International Anna Party!



Look at me going crazy and doing two posts in a week. There is a very good reason for this though, I made a dress with a deadline. I joined Elle, Ute, and Pip‘s International Anna Party competition to celebrate the marvellous work of By Hand London. I have made two Annas before to a moderate amount of success, but one was too small and the other a bit big. I had graded up and got the bodice right but had never managed to get the skirt pieces to properly match the bodice.


I had quite a tight deadline for this one, so decided to follow the lead of many other people and use a simple gathered skirt instead of the seven gored Anna skirt. I obviously used the rectangle for the ESP skirt as I like the amount of poofery in it and used the pockets for that too. An Anna with a gathered skirt isn’t quite as dramatic as the original, but if you have a bit of a tummy, it’s a lot easier to wear, and a LOT easier to make.



What is exciting about this one is the fabric. I got some lovely gauzy…. errr…. cotton? gauze? stuff? with purple fluffy knobbly bobbles (so technical) from the Knitting and Stitching show earlier in the year. It’s so light and airy and soft, it’s like wearing a mint green dream. It’s lush. It’s a very loose weave and quite see through so I lined it with some hand dyed hot pink cotton batiste. I even hand sewed the lining bits, as this dress was FANCY. I don’t really know what occasions it is suitable for: where can one go and wear a posh frock, but also flash their pink lining to everyone?! It’s very hard not to do loads of twirls and pink flashes in.


This dress is the softest most comfy party dress known to man. My bust darts are a bit weird, (I ironed them to the side instead of flat) but I don’t mind as I can just swoosh and twirl around all day regardless.


Did you enter the #internationalannaparty? There were some glorious makes there. Check it out on instagram for some annaspiration!


A nautical ESP and fabric shopping in bonnie Scotland

Hi Chaps!

The sign on the stairs in Glasgow's fabulous Tenement House: can Mrs Toward do miracles??

The sign on the stairs in Glasgow’s fabulous Tenement House: can Mrs Toward do miracles??

I’m back from the BEST week in sunny (well, alright, changeable) Scotland. My husband and I went up on the sleeper train and took in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow on our travels. I also managed to do some fabric shopping in Glasgow, and meet up with super lovely fellow sewist Shirley who took me for a little trip to a great place selling super cheap liberty prints (£8 a metre!).


I took quite a lot of me-made clothes on my holidays, including my latest make which is, unsurprisingly, another ESP.

Here I am looking jaunty on a bridge over the Clyde in Glasgow

Here I am looking jaunty on a bridge over the Clyde in Glasgow

I don’t have much to say about this that is different from my previous E.S.P apart from the fact that I did try to lower the neckline by extending the width at the top of the shoulder piece. However, once I had sewed it up, I realised I hadn’t also enlarged my facings, and being incredibly lazy, I just sewed it back up with a much larger seam allowance so the facings fit, instead of drafting new facings. I am the actual worst. However somewhere along the line some magic happened and the neckline is a little bit lower and more comfortable. I obviously can’t repeat this as it is borne out of bodging, but it makes this dress supremely comfortable.


It’s made from a lovely quilting cotton from Moda called More Hearty Good Wishes and features line drawings of boats. It was also pointed out to me that from a distance, they look like suspension bridges which is very excellent.

It was very comfy for wearing around GLORIOUS Glasgow and for doing a spot of fabric shopping in. I only went to Fabric Bazaar and Mandors (OMG Mandors is fabric heaven) which I can heartily recommend but there is a great guide to Glasgow fabric shopping by the wonderful Kestrel Makes, here. It seems to me that fabric shopping in Glasgow is a lot better (by which I partly mean cheaper!) than London. Mandors was magic, full of gorgeous discounted Liberty (what is it with Scotland selling Liberty at half the price of, errr, Liberty?!) and other brands. I got some fabulous floral John Kaldor satiny stuff and a couple of Liberty prints for a tenner a metre. Sadly, tragically, the houses one is for a shirt for Robin. It would make the BEST ESP dress yet.


Luckily, I had already bought myself some Hyderabad Madras Check Liberty for an ESP, so you don’t have to weep for me too much.


I also bought 4m of this amazing giraffe pattern rayony stuff, probably for a Southport maxi, but maybe for some Alexandria peg trousers and a matching cropped t-shirt. As I’m typing this I think that actually might need to happen.

What do you think I should make with my satin and my green Liberty print?! I have 1.5 metres of each…..

I do promise I will make something other than ESPs soon, maybe, but for now I’ll leave you with another pic of this dreamboat dress.


