Clamshell paper piecing

I recently made some Christmas presents, and decided to try English paper-piecing in a clamshell pattern, which was pretty tricky. Here is the method I perfected, as projects go it was a bit too time consuming, even for me. The result was really pretty but a medium sized cushion took A LOT of work – it was a lovely present for my mother-in-law, but not one I think I’ll repeat soon.

finishedcushionSo first off, I bought a 2″ acetate clamshell template and traced the paper pieces, removing the seam allowance from the upper curve. Then I cut out my pieces of cotton, keeping the seam allowance throughout.

clamshell4I used normal kitchen foil to achieve a smooth upper curve which worked best, making sure that the seam allowance was distributed evenly.

clamshell10After pressing all the pieces, joining them together is pretty easy – all you need is patience and a sharp needle.


img_2198clamshell2After I finished joining the pieces, I free-hand quilted the clamshells along the top line on my sewing machine, bordered it with mitred corners, and inserted an invisible zip. Voila.


Named Clothing Olivia Wrap Dress


This new years eve James and I had a table booked at the ever-wonderful Timberyard with some friends, and I was really keen to make a special garment to see off 2016 in style. I fancied making the In The Folds Acton dress, but thought it might be a little chilly. Instead, I opted for the Olivia wrap dress from Named Clothing, after getting the idea from a blog post by one of my favourite fabric shops, The Splendid Stitch, and also went for the lovely stretch velvet they suggested too.

First off, let me say that I love this pattern. I made up a quick toile in a really cheap jersey from Minerva Crafts, and it looked great and hardly took any time. I only had a couple of days to make the dress, so I had to get to grips with sewing with velvet very quickly. After a night of internet research, the key tips I picked up were:

  • Cut all your pattern pieces on the back on the velvet, lying flat, with no folds (if there is something meant to be cut on the fold, then trace out the other side).
  • Use a rotary blade.
  • Baste all your seams by hand together before using your sewing machine.
  • Never use velvet as a lining or a facing.
  • Hem by hand.
  • Don’t EVER press velvet.


I didn’t need to make any adjustments to the pattern and just had to grade between two sizes for the entire garment – I wanted to run a little big, as I thought the dress would look better with a little give, and as I was under time pressure I also removed the pockets.

I was really worried starting out that it would be a complete disaster – all the blog posts I read made sewing with velvet sound like the hardest thing in the world, but it was surprisingly easy. After a little practice, I opted for using an walking foot and a zig-zag stitch, and it seemed to do the trick. The dress made up pretty easily, and although it was very time consuming having to baste all the seams, I stuck the tv on and beavered away. I also made the neck facing out of Georgina Von Etzdorf silk, which looked awesome. This is my new favourite dress, I will definitely be making up another one at some point…maybe in a less fancy fabric.


A rather chilly Sew Over It ‘Vintage’ box-pleat skirt

I’ve rather admired this skirt from the Sew Over It Vintage book for a while now, and thought that the shape might suit my figure. After buying the book I was particularly intrigued/nervous to find out that the pattern requires self-draughting. So I invested in some cross and dot paper, and a pattern master and took the plunge

As it turned out I was worried about nothing. There were some moments when I struggled to get my head around some of the language in the book – and some of the instructions were a little confusing but after reading it a couple of times it was pretty straight forward



After draughting the pattern, I chose a really fun crepe from The Splendid Stitch, which had a botanical leaf print and a good drape. The skirt itself went together pretty quickly, and was finished in a day (although arguably if I wasn’t distracted by The Crown on Netflix it probably would have been quicker). As the pattern was draughted from my measurements it fitted really well and didn’t need any alterations – although next time I might re-measure my waist with a top on as it’s a little snug when wearing a layer.

The only minor problem I encountered was finishing the fastening. The invisible zip (my first ever!) finished underneath the waistband, but the pattern left no indication as to fasten it – I used hooks and eyes which seemed to work well. Also rather than topstitch the hem,  I opted for the blind hemming setting on my fancy new machine… All in all, a great pattern, and I will definitely make it again.

The biggest problem is that the skirt is obviously intended for warmer weather, and it is bloody freezing in Edinburgh at the moment!


A pair of Grainline Studios Morris Blazers

As the nights have started to draw in, and the weather turns brisk, I’ve been thinking that I don’t have a decent jacket. Whilst I would really like to make a fitted jacket, I thought that perhaps The Grainline Studios Morris blazer would be a good alternative as the construction seemed pretty simple, and the finished garment looks great. I have used their patterns before and they’ve always been great – as an added bonus their size 6 matches my measurements perfectly, so no alternations are needed. 

I decided to get my fabric at Minerva Crafts for the first time – I’d never heard of them until last month’s #sewphotohop, and it was a great discovery as their selection is HUGE! I chose a vivid red from their ponte roma heavy stretch range, and a nice looking black and white striped number too. I thought that together, these classic colours will go with almost anything. After reading a few blog posts on the jacket, I gathered that Hong Kong seams were a suitable way of finishing an unlined jacket, so together with a great tutorial on the Colette website, I thought I’d give them a try. I had some great Liberty poly-cotton in a lovely Chinese print that I got on-sale, so cut up a wee bit for my bias binding.


