Autumn Basics: Renfrew

I’d happily mark  the start of autumn sewing every year with a Renfrew.


With the scoop neck view, it’s a staple basic that can be worn under with dresses and with skirts or trousers.


I noticed over the summer that my store-bought white long sleeve t-shirt was looking a little worse for wear. So when I also found a textured white jersey at Mad Jak’s I knew exactly what I needed to sew (my thoughts on Mad Jak’s as a fabric shop here). This fabric is just as pleasing as other fabrics I’ve purchased at Mad Jak’s, good quality, fair price and washes well.


As far as I can remember, this was my first time sewing with a textured knit. It took a bit of extra care over pattern piece cutting – I treated it the same you would with any striped, directional print. The neck band was carefully placed so that when folded it had the cleanest line. I used a hem band but just folded the sleeves. The finishing touch was a twin needle top stitching at the neckline, sleeves and hem but it’s purely functional as it’s visibly lost in the texture.

Misty Trees Dress

It was summer 2015 in Walthamstow market when I felt that the roll end of this misty trees printed scuba needed to come home with me. I’ve been pondering a suitable pattern ever since. The longer I pondered, the more I failed to see why I’d been attracted to the fabric in the first place. Scuba… so not me.


I was happy to sacrifice it to test out GBSB The Drapey Knit dress that I’d pinned to my ‘See it Sew It‘ Pinterest board. It’s a free pattern download with some quirky details. The pattern has front pockets created by the side front pattern pieces, these also overlap at the neckline to create a simple origami effect. Sew Different has some construction instructions that really helped me, particularly in ensuring the the trees were growing in the right direction.


I cut the smallest size but took in the side seams from bust to hip a lot… I just kept narrowing until I was happier that the volume worked for my proportions. The hem and sleeves were finished with a twin needle stitch and I hand tacked the neckline facing at the internal seams to prevent it from flipping out.


I used the blog photos to test out the possibility of wearing it to a wedding and decided it was worth a try. Guess who got the first dance?


Brenna Coat

The Brenna Coat from the Cali Faye Collection was a last minute addition to my birthday wishlist. Nevertheless, my wishlist was granted and I felt it only right, having the day off work, that I ventured out on my actual birthday to purchase some fabric for it.

birthday fabrics

I’ve been meaning to go to Mad Jaks fabric shop in Shere since first hearing about it from Anna… around 7 years ago. Firstly, I think the shop may have changed premises since Anna wrote about it because it’s very easy to find and secondly, the dress fabrics advertised on their website do not do the shop justice at all. The floor space dedicated to fabric (it’s a clothing shop too) is small but unlike other small fabric shops it isn’t ruled by quilting cottons and childish prints. There is a genuine bias towards real dress fabrics in wearable colours. I had quite a lengthy browse eventually settling on some citrus jersey, white textured jersey and pale blue-grey linen-look poly (the green stripe was a birthday present but I’m counting them all as birthday fabrics).

Brenna Coat Califaye a

Back to the Brenna Coat pattern… I cut a size S and made no alterations. Which was just as well because there were just two days to make this before a wedding I wanted to wear it for.

Brenna Coat Enbroidery

Can we pause for a second here to enjoy the spotty lining and also some hand sewing. I don’t know what came over me. I hate hand sewing never mind embroidery but as the coat construction progressed I found myself making it more and more special. A good sign that it’s going to be a wardrobe favourite.

Brenna Coat Lining

More lining appreciation and for good reason: Silky satin is a complete pain to sew and melts at the slightest glance from an iron. The poly outer fabric needed some heat for pressing. Combine the two and there’s a recipe for disaster before we even take into account the Houdini tendencies of satin lining to slither during cutting and sewing. So, yes, I will roll the sleeves up and show off that lining at any opportunity because I’m  proud to have gotten it attached at all (and not embarrassed about the puckers).


Brenna Coat Califaye Pattern

The coat pattern is gorgeous… clean lines, in-seam pockets, fully lined and a style that can be just as cool over a wedding guest dress as it can be with jeans. Do you think a winter version in wool might be on the cards? You betcha!

Brenna Coat Cuffs


70’s Pinafore Dress

In an attempt to get back up to date with high street fashions, I’ve been browsing the shops. I am both delighted and disgusted: 70s is back ‘in’ particularly denim pinafore dresses and high price, poor quality, strange fit are all still ‘in’ too. I don’t shop much these days. Let’s focus on the 1970s though. I would have loved to have lived through that decade of fashion and I have quite a penchant for sewing patterns of that era. Style 1568 was a late night ebay purchase being sold for charity. I was happy to help!

