All posts by caroline

Chaos Quilt

I have a great many scraps of cotton fabric which are the remnants from dressmaking, bag making and general crafty sewing. I also have a Big Shot die cutting machine with ‘Drunkards’ Path’ dies. Back at the beginning of the year I decided to put those scraps to good use and make a quilt. I vowed that I would not be buying ANY fabric, wadding or backing for the project.

Die cutting: I sorted through the scraps and wherever a piece was at least 5 inches square, I ironed it flat and put to one side ready for a mammoth die-cutting session.

Construction: I set all the pieces in two piles – one of the 1/4 circles and the other of the ‘arc’ shaped pieces. With no thought about co-ordination, these pieces were then stitched into pairs in a totally random fashion. All the stitching was completed by hand whilst I joined in at the Friday morning sewing group.

Once I had about 100 squares I started to put them together into blocks – 4 individual squares per block. I used two different layouts. 1) where the ¼ circles were placed to the centre to make a complete circle and 2) where two of the ¼ circles were flipped to the outer edge of the block to make what I call ‘a turtle’.

Block layouts – Circles and Turtles

I started to lay out the blocks and decided that I would like to have the quilt made up in 6 rows of 6 blocks with sashing in between. I needed to make another 44 squares to give me the total 36 blocks required.

Layout: The completed blocks were laid out on the bed and photographed. After some switching around I came up with the final plan. I labelled each block before cutting the sashing. Using some calico from my stash (usually used for toile making) I cut strips 1 ½ inches wide and started stitching the rows together. I then cut more sashing to make the crosswise sashing plus a border.

Next it was time to add the wadding and backing. Checking my stash of wadding I had only two pieces of polyester 2oz wadding which was stitched together with a 3-step zig-zag and produced just enough to back the quilt with a 1 inch border all around.

layering up

Backing – I knew that I did not have any cotton print that I was prepared to use for the quilt. A quick search through the spare bedding revealed a brand new King size flat sheet in Yellow – just right to back this quilt. I used 505 temporary spray adhesive and a few quilters safety pins to layer up the three fabrics – backing, wadding and top.

Quilting: I used the extension table fitted to my Brother 550SE machine, set up on the dining table. I ‘stitched in the ditch’ on each block before using one of the built in decorative stitches to run down and across all the sashing. The backing was trimmed back to 1 inch beyond the edge of the top, then folded and turned to the front of the quilt and top stitched in place complete with mitred corners.

Chaos quilt completed June 2022

Conclusion: I am pleased with the final result which is so very colourful and will be ideal for use in the conservatory. I think that this may well be my final large quilt project as there are only so many quilts that one can display. The grand piano already has a ‘wardrobe’ of quilts for each month plus some ‘specials’ for Christmas and Valentine’s Day! In future I will continue with quilting but it will probably be much smaller projects and maybe some clothing – I have a hankering for a patchwork quilted jacket!

Project #27 completed 27th June 2022

‘Marilyn’ – a new hack

I recently purchased 3 metres of this very bold ‘in your face’ Viscose crepe from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn. To be honest I am not sure what I was thinking when I ordered the fabric so was a little surprised when I opened the parcel and saw how dramatic the colour and print was. However, the fabric was laundered, has a lovely drape and feels great against the skin.

Having made 6 versions of the Montana dress by Style Arc and 4 of the Myosotis dress, I thought it would be a good idea to combine the two designs, make a new style that I have named ‘Marilyn’ and use the bold Orange viscose for a wearable toile.

Line drawing for Marilyn design

Drafting the pattern: I first copied the bodice front and back of the Myosotis before laying over the Montana so that I could extend the shoulders for the cap sleeves. These days my ‘go to’ method for sleeveless and cap sleeved dresses is to line the bodice so that the armhole can be clean finished. However, this time I drafted an all-in-one facing. You will see that originally I planned to make the skirt with a hem ruffle but then I decided to make the skirt in three tiers.


Cutting out: I was careful with motif placement as I really did not want that large White bloom on the apex of my bust! I cut the back bodice in two with a centre back seam so that I could then cut 6 panels 12 inches deep x width of fabric (WOF) to make a three-tiered skirt.

Construction: The Bodice – My usual MO is to make up the bodice first so that can sit on the mannequin (to be admired!) whilst I stitch the skirt panels, pockets and frills. After a night’s sleep when it came down to it, I decided to ignore the all-in-one facing and instead use self bias binding. I still have the pattern for the facing in the envelope so maybe next time. For the self bias I cut strips 2 inches wide and pressed them wrong sides together before sewing to the right side of the bodice and flipping to the inside. I understitched the bias and seam allowances before top stitching the free edge of the bias binding in place. I was unable to find the exact colour of Orange for the buttons (not really surprising) so reverted to more of the Mother of Pearl ones that I bought in bulk and have now become my favourites.

