Archive for December 2012

Index innovation

December 29, 2012

Over 160 posts – whew, I’ve been doing this for 3-1/2 years !

And the total number of visits to this blog passed 375,000 on December 26 – another lovely gift of appreciation 😀
(It looks as if rather a lot of people happily spent the day blog following :D)

Sometimes I think I’m running out of things I want to comment on, then I rough out 3 posts on one day, or one piece spreads into 4. . . Blogs tend to have a natural life span. I sometimes notice myself in danger of repetition, but this blog isn’t obviously soon to end !

There’s so many posts now, it does need a guide to put some structure on it all.
Considering that I just write what comes to mind without any master plan, it’s interesting that most of the posts are on a few topics.
So I’m working on a more helpful index, which is at the top of the right hand menu.
It’s a surprising amount of (not very interesting !) work so it’s progressing slowly and not complete yet. I plan to add more over the next few weeks.

Hope that makes it easier to find things.

All this wordiness and analysis is definitely a ‘niche’, not for everyone. So I’m delighted you show so much interest.

Best Wishes for the coming year.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 Enjoy 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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December 2012

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An Award as a gift !

December 22, 2012

Wow, Sew Fashionably Modest has nominated me for a blog award.
I’ve never has a blogging award before, and I’m delighted.
What a lovely seasonal gift !

This award doesn’t come with a black-tie dinner and a trophy. It comes with some attractive icons, links to a large circle of lovely sewing people, and a few responsibilities.

Here are the rules :

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
Yes, indeed.

2. Add the award icon to your post

Here are the choices. I choose the inspiring one (early 20c is a favourite period for style), and have added it to my right hand menu.



3. Share 7 things about yourself

I live in a tiny house bursting with books, sewing machines, musical instruments, in a garden where I’ve planted many trees (including a Victoria plum :D).

I have learned to play piano, oboe, viola (none of them well, but I loved it – a true amateur).

I have absolutely no talent for team or ball sports, but I did represent my university at sailing.

I spent the summer of 1960 teaching sailing at a summer camp in Maine, then travelling across to California by Greyhound bus ! (though I’m definitely European)

I used to be an academic, and love doing research.

I have many more books on pattern making and wardrobe styling than on modern sewing technique. Though I collect 19c and early 20c sewing books, so altogether I have got rather a lot of technique books 😀

I was so young when I learned to sew and knit that I can’t remember it. In the days before television, my mother and I sat by the fire hand sewing in the evenings.

4. Pass the award on to 10 bloggers who inspire you

There’s many useful links in my right hand menu, but here are a few special ones. (Click on the red header if the links aren’t showing.)

Communing with fabric – by Shams.
Details about process, and interesting re-design ideas.

Diary of a sewing fanatic – by Carolyn.
Carolyn is a particular hero – I aspire to do what she does, working from her basic blocks to make her own patterns. Though I wouldn’t do it with dresses !

(And look at the Mood Sewing Network – what commitment !)

Did you make that – an entertaining blogger from London.

I’m honoured to be in the ‘Wardrobe Inspiration’ section of Robin’s A little sewing.
Many visitors come here from there 😀
I’d nominate her, but Robin has already received this award.

Follow the recommendations from other nominees for good reading. There are so many inspiring blogs by such interesting and so different people – read them all and there’d be no time for anything else ! (How about the blog list at The Elegant Bohemian for a lazy holiday spent wandering among style blogs rather than sewing blogs 😀 )

5. Include the rules – if you’ve read this far, you know them !

6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs – yes done that with pleasure.

Best Wishes and Seasons Greetings to you.
I hope you have lots of lovely gifts too.


Links available December 2012

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“Embrace Your Inner Dressmaker”

December 15, 2012

(A saying from BMV UK magazine ‘Sew Today’ in early 2010.)

This week Imogen Lamport at Inside-Out Style has a Thought of the Day :
“Understanding your style is about discovering your identity. The more your know about who you are the better you can express it through your image.”

I think this applies to how and what we sew as well.
And it also works the other way round – by noticing how and what we like to sew, we learn about ourselves 😀

Here’s another post by Imogen with links to her comments on identifying your clothing style.

And what about identifying your personal sewing style !
What aspects of sewing make you feel you’re having a special treat ?
Here are a few ruminations on personal differences in how and what we sew.

What do you enjoy sewing ? how do you like to improve fit ? do you like detailed plans ? what supports your learning ? As often happens I had so much to say on this I’ve made several posts, this on what you like to sew, posts to come on fitting and learning. (I’ve written before about planning/ not planning, see Index on personal style.)

