Bess tried out this new Sorona fibre (made from corn) as a spring duffle type coat (or that was the intention – she went a bit off-piste). The fabric is velvety soft with a smooth pile and (hoorah!) is washable 👏👏👏, the pattern is the Closet Core Kelly Anorak hacked to take buttons down the front.
There was no fixed idea about colours, length or fastening whilst this jacket was being made, Bess’s husband was away and she took over the kitchen table with her box of tricks and had a good old play. The trimming is a polyester grosgrain that she pinned and repositioned until she had a look that pleased her.
The coat is lined with a super slinky cotton lawn – so slinky Bess thought she’d get away with it on the sleeves but that was a mistake, sooner or later those sleeve linings are going to have to come out and be replaced by regular Venezia so wearing a jumper + wearing the coat does not incur a 10 minute battle of the wills. Cotton, no matter how slinky, is not slinky enough for a coat sleeve. Bess knew this but she tried it anyway. 🙄
At the risk of looking ‘like a girl’ Bess added grosgrain trim to funky it up somewhat, and used a mix of vintage and new half ball buttons. The only interfacing she used was down the front facing (H0026 viscose), normally the hood facing would be interfaced on the kelly anorak but in this heavy fabric it was not necessary.
The jury is out if this fibre is perfect for outerwear, we are always looking out for alternatives to wool for coats and whilst the softness and washability is an absolute boon it is not as warm as wool, not by a long shot. If you can’t wear wool then this would be the next favourite as is far kinder to the environment than any synthetic polyester or acrylic type coating, but to make this a proper coat (to wear in cold weather) you would want to add some interlining to help with the insulation. The bonus of it not being terribly warm is it’s not too hot either – so a great coat to wear when in and out of shops and galleries without having to take off and carry.
Bess used up her last precious remnant of her favourite robot print french terry jersey on this Jalie Patterns Charlie Bomber jacket for her niece, it is amazing how little main fabric you need for a bomber jacket as the cuffing, pocket contrasts, sleeves and lining are all other remnants. This pattern may just be the ultimate in stash busting!
Bess used printed french terry sweatshirting jersey and a variety of other sweatshirtings and ribbing to make this Jolie Patterns Charlie Bomber Jacket.. It was a success and Amelie declared she was never going to take it off (YES!)
The pattern has really clear instructions and goes from teeny tiny toddler size all the way up to adults, it’s highly recommended
Bomber jackets are excellent stash busters as all the pieces are quite small (especially for the kids!) and you can mix and match, bomber jackets are an easy fit so good to make “in secret” without the need to try on.
There was a bit of drama with the making of this one as Bess needed to shorten the zip – usually a simple process of pulling off the teeth at the top and sewing over to stop the puller falling off -except she pulled off the puller before she had it secured and then spent as long trying to get it back on as she did making the entire jacket. 🙄
Ruth made up this cute as a button flower power print stretch cotton sateen romper suit with McCall’s 7626 pattern for her daughter Lizzy. Sooo much fun and Ruth said the fabric was a joy to work with (Yeah!)
Effee said she bought this pink daisy print 100% cotton jersey fabric ‘by accident’ whilst looking for tailoring supplies, and then I guess this dress was accidentally made into this brilliantly happy swing dress from a self drafted pattern, and a jolly good accident it is too.
This type of 100% cotton jersey does not have too much stretch to it so perfect for this style dress.
She left the choosing of buttons to us which is a nerve-wracking experience for us but you can always return buttons if they are not right. Buttons are such a personal thing. We went with the nautilus shell buttons which are an artwork all to themselves.
Teddy the chocolate Burmese cat here modelling his super burnt orange viscose jersey elasticated collar. Made by Jessie in a jiffy with the tiniest of scrap. Teddy thinks he looks fantastic (he’s right)
Who doesn’t get cheered up looking at this brilliant cartoon print? Rachel is not one to shy away from colour and looks ace in this perfectly fitting cotton canvas A-Line skirt. It is lined in Venezia to keep it looking perfect all day long.