The skirt: Again, I procrastinated before sitting down and getting on with the skirt. All those lengths of fabric had to be stitched together and have double rows of gathering. Then it was sitting quietly, marking the quarters, matching and gathering evenly for each of the three tiers. Each tier was sewn before attaching the final skirt to the bodice.

Final fitting: The overall length was a little too long (possibly dragged down by the weight of all the fabric in the skirt). I revisited the seams between the second and third tier and re-stitched taking a further ½ inch seam allowance from the original seam and overlocking (once again!). This brought the overall length up by 2 inches which was ‘just right’.

‘Marilyn’ version #1

Conclusion: I am very pleased with how this ‘wearable toile’ has turned out and delighted with the colour and design of the print. I think it is a dramatic dress and may well end up being my ‘birthday’ dress for 2022. I may be ageing but will certainly not be invisible. I am sure I will make the ‘Marilyn’ again in Viscose crepe but next time will either cut as a skirt plus a hem ruffle, or cut the skirt tiers at 11 inches rather than 12 inches so that the length is less ‘maxi’ and more ‘midi’. I have an idea for another ‘hack’ for the Myosotis to remove the collar stand and clean finish a round neckline instead. Watch this space…..

Project #31 completed 23rd June 2022

Revisit an old Favourite

Butterick 5356

Back in the Summer of 1998 I made my first version of Butterick 5356. I remember it particularly well as it was my ‘birthday’ dress. That year my husband and I spent a lovely day exploring ‘The Vyne’, a National Trust house and garden in nearby Sherborne St John, Hampshire.

The fabric used was a polyester crepe de chine purchased from a market trader in Andover. I still have the dress, it still fits, and I wear it every Spring and Summer.

I made a second version of the dress using a Lavender-coloured crinkle cotton. Unfortunately I no longer have that iteration as I gifted the dress to a friend, now sadly passed away.

Every Spring/Summer since 2000 I have wanted to make the dress again, but this time in a natural fibre so that it is more comfortable to wear in the really warm weather. Finally I have done it!

The original dress was made to size 22 with a few adjustments – reduce the width of the shoulders and the length of the dress. As I knew that the dress was ‘just right’ in terms of fit, I would be able to cut straight from the pattern.

Ditsy Daisy Sustainable Soft Viscose Challis

Turquoise is a special favourite as I believe the colour particularly suits me, I selected some Ditsy Daisy Sustainable Soft Viscose Challis purchased from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn at the end of April 2022 at a cost of £21.57. Thus this length has not been long in my stash and I thought that the print and drape of the fabric would be a great match for the Butterick pattern.

As I am currently watching the latest series of ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ where each challenge is undertaken with a time limit, I decided to time myself making this project. Total time taken including cutting out and the final hand sewing of the hem was 8 hours. This is longer than expected but can be down to the mobility of the fabric, having to hand sew tailors tacks for all the deep tucks on the bodice, plus a hand sewn hem. However, as I was very keen to get the dress completed quickly, I have neatened seam allowances with the overlocker rather than make French seams which is time-saving.

Order of work was:- Session 1 – Cutting out. Session 2 – Making the self-fabric ties, interfacing the collar and front facing, making the back darts and including the ties at the waist point of the darts. Session 3 – Making sleeves, preparing the back neck facing with a ‘Carousel’ label. Session 4 – Sewing the front bodice tucks, shoulder seam front to back. Prepare Collar and one half of front facing. Session 5 – Second front facing, side seams, set in sleeves, make 12 buttonholes. Session 6 – Add 12 buttons, prepare the hem. Session 7 – hand sew hem in place.

Conclusion: Marking the I front bodice tucks and sewing the collar are both fiddly, especially with this particular type of viscose. I am sure that if (when!) I make the dress again using a crepe it will be less time-consuming. I love the finished dress which I think is particularly slimming and very comfortable to wear. I will definitely be making another.

Butterick 5356
Butterick 5356 Back view

Project #30 completed 15th June 2022

Sweetpea Pod Pouches & Pin Dog

At a recent sewing morning with friends I was asked to make a couple of these charming Sweetpea Pod pouches so that they could be gifted to a new sewing granddaughter of one of our members.