The E.S.P wonderdress



It’s been a month since I posted here last, huge apologies. I’ve been working all hours on (amongst other things) a majorly exciting project at work crowdsourcing LGBTQ heritage. If you are so inclined, read about it here and (long shot!) if you know of any interesting queer historical places, map them on our interactive map here!

But enough of that, back to sewing. I am now getting back to having some stitching time in the evenings, and I am delighted to say, I have been using it very well indeed. I had been having some instagram chats with the wonderful Decades of Style about the cost of postage to the UK because I so desperately wanted their Given a Chance Dress but at the time shipping was extremely expensive. When they told me they had found a cheaper shipper (is that the right word?!) who could post as many patterns as I wanted at a flat rate of $15 dollars, I ordered the Given a Chance dress, and thought I might as well order the E.S.P pattern too because I had seen Tanya at Mrs Hughes make some really glorious versions and wanted some of that action for myself.

When the patterns arrived I fully intended on making the Given a Chance dress first and had been musing on various different yoke/dress combos and then I met my mum for dinner after work. She had made the classic mistake of having a bit of time to kill, and popping into the haberdashery department of John Lewis. Despite generally being a bit horrified by the size of my fabric stash she found a fabric she couldn’t resist and so kindly bought me 3m of this beauty…..


You might not be able to see it here but the flowers are actually a very pale pink and it’s gorgeous. I’m not sure what kind of fabric it is, some kind of cotton blend with  both body and drape, and it’s brilliant. I knew it had to be an E.S.P. And so it became this….


Musing on my stash never getting any smaller

The biggest size was bust 46″ and waist 40″ with little wearing ease. My full bust is 51″ and my waist 45″ so I did the rarest of rare things and made a muslin of the bodice. This told me I needed to add a bit of length to the bodice and a 1 inch FBA. I did not incorporate this into the darts so it also added 2 inches to the waist.I also graded out the waist by another 3 inches at the side seams, and added an inch to each skirt piece. IT WORKED! I cannot believe it!

My final bodice piece and a sneak peek of the fabric I used for ESP number 2

My final bodice piece and a sneak peek of the fabric I used for ESP number 2

The legendary muslin

The legendary muslin

Once muslined, this pattern went together like a dream. It’s really well drafted.


Nice work me on the zip

Nice work me on the zip and nice work wind on the swoosh

The neck is finished with facings which I don’t really like but are necessary for this nice crisp square neckline and they do go in quite easily. I did slightly over clip my corners though and have to hand stitch a hole up, so don’t be too overzealous!


The neckline is really high, so if you are bothered about things around your neck you might want to lower it a bit. There is a great tutorial on Gmariesews  who asked the lovely Decades of Style about how to do this. I only found out about it after I had made a VERY bodgy attempt to lower the neckline on the second version, so will use these instructions on E.S.P. number 3. Yes I do like it that much. It’s supremely comfortable, is a really stylish slightly loose but flattering silhouette, and is great for showing off prints and for using quilting cottons with. I think this is definitely my first tried and true pattern and I am SO happy about it! I’ll leave you with a few more pics of me swishing around merrily in it.

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P.S, I obviously didn’t press the bust darts properly before my ‘modelling’, they really aren’t that prominent in real life, I promise!




April Rhodes Staple Dress: Nailed.

Are you suffering from Januaryitis? I know I am. I feel like shell of my normal self. All I want to do is sleeeeeeeeeep. I should be making myself pyjamas and bed jackets, but instead I have been steadily making lots of summer clothes in the depths of winter. I made these dresses just before Christmas and wore the chevron one on Christmas day: I actually find a light cotton dress with shirring round the tummy is ideal for being stuffed with food and drinking sherry. I have promised myself to make more seasonally appropriate clothes from now on. At least I will do when I have the energy to sew something. This is terrible. I think I must be ill if I can’t muster up enthusiasm for sewing.

So in my current state of extreme laziness I will just post up loads of pictures. It’s a great pattern. I recommend it. Also, I did my first shirring and it’s REALLY FUN.

Under a railway bridge in Birmingham. Perfect modelling location.

Under a railway bridge in Birmingham. Perfect modelling location.


Here I am modelling the frock (and freezing my tits off) on a dodgy side road in Elephant and Castle. I’m not sure why it looks so pointy round the boob area: despite the cold those really aren’t my nipples, and there are no darts. I think I just didn’t pull it down properly.


I don’t know why I look so unimpressed here: look how excellent this dress is! (It’s in Michael Miller quilting cotton: Chic Chevron).

