The Sewing Show, Birmingham NEC

On Friday I met up with a couple of sewing mad friends at the NEC in Birmingham for some much needed retail therapy and stash rebuilding! I’ve used so much stash without buying much at all that I’m really down to small pieces, or pieces that aren’t “me”. Time to fix that!

Apart from lots of fabric suppliers there was a lovely exhibition of kimonos. The details and embroidery were exquisite. It was really hard to obey the “do not touch” posted on the walls everywhere!

I was pretty good with my purchases, not just buying metres and metres. I couldn’t, prices have gone up!! From Rosenberg and Son, I bought a black and white linen and cotton blend to make some summer trousers, grey Swiss dot cotton for a Japanese inspired top, and two floral print cotton and viscose blends, also fitted tops. I love the large print of the navy and white, its quite dramatic for me!

Fabrics Galore was where I got these beauties, black and white stripe viscose jersey for a tee (either a Lark or Birgitte) grey and black stripe ponte for a cardigan or sweater, grey and pale blue cotton for a top, black and white gingham for a top and that beautiful turquoise washed linen for cropped trousers. I love that colour!

The embroidery on this wedding kimono was something else!

Navy and ecru stripe modal jersey for a tee or two from Montreux Fabrics and sand washed linen from Bombay Fabric for more trousers!

I got some practical stuff too, stocking up on overlocker thread in white and black.

I also visited my favourite lady, Gill Arnold to stock up on her fabulous interfacing and more shoulder pads for all those coats and jackets I’m supposed to be making!

Last, but not least, of the fabric buying. Two gorgeous handprinted Indian cottons from Maven Patterns. The grey and white will be a top and the mustard and cream will line my navy Tosti! I must get that pattern traced now, the Merchant and Mills oilskin had been waiting in the stash since September last year.

So now that all needs to be washed and suitable patterns sourced. I think my summer wardrobe has made itself known!

Professor Plum

We’re just recovering from the coldest February/March week ever (in my 20 years) in the UK, so what did I decide to make for my first project for March Burda Challenge?  A coat. A thick cuddly fleecy top.  NOPE – I made a pair of streth cotton satin cropped trousers.  As you do.

I had a pretty long list of items I could have made this month, looking through 8 years of Burdas showed March to be overall a pretty good month.  But getting realistic, I don’t have enough fabric (the right fabric) to make them all, never mind the time!  And hangars – if I’m going to continue to make clothes like this I am going to need more hangars (and wardrobe space).

professor plum 1

The first item on the now shorter list is a pattern I’ve made before, trousers 109 from March 2010.  The last pair was made in a very similar fabric, so I didn’t expect to make any changes to the pattern.  The fabric I chose from the stash came from Croft Mill Fabrics, about 2-3 years ago.  It’s gorgeous damson/plum colour, and one that does not exist in any way shape or form in my current palette.  But I love it, and with a grey or silver top, these will look fab.  (BTW if anyone knows where I can get copper or rust coloured stretch cotton satin – shout!)

I used a small piece of scrap pink rose print Liberty lawn for the pocket linings to minimise bulk, re-used the zip from an old project, long discarded.  Even the perfect coloured thread for topstitching was found buried in the thread box, this really was a stashbusting project!

collage professor plum
Liberty lawn for my pockets

Sewing up was pretty easy, I overlocked all the pieces (yay for a new cutting blade!) and made a nice pile of purple fluff.  Everything went swimmingly until I pinned the hem.  These pants looked really short – even for cropped pants.  So I tried them on and – oops, I think I may have been over zealous after making the last pair with the shortening…  I had taken out 6cm in the leg length on the pattern, and maybe that’s the right amount, but on my legs it doesn’t look right – my calf is too wide there!  So I let the hem down and I’ve made a false hem with some ribbon (from the stash again!).  Much better – and I’ve re-adjusted the pattern accordingly!

professor plum 3

On further investigation of the pattern, it turnes out the adjusments made were made after I’d sewn the last pair – which were supposed to be the cropped version! Oh dear, they most definitely were not cropped!  So I need to find the happy medium between the two lengths.  But I’m happy with these now, and the colour is really nice!  I tested them out before committing to hem length with my elephant print silk top and the two went together surprisingly well.  So I’m expecting these pants to fit into my spring/summer wardrobe fairly well.

professor plum 4

Other items that made the short list for March are another pair of trousers, two tops and a spring coat!  I was the lucky recipient last year of a lovely blue and white jacquard fabric to make a coat (Mother’s Day present) – and it’s still not been used.  This is the year! I will make that coat!

