Borgen Blouse

1 ties

1 DSCN6961
Mirror image

Last month I arranged a meet-up with Ruth while she was briefly in London.  We recognised each other immediately.  Well, I have been a follower of her blog Core Couture for several years!  I examined her Merchant and Mills coat and ‘Vivienne Westwooddress at close quarters and can confirm the standard of said garments was impressively high, even better in light of day than the photos suggest  :-)  As for the vivacious blonde that I expected, she was there alright, complete with a melodic Irish accent but somehow more petite than I’d imagined.  Which I told her!  1 ruth liberty

Rick Owens Shearling Peplum Jacket, Liberty London.

Rick Owens Shearling Peplum Jacket, Liberty London.

This is something that’s been remarked upon before: sewing bloggers look smaller IRL than we do on screen.  Why do you think that is (or, do you agree)?  Maybe in the pictures taken in our living rooms and gardens, we ‘fill’ the frame, whereas in real life we’re surrounded by big spaces?

Our rendezvous was Liberty’s.  We had a look at some of the designer wear on the first floor and felt thankful that we were skilled enough to be able to recreate many (though not all – see left) of these garments at a fraction of their RTW price – if we wanted to.  Ruth’s dress was a perfect example of this.  I felt happy that I’d played a small part in prompting her to make it.

I got a present!  A bundle of sewing patterns wrapped in a length of fabric.  It’s wool, possibly a blend, with a nice amount of drape for it to rest against the skin cosily – great for right now while winter and autumn are battling it out.  I love the muted colours. 1 ice The warm tones I’ve overlooked over the years but the rest – black, ‘envelope blue’ and green – are totally my palette. In fact, I was hunting for a zip for a green dress I was making so Ruth and I walked over to the new MacCulloch and Wallis premises for a bit of habby shopping before checking out the stores on Berwick Street.  As the afternoon darkened, I got the feeling we were walking against the tide: workers rushing to tube stations for their Friday night getaway, pushing into pubs, not to mention the semi-manic shoppers stlll jostling about.  I hope we get a chance to meet again, soon :-)

1 sketchI mulled over what to make with my new fabric then by chance I found a sketch in  my old notebook that I drew while  watching ‘Borgen‘ (the Castle) years ago.  This was a really good Danish series about a fictional female Prime Minister who’s not only a consummate politician but so attractive that my husband pretended to watch the series with me!  The ‘slash with side bow’ blouse was worn by the another character, the young political journalist.  It was black which created a stunning contrast against Katrine’s blond hair and pale skin.  If I make this again, I’ll  go for a block colour and try a big, more confrontational bow!  1 inside

I drafted the slash and bow blouse pretty quickly from my bodice block, cutting at the upper bust line then playing with strips of paper till I worked out the two lengths of the bow on the side.  The big sleeves are Colette Aster Flutter Sleeves.  Here’s the view of the slash on the inside, showing the facing.  The bow section is double sided.

Anyway, I seem to recall Ruth is also a fan of Scandi Drama.  She once made jeans like the brown leather ones worn by Saga in the Bridge.  Now that’s daring!

1 ruth top

Asymmetric Skirt

1 Asymmetry1 sportsmax green leather skirtThis style of faux-wrap, double-fronted design has been on my radar for a while, ever since  I snapped a Sportmax green leather number in a waiting-room magazine (in November 13, the camera roll suggests).  Imagine that buttersoft, slippery leather (and the colour is a feast for the eyes)!  But so expensive!  My version – made of a polyester/viscose blend with a kind of shiny, tarry finish – cost £6, plus thread and zip.  :-)

I’m keeping it real.

Hence the washing on the line…

1 interrogation suits

I haven’t had to dip into my winter wardrobe much as the weather has been mild.  However, last month while getting ready for an evening at Kate’s, I opened my ‘drawer of black tights’ and found so many imperfect-but-not-quite-destroyed pairs that I decided some short skirts might be necessary in order to retire (to borrow the term from Blade Runner) each pair till it’s bin-ready.  This is a practical style, almost perfect for my needs (see end).  It’s short but not obviously so due to the varying hem length (which you can adapt to taste).  Construction’s easy too, the basic skirt block or a pencil skirt pattern being the starting point (with a centre back zip and waist facing).  The split front enables walking ease without the need for lining so making it is quick.


