I’m not dead!

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I posted here. I’m going through my Winter decline in sew-jo, I haven’t made anything for ages. I’ve started knitting a cardigan, but it’s slow progress, because I don’t have the patience to do more than a few rows at a time!

But Spring is springing, so I’m hoping that the urge to create will come back upon me. I have plans, and just need some oomph to get them into action.

Hooray for Spring!

Hooray for Spring!

This entry was posted on 7 March, 2015. 4 Comments

Stashbusting Sewalong 2015 – I’m In!

One of my main Top 5 Reflections of 2014 was that I have too much stash. Now, I know my stash is paltry compared to some sewers out there. But it’s too much *for me*. I have a tiny tiny flat, with next to no storage space, and I’d sooner use my storage space for actual clothes than potential clothes.

So when I saw EmSewCrazy was running the Stashbusting Sewalong this year again, I decided to sign up, because if you commit to doing something on the Internet, you have to follow through, right?

Stashbusting Sewalong Challenge Button 2015

I, Béa, commit to using 10 pieces of stash fabric in 2015. I also commit to not buying any new fabric until I have used 5 pieces of stash fabric.

I’m hoping that 10 pieces will actually turn out to be more than 10, but I’m keeping it realistic. Frankly, if I make it to 10 I’ll be happy. It will mean that decluttering is happening, which is good.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick to the monthly themes. What with that and The Monthly Stitch, I don’t want to feel under pressure over what I make. But if I can crowbar my makes into the themes, I will.

Wish me luck!

This entry was posted on 10 January, 2015. 10 Comments

Top 5s post – Reflections & Goals

Top 5 for 2014


Continuing with Gillian’s Top 5s posts for the year! Post #2, the reflections and goals. Post #1 (the Hits Misses & Highlights) is here.

Top 5 Reflections: Looking back, what have you learned about sewing or yourself?

5 – My reach very much exceeds my grasp. I have too many ideas/inspirations about things I could make. I’ve tried to fulfil some of my ideas, but I know a lot of them will never ever get made, and that makes me a bit sad, because they are good ideas. But… I’m trying to accept that it’s ok to let some of them go.

4 – Winter is a bad time for my sew-jo, and I should maybe try to factor that into my attitude. Perhaps I can focus more on smaller projects, like mending, makeovers and refashioning rather than making a whole item from scratch. Or make really quick and easy do-it-in-an-evening projects.

3 – I went overboard on the Belcarra blouse pattern this summer! It was interesting to see how quickly I gained confidence with it, and was able to hack it and mess around with it, to make 4 tops and 2 dresses which are all quite different. I’ve got one, maybe two other hacks in mind, so I’m not quite finished with this pattern yet. But it has proved to me that I really enjoy being able to use a fairly easy TNT pattern. I was the same with the McCalls 3830 straight skirt pattern last year.

2 – I’ve acquired far too much stash (*recoils from the pressure of the entire sewing blogosphere laughing at me*). I buy fabric, with good intentions of using it immediately, which sadly does not work, see reflection #1 above. I have more than enough fabric and patterns to achieve all my current aims and ambitions. So I need to go on a stash diet.  I’ll allow myself to do swaps because that doesn’t add to my stash, but not accept freebies/giveaways. I will allow myself to buy notions- zips, interfacing, whatever- in order to make the things, but not the patterns or the fabric. No new fabric until I’ve used at least five pieces from stash.

1 – I never get tired of receiving compliments on my me-made clothing. It’s so heart warming, and makes me feel great about my skills and personal style. I never want that to stop!


Top 5 Goals: What do you hope to achieve in 2015?

Firstly, I think it’s in order to look back over my 2014 goals from this time last year.

5. Take part in Me Made May. SUCCESS! I met and bettered my pledge, and had a ball doing it.

4. I would like to make one or two things which are more technically challenging to me. FAIL – I didn’t achieve any of these planned challenges. I just made easy stuff!

3. I would like to attend some kind of sewing blogger meet-up, if there’s one that’s geographically feasible at a manageable time/date. SUCCESS! The NYLon meet up was amazing. I met some lovely creative people. I definitely want to do that again!

2. I would like to start knitting for myself again. SUCCESS! A slow success, admittedly, but I’ve got back into it.

1. I would like to take part in more online sewing challenges/sewalongs. SUCCESS! I did OWOP and the Summer Sundress Sewalong, and I did my first TMS challenge.

So overall, I count that as pretty successful!


The 2015 goals are perhaps not vastly different from my 2014 goals, but that’s ok – they can roll on.

