A Tale of Two Cambies

2 cambiesI’ve made not one but two Sewaholic Cambie dresses this week!

First up was a stash-busting tester of the pattern, using some black something that I think I got at Walthamstow market early in my trouser-making days. I thought it was poly-something, but the more I worked with it, the more I felt like there was some wool in it; I did a burn test and it is definitely at least 50% poly but I guess I will never know. I had some black and white striped bias-binding which I used to add some piping details to the waist and neckline.

cambie 016b

I did a FBA seen here and toiled the bodice in a heavy IKEA print, but when it came to the black fabric there was still adjustments to be made. Lots of unpicking was involved in this make around the bust. The darts aren’t perfect but seriously who, other than eagle-eyed sewists and readers of this blog, will notice when I wear it in everyday life?!

cambie 017bThe overall look of the dress is pretty plain and simple, but I think there is definitely space in my wardrobe for some plain simplicity. I can imagine this becoming a spring and autumn work staple, to throw on with a bright cardigan. I used “Doll Pink” lining for a splash of fun on the inside and in the pockets.

cambie 019bI love the overall shape of this dress, when I was finished I just wanted to spin and twirl around in it.

Once I was happy-ish with the fit I was ready to turn to the floral fabric I ordered from Stone Fabrics (sadly they didn’t have enough bunny fabric for a Cambie dress, but I got the last piece to make a Ginger skirt). But before I cut the fabric I did a bit of dart manipulation to turn the giant under-bust dart into three regular sized darts in an attempt to lessen the pointiness.

cambie 010b

I’m not sure if you can see, but the fit is much better now the shaping is spread out around my bust. Still not perfect, but getting closer! (Still a teeny bit of wrinkling at the front) When I tried the final dress on, it was a bit loose around the bust and waist so I took the side seams in a bit. Obviously my finger-based measurements weren’t entirely accurate so when I tried it on again there was no breathing/eating ease! Third time lucky and the side seams nip me in enough to be flattering but with enough space to move and eat. (Looking at these pictures the sleeves on this version seem slightly looser, but it might just be a posing issue).

cambie 012b


I love this floral print so much, although I think it will need a lot of ironing. I lined this with a dark navy lining fabric; it was the premium lining from John Lewis as that was the only colour match, but it feels so nice to wear and worth the extra £5 or so it added to the cost of the dress.

I’m definitely going to be making more Cambies; it is drafted so well and the method of attaching the lining to the dress makes it so pretty inside as well. I just need some suitable weather for wearing pretty dresses.



Planning: Decisions!

I spent most of Saturday was spent playing with tissue paper, tape, colour pencils and rulers – making FBA (full bust adjustments) to the patterns I am planning to make in the Easter holidays (one and a half days to go!!). I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing over my choice of fabrics, and after recieving some swatches from Stone Fabrics (this did not make my decision easier since it gave me more potential choices) I have some sewing plans for the holidays. Hooray!

First up is the spring jacket. I made a muslin of the  BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106 jacket and decided that I actually liked the lapel-less style. I showed my blog post  to my colleagues at school, asking if the turquoise was too bright, and was told by A “You don’t need a plain navy jacket – you’re not 50!” That was me told! I ordered a swatch of it and as soon as I opened the envelope I was squealing with delight.* The colour is so much better in real life and so I am placing my order tomorrow, along with some white for the contrast bands (and I think they have some polka-dot contrast lining that will work! double squeal!) My only remaining dilemma is whether I need to underline the fabric, and if so with what (I used silk organza to underline my couture dress). I think I need to read Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Bible in bed!

For the Cambie dress fabric choices, again A gave me a stern talk. “NOT the red one, you already have too many polka dots.” Too many polka dots? Is that a real problem? Hmm… Then I remembered an episode of New Girl (starring the quirky Zooey Deschanel, new series starting tonight) when she gets accused of “rocking a lot of polka dots.” Her response, which could also be describing me, was:

“I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally weird that you are not a dessert person – that’s just weird and it freaks me out!”

So did I choose polka dots for my Cambie? Nope. The clear winner among friends I showed my swatches to was in favour of bunnies!