1 Begin with the basic skirt block but narrow your pattern pieces towards the hem.

1 Begin with the basic skirt block but narrow your pattern pieces towards the hem (see first note below).

2 Copy skirt front. With darts closed, restyle your inner front, being as daring as you like.

2 Copy skirt front. With darts closed, restyle your inner front, being as daring as you like.

3 Copy the front again and restyle outer front to complement the inner front. You don't have to create a dipped hem but its very fashionable you know!

3 Copy the front again and restyle outer front to complement the inner front. You don’t have to create a dipped hem but it’s very fashionable, you know!  NB See last note regarding grainline placement.


  • Redraw the sides of your basic block to hug the figure as closely as possible  i.e. narrow the block towards the hem.  You’ll still be able to walk due to the front split.  However, if you keep the vertical side seams of the basic block, the result with be a more flared, A-line silhouette like on my skirt.
  • Do decide whether to hem the back and the two fronts before attaching them to each other, or to leave the hemming till the end in which case the hem allowances will have to drafted equally all the way around  (i.e. if the skirt back has a 3cm hem allowance, you’ll have to draw this for the dipping hem too.
  • .I have deliberately made this to look like the front is dipping down.  You can exaggerate this more (be bold) or change to a straight hem like in the leather skirt.
Grainline options: from barmy (blue) to boring (green)
Grainline options: from barmy (blue) to boring (green)


  • It would be a shame to place a dipped pattern piece on the straight grain (green arrow).  Use a patterned fabric or napped fabric and play around.  I think the desired effect is meant to look a bit like a kilt left open or a tea-towel tucked into the waistband that’s slipping off!
  • Remember to stay-stitch diagonal lines to prevent stretching (why not chalk a line and staystitch before cutting from your fabric?)

1 with two peas ina pod

The only thing I’m not happy about is the itchy waist: my tights have an annoying tendency to slip down.  Hopefully, once I start wearing more layers I can tuck something in, to shield me from £6 a metre mock wool!

Or I might attempt this again in neoprene or scuba which I’ve never sewn before: do let me know if you have any experience of sewing or wearing these fabrics.

Berliner, für eine Woche

Ich bin ein Berliner

Mein Sohn, im Reichstag

Mein Sohn, im Reichstag

a break in the in-fightingRarely do I travel somewhere new and Berlin had been on my hit list for a long time. This autumn was the last chance for D and I to take our son there with the intention of getting him to speak some German: a bit of practice ahead of his GSCE Exam. It was an ambition at which we failed epically. As he was chaperoned from one awesomely symbolic site to another, the juvenile ingrate hardly opened his mouth, except to say – in English – that he’d rather be at home doing his shit :roll:

Oh he didn’t mean it!

Mrs Anthony and Form 3 Orange, last day FSSG

Frau Anthony and Schulklasse 3 Orange

I speak a little (crumbling) German which I studied for two years while living in Sierra Leone in the 80s. As a ‘new girl’ from then-Yugoslavia, I’d just joined Form 2 of Freetown Secondary School for Girls and was still struggling to understand the accent of the girls in my class (and they mine) when in walked the new German teacher: young, lovely, dressed in an Indian skirt (I loved hippies!) and, well, German! The class was stunned – though it didn’t take long for the rowdier elements to judge every aspect of Frau Decker a source of absolute hilarity… The lessons would be frequently sabotaged by explosions of mass laughter. Frau Decker would try to remain relentlessly cheerful, for whenever she got upset or angry (she could have resorted to the cane, but was one of the few teachers who didn’t), the mood difference would only result in even more laughter. I felt kindred spirits with her and an affinity for the language, liking its amusingly harsh consonants, unambiguous vowels and even the three genders – masculine, feminine, neuter – which occur also in Croatian, my mother tongue. We were sad when at the end of that school year Frau Decker left, but I felt relief too.  Her successor was also a foreigner, this time from Jamaica.  Form 2 was followed by a year of relative calm because the rowdier elements flunked while I lost my own novelty value and made friends. But then, aged fourteen, I came to England where I wasn’t able to continue with German though I later sat a GCSE and scraped through with a C.

map reading skilzIt’s disorienting to land in a country where the language is strange. Each street around Alexanderplatz – where we spilled out, hungry and dazzled by sunlight – seemed to have a similar-sounding twin. My ageing eyes struggled to read the tiny maps in my pocket guide book. At dusk that first evening, while we searched for our apartment, we pressed the map to our noses, phone torches ablaze!

