Collecting Vintage Sewing Patterns

Vogue Couturier sewing pattern from the 1950s

Vintage Sewing Patterns 013

I started sewing with a vengeance back in the 1980’s so I have collected a wide range of sewing patterns from that period onwards. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I started collecting patterns from the 1950s and earlier, but I’m so glad I started! I love the fashion illustrations on the front of the envelopes – so gorgeous that they are perfect framed and displayed on the wall, but I also love the styles and glamour from these past eras and the fact that you can make perfect, authentic reproductions of these glamorous styles.

It was the American tailor, Ebeneezer Butterick who first introduced graded sewing patterns for the mass market. Originally, these patterns were not printed and just featured notches and holes to help the dressmaker construct the garment. Printed patterns were introduced in the 1940s, after the Second World War, and patterns with multiple sizing weren’t seen until the 1970s.

I found my first 1950s dress pattern in my Mum’s sewing collection when I was a teenager. It was a simple pencil skirt from Butterick and I think I made it many times, in different fabrics.  But I was inspired to collect them when I found a beautiful Vogue couturier pattern at Ardingly Antiques Fair. Since then my collection has grown extensively. I source patterns where ever I can. Ebay and Etsy are always good hunting grounds, but it is worth keeping  your eyes open at antiques fairs and shops, jumble sales and charity shops, though patterns from the 50s and earlier are becoming increasingly difficult to source and more expensive to purchase, with some 1950s designer patterns now selling for over £200!

Vogue Couturier sewing pattern from the 1950s
I found this Vogue Couturier sewing pattern at Ardingly Antiques Fair – it’s one of my favourites!

I only collect what I like and what interests me, which is why I focus on the 50s. Because of this, the condition of the pattern and envelope doesn’t bother me too much, as long as there are no major parts of the pattern missing. I also rather like it when a previous owner has made their own jottings on the pattern and envelope, such as sizing alterations, or a swatch of the fabric they made the pattern up in – to me this all adds to its history. If you are buying  to resell, you need to consider the condition of the pattern. Ideally the pattern envelope should be pristine, and it is better still if the pattern is uncut. Some designer patterns were made in limited numbers and therefore they are quite sought after, hence the high prices.  Spadea patterns are highly collectable; these featured designers from the 1950s and 60s,  such as Cecil Chapman and Suzy Perette. Also collectable are Hollywood Patterns from the 1940s and 50s, which feature a picture of a film star such as Lucille Ball on the envelope.

Hollywood patterns which feature a picture of a film star on the envelope are quite collectable
Hollywood patterns which feature a picture of a film star on the envelope are quite collectable

If you just want to recreate the look of the era, there are plenty of reproduction patterns available at reasonable prices. Butterick and Vogue both have a range of vintage patterns reproduced from designs in their archives.  On Ebay the Vintage Pattern Shop has a wide range of patterns which the shop owner has had reproduced from her own collection of vintage patterns. You could also try Eliza M and Sew-La-Di-Da

These sewing patterns from the past give vintage clothing lovers the opportunity to wear a wide range of styles rather than being restricted to the sizing limitations and care concerns of authentic vintage garments. If you are not adept at sewing you have the option of finding a local seamstress to make up the patterns for you in your choice of colour and fabric – there are no limitations!

Pictured below are some of my favourite patterns from my collection – one day I hope to make them all!

Vintage Sewing Patterns 021Vintage Sewing Patterns 017Vintage Sewing Patterns 014Vintage Sewing Patterns 024Vintage Sewing Patterns 025Vintage Sewing Patterns 039Vintage Sewing Patterns 019

Costume Study Day at Smallhythe Place

Terry's Beetlewing Dress
Costume Study Day
One of the fascinating displays at National Trust property, Smallhythe Place in Kent, once the country retreat of actress, Ellen Terry.

I recently spent a fascinating day at National Trust Property, Smallhythe Place near Tenterden, Kent, participating in a Costume Day.

