Two Peas in a Pod

It’s a fine line between being fashionable and looking like you can’t dress yourself properly.”

This damning quote came not from some enfant terrible of Brit fashion but from my own DH who during a quiet moment in a waiting room took a leaf through my Pattern Magic Stretch, saw this and laughed out loud:

What about this?  Two peas in a pod,”  I asked.  I was looking for a quickie with which to join Lisa of Only the Small for the first installment of her monthly challenge Project Pattern Magic.   

DH paused thoughtfully then said, “that would look good on really skinny people.” 

Well I made it anyway 😯 Here:

How to Make

1. Shrink the stretch bodice front pattern to 65% of original size

2. Enlarge the back to 135%. 

3 Gather the back with ease stitches and sew to the front. 

Easy peasy 🙂

4 You may then use cuffs, waistband and neckband to finish. 

I used my Renfrew pattern, now I know it fits me, and included sleeves as I didn’t fancy the kimono style in the book – too much excess in the armpits!  One advantage to using the Renfrew pattern is that it includes seam allowances (though not on the sleeve which I cut in half at the shoulder then added the SA).  Once the front and back were sewn together,  the original-sized Renfrew cuffs, neckband and waistband fit the new T perfectly.

Tip: I recommend using a copier with an A3 bed, i.e. one large enough for naked drunks to sit on at office parties… oh how I miss abusing work facilities!  Doing it piecemeal on an A4 machine was the only time consuming part to this project. 

The Verdict

Two Peas in a Pod is an ideal Pattern Magic project if you’re in a hurry, especially if you have a TNT stretch pattern that you can quickly shrink and enlarge. 

The nicest design features, in my opinion, are the ruching on the inner side and the horseshoe neckline.  The downside?  Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that the shrunken front appears under a certain glare like a tiny person – my inner teeny dancer if you like – waiting to get out.  

If ever it does, I’ll stamp on it!


Some say that a couple of hours is all it takes to make the Sewaholic Renfrew top, but after buying a first edition of the pattern which unbeknownst to me contained a mistake, I nearly met my nemesis! 

The error applies to View C, the Cowl neck version, which I combined with the full-length sleeves of View A.  It looks like this: 

The correction is in red.  Initially, I followed instinct and sewed the pieces right sides together.  Realizing that what I’d done didn’t match the text, I sliced off the offending seam and stitched as instructed 🙄  The result – no matter in which direction I turned it – didn’t so much resemble a cowl as a Möbius strip…. Luckily I had my family around me, so could freely vent my frustration on them (I think one innocent brought up the topic of it being “lunch”, poor lamb…).  When I turned to Google, hoping, with a remaining iota of self-esteem, that the fault may not be with my uselessness but with the instructions, I uncovered a trail of  warnings (like this one) and found this link to Sewaholic’s Errata page.  “We do our best to make our patterns error-free,” it says, though I wonder why not supply distributors with erratum slips which could be inserted inside pattern envelopes with relative ease (surely?).

The Fit

Very good!  I made size 6 (I’m a UK 12) and the top fits very well over skinny jeans or leggings.  To wear over rugged jeans and with belts, I’d need to grade a size up from the waist down.  The cowl is teacher-friendly in that it won’t compromise your modesty when bending over desks!


Before adding the cuffs and waistband, I tried the top on and thought the hem and the sleeves were an ideal length.  I was tempted to turn under and sew but doubted I’d be able to finish off professionally.  In the end, I shortened the cuffs and waistband by 1.5cm (i.e. I took off 3cm from each pattern piece).  Had I not, I might have ended up with a boy’s pyjamas look.  Tip: If you’re on the short side and comfortable hemming jersey on your machine, cut the waistband and the cuffs only once you know you’ll use them.

 The Fabric

Lovely, warm and rather heavy jersey from A1 Fabrics in Goldhawk Road, W12.  In picking a striped fabric, I’d made life a bit more difficult for two reasons.  Firstly, the obvious stripe matching.  It worked out ok, though not perfect.  Evidence:

The other downside of striped jersey is that the recommended zigzag stitch shows up on the right side in places where the thread doesn’t match the fabric.  Exhibit:

When I realized this was gonna be ugly (- think Frankenstein -) I bypassed all the zigzags with a straight stitch.



