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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.



Dressmaking/ Jacket

Tartan Jacket

With this Jacket I won a Stitcher of the Year competition with Love Sewing magazine, Sept 2016

I recently made this ¾ length jacket ready for the Autumn. The pattern for the coat is based on a Burda princess line coat pattern 8292, which I have had for some years, but I chopped it up to create the various panel pieces of the coat.

The main tartan fabric is from Linton Tweeds, the background is black with a white and dark red threads woven through to create the tartan design. For some of the accent panels I used a dark red fabric which has little squares embroidered on. To this I added a layer of wadding and quilted each panel either with just straight lines or oblongs to mirror the tartan design. I used a black suede leather on the sleeves, lower collar and pocket welts. The back of the coat also has black suede and red panels. The trim used to highlight some of the design lines is a silver and black stripe. 

Several toiles where made up beforehand to check and change the design lines and panel piece sizes.  The princess lines where moved from the underarm to the shoulders. Laying the pattern pieces on the fabric and the cutting out had to be precise to ensure that the pattern of the fabric lined up at the seam lines. The coat is underlined with a silk organza and lined with a red silk twill fabric. There are six bound button holes on the front. For the upper three I used black suede and for the lower three I used the quilted red fabric. I also quilted the red fabric for the front facings. There are two lower welt pockets which line up with the front lower panel. Silver buttons on the front and sleeves completed the coat.

I hope you enjoy looking at the photograph of my coat as much as I enjoyed making it.

TJsleeve2 TJCollar TJBack

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

Dress/ Dressmaking

Red Silk Dress

I recently made a gorgeous red silk dress for a friend of mine for her son’s wedding in the sout of France. The design was based on a Vogue jacket pattern by Belville Sassoon but I altered the pattern into a dress ………… like you do!!

Made from a silk dupion I created lots of ruffles around the ‘boat’ neckline and because this sat at the top of the sleeve/shoulders it needed a boned bodice to prevent the dress from falling off the shoulders. 

Made from a silk dupion I created lots of ruffles around a ‘boat’ neckline and because the dress sat at the top of the arms/shoulders it needed a boned bodice to prevent the dress from falling from the shoulders. The back of the boned bodice was shaped to a ‘V’ and attached to the dress with yet more ruffles stitched into the back neckline and shoulders. The bodice fastened with hooks & eyes beneath the zipped back of the princess line dress. The back vent at the hemline of the dress was echoed in the ¾ length sleeves and highlighted with simple bows and adornments. The dress was underlined with a silk organza and lined with a silk habotai.

This dress took much deliberation to work out both the design and the construction process but was worth it in the end as she looked absolutely fabulous!

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Dressmaking/ Jacket

Navy Boucle Jacket

I bought a length of navy blue wool boucle which has a few sequins woven into it, so thought I would make it up into a simple cardigan type jacket. It went together quite quickly using the overlocker but as is my usual way. mid way through the construction I decided to add a silk lining! I also added a sequin trim to the centre front neckline and sleeves and made frog closures for the front opening.

This is the result.

Sequinback Sequinfrog

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.


Dressmaking/ Jacket

The Making of a Chanel Style Jacket

On a recent fabric buying trip (yes I have lots of them) I purchased a length or two of fabric from Linton Tweeds. In case you are not aware, Linton Tweeds, up in Carlisle, have traditionally supplied the big designers including Chanel for many a long year, and the iconic Chanel Jacket was/is traditionally made using Linton Tweeds fabric. 

So, the only thing to do with my purchase is to make my own ‘Chanel’ style jacket……… here goes.

The Ingredients

I accumulated all the necessary ingredients together

Black & White check fabric for the jacket
White silk Charmeuse fabric, ordered from China
25mm Black trim for the edges
25mm grosgrain ribbon
Buttons for the front opening and sleeves
Silk thread for the construction
Chain for weighting the back
Cotton for the ‘Toile’


Before cutting into my expensive fabric I made a mock up of the jacket, (a toile) I was then able to make fine adjustments to the fit and shape of the jacket and transfer those adjustments to my paper pattern pieces.


The jacket front and back pieces where cut out from the black & white check fabric.


The white silk charmeuse fabric I will be using for the lining has winged its way all the way here from China and as you can image was a little creased after its journey, so I had to iron out all the creases before cutting the jacket lining out.


I used a ‘English Couture’ fusible interfacing for the centre front left and right pieces, removing the front seam and hem allowance from the interfacing before fusing.         


Use a piece of scrap cotton fabric on your ironing board to protect the board from the glue of the interfacing!    