Smallhythe Place was the country retreat of actress, Ellen Terry, who lived from 1847-1928. Ellen was one of the first modern stars of the British stage, frequently acting alongside Henry Irving in a stage career which spanned sixty-four years.

The day began with a talk on Edward Godwin, who had a huge influence on Ellen, and whom she described as ‘the only man she ever loved’.  Godwin was an architect, designer and writer and through his association with Terry became interested in all aspects of theatre and designed many costumes for her.

Smallhythe Place houses one of the largest selections of 19th Century theatrical costume. One of the most interesting aspects of the day for me was how much work and care goes into ensuring that the costumes are preserved. We received a very interesting hands-on demonstration  which taught us how to fold and wrap vintage textiles, making and utilising acid-free tissue paper pads and rolls to support the garments and eliminate sharp creases. There was also an interesting talk on pest control – oh the horrors which those pesky critters can wreak!

Costume from Shakespeare's Cymbeline
Ellen Terry’s costume from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

We were given the opportunity to go behind the scenes and visit the costume store – heaven!! The dresses were stored flat in long, conservation boxes and were well wrapped in tissue, and the room was kept at a certain temperature at all times. We were able to observe a number of garments closely, including costumes from  Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’ and Ibsen’s ‘The Vikings’.  It was incredible how much detail was put into each costume – there were fine decorative techniques which would have been impossible for an audience to observe once the costumes were being worn on stage. There was also a fabulously well-preserved dress by Worth, which had been made for the actress Lillie Langtry.

Costume from Ibsen's The Vikings
Ellen Terry’s costume from Ibsen’s The Vikings.
Lillie Langtry's stunning dress from Worth
Lillie Langtry’s stunning dress from Worth.

After lunch, Veronica Isaac, Assistant Curator at the V&A, gave a lecture entitled ‘Highlights from the Wardrobe of ‘The Painter’s Actress’. This was a fascinating insight into the very colourful life of Ellen Terry. She was the daughter of travelling actors and had a very unconventional upbringing, beginning her stage career at nine years old when she played Mamilius in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. When she was sixteen, Ellen married the artist GF Watts, who was forty years her senior. The marriage broke down within the first year, and Ellen eloped with Edward Godwin, with whom she had two children. Watts refused to divorce Ellen and, as a result of the elopement she was estranged from her family. Godwin left Ellen after seven years following financial difficulties.

Ellen and Edward were both part of the aesthetic movement which celebrated beauty and art over more practical considerations. In terms of fashion the aesthetes rebelled against corsets and restrictive clothing, wearing looser garments which harked back to the fashions of the Regency period.  This is Ellen Terry’s Liberty Dress, which is made from silk and wool and features hand-embroidered tambour work  in colour tones which are in harmony with the aesthetic movement. The dress is on display in Smallhythe Place.

Liberty Dress
Ellen Terry’s Liberty dress.

In 1877 Watts finally agreed to divorce Ellen and she married the actor, Charles Kelly. The marriage lasted two years.  In 1878 Henry Irving made her his leading lady when he took over the lease of the Lyceum Theatre. With the Lyceum Theatre Company she toured the United States and Canada and remained working with Irving until 1902.

The last part of the day was a tour of Smallhythe Place itself.  The highlight of this for me was the opportunity to see the famous ‘Beetlewing dress’ which Ellen wore in 1888 as Lady Macbeth. This amazing dress is decorated with the iridescent wings of 1000 beetles. The dress recently underwent a major restoration at the hands of costume conservationist, Zenzie Tinker. Close inspection revealed that the existing dress was actually made of two separate dresses. It required over 700 hours of painstaking work to restore it to its original glory, reattaching hundreds of beetle wings, strengthening the fabric and piecing the two dresses together to restore it as closely as possible to its original form.

Terry's Beetlewing Dress
The famous Beetlewing Dress, which Terry wore as Lady Macbeth.