Japanese Inspiration

I love the way the internet and sewcial media can influence and inspire us (usually solitary) sewists.  I’ve been following Jing – @jingandtonic, on Instagram for a while now, and I always like what she’s wearing.  I like the shapes, the colours and her choice of fabrics.  She uses a lot of Japanese sewing books to create her handmade wardrobe, and it’s a good look.  The more I saw, the more I was inspired to translate a bit of that into my wardrobe.

Now let’s face it, I am not a 30-something ethnic Chinese lady, so there’s no way the Japanese sizes will ever fit me, and some of those shapes will never suit either – but it’s not about copying.  So, inspired by all that, I ordered Clean and Natural on Etsy, and Kana’s Standard I and II on Amazon.  I also looked through my copy of She Wears the Pants with new eyes.  There are definitely shapes in that book I can use.

While I wait for all the books to arrive, I started a little something.  I was digging in the stash for something that I ended up not finding (think it’s been used or given away already) and “re-found” a certain 2m length of an almost gingham weave linen blend in shades of teal, grey and dark damson.  It came from Croft Mill years ago!  It was one of those pieces I loved, but was unsure about using – not wanting to end up looking like a cowboy wannabe.  But my brain was still in Japanese structural shape mode and the lightbulb went on!

collage gingham.jpg

I thought it woud be fabulous made in the pattern I used for the windowpane top in the January Burda challenge.   A quick check that the pattern actually fitted on the width of the fabric later and I was convinced.  This would work!  I quickly abandoned the March burda challenge projects mid-sew and made the top!  I made it exactly the same as the first top, all the adustments had worked out perfectly so I had no reason to faff with the pattern.


Burda top 121 January 2012

I love the result!  The fabric has enough body that it doesn’t drape or hang, but is not so stiff that it feels like I’m wearing a box!  And I love it with my Birkin Flares!!!  It’s going to be fabulous to wear in the spring (when it finally arrives) and on those rainy, slightly chilly summer days.  There really is nothing bad I can say about it.



For someone who does not wear a lot of pattern, especially a large pattern, this top is great!  I’m perfectly comfortable in it, and don’t feel like it’s wearing me.  Now I want to make some more slim-fitting pants/trousers for the summer to wear with it, because I don’t think it’ll work with my usual wide leg trousers.  There will be just too much width!  I think with boxy shapes, it’s definitely about proportion.

Front detail

So, what will I make next with this new look?  Not sure.  I will be pattern cutting anything that takes my fancy from the Japanese books.  I need the books to see the shapes and proportions they use, so my patterns can be sort of correct.  I definitely will be making some of the tops, I love loose fitting stuff in the summer, I get way too hot in clingy stuff.  I like the air to circulate!!

But in the mean time, I have March Burda patterns to make!!  How is everyone getting on with the Burdachallenge2018?  And the #sewyourstash challenge? And anything else going on in the sewcial sewing world…

The Distracted Seamstress


I’ve been dusting off a long lost and unused “skill” – knitting.  As touched on in the last post, I persuaded a friend to help me to knit again and she taught me how to make a “simple” cable knit fingerless mitten pattern.

I won’t go into massive detail, but I made three pairs of that pattern, and now I’m trying my hand at a cable knit beanie/hat.  That’s going slower, much slower.  Because I got distracted again!  I dug out my crochet stuff to make (wait for it)…. dishcloths!  WTF?? I hear you ask.  Have I lost my mind? Well – no…

This year I’ve been thinking more and more of the environmental impact we all have.  This world has limited resources and I want to try to do my bit to be more sustainable.  This means not buying single-use plastic, recycling more than I did in the past and being more careful with what I throw away.  We have become such a throwaway society, because it’s become cheap, easy and convenient for us to do so.  We are encouraged to do it by the retailers.