Three whole lines of super fun shirring!

Three whole lines of super fun shirring!


I added a couple of inches of width into the biggest size in this version (I made the floral polycotton one above first, and it was a bit tight around the bum when I put my hands in my pockets) and a couple more inches of length into the bodice.


It works with or without a belt though I think with three lines of shirring I prefer it with a belt. I only did one line on the polycotton below as it was already a bit short and the shirring was pulling up length. I think that version looks better beltless.


Can we just take a moment to appreciate my amazing cardi? My mum knitted it for me for Christmas from a vintage pattern she found in a charity shop (she has a plain burgundy one for herself too) and it is the best. I have only taken it off since I got it for washing. I love it, and it goes very nicely with this dress. I love my mum ❤


Thanks Mum!

The pattern is great and goes together easily. I will definitely be making more next summer.  It does look nice with a thin long sleeve t-shirt underneath for coldr weather, in an awesome kind of 90s indie way which I wholeheartedly embrace. I will however try and make some clothes that are more suitable for winter from now on. Or at least I will when I am cured of Januaryitis. But for now back to bed……… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz






Doing the polka with Violet


I made a BlueGingerDoll Violet to go back to work in. I thought, if I’m not exactly feeling dotty about going back to work after two weeks off, I can at least look dotty. Here she is!

All the dots

All the dots

And here am I modelling her in a stairwell…

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Pretty awesome hey? I used some super cheap super interesting double border print knit stuff that is as light as candy floss and sticks to everything with any kind of rough texture. It’s kind of like the soft bit on velcro. I found this out when I got it stuck to the scratchy bit of a piece of velcro. Boy did this stuff grip on. As you can imagine it was pretty horrible to sew with, though not as horrible as I feared. I guess I’m used to sewing with cheap floppy slippy knits now! As per the very good instructions I reinforced shoulder and some other seams with stay tape, though I used clear plastic elastic instead of he recommended unstretchy tape for the waist band seam: a girl’s got to be able to eat lunch you know. I cut size 20 at the shoulders grading to size 24 at the waist and hip which was good. The waist is actually about 5 inches too small technically, but I like a snug fit! I didn’t lengthen the bodice piece which was silly seeing as I am 5 foot ten with a long torso and big boobs that the fabric has to travel over, so I ended up adding in a three inch piece of black ribbing at the bottom of the bodice piece. I like this, it’s like a belt without a buckle and looks quite slimming. When I make this dress again, I would add about 3-4 inches into the bodice piece.


As you can see I had a lot of fun playing around with the double border print fabric using its shrinking and growing dots to a pretty ‘jazzy’ effect! The Violet has lots of different pieces (i.e two yoke pieces, a bodice piece and a skirt piece on the front) which allow you to colour or pattern block like crazy. I used different size dots for different pieces using the smallest ones at the middle to hopefully optimistically create a sort of  slimming effect. One thing that I found very off about this fabric was that it stretched lengthways instead of horizontally, so there is very little ease/movement in it when sewed up using the dots as I did. It would look odd to have the dots getting smaller or larger horizontally wouldn’t it? It works though, and hasn’t stretched downwards yet.

Deformed shoulders pose

Deformed shoulders pose

I combined the back yoke and back bodice piece to make one piece at the back, so it wasn’t too fussy. (Ha you say, are you kidding yourself? It’s got aaalll the dots all over the place!).I did a ribbing t-shirt style collar binding to match my tummy ribbing, though you can use the main material. My neckline had stretched out rather a lot in the handling of it so I would definitely recommend stay stitching it at the beginning, especially if you are using a light weight fabric. I didn’t actually bother doing the signature ruching at the bust because I thought it would make the neckline too low for work. I will do it in the next version but I will make the neckline slightly higher and cut a slightly thicker bit of ribbing for the neckline binding.

Twin needling on this fabric was pretty horrid, especially because I didn’t want the skirt to be too short so used a tiny hem allowance. The hem is a bit wobbly in places….

Please avert your eyes

Please avert your eyes

But the fabric is busy enough to let me get away with it. I really like this pattern and will definitely make another. I have one MAJOR problem with it though. It comes with different sleeve lengths and a pencil as well as full skirt option (this is the full skirt, long sleeves option, obvs). I was surprised to see that even with full sleeves and full skirt, this pattern was said to only need 1.6 metres of 150cm wide fabric. I had this in a different ikat style jersey print, and folded this on a double fold as the pattern recommended, and there was NO WAY my pattern pieces would fit on it. The skirt piece would not fit on at all, let alone have room to spare as the layout suggested. I ended up using about 2- 2.5m (hard to tell as I cut it up weirdly due to pattern placement). Has anyone else had this problem??