5 – Make garments that work together and work with my wardrobe needs & likes. Me Made May showed me that I could work towards a more integrated wardrobe, so that I have fewer and fewer wardrobe orphans. I think I’m getting there. What I need to do is work out exactly what the specific gaps are – I made a start on that in my last MMM14 post, I just need to firm that up and work out if there’s anything else I am missing. And then of course, actually make it!

4 – Do more with the Monthly Stitch. I really enjoyed the interaction when I posted about the All-nighter dress. Not every month’s theme works for me, but it should occasionally be reasonably possible to crowbar what I’m making into the theme. January’s Denim Never Dies challenge should be possible, and their rules are pretty fluid, to be honest, so I should be able to post more there. And now I’m feeling the influence of work, and how I’m always banging on to my tutors about making their goals SMART, so I’m going to be very specific with this goal, and aim to post four times to TMS in 2015.

3 – Do MMM15 and up my personal challenge. This year I had an official pledge which was stated publicly, and a personal aspiration which I kept to myself until the end, and I think I will do that again, but I want to make both more challenging than this year. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to do that, but I’ve got four months to work it out!

2 – Make more dresses. I like wearing dresses. I should have more of them. I don’t need the dresses to be particularly fancy, in fact I think I prefer a simple pattern, it gives me more of a canvas for stunning fabrics and/or fun embellishment, which are both things that I like. I would like to find a good fit & flare pattern to work with, sometime – not necessarily immediately, but sometime. So I’m aiming for 5 new dresses in 2015.

1 – Make some undies. I’m never going to attempt bra-making, but I’d love to try making knickers. I can see this as a good scrapbuster. I won’t consider this goal met with a one-off pair that doesn’t really work, the intention is to make knickers successfully, so my SMART objective is that by the end of the year, I want to have at least two pairs of me-made undies in regular wearing rotation. Also, I’ve just found out about Marilla’s tights pattern

It’s been really interesting reading everyone else’s Top 5s posts, and I remain awestruck and inspired by all you sewing bloggers out there – Happy New Year to you all, may your creativeness and talent continue to inspire us all.

… And a last refashion slides under the rapidly closing gate of 2014

This was just a little project to undertake while visiting my Dad & his wife for new year. I had brought two projects with me- I thought I’d do another t-shirt refashion, but when I got here I found I’d brought the wrong t-shirt with me (I obviously have too many black t-shirts), so I only had this one left to do. While they were getting on with their respective cross-stitch projects, I hacked a jumper of mine about a bit.

An end of year refashion

An end of year refashion

It started as a “jumper dress”* bought dirt cheap, but it was too short ever to wear as a dress, so I wore it for a while as a plain old jumper. But it was quite formless and I thought I would get more use out of it if it were a cardigan.

So I cut down the front, to make an opening, turned the cut edges in & attached a bias binding underneath, to stop them unravelling. Before sewing the bias down, I added some biggish press-studs (poppers/snap-fasteners, whatever you want to call them), so that I could close the cardigan without having to mess about with buttons and buttonholes.

It could have stayed like that, as a plain black cardigan. But I wanted to add something, to make it worthy of Jungle January. (I haven’t heard it being hosted officially by the fragrant and talented Anne, though she is running a Jungle January Swap- go check it out. But I’m pretty sure enough people will be doing it, officially or not. Edited to add: Oh yeah, Jungle January 3 is definitely on!)

Jungle January 3

Jungle January 3!

I had some zebra chiffon, and surely *everything* is better with a bit of zebra embellishment. So I ripped off a band of about 10 cm width, made a tube of sorts out of it, and stitched it onto the neckline. Voilà! A much prettier cardigan!

A Zebra Collar, what’s not to love?

I’m happy that this embellishment isn’t too outrageous, it leaves the cardigan still pretty neutral and wearable.


* For American readers, jumper = sweater, in English English. Not a pinafore.

Top 5s post – Hits , Misses & Highlights

Top 5 for 2014

Hooray, hooray, it’s time for Gillian’s Top 5s posts for the year! I’m really enjoying the posts I’ve seen so far, looking forward to the ones to come, and hoping to find some new to me blogs to read and follow.

I’m going the same way as many bloggers and splitting my posts – first off, the hits, misses and highlights.

My Top 5 Hits: What have you worn or loved the most?

5 – When Two Become One T-shirt – I love that I made an unwearable garment into a wearable one. I want to keep working on developing my refashioning skills- at the moment they’re still cursory, but I’ll keep practising.

4 – Cadfael & Cats Belcarra – I love the colour of this blouse. Again, it gets noticed, but I don’t believe in wearing clothes that blend into the magnolia walls. It’s a fairly firm cotton, and I’d like to try using it again, in other colours.