Learning Lingerie

My first attempt at lingerie
My first attempt at lingerie

After a few trials, and many errors, I have finally finished my first attempt at making lingerie.

I’ve been inspired by a wonderful book I bought on Amazon – The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. It covers knickers, bras and camisoles, amongst other things, and contains lots of helpful information on choosing fabrics, tips and techniques for sewing lingerie and applying lace, and a really helpful list of suppliers. It also has paper paper patterns in the back of the book for each of the projects.

The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie
The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers & Laura Stanford, published by Kyle Books

As I’d never made lingerie before, I thought I’d start with something simple – a camisole made in a silk crepe remnant, and matching mini briefs.

Silk Camisole
Silk Camisole

The camisole was quite straightforward. It was cut on the bias and required French seams and the application of lace at the front of the bodice and round the hem.  The book gave instructions for a reverse hem which allows you to quickly add a trim whilst preventing any fraying. You have to press a 5mm hem to the right side of the garment then lay the lace trim along this edge, aligning the decorative top of the lace trim with the raw edge, and then top stitch 2-3mm from this edge. It sounds simple now, but took me ages to figure out – I think I was having a blond moment!

The camisole also required a hand-finished shell edge. I hadn’t done this before but it turned out really nicely. I used silk embroidery thread to sew this stitch, which gives a lovely finish.

Shell edging and fine gold  rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis
Shell edging and fine gold rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis

One of the biggest problems I came across was sourcing supplies. The camisole required 12mm rings and slides for the straps and I really wanted to use brass findings for a more luxurious finish. These were difficult to source in the UK, and quite expensive. In the end I bought them online from London-based  MacCulloch & Wallis, who can always be relied upon for any manner of sewing-related items. They arrived in a couple of days and are excellent quality – far, far superior to the clear plastic ones that were available in my local haberdashers.

I made more stupid errors with the shoulder straps, cutting them shorter than the book instructed. I also had problems with turning the straps – can anyone tell me whether there’s a secret knack to using a rouleau loop turner? It never seems to work for me, so any advice would be very gratefully received.

The camisole turned out beautifully and was an excellent project for using up a remnant of gorgeous fabric.

My first attempt at making the mini briefs can only be described as disastrous! The pattern pieces had to be cut on the crosswise grain and I got my wires crossed and cut them on the bias. I thought this would be ok as the elastic would pull them in, but this was not the case. As I worked with the briefs they got larger, and larger and LARGER!!!  Briefs they certainly weren’t! By this time I was in a bit of a fix as I didn’t have a lot of fabric left – not enough to make another pair of mini briefs, but I really wanted a matching set. I went back to the book and found I could just about squeeze out a pair of tie-sided minis, which turned out really nicely – in the end!

Tie-sided minis
Tie-sided minis

I learnt loads from this project – working with difficult fabrics (cutting out with a rotary cutter definitely helps, and machine sewing on top of a sheet of tissue paper), shell edging, applying a gusset and attaching elastic are all valuable new skills. It’s definitely inspired me to sew more lingerie, in fact I’m hoping to work my way through the book. But firstly I think I will definitely have to spend a few hours sourcing fabrics, trims, decent lingerie elastic and fastenings. That involves shopping – what a pity!  🙂

Has anyone else had a go at making lingerie? If you can recommend any suppliers for lingerie notions please let me know.


A Visit to Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair

Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair
Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair
Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair – a fantastic place to source vintage fabric, textiles and sewing patterns.

I’m currently on a quest to source vintage trims and fabrics for the 1920’s and 30’s inspired lingerie and loungewear I’m endeavouring to make. So last weekend I took a trip to the IACF Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair for inspiration.

Browsing antique fairs is one of my favourite pastimes, and I’ve made it my mission this year to visit as many as possible. I can’t resist stalls selling any form of vintage clothing or textiles, and my husband usually abandons me whilst he looks out for furniture he can revamp, or all manner of ‘manly’ things! This time he was on the hunt for a pocket watch which he could place on the dashboard of the 1973 VW Camper he’s restoring.

