28 September 2011

Bow Belts of the World, Unite!

Last year I wrote a tutorial on how to make a bow belt. Since then, I've emitted a little yelp of excitement each time I've seen that someone somewhere across the globe has actually followed the tutorial and made their own. It's high time I showcase some of the lovely belts that other people have made. Here are a few of them...

Lauren's gingham version looks awesome cut on the bias

A black bow belt like this one by Hayley would work with so many tops, skirts, dresses...

Christine's red belt looks stunning teamed with the matching pleats of her dress 

Lizzy's blue version adds a nice touch of definition to this full skirted vintage dress 

 Refugee Crafter kept her bow nice and square for a more modern look

I adore this corduroy version that Joanne made for her gorgeous Beignet skirt. And check out how amazing corduroy-covered buttons look!

If you've made a bow belt, I'd love to see it! Do leave a link below or email me a photo. Maybe I'll have enough to do another post at some point...

[Soundtrack: 'Day Dreaming' by Aretha Franklin]

24 September 2011

Freehand Machine Embroidery

While all the young people were off larging it at bars and discos, my Craft Club comrades and I spent Friday evening at a machine embroidery workshop. Because that's what cool people do. It was held at Sew Over It, a super cute sewing cafe that popped up recently down the road in Clapham, which I'd been itching to visit.

To machine embroider, start by drawing a little design and tracing it off. Squeeze a small embroidery hoop under the machine's needle and fit some calico to it. You can add a scrap of fabric if you want to applique, and position your tracing paper drawing on top. Our sewing machines were fitted with a special freehand embroidery foot, but if you're really careful I reckon you could get away without using any foot at all. Then off you go!



Don't worry about cutting the threads each time you finish a line - just move on and cut them all off at the end (along with the excess fabric if you're doing applique). A small stitch length is essential. The instructor told us that faster stitching is less jumpy, but for tricky bits I found it more accurate to stitch quite slowly. In any case, there's no point trying to be too neat as the machine has a life of its own and even experienced machine embroiderers go off the lines (or that's what I told myself, at least). The wiggly lines and imperfections add a certain je ne sais quoi!

And here is my finished effort. It's a cat, in case you couldn't tell! A kitty on its last legs... in fact, he probably can't even stand up anymore. Content, but falling apart. Awww...

[Soundtrack: 'Lilyputt' by Beth Jeans Houghton]

21 September 2011

Autumn Inspiration: Une Femme est une Femme

What's your favourite source of Autumn fashion tips? When I see the leaves turning golden brown and feel the first nip in the air, my thoughts turn to coloured tights, cardigans, macs, brollies... and Une Femme est une Femme. While far from being my favourite Jean-Luc Godard picture (in fact, I find it a bit annoying), it totally channels these things in the red and blue combo I love so. Plus, I can't hide the fact that I have a major girl-crush on Anna Karina, Godard's muse who married him during the film's production. This year it's providing inspiration aplenty for my sewing wish list...

... a checked drindl skirt with cinched-in waist (that top is a cardigan worn back-to-front, by the way)...

... faux fur collar for my coat...

... pencil skirts...

... teamed with red tights, bien sûr...

... soft white coat...

... and... okay, so maybe it would be going a bit far to make this. But the colour combo is dreamy!

Do you have a favourite Autumn inspiration movie?

[Soundtrack: 'Spin That Girl Around' by Euros Childs]

16 September 2011

Refashioned Lace Blouse


It's time to reveal my effort for The Refashioners project! I remade this lace skirt that Portia sent me into a button back blouse. My favourite details are the black satin collar and the Louise Brooks-esque buttons. You can read all about the upcycling process on Portia's blog, and make sure you check out what the other Refashioners - CaseyKarenZoe and Dixie - made as the are all soooooo awesome! I feel honoured to be in such talented company! 


This project has definitely revived my interest in upcycling. Someone commented on one of my previous blog posts that they thought refashioning was for intermediate or advanced stitchers only. It's not, I promise! It can be as simple as making a few adjustments to the seams, which I did as a novice with my Granny Chic Skirt. In fact, it's often much easier than making something from scratch as you only need to do a few tweaks. Yay!