So far this year I have ditched supermarket milk in plastic bottles for glass bottles I bought myself and take to the local farmer/dairy twice a week for refilling, ditched cling film & bought beeswax wraps (going to make my own soon!) and swapped supermarket plastic wrapped veg for the local grocers and farm shops.  The veg is cheaper and I only need to buy what I need for that week, saving pennies and food waste.  My old shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles have been swapped for bars from Lush, and shower gel swapped for good old fashioned soap in cardboard  boxes.

I’d love to make my own soap and bath salts, that’ll be on the to-do list along with the beeswax wraps.  When my toothbrush needs to be replaced, it’ll be with a bamboo one, and I now carry a stainless steel straw in my handbag.  Other things I can do easily are to be found in my stash.  I made two granny square afgan sampler throws for the girls when they went off to university, and while I managed to sell some of the cotton left over from those projects, I still had a bag of about a dozen balls of Rowan Cotton Glace lying around.

collage crochet

I saw somewhere that someone had made some facecloths with crochet using cotton yarn.  So I thought – why not?? I started with just making up a couple of patterns on some actual dishcloth cotton from Deramores.  I’m sure you can get it elsewhere too.  I was impressed with how these tests worked out, I found the ridges in the crochet worked really well to scrub off those bits that you’d usually need a scourer for.  Any stubborn bits get the baking soda treatment, and voila, clean pots and pans!  And when they get dirty they can go in the washing machine!

I bought this book on Amazon, and am slowly working my way through all the designs.  Some are really quick, others you need to remember to count.  I prefer a lighter, lacier design for washing dishes, to be honest, and not too big a cloth either.  It’s not easy to get a large, firmly crocheted cloth into a glass.  But for drying they’re good, and of course, they don’t have to be used for dishes!  Think of the pretty facecloths you can have in the bathroom!  I’ll be using up my stash of left over coloured cotton nice and quick now, and have something useful and pretty in exchange.


Next in my sights was to update my shopping bags.  I haven’t used plastic bags from the shops in ages, and the “long-life” hessian bags from Tesco have definitely seen far better days!  Some have lost their plastic lining (not a bad thing), some are decidedly holey.  So I’ll be using scraps of left-over denim from my jeans making to patch the holes, visible mending style.  The bags with dodgy lining will have those replaced with linings from fabric in the scrap boxes.  I am happy to patch stuff together, so look out for my attempts at patchwork!

Speaking of which – I also wanted to make new totes for popping into our local town for bits and bobs.  It’s not far and I walk in regularly.  I have been collecting the shirts that Mr Not Compulsive has been earmarking for the fabric recycling bin at the recycling centre.  I actually can’t see why we need to send these things all the way to India for them to shred and turn into dog blankets.  I can see a very good use right here!

I’d seen a pretty, simple patchwork pattern on Wisecraft.  I thought this would be perfect for left over fabric scraps and these shirts!  I cut the shirts up along the seam lines, removing the collars, cuffs and yokes. Then I cut 25cm squares, including button stands, sleeve plackets and some seam details.  I figured it would be fun to actually show what the fabric had been before it was a bag!  I sewed 9 squares together, cut that in half horizontally and vertically, rearranged the resulting squares and sewed them back together.  I did this kinda randomly, kinda looking at the colours, but totally not following the rules of the patchwork!

But I thought it looked too small to cut up for one bag, so I sewed up the rest and put them all together to cut up.  Of course, once I’d done that, I didn’t want to cut it up!  Cue new project!  I thought I’d turn this patchwork square into a throw for using in the garden in the summer, it just needed a back!  The local charity shops supplied me with a single duvet in apricot which was the perfect width, just needed to be shortened.

