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A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Boudoir Blushes PJs

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Encouraged by Lingerie Sewing Month, I finally sewed a project from The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. This is the Boudoir Blushes camisole and french knickers set, made as pjs in a cotton blend fabric purchased in Berlin’s Turkish Market.

My review of the book and more about the making of this set is featured on the Sewcialists blog today.

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

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Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

It’s the weekend and it’s actually sunny here, so I finally got chance to wear something summery and spent the afternoon eating ice cream in Henley-in-Arden, a historic market town local to me.

This is the Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada (originally published in Japan with the amazing title She has a Mannish Style). The book has been popping up quite a bit on sewing blogs, but I haven’t spotted anyone posting this blouse yet.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

The Pompom Blouse is a loose fitting tee designed to be made in a knit fabric (the book refers to this as T-cloth on the pattern page, although there is more information in the techniques section). The interesting features of the top are the inclusion of a strip of pompoms at the neckline, and the method used to bind the neckline and sleeve cuffs. In the book, the bias used at the neckline is in a contrast colour, but I made some matching bias binding as I thought my fabric was already pretty busy. I lengthened my blouse by a couple of inches as the blouse shown in the book looks quite cropped, and I added a separate hem band (approx 1 1/2″ long), rather than turning back the hem and securing with a row of double stitching as suggested in the book.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

This fabric is a jersey I purchased from Stitch at the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC back in March. The pompoms were from my stash; I bought them years ago to make a pompom-edged cushion, but never got around it! This was a quick and easy make – I recently went on a family holiday with Phil’s family and made this using my ‘travel’ sewing machine (one of the John Lewis minis) while away.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Like other Japanese sewing books, the book includes double-sided paper pattern sheets. Pattern pieces need to be traced and seam allowances added. The instructions for each pattern include a diagram showing where to add seam allowances.

Typically, written instructions are minimal, but diagrams are included for each step. This top was very straightforward, but some of the more complicated patterns in the book (jackets, coat) would be more suited to intermediate sewists who are comfortable with less detailed instructions.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

I love the ‘mannish’ style of the She Wears the Pants designs, and the grungy styling of the book. The only issue I have with the book is that the lighting in the photos is dark, and quite a few of the items are made in black fabric – making it difficult to see the details of the clothing. Detailed line drawings are included for each pattern so that you can confirm the details before choosing what to sew.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

The patterns included in the book cover a wide range of garments for woven and knit fabrics, including trousers, dresses, tops, jackets, a skirt, and culottes. There’s even one knitting pattern included, for a rather unusual belt sole.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

One thing to note is that the size range of the patterns in the book is quite limited. I made a size small and found the sizing accurate, although this top is quite loose fitting due to the boxy style. Other patterns in the book include less positive ease and match the sizing chart more closely. The book doesn’t provide any information on the finished size of garments so you’ll need to measure the pattern pieces if you want to check the ease allowed prior to cutting out your fabric.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

I’ve sewn another couple of garments from the book which I’ll post soon. In the meantime enjoy some of that mean and moody photography!

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of She Wears the Pants in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link


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Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Have you seen the Japan Sew Along (#jsa2015), taking place on Tanoshii? I learned about it on Instagram, courtesy of Sew Busy Lizzy.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

This is my contribution to the sew-along, based on the short variation of the Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure by Sato Watanabe.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The premise of Stylish Skirts is that the book provides you with instructions to draft each of the projects included. No paper patterns are included. Given that the premise of the book is to support you to draft skirts yourself, I didn’t worry too much about strictly following the instructions in the book when making this skirt.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The Balloon Skirt in the book has both a zip and a waist tie. I couldn’t really see the point of including both, and as my fabric had a slight stretch I actually did away with any fastening (yay!), as it’s possible to slip the skirt on and off.

The Balloon Skirt in the book is constructed from three panels, brought in using pleats, to create lots of volume. I cut my skirt as one single panel along the full length of my fabric. As a result, my pleats needed to be much narrower so the ‘balloon’ effect isn’t as dramatic. I would like to make another version with greater volume for the full effect – perhaps in the longer length, which I love the look of in the book (although the tops that both versions are styled with don’t do much for me).

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Construction wise my skirt is two loops of fabric – the outside loop is attached to a shorter loop at the hem to create the balloon effect. The two loops are attached at the top by a waistband. Super simple.