I really like my top: it’s warm, practical and quite good looking though it wouldn’t have passed the RTW test: I mean that if I saw it in the shop for the price of the pattern (£12) plus fabric (1.5m at £4.50), I wouldn’t have bought it.  Buy this pattern to make more than once.  Find your fit and make it again and again, combining the variations in the neckline and sleeve length, or like I intend to, making own design changes.  I’m sure that next time, it will only take 2 hours!

Hollywood Costume at the V&A Giveaway

If you’re in London this week, it’s your final chance to catch the Hollywood Costume at the V&A exhibition.  The bad news is that it’s a sold-out show but if you’re one of V&A’s 33,000 members, you can get in any time without booking and take one guest (which is how I went, thanks Carol!).  Thinking of becoming a member and got some Christmas gift money to spend?!  This might be your ticket!

Anyone who loves film will find one of their favourite characters.  OK, so the stars may be missing but there’s none of that deadness of a wax museum here. There’s music, movie clips and, in some cases, screens of actors’ faces poised just above their outfits.  Best of all are the write-ups explaining how the costumes were made and by whom, and giving other info such as what the criteria for designing them were.  For a seamstress like myself, this more than adequately fleshed out the material content, e.g did you know that the crown of Indiana Jones’ Fedora had to be altered as the original shape didn’t flatter Harrison Ford’s head (now, what does that remind me of?  This!) whereas the brim had to be shortened so that the camera could peer under and catch the face. 

Photography in the exhibition is not permitted but I have some of the films at home and so took stills to give you an idea of what’s there:

Dorothy’s blouse and dress, rather modest and faded-looking, and quite unlike the garish fancy-dress versions we’ve become accustomed to.  The shoes are just as red and sparkly as you’d imagine though.

Designed by Edith Head, this lovely two-piece eau-de-nil suit worn by Tippi Hedren in The Birds.  Hitch apparently didn’t like costume to compete with the content of film.

Cleopatra‘s black chiffon gown, embellished with hundreds of coral and pearl sequins.

This white linen dress, worn so very briefly, but made exquisitely and fit for a goddess.  The third Cleopatra item in the exhibition is the green silk dress at the top of this post which happens to be one of my favourite exhibits: worn by Claudette Colbert in the 1934 film.  It owes less to Egypt and more to the Art Deco style lines of of the time.  Also here is Guinevere’s dress from Camelot, a film which I never thought I’d want to see again till now I’ve seen a close-up of the most interesting wedding dress ever, made by hundreds of skilled cutters, embroiderers and seamstresses and sewn in with thousands of tiny, translucent shells and pumpkin seeds

I noticed as I walked around Hollywood Costume that the visitors to this exhibitions were pretty much divided 50:50 along the male/female lines (this isn’t something I would have said of Ballgowns or Quilts!)  Ladies, this is a testosterone-tolerant show alright so if you have a dad, son or a date, bring along!  You can marvel together at the slimness of Travis Bickle‘s waist.  Or laugh at Borat‘s 1980s-inspired suit (“It had no style whatsoever!” boasts the designer).  Or maybe pay homage to the dressing gown of The Dude, the overly-comfortable garment worn for the writing of the $0.67 cheque scene.  Question: why did the designers have to procure 4 dressing gowns for The Dude?! A. ‘Cause he had to keep getting his bonce shoved down the bog!!

The Gift Shop Goodies Birthday Giveaway 

This blog’s 1st birthday is soon coming up and on the 8th Feb I’ll be celebrating by giving away 3 V&A/Hollywood Costume prizes: 

1. V&A magazine, the winter edition, including an interview with the costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who is also the curator of this exhibition.


 2. A Hollywood Shopper

An A4-sized shopper of the kind you sewistas could knock off in about 5 mins, but it’s very starry and it’s nice to win sometimes, right?!

3. Postcards from the exhibition (plus sparkly pencil)

Kim Novak’s Vertigo outfit designed by Edith Head (and not unlike something out of a Boden winter catalogue), Scarlett O’Hara’s velvet curtain dress designed by Walter Plunkett and Dorothy’s red shoes, which apparently had to make themselves absent from the exhibition for a week during Thanksgiving last year when they were returned to the U.S.  (they must be magic!)