Stabilise the centre front              

A 3/4″ cotton twill tape is added to the front opening seams to stabilise, give weight and support. The tape is pinned into place then stitched just inside the seam allowance making sure not to catch the face fabric. The tape must be equal in length on both sides of the front openings, this is checked by using the paper pattern as a guide. 



The centre front and front pieces are then stitched together. The fabric frays badly so must be handled with care!


The darts are stitched into the 2 back pieces, then stitched together down the centre back seam and pressed. 



Seams are carefully pattern matched and basted by hand.

The underarm pieces were stitched to the back. The back lining pieces were then constructed in the same manner.


Seams are pressed open then serge stitched down, this both keeps the seams flat and helps to prevent further fraying.


A back neck facing is fused to give support to the area and shaped using the iron.



With wrong sides together the lining was pinned to the centre back seam and permanently hand stitched into place. 

The lining is then opened up across the back, basted into position then quilted to the check fabric through both layers. This can be done by machine but I did not want the machine stitching to be visible on the right side of my jacket so chose to quilt it by hand. The front pieces were quilted in in the same manner.


Next is the pockets. I interfaced the inside of the fabric to give them strength and body. The grosgrain ribbon followed by the black trim was hand stitched to the pocket fronts. On the wrong side the seam allowances are turned in and serge stitched in place by hand. The lining is slip stitched into place, and invisibly stitched to the jacket fronts.

Pocket1 Pocket3 Pocket2 Pocket4


After a good pressing, the shoulder seams are machine stitched and serge stitched down.



Interfacing cut on the bias was fused to the hem to give it strength & support followed by the grosgrain ribbon and trim hand stitched to the right side front edges and hem. This alone took over 5 hours to do!


The hem of the lining was then hand stitched into place along the back.


I have spent about 35 hours on it so far and it is still  ‘Work in Progress’


Next to create was the collar. A strip a fabric is cut and steamed to shape the collar, this preserves the fabric design around the neckline whilst shaping at the same time. The seams were turned in and stitched down and hand stitched to the jacket.

collar3 Collar


The collar facing was prepared in the same way as the outer collar by steaming and shaping into the correct shape and hand stitched to the outer collar being careful as always in matching up the fabric design.


Then the sleeves. There are 3 pieces to this sleeve and they have to cut out precisely matching up the pattern of the fabric. The underarm piece was machine stitched to the front and back pieces, leaving the centre seam open. The seams are then hand serge stitched down for a neater finish. I fused some interfacing to the lower edge for support, turned in the seam allowances around the same and stitched the gros grain ribbon trim to the right side followed by the buttonholes. The lining sleeve pieces are then machine stitched together in the same way and  hand ‘quilted’ to the face fabric as previously done on the main jacket front and back pieces. They are then sewn into the jacket.

sleeves3 sleeves2 sleeves1


I created some ‘faux’ bound buttonholes for the inside of the front facings, hand stitching them to the worked buttonholes on the inside and to the interfacing. This makes them look neat from the inside. The front facings are then hand stitched into place along the front seam and hem,  and openings created for the buttonholes on the inside of the right hand facing.


The collar facing was prepared in the same way as the outer collar by steaming and shaping into the correct shape and hand stitched to the outer collar being careful as always in matching up the fabric design.

Chain Weight

Then a chain weight is stitched to the hem of the jacket, this helps to balance out the weight of the jacket and is traditionally added to all ‘Chanel’ Jackets.


Once the buttons have been sewn into place the last thing to do is to add my labels. The Linton Tweed label I stitched to the inside left facing and my own ‘Plumleia’ I stitched to the inside back facing.

Label2 Label1

After some 75 hours of work it is now FINISHED


Dress/ Dressmaking/ Jacket

Sue & Ted’s Wedding

About 18 months ago I got engaged to my wonderful man, Ted, and since then I have spent many months thinking about and designing my own wedding dress. My engagement ring is an aqua marine and this was the deciding influence on the colour for my dress. 

The main body and skirt of the dress is made from a duchess satin with a lace underskirt decorated with pearl beads which just shows through at the front, I also used the lace for the 3/4 length sleeves and finished the edging around the neckline and top sleeve with more of the lace edging. The back has a laced up panel and by using 4 laces it created a lovely finish I think. It has a structured boned bodice with 12 boning channels and a hook & eye fastening at the back to keep it secure, it was very comfortable all day.

I was unsure of the weather and how warm or cold it might be on the day so I made a bolero jacket to go with it. I used piping to edge continuously around the collar and front and lower edges and also the shaped sleeves. I then added some lace inserts in the sleeves to reflect the skirt of the dress.

The dress and jacket is underlined with both silk organza and a brushed cotton for warmth and of course fully lined.

I also made some lace and fabric flowers which were added to my bouquet.

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.