The fabric used is a jacquard from Barry’s. It’s a daisy print in two shades of gold, and has a slight one-way stretch. I bought way too much (as per usual, which is why my stash is full of small, useless lengths of fabric) and have quite a bit left over that I think would make a great pair of shorts.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Like other Japanese pattern books, minimal written instructions are provided in Stylish Skirts, but each project is accompanied by a number of illustrations. Personally I think this approach (and the premise of the book) suits intermediate sewers more than beginners, as it helps to have an existing knowledge of skirt construction. The book makes some assumptions regarding the reader’s understanding of how to draft the skirts, which a beginner might find confusing; for example, it doesn’t explicitly state in writing how to calculate the skirt measurements (as least for the skirt I made), how to take measurements, etc.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts included cover a wide variety of styles. Although the projects are all women’s skirts, it would be fairly easy to create children’s versions by altering the measurements.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts are styled on dress forms which doesn’t appeal to me as much as being styled on models; although it does potentially make the book look distinct from other Japanese pattern books, which do admittedly often look quite similar (although It’s a look I love).

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Sew Busy Lizzy has also reviewed Stylish Skirts and sewn two skirts from the book. Make sure you check out her review also.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Stylish Skirts in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link


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Fashion Designer Autobiographies

As a sewist, I’m fascinated by fashion designers. I’m fascinated by their designs, their design and production processes, and – simply because I’m nosy and love an autobiography – their lives.

I’ve read quite a few autobiographies by designers lately. Phil is in Liverpool for a football match so I thought I’d curl up with a cup of tea (or two, this is a long post) this Saturday and write a review post in case anyone else is looking for a new book and fancies some fashion related inspiration.

Dior by Dior book

Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior

If you’re interested in the personal life of Christian Dior then this isn’t the book for you. This is probably the least personal autobiography I’ve ever read; Dior gives nothing away. In fact he states at the very beginning of the book that this is an autobiography of Dior the couturier, not the private individual. What Dior does cover, in great detail, is the fashion industry of the 1940s and 50s. As a result the book can be a slightly dry read, although Dior has a nice turn of phrase. The book does give a real insight into the life of a couturier at that time, and is great on the terminology and intimate details of haute couture. The sections on the design process at the studio (which included a huge staff), on the role of the mannequins or models, the showing of the collection (including restrictions on the press, who were not allowed to make any drawings) and the fitting of wealthy clients, are all fascinating from a historical perspective.

It is also interesting in terms of understanding the system of fashion houses, where a designer has the financial backing to experiment and develop, and to focus on being a designer. This is in striking contrast to a couple of the books below, where self financed designers write about constantly struggling, and devoting huge amounts of time, to financing their next collections.

Overall, read this book if you’re interested in how, in the 40s and 50s, a dress went from a drawing by Dior to being fitted on a client. However, I would recommend reading it alongside a more prying biography of Dior, to give a sense of his personal life, and of how other people viewed him.

DVF The Woman I Wanted To Be book

The Woman I Wanted to be, Diane Von Furstenberg

This book is the exact opposite of the Dior book above, this is an especially personal autobiography. By that I mean that DVF doesn’t just tell you what happened, she also tells you how she felt, and devotes quite large sections of the book to talking about her emotions, relationships and mental state.

DVF has had a fascinating life, and in this book she comes across as an inspiring, talented, powerful woman. You get the sense from this book that you would love DVF if you knew her in person.

The book covers both DVF’s career and her personal life. In my opinion it chops and changes between the two a little too much. For example, DVF will write about a period in her life, focusing on her relationships at that time and her personal state of mind, and then, in a later chapter, she’ll write about the same time period, focusing on what was happening professionally. I would have preferred the book to have told a more liner story, with the personal and professional stories told at the same time, for a better balance. My only other criticism is that the book can be a little ‘luvvie’ (in the theatrical sense); It isn’t that the book is insincere, but DVF spends large sections of the book talking about how great life is / love is / how we should be thankful for what we have. Not that I’m disagreeing, but somewhere within these sections there will often be a mention of a private plane,weekly facials/massages at home, celebrity friends, multiple homes, boats, etc.

Don’t let that put you off though. DVF is an interesting and inspiring woman and, as well as being a good read, this book will motivate you.

DVF The Wrap Book

Diane Von Furstenberg: The Wrap, Andre Leon Talley

This is a tiny book. It contains a very short biography of DVF, followed by 27 photos. The biography is magazine article length, and isn’t especially revealing. The photos are a mixture of photos of Diane, and DVF catwalk or advertising photos (a number of which are also included in The Woman I Wanted To Be). Due to the tiny amount of content included I wouldn’t advise buying this book; I borrowed it from the library:)

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Fighting Fashion, Helen Storey

Helen Storey is a British fashion designer who had her own label in the 1980s-90s. Helen now co-directs the Helen Storey Foundation, a London based not for profit arts organisation, which organises multi-disciplinary projects or exhibitions which bring together fashion, art and science. She also supports the development of young fashion designers as a Professor at University of the Arts, London.