To win one of the above, enter the draw by commenting below.  Tell me what your all-time favourite Hollywood costume is and/or answer this question, however wrongly …

Q Who am I?

a) My costume is at the V&A

b) I wear leather jeans à la Jim Morrison (PHWOAR!!)

c) … and a Nazi helmet ( … 😯 )

d) … and World War I trench armour (…. 😕 )

e) … and a big plastic calculator (…. 😀 )

And don’t even think about typing the above into Google as you’ll probably break the Internet…


Vogue 1247 Winner

So, all the names were entered into the Cossack hat (it took ages! lol) and the winner of the Vogue 1247 Pattern Giveaway is……………. Tulle and Tweed!

Congratulations Annie.  Please email me a postal address.  I look forward to seeing what you make of this pattern!

Everybody else: it’s this baby blog’s 1st birthday soon and I’m planning a special giveaway so do tune in the next few weeks!

Those thinking of making the V1247 skirt: you have my blessing.  My daughter says it looks like a “work skirt”, possibly because I used pinstripe.  But the fabric is actually a stripe-print moleskin so though I look like a bossy-boots, I feel quite soft and cuddly!  And unlike wool pinstripe, I don’t see this one wearing out or going shiny with wear.

But was it worth buying a fairly expensive pattern for a skirt that I’ve made before using my Basic Skirt Block,  a bit of guesswork and an old IKEA curtain doubled up at the front?!

Well, yes and no.  There wasn’t much construction difference between them.  Here’s old, inside out:

And here’s new:

The case against:

  • I had to do the usual pattern adjustment of changing the outward curve on the sides, i.e. I changed the line from waist to hip to a straight, not curved, diagonal.  Is this a common alternation, I wonder?  Do my readers do this or am I the only one who tries on skirts and finds pouches of excess fabric some 3-5cm below the waist?!  However, I was impressed by how much size 12 of the pattern fitted my shape at the waist and the widest part of the hips, with an ideal amount of ease.  Not that I’m giving Vogue the credit for that: it’s all my own good work in eating the right amount of pies!
  • The pattern had to be lengthened to make it more of a skirt and less of a … belt?
  • The waistband: the pattern was cut too small to fit the skirt IMO.  I made two waistbands thinking I’d mistraced the pattern the first time.  At the second go, the waistband was still 4cm too narrow to fit a tab with hook and eye.  Luckily it was salvageable (by skin of teeth).  Recommendation: before cutting the waistband, measure twice, nay, thrice!
  • The other disadvantage of a waistband is that it’s relentlessly fitted at the waist.  When I pull in my stomach muscles – which, being a former student of Greenwich Pilates, I remember to do every now and then –  the once-perfectly sized skirt becomes too big as the waistband moves away from the body.  This wouldn’t happen if the waist had been finished off with facing: the skirt would just slide down slightly.  See what I mean?
The case for buying the pattern:

This skirt is so good-looking on the inside that I’d rank it as one of two most pro-looking garments I’ve ever made (the other is Julie’s dress).  Now I’ve had a go at seam binding, I’ll be looking for any other opportunity to incorporate it: a real means of progressing to couture.  But a Recommendation: if, like me, you’re using thick fabric, you’ll probably want to press the side seams open and not bind them together as instructed – that’d be way too bulky at the hips.  In which case, I suggest you make 1.2m more bias binding than specified.

Shame that photos of a black skirt taken in our winter gloomph don’t show it off well, but here are the pics of me getting high on its awesomeness.  Ok, so maybe the sexy fumes of our newly varnished floor helped…

Flannel Playdress

My daughter wanted me to make her this dress: her favourite from Akiko Mano’s book Fashionable Clothes Girls Like.  When I suggested some of the fabrics groaning in my stash, she looked rather put out and I realized she really wanted the dress in the book.  That meant finding some dark check flannel. 

A tour of the Goldhawk Road shops threw up three choices: black and yellow, black and magenta or black and white.  I chose the last of the three (in a wool blend, from Unique Fabrics) as it seemed the closest to the monochrome simplicity of the original….   though this of course will expose us to the danger of tomatoey pasta landing on, and staining, particularly the white squares!

