Tag Archive | applique

Summer Sew-jo

It’s taken a while, but the sew-jo seems to be back in force. This summer I’m really feeling the love for dresses, rather than separates.

It started with the Heliotrope Silk Instagram Takeover Dress, that I made for the Simple Sew Blog. Well, I made it because I wanted to make it, for me, but I was blogging it there. It has been an utter delight to wear, because it’s such a gorgeous fabric. It’s a silk jersey (from the world famous Man Outside Sainsburys, Walthamstow) and it’s almost like wearing nothing at all! It feels so light on. Which is perfect for hot weather.


I finished this on holiday in France

It was another Shannon Collection dress. They sew up in a jiffy and if I hadn’t decided to pretty it up with a sort of couched embroidery/appliqué edging, it would have been done in a day.

I should have learned that lesson with my next Shannon dress.

I’d just splurged on fabric, twice over – a couple of weeks ago with the FC Fabric Studio sale and again last weekend, at the Sewisfaction Big Summer Stitch Up. So I decided I had to get on with some actual sewing in order to justify having bought so much (total 9 new pieces added to the stash!). There was a smallish piece of chartreuse jersey from FC that whispered “I’d make a lovely Shannon dress” at me. “That’ll be quick and easy!” I thought. I got the dress cut out and stitched together on the Sunday morning after the Stitch Up.

Pattern alterations – I made it quite a bit longer than usual, 7½” longer, as I had enough fabric to do so, and you don’t want to be seeing my knees all the time. I also ditched the neck and sleeve bands because I didn’t want this dress to look too t-shirty.

I was meeting a friend to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, that afternoon, so I took the dress with me to hem on the train, and because my friend’s journey was rather more fraught than mine, I got quite a lot done, while I was waiting for her. I wholeheartedly recommend the exhibition, by the way. It personalises Kahlo in such an immediate way. And it’s a delight for sewists, to see her outfits. And there are instructions on the V&A website on making your own Huipil (Mexican sleeveless tunic), should you be inspired to do so.

So I had that dress made up and ready to wear in just one day – Boom! But I am such an idiot, I couldn’t just let it be. Part of the massive FC Fabric haul had been a deep violet jersey that was just begging to be put with the chartreuse. I knew I had to bring some of that violet into the dress, somehow. I didn’t know how, exactly, and it took the Monday to think about it and work out what I was going to do. My friend and I had been discussing the forthcoming Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A and I’m fairly sure that’s how I ended up opting for gigantic MQ style flowers.


They’re about 8 inches across

On further reflection, this design idea goes back to 2013 in my consciousness. Fortunately, there were only six of them, and they didn’t take too long to sew on by hand.

And here’s the finished dress…

This one is going to be a bit eye-catching, I suspect

I’ve got two more Simple Sew makes in the offing, and I’ve got some more plans that I feel excited about making, so hopefully, there I won’t need to feel so guilty about boosting the stash, and there will be a few more posts coming up this summer.



A 100 Day Dress

I decided a while ago that I wanted to start a long term project, something that I could do a little at a time, each day. I’ve seen people’s 100 day projects on Instagram, and I liked that as a structure for my project. My first thought, inspired strongly by Tiny*Stitches*Miri, was embroidery on a garment. I thought about upcycling/refashioning, but in the end I settled on an Alabama Chanin inspired new make, though I’m not going to claim it’s proper AC style. I want it to have some embroidery, some appliqué, some reverse appliqué, some beading/sequinning. I don’t imagine for one moment that it will be elegantly stylish, because it’s going to have so many bits of everything, and it will all be a bit random. But hopefully the colour scheme will pull everything together, and it will be interesting to look at.

I’ll be using the pale blue jersey from FC Fabric Studio which I bought in the Spring, and the Shannon dress pattern, as I didn’t want to have to mess about with a new pattern. I’ve bought a number of embroidery silks for this project, but everything else will be from stash (there are a LOT of blue beads in the massive bead/sequin stash).



This all starts at the weekend, on Saturday. If I’ve done my maths right, the 100 days will be up on 31st December.

I’ve set up a dedicated instagram account for this make, with the idea being to record every day’s progress.

