Material Mechanic, Fabric Engineer & Cloth Construction Analyst

Organising my lovely Utrecht swag

Organising my lovely Utrecht swag

I feel like I have been a lazy bones regarding my blog this past week, but it has been a very busy week. Sewing must always come first not writing, my ramblings are a narrative of my stitching after all. Along with organising my Utrecht booty (almost done, just need some larger zip lock bags or something. That pink flannel is still being cocky & won’t fit in any of my beloved bags/envelopes. Now it’s all packaged up it doesn’t look so guilt inspiring but it will not be buying more for a long time.

I have constructed three garments from the swag and two from the Sewell sisters gift, using a total of 6 new pieces and two from my main stash.

Corduroy skirt & linen top made from Sewll Sisters fabric gift

Corduroy skirt & linen top made from Sewell Sisters fabric gift

I also used the groovy green denim, black & white polka dot and rose-pink  linen (or double gauze depending on your optimism).


My fabulously stylish sister (the Style Counselor) has been visiting ‘us ooop norf’ this week & we have had a massive downsizing of our junk.  This is literally a very cleansing experience I recommend hiring a skip strongly. We cleared the cellar, garden & loft of junk & my strapping lad of a son dismantled a breeze block shed. I fear that a cable TV program researcher would be knocking on our door to make a Hoarders guilty secrets show. Thanks to the skip, Wolf’s many visits to the clothing bank and a collection by the ‘scrap man’ my Sewing Lofthouse (decided to name it after my nice inspiring junior school sewing teacher Mrs Lofthouse) is much clearer. I am actually ashamed to post a photo of the mess in the loft prior to clear out but plan a full blog and on the Sewing Lofthouse makeover so I best dip my toe in the sharing of shame show now.

i have made great progress but have a long way to go, check out the background of my recent sewing photos for a nosy at how it’s going.

Chuck it in the loft!

Chuck it in the loft!


As mentioned before, I have recently got my Sew Jo back after a long break & rarely used patterns both post & pre the sewing fallow years. To justify my fabric habit I decided that I would aim to make all my clothes as much as possible. Owning a snazzier sewing machine, a little more disposable income & increased fabric knowledge along with the Internet make fancy pants stuff more possible. Although I used to make a lot of my own stuff on reflection some of my stitching wizardry left a lot to be desired. My sister and I would lay down on sheets and draw round each other to design dresses! Now then our figures were more forgiving in those days & occasionally we had to cut ourselves out of them (why bother with zips and buttons?) As I try to maintain a professional air at work I don’t think these rustic, yet highly stylish, creations would cut the mustard.

Sew anyway I have used two grown up patterns this week, both independent designers rather than ‘the big four’. Nothing wrong with the patterns from the big companies but I wanted to see what had changed.

Bridesmaid Revisited

Bridesmaid Revisited

The last pattern I followed was a bridesmaid dress when my friend Sandra got married. Her twin daughters have just graduated so it was very much back in the day. Incidentally, I altered the pattern as I deemed it too frumpy: I think the short length & tight fit added something to the occasion! I also remember some fetching outfits I made for my handsome sons to wear at the wedding. Blue and blue striped colour  blocked trousers and hooded tops – very convictesque!

The Bettine Dress

I selected this pattern as it is aimed at beginners with optional extras for more competent sewists. Also there was an internet sewing party planned by the designer where everyone would upload their makes to Twitter & Instagram. This would give me the opportunity to see other versions of the dress.

My First Bettine Dress

My First Bettine Dress

I chose the polka dot cotton lawn from Utrecht with left over polka dot from a dress I made for Flower Fairy Maebh (reference to fabric source a poor feeble excuse to share a photo of the Hermosa).

Twisted placket detail dress

Twisted placket detail dress

Whilst i was being such a grown up rather than cut the pattern out I made a personalised copy instead. As I am not the neatest or most accurate person & my body shape spans three sizes this took some time. I am glad I did as I like the pattern and will make more.  I spent a lot of time dusting off my maths brain working out calculations to ensure the ‘essence’ of the style wasn’t lost with my grading.

The dress was nice to sew and the instructions very clear with references for any trickier bits. The fabric was a slippery blighter and I used Mr Gray to finish the seams, this made the hips hang a bit funny. The pockets are ace and offer much scope for embellishment! I also made Flower Fairy Scarlett a ‘little Betty’ version, even including the covered buttons & shoulder tabs!


I bribed Bowie with a jaunty neckerchief to participate in a photo shoot

Bettine Dres with Bowie

Bettine Dress with Bowie

As you can tell by my natural stance I love posing for photos I hoped the dog would deflect from my natural grace and elegance.

on with Bettine two, it would be much quicker now as the pattern was cut and I had rehearsed it once already. I also made excellent use of freezer paper, (trace your pattern on it, iron it onto the fabric & cut, no pinning or re-tracing & enhances accuracy!) so I just ironed the pattern to the new fabric. I decided on a shorter sleeved version and used the leftover linen from my Sorbetto top.