Paula has been such a long-standing loyal customer we can recite her telephone number backwards and yet this is the first image she has sent us (She’s shy!). Well it’s never too late to send us photos for the catwalk – no one can say we lack patience! Here we have a super soft oyster beige ultrasuede made into a long jacket – which in true dressmaker fashion she decided it was a bit boring so added fringing ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Alice made this banana print sweatshirting into a hoody for her bananaphile daughter, Lizby. The pattern is Style Arc Josie, the only changes she made was to line the hood with a contrast ochre jersey and to omit the drawstring around the hem.
Bess downloaded the free pattern from Alice and Co at the V&A Museum in a flash and made up this Mary Quant dress with little to no alterations (unheard of for her- she nearly died of shock), the pocket took the longest and this was the second go as the first one looked like a fried egg! She used bondaweb to applique the daisy and slowed down her normal sewing speed in the hope she could sew accurately (more or less!). The black is a fabulous piqué weave viscose (very similar to a viscose twill) and the collar and daisy is a lightweight linen (probably not the ideal fabric as it frays like the devil but the colours were right and it more-or-less worked so don’t knock it!
Silversewer (carol) made this fabulous #southbank sweater 🤗. with this fun people with binoculars printed french terry backed cotton sweatshirting. This was her second make of this patter -time adding the bottom cuff. The collar can be either folded over or left upright. This is such a great pattern😊. Her daughter 💕 loves it !
Bess embellished this simple black sweatshirt with iron-on eye patches, she intends to sew them on but so far (6 months down the line) they are mostly still attached so in the name of indolence she hasn’t done it yet. She will. Honest.
We have been looking at this stretch cotton sateen multicolour stripe for a while thinking “something FANTASTIC could be made out of this”, and here we have the proof. Marion, with her dress made and designed by the clever stick Dawn Hooper of Hardy and Hooper (Maidenhead). We love the chevron detailing on the back, and the perfectly matched seams. This kind of attention to detail really pays off. 👍
Pamela sent us this photo after a season of wearing this self proclaimed favourite dress made up from her stash of heavy linen. Aside from the generally pleasing aesthetics of a colour block dress you get to do some quality stash busting. Win/Win! For the best results use like fabrics (weight/drape) and make sure they are colour fast for the cleaning. It’s a good idea to use those colour catcher sheets you put in the machine as a precaution.
She made it up again in Green (which we love) but the yellow remains the favourite.
Pauline made this delicious summery watermelon print cotton up into this great a-line dress from McCall’s (M2401). The cotton is pretty lightweight (somewhere between a lawn and a poplin) and could have got away with no lining but Pauline went for the smarter option and lined it in cotton voile.
Wendy visited the shop all the way from Welsh Wales to check us out ‘in the flesh’ (we don’t think she was disappointed). We couldn’t resist getting a photo as she was wearing this fab tunic Katherine Tilton for Vogue patterns. We love the combination of the two prints which just look spectacular together. Thumbs up Wendy! 👍
Miaow wearing the proofed linen raincoat made for her by Jane using #32 Ottobre pattern from the winter 6/12 catalogue. It is lined in pixel daisy print quilting weight organic cotton (which adds a reasonable amount of weight). It has been top stitched with pink thread (two standard threads through the same eye of the needle), Also used: light blue buttons, a pink open end zip, and lightweight knit iron on interfacing was used in the collars and facings.
Pauline made this sweet bunny print shirt with printed quilting weight cotton. It is a Butterick pattern (6324) that has minimal/confusing instructions (it is clearly the instructions at fault and not the readers!), so Pauline came a bit unstuck working out how to do the concealed buttonhole band, but she got there in the end 🙂
Rachel made this fabulous cotton shirt for her son Luke. Rachel is applying for title ‘Queen of shirt making’. This fabric is quilting weight which is great for a slightly heavier warmer shirt (and also happens to have the wackiest prints).
Thank you Luke for modelling for us, much appreciated!