The Crisis Averted Scarf

Having made the Blanket Coat with the black and white wool bouclé, I found I had enough scraps to make myself another scarf. I went through my list of creative scarf ideas, and settled on edging it with bright pink pompoms. I measured, cut, pinned the pompom trim around the edge, realised there wouldn’t be quite enough, trimmed the scarf to make it narrower, repinned and started sewing the trim on. All was going well.

Or so I thought…

I got towards the end of the last edge, and this is what happened:


Disaster! Something of a miscalculation…

Somehow, I’d been sewing more tightly than I’d pinned. By this stage it was around 2am. What I should have done, is put it away and think about it in the morning. Unfortunately, precisely because it was 2am, I failed to make that sensible decision. Instead my 2am brain made a decision that in order to fix this, I would add a felt flower appliqué. However, I didn’t have any bright pink felt, which is what my 2am plan required. So I went straight onto Ebay and found some felt.

Of course  I could just have unpicked it, and made the scarf a bit narrower. But it was 2am.

Of course I could just have ordered more pompom trim. That thought didn’t occur to me at 2am. Although, at 2.30am, after having ordered the felt, that’s when it occurred to me.

Anyway, the felt arrived a few days later. I’d ordered some pink and some black, so that I’d have Options. In the end, it had to be the pink. I was going up to London yesterday evening, so I thought I could do the appliqué on the train. Unfortunately, because of Storm Doris, the trains were all delayed and cancelled, so I was standing up all the way to London, so there was no chance of sewing then. On the way home, I had a seat with a fold-down table, so I was all set to go.

I cut out a big Mary Quant style flower, in two layers. I added some stamens with French Knots on both layers, then put one layer on each side of the scarf, back to back, making sure I matched the two layers correctly, and that I fully covered the pompom gap. A careful running stitch joined the two layers and attached the appliqués to the scarf, and voilà!

Massive Flower

A massive flower – always a favourite

So all is now well and I have another scarf to add to my collection of me-made accessories.


Not a Mistake – a Design Feature!

Another black t-shirt gets Béa-ed

One of my aims for this year was to get on with my many and various ideas for tarting up my boring plain t-shirts. Here’s the next one…


This is not an innovative project. It’s basically the same technique that I used on my Two Becomes One top. I wanted to use some of the smaller scraps of black jersey left over from the first SewDots Batwing Dress. I cut out some random floral shapes, some a little bigger, some a little smaller. To apply the shapes to the t-shirt, I sewed black seed beads on randomly, maybe 5-7mm apart, to mimic the stamens on a flower. I wanted there to be a some texture and for the petals to flare a bit, so when I sewed, I shifted the fabric a little, to give the centres a tiny bit of pouf between beads. Hopefully you can see it in the pictures:



The only advice I would give is to do the very visible section of the appliqué first (i.e. the front), and make that nice and neat. If you get to the back and the gap between the flowers is bigger than one flower, you can use a couple of small flower shapes, and squish them together, in the hope that it won’t be too noticeable. Which is totally what I had to do!


I posted the sewing details for my Sew Dots Simple Sew Batwing Dress on the Simple Sew Blog, which went live a few days ago. You can read all the making details there.

This was going to be a toile for the Batwing dress, but as it became clear that a) it would be wearable b) it was going to be awesome (though I say so myself!) c) I wanted to get the dress posted on social media for Rosie DIY Couture’s Sew Dots challenge, it became my official version. I wore it pretty much as soon as I could, to go out with friends, on Saturday evening, but I’ve also worn it to work this week , and here it is, presented in daylight!

The office selfie is not going away


The Sew Dots Challenge is running for the rest of October, and it’s helping to raise funds for the RNIB, as part of their Wear Dots, Raise Lots campaign, to help raise awareness of the importance of Braille. I’m very happy to boost the signal. All you need to do is sew something dotty in October, share a picture of it somewhere on social media with the hashtag #sewdots and make a donation at Rosie’s Just Giving Page for the RNIB. Don’t forget, if you are a UK taxpayer, you can increase your donation at *no extra cost* to yourself, by clicking on the Gift Aid option, so that they can claim tax back on your donation. Go on, you know it makes sense!
And having finished this dress, I realised that I *have* got a spotty fabric in one of my UFOs, so I need to get on and finish it, so I’ve got two dotty makes for October.