3 – Pretty Summer Splodges Skirt – This was a delight to wear in the summer, and was a total compliment magnet. The colours are an interesting mix (it would never have occurred to me to wear red and pink together!).

2 – Watermelon Belcarra – This was my first Sewaholic Belcarra blouse (of many) and I still think it’s the prettiest. I wore it lots, because it was so cool to wear in the Summer. I need to work with more cotton lawn, I think, for blouses and tops for next Summer, it’s a dream to work with.

1 – The Dress of Many Colours – I loved this one hard! I made it quite late in the Summer so it didn’t get as much wear as I would have liked. It’s also quite a Statement garment, so I don’t wear it very often, because it’s so noticeable. But every time I wore it it gave me joy, and I’m really looking forward to next spring, so I can wear it all over again. Thanks go out to Heather for the Summer Sundress Sewalong which inspired me to make this.

My Top 5 Misses: What went wrong or never got worn?
I’ve only got four, really. I’m pleased to report that mostly I’m happy to wear the things I’ve made.

The Slouchy Teal Cardigan scroll down to Day 24

4 – The Slouchy Teal Cardigan – The proportions for this were just all wrong for me. I’ve only worn it around the house, as it’s not very flattering. But it’s snuggly and warm and it will be getting more house wear in the new year, while it’s still cold.
Lessons learned:
– Do a swatch (hahahaha! Like *that’s* going to happen!)
– Be willing to undo the bits that look obviously as though they aren’t going to work.

The What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Belcarra – and yes I wear this skirt a lot!

3 – The What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Belcarra – This was a nightmare to make, but having finished it, I have to say I’ve worn it quite a bit, because it’s a useful neutral top. So although it’s in the Misses, because of the difficulties in making it, it turned out ok in the end.
Lessons learned:
– choose fabrics more carefully.
– just because you’ve made a pattern successfully a couple of times before, don’t go making the assumption it will work every single time afterwards.

 2 – The Red Square Skirt – I have worn this occasionally, as it’s a fun wear, but it’s not very practical. The jersey is clingy, and the weight of the fabric is such that it only really works as a very transitional piece. It’s not warm enough for winter wear, and it’s too thick for summer wear, and since it’s best to avoid tights, it needs to be a warm spring or autumn day for me to want to pull this one out of the wardrobe
Lessons learned:
– choose fabrics more carefully.
– consider making some slips to wear with all my unlined skirts.

1 – The Crazy Swirly Circle Skirt – The only reason this hasn’t been worn is that on its second or third outing, I wore it for a picnic, and while sitting in one of those folding chairs, the fabric must have got caught in one of the folding joints, and the fabric got “sliced”. I need to fix it, and I haven’t quite got round to it – mending is never as much fun as actually making a thing.
Lessons learned:
– When a thing needs mending, do it right away

Top 5 Highlights: Tell us about 5 non-sewing highlights of your year!

Gillian’s new topic for our 2014 top 5s is Highlights. This is harder to write! I’ve had a nice year, but it’s been kind of steady, not really full of big events.

5 – Holiday in France. I was on holiday in the Summer with two out of my three sisters. We were in the holiday home that I’ve known all my life, as it was originally built for my great-grandmother and has been the holiday home for my mother and her brothers and sisters, and me and my brothers and sisters all my life. It got split into four apartments when Grandmere Dorion (great grandmother) died to be split between her 8 surviving children. Through a combination of inheritances and buy outs, my three sisters have ended up with three out of the four apartments, one each, and I was borrowing one of them, because that particular sister was coming later in the summer.

It was glorious! The weather was beautiful, I got to spend time with my nieces and nephews as well as my sisters. I really didn’t want it to end.

4 – Being asked to work at Oakleaf. I have been volunteering for Oakleaf Enterprise for a little over a year. It’s a very local charity, helping people with mental illness, providing work-based training and work experience opportunities, as well as social inclusion activities and counselling. I was thrilled to be asked in the Summer to take on some paid work for them, in addition to my normal volunteer work. It’s really made me feel part of the team. And it may sound totally trite and “worthy”, but I really like that the work I do helps make my community a better place.

3 – Seeing my students performing. I love teaching dance. And I firmly believe that dance is a *Performing* art, so I encourage my students to take part in shows.  I do everything I can to make it a positive experience for them. I rehearse them, I make sure they all have good costumes, that they feel comfortable in, I make sure the performance venues are appropriate to their level of dancing (I would never ask students to do a professional paying gig, or to dance at a venue which might not be supportive of them).  I always feel like such a proud mother when I see them!