Details, another "D"! #fmsphotoaday #fms_d #twoisbetterthanone #fms_disfor

A post shared by Anne W (@compulsive_seamstress) on

By this time I’m thinking I like the kanthas I brought back from South Africa (see picture above), I can do something similar with the throw…  So now I’m using up the remains of my embroidery thread making rows of running stitch down this rather large throw!  Thankfully it’s keeping me warm in this cold weather while I work!

There was one 9 square square left over after all that, so it got quartered and I decided to make a couple of smaller grocery bags with them.  I’d bought a piece of pale blue denim in someone elses’ destash that was just perfect to bulk out the cotton shirting fabrics.  I cut 4 squares of the denim, 35×35 cm, the same size as the shirt squares and pinned them together.  Then I cut 6 pieces 15x35cm to make the bottom and sides of the two bags. After attaching them all together, I measured the circumference of the top edge and cut a strip 94cm long and 8cm wide.  This would be the top edge, folded in half lengthways.

I love seeing the shirt evidence!

Then I cut the handles.  There were two pieces the perfect length for holding a bag in your hands (not so long that the bag would touch the floor) or for putting on your shoulder, so I cut them 8cm wide.  Then I cut two more pieces 8cm wide, but longer.  from the selvage strips that had been cut off the top edge, I zigzagged two 12cm lengths together and sewed one of the with one end under a handle.  I wanted a loop that I could attach my house keys to.  They usually end up in the bottom of the bag, under the shopping.  That’s not terribly helpful when you get back home and need to dig under the spuds before you can get in out of the cold!

The handy loop for my house keys. I like the raw-ness of the inside of the bags.

I sewed a pair of snaps onto the strip so now it’s easy to keep track of my keys.  I didn’t line these bags, the denim looks good and to neaten the inside I just used a nice bright orange thread and zigzagged everything.  then I used it for the topstitching too, just to tie everything together.  I’m really chuffed with my new shopping bags, can’t wait to use them!

collage shopping totes.jpg

And one last trick – I’d made some bags from coffee bean sacks a few years ago, and one had developed a nice big hole in the bottom seam.  No problem, using another strip of that pale blue denim, I simply sewed it onto the bottom of the coffee bag, using nice big zigzags.  Sorted!

One fixed coffee sack tote.

Now to get back to hand stitching the rest of the running stitches on the throw – I’ve a feeling you’re going to want to see that too, before the summer.   Hopefully I’ve provided a little inspiration for using up your scrappy bits, and doing your bit for the planet we live on too.



February Burda Challenge

Heavens, has it been that long?  Two posts in one week at the beginning of the month, then radio (blog) silence!  Sorry guys, been too busy sewing – and knitting – and crocheting..  I’ve been distracted, basically.  I finally picked up and dusted off my ancient knitting knowledge and persuaded a friend to help me learn again.  So we started with a pair of cable knit fingerless mittens.  As you do!  And I’m hooked!  But that’s a post for another day!

Collage february challenge


So while I played around with knitting and crocheting, there wasn’t much sewing going on.  I had intended to try two of the blouse patterns from the February 2018 Burda, numbers 108 & 120.  After tracing the 44 and toiling, I added an FBA to 108 and decided to skip the elastic in the sleeve bands and level off the hem lengths.  The tie back blouse, 120 didn’t need an FBA, but was too long, so got shortened by 7cm.  Fabrics were to come from the stash, yes, there is still enough in there…

ellies 1
Burda top 108 02/2018

So after shaking myself and telling me to just get on with it, I finally started work on the two tops/blouses.  For the first project, I picked out a piece of Indian raw silk, hand dyed and blocked with resit.  I’d bought this fabric from a fellow student in my City & Guild days in about 2004/2005.  Yes, you read that right, not 2014.  She’d gone to India that year, as she’d done every year for ages, and brought back goodies for the rest of us to drool over and – buy!  But I never did find the perfect project to use it on, I’d not be getting more in a hurry!