Bess made this skirt on a bit of a whim – the wool challis had been in her stash for some time (if you have ever worn wool challis you will understand why she stashes it). The petals mysteriously turned up in her handbag the morning after a somewhat riotous wedding and have been hoarded ever since. And so the skirt was born, with no idea if A) the wool was washable and B) the petals would leak colour if it was washed.
The skirt was made in an evening, the a-line pattern is an ancient Burda start pattern (3198) that has long since discontinued although Burda 8237 is pretty similar (if you get rid of the waistband), or if you lengthen 6682 (both super easy alterations). The skirt is lined in Venezia and lightweight knit interfacing was used on the facing. Bess did the thing she always tells her customers not to do- she cut the lining the same size as the skirt and it ended up pulling and being too small. The wool challis has quite a lot of give in it, the lining doesn’t so you should always cut the lining a fraction bigger to allow for the ease, so the lining had to be chopped out and raised to allow the room. It’s a little short but if she doesn’t tell anyone they will never know 😉
Finally she attached the petals by first arranging them by eye with pins and then sewing a single line of stitching down the middle of each petal.
Bess was supposed to be making a princess dress for her niece Eloise but it kind of mutated into a Wonder Woman dress instead. This is what happens when you sew with no real idea of what you are making! The skirt is made up of many layers of tulle with a Venezia lining, the bodice is yellow viscose jersey that was a bit thin for the job so was interlined with a cotton jersey, and then appliqued with a piece of sequinned fabric. There is elastic in the waist and sleeves to draw it in and red plastic snap fasteners on the back bodice.
The skirt was made without a pattern (gather the tulle until it is 7″ bigger than the waist), the bodice was pinched off a bridesmaid dress -long since discontinued and certainly not intended for floppy jersey. The worst bit was sewing the heart on straight…. or getting the bulk of the tulle onto the bodice (it had to be ripped apart and regathered with pleats as just gathering was too bulky with all the layers). Despite the moments of GAAAHHHHH! WHAT AM I DOING! it was a great fun make.
Bess made this pink tutu for her niece Amélie (who is 16 months) for Christmas, numerous layers of tulle were gathered and pleated (there is a few layers of cream underneath), and then fitted to a silk dupion waistband and drawn in with elastic. Then, Christmas being Christmas and the bling level needing to be raised Bess added beads and sequins to the waist.
Bess used the formula of gathering the tulle to 7″ bigger than waist measurement which worked okay but for a skirt this small 5″ is probably enough.
Bess made these two tutus for her nieces Kitcat and Miaow with a loose brief of Nutcracker in mind. There are a gazillion layers of tulle gathered and pleated and sewn onto a silk dupion elasticated waistband and embellished with feathers and sequins.
3 colours of tulle were used to get a greater depth to the skirts. A short layer of creamy beige, and second longer layer of sugar pink and a top (longest) layer of very pale pink.
Bess doesn’t really do ‘fluff’ but had a lot of fun making these. Her kitchen was well and truly tullified.
Jane made these fabulous porcupine faux fur gilets for Kitcat and Miaow (grandchildren). Lined in Leopard/Jaguar Print Liberty Tana Lawn. Because they are such squinges Jane managed to cut all pieces out of the width of the fabric (just 40cm). Hoorah for squinges!
Rudi is a Siamese boy who has a healthy obsession with tulle and netting. He says he wants to be a ballet dancer when he grows up (except he’s so heavy he can’t jump). Here he is hanging out with the Action Man fairy and not looking remotely suspicious.
Kitcat wearing her terribly kitsch cat digital print cotton and elastane jersey long sleeved dress (made by Jane). The pattern is Burda 8455 but Jane pieced together the yoke and hem so as not to cut up the print. Kitcat is such a squinge it is cut to age 6 but lengthened in sleeve and body (Kitcat is 9!). The neck was lowered so as to go over her head and negate the need for a zip but next time the neck will be altered so it doesn’t gape.
Now all the grown-ups want one too.