I recall that many years ago I made a dozen or so of the pouches as Christmas gifts, however I did not remember exactly how to make them. After a long search through the pattern files on my computer I gave up and ordered a new copy from a seller on etsy.com.

The pdf arrived and has now been safely stored on my patterns usb memory stick. I have also printed off and placed in my ‘quick projects’ folder!

It took about 40 minutes to make the two pouches and I still had a large piece of the fabric remaining. What to do? I made yet another pin dog! So in the space of 1½ hours I had completed the projects and hope that the recipient will enjoy using the sewing accessories as much as I did when making them.

Sweetpea Pouches & Pin Dog

Project #29 completed 27th May 2022

Aria Button-down Shirt by Love Notions

In an effort to try new patterns whilst taking notes as to how long each garment takes I decided to start with the Aria button-down shirt by Love Notions. There are several views and I made view 2 – the shirt but with the full collar.

Aria button down shirt & dress by Love Notions

The shirt is described thus: The Aria brings you three button down options in one pattern. Choose from the standard shirt length, tunic or above the knee dress. Three sleeve lengths are included as well: sleeveless, short with cuff and long sleeve. The long sleeve option features a beautiful placket with cuff. You will look and feel so accomplished with this sew. I made view 2 – the shirt but with the full collar.

For this ‘wearable muslin’ I chose some bold floral print cotton that I bought from Fabricland in February 2022. After checking the size chart I made a straight 2X full bust version. I made only 1 alteration – as the pattern is drafted for a taller person and I am only 5’4”, I reduced the length of the bodice (and button placket) by 1 inch.

Bold Floral print Cotton @ £4.99/metre from Fabricland, Bournemouth

The fabric was pre-washed and ironed – so setting the timer, off I went. I prepared the sewing machine with a new needle, wound a bobbin and threaded up with a Dark Turquoise/Jade thread. Along with the cutting out and applying interfacing to the collar and button plackets this took about 30 minutes.

I checked the stitch length, tension and seam allowance (1 cm) before starting by staystitching the neck edge of the bodice fronts and yokes. Although I followed the instructions, I did change the order of construction as I like to insert collars before sewing the side seams. I also completed the construction of the sleeves just before sewing the side seams of the bodice and stitching the hem. This meant that once the sleeves were inserted, all that remained was to make buttonholes and apply the buttons. I used French seams for the side seams and the underarm sleeve seam to prolong the age of the garment and provide a lovely neat finish inside.

Although I have hundreds of buttons, I could not find quite the right colour match in the size that I wanted to use. Instead I opted for these lovely mother of pearl buttons that I bought in bulk from eBay. I made a horizontal buttonhole in the collar and vertical buttonholes in the placket. There are 8 buttons but as I did not open the top 3 buttonholes, only the lower 5 are functional.

Aria Button Down Shirt by Love Notions

Conclusion: Overall I am pleased with the end result but there are a few changes to be made for the next iteration. I think that the shoulders need to be reduced in width by about ½ inch. I need to lengthen the centre front of the bodice (and button plackets) by at least 1 inch and grade to 0 at the side seams. I do not love the deep pleat in back so will reduce the width of the back bodice and convert the fullness into gathers.

Total time to make the blouse came to 3½ hours which is exactly what I had calculated it would be. I don’t think that I will ever make up this pattern as a dress, I need much more shaping in my dresses but I can foresee that there will be another button down shirt – probably with the ‘Grandad’ collar and maybe the breast pocket.

Project #28 completed 23rd May 2022.

Cat Embroidery

I have a great friend who loves her cat. As a small gift for use in her cloakroom I embroidered some cotton waffle fabric (recycled from a dressing gown) with a detailed design purchased from emblibrary.com. I bound the edges of the hand towel with some coordinating-coloured cotton fabric from my stash of fat quarters. I combined the hand towel with some Lavender scented room spray.

A charming gift that was very much appreciated.

Cat embroidered waffle cotton hand towel

Project #26 completed 27th April 2022

Myosotis #4 – a catalogue of compromises

I decided that I would make just one more version of the Myosotis pattern before changing to a different collection, utilising cotton fabrics and some new patterns.

Myosotis by Deer & Doe

The last of the ‘Spring Greens’ fabric collection is a Viscose Marrocain purchased from Rainbow Fabrics.

Viscose Marrocain ex Rainbow Fabrics

For this final (for the time being) Myosotis I wanted to add ¾ length ‘blouson’ sleeves with elastic casing and frilled cuffs plus a 3-tiered skirt. However, when ironing the fabric I discovered that it was not a 4 metre length – only 3 metres and also some marks that had not been removed by washing. So back to the drawing board….