Otherwise, I think the Violet is a grand pattern. I feel very smart in the dress, and it is super comfy. If you haven’t already….Make one! And tell me about it!

Oh, can we just take a moment to appreciate my pretty new shoes….


Thanks bye!

Another blummin Moneta, but it is GOLD

I made this Moneta a while ago, but haven’t blogged it because, well it’s another Moneta and I thought you might be bored of them. But I do have a sweetener: LOOK AT THE FABRIC!!

Gold! Always believe in your soul You've got the power to know You're indestructible

Always believe in your soul
You’ve got the power to know
You’re indestructible

It’s wonderful and ludicrous. It is described as a polyester jersey, but feels like a pair of nylon tights with glitter on. It’s almost plasticky. It clings to your figure. It’s odd. The glitter comes off on EVERYTHING. But it washes fine. It seems to have endless glitter. It never runs out. I got it for £3.99 a metre from Remnant House and I regret nothing. My husband hates it. Our car looks like it’s been turned into a mobile disco after I wore the the dress in it for a long journey.

There’s not much to say about this as I’ve made plenty of Monetas before so I will just leave some pictures of me glinting in the afternoon sun. I should have left it sleeveless because the arms keep rolling up in this weird fabric, but there you go. And yes I am wearing it over jeans for the sake of a hasty photo shoot. It’s not my most triumphant make, or the most flattering, but it is GOLD and that’s enough.

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Subtle, non?

Subtle, non?

Peter Pan in a dress

The original Peter Pan collar as worn by Maude Adams looking doubtful

The original Peter Pan collar as worn by Maude Adams looking doubtful

When I first started sewing, I just cut pattern pieces and fabric out without even really looking at them. I would look at the size chart on the back of the pattern (not the finished garment measurements, as I know now to do) find one that covered my size range in an approximate way, cut up the pattern and then cut out my fabric. I did not know about tracing patterns, or any kind of adjustment or fitting, or pattern ease. The result of this is that back in February or March sometime I cut out a Burda 7137 in a size 28 (!), sewed the bust darts (badly), then panicked that I didn’t understand the instructions, folded up the fabric, put it in a box, and didn’t look at it again for a good six months. In that six months I learnt quite a lot, and decided I was ready to take on my UFO again. I took it out of the box, sewed it together really quite easily, tried it on, and screamed. God god the fit was terrible. It was a good three or four sizes two big on the shoulders, two sizes two big everywhere else. The bust darts were really pointy and in the wrong place. The armholes were enormous. I wasn’t entirely sure how to fix this, so basically just added some long tucks to remove some excess fabric in the back, took in the vertical darts at the front and sewed the armholes again with a ginormous seam allowance.

My 'alteration'

My ‘alteration’

This is what is looks like now.

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It's quite a thing.

It’s quite a thing.

The boob darts are still pointy and I have the most incredible shoulder puff.

Quite the 'design' feature

Quite the ‘design’ feature

I could fix this a bit more properly I think now (I made these ‘alterations’ a few months ago), but I’m too excited by sewing all the new things to waste time on this. There are things I really like about this dress: it’s a fundamentally stylish and  flattering shape (fit issues and poor fabric choices aside) and I am very pleased with how it looks with the contrast Peter Pan collar and cuffs. I also learnt how to do back vents and did a pretty reasonable invisible zip.

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I don’t think there is much point in going back to spend time fiddling around with a dress made in £2.99 a metre polycotton, though if I am going to wear it out the house I am going to have to sort out those bust darts. I love the style though so I will however definitely TRACE a smaller size with bust and shoulder adjustments and make another one in a better quality fabric ( I also didn’t read the fabric recommendations: it said use wool, linen or heavy crepe, not the cheapest polycotton you can find plus a random fat quarter of fancy V&A cotton) and I will line it.

I will have the chance to do this very soon (but not for me, alack) as I am making this very dress for a crafty friend who is going to wear it to a Christmas wedding that she has done all the decorations for. The fabric she has chosen is both gorgeous and much better quality.

So pretty

So pretty

My friend is roughly the same size as me except shorter, and thankfully my cutting of the pattern pieces does not mean that I can’t trace a smaller size to make the alterations. I’m cutting the lining to use for a fitting this weekend: I can’t wait to see how this dress turns out with my newfound knowledge of how to avoid creating Madonna tits.