Why, how, what do you sew ?

Do you sew to sew, or sew to wear ?
There are good responses on this here at Stitchers Guild.

– Do you sew as a hobby, and get a feeling of pleasure/ relaxation/ interest/ creativity/ skill/ accomplishment from the processes of sewing ? If so, what do you most enjoy/ find most rewarding ?
If you sew to sew, it doesn’t really matter if you make wadders which get thrown away or handed on. Making them is what you enjoy – the final product is less important.

– Or do you sew to wear flattering co-ordinated quality clothes which show your personal style ?
Then you might find it helpful to do a wardrobe and style review as a starting point. And find what alterations you need for a good fit.

When I was a child, most women had to sew their own clothes to get anything at reasonable price, and certainly to be able to afford fashion and high quality.

These days most of us sew for hobby rather than necessity.
We may (like me) need to sew to get clothes that fit, in styles we like and flattering colours.
But mainly we sew for the pleasure of it.

So do you sew mainly to make clothes that you wear, that fit in with your wardrobe ?
Or do you lovingly construct dazzling special occasion clothes from fabulous fabrics, or impeccably tailored jackets, or beautifully hand stitched heirloom lace and lawn, that there is absolutely no niche in your life-style for you to wear, but making them gives you great pleasure. If so, the money spent on materials and tools is hobby money not clothing money.

Do you sew for relaxation, and prefer to make easy styles?
Or do you want your sewing to be a challenge, and enjoy learning new skills ?

Or perhaps it’s the creativity which gives you a surge of “hey, wow” – adapting styles so they’re best for you, devising or altering patterns, adding embellishment, even spinning, weaving, dying, printing your own fabric. Though don’t try to force yourself to ‘be creative’. This is supposed to be fun after all. Just notice if there’s something you’re always having ideas about. Or what it is that gives you the most pleasure to make or do. Me, I’m always having ideas for ‘better’ patterns and instructions. And my brain automatically pulls together details into an overview.

Is it quality that gives you the biggest kick ? Are you unhappy to compromise, so even the hidden bits have to be ‘just right’ ? Or is that something that doesn’t worry you ? Do you slowly make few items of the highest quality ? Or do you get your biggest rewards from making clothes quickly so you have something new to wear in an hour’s time 😀

What fabrics do you love to use ?
What techniques and tools are your favourites ?

Do you love to sew for yourself, or get more happiness from sewing for other adults, for children, for pets, for dolls, for your home ?
Do you prefer to make clothes, or bags, hats, aprons, quilts, home dec, gifts ?

Personally, I sew dolls clothes and quilts for escapism and relaxation (though I do find myself ‘improving’ the patterns 😀 ). Making clothes for myself I find much more challenging.

My ‘inner child’ loves making doll clothes – a quick way of getting that ‘hey look at what I made’ glee. As a child my favourite doll was a bright blue rag doll called Belinda, but I remember a doll which came with her own range of patterns – a clever marketing ploy in the days when many girls learned to make clothes at quite a young age.

Do you love to show and tell other people what you’ve been sewing, and how ? I may express my opinions about style, but I have a no-no about displaying my sewing. I have taught quilting, but I’m not a natural ‘in front of a class’ teacher. Happily many other people are very good at it.

Do you do better when with good company, so you love to take part in live classes, and on-line sewalongs and sewing contests ?
Personally I don’t take part in timed events as I disintegrate under pressure, but some people thrive on deadlines.

Do you get a big buzz from finishing a project, or quiet contentment from slow hand sewing ?

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Or of course any combination of these on alternate days !

What we love doing doesn’t always match up with what we are good at – but sewing is a hobby so that doesn’t matter.
What are your favourite sewing treats ?
How do you experience that inner feeling of something special ?
There are so many rich possibilities for joy, rest, relaxation, reward. A hobby is leisure time not responsible time – so each of us can choose what’s right for us, without worrying about other people’s choices.

What type of sewing will make this holiday period and 2013 into happier and more rewarding times for you 😀

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Links available December 2012

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Casual chic holiday wear – dresses, wardrobe

December 8, 2012

More casual partying clothes for the 2012 holiday period from Eileen Fisher’s Holiday Tool Kit.

Eileen Fisher

The folded red item is a simple dress.

My previous post on this capsule was about patterns for the tops and pants.

This is about patterns for the dresses, plus some of my own ideas for expanding these 6 items to a holiday travel wardrobe.