She then said that she needed pink leopard print ponte jersey cardigan to complete the outfit -personally we are not so sure this is a good fashion move but what do we know in the world of 9 year old fashion? We shall leave it to you to decide. The pattern is McCall’s 6542 (age 6 with lengthened sleeves), it is bound down the front and around the neck with jersey binding.
Lesley made this fabulous chartreuse and camel stripey proofed cotton cape. This was a cape pattern picked up at a Quilt Show in France which she embellished with flowers cut with a Sizzix machine attached using the Bernini Eyelet accessory and printed with Thermofax screens. It was fun to make!
Julie made up this fabulous Amy Butler print laminated cotton raincoat using Burda 7047. We love the spotty cotton lining and the drawstring waist which gives it just enough shape. Sewing laminated cotton can be a bit of a challenge, if you find it sticking to your feed dogs and not feeding through the sewing machine properly tear off strips of tissue paper and sandwich the fabric between the strips, it will then tear off when you are done.
Kitcat came up with the bright idea that when Jane makes her an outfit her dolly, Ayla should get one too. This concept is like a red rag to the bull to Jane so here we have a matching pink denim jacket and mini skirt to match her life size one; even down to the black lace trim.
Kitcat singing us all Christmas carols in her sequinned dress made by Jane. It is lined in heavy tricot and the armholes and neck are bound with jersey binding.
You get fabulous movement with this sequinned fabric as each sequin is black on one side and silver on the other, so every move is exaggerated with the movement of the sequin. They are surprisingly easy to sew -just snip them out of the seam allowance so you don’t need to sew through them.
Kitcat and Miaow visiting Granny (Jane) at the shop wearing their matching Liberty tana lawn Alice in Wonderland print dress and shirt. The pattern is Burda 9417 (as seen already for school shirts), they tie in at the back. Jane didn’t use any interfacing for the collars, the sleeves puff with elastic in the hem. They both have mismatched coloured buttons.
Miaow (age 5) is wearing a bee print cotton skirt trimmed with rick-rack and gathered onto yellow elastic which SHE MADE HERSELF! We helped a bit, she drove the sewing machine and overlocker with the pedals up on shoe boxes so she could reach. She sat on our lap and helped guide the fabric and shouted STOP! when she was going to drive off the edge. It’s probably the most fun you can have with a child without custard pies.
Jane and Elwen made this sooo sweeet fur coat using Burda 9501 pattern, They lined it in bunny rabbit print quilting cotton and used toning toggle buttons. There is no interfacing -not even on the button holes which Jane insists is fine and they didn’t need it. She can break the rules because she has been sewing for about a thousand years.
Bess used her 5 and 8 year old niece’s fabulous drawings as inspiration for the embellishment on this wool tweed A-Line skirt. First she used white fabric paint and then embroidered using a heavy thread and added beads and sequins. It was all done by hand as the tweed is quite a loose weave and she was concerned machine embroidery would make it too stiff (certainly the kind of embroidery Bess has the patience for!).
It is lined in Venezia lining – turned on the lining with no waistband and bound with an ottoman (heavy) bias binding. Strips of Iron on interfacing tape were used to reinforce the back of the areas where the belt loops go. The concealed zip was moved from the back seam to the side so the back could be cut on the fold also. You rarely get any shaping on the back seam so if you have enough fabric to do this (it invariably takes extra on an a-line skirt) you can without brainache.
Bess is very fickle but this is her absolute favourite skirt at the moment.
Holly made this tangerine orange cotton wool and viscose mix bouclé heavy knit from LG as part of a Plymouth College of Art Fashion project to make a ‘skirt’ and cape as part of her university project. The not so practical skirt has large pockets – the entire front and back panels, braces to hold it up and metal boning through the top to hold the shape! It was inspired by Cornish China Clay and they held a fashion show at the eden project to help raise money for the people and gardens charity.