I also really liked the swatch of this floral print – it is not as bold as some of the other designs but has bits of hot pink, purple and turquoise so will match all my favourite cardigans! I am going to make both versions of the dress pattern, partly for a bit of variety, and partly because the bunny fabric was the most expensive and the narrowest so I’m going to try to reduce my costs slightly.

fabric choices


I made a muslin of the bodice in calico and then cut up my IKEA fabric to make a wearable muslin. (I wanted to make sure I posted this before I get distracted by hot-cross buns and mini-eggs, so apologies for the mirror-pose photos). I love this dress so much already – after doing an FBA the neckline fits perfectly with no gaping. I was planning to make this to wear, however I think the fabric is a bit too stiff (the bust darts are too pointy however I sew them and the skirt doesn’t hang right). I want to get the fit just right before cutting up my expensive bunny fabric so I may make a final test in plain black fabric (with some black and white stripy piping to add a bit of fun).

cambie muslin

*another colleague has commented how cute it is that I am so easily excited when I talk about/stroke fabric! This did start the day I got all those free Liberty samples.

Review of 2012

Everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to follow the cool crowd and do my own review of the year. I love seeing reviews of the blogs I follow and remembering all the inspiring images and projects I have read and followed through the year, so I hope you enjoy mine as much.

I tried to pick just 5 or 10 top makes over the year, but as I looked through all my pictures* I saw so many makes I forgot about (because they have seamlessly merged into my wardrobe, not because I never looked at them again!) so here, sorted into categories, is my round up of the year…

In the category of Most worn garment of 2012 the nominees are:

most worn 2012

In the category of Best Fancy Dress of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Self-drafted boiler suit (worn to Secret Cinema showing of Promethius)
  • HRH The Queen cloak and sash (worn to a birthday party)
  • And the winner is… HRH The Queen! I loved this night out, the cloak was great for waving while dancing, and it can probably be reused for future parties with different themes.

fancy dress 2012

In the category of Most time-consuming make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • Miette cardigan (it has been a decade since I last knitted an adult-sized garment)
  • Peacock dress (hand-beaded, couture finish in expensive silk)
  • Colette Sorbetto (lots of pattern adjustments to get the perfect fit)
  • Jeanius Jeans (making a pattern from scratch and lots of muslins)
  • Minoru jacket (again, lots of muslins and adjustments)
  • And the winner is… The Peacock Dress! When people admired this dress and asked me to make them a dress, I added up costs of materials and my time (at least 15 hours of beading, 6 hours of fitting and tweaking, and many, many hours of construction including 4 hours hand-sewing the hem!) to give a quote of just a little under 4 digits. Surprisingly nobody made further requests…

most time consuming 2012

In the category of Most unusual craft location of 2012 the nominees are:

  • in a cable car over the Thames (going between Olympic venues)
  • on a beach in the middle of Camden at 7am (after the start of the last leg of the Olympic Torch relay)
  • outside Buckingham Palace while waiting for Olympic cyclists to arrive.
  • And the winner is… The Beach in Camden at 7am. A beach in Camden is pretty unusual. Being there before breakfast is even more unusual. Sitting in baking sunshine by 8.30am in England is definitely the most unusual happening!

most unusual location 2012

The final category is for projects that I would never have believed were possible a couple of years ago (well possible for other people, but not me!). In the category of Most life-changing make of 2012 the nominees are:

  • the Peacock dress (sewing with silk, couture techniques, hand beading)
  • Jeanius jeans (making a pair of jeans without a proper pattern)
  • spotty Burda blouse (I’ve never even managed to buy well-fitted woven tops before)
  • Miette cardigan (not just a knitted garment, but one that fits without gaping!)
  • Minoru raincoat (It is a coat. I can wear it when it rains. I don’t get wet!)
  • And the winner is… the spotty woven Burda blouse. The other nominees may be fancy or more technical, but as a curvy girl I have never worn or owned nice woven tops (without them looking unflattering) so this blouse makes anything seem possible. Plus, when I tried on the finished blouse I wanted to wear it immediately, which is always a good sign.

most groundbreaking 2012

Looking through all my pictures there were so many that didn’t make the nominations, so here is the best of the rest.best of the rest 2012

Top row, left- right: Sorbetto top, giraffe crochet hat, Birthday Butterfly dress
Middle row, left-right:
Summertime skirt, Embroidered Embroidery case, iPad case
Bottom row, left-right:
Blogging meet up and shopping, Denim Traveller dress, United Stashes of Awesome skirt

A lot of great crafting and great memories this year, I hope you have enjoyed reading all about them on my little blog. Thank you to all my followers and for all the lovely comments. Happy New Year!

* I am aware that some pictures haven’t been blogged, or some makes haven’t been photographed. Sorry. Will try and do better this year!

Minoru review

They (correctly) say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and so the proof of the sewing must be in the wearing. After wearing my Minoru jacket almost everyday for two weeks here are my thoughts about it.

So what is great about it? It has kept me nice and dry in the wet autumn weather, looks good and the lining still makes me smile. It looks good with trousers and jeans and also looks good with my black cord skirt (another well worn garment). I’m feeling the chill wearing it now when I am outside, but it is the perfect thickness to avoid overheating on the tube or while digging.

