Burn After Reading

Since Christmas, when Santa gave my daughter these sweet and luxuriously soft wrapover pyjamas, I’ve been meaning to copy them and make my own.  No buttons, you see, thus perfect for sleeping on the tummy.  Did You Make That‘s Pyjama Party Sewalong  provided the perfect incentive for getting on with the project, with Karen’s well-timed and clearly explained tutorials illuminating every step of the trouser-making process.  What could possibly go wrong? 

Well, considering:

1. My tendency towards thriftiness, coupled with a knack for picking loony fabrics….?  Once upon a time, this Morocco-inspired duvet cover from Jonelle attracted much admiring comment.  I loved its deep indigo colour with light blue and silver embroidery .  Nine years of hot washes were beginning to show though and the fabric was looking thin in places, but reluctant to turn it into dust sheets yet, I decided it deserved a genteel retirement as my pyjamas.  A bit of upcycling, thought I.  How now! 

It wasn’t a good idea.  Here’s a lesson: tired fabrics don’t make tired people look any fresher!   

And here’s lesson 2.  To the amateur designing her own patterns: it’ll take more than one draft!  I thought a wrapover top design would be fairly straight-forward.  After all, there aren’t any darts or contours.  But whilst this may be true of designing a wrap for a child, it doesn’t much flatter a woman’s shape.  The result is a flat, mannish silhouette, made far worse by the “exotic” fabric;  less Coco Chanel, more manservant bringing a tea platter to the memsahib.  And the ties create bulk in the waist area.  

Reader, if you want to show this picture to your friends, for a laugh, like, I’d urge you to do so right away because this post is gonna be torched!

So did anything go right?   Sure, not only did I learn a couple of valuable lessons, I also got to draft the “Trousers Master Pattern” from the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.  It was easy and the only adjustment I made was to straighten the sides for a looser shape.  Karen’s tip on the triple-marked back notches was noted and I appreciate the clear explanation on telling the front from the back: I’ll keep these in mind when I make these again out of some lovely flannel.  If anyone knows of a flattering yet comfortable wrapover pattern that I could use for the top, I’d appreciate the tip.   

Oh,  and my bedtime book.  3.5 out of 5 for “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer.  It centers around Juliet, a young writer in post-war London, who by chance begins correspondence with a group of characters from Guernsey.  They reveal how their literary society came to be formed against a background of the island’s German occupation.  It’s a moving and thought-provoking story set in a time and place of which I hitherto knew nothing.  But like my mannish pyjamas, I don’t want to reveal too much!!  You’ll have to read it yourself. 

Beast Bunting

If you suffer from an aversion to bunting, look away now.  In fact, you might as well emigrate because this June, bunting promises to be everywhere!  Miles are being produced for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and schools all over the UK are taking part in a competition to see who can produce the longest stretches.

My bunting recipe might suit you if you need a prezzie for a certain Queenie in your life (the girl who has almost everything) but cannot stomach buying another plastic toy.  It takes 3 to 4 hours to make, maybe less if you’re quick and organized.  Keeping the flags in ordered piles is key!

You will need:

  •  A cardboard flag template in a triangle shape, measuring 22cm across and 22cm down.  This includes 1cm seam allowances.
  • Suitable sized templates for your characters and letters.  I use my kids’ stencils and cookie cutters.
  • 0.5 metres by 140cm of bright, lightweight flag fabric.  I used a “Fiesta by Poppy” fabric from Rolls and Rems at £8.95 per metre.
  • To personalize the bunting with letters and characters, you need a 0.1m length of a strongly contrasting fabric that will stand out as much as possible against the flag fabric.  Although it’s not essential, I like to interface my character fabric so that the shapes don’t fray.
  • Thread which must match the character fabric as closely as possible.
  • 2.5 metres of matching ribbon or bias binding, 25mm wide.  I use satin ribbon which is cheap and has a nice sheen.  The downside to satin ribbon is that it doesn’t feed as evenly nor stretch as bias binding does.


1. Draw your characters on the wrong side of the fabric (don’t forget to reverse them) then cut them out.


2. With the fabric on fold, cut 10 pairs of flags. Pin the characters to one set only of the flag fabric.  I press the flags lightly to mark the middle.