Suzanne from Cyprus celebrating her son’s wedding (he’s the one holding the flowers) wearing Silk Damask made up in a v-neck flared dress by Ralph Rucci for Vogue (V1381). This pattern is not simple – there are quilted yokes and bands, an attached belt with some tricky rouleau to tie it together —all in a fabric that doesn’t easily yield. It took her a while but it was very much worth it.
Bess made this turquoise cotton piqué coat for a wedding, wanting something very plain that would go with all her dresses. All the best laid plans and all that – Bess HATED it plain (felt like a doctor’s coat), so cut up some daisy trim and sewed them all over, and couched some yellow vintage strung sequins and green jute string as grass. Bess is not ruling out the possibility that there won’t be more flowers and insects added at a later date.
The Peter Pan collar is accented with red satin (ready made) piping and the same piping is used between the printed cotton lawn lining and the front facings. The sleeves are lined in red Venezia as they are fairly slim and need to slip.
The pattern is a Vintage burda pattern no. 7041, it makes up beautifully with hardly any alterations.
Finally the buttons were added, these buttons were the originals intended for the plain jacket but Bess was determined to use them, whether they go or not. (I think she gets away with it – just).
Jane made this silver grey Silk Moroccain crepe cowl neck wedding dress for her eldest daughter, Jessie. It is beaded with thousands of moonstone chips (Jane has the patience of a saint).
To ensure the fabric had enough strength the silk was blocked onto Venezia lining (those chips are very heavy). All in all the dress took about 3 months; a lot of evenings and weekends, and never more than a few hours on the trot due to a broken elbow- and concern for her own sanity. Jessie helped with the beading and Bess was responsible for constructing the tail (Jessie insisted on a tail, Jane was appalled at the idea but the Bride gets what the Bride wants).
Silk Moroccain is a double crepe that drapes well and has a subtle lustre to it. We try, but don’t always have it in stock, but can order it (next day delivery) in around 40 colours.
The tail hooks on to the back with corset hooks and was stuffed with Polyfil.
Well you wouldn’t have a normal dress for getting married in Vegas by Johnny Cash, would you?
Miaow (age 4; not staying still for the camera) wearing her reversible wrap dress made using Liberty Lantana (80% Wool 20% Cotton) animals in the forest print with a spotty cotton lawn on reverse. Made by Bess.
Cobalt blue stretch crepe dress with wiggly eyes made by Bess.
Confession: Dress was made the day before going to a swanky wedding (when realisation struck that there was NOTHING to wear), it was much too big but rather than taking it in Bess just sewed a couple of wiggly eye buttons on the back and graunched it in with petersham ribbon. Job done!
Not quite sure what Pall Mall really thought about wiggly eye embellishments but….
Kitcat and Miaow wearing their heart quilted dresses with chiffon wings. All made by Bess
Fabrics and Notions:
Kitcat: (sugar plum fairy)
Pink heart quilted polyester #3330
Pink polyester georgette #3104 (wings)
Pale pink nylon tulle (underskirt)
Dusky pink grey nylon tulle (underskirt)
White satin (lining)
Pale pink satin elastic (to attach wings to wrists)
Pale pink bias binding
Miaow: (water baby)
Cream heart quilted polyester #3380
Cream polyester georgette (wings)
Pale green nylon net (underskirt)
Pale grey nylon net (underskirt)
Ivory nylon tulle (underskirt)
White satin (lining)
Ivory satin elastic (to attach wings to wrists)
Pale green bias binding
Patterns: Made up. Circular skirt plus a basic block bodice.
Lesson learned: back openings have to go beyond the waist – I thought as the waist was elasticated slightly that there would be enough give to get in and out, but it is a right palaver! Now all have to be unpicked (dammit) and bodged altered.
Allow 10% shrinkage for all your washable natural fibres (including viscose). Wash before making up in the same manner as you would with subsequent washes (including drying methods).
Jerseys and fabrics liable to mis-shape should be dried flat, or in a cool tumble dryer.
Most fabrics should be pressed before cutting.
If in doubt about care instructions please CONTACT US