2 – Working with Dandesh. Dandesh is an Egyptian bellydancer. She’s a proper club dancer, but she also teaches on the international circuit. I last took a workshop with her back in 2005, and I have been trying to do so again ever since. I’ve seen her dancing, when I’ve been in Egypt, but haven’t managed to get lessons.

Dandesh, dancing in Egypt. Photo by Kay Taylor.

This autumn she was teaching and performing at a dance festival in Yorkshire, and I was able to take three workshops with her. I LOVED them. It was so good to get that authentic Egyptian attitude!

1 – Fabric printing. This was partially sewing related, but I’m including it anyway. I took part in Marilla Walker’s Fabric printing swap, and it opened my eyes to a whole new way of being creative and personalising your sewing. I had a ball, and I’m planning on incorporating more hand printing into my makes. And as much as I liked my hand-printed fabric, next time I want to be a bit more adventurous.

The reflections and goals will be in a separate post, coming soon. (Edited to add – it’s here)

A spot of hand sewing

This is a top which I stopped wearing because it was a bit too clingy and uncomfortable around the neck. The fabric is quite lycra-fied, and I’m a bit funny about things around my throat- they have to be just right or I feel all constricted and panicky. So when I came across it in a tidy up of my t-shirts & tops drawer, I decided I had to get rid of the roll-neck.

That roll-neck has to go!

That roll-neck has to go!

So I lopped it off! I tried it on to check how far I wanted the neckline to come down, and measured and folded to make sure it would all be even and symmetrical.

My original idea had been to use some plain black jersey to make a binding for the neckline, but as soon as I saw the bit of roll-neck that I’d just cut off, it immediately made me change my plans, and go for the Waste Not Want Not option instead. I knew I wouldn’t need this binding to be on the bias particularly, so I just cut into it, going slightly diagonally, so that I ended up with one long continuous strip. I pinned it into place, trying (despite all the lycra bounce) to keep it flat.

All pinned into place

All pinned into place

I had also decided I wanted to go slightly Alabama Chanin with this. I sewed the binding on by hand, using an embroidery cotton, so that it would stand out. I used a herringbone stitch, because it’s got a nice bit of stretch to it.


A little bit of detail on the herringbone stitching

Did it while Strictly was on, and Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt! A perfectly wearable top saved from being thrown in the bin.

Tada! A neckline I feel comfortable with!

Tada! A neckline I feel comfortable with!


This is my first tutorial tutoriallish post, and it’s all about my button belt. It was kinda easy for me, because I used techniques that I’ve used many times before in making my dance costumes, but since these might not be so familiar to people who are used to more straightforward dress-making, I thought it might be helpful to explain what I did. Apologies that I didn’t take enough “in process” photos. It’s really hard to remember to stop mid-make to take pictures.


This belt, posted on flickr but found on pinterest was my starting point. I loved this idea, and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make something similar for myself.

Picture taken from Pinterest, but the original is from Kristi on Flickr



  • a shedload of buttons – I bought four packs of 100g mixed buttons for crafting, and I used three of them. Someone more slender than I am, or making a narrower belt would need less fewer than I did. I got the button packs on ebay for about £4 each.
  • thread to match the buttons
  • heavy interfacing – the heaviest I can get, the one that’s like stiff felt. I don’t think I’d recommend using actual felt, because I doubt it’s stable enough to withstand being pulled around. I suppose denim would work- I know a lot of dancers who use it as a costume base fabric.  I’ve got friends who swear by Pellon for a sturdy costume base, but I confess, I’m not entirely sure what Pellon is, and for all I know, it might be exactly the same as my thick interfacing.
  • scraps of knit fabric, to cover the belt
  • scraps of knit fabric, to line the belt
  • skirt/trouser hooks & bars – I used two
  • patience, lots and lots of patience
  • a willingness to hand-sew


What I did

I started out by making the belt base.

I wanted two layers of heavy interfacing, but the interfacing I had wasn’t wide enough for my waist, so I cut out three strips, 10cm wide, attached them together and made two strips that were long enough. I made the belt strips long enough to go round my waist (snugly, I didn’t want to add too much ease) and added 5 or 6cm of overlap, where the belt would hook at the back.

Using my shoes as weights!

Using my shoes as weights!

I sewed the two layers together with four lines of single stitching, along the length of the strips, so that they were firmly attached to each other and the two layers of interfacing would stay solid. Essentially I was quilting the two layers together!

I then cut my strip of reinforced interfacing into shape. My belt was going to fasten at the back. I wanted to make a belt that was more shaped, making it wider at the front. So I marked a basic 6cm width and extended it at the centre to the 10cm width.