ellies 2

After last month’s success with the spotty silk, I thought I might be onto something, and decided to use it for top 108.  The fabric was rather narrow, and the pattern of elephants runs parallel to the selvage print border, so that dictated the fabric be folded on the cross grain.  I used the selvage for the hem, no point cutting anything there just to turn it up.  I used French seams throughout to keep it all neat and tidy.

ellies 3

The neckline was a pain, on the toile it had stretched out and looked awful, so this time I knew to treat it with extra care.  The neck finish consists of a neckband with facing and a long strip gathered to fit the outer neckband.  I interfaced the outerband with some fine sheer polyester fusible, marked the halfway points and set about gathering the long strip which I also cut on the border.  I’d marked the centres and quarters there too, so gathered in between the points and pinned very carefully!  It seems to have done the trick as the band sits flat against the body and there’s no stretching out.

I did not insert the elastic in the sleevebands this time, I just don’t think the silk would like it very much, and I didn’t really need any more gathering.  I like the result, especially having made the front and back hems the same length.  I kept the little slits in the side seams, gives a little detail.  I think I’ll make another of these, possibly a viscose, but I think a fine linen for the summer would be yummy too.

feb 1
Burda top 120 02/2018

The second top for February is #120.  The toile fitted just fine without any bust adjustments, but it was way too  long for me, so I chopped 7cm off the length of the pattern pieces.  It also showed that the bias cut band for the neck finish neede to be stretched quite far to fit, so I needed to make sure I didn’t stretch out the neck while sewing the pleats in the front.  The instructions for the opening in the back for the tie are, I think, in the wrong order.  I did that bit before sewing the side seams in the final top.  It gets fiddly and there’s rather a lot of fabric you’re trying desperately not to stretch if you do it in their order.

feb 3

So the final top – I stretched that neckband to fit, just like they say, and made sure all the balance points lined up, and still managed to fluff it.  I must have stretched more in one direction than the other, or maybe the band wasn’t exactly on the bias.  But the band has twisted in the front.  Damn.  Well, I wasn’t going back, so now it’s a “design feature”.

feb 4

I like this top even with that open back!  With this week’s “beast from the East” Arctic/Siberian temperatures I will not be wearing it, but as soon as it warms up again, I think it will be in constant rotation.  The fabric is navy viscose from the stash, I think I bought it 2 years ago from Minerva Crafts, and there’s a bit left over that might be used for some sort of colour blocking with another “leftover” to make sure it’s all used up!

feb 2

So, February 2018 has been a good issue, I’d have made more if I had the fabric.  One problem with shopping your stash is that eventually you’re looking at pieces that have limited uses.  I also have two boxes of fabric I “can’t” really use.  That’s because they have been allocated to each of the daughters for clothes – when they decide what I’m making.

I wonder if they’d notice a few pieces going missing…


The Future is Rosy

So, now that I’ve reminded myself that it is well and truly February, I had to make a concrete decision on the patterns for this month’s instalment of the Burda Challenge 2018.  There are a few options in the running, and time and suitable fabric will tell which get done!  From this year’s February issue I have traced two tops/blouses.  I’ll try to get them both toiled tomorrow, if they don’t need much more tweaking than a FBA then they could be made in some of my stashed viscose.

From previous issues I’ve identified the oversized, pleated back shirt 113 and the variation 114 from the 2015 magazine for Daughter No 2, and the coat, 103 from last year for Daughter no1.  That coat I really want to make in a fabric printed with one of Daughter No1’s own designs, the amarylis pattern in her Instagram post.   But custom printing is pricey which is why I still haven’t made it.  But if I get the pattern traced and toiled I’ll be a couple of steps closer, right?

Environmentally friendly notebooks from TAYLA

I usually keep a notebook handy and make good notes of what I’ve done in a project, what I’ve used, where the fabric’s from (if I can remember), etc.  Daughter No1 was creating beautiful designs that she wanted on the covers of notebooks, so I figured I’d hold off buying a shop notebook until I got one of hers.  I had to wait a while, writing this year’s projects in the back of last year’s notebook!  Now her website is working, shop is live and books have been printed and ordered.  They arrived today, I was waiting in ambush for the postie!