It’s strange how antique fairs seem to vary geographically. I’m a frequent visitor to the IACF Fair at Ardingly where there is a huge European influence, with lots of shabby chic and traders selling large items of furniture brought over from abroad. Shepton Mallet was quite different – there were far fewer large items and the emphasis was more on what I would describe as ‘proper’ antiques. This may have been partly due to the weather – the wind was very cold and most of the dealers had wisely chosen to stay under cover.

Many of the stalls were under cover
Many of the stalls were under cover.

My first find was a gorgeous 1930’s sewing pattern which I snapped up for a bargain price. I can envisage this made up in a gorgeous silk fabric. The instructions on the pattern envelope are sketchy so it will be quite a challenge to see how this turns out when I get round to making it up. Our ancestors must have been incredible seamstresses to cope with such brief instructions, unmarked pattern pieces and incredibly intricate design details.

1930s sewing pattern
This wonderful 1930s sewing pattern is going to be challenging

There were numerous stalls selling vintage lace, trims and textiles, so much so that I was slightly overwhelmed by the choice! Some stallholders had painstakingly removed panels of embroidery or beading from antique garments which were beyond restoration and these were just stunning to look at and examine in such close detail – the amount of work and hours these must have taken is just beyond belief.

La Cammionette Bleue
There are always beautiful treasures at La Cammionette Bleue

There were so many potential treasures that I was reaching that stage of indecisiveness where there was a good chance I would come home empty-handed, apart from my gorgeous sewing pattern. Luckily I came across one of my favourite traders; Liz runs La Cammionette Bleue and specialises in vintage and antique textiles and costume – she always has beautiful finds on her stall and is friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable about her stock. Three yards of beautiful fabric caught my eye, and it turns out it was original 1930s fabric – just perfect for what I had in mind! It shall soon be either an elegant  1920s kimono, or ‘Coolie Coat’ as it was then known, or an item of pretty loungewear. This find was enough to spur me on to purchase some vintage lace trim as well.

My beautiful 1930s fabric and lace trims.
My beautiful 1930s fabric and lace trims.

I didn’t go home laden with packages but I bought enough to get two more dressmaking projects underway. If you love textile crafts and have a penchant for vintage textiles I would strongly recommend that you pay a visit to an antiques or vintage fair. Part of the thrill is never knowing what you will find, and even if you come home with a full purse, your creativity will be fired by all the gorgeous items you’ve spotted.


Reaching the final of Sewing Bee - but who will win?
Reaching the final of Sewing Bee – but who will win?

NOoooooooooo! Can’t believe it’s the final of the Sewing Bee tonight! Six episodes has gone far too quickly, we definitely need a longer series – at least eight episodes so that we only lose one contestant each week 😦

I think that’s my only criticism of Sewing Bee –  the time has gone so quickly that we’re only just getting to know the contestants – those that are left, that is!

The last two episodes have been so challenging – kilts, neoprene, leather – what else can the judges throw at them? Having just struggled with my first attempts at lingerie, that might not be a bad challenge for the next series.

I was really upset to see Ryan leave at the end of Episode 4. He had come on so far that I expected to see him in the final. In his farewell  he said  that sewing is definitely what he wants to do, and warned Patrick that in four years time, he will see him on Savile Row – I really, really hope he achieves his ambition.

Let's hope Ryan continues with his sewing and finds himself on Savile Row before too long
Let’s hope Ryan continues with his sewing and finds himself on Savile Row before too long

Sadly Amanda also went out that week but was looking forward to going back to sewing slowly – I’m sure many of us can sympathise with that!

Week 4 was an amazing week for Neil, becoming the only ever contestant to achieve the hat-trick, winning every challenge and garment of the week. The boned corset which he made in the first challenge was stunning and his kilt was of such a high standard that Patrick even said he would be happy to wear it! You could really tell that Neil loved the kilt challenge – this was real ‘man sewing’  – ‘pure engineering’ as Neil enthusiastically described it!