Rosie of DIY Couture has rounded up some amazing prizes for the lucky winner of the Sew Dots draw. What more do you need to get going with some dotty sewing?


Falling Blocks T-shirt


The Falling Blocks t-shir refashion

The Falling Blocks t-shirt refashion

This is a t-shirt refashion that has been dictated by sloppy eating habits, and an unshiftable grease-spot right in the middle of the chest. It has been languishing in the UFO pile for at least a year and a half, probably longer.

I was starting with a basic lavender Primark t-shirt, and some black jersey fabric from a pair of cheap leggings which had finally worn so much at the thigh that they were way past saving. My initial plan way back then was to make a sort of flutter effect appliqué and I cut out a load of rectangles in the black jersey intending to machine them onto the neckline. I got started and immediately hated it. Maybe I should have powered through, but I didn’t have any major vision to pursue, so it went into a bag with all the bits, and sat in my UFO pile, just staying there, gathering dust and making me feel guilty.

So when I was working out what UFOs I actually had, for the purposes of stashwatching, this one came out of hiding, and looked hopefully at me. I took it out of the bag, to see what was there, and unpicked all the sewing I’d already done, and put aside in disgust. I was wondering if I should try some other kind of technique to mask the spot, and then realised I could easily use the black rectangles I’d already cut, but apply them flat. I aimed for a falling blocks design, keeping it random, and mostly trying to zig-zag the blocks and slightly overlap them with each other. I pinned all the pieces on, then repinned all the ones I’d pinned with the wrong side of the jersey showing. A quick mirror check indicated the placement looked ok, and didn’t create any unfortunate boob-frames, so I went ahead and tacked everything down. It reminded me of those Alabama Chanin appliqués, which in turn reminded me that I really want to try that some time.

Alabama Tackin’

Then I started machining all the blocks into place, using a zigzag stitch. I think I must have been tired because I had two mishaps in one evening. Firstly, I managed for the first time ever, to do something so stupid, and such a childhood fear of mine, that I can’t believe it actually happened – I sewed through the side of one of my fingers! There was quite a bit of blood but it was only a flesh wound, no actual damage. After recovering from that, I started again, only for the second disaster to befall, catching the fabric in the feed-dogs, and ripping it when I at last got it out. At that point, I decided to stop machining, tacked an additional block into place to hide the rip, and put it away for the night. A few days later I managed to finish the rest of the sewing with no further injuries or accidents.

Looks better on!

It looks better on!

It looked a bit rough and ready, so I’ve trimmed some of the gnarliest edges, but it’s all going to stretch out in actual wear, and I wasn’t going for geometric exactitude.

I’m very happy that I’ve managed to retrieve an unwearable garment, that I’ve finally finished this long-standing UFO, and that I’m moving forward in my Stashwatch plans to fix/mend/refashion things.

And talking of appliqués, on the day I took these pictures, my dad posted this picture of me and my sisters on Facebook:

Ah, the seventies...

Ah, the seventies…

The second one on the right with the patched up jeans is me. Yes, it’s another garment upcycle involving appliqués!

When two become one

I have a shockingly bad record with keeping t-shirts clean when eating. I cannot be trusted with spaghetti bolognese, or pizza, or anything at all droppable. Whenever anything falls off my fork en route to my mouth, it will invariably fall onto my capacious bosom, and the mark will be right there in front, for the whole world to see. So I end up with a shed-load of t-shirts which are perfectly fine except for a very noticeable stain that I haven’t been able to shift in the wash. I’ve been holding onto these t-shirts for a while now, in the hope that I can do something with them, rather than throwing them away.

This pretty minty green long-sleeved tee had a couple of grease-spots on the right breast, and the paler green was from a camisole with some other indelible mark. The nice thing was the fabric on each of them was the same sort of weight, and I thought they would work well together.

