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

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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.



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!!

10 Years in the Stash

This project is a brilliant stash-bust!  You know when you buy a piece of fabric that you just know can only be used for the perfect project.  It’s that piece that may not necessarily have cost a lot of money, but it’s valuable, non the less.  I have a couple of those, and this last week I finally used one!  It’s a piece of ivory silk satin with grey, black and putty coloured spots.  I recon I bought it at least 10 years ago, probably from Rosenberg & Son!

big sleeves 1
Silk blouse, 114 01/2016

I regularly haul it out of the silk box, pat it, promise it a pattern one day, and return it to the darkness.  But it’s been out of the box since the Autumn, I was determined to find something!  And that something is Blouse 114 from Burdastyle January 2016.  The red version I made a couple of weeks ago has been a welcome addition to my wardrobe, I love the sleeves and the overall feel of the top.  So I went for it!

Checking the channel I made is right for the grossgrain ribbon I’ve used for gathering the “shoulder” seam
collage big sleeves
Gathering the long edge of the sleeve into the narrow (by comparison) cuff takes a little while…

big sleeves 2

I added 3cm to the length of the original version, which followed the length for version A in the magazine.  I also changed the hem depth to 2 cm so it would be easier to double fold.  The slit in the centre front was lifted 3cm and I’m much more comfortable with that.   Then I added 2cm to the bust depth, inserting a small dart in the side seam to keep the shape and length even.  It’s worked pretty well, and for some reason feels roomier, width-ways, than the red top!

Details. Gathered channel on the forward shoulder seam, bias neck binding and tostitched front slit, back yoke with gathers in the lower back piece

It feels amazing to wear, the silk is just so drapey and lovely.  The seams are all French seams so there’s no fraying, and that stuff did fray!  I hand stitched the bias binding to the inside of the neckline.  I figured that was one place I could do without wobbly visible stitching, and if there was a place my stitching would wobble, it would be there!

big sleeves 6

So that’s it for the January edition of the Burda challenge 2018, I have my sticky little paws on the February edition already (recon my phone calls to the manager of my local WHSmiths must have lit a bit of a fire under her chair) and have grand plans!!!  I also have loads of knickers to finish…  phew.

Hila has done a round up of some of the challenge projects done so far in January, go and take a look, and join in if you like!


And We’re Off!

Hitting the ground running, there’s nothing like a quick project to get the sewing started.  This was actually a project I’d intended to do last year, and possibly have ready for Xmas, but it didn’t work out and it wasn’t time critical.  As it was already cut out, getting it sewn up was easy.

The main fabric is teal ponte from Croft Mill Fabrics, really lovely and soft with a gorgeous, jewel-like colour.  I was wavering between another Toaster Sweater or making a new Fraser Sweatshirt.  Once the fabrics were washed and were on the clothes horse drying, I noticed that this teal and another, patterned fabric looked pretty good together.  This gave me the idea to go ahead with the Fraser Sweatshirt, using View A.


fraser 2

I cut with the size 8 across the shoulders and upper chest, changing to the 6 from the underarm down the sides to the 4 at the hip.  In hindsight I could have lengthened the body by about 3cm, but luckily it’s just long enough.  Looking at the photos, I need to make a note to lower the armhole for the next time.  The fabrics work really well together, they have just about the same amount of stretch and body.  I did not go straight into overlocking the contrast sections of the pattern together!  All was first done on the sewing machine whith a long, narrow zigzag.  Once I was happy with the points, I threaded up the overlocker and went for it.

fraser 3

The joining seam on the contrast sections is pressed down and topstitched with a 2.5mm twin needle.  It was a little tricky trying to find a suitable coloured thread for this, they’re either too green or too blue!  Once I was ready to insert the sleeves, I again machine basted the contrast seam section.  My overlocker is just too happy to reach that bulky area and move things 1-2cm…  Speaking of which, the Janome really doesn’t like the bulk of this ponte when it gets to intersecting seams.  I might have to break out the Bernina instead.  And I need a new cutting blade.  Should have put one on my Christmas list! 🙂

fraser 5

Basting really helped and the contrast yokes line up really well.  I love the look from the back when you see the half contrast of the sleevehead, and the neckband.  Daughter No2 is very happy with my decision to go ahead with the contrast (despite initial misgivings) and loves her new sweatshirt.

fraser 4

Speaking of new sweatshirts, I didn’t get to take a picture of Daughter No1’s Christmas red Toaster on, but here’s a peek at the special lable inside.  I hope it will remind her of the moose decals on the van she and her partner hired for their little USA adventure a couple of years ago.

Finishing touches! #toastersweater #moose

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Having the Fraser pattern out has given me a couple of ideas to use up some of the smaller pieces of ponte and quilted jersey left over after other projects.  I might see if I can get a couple of 3/4 or even short sleeved versions done.  Leave no scrap unused!

fraser 1

I am in the market for some lovely French Terry, I want to make the zip-up hoodie #119 from the January issue of Burda 2018, joining Hila of Saturday Night Stitch in an all new sparkling Burda Challenge!  Who’s in??

Stashbusting Trousers


There’s a lot of sewing to catch up on, so here goes.  Two years ago I made a purchase of two pieces of grey wool (amongst other things – of course) from Croft Mill Fabrics.  One of the pieces of wool is a suiting weight blend of viscose and mohair, and really wasn’t what I’d expected when it turned up!  I pictured something thicker and warmer – snuggly…  This was fine, had a sheen and was rather fluid.  So it went into the stash until I could come up with something.

Eventually, after making this pair of Burda trousers earlier in the year, I decided to reuse the pattern and finally make up the silver grey fabric.  Go stashbusting!  I opted for the longer length view and the mini turn ups, leaving off the welt pockets at the back.  I don’t use the ones on the other trousers at all, and it’s just annoying to have to iron the darn things flat each time.

I used the same fitting alterations as the last time, but didn’t shorten the pattern at all! There is no stretch in this fabric at all, and it’s shown that I probably need to make a chunky calf adjustment.  It wasn’t a problem with the last pair because of the stretch content.  Because the fabric is so thin and fine I decided to add a little something and raided my linings bag for something suitable to line the trousers.  I picked out a green viscose lining and used it to half line the fronts.

There are no contrast fabrics anywhere else, the waistband and pockets are all in the main fabric.  I’m really happy with the result, although I can see that they may not make it all the way through winter, being so thin.  But they’re surprisingly warm(-ish).  I love the mini turn-ups, and the finished length is perfect for wearing with heels or my silver brouges.  Definitely making another sometime.  I’ve worn them once a week since I made them, which is a good sign!




Love these little cuffs!


More catching up to come, although it won’t be stashbusting…