So, in the semi-final just Neil, Lorna, Matt, Deborah and Paul remained. The first challenge was to construct a lined pencil skirt with darts and a concealed zip – it sounded too simple, until the contestants were told they had to construct the skirt from lace. That still sounds simple if you have never used the fabric, but add pattern matching, a slippery surface which constantly catches and moves, and visible seams, and the challenge becomes more complicated.

Lorna’s lace skirt was lovely, but the waistband wandered up and down. Even Neil struggled with this challenge, coming a cropper with a lining that was slightly too large, seam ripples and poor pattern matching on the back seam. Deborah’s lining was also slightly too large and Paul struggled with zip insertion and an uneven hem. Matt looked completely taken aback to be announced winner of the challenge!

The creative challenge involved re-fashioning a wetsuit. Lorna really went to town on this one, with her Madonna-inspired neoprene dress, featuring satin boobs and a structured neoprene peplum! Deborah combined the wetsuit with a funky digital print neoprene to win the challenge.

The final task was to make a leather jacket. This was really interesting, and did not appear to be as complicated as I expected. It was important to ensure that the fit was perfect early on as it is difficult to make any alterations to the fabric. Lorna had the clever idea of making the lining first and using this as a toile to ensure the fit was perfect before piecing together the leather. It would have been interesting to have some information on the approximate cost of making a leather jacket and where the leather could be purchased from.

Paul used a lovely pink snakeskin print leather, but this was very stiff and sadly caused him fitting issues. Poor Deborah had terrible problems when she tried the jacket on her model  and zipped it up, forgetting that there was no stop at the top of the zip, it was then impossible to get the zip to work and cost her time.  Matt made a biker jacket from a pattern suited to a jersey fabric. Construction was great, but the limited stretch of the leather meant that the jacket fitted too snugly across the back and top of the arms. Lorna made a lovely green cropped jacket for the ‘more mature lady’ but had matching issues around the base of the zip.

Neil redeemed himself, with his leather jacket winning garment of the week again! His black jacket featured a draped collar and a beautiful pink satin lining.

I think the pressure got to all the semi-finalists. Patrick said that the only person who was safe this week, was Lorna, but it was Paul and Deborah who we sadly had to say goodbye to.

So, now the the Final – who will win? – Will we have our first male Sewing Bee winner? Or will ‘always the bridesmaid’  Lorna, finally become the bride?

GBSB Episode 3 – Back to the Fifties

p01s6fyfI think Episode 3 of Sewing Bee is my favourite so far. Vintage sewing is a passion of mine so it was interesting to see how the contestants coped.

I loved the Walk-Away dress – what a simple dress, but how effective and elegant! I was happily watching this and envying the contestants for making such a lovely garment when it suddenly dawned on me that I had an original 1950s pattern in my collection of just such a dress! My Butterick pattern calls it a ‘Coverall dress’ and also includes a short version which it calls a ‘Coverall Cobbler’s Apron’. I’ve dug this one out and added it to my growing list of things to make – I’ll have to grade it up first though as it’s to fit bust 32”!

Vintage Sewing Patterns
Butterick ‘Quick and Easy’ Coverall Cobbler’s Apron

The task was made more difficult as the contestants had to make the dresses using vintage 1950s sewing machines which could only do a basic stitch. They were given the option of using a binding foot, which Neil managed, but most of the contestants stuck to the more traditional method. Patrick and May were looking for speed and skill on the binding. Ryan excelled again and won the Walk-Away dress challenge and Matt was second.  Some contestants struggled with their binding and button loops, or the alignment of the front fastening.

It was funny seeing the contestants struggling with vintage machines. I learnt to sew on my Mum’s hand-operated Singer from the 1950s, learning to sew one-handed from an early age. I have also recently inherited an old Singer treadle machine, which I am looking forward to experimenting with when I have some spare time.