Cutting out: I was so intent on avoiding the marks on the fabric that unfortunately the motif placement, especially on the bodice front(!) is less than ideal. I discovered that if I cut the back bodice in two with a centre back seam and the sleeves on the cross grain I would be able to cut 3 x width of fabric (WOF) to make a deep frill of 11 inches for the bottom of the main skirt panels. The main skirt panels were cut 40 inches wide x 20 inches deep.

Construction: The Bodice: My usual MO is to make up the bodice first so that can sit on the mannequin (to be admired!) whilst I stitch the skirt panels, pockets and frills. I used my hacked sleeve pattern but this time I have added to the depth of the sleeve cap in the hope that this will compensate for the removal of 1 inch from the shoulder width. The faced hem of the sleeves has been twin needle top stitched in place. The button bands have also been topstitched. With regard to button selection – again a compromise. I found two perfect colour-matched buttons, but sadly only two and I needed five. I chose some mother of pearl buttons that I bought from eBay a long time ago but never got around to using.

The skirt: At least this time I could use the ruffler/pleating foot which is far less time consuming than all those rows of gathering stitches and organising of the gathers. One thing that I did not have to compromise on was the fabric for the pocket bags as I was able to cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times in the fashion fabric.

Myosotis #4

Conclusion: I think that this version is my 2nd favourite. It has turned out a little longer than I anticipated but that’s OK, it will look even better when worn with my wedge heeled espadrilles. The sleeves are still not quite right, I will have to go back to the drawing board the next time I make a Myosotis dress. I still hanker after a long sleeved version so will revisit later in the year.

Project #25 completed 24th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis #3

Deer & Doe Myosotis Pattern

I was still very pleased with the Myosotis by Deer and Doe and having Charcoal Grey thread in the overlocker prompted me to review my stash of Viscose challis fabrics. I retrieved the Tropical Floral Viscose Challis on a Navy background that I purchased for £3.56/m from Rainbow Fabrics in August 2021 to make #3 of the Myosotis pattern.


Tropical Floral Viscose Challis on Navy background

I had approximately 4 metres x 150cms wide fabric which meant that I could have a very full skirt made with 3 tiers of gathered frills provided I made the bodice sleeveless or with only short sleeves. I thought that this print would be ideally suited as a Summer dress or if sleeveless, could be worn in the Autumn/Winter over a fine jersey top. However, I decided on short sleeves as I already have at least two Navy pinafore dresses to wear in the colder months.

This time I would use my TNT short sleeve with the puffed cap and combine with the full 3-tiered skirt. It would be fabulous for ‘twirling’!

I started the construction by making up the sleeves and then the bodice. The sleeves did not come out quite right as I had not added depth to the sleeve head to account for the fact that I had narrowed the shoulders by 1 inch. This meant that the sleeves are pulled up at the centre of the hemline. However, the fact that the hemline is now visually a diagonal angle helps to reduce the width at my bustline. Apart from this little hiccup the remainder of the bodice was fine. I used 5 plain Blue buttons from my stash.

Preparing the skirt: I cut 6 tiers 60 inches wide (WOF) x 11 inches deep and stitched them together into a long strip. I then cut into the lengths for each tier:- 75 inches – tier 1, 113 inches – tier 2 and finally 180 inches for tier 3.

Once again I cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times. As I was running short of fabric these are made in a patchwork of the fashion fabric combined with remnant from the previous dress. I set the pocket bags aside to insert into the top tier once all tiers had been stitched together. The reason for this is that the pocket bag would extend below the seam joining the top tier to the middle tier and I did not want to chance getting the bag stitched into that seam!

Each tier was seamed into a loop, quartered and then two rows of gathering stitches at the top of each one. Normally I would use the ruffler/pleater foot but this time I wanted to have greater control of the gathers so it was back to the old method – two rows of gathering stitches and some time spent pulling up and setting nicely! The 2nd tier was attached to the bottom of the 1st tier and the 3rd (bottom) tier was attached to the middle tier. The hem of the bottom tier was overlocked and then double turned into a narrow hem and top-stitched into place. Now I could insert the pockets.

Now that I had both the skirt and the bodice completed it was very simple to gather the top edge of the skirt and join to the bodice. The waist seam was then overlocked and the dress finished!

Myosotis #3 in Tropical Floral print Viscose Challis

Conclusion: I think that this version is very flattering on my figure. The slightly fitted bodice makes me look slimmer than I am and the full skirt balances my bust. I love the drape, feel and print of this fabric which compliments my colouring so can foresee that the dress will get a lot of wear.