I didn’t have any specific plans in my head when I put these two together, but I’m a girly kind of a girl, so I started out by cutting some flower shapes out of the paler camisole, and positioning them on the darker tee, to see if I liked it.



I sorta kinda did, and I could have gone all out for a straightforward appliqué job. But the jersey flowers were curling up, and although I *could* have appliquéed them and they would have stayed flat, I realised I liked the idea of the petals curling- it seemed organic, natural. I thought I could sew the flowers with a bit of gather in the centre to give them a more 3-D quality. And because I have plenty of beads in my stash, I fished out some clear seed beads to add to the mix.

The Rescued Tee

Up Close & Personal with those flowers

I wasn’t happy with just sewing the flowers on at the centre, especially as the jersey fabric is quite floppy. So you might just about be able to discern that I sewed along the middle of the petals as well, for stability and control. The other issue I struggled with was where to position the flowers. As far as I was concerned, they needed to be distributed in an aesthetically pleasing cascade, so long as they also covered up the grease spots! Since the spots were a bit awkwardly placed, the flower placement is probably not the formation I would have favoured, if stain-concealment hadn’t been a factor. But I think it works.

The "new" t-shirt in action!

The “good as new” t-shirt in action!

My chest is big enough without needing to attach big 3-dimensional flowers to it (though I have done so in the name of belly dance costuming!), so I like that the t-shirt is still essentially flat. It’s got texture and interest, but without too much bulk.

We’ll have to wait and see how it works out after repeated washing. I’m expecting the cut edges of the jersey to get slightly unravelled, but since it contains lycra (or something lycra-ish) and it’s a knit, I’m not desperately worried about it, and a distressed look will be ok with this.

I’m thrilled that I’ve taken two t-shirts that I was never going to wear again, and made them into one that I certainly will.


And talking of bellydance costuming, the photo above was taken at the Jewel of Yorkshire bellydance festival, which I was attending in Shipley (Saltaire, to be precise) this weekend. I spent a fair amount of time chatting with a couple of costumiers, and rummaging through their wares, to see how they’d beaded them, or decorated them, or finished them, or lined them, in fact generally blagging as much inspiration as I possibly could. And it has definitely reawakened my wish to finish the pink & black costume UFO. I’ve got a show at the end of April, and I’m hoping I can get it finished in time to wear there.

The Red Square Skirt

My first finished make of the year.

The Re Square Skirt

The Red Square Skirt

I do apologise for the faded quality of the photo. It’s rilly rilly cold, and I took as many as I could stand, in the hope that one of them would be usable. I failed! The only one where the colour came out right I had a right surly expression on, and I don’t want that to be the idea you have of me! So you’ve got the one where I’m looking upwards in classic blog photo style that is a bit pale.

I’ve worn this one to work once this week already, but actually it’s not very practical for chilly Januaries, because it’s a bit too thin for a winter skirt, it’s going to come into its own in the transition to Spring. Also, it’s rather clingy with thick tights. I may have to make myself a little half-slip.

I do love those squares though- I think they’re effective and they suit my style. When I was trying to work out how to decorate this skirt, the first image I had in my head was black squares of different sizes. But then I was tempted by more complex ideas, using black and white, trying to make the squares interlock, trying to do coloured embroidery on the appliqués. I’m glad I stuck to my original idea and kept it simple, I think this skirt works all the better for it.

Technically, this was a doddle. The only thing I did that was a bit sophisticated for me was the insertion of the waistband elastic. Normally, I’d have done a simple zig-zag, with no casing of any sort, and the elastic would be all on show on the inside. This time, the elastic is more encased. I zig-zagged it in as I normally would, but then I turned the waistband over, to cover the elastic, and I zig-zagged it again, to hold the elastic in place, and keep it covered. It’s not a perfect perfect finish, but it’s a vast improvement on all my bellydance skirts, so I’m calling that a win.

In making this skirt, I am veering into a colour scheme that is quite rare for me, I don’t have many red things in my wardrobe. I do have plenty of black tops, though, so I know that I will always have something I can wear with it. But I’m now about to start on a couple of Jungle January blouses in blacks and greys, and I’m thinking they’d suit this skirt down to the ground, so I’d best get a wiggle on with them.