My vintage Singer treadle sewing machine
My vintage Singer treadle sewing machine, primed and ready for action!

There was an interesting section of the programme examining Christian Dior’s New Look which often required 10 metres of fabric or more to make a garment! It was lovely to hear the group of elderly ladies discussing their passion and excitement for the New Look fashions following the war and the sense of freedom and adventure that these represented.

Christian Dior's New Look
Christian Dior’s New Look

The alteration challenge required the contestants to make a garment from a pair of 1950s curtains in one and a half hours, again using the vintage machines. These machines didn’t offer buttonholes so the contestants had to think of other ways to fasten their garments, inserting zips or using ribbon ties for example. Neil made a lovely fitted halterneck dress, but unfortunately didn’t quite finish. Lots of the contestants made skirts, Matt made a child’s dress and Neela, a strapless top. Lorna won this challenge with her bright, bold patterned skirt which May praised as ‘exquisitely shaped’. Neil’s gorgeous dress came second.

Day 2 required the contestants to make a 1950s inspired sheer blouse in six hours.  This was reported to be the hardest challenge yet, with the sheer fabrics requiring very fine and even seams. The group needed to get their garments right first time, as it was likely that any errors would show on the finished garment and Patrick said he was looking for complete precision – no pressure then!

Even cutting out proved a challenge, with the fabrics moving and shifting as the contestants pinned and cut. Deborah came up with an interesting solution, pinning her fabric to a foam board to stop it shifting. Some contestants made the mistake of using fusible interfacings which should never be used on sheers as it changes the nature of the fabric and shows through. Several contestants correctly used organza for interfacing.

This was a difficult challenge and none of the blouses were without issues.  Neil hated the challenge and said that sewing with sheers was his worst nightmare. He had bravely drafted his own pattern but Patrick stated that the pattern was unsuitable for the fabric and lacked refinement.  Several contestants had lumpy seams, poor fit or fabrics pulling to one side. Lorna once again won the challenge with a blouse which had been adapted from a pattern for a nightdress – she managed to achieve exquisite, fine seams on this difficult fabric, and also won garment of the week.

I particularly loved Deborah’s blouse which featured a tie neck, little cap sleeves and buttons up the back. If anyone knows where I can obtain this pattern, I would love to know!

So who went home? Sadly it was Neela, although she said she was very much looking forward to going home and sewing lots of garments as slowly as possible – I can sympathise with that!

Next week’s episode looks more challenging than ever, with the emphasis on structure – a corset and tartan kilts are two of the garments involved – should be an easy week then!!!

Tiny Terrors – Great British Sewing Bee Episode 2


Well, I thought Episode 2 of the current series of Great British Sewing Bee was pretty challenging, didn’t you?

The contestants were faced with designing and constructing on a small scale, with various childrenswear challenges. The first task was to make a child’s waistcoat using some traditional tailoring techniques and incorporating welt pockets. Patrick and May were looking for attention to detail – symmetrical points at the front of the waistcoat, and parallel welt pockets.  Some of the contestants made this more difficult for themselves by choosing striped or checked fabrics and poor Neela had to cut her pocket flaps numerous times to ensure the stripes matched. Quite a few of the competitors struggled with this task and failed to complete it – dear old Matt fixed his buttons with Blu-Tack! The construction of the waistcoats was interesting, with the fronts inserted into the back of the waistcoat and then sewn blind on the shoulders and side seams, before being fed through a gap at the base of the waistcoat. I’m still pondering this one and think I’m going to have to give it a go!

It was lovely to see Ryan improve in confidence, winning the waistcoat challenge with a garment which Patrick described as faultless, apart from the pattern matching on the welt pockets. Lorna came second, with beautifully matched pockets but uneven button spacing.