[Soundtrack: 'Creole Love Call' by Adelaide Hall]

14 September 2011

Good Housekeeping Home Dressmaking

One of my favourite sewing books to flick through for inspiration is this 1977 edition of the Good Housekeeping Home Dressmaking book, which I found in a charity shop for £3. I must admit I haven't read more than a few words here and there, but I just love looking at the clean line illustrations of pretty collars, style lines and sleeves. Thought you might like to see...



[Soundtrack: 'This Train' by Sister Rosetta Tharpe]

11 September 2011

The Refashioners

A few weeks ago Portia from Miss P invited me to participate in The Refashioners project (that's me on the right). Five sewing bloggers have each been sent a thrifted garment to upcycle - ie. to turn into something even better, preferably wearable and beautiful. In Portia's words, the aim is to "promote the process of refashioning as a creative outlet as much as being a thrifty and environmentally conscious undertaking, and show different ways of re-working garments from a construction point of view". Well this is clearly right up my street, so I was glad to take part.

Today is D Day when I need to finish the garment and write up my report for Portia, ready for the big reveal next week. I've been excited about this project for weeks, but typical me, I've been thinking about it 100 times more than actually getting on and doing it. And, without wishing to give too much away, I've chosen quite a complicated and ambitious refashioning idea. So I'd better go now and get on with it. Wish me luck!

[Soundtrack: 'Good Intentions Paving Company' by Joanna Newsom]

7 September 2011

My Sewing Chores Shame

Why is it that I can happily spend a whole month making a dress from scratch, but I can't find five minutes to stitch up a hole in a beloved blouse?

What is it that makes a self-declared sewing addict stay up late into the night mulling over the choice of seam finishes on a home make but not blink an eye at the trousers that have been sitting on her sewing table for three months awaiting hemming?

And speaking of hemming, how can this sewing machine fiend spend two years sleeping in a room with a curtain looking like this?

What makes a grown woman attempt to hide a much-needed cushion project behind their bedroom door?

How on earth can a pile of clothing needing adjustments pile up so quickly?

Sewing chores. Bores!

[Soundtrack: 'Whatcha Gonna Do?' by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters]

3 September 2011

A Day in the Life of Zoe Edwards - TRAIDremade

One of my favourite sewing blogs is So Zo... What Do You Know? But what do you know about Zoe? In particular, what she gets up to in her day job? For this month's A Day in the Life, we get to peek into the wonderful world of TRAIDremade where Zoe spends her working day - yes, "working" day - stitching clothes. "But what kind of pets does she share the office with?" you plead. Let's find out...


"I’m very honoured to be Tilly’s ‘Miss September’ and tell you the tale of my average working day. Unlike the previous interviewees for Tilly’s ‘A Day in the Life’ feature, I am not an independent business woman, but I am ‘allowed' to think about sewing all day.

For nearly a year now, I have been the assistant at the small clothing label TRAIDremade, one arm of UK-based charity TRAID, which recycles textiles for international aid and development. TRAID aim to reduce landfill by collecting unwanted clothing and textiles. The collected items are sorted and the reusable ones are sold in their network of London based charity shops, whilst the rest gets recycled into pulp or sent down to our TRAIDremade studio. Based in Brighton, my boss Paula and myself upcycle and transform unsellable garments and donated fabric into a range of womenswear, which is sold in stores in the Camden and Clapham TRAID stores and on the TRAIDremade website.

My alarm goes off at 7.15am which always feels horrendously early, as I’m more of a late owl. Having accepted the injustice of my rude awakening, I shower and get dressed. I work all day with just one other person and a dog, far away from the prying eyes of the general public, so I can wear whatever I want, but I do try and make a vague effort. I usually try to put together a decent outfit, deal with my hair and slap on some makeup.