Poor drawing of how I shaped the belt

Poor drawing of how I shaped the belt


Next I covered the belt base.

Buttons are generally round and I knew there would be some gaps in between them, so I needed to cover my belt base with fabric that I wouldn’t mind showing through in the gaps. I had opted for a black/white/grey colour theme for my buttons, so I fished out my scrap bag, and found a bit of black & white floral knit (left over from trimming the hem on one of my circle skirts). I like knit fabrics for covering odd shapes, because they’re so forgiving!

Now you can see the shaping properly

Now you can see the shaping properly

I pinned the fabric into place, stretching it slightly to make sure the curved shape was kept very clear, and sewed it on. I didn’t mind that the thread was showing, because the buttons would cover it.

Although I was working with the same colour of belt covering as buttons, I can see that you could make a super dramatic version, where you make the fabric contrast with the buttons, say a magenta satin base with black jet buttons, or black velvet with pearl buttons.


Then I was ready for the fun part- sewing on the buttons!

My buttons were in a range of sizes, I think the biggest are about 3cm across, and the smallest only 5mm. I started with the big ones first, and then I gradually filled in with medium and smaller sized buttons. You’ll have seen the In Progress photos. I used white thread for the white buttons, black for the black buttons and grey for the grey and greyish buttons. I tried to keep needles threaded in all three colours at any given time, so that I could sew any button on at any time. I usually tried to do a few at a time with the same thread, knotting each button as I finished it, so the back of the belt at this stage was looking like some weird map of star constellations! Since none of these buttons were going to be functional, I just sewed them on with a cross stitch, and knotted, there was no need to worry about shanks.

Button Close-Up

Button Close-Up

I wanted my buttons to overlap the sides of the belt a little, so some of the buttons were sewn close to the edge. I also wanted to make the coverage as thick and encrusted with buttons as I possibly could, so I included quite a few overlapping buttons. I realised this might make the belt a bit less flexible, but in practice this doesn’t seem to have been too much of an issue. Any curvature would be the right way round- I don’t need the belt to curve outwards.

I tried to be conscious of where buttonholes might show through, and put white buttons on the white sections of the fabric, black buttons on the black bits, but wasn’t overly worried if I couldn’t do it exactly. I had a lot more dark buttons than white ones. On one of the larger buttons I added a smaller button sewn on top through the original buttonhole, for interest. But that turned out to be quite hard to do, so I didn’t do it again! I like that it’s a little secret “find the special double button” puzzle.

I had made sure that I left one end unbuttoned, because that was going to be the overlap where I hooked the belt to close. I didn’t want to try and sew hook bars over buttons, and *nobody* needs that sort of bulk around the waist.

The unbuttoned end, for ease of doing up the belt.

The unbuttoned end, for ease of doing up the belt


The finishing

The back of the belt was a hot mess! Sewing a million buttons will do that.

Thread constellations!

Thread constellations!

I’ve always used cotton jersey to line my dance costumes, because (not wanting to gross anyone out!) dancing is hot work, and you want something absorbent next to the skin, that you can rip out & replace when it gets too grubby. And again, it’s good for slightly odd shapes because it eases well. So out of habit I used a cotton knit for lining this belt. I cut a long thin rectangle of the knit fabric, to line it, cutting it a bit bigger than my belt, using the belt as a template. I sewed the lining in by hand, folding over the raw edge of the lining fabric and whip-stitching it to the covering fabric. I did one edge first, so that I could then make sure I pulled the other edge good & taut while I was sewing it, to avoid any risk of the lining showing if the belt shifted in use. This part of the project took longer than I thought (the end stages always seem to), and it was slightly tricky because the belt was now fairly stiff, especially where there were big buttons. But it’s all on the inside, and I’m not that much of a perfectionist, so I don’t mind that my whip stitches are sometimes a bit large and uneven!

Stitching the lining in

Stitching the lining in

Finally, I sewed on two trouser/skirt hooks, to close the belt at the back. Actually, as you can see above, I’d sewn the bars on before I sealed up the lining, so that the stitches wouldn’t show through. But the hooks are absolutely the last thing sewn on. I used two, because I wanted to make sure the belt would stay fastened straight, and not pivot around on one single fastening. Also, I figure two will share the pressure/strain better than one. The bars are on the unbuttoned side, the hooks are on the underneath of the fully buttoned end. In theory I can wear this belt either way up, so it might hook from the right or the left.

The finishings

The finishings

And voila!


The finished article, all ready to wear

Which looks just as nice on the inside

Secret cherries in the lining

Secret cherries in the lining