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Obsessive Compulsive…?

After at least 14 dresses of the same style I’m resisting the urge to do the same with my latest Burda coat pattern. I wore coat number 1, made in fashion-victim leopard print. I wore it a lot. Everyday, in fact, for nigh on three mild weathered weeks in September/October. Suffice to say it’s a little whiffy now as I refused to take it off even in the warmest throes of our Indian summer (unseasonably sunny autumn…).

And now, hey presto! I have created another one. This time out of black corduroy with a suitably magician-like crimson lining.

I was all set to purchase bale of material number 3 when I put the sewing machine brakes on. ‘But I haven’t quite finished my abracadabra cloak-coat!’ I suddenly exclaimed. ‘I mean – it still has no buttonholes, not to mention the buttons…’

So I read and read and read the ‘how to sew buttonholes’ section of my sewing machine manual. Some hours later, after managing to change the foot, I gave it a go.
Argh! I gave (in my soul of course) the most blood-curdling of screams. I had to mentally hold myself back from hurling the machine on the floor and storming off.

‘Why me?’ I lamented, self-pity oozing from every orifice.

You may not understand this and, truth to tell, from a distance neither do I. I mean, who is that ridiculous woman? However, it was me. I was that person who wanted to run away and cry at the unfairness of it all. At how the gods had conspired against me, thwarted my best efforts, mocked me from on high, caused me to suffer such anguish. Don’t get me started on the slings and arrows…

Then I pulled myself together and admitted defeat.


Oh the shame.

Ten minutes later ‘I’ had finished my coat – 3 buttonholes and all.

But it’s seriously wrong-footed my serial coat-making tendencies. I’ll not be getting back on that horse for a while.

Time to turn to my trusty knitting needles. A timely seasonal adjustment of activities which doesn’t involve machines …

leopards and spots


yes I made it?
yes I made it?

After my Hansel and Gretel moment with the washing powder at the supermarket a few months ago, then my falling foul of a serial flatterer pedalling the lines  ‘you are the most stylish woman in Bishopston'(shame on him)  you might have thought, hoped, that I would know better by now. But no.

As I turned up at the airport to drop off a child, feeling sad that he was going, as well as suffering some existential angst about the formlessness of my own life, a woman came up to me and said, ‘It’s you! The woman with the coat!’


For a while I was confused but felt pleased. Whatever she was talking about was clearly a pleasant thing as she was smiling and nodding at me with such vigour and enthusiasm. Then another woman came across.

hi kitty...
hi kitty…

‘Oh yes, we love your coat. We’ve been talking about it all week!’ As I was wearing my handmade leopard skin jacket (which I think looks uncannily like one I’ve seen Kate Moss wear), I presumed that this must be the fabulous coat they were talking about. 

Before I could stop myself it was as if they’d pressed some button which I could not override.

‘Oh yes. I made it. It took me forever!’

I made it!
I made it!

‘You made it?’ They exclaimed. Genuinely amazed.


As they then returned to the theme of the coat, how beautiful it was, its length, its unusual colour , I started to realise that they weren’t talking about my leopard skin number after all. Sherlock brain now fully engaged I understood that it couldn’t have been as they mentioned that they had first seen it ‘last week”, it was ‘a most beautiful shade of blue‘ , and,  as for the material out of which it was made, ‘What was that? Boucle?’ As I stroked my feline friend, soft and silkily furry to the touch I thought, ‘No, I don’t think you would, could, call it that…’

I made it...

For a moment I felt my angst cloud descend upon me once more as I imagined that these happy, dazzlingly smiley women had mistaken me for someone else.

But then they were back on track, describing in incredible detail (such are the powers of observation in the fashion conscious female) me  and my very expensive ~(for me) ‘Damsels in a Dress’ coat which, indeed, I had been wearing seven days earlier. As I basked in their admiration I added that I had made the one I was wearing ‘as well’ …

Then I left. Quickly. Before I could blurt out the truth. Beaming.

As for the child, well I’ll be seeing him again soon enough. And as for the existential angst, let’s just say that it’s amazing to think how the world can seem a better, more welcoming place after just a few appreciative smiles and kindly, approving comments.

So. What have I learned about myself from this episode? That I am a serial liar? Maybe. That I am susceptible to the beguiling words of sycophants? Possibly. That I am shallow? Most definitely. Or (and) that I am just like anyone else who likes it when people say nice things to them?

Now it’s time to get back home and start spreading the word, the words, some kind, appreciative words … to others. 

Sewer’s finger? Writer’s block?

Call it what you will, I just can’t summon up the energy to write about or sew any frocks for Friday this week. After discovering that I could buy them for less than the price to make them , my sewing fire has been extinguished.

However, as I sit here in one of said cheap dresses, it really doesn’t make me feel the way my handmade frocks did. That is, ‘special’ in a dangling-threaded, uneven-hemmed sort of way.

So they might not have been perfect but the very fact that I had made them rendered them exquisite objects in my eyes, thrilling and amusing me in equal measure. Thrilling because, hey, I’d made a dress. That I could wear. Amusing because I knew that it was not a thing of perfection.  And that I had chosen an, in some cases, tasteless fabric.

Now I’m certainly not thrilled and my smacked-arse face cannot even raise a smile.

Perhaps it’s worth the extra fiver for the material after all…

Bring back the spirit of Frock Friday.

Seasonal Adjustment…

Gone. The sun has gone. One minute I’m worried that I might dissolve vampire-like with the rising of the sun, the next that I might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to the sudden onset of rain, wind and unremitting grey skies. Accept it climate – you can’t win.
And my wardrobe is packed full of at least 15 summer dresses (with high factor sun cream on the side table close by). And those dresses have served me well.
But now, I fear, it’s time to put them away. Until next year.
Yet without them I have very little to wear…
Time to buy another pattern. An autumn/winter season pattern.