Helen’s autobiography tells her story as a designer, first working for other fashion houses and then establishing and running her own label, until it eventually went into receivership. Helen’s illustrations and photographs which are included allow you to get a good sense of each of the collections Helen writes about designing. The title of Helen’s book is appropriate – this book is about the battle, and constant struggle to run your own label. Not just the struggle as a designer to innovate, develop and appeal to your audience. But the struggle to administer a multi-million pound business, while also being creative, and having a personal life. When every collection has to pay for the next, it places a huge pressure on the company and its staff, not only for the collection to be profitable, but also to receive the income as soon as possible as you are constantly short on funds to invest in the next collection.

Fighting Fashion is also a very honest account of supporting a partner through a long battle with an invasive cancer.

It’s a book about what training and support designers need, and how the British fashion industry needs to change in order for young designers to succeed.

It’s one woman’s account of all of the above, and well worth a read.

The Biba Experience book

From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki

(Photo from ‘The Biba Experience’, as I forgot to get a photo of ‘From A to Biba’)

Ok, I saved my favourite until last; I love this book. In the UK, Biba is a part of our consciousness. It’s the brand your mom tells you was on her wish list as a teenager, it’s the brand mentioned in any article or documentary about British fashion or London in the 1960s and 70s, and it’s one of the labels included on permanent display in the fashion gallery at the V&A.

Like Helen Storey, Hulanicki writes about the difficulty of financing a small business. Hulanicki tells great stories, such as desperately trying to locate pink gingham fabric, because Biba sold a huge volume of dresses via mail order before obtaining the fabric or anyone to produce the dress (because the potential number of orders was a total unknown and those mail order payments were needed to fund the fabric, and the production). Hulanicki conveys the atmosphere of being the ‘it’ store of the 1960s, patronised by celebrities and a favourite hang-out of teens. She tells the story of what it means to be a successful brand, and to keep identifying opportunities to expand – from the original mail-order company to Big Biba, a huge department store that was one of London’s most popular tourist attractions with up to a million visitors a week. And of the increased pressure this expansion places on a business, and the necessity of seeking outside funding, which eventually led to Hulanicki loosing control of Biba.

Reading From A to Biba will make you love Biba, it will make you wish you could shop at Big Biba, and it will send you to ebay to calculate the cost of purchasing a vintage Biba dress (p.s. not cheap).

Phew that was a long post, hopefully you’ve been inspired to visit the library or browse Amazon. When I’ve read a few more biographies I’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links; all views expressed are my own.


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Quilted Jacket from Basic Black

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I did the insane blogger thing and took these photos outside while it was snowing (not very heavily) today. I spent the day faffing around and left it until the last 30 minutes of daylight to get these pictures – roll on spring and decent daylight hours! The photos were taken on the patio just outside our garden door, as Phil sensibly stood inside the house and took these photos through the doorway, while I stood in the snow! Smart man.

This is the Blocked Quilting Zip-up Jacket from Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe, made in size small.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The pattern doesn’t include instructions for quilting the jacket, instructing you to use a quilted fabric, which is what I did. I bought my fabric from Barry’s. The fabric is actually slightly stretchy and is a bit lightweight for a jacket (you can see it stretching in some of the pictures below) but with a lining it’s just substantial enough. The fabric also pulls easily, I had to be careful pinning it during construction, so it may not last too long without getting caught on something…

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The book includes fairly brief written instructions (6 steps for this jacket), but most steps are illustrated, often with multiple illustrations, so you’ll get on better with the book if you’re a visual learner.

The only changes I made to the pattern were reducing the width of the shoulders slightly, and reducing the height of the collar, as I initially found it too high and knew I’d never do it up.

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The patterns included in the book are provided on two pattern sheets. Pattern sheets are double sided, and pieces are overlapped, so patterns need to be traced. The major pieces for each pattern are included, although seam allowances aren’t included and need to be added on; for simple shapes (i.e. squares and rectangles) the book instead provides measurements. For the lined clothing items, including this jacket, the book doesn’t include separate pattern pieces for the lining, but provides instructions on how to re-size the main pattern pieces. Measurements are included in centimeters and inches – which is helpful for someone like me who chops and changes between both systems!

