

It stated with the shoes!

The Ingredients

So I popped along to my local fabric store and purchased 3 lengths of silk dupion in white, black & grey and a vogue pattern V1162. I then set about cutting out the pattern pieces. but as the silk is quite lightweight I have decided to underline the dress with both silk organza and a cotton lawn, this will add body and weight to the garment as well as help to disguise the seam allowances from the right side.  The main body of the dress will be in white with the grey and black as accents, but I haven’t quite decided yet how this will take shape. I will see how the dress evolves and try out different ideas as it is constructed. I will also be lining the dress with a fine silk habotai. 

White Silk Dress Voguepattern

I Begin………

I have cut out the the main pattern pieces in the silk dupion along with the under linings in the silk organza and cotton lawn. I then basted the three layers together and tailor tacked where necessary.  

Tailortacked Frontdresspatterncutout

Continuing with dress – I have now pinned, tacked and stitched the tucks on the front piece into place. I then put together the back pieces and inserted a concealed zip down the centre back. I much prefer to use concealed zips whenever possible as I think they give a nicer finish. The dress was then tried on and minor adjustments made to the fit, this is where I enlisted the help of my Man! It is not always easy to do your own fitting so if you can get somebody to help with this the better, they can also see round the back – he was a great help!


Once I was happy with the fit I then unpicked the 2 side seams so that I could to do some embroidery on the front. I have this idea of using the shape the tucks produce to create a sort of ‘sun-ray’ effect with some satin stitching. First of all practised my idea on a  piece of scrap fabric until I was happy with the result before proceeding with the stitching on the dress front.

Embroidered front

It was a “good idea”

Once the embroidered ‘sun-ray’ was in place I thought it might be a good idea to add a few beads around the stitching.  I hand stitched a few black seed beads along the lines of stitching and added a few swarovski beads to give it a bit of ‘bling’. The beading took me an astonishing 11 hours to complete, sometimes I wonder why I have these ‘good’ ideas, I think I have bead blindness now!

Beaded 1

The Ruffles

Next to takle is the ruffles.  Cutting the strips on the bias, I combined both a grey ruffle and a black one layering them together, and with a lot of fiddling attached the ruffles across the back neckline, around the shoulder yokes, and around the back armscye ceasing at the side seam . 

Ruffled shoulders

After several more fittings I reduced the shoulder seam at the top of the arm and tapered an adjustment down the front and back of the armscye, I also nipped in the back and side seams to get a perfect fit. 

The next thing to tackle is the sleeves!

I have now spent several hours over the last couple of days making the bias ruffles for the sleeves, black ruffles on top of the grey fabric,  and hand stitching them into place before adding the sleeves to the dress. I stitched the ruffles to the sleeve pieces in a spiral starting from the centre outwards, occasionally putting in a few swirls and bends to create something resembling a rose pattern. The photo doesn’t really do it justice as they did come up quite nice!


With my dress on the body form, I offered up the sleeves to the dress and pinned them into place so that I could get an overall look of the end result before proceeding with machine stitching them into place…………………………

But to my great disappointment I didn’t like the look!  The black and grey sleeves along with the grey yoke and neck ruffles together made the dress look top heavy and the shoulders broad, it was a little reminiscent of the 80’s look with the big shoulder pads and not the sort of look I wanted to go to wedding in.  A little re-thinking is in order now I think!!!

The Re-think!

After spending sometime re-thinking what to do with the dress I finally came up with a plan, so I set to and un-stitched the front yoke and ruffles from the dress. I replaced the grey yokes with white ones and also re-made the sleeves in white, but this time I did not add the ruffles. I removed the piping I originally put just on the lower front neckline and replaced it with piping around the complete neckline. I reviewed what to do with the ruffles as I did like the previous look with them around the neckline, so with the dress on the body form I played around with different fabrics until I came up with what I thought would work. I made the new neckline ruffles this time in a grey silk organza graduating the depth from the lower side neck edge to the centre back. I then added piping to the lower sleeve hem, now I was starting to feel happier about the dress!!


I tried on the dress once again to make sure of the fit and decided on the hem length. I cut away 2″ from the hem and used some of the habotai to make a bias strip to bind the hem. The bias strip was machined to the hem and the hem and back vent hand stitched into place. Having underlined the dress this meant that I cold stitch the hem without any visible stitches showing through on the right side! A bonus.  

Bound Hem

The Lining

Now happy I decided to start constructing the lining, the bodice top I cut from the cotton lawn and the lower pieces I cut from the silk habatai, stitched the lining pieces together and attached it to the dress machine stitching around the neckline. I then hand stitched the rest of the lining into place along the zip opening and the sleeve hems. I checked the length yet again, I am always checking and re-checking, before turning up the hem on the lining and ‘voila’ the dress is almost complete!!

The Finished Dress

Whilst I was playing around with the corsage that I envisioned, Tracy unknown to me was doing the same thing, but as she is far better at free-motion machine embroidery than I she made came up with something much better. She combined the embroidery with black & grey silk organza to produce a ‘rose’ and added some swarovski in the centre, the effect is quite stunning!!


So, where to place it on the dress? My ideas thus far was to place it on the side of the dress where I have stitched the sun-ray embroidery and beading. I attached 2 press studs to the back of the corsage and its 2 counterparts on the dress and I must say that it looked rather good. So I tried the dress on yet again so that I could get an overall look of what it looked like on me, however when I looked in the mirror I thought the beautiful corsage looked a little lost on the side so played around yet again with its position and decided to move it to the neckline. I removed the studs from the side and re-stitched them into place in there new position. I then had to set to and fill in the gap on the side with more beads…………………………………so another 3 hours later and all the beads are now in place and the dress is finally finished.


After all the trials and changes of heart about this dress it just goes to show that sometimes what you envisioned does not always work out and you have to be prepared to make changes as you go along!! But I have to say that I am now rather pleased with the end result.