The creative challenge combined a child’s T-Shirt and summer dress in one garment.  There were some great ideas, with some lovely dresses evolving from the two garments. Neil’s transformation of the two garments into a pair of boxing shorts and some tiny boxing gloves was outstanding though. And Alex produced some very sweet little harem pants. Patrick said that Amanda’s cape ‘lacked impact’ and accused Deborah of trying to win Brownie points with May, by altering the two garments into a bolero jacket. Neil’s outfit was deservedly first, and who came second? Yes, you’ve guessed it – it was Lorna – again!!

The final challenge involved a great deal of imagination. The contestants had to produce three-dimensional fancy dress garments in four hours, though they had been allowed to prepare for these in advance, and bring in specialist fabrics. This was a fun challenge, with some fabulous costumes. Matt and Deborah produced peacocks, Lorna introduced a ‘Booby Bird’, Ryan produced a fox, Paul an elephant, Amanda created a 1920s flapper girl, Neil designed a smart phone, Neela an inch worm and Alex a cupcake – or part of one at least!

I loved Neela’s Inch Worm costume. She had made an appliquéd book which encased her model, with pleated fabric at one side to illustrate the books pages, and the book’s spine at the other. The inch worm was encased inside with a padded worm’s tail protruding from the base of the book. Paul’s elephant was also excellent with real attention to detail – he even had a little mouse running up the elephant’s leg. Patrick questioned whether Amanda’s costume was three-dimensional enough, but May pointed out that whilst Amanda had put a different interpretation on the challenge, the turban featured plenty of three-dimensional elements. Her outfit looked beautiful. Alex’s cupcake idea was great but perhaps too ambitious for the time available. Her pleated cupcake case was superb, but took so long that she ran out of time to create the cupcake frosting and sparkles.

I also loved Neil’s Smartphone costume which included padded headphones and appliquéd apps on the smartphone  screen. Paul’s lovingly created elephant costume won garment of the week.

So who left the Sewing Bee? Sadly it was Alex. I know some people have criticised this decision but really I don’t think the judges had a choice. Alex was talented but was in the bottom two in the first week, and then failed to finish either her waistcoat or her fancy dress outfit. As May said, she was a brilliant sewer, but just needed time to finish things. I do think, though, that we will miss her creativity.

I’m really looking forward to Episode 3; the focus is on vintage sewing, which is a particular passion of mine, and the contestants will be using vintage sewing machines, coping with a ‘make do and mend’ challenge and sewing a sheer blouse – I can’t wait! But who will become the victim of episode 3 I wonder?

Photo from

Easing in Gently

A simple 1950s style pencil skirt

To put it quite simply, I LOVE TO SEW! I think everyone needs some sort of creative outlet, and for me, it’s making beautiful garments which are unique to me. Sometimes, when life gets particularly hectic, I have long breaks between sewing projects – but no matter how long the break, sooner or later I will get an irresistible urge to get the sewing machine out, or get on the internet and start researching sewing patterns for inspiration. Are you the same? Or are you one of these people who are lucky enough (or organised enough) to always have a project on the go.
When I have had a long break from sewing, I always like to ease my way back in with something simple – like this skirt, for instance, which was my first project for 2015.

A simple 1950s style pencil skirt
A simple 1950s style pencil skirt

I am determined this year to reduce my rather large fabric stash, and this skirt was made with a rather lovely stretch crepe fabric remnant which I bought some years ago from High Street stalwart, C&H Fabrics. I didn’t use a pattern as such, just cut it from a skirt block I made to fit my measurements. Luckily I made a calico toile first as my skirt block (made some years ago) needed a little adjusting over the hip area – a sign of my increasing years no doubt!
It’s surprising when you haven’t sewn for a while, just how much you forget – or I do anyway! I had to remind myself how to insert a concealed zip and how to deal with the slit at the back of the skirt – I can never remember how to cut and stitch the lining around the vent! So as usual, it was out with my sewing bible – The Reader’s Digest ‘Complete Guide to Sewing’. This is a fab book for any level of experience, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. You can quite often find a copy for sale in charity shops, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for.
Considering I hadn’t sewn anything for some time, I was pretty happy with the cut and finish of this skirt. My only reservation was that it was a little plain, so I decided to add a ribbon trim to the waistband to jazz it up a bit. I’m not sure now whether this was a good idea, or whether it just makes the skirt look ‘homemade’ – what do you think?