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I am a bit lazy when to comes to tracing patterns so initially skipped the lining in order to avoid creating the pattern pieces. However, my fabric was too lightweight to get away without a lining, thus forcing me to be good, so I created the pattern pieces and cut a lining in the end.

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The theme of Basic Black is clothes made in black fabric (which I obviously ignored when I picked my own fabric!). With such a broad theme, the 26 patterns included in the book cover quite a wide range, from simple tops and skirts to jackets, shirts and coats.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The biggest disadvantage of picking black clothes as a theme is that black is difficult to photograph. The book does suffer from this a little, as it’s difficult to make out the more intricate details on a number of outfits.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Patterns are included in four sizes (S, M, L, XL), and only a finished size chart is included. It would be worth checking that one of the four sizes will be a decent match for your measurements before ordering the book, although a lot of the patterns have a looser silhouette which allows for a little leeway.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I was impressed at the number of more complex patterns included, including coats (2 patterns), jackets (3), and shirts (3). The book also includes a pattern for a coat dress and a simple Cheongsam, although this is unfortunately one of the patterns where it is difficult to make out the details in the photo.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I also love the final pattern in the book, this gorgeous raglan coat.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Basic Black in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link.


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Barbie – Sewing Blogger

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

The library at the university where I work has some interesting books. My especially random find of last week was Barbie Fashion by Sarah Sink Eames, a pictorial catalogue of all Barbie outfit packs made between 1959-1967. Obviously, it was immediately checked out.

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

A quick look at Barbie’s wardrobe from the 60s suggests she’d fit in pretty well in the sewing blogosphere.

She’s already made up a Rigel Bomber for Jacket January.

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Inspired by Lauren, she’s made up Vogue 1419 in red wool.

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

She’s joined in with the Ginger jeans making spree, finishing with some lovely top stitching.

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

She sewed up an amazing ensemble for Oonapalooza.

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

She’s even purchased a copy of the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie and may have gotten a bit carried away…

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Yep, Barbie would make a pretty impressive sewing blogger.

I’ve run out of comparisons, but do enjoy some more adorable outfits from the book!

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames

Images from Barbie Fashion, Sarah Eames


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Casper & Wendy Full Circle Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics

I’m a big fan of staring at Japanese pattern books – the colours and layouts are just so satisfying. This bag is from a new English-language release from Tuttle Publishing, Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics: Over 25 Easy-to-Make Purses, Totes and More by Emiko Takahashi.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

This is the Full Circle Bag project from the book. This bag is reversible although there is no way I’m ever going to reverse it and hide that Casper & Wendy print! Peter recently asked on his blog whether sewists ever reverse their reversible makes – I know I don’t, I pick a favourite side from the start!

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The bag is a large circle which is pulled in via 16 loops which the strap is threaded through.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

One of the distinguishing features of the book is that each project includes some element of hand sewing (and it is intended that the bags can be sewn wholly by hand if so chosen). For the project I made, the book suggested hand stitching a circular design on the bottom of the bag. I placed a circle of interfacing between the two layers of the bag and then machine stitched a circle design to help create a more sturdy base.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

I know this looks like a slightly overdue Halloween project but I actually bought this fabric from Abakhan in Manchester ages ago with no project in mind. When I was shopping my stash for a suitable fabric for the bag I decided to go with Casper and Wendy. I have loads of this fabric left so it will be making another appearance at some point.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

There’s a real mixture of bag projects in the book. There are 25 projects with customisations for 60 bags. The smallest are actually purses, the largest are totes.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

I’m intrigued by the Checkout Basket Bag. I’m not sure how useful it would really be but it’s certainly different and I love the styling used in the book.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The Eco Bag is a nice simple design for a reusable bag and they would be quick to whip up as extra Xmas gifts.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

As a lover of a large handbag (I tend to carry around a lot of stuff…) a Large Tote or a Picnic Tote has been added to my list of future makes.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

At the back of the book there’s a nice ‘before you start’ section which includes advice on which type of interfacing and which bag accessories to use for each of the projects.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The projects all appear relatively simple and each project has clear instructions with lots of diagrams. A pull out pattern sheet is provided at the back of the book although the larger pattern pieces are only provided in part (e.g. for the project I made, 1/4 of the pattern piece was provided, meaning it needed to be traced 4 times to create a full pattern piece). Seam allowances also need to be added to some of the pattern pieces (although it is clearly stated where these are required).

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Do you ever sew bags? Planning to make any for gifts this Christmas?

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link.