What’s to like @ Pattern O:

Quick – the lack of a collar makes for a simple construction

Easy – the diagrams are sufficient to overcome the language barrier!

Practical – the pockets are useful for hankies, etc.

Stylish – the pretty pleats!

Exact – you get what you see in the book 

Cosy – for the wearer

Cuddly – when including the wearer!  

What’s not to like: my daughter joked that the only problem is that there are so many buttons to do up.  But I think she now only uses the top 5 and shimmies out! 

One of the comments on my SPR review of the Playdress described it as a “live in” dress and this is so true: DD has hardly worn anything else these holidays, (except maybe pyjamas…)!  That’s what’s so great about Akiko Mano’s book: the clothes are uniforms for the job of being a kid and that means playing in comfort, having fun, even spilling food.  Forget jeans and sequins: make the girl in your life something from this book instead.

What next from Akiko’s Book?

After a few teething problems of learning how to use a Japanese Pattern Book, this dress and the collar blouse I also made (ed – post soon) have worked out so well that I’m encouraged to make everything before daughter grows up too much and I have to grade the patterns (she’s already on the biggest size).  But my suggestion to her that I now make her the Reversible Gilet (above middle) was met by squeals of outrage and distaste! 

Don’t you think it would be cute to dress up as a little gentleman?!” 


Oh well…

Lovely Blogs Abound!

Meggipeg has very kindly passed on to me two blog awards that she’s recently received.  The first of these is the Premio Primavera award which acknowledges those who comment on your blog.  This is a great award which recognises that comments keep things lively and build a community around a blog.  Without them, a post can feel like a message in a bottle tossed into the ocean!

I’d like to pass on this award to the bloggers whose encouraging comments have helped this blog get going.  They’re Pella of Pattern Pandemonium, Ruth of Sew Ruth and Jennifer of Dedicated Musings.  Thanks all!

I love receiving comments so please keep them coming, otherwise I’ll have to resort to  my most pathetic vice that is reading comment spam!

I discovered Megan’s blog when we laboured together over Pattern Magic.  I enjoy reading it for her warm tone and for a glimpse of her creative life on the other side of the world.  I’m dead chuffed that she nominated me for the One Lovely Blog/Very Inspiring Blogger award.  Thanks Meggipeg!

These are the rules of the award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award /The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.

3. Share 7 things about yourself.

4. Pass the award to 10 nominees.

5. Include this set of rules.

6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.


So here goes:

The ‘One Lovely Blog/Very Versatile Blogger’ Nominees

1 Pattern Pandemonium: because Pella sews beautifully, she sews ambitiously and she drafts her own.  But I’m even more pleased to pass her this award because it’ll force her to reveal a bit about herself.  I’m not even sure where she lives.  US, UK, France?  All three?

2 Magical Effects of Thinking: an interesting, eclectic blog and a sewing assistant whose bottom I’d like to pinch!

3 Nicky Linzy: her beautiful illustrations always have a calming influence on me.

Also Japanese Sewing Books, Creatuu, La Petite Josette, Jane’s Sew and Tell, Calico Stretch, Lin3arossa and The Perfect Nose.


And for the 7 Facts

I warn you: this may be a case of too much information!

1. I’ve already ‘fessed up to the fact that I read comment spam so let me explain: they’re like the overeager Latin lover I’d have run from.  “Special piece you have realized here! The world wide web is awash of unsuitable writing and I was grabbed by your lucidity. Your determinations are precise and I will forthwith subscribe to your rss feed to remain up to date with your up future day postings. Yes! I accept it, your publishing style is grand and i need to improve on mine decidedly. Buy now Viagra.”

2. In 2012, the only book I loved reading from cover to cover was the The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.

3. I live with a Motörhead fan who named our now-ancient black cat Lemmy.

4. I’m training for an 18-mile up-and-down cross country race.

4. I spent a part of my childhood in Sierra Leone and Algeria.

5. When I was 18, I sewed through my thumb on a treadle machine…

6….. and only a month later realized a 1cm piece of needle was still inside….

Hope you enjoyed that!