Style 1568 Vintage Pattern

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been hoarding this fabric because it felt precious. This chambray wasn’t expensive, or difficult to find, I just really wanted to love what I made from it so hesitated every time I almost removed it from the stash pile. I’m glad I waited because I really love this fabric-pattern combo. I’m trying to work out the morale here… is it that it’s good to stash and wait for the right pattern to come along or is it that I should just make something because I’ll probably love it anyway?

Style 1568 Front

If you’re thinking ‘she wore it all day, look how creased it is’ you’re wrong. I pressed it, put it on, bent down to do up my shoes then stepped outside for blog photographs. I’ll get over how easily it creases soon enough.

Style 1568 Side

I played around with top stitching but not too much.Just a touch of rusty coloured thread on the straps and a single line across the pockets. Simplicity is key for this dress.

Style 1568 Pockets

The trickiest part was positioning the button holes to get a good fit. The thing with button holes is that the hole is a slit, the button is anchored at a point… that point can slide from one side of the slit to the other. The buttons on the straps go through two button holes (the wrap part of the dress). Without careful consideration, the fit across the bust could end up too big by a button hole width and the button hole on the underlap would peak out. Alternatively, shifting the overlap button hole across too much might produce a flappy overlap. Yes, I really did over think this part and it turned out ok.

Style 1568 Back

The crossed straps were somewhat of a last minute decision and not suggested in the pattern instructions. The dress feels more secure this way but I could easily change it by re-positioning the buttons. Which brings me to…

Style 1568 Straps

The buttons. A bit of a let down ebay purchase. The seller’s photograph was quite different, darker thicker grain lines in the wood and a smooth shiny finish. I guess with ebay you win some and you.. er… win some rubbish?!?

Style 1568 Chambray

Space Dyed Sloans

This pair of Sloan leggings were cut out soon after the first pair and also used fabric purchased in New York (yes I had a heavier suitcase on the way home!).

space dyed sloans 1

I made very minor tweaks to the fit, directly to the pattern pieces before cutting  out, and omitted the pocket for speed.

space dyed sloans 3

My first pair have a knit interfacing in the waistband that is too flimsy and hasn’t stabilised the waistband at all. I used an alternative knit interfacing for this pair and it’s much better. Sturdier but still stretchy – these leggings stay up! I plan to replace the waistband on the first pair soon.

space dyed sloans 2

So are there more Sloans coming soon? Yes, and absolutely I want to make the contrast fabric view.

Chambray Summer Skirt

I am truly guilty of hoarding my best fabrics through fear of making something I regret. To get over this affliction, I’ve further reduced my fabric shopping, started to spend more time planning my projects and alternating low risk makes with slightly more adventurous things.

Burda 04 2014 113 front

I’ve made this pattern before and I really enjoy wearing it from autumn through to early spring (whenever it is still acceptable to wear tights and boots!). A summer version in a lighter weight denim was on the cards and low risk.

Burda 04 2014 113 front b

Burda 04/2014 #113 takes very little fabric so I cut out a dress (I’m saving that one for another blog post) and this skirt at the same time. I was more than happy to eliminate the in-seam welt pockets – fun if a little tricky to sew, they look great on the skirt when standing but splay out when sitting.

Burda 04 2014 113 side c

The only other hurdle to overcome was that my first version of the skirt was made in a stretch denim and the chambray had zero give. I’d traced the Burda pattern pieces with a 1.5cm seam allowance and with a straight paneled skirt it’s easy to adjust the fit. Nevertheless, I basted first to make fitting, or more accurately unpicking, easier.

Burda 04 2014 113 back

I did my first exposed zip and it turned out OK. Top stitching is something I also wanted to play with on this chambray – both this skirt and the dress I’m making in the same fabric. Silver grey seemed subtle enough and I was careful not to overdo it.

Burda 04 2014 113 side d

Sloan District Leggings

There seemed to be a wave of UK sewing bloggers and Instagramers visiting New York back in the Spring, me included. The Garment District required some dedicated tourist time.

Top of my list was lycra for sportswear. It’s notoriously difficult to source good quality lycra (without an extortionate price tag) in the UK so I loaded up with two colourways of space dyed, some plains and a loud print. Of course the crazy print was the first one I wanted to sew with! I can’t remember if this was from Spandex World or Spandex House but definitely one of them.

sloan leggings NY 1

I was hoping the print wasn’t directional so that I could maximise fabric usage with creating pattern piece placement. After much staring, I confirmed it was directional. It’s hard to see the bubbles over the print in these photographs but there are bubbles and they’re shaded.

sloan leggings NY  3

The pattern is Sloan Leggings which I’d previously made both views of as toiles. Nevertheless, I had to take these in again right around the inseam because this lycra had more stretch than the cheap stuff I used for the toile.

sloan leggings NY  4

They have been dance class, gym and yoga tested with great success. A second pair is already in progress with more NY fabric.

What is is about sewing sportswear that brings out all the ridiculous poses I can muster!?

sloan leggings NY  2