A voluminous candy striped pillowcase

I ordered one more stretchy bargain jersey along with the two that I had ordered for Moneta Fail and Moneta Success.  This was the most spectacular yet. Oh yes: GIANT pink and white diagonal stripes.  It was in a gorgeously drapey polyester jersey that was made to be a maxi dress. Or at least in my world it was. Other people might not want to walk around looking like a giant candy cane, but I did.

It was however, quite a thin fabric, and I was a little nervous around it after the horrors of the orange moneta, so I chose the laziest option I could find. I actually had a proper simple maxi dress pattern in my stash, but the instructions said the pattern was ‘not suitable for obvious diagonals’. These diagonals were about as obvious as one could get, so I opted instead for this kind of non-pattern. As the author herself says, what you are essentially making here is a giant pillow case with arm and neck holes. As it’s in jersey, the seams aren’t even finished and there are no hems.  Crazy right?  Except being a bit anal at times, I did finish the seams, and attempt to hem things, which didn’t really help or do anything much,  but made me feel a little bit better.

Bad dodgy attempt at neckline hemming

Bad dodgy attempt at neckline hemming

It must be said, without a neat little curvy figure and a flattering angle, the thing can just look like a pillowcase. Look:

The pillowcase at its most pillowy

The pillowcase at its most pillowy

However, belts are a wonderful thing, and I copied Sweet Verbena, and voila! It looked a bit more maxidress, a bit less bedlinen.

Ta da! I almost have a waist...

Ta da! I almost have a waist…

I have worn this more than I thought I would, despite bad hemming, actual horrible faults on the fabric selvedge (that I couldn’t cut off because otherwise it wouldn’t be wide enough) and, well, the ostentatiousness of it, it is so darn comfy. The arm holes are a bit too big as well and you can see the side of my bra, but I just make sure I wear a nice bra as I waft around gloriously in it. As non-patterns using dodgy fabric go, this one is fun and simple and just brilliant to wear. You can knock one up in about 20 mins if you feel like it. Just maybe spend a pound or more on your fabric so you don’t have this weirdness that won’t wash out on your side seam.

Close up of fabric fault

Did someone spill acid on the roll? What is this? (Please excuse total lack of attempt to match stripes)

What’s the quickest or cheapest thing you have ever made?

The Stripey Moneta: A Success!

So, after my major failure with my first Moneta, I did not lose heart. On the contrary, I was filled with a determination to get it right. I was also equipped with a far superior fabric. Oh yes, I had a really nice thick, nautical double jersey knit from Minerva , that was actually cheaper than the orange horror at only £3.99 a metre! By then my super new Sheffield steel scissors had arrived too, and cutting out was a delight. I shortened the waist back to its normal length (which was actually slightly short: third time lucky!) and cut a size smaller. I made the version with the three quarter length sleeves and sewed with a ballpoint needle and twin needled the hems. I have never felt more professional when I threaded the double needle and it actually worked.  I felt like this was the sewing equivalent of making a 6 foot high stack of profiteroles from scratch. It felt ADVANCED. And it looked jolly nice too.  It just goes to show the difference that having good materials and the right kit can make to your sewing. It also really taught me that making a wearable or not actually really wearable muslin beforehand is to be advised, even with forgiving knits. If I hadn’t totally buggered up the orange one, I would have ruined this lovely fabric which has made such a nice dress.

Here it is: my wonkily striped but pretty successful Moneta

Here it is: my wonkily striped but pretty successful Moneta

What I didn’t quite manage was to remember that I might want the stripes to look a bit smoother or match at the waistline. I was so bothered about sewing a nice smooth seam under the elastic (I  had tried to sew over the elastic last time, ending up with a ridiculously small seam allowance which turned into holes instantly as the weight of the skirt pulled it down) that I didn’t even think about how the stripes would look sewn together. I also hadn’t thought about how the stripes would look when I was cutting it out.  As you can see, they don’t look quite right. When you are learning to sew, trying to remember all the new things you are learning is like juggling, and I’m dropping balls all the time. But still, this dress is pretty good: it’s robust, comfortable and flattering, so what do a few wonky stripes matter?  I wear it all the time and get lots of compliments. Another new Moneta is happening this weekend when a friend is coming to stay and sew with me. I’m making a lined sleeveless one with a collar, and my friend who is pregnant is making a teal one with room to expand in. Hopefully I will get the waist line right finally, and hers will look good now, and in a few months time when she is rounder! Watch this space!