Version two went smoothly and I showed Mr Gray who was the boss (advice from the Style Counselor) by not using him! All seams were pinked then zigzagged, her Badgesty got a regal collar ruffle even though she refused to leave the house for a photo shoot.

Bettine Two, the fabric pink perfectly matches the cats nose!

Bettine Two, the pink fabric perfectly matches the cats nose!

If you focus on her Badgesty you won’t notice my aggro stance offering you out for a scrap! ‘You lookin’ at my frock?’

The Meringue skirt Colette Patterns

This pattern is one of five included in the Colette Sewing Handbook, I have been really looking forward to making the Meringue skirt. It’s the first pattern in the book and again suitable for beginners. The book includes comprehensive information regarding all elements of garmentry fabrication. I think I have a bit of a sewing crush on this designer and even created a Pinterest board for research!

typically the day I had earmarked for construction creation was very sunny, so once again my Al fresco cutting table was employed. (A large cardboard birthday card the Wolf made me on an occasional table). Fully equipped I commenced with the pattern drafting multitasking at its best- sunbathing & stitchery!

Setting up for a sunny sew

Setting up for a sunny sew

(The cutting board also acts as an ideas board, sketch of the Beauty’s requested Bestival dress)

Again, my inverted triangle body called for lots of pattern grading, I made a real school boy error. Measured lots of points on my lower section, transferred them to the tissue pattern traced onto freezer pape & cut out the master (actually let’s call it the mistress). When I came to shorten it I realised that chopping out a chunk evened everything up and the original markings for two sizes met! Always alter length before width is my new mantra (womantra?)

The football season started on Saturday giving me a whole day of an empty house to play Prince & Madonna while I sew! Off to my Sewing Lofthouse with everything ready for the stitching wizardry part.

Check out the Wolfs music stand, I liberated it for a new purpose!

Check out the Wolfs music stand, I liberated it for a new purpose!

one of the reasons I selected this pattern was because I adore a scalloped edge, the last dress I made with this hem was rather Wilma Flintstone so I was determined to get this one right.

This pattern also offers lots of embellishment opportunities so in honour of the denim I thought I would try my hand at flat felled seams (this as the only bit that went wrong as I didn’t consider the impact of them on the invisible zip or where the scallops meet).

Trim, measure, iron, mark and sew

Trim, measure, iron, mark and sew


I also used another piece from the Sewell Sisters fabric gift to face the hem & waist as it matched/contrasted perfectly.


In order to ensure crisp scallops I made myself a sewing ham (or fam as I am a vegetarian) the perfect size for each curve. I also pressed out the seams prior to notching. If you think about fabric, I do often, it is engineered to be pushed into shape using cutting, moulding and heat. My very basic physics told me that the shape would be ‘remembered’ more effectively if heat was applied before cutting notches.

Green denim Meringue skirt Colette Patterns

Green denim Meringue skirt Colette Patterns

Both the patterns were perfect for someone of my sewing age to revisit techniques and refresh pattern drafting skills after a sabbatical. They include well written clear instructions and don’t overload with confusing pattern symbols. Beginner sewists would follow them with no issues.

Patterns have changed for the better I have a Simplicity pattern in waiting to see if this is also the case for the big players. I wonder if this is something to do with input from people who actually sew rather than tailors like Mr Butterick  back in the day? Consider the theory that cake mixes didn’t take off until adding an egg was included, some believe that the psychological Impact made women feel inadequate. I prefer to adopt the other theory that adding decorating/frosting options to the cake mixes as the catalyst.  As even in the olden days women had more sense to prefer spending time on creativity rather than labour. Adding your own twist be it embellishments or re-purposive existing items is always satisfying.

Maybe if sewing was taught to both genders historically  in schools the appliance of science would have been more effective. Working with 16-19 year olds I see the great steps in gender equality & feel confident that future material mechanics will make more effective use of science & technology to benefit everyone.

Well I am rather tired from all the recent grown up accurate stitching wizardry and am going to do some Slow Sewing, or Slewing as the Wolf calls it. I have the following to complete before I return to work (not long but I can say the number it makes me sad).

Ultra Easy by Vogue 976,  printed in USA 1992

Ultra Easy by Vogue 976, printed in USA 1992

  • curtains for Maebh
  • aprons for Wolf and Flower Fairies
  • Bestival dress for the Beauty (also just requested bandanas as they are very useful at festivals)
  • Sesame Straatch pants for Olly
  • baby stuff for Early Essentials
  •  a dress from my Japanese pattern book
  • the 1992 Vogue dress pattern Ma Julie gave me

Along with finishing my Sewing Lofthouse, visiting the boat and re purposing the big pouf (long story I may have to ask the Style Counsellor to guest blog that one!). I guess I am going to be busy!


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