I really love the designs, there are ten and it was hard to pick just the four I bought.  She’s put a lot of thought into the whole product.  The paper is recycled, the covers printed with vegetable inks.  You’d think they’d be dull and pale, right?  Wrong!  They are vivid and bright.  The books came wrapped in a plant based cellophane envelope that can be put in a commercial composting bin (not your domestic one, it can’t generate the heat required to degrade the corn base) and will completely biodegrade.  The paper and cardboard envelope posting envelope too is recycleable.  In a world that’s rapidly filling up with waste, it’s good to see young people working hard to combat it.

My new sewing project notebook

I’ve chosen the Amarylis print to start recording this year’s sewing projects.  I’ll be transferring the notes I have written in the next few days to I’m ready to just carry on with the February sewing.  The gorgeous Rose print will be for recording my attempts at living better this year.  That means reducing waste, eliminating as much plastic from my life as possible and limiting my use of chemicals too.  The all over Rambling Rose print will be for allotment notes!

Packaging with thought, recycleable and biodegradeable

The bright pink Peony notebook will be used to record my new knitting and crochet projects and my knitting notes because I am learning again.  My early attempts at knitting stopped early too!  My squares just would not stay square, and they got holey too…  I just never had the patience required to be good at it.  But this is my Year of Action, and of doing New Things.  So I’m learning to knit again and I’ll be doing more crochet too.  So far I’ve managed a hat with a daisy stitch and I’ve started a pair of cable knit mitts.  Fingers crossed!!

My knitting projects!

Just to let you all know, I bought the books and am shouting so loudly about them because I love them, love the concept and really want this to succeed.  Daughter No 1, or TAYLA, has worked really hard on this.  She is determined to make it as a designer and to succeed.  So go and have a look at her first offerings and treat yourself to a pretty notebook or two.  Or four! 🙂


It’s February!

It seems I just can’t stop making knickers!  I’ve made another 4 pairs to add to the previous 7, making that 11 now.  They have gone to the daughters and a friend, and they love them.  I got a message from the friend after she got hers saying:  “I bloody love my pants!!”  Daughter no 2 has proclaimed them the best fitting pants ever – no vpl, no digging in.  They are a complete success!

Pretty as a picture! Acacia Knickers from Megan Nielsen
Floral edge knicker elastic, found by chance in my stash!

I found some pretty floral edge knicker elastic hidden in a different box, so used that on some blue viscose knickers.  I also dug out some bows and ribbon rosebuds.  I had intended to use some on all the pants, but forgot…  So it’s just these four that have the extra decoration, but they won’t be the only ones.  There’s more, pretty coloured elastic on the way to me, and I found a couple of tees I no longer wear to cut up!  I might be making these in dribs and drabs all year…

I’ve enjoyed looking out coloured elastics and digging out lingerie decorative items for those finishing touches.

This weekend I made yet another Burda top for my mum.  It is her one and only favourite pattern, #143, March 2004.  Sewn Bristol had a destash on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and I snapped up just over a metre of each of the red and blue tropical cotton poplin print.  It’s got French seams, double turned hems and a bias trimmed neckline.  I’ll be running up the red version in the next few weeks too, and then I need to get them shipped safely to South Africa without any pilfering fingers going off with them.


I also tried something new this week… I started knitting!!  I know, I’m just as shocked!  I found the wool in a charity shop, looked up suitable beginner patterns online, found a non-beginner one and went for it!  I remembered how to do the rib part but needed help with the pattern for the rest.  I joined a group of local knitters on Friday afternoon and soon was on my way.  I ripped out loads, almost dumping it in the bin.  But I stuck with it all Sunday and finally today finished it!  I made a hat! 🙂  It’s even wearable…

So in addition to another top for mum, and making more knickers than I could ever have thought possible, I need to decide on stuff for February’s instalment of the BurdaStyle Challenge 2018.  I have to admit that this month’s issue is jam packed with perfectly make-able patterns.  I’ve had a little browse through previous year’s February issues and this one still tops the numbers in options.  So I need to get on with it!!