Cue Burda pattern
3 skirts in one pattern – above-the-knee skirt, just-over-the-knee skirt and long skirt ( but not too long).  3 pattern pieces, lining, interfacing and an 8 inch zip. Oh, and a button. Can’t be too difficult, surely…
My sewing protégée, Dotty Hardcastle, has a sewing aunt who very generously bequeathed to her a wonderful stash of the most beautiful fabric, ideal for the Burda skirt pattern. Worsted, check and corduroy. She very generously split it down the middle so that I had 3 lots of material in just the right lengths to make 3 just-above-the-knee Burda skirts. All I had to buy was the lining, interfacing (never before used but was intrigued to see if it really did make a difference), cotton and zip. Oh and buttons.
And it was in just the right colours.

Let me introduce my ‘gold’ skirt in beautiful-to-work-with worsted.

It has to be said that I had great trouble finishing this skirt. Not least because I found the Burda pattern so hard to follow. Perhaps the pattern writers at Burda assume knowledge that I do not possess.  I accept that a skirt with 4 pieces (1 waistband, 1 front and 2 back pieces) shouldn’t be too difficult to work out but… I wasn’t sure which dart line to follow and as for the back flaps I’m still not sure if I’ve done these correctly. Then there was the hem line. As for this error – it was all my own work. Assuming that sewing a hem would be easy I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I tried on the old gold skirt and saw that I had spent hours sewing up what can only be described as a gently sloping (on the diagonal) hemline. Even I could not live with it and was shamed into unpicking it and trying it on my dressmaking model. And it took me ages. I would pin up. Stand back. Too short on the left. Adjust. Stand back. Too short on the right. Adjust. Adjust. Adjust. And in the end I didn’t care if it wasn’t perfectly even. It was good enough. And as for the lining, that at least went in like a dream.

It looks so mundane. Just a normal, unexceptional skirt. But it feels so beautiful to wear.
After making it I looked at my Boden catalogue. And it was full of similar skirts.  Ok, so they might be better finished off with a level hem but really…
Total cost of gold skirt
1 metre lining = £1.03 (Fabricland)
1 8in (20 cm) zip = 65p (Fabricland)
1 reel cotton = ? (can’t remember)
1 1/2 metres worsted = free – a shared gift from Dotty’s auntie Sheila (a joy to cut, sew, touch and wear).
Total = £3 (approximately)
(although to buy the worsted would have probably cost me quite a lot)

Then I made the Burda skirt in green corduroy.


 This time there wasn’t enough material to make the flap at the back but as the skirt isn’t short-short it doesn’t really matter. I chose a bright green lining for that cheeky flash of colour.

Cost again only £3 because of auntie Sheila’s generosity. I tried to mix it with other greens but as you can see, it didn’t really work…

note shadow of my long-suffering husband, pulled away from what he’s doing to take a photo of the skirt…

The last Burda skirt to be made up using auntie Sheila’s stash looks like this.


Strangely formal and not particularly wild or oomphy it’s true, but it’s lovely. The material, a wool check, cut and sewed up beautifully and when lined this skirt also feels wonderfully tailored and a joy to wear.

The zips even went in easily. Oops, still not got round to putting in the button…

Here’s another cheeky flash! Oh, but look at the colour of the thread…As ever, my clothes don’t survive close scrutiny.
 But hey, from a distance who can tell?!

I think I’ve worked out the formula –
New machine and good fabric = beautiful clothes

And for just £9 I’ve got 3 well-made skirts! Cheers Sheila!


Rosie Green the upcycling Queen

Rosie. Rosie, Rosie, Rosie.

Rosie ran round this morning, leaving her sewing machine still warm on her kitchen table,  to show me … her version of The PSD (=Perfect Summer Dress). Apparently she was inspired by my frocks but really I know that she can’t wait to give me a master-class in finishing off. Properly. Rosie you see has a reliable machine. And an overlocker. But it’s not just that. She is really competent at making a garment to a very high standard. At finishing off.

Unlike me.

As I was looking at patterns in John Lewis the other day a very sweet woman struck up a conversation about the importance of finishing off properly.

The conversation went something like this –
Perfect sewing woman : Oh, most people have no idea how long it takes to make something.
Slapdash sewing woman (me) : Oh yes. That’s true. No idea.
Perfect sewing woman: You have to finish all the seams and that alone can take ages.
Slapdash sewing woman (me): True again. All the seams. Ages.
Perfect sewing woman: But it’s worth it.
Slapdash sewing woman (me): Oh all too true. So worth it.

As conversations go it was banal, I grant you. But I suppose that now that I’m in the sewing circle of trust , as it were, I need to up my game.

Not least because as I walked away, wearing my white strawberry dress which I had hurriedly knocked together on the weekend, not a properly finished seam in sight, I could feel a piece of stray cotton dangling against my leg. I hope she didn’t notice.

Labelled in the past by my mother-in-law as a ‘slack knitter’ ( for which there is no known cure ), I want to avoid the epithet of ‘slack sewer’. 

Cue Rosie Green. In the coming weeks I will be referring to her greater sewing wisdom to help me on the road to sewing salvation as well as featuring garments she has made. As a passionate advocate of upcycling she has long been dressing the great and the good of St Andrews with her upcycled, well finished off creations, many of which I hope to feature in the coming months.

How to upcycle a size 22 skirt into a size 10 dress with Rosie Green
* Get one very large skirt from a charity shop (the Gloucester Road has loads)
* Cut to fit by cutting out a section of material along the side seam . Sew.
* Use excess material to create shoulder straps.
* Go to a charity shop to get a big belt to pull the dress in at the waist thereby avoiding extra sewing.

Ta da!