“Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?”

I read Lucy Siegel’s book ‘To die for, is fashion wearing out the world’ when it came out a couple of years ago Recently Zoe who writes the blog ‘short stories of shapely seams’ did a great post on upcycling a horrendous looking top, find the post here. Zoe questioned the prices and manufacturing methods of some clothing companies. I suggested that this book would be a good read.

Here’s a link to Zoe’s book review and her thoughts on making your own, give it a read!

A bit of knitting

I know it’s not sewing but there was still plenty of stitches involved.

This was my first attempt at knitting socks. I wanted to end up with a pair of proper everyday socks that would take the place of shop bought ones.

finished (1295 x 1082)

I buy all my socks from M&S and recently I’ve found that that there is a weak point at the heel gusset that goes into a hole, on some occasions this has happened only after a few wears.

Every so often I think I should pack them all up and send them to their QC department with a ranting note. So instead of wasting money on substandard socks, I thought I’d make my own.

I got the pattern free from my local haberdashery shop. It is a leaflet from www.viridianyarn.com For the wool I ordered on line from www.loveknitting.com

My enthusiasm waned during the knitting of the first sock. I didn’t think it was that great around the heel area. Initially I was a bit puzzled by the picking up of stitches along the edge of the gusset, I thought the piece was too long for just 15 stitches but it wasn’t.

So I think that part could have been neater. When I got to the end of the toe shaping I had 1 less stitch than I should have. I thought ‘grafting’ the ends of the toe together through the remaining stitches was great giving a really neat finish. Both socks ended up with a bit of a knobble at one end so I need more practice. I also think it’s fab that you cast on stitches and then it’s one continuous length until you finish the toe grafting and you have a completed sock. No sewing up.

The first sock took about 12 hours to knit spread over 8 days. But once sock one was finished and I tried it on my enthusiasm came back. The second sock was quicker, I managed to get it done over 5 evenings.

in progress 2 (1368 x 1824)

I chose the wool because I really liked the plum colour running through it but when I knitted it up those colours hardly appear. It’s quite odd as when you look at the ball you can see quite a bit of it.  I’ve signed up to www.Ravely.com a knitting forum where there are loads of free sock patterns. I’m also really temped to buy this book about ‘toe – up’ knitted socks but I’m resisting as buying a sock book when I can get free patterns is an unnecessary expenditure.

They’ve had their first wear and I can see room for improvement. Firstly they are a little bit big in length and circumference, so for next time I’ll know to cast on less stitches and shorten the foot. These have been knitted in plain stocking stitch (knit every row) but a rib pattern helps with keeping they staying up.

I can’t say I’ll never buy a pair of socks for myself again but I think I’ll give knitting my own another go.

Silk Blouse

I needed something to wear for an evening reception and decided to make something to go with an existing printed silk skirt from M&S. I picked the duckegg colour from the print and chose a matching colour crepe de chine from Beckford Silk. Luckily the amount I needed was just under 1mt so I didn’t think it too extravagant.


I self-drafted the pattern referring to Winifred Aldrich’s gathered bust seam and cap sleeve. Adding a button back opening and a front keyhole detail.

It should have been a simple top to sew up but being silk the seam allowances needed special treatment.

I did French seams on the shoulders and used self-fabric bias strips to bind the edges of the curved front seam and the side seams. If I had thought about it before cutting out I would have made the seam allowances wider than 1.5cm so that I could have trimmed one side down and then folded the other over. I machined the bias strips on, folded over the trimmed seam allowance and hand stitched down. I had sewn the shoulder seams first but if I were to do again I’d use the bias strips on the shoulder seam rather than a French seam.

bias bound inner seams

bias bound inner seams

I used silk organza to interface the back opening. I was tempted to be quick and use lightweight iron on interfacing but knew it was worth the extra time to do it properly.

back (988 x 1088)

I used self-covered buttons which I found in a box which must be at least 20 years old. I used to use them all the time and bought them in boxes of 100 from the local haberdashery shop. These still had the price on of £8.75 for the box. Not sure what they’d cost now. (Just googled here, £13.20 inc VAT so not that much change in 20 years!)

tie front (1368 x 1824) (684 x 912)

I bound the front opening with a narrow bias strip and then used bias for the neck opening. I made the bias strip using the 2 pin method, it works really well. It’s explained here in a blog post by Pattern Pandemonium, quite simple really but in the past I would have just burnt my fingers with the iron.

making the bias binding

making the bias binding

I’m going to make again in a Liberty Tana Lawn which should be much quicker as I don’t plan to do all that hand stitching for seam finishes. Before I do I need to add a couple of cms to the hip width, when tucking in it fits fine but wearing it out over jeans I needed to leave the bottom button undone. The fabric was really lovely to sew and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat – In Progress….

Back in spring I was thinking about jackets and settled on the idea of a trench coat then thought I’d have a go at making one. I googled patterns and my favourite was the Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat.

materials (1824 x 1368)

The main fabric is a stone coloured gabardine from Calico Laine. The pattern is unlined but I decided to underline with a patterned cotton which I picked up from John Lewis. It is a Tanya Wheelan print, it was on sale at half price which helped with the decision. The seam allowances are bound so I bought a matching red ready made bias binding. The style needs 16 or 17 buttons and I finally found some reasonably priced ones on Simply Sewing. I bought two sizes, one size for the front opening and slightly smaller ones for the epaulettes, back yoke and cuff tabs.

Just to make it more of a challenge I decided to try bound button holes for the first time. I started off by following the patch method described in Gertie’s new book for better sewing. They weren’t very successful so I tried the method where you make two tiny welts but this looked even worse. I had a look in Claire Schaffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques and this had the patch method so I tried again. I re-drew the pattern piece straight onto the interfaced fabric and marked all the seam allowances and the position of the button hole. The point on the first epaulette I made wasn’t quite even so by drawing the stitching lines I could get it spot on.

tab markings (600 x 450)

 I stitched a large square patch to the front of the button hole carefully stitching along my drawn lines, counting the stitches on the short side and making sure I did the same amount on the opposite end. One tip I read was to start in the centre of one of the long sides, not at a corner. After some careful snipping I turned the patch to the wrong side and folded to create the welts making sure they were of equal width. I secured them by ‘stitching in the ditch’ by hand and then stitching by machine the little triangle fold back at each end of the welts inside.

button hole (600 x 450)

So after a bit (a lot) of practice I was happy with the results. To make the corresponding opening in the underside I used a patch of lighter weight fabric, which once folded through I topstitched around. By following the drawn on stitching lines the shape of the epaulettes worked out well.

epaulette (600 x 450)

I’ve made up the shoulder yoke with the button hole and have started on the cuff tabs. Once those are out of the way I need to crack on with the button holes for the front opening.  4 on the front piece and 3 on the under piece. I think I’m putting off starting them and doing other bits first, collar has been made up and everything underlined.

The weather is turning and autumn is nearly here so I need to get this finished……