My breakfast invariably consists of a small strong coffee made in one of those little silver Italian coffee pots and Branflakes with masses of raisins and milk. I walk to and from work which takes about half an hour, though I usually leave the flat a bit late so have to speed-walk to get there for 9am! Except for when it’s raining or snowy, I’m grateful for this enforced daily burst of exercise.

The first thing I usually do when I get to work is put the kettle on and check the milk situation. Then I start work whilst having a natter with my boss about what we got up to the previous night (which is usually very little as both of us rarely go out on a ‘school night'). Most mornings, I will already be in the middle of finishing up the block of garments I started the previous day, so I will just get on with that rather than starting something new. I will have already figured out the manufacturing process for those garments so I can work on autopilot and listen to the radio until my brain wakes up an hour or so later. I’m very lucky that I get on so well with both my colleagues: my boss, Paula, and her dog, Piglet. Being stuck in one room day in day out with only one other person to talk to could be hell if we didn’t click and didn’t have similar tastes in music and radio comedy shows!

Every other Friday a truck comes down from London to deliver the garments and fabric for us to work on and to collect the stock we have produced and the ‘rag’ to be taken back to the warehouse for recycling. We have quantity targets to meet: 50 garments between the two of us each week, so five garments a day each. Some days we may produce more, if we are working on a speedy jersey design, for example. Other days we may produce less, if we are making a complex dress or jacket perhaps. These targets includes any pattern cutting/tracing/adaptions, cutting out the pattern pieces, constructing the garments and any hand finishing they may require.

Paula is a very innovative designer: she plans the range, the general direction she wants it to go in, and the specific pieces she wants us to include for the next delivery/collection. I am less design-led, but when I do squeeze out an idea, she is open and with maybe a little tweaking I am usually allowed to go ahead and make them. Paula is excellent at upcycling existing garments, and loves to work with jersey. She also works with leather and makes some phenomenal bags and accessories from old leather jackets using the recently donated leather sewing machine. I tend to be more adept at making garments from scratch from the woven fabric we receive.

Because of the time constraints, we often use existing sewing patterns as our starting point then make our changes, like adding/removing/altering sleeves, collars, hem lines, straps, detailing etc. We also figure out how we can simplify the manufacture process by, for example, eliminating facings, inserting zips instead of buttons, and avoiding styles that require linings. Also, we never use pins when cutting a pattern out! The main thing I’ve learnt in this job is to speed the hell up. I’ve also learnt to see much more potential in unwanted clothing that I did before.

Our studio is pretty chilly and dirty, and to the untrained eye it may appear disorganised and chaotic, but I love it. Being amongst the rolls of fabric, stack of patterns and industrial machinery is where I belong. For years, I longed a studio of my own, but with the space and access to machinery I currently have, there is no need. I even keep my personal fabric stash and hoard of sewing patterns here for easy access.

Lunch is 12pm - 1pm. Paula takes Piglet out for a walk but I stay in the studio. I eat my sandwiches at the computer whilst checking my emails and dealing with any Brighton Craftaganza stuff (I co-organise a local craft market). The rest of my lunch break is spent on my own pattern cutting and sewing projects.

I finish at 5pm and walk home, usually going to the supermarket on my way. I aim to go jogging three times a week, so if it’s one of those evenings I get changed and go out again immediately, because if I sit down for any length of time it’s just not going to happen. My boyfriend Pat and I share the cooking duties, roughly on a week on/week off basis. He’s relatively new to cooking and is getting really good, but I don’t enjoy it much. I derive far more pleasure from the eating part!

I’ll usually spend a chunk of the weeknight evenings on my laptop: writing for my blog or the Craftaganza one, reading other people’s blogs, organising challenges like Self-Stitched-Sept '11, hanging out on eBay, and so on. I’ve usually got a game of ‘Governor of Poker’ at any one time. Sometimes I’ll leave the laptop alone and spend half an hour or so working on a sewing project. If I’ve attended to my laptop-business early enough, we’ll watch a film or episode of something. I try to read a bit before bed, but usually get too tired and it’s lights out by 11pm."


Crikey, five garments a day! Puts my one-a-month effort to shame. Thank you, Miss September!