The not so good is the hood – remember when I made my toile and the hood came down to my chin? Well I adjusted the pattern to make it slightly smaller. I totally forgot that my head moves when I walk, and if it rains I tend to keep my head down. The hood fits perfectly when I am standing up straight, but when I am huddling in the rain my fringe gets wet! Oops, should have stuck to the pattern!

I have worn it so much already, the time spent seems totally worth it. If you are going to spend weeks on a make, it should be something you can use all the time. With this thought I am thinking about making another coat! I don’t need one so this is just in the planning stage, but the idea is no longer scary as I know the time investment will be worth it. Any pattern recommendations?

Crafty updates

I have been away from blogging all week, busy in the real world, but I am back with lots of exciting updates.

Apart from working and sleeping, I have spent most of this week sewing my Sewaholic Minoru and it is finished! Of course that means the weekend has been super sunny, but I did test it in a light shower on the way home/to the pub on Friday. I forgot to get someone to take action shots so here are some close ups of my favourite details.

I LOVE the pink lining – it is such a cheery colour (and I read something this weekend that said navy and pink were one of the new “in” combos) – and the fleecy pocket lining. The piping was a pain to do (piping + shiny fabric + gathers + elastic = nightmare) but it does make the jacket look more finished and less homemade. My favourite part is the elastic waist as it makes the jacket fit and look good, which is not normally something you would associate with cagoules! I got some good compliments about the fitted waist when I did a bit of a fashion show at work. There are a few tweaks I would make if I made this again – the adjusted muslin pieces are safely tucked away in my pattern file.

I also meant to get a proper photo of my finished corduroy Ginger, but I have been wearing it too much and getting paint on it at school., so please excuse this slanted self-portrait. There were an awful lot of headaches making this, despite having already made the pattern before, but it was definitely worth the time spent as I have worn it three times this week. It is warm, comfortable, black and has super-sized practical pockets, so it will be worn to death over the winter.
Oh, and I am wearing my skirt with a new blouse! It is the French dart Burda blouse made from a £1 vintage skirt and jersey contrast sleeves (I couldn’t get the sleeves from the skirt, but I’m liking the effect the jersey adds).

I have been so busy that I totally forgot that I had hosted my first giveaway and was supposed to have chosen a winner! Oops! Lets see who the winner will be…
…. it is Tania! Email me your address or I will get in touch (whichever comes first) and I will try and send your goodies to you this week!

Minoru raincoat

As well as collecting a parcel of yarn yesterday, I also acquired a little bit of fabric from the glorious Goldhawk Road. I was on official school business to get fabrics for displays (I hope my headteacher is impressed that half was bargain remnants, and I even I got a discount on some remnants!) but I also picked up a couple of things for me. I got some fabric to make another Burda French-darted top, some stretch wool for trousers, regular wool for a winter skirt and everything I needed to make my Minoru jacket.

Unsurprisingly I couldn’t find any really exciting waterproof fabrics, so I decided to go for plain navy and line it with the most amazing bright hot pink! When buying a zipper (wow! long zips get pricey!) in the haberdashery section I saw some pink bias-binding – perfect for piping and adding a touch of fun to a plain jacket.

I had finished fitting the muslin, so today I used the muslin as my pattern and got cutting. I marked my new stitching lines with a pen, traced these onto the fabric and used them as my guidelines when sewing. Yes, I did trace a whole pattern piece with the tracing paper upside-down!

After a whole day of cutting, pinning and sewing in front of tv/radio (with breaks for food of course) I have almost finished the outer shell. I lined the hood and made some patch pockets (lined in scraps of fleece for cosy-warm hands) but other than that have stuck to the basic pattern (after a FBA during the fitting stage).

The colour of the jacket in these pictures looks really grey, but in reality it is definitely navy blue and the pink looks even better and brighter (the pink lining has made me squeal with delight). I loved the flash of pink so much I decided to tweak the hood pattern so I could have an extra line of piping 🙂 All that is needed now is the zip, front plackets, linings and hems.

The hair clip is to give an idea of the waist gathers. I’m slightly apprehensive about this, but luckily there are so many good sew-along posts on Tasia’s blog I am sure it will be fine. My big dilemma now is what to do about cuffs – I am tempted to knit some ribbed cuffs from some soft yarn but I’m not sure they would be practical when it rains!