There aren’t patterns to copy the dresses exactly, so they need a little pattern work. But again they’re mostly quite simple makes.

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Drape front jersey dress

Eileen Fisher

A loose shift dress shape with cap sleeves, rather than a fitted sheath, though it does taper slightly to the hem. Like the tops, that means it’s based on the casual dartless block.

The neckline is like the popular DKNY knit, Vogue 1250.


But that DKNY dress is rather fitted. The shape of the Eileen Fisher dress is more like this DKNY for wovens, Vogue 1300.


So some pattern combining may be needed.

Or you might prefer to lengthen this top for wovens, Vogue 8816.


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V-neck sleeveless A-line layering dress in velvet with silk trim

Eileen Fisher

A low-thigh length overdress with flare and a shaped hem.
Made in velvet, with silk charmeuse for side panels and trim on neckline and armholes.

The pattern is basically a v-necked a-line dress with shaped hem.

Here’s a Fashion Star pattern, McCall’s 6553. It has seams for side panels, though they are much wider than the inspiration.
Alter the neck line and hem line shapes to copy the inspiration, or to what’s most flattering for you.


Butterick 5655 View B is simpler.
Use the outer-layer pattern pieces only, and change the neckline and length.


Kwik Sew 3802 is for knits, and has another way of achieving an interesting hem shape. Omit the sleeves and change the neckline.


The Eileen Fisher version is made in two fabrics, velvet with contrast shiny trim for neck and armhole edges and side panels. If you want this texture change you’ll have to make a pattern for adding the side strip from underarm to hem. Quite easy pattern work. Just draw a line on the pattern where you want the new seam, and remember to add seam allowances. Combine the front and back side pieces into one pattern piece for a neater result.

For many sewers the sewing is more difficult than the pattern making. Combining velvet and charmeuse is a bit of a challenge. So you might like a simpler fabric combination. It’s easiest to combine 2 of the same fabric type, just different in colour or print.

And remember this is an overdress, so you need a size larger than usual for a dress, to allow for comfortable layering.

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A possible wardrobe

These 6 items – 2 dresses, 3 tops and pants – could make a good “dressy casual” party wardrobe capsule.
Easy wear shapes, but in shines and velvets. See end of my previous post on this capsule for more fabric suggestions.

For a complete holiday period travel wardrobe, I think you need to add some more fitted tops, to layer under the over-dress or give a different silhouette. Or to layer under these over-sized tops if you need more warmth.
Tees, blouses, shirts – keep up the quality with the fabrics.
And more than one pair of pants. Plus a slim skirt of any length.

Add a cardigan jacket if you want more layering options.
McCall’s 6084 is a quick pattern for both wovens and knits which I’ve suggested for previous Eileen Fisher capsules.
This gives a change of silhouette, it’s not wearable over those wide tops. Make it thigh length for a different look.


There are many similar patterns in another of my posts on Eileen Fisher styles.

For a heavier jacket : Eileen Fisher’s key jacket style for this season has a funnel neck. There are many patterns for these. Here’s one with very dropped shoulders, Very Easy Vogue 8539.


Remember your coat needs to be generous sized to wear over those loose tops. So a poncho or cape might be a good idea.

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Add scarves, socks, jewellery, a hat. . .
‘This year’ shoes : ankle boots or decorated ballet flats. Eileen Fisher also has mid-heeled pumps and wedge heel sandals.

‘This year’ bag/ purse : a duffle bag or big clutch. Oversized clothes cause problems for shoulder and cross body bags. They need very long straps so the bag hangs at low hip/ thigh level – not a flattering spot to emphasise for many of us.

Duffle bag and clutch are easy shapes to make your own patterns for, if you have a little experience with bag making.
If you’d like some support for your efforts :

Studio Kat Cordicella duffle bag.
Make it in bling fabrics for a party bag 😀


Hot Patterns Out to Lunch clutch.


Eileen Fisher has a clutch in suede. There are several BMV patterns for smaller clutches, if a big bag/ purse isn’t a flattering proportion for you, or you prefer a small bag for parties.

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Of course choose your own celebratory style if these boxy garments aren’t to your taste 😀

And you haven’t got to wear red, black, grey – extra important to wear flattering colours on special occasions!

What is your key to special festive wear ? It’s probably obvious from my comments that for me it’s the quality of the fabrics. How about lots of extra embellishment ? exuberant use of fabric ? or wild colour ? is a skirt essential ? or a very close fit ? bare skin ? heaped-on bling ?

Have fun with your choices 😀

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Links and patterns available December 2012

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