3. Using a zig zag stitch, sew the characters onto the flags.  This part requires the most patience and if you’re new to applique, you might want to practise on some scraps.  Begin and end each with the needle going into the character, not the flag.  Pivot often.

4. With the right sides together, sew long sides of the flags to their backing, leaving tops open.  Turn right sides out, pushing points out carefully, and press.


5. Leaving the first 25cm for the tie-end, pin the flags to the ribbon/bias binding.  This should leave the end 25cm free to make the end tie.  Stitch.

7. Check for stray threads, press and package!

Cute Buttons

Check out the dude on the left! The one with the teeth?  Pretty scary-looking, huh, but once you cover those hooks with fabric and snap the lid on, you end up with a plump cutie that will match the garment you’re making perfectly, and all at a cost of 30p plus some scraps of your fabric and time.   

My “button blanks” came from a curtain furnishings store and measure 17mm wide.  To cover them, I made 35mm discs of interfaced gingham (the lid of a Berocca tube proved a perfect template!).  The interfacing is a good idea if you’re after plumpness and solid colour.  Without it, the metallic surface of the button would reflect light through the fabric, if it’s of the thin kind.  If you don’t want your button to have the bulk of interfacing, you could paint the button surface in a suitable shade of opaque nail varnish.

Gertie’s tutorial was invaluable in providing the other tip for a creating a professional finish.  With your machine, make a gathering stitch (i.e. loose tension, longish stitch) round the edge of the fabric disc, leaving tentacles of thread hanging.  Pull on the bobbin tentacles till the disc morphs into a little cap.   Now place the toothed button into the cup, pull on the bobbin threads some more and hook all of the fabric onto the teeth as tightly as possible.  Snap on the back (press hard with your fingertips rather than your nails) and when you hear a cute, satisfying click, you’re done.  

I deliberately made one button without using Gertie’s method, by pressing a flat disc onto the teeth.  It didn’t look as good (notice the gathers around the edge) so it’s really worth those extra 3-4 minutes to make the caps! 

The dude on the left is the slacker!

Now I’ve discovered these, I’m going to grab some more button blanks and use them in craft projects: to decorate bags, adorn hairclips, or any other suggestion you may care to throw my way.  Probably not a good idea to give them to babies and pets though….



Polly Jean

New glad rags needed!  My daughter is going to quite a few parties this month (oh, to be invited to so many parties….) so I wanted to make her a couple dresses which she’ll wear with her usual happy aplomb and which will enable me to try out some design ideas I’ve been curious about for a while.  

In making this flower-printed dress, I was after a self-tutorial in the making of Leg of Mutton sleeves.  Now, some of my favourite sewing bloggers are doubtful, snickering even, of LoM ever coming back into fashion –  which might be a relief if your shoulders tend towards the broad.  But I’ve grown to love this look on PJ Harvey

As surprising in her costumes as she is in her music, for the last few years Polly Jean has worn long, narrow dresses winged starkly by Leg of Mutton sleeves and I’m quite admiring of how this transforms her slender silhoutte into one that’s aloof and  imposing.  

My version of the sleeve didn’t turn out quite so dramatic so no definitive recipe for Leg of Mutton yet, but here’s what I did to the sleeve block to get this high, slightly cupped version.  

Firstly, I made the dress block and the sleeve block by following Winifred Aldrich’s instructions in “Metric Pattern Cutting”.  I cut the sleeve block into two: the Upper Sleeve to cover the shoulder and the bicep, and the Lower Sleeve to stay in its original narrow form. 

The Upper Sleeve is the grey area in this image. 

This I slashed and spread to add 4cm of extra width to the original width of 21cm (I could have been more generous!).  I added 0.5cm to the top of the sleeve (marked “added fullness” in the picture) before adding the sleeve allowances. 

The other design idea I wanted to try is to add a scalloped line in a contrasting fabric on the dress front and back.  I tried to cut a pattern with a scalloped edge to join to another of the same but the result was rubbish.  In the end  I had two identical pieces of the blue satin sewn right sides together and the seam allowances clipped very close to the seam line.  This was turned, pressed, then topstitched onto the bodice which looks ok but is rather bulky and a bit trying on the zip in the back. If I were to attempt this again, I’d use appliqué instead.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had more success with scallops (do forgive another culinary pun).