Birthday Butterfly Reveal

Could you tell what I was making with my butterfly fabric last week?
Pictured is a very tatty Burda Sadie pattern which has been adapted many times to create endless variations of a simple t-shirt. Last year I added a full length skirt to create a summer maxi-dress, but I thought the lovely butterfly fabric needed something a bit more special.
I drew around the existing pattern (in green above) and then used my french curves to change the neckline to a v-neck, and create little cap-sleeves.

The sleeves turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, and I think I will use this again if I need/want to make short-sleeved tops. I also played with the waist-line to make a feature of where the top would join the skirt (with flat piping around the seams – not quite so easy in jersey). The waist is lower than I planned, due to the effects of stretch/gravity, but I couldn’t face undoing all that piping to adjust it (maybe I can make some gathered or pleated waistband details?)

I finished all the seams with contrast bands in a deep inky purple I had left in my stash (which means it perfectly matches a shrug I made with the same fabric). The shape and depth of the neckline is pretty spot-on, and has an applique facing (inspired by an article in Threads this month) which was much easier to get the shape right than by using bias-strips.

I also discovered a new potentially-embarassing-if-neighbours-walk-past posing-spot in the stairwell of my building, but since it was late at night I decided the risk was worth it. I was on my way back from birthday celebrations at the Southbank where we bumped into this character..

Big Ben Wenlock

I think one of my summer holiday activities will be to track down as many Olympic mascots as I can – I have been told that there is a Wenlock/Mandeville decorated like a phonebox near St Paul’s.

Summer(?) strawberry shirt-dress

We have finally got some sunshine here in the UK, so I finally felt inspired to sew my Lisette Traveller dress. I bought the fabric from Goldhawk Road during the Easter holidays, but then the weather has been pretty gloomy since so I have been making separates that can be worn with warm trousers.

I made a couple of quite a few changes to the pattern:
1. The compulsory FBA, but this time using the Y method in Fit for Real People (for “if you need to add more that 1 1/2″ to the bust” – really should have looked at that ages ago!) and lowered the dart. It may be the style of the shirt, but the shoulders feel so much better without risk of sloping off (like the Sorbettos I made last week) so I might have to go and adjust my previous adjustments. The bust fit is pretty spot on
2. I added a small dart at the back centre back. I want to say this was deliberate, but I accidentally damaged the fabric, however the fit is great.
3. I added inseam pockets. I normally use pockets from my Vogue birdie/polka dot skirt, but I couldn’t be bothered to search through my patterns and drafted my own. They are a bit snug, but will hopefully be functional without allowing me to look too casual.
4. The sleeves from the pattern were much too fitted for my chunky biceps (caused by too much swimming of course!) so I made one up my self using the modified Sorbetto sleeve for reference. Despite warning bells in my head I was determined to pipe the edge, but it was way too stiff so I did some pinning and tucks and I think it looks alright now.
5. Since my fabric was white on the inside, I made some little facings from oddly-shaped rectangles so that when the collar is open you can’t see the wrong side of the fabric.

While I was having a mid-sewing break, I saw that Scruffy Badger has also made a Traveller dress but without any piping for once, so it is a good job I had metres of piping for the job. I do love the piping (and how neatly I did it around the curves of the collar) but combined with the print I am getting a very retro-vibe and not quite the everyday-dress I was planning for. I’m not sure how I thought strawberries would be everyday (maybe the navy), but it isn’t!

After I finished tissue-fitting the pattern, this was quick and easy to sew up (if you ignore the double time it took to do the piping and the trouble making a button hole exactly where the bodice and skirt meet!) so I will definitely be making another one, but with different sleeves and maybe a different neckline. I can imagine throwing this on in the summer and being ready to go anywhere.

Any suggestions for fabric to make a great everyday basic? Maybe a lightweight denim for the weekend/holidays but what would be good for the classroom?

Hope everyone has been enjoying the sunshine 🙂

p.s. I have added lots of new blogs to my google reader account and discovered a link to this great gadget for ironing hems (I can’t remember who had linked to it, but thanks for highlighting a great tool). I hate ironing and I hate hems and this made it so much simpler and was easier than drawing my own. The geek in me would love to know how the curved line works for all sizes of curves!

Piped polka dot posing

I have developed a new sewing obsession – piping!

I wanted to make a classic but stylish skirt and decided piping would help add the “wow” factor along the joins of my V8560. I have made this before using ribbons to cover where the panels join (my birdie skirt)

I have also discovered the best place in my flat for taking photos – the kitchen. With the window open wide I can get lots of natural light, and the (internal) window sill is the perfect height for photos.

My next sewing project is the Lisette Traveller dress, using some super-sweet navy fabric covered in tiny strawberries. I’m going to continue my piping addiction and add some red piping around the collar and sleeves. But before I do any more sewing, it is time to bake!