I went for the red option first, thinking that learning the pattern and trying to pattern match at the same time perhaps wasn’t the best idea. The HK seams looked great, and I really enjoyed putting it together, until I put the finished garment on – it looked awful. At some point I’d made a big mistake and it wasn’t difficult to work out where. The front facing was too small, causing the front pieces of the jacket to pull up slightly and not lie flat. Either they had shrunk when applying interfacing, or more likely, I made an error whilst sewing. I suspect that I had stretched the facing to perfectly fit the front pieces together and either due to inaccurate cutting, or allowing too much seam allowance, I had to pull the facing slightly to align it perfectly. I later realised that I should have laid them completely flat and made sure that there absolutely no easing when sewing them together, but by that stage it was too late. I left it for a couple of days, a bit disappointed and mulling over possible solutions, but eventually bit the bullet and unpicked the front section completely and started again – after all, unless it dramatically improved I was never going to wear it. Thankfully it paid off; after un-picking everything I re-laid the facing over the front piece, and there was about 1cm in difference – I’m still not 100% sure how/where I went wrong in that section of construction but after I made it back up, it looked a whole lot better – and it’s a mistake I won’t repeat.



This weekend, I made the second one using the striped ponte roma and I am so pleased with the results! I really worked on my pattern matching, and whilst there are few tiny places where it’s not *perfect* on the whole it’s pretty damn good. I am particularly pleased with the shoulder seams and the back of the collar. As I am still getting to know my new machine and I struggled a bit with movement of the fabric – the foot pressure wasn’t quite right. I am wondering if an even-feed machine foot would help…

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed making this pattern and I am really pleased I had the patience to go back and sort out my first mistake, I actually learned something from it too. In the end, my second garment was really quick to construct, and looks great. I also really like the fabric I bought, and will definitely be heading back to Minerva Crafts again.

A quick SewDIY Lou Box Top

I’ve had a bolt of this lovely mustard-yellow Art Gallery Jersey for ages. I bought it at Ray-Stitch with the Colette Wren dress in mind, but after three toiles all fitting worse than the last I decided to save it for something else.

Last month, among all the amazing posts I saw on the #sewphotohop Instagram challenge, there was one particular entry featuring the Sew DIY Lou Box Top that looked awesome. This weekend I thought I’d make it up as a little break between two identical projects.

The pattern offers six different options interchanging hems and necklines. I went for the scoop neckline and curved hem in a size XS-S, and added a patch-pocket. The top went together very quickly – even sewing with a hangover, I was done by lunchtime.

It was the first project I have done with my new Janome Atelier 3, so I used the awesome stretch stitch for the binding on the neck line.


It was a real pleasure to sew with such a great quality jersey, all the seams finished beautifully with my Janome 9300DX overlocker. The curved hem is also a nice finish, and looks great with skinny jeans which I wear most of the time. Having a look on Instagram the top also looks great in a woven rather than knit – I am sure I’ll be making one soon.


A good bit of bad luck…


A couple of weeks ago I decided to upgrade my faithful Janome 525s. Although it was a great bit of kit, I was starting to get frustrated with one or two things, and thought it was perhaps time get something a bit better.

After a bit of research, I decided to get the Janome DKS100, as it seemed to get good reviews and be popular amongst other sewers. I went to my local Edinburgh dealer David Drummond, and was so impressed that I bought it there and then. It was awesome for three weeks, and then suddenly, my foot pedal stopped working. After speaking to the shop they replaced it with a brand new one – apparently there was an issue with foot pedal’s connection to the machine. This time, after only five days of use, the pedal stopped working again… I couldn’t believe it.

After spending so much money I was rather upset, and once again called up the shop, who were as surprised as I was. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do next – I didn’t really want another DKS100, as it was clear that the machine was not all it lived up to be! Before I had much of a chance to worry about it, the owner of the shop offered to upgrade me to a Janome Atelier 3 for free. I’ve had my new machine for a few days now, and it is working absolutely beautifully.

So, whilst it would have been nice to have had a working machine from the get-go, the situation has certainly worked itself out in my favour! A big thank you to David Drummond’s for their awesome customer service in resolving a less than ideal situation.


The McCall’s 6696 Shirt Dress

broderie-anglaiseThis summer my Dad finally made an honest woman of his long-term partner Jane and they got hitched on the wonderfully romantic Greek island of Skopelos – it only took 18 years! All of my sizeable family flocked to the sun to celebrate.

As it was a unique event, I wanted to make something super special. That summer the shops were full of white, broderie anglaise garments and I thought that I could easily make something just as nice. I chose the McCalls 6696 shirt dress, as it seems to be a bit of classic and shirt dresses suit my figure.

As usual I made a toile to learn the pattern and to ensure I didn’t mess up, and it fitted perfectly on a size 10 – absolutely no alterations needed. I had a bit of trouble finding the right kind of broderie anglais, and was beginning to despair until walking through John Lewis on my lunch-break and I saw this amazing fabric, it was heavily embroidered, but not fussy, and tactile. However it was very narrow, and £14p/m – but I had found nothing else remotely similar so I took the plunge and coughed up.

The final dress went together beautifully and I finished it with some lovely gold buttons I picked up in Liberty’s for an eye watering £1.20 p/b but it was totally worth it. I only made the smallest alteration, making the arm binding narrower as the dress as was practically see through. I was so short on time I was up until 2am the night before we left, and my fingers even started to bleed as I was sewing the buttons on!

On the actual day I paired the dress with gold and turquoise accessories and some sparkly wedges from KG, and an all-important slip! We had an awesome day.