A ribbon trim was added to the waistband
A ribbon trim was added to the waistband

I will definitely wear this as it’s a lovely skirt for work – very smart for the office!
What sewing projects have you got on the go at the moment?

Sewing Bee – Back on our Screens!


So, The Great British Sewing Bee got off to a strong start yesterday with the contestants already forming strong bonds and supporting each other in their quest for sewing supremacy.


Judges May Martin and Patrick Grant (Photo by Colin Bell)

It was nice to see four male sewers – I don’t know why I’m always so surprised that men like to sew, after all, we have so many talented male designers and tailors. It was interesting that one of the men compared sewing to engineering –  the use of this comparison in schools and colleges could encourage a lot more men to take up sewing, and not see it as a predominantly  female skill.

Military man,  Neil was amazing wasn’t he? He was so well-organised and accurate with his sewing, even unpicking a seam because his polka dots were out of alignment by about 1mm. What a difference this act of professionalism made though – his polka dot dress was outstanding. What a lucky wife he has!

I felt sorry for Annie. It’s a shame that anyone has to go out in the first week. I would imagine that the pressure to perform well  in front of the cameras is so great that it would take a few weeks to find your feet and get into your stride.

Ex-air hostess, Lorna interested me. I think she is quietly talented and definitely one to watch. I loved Deborah’s vintage style and I particularly liked the vibrant fabric she chose for her dress – beautiful! I also admired the fabric which Amanda chose for her trousers. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to choose something like that, but they looked fab.

I sympathised with Alex. She strove for perfection but didn’t perform well under  pressure and made some silly errors which nearly cost her dearly. I’m sure if I was on the show, I would be exactly the same. I hope she gets her nerves under control and stays in the competition. I admired her creativity which was evident in her redesign of the denim shirt.

Inserting a concealed zip certainly wasn’t the easiest task with which to open the competition. I use the same concealed zipper foot as the contestants but rarely manage to get the foot as close to the zip as I would like. Generally I prefer to use a standard zipper foot as I find the results more effective – maybe I just need to practice more.

I’m already itching to see next week’s show when the contestants will be demonstrating traditional tailoring skills whilst making a child’s waistcoat, and making children’s fancy dress costumes.

What did you think of Episode 1, and the contestants and their creations? Any thoughts on who you think will be crowned Sewing Bee 2015?

Hello world!

Hi, well here it is my very first post, and hopefully the first of many. I’m looking forward to sharing my sewing successes and disasters with you. My plan for this year is to sew as many outfits as I can and finally make inroads into my huge fabric stash. Yes, I’m a bit of a fabric hoarder but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a lot of point in having a cupboard full of gorgeous fabric if I’m the only person who ever sees it!

I think my fabric hoarding stems from fear – the fear of cutting into a stunning fabric and ending up with a garment that doesn’t fit properly, or doesn’t suit me. Experience definitely helps here. When I think back to the number of items I’ve made in the past in styles or colours that don’t flatter me, or chosen unsuitable fabrics for the pattern, I honestly cringe! Plus I was sewing through the 1970s and 80s when, in my opinion, fashion design generally was not at its best.

This year I plan to sew from both modern and vintage patterns (I love the 1950s), and, if time  permits, I also want to create patterns by draping on the stand. I want to learn to create my own unique designs rather than recreating items on sale in High Street stores. One thing I’m really keen to do is to learn how to make lingerie, particularly vintage-inspired styles.

I will be sharing my successes and disasters on this blog. Sewing can be a lonely pastime and I’m really looking forward to joining an online community who share my passion. Please feel free to join me on my journey and comment and share your experiences with me. I’m really looking forward to talking to you all.