Project #24 completed 20th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis #2 – Hacked

I was so delighted with the wearable toile first version of this pattern that I immediately checked my stash for another length of viscose to make my second version.

Myosotis Dress

This fabric purchased in August 2021 and was listed as Sage Green Watercolour viscose challis on the Rainbow Fabrics website at a cost of £3.56/metre. I thought that it would be ideal to make dresses for both my sister and me. I would start with a dress for me!

Viscose Challis fabric from stash

I needed to make a few simple adjustments to the bodice pattern:

Lower the side bust darts by ½ inch, Make a 1 inch sway back adjustment, Add 1 inch to the length at centre front of the bodice, grading back to 0 at the side seams.

For the hack version of the dress I added a double thickness gathered self-fabric frill to the sleeve caps. I measured the distance between the back double notches to the front single notch then added half as much again to that length. The frills were folded in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and tapered at each end before gathering and tacking to the sleeve heads.

For the hack of the skirt I cut two panels 40 inches wide x 21 inches length and then 3 x width of fabric (WOF) for the frills each 12 inches For the hack of the skirt I cut two panels 40 inches wide x 21 inches length and then 3 x width of fabric (WOF) for the frills each 12 inches deep.

I set the skirt panels and frill lengths to one side whilst I concentrated on completing the bodice.

I found just 5 pretty Light Sage Green buttons for the front placket which I think are perfect on this print.

Front bodice close up

I completed the sleeves and tacked them into place. It was then I noticed that the weight of the sleeve head frills were pulling the shoulders out beyond my shoulder point. As I had previously noted that the shoulders were a little wide on my frame, I removed the sleeves and cut away 1 inch at the shoulder point, grading to 0 at the front and back notches. Then I re-set the sleeves and they are much better though still a little wide!

Sleeves with Sleeve Cap Frill

Once again I cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times in the fashion fabric before setting them into the side seams of the top panels of the skirt. I joined the 3 pieces for the frill into a long strip and used my Ruffler/Pleater foot to ‘gather’ up the top edge. I added the frill to the bottom edge of the top panels by starting at the centre back and allowing some ‘free’ frill to be joined when I got around the skirt panels. I then overlocked the bottom edge of the frill and turned up a narrow double folded hem. Now that I had the skirt completed it was very simple to gather the top edge and join to the bodice. The waist seam was then overlocked and the dress was finished!

Myosotis #2

Conclusion: The weight of the sleeve head frills is too much for the light viscose fabric so I won’t be repeating that hack. I am particularly pleased with how the collar fits on the bodice and I am sure that I will use this part of the pattern again. The drape of the fabric is perfect for the amount of gathers in the skirt and the frills are lovely giving plenty of ‘swish’! Another great dress.

Project #23 completed 12th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress – Wearable Toile

Hot on the heels of the disastrous version of New Look K6574 I decided to try yet another ‘new to me’ dress pattern. I have had the pdf of the Myosotis dress by Deer and Doe for some time so am rather late to the party for this very popular pattern.

Myosotis by Deer and Doe patterns

The pattern is for an Oversize shirtdress with inseam pockets. Version A has sleeve ruffles and a tiered skirt, version B has plain sleeves and a gathered skirt. The pattern includes a full size pattern and instructions.

Checking my fabric stash I selected a woven Viscose that is not a particular favourite, could be sewn with Black thread and would not be disastrous if the result was yet another ‘fail’.

Woven Viscose from my stash

To begin, I checked the garment measurements and found that I just fit into the range. I made no adjustments to the pattern and cut a straight size 52 bodice with the straight short sleeves.

Once I had stitched the bodice and confirmed that it fit (!) I made the 5 buttonholes and attached 5 Orange spotted buttons from my stash.

At fitting stage I noticed that the front bodice was quite a bit higher than the back so have adjusted the pattern for future makes. I added 1 inch to the centre front bodice grading to 0 at the side seam. For the back bodice I made a 1 inch sway back adjustment.

Now I moved on to the remainder of the dress.

Ignoring the skirt pattern (I had not printed so that I could save paper and ink) I cut two skirt panels 40 inches wide x 32 inches length, plus 4 pocket bags from my TNT pattern and still had a good length of fabric as remnant to list for sale on eBay. I gathered the skirt panels and attached to the bodice. I turned up the hem by inches and hand stitched in place.

Wow – what a great result for a first try of the pattern.

Myosotis version #1

Typical, having used an unfavourite fabric print – the dress is very wearable and I will definitely be making another.

Project#22 completed 7th April 2022