'Die Brücke'

‘Die Brücke’

On Torstrasse however, I did glance up to see a lit up shop window with a display of corsets – yes, a modern day corsetiere – and I remembered reading how at the turn of the twentieth century, one of the artists of Die Brücke movement approved the young model he’d been sent, saying her figure hadn’t been ‘deformed’ by the wearing of fashion corsets.

'Fallen Leaves', Jüdisches Museum

‘Fallen Leaves’, Jüdisches Museum

This is a wandering post, with no demonstration of any sewing activity whatsoever, inspired by the very enjoyable writings of  a ‘lapsed sewist’  😉  (no less interesting for that) Stephanie.  I didn’t even come across a fabric shop during my daily treks across Berlin, yet fabric is  woven into the story of every big city: in the clothes worn by its people, their occupations, their art.  Particularly poignant was an exhibit in the Jewish Museum: a finely-beaded bag given in lieu of payment to a seamstress who’d repaired the coats of a family about to attempt their escape from the a city turned hostile. africa chair bauhaus archiv In the Bauhaus Museum, the towering throne that is the Africa Chair, built by designer and architect Marcel Breuer but ‘softened’ and made vibrant by the textile artist Gunta Stölzl who produced the seat and back.  (By the way, we might not have liked ‘Herr Bauhaus’ Walter Gropius much; how he seemed to resent women artists, filling up valuable space with their looms!)

The floor of the Bauhaus Archiv

The floor of the Bauhaus Archiv

About a year ago, I heard a Radio 4 programme about Barlach’s Angel, and wanted to discover more about the artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) so we visited her museum  in the south-west part of the city.  Charlottenburg is elegant (think Kensington) but Kollwitz lived and worked in the deprived east, where her husband was a doctor and of whose patients she made an admiring study.  The ground floor of the museum contains startling photographs of Berlin in Kollwitz’ time.  There are images of dead or wounded World War One soldiers which shock as much as the more familiar images of the horrors of the Second World War.  But I was struck by a photograph of a seamstress in a tiny and dark attic, surrounded by her piecemeal work, her children sitting about in a mixture of decorum and apathy.  I realise there are parts of the world where this is going on now, in the more industrialised setting of the factory floor and catering to an insatiable world-wide demand.  I was gutted when on the way back from the museum we emerged into the swish shopping area of Kurfürstendamm and, instigated by my daughter, stepped into one of those international clothing stores that caters to the young female.  I tried at first to find a bargain but I’d never seen some many rails of different garments, each rivalling its neighbour in cheapness of material and ugliness of style.

Ein 'Selfie'

Ein ‘Selfie’

Kollwitz’ son joined the War as a volunteer and was killed soon after, which largely explains the artist’s resulting pacifism and her persistent portrayal of motherhood.   My great-grandfather fought on the same side as Peter Kollwitz, having been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army.  He was killed weeks after getting married.  His son (whom he never met) took the photograph below while his widow, my great-grandmother, is sitting on the left of the picture (I do believe I look more like her the older I get).  My father is on the right, on the lap of my grandmother Karmela.  Karmela was an English teacher (as is my mother – hence my tendency to empathise with the teaching profession!).  She too saw great deprivation in her early years of life in the cities of Zagreb and Sarajevo and was grateful to the Communist government of post-war Yugoslavia for endeavouring to promote unity and egalitarianism.

Soon after this picture was taken, my father’s parents divorced  in tragic, heart-breaking circumstances.

Das Urbany Familie

Das Urbany Familie


Our apartment was in Choriner Strasse.   That first evening we were met by our landlord. ‘This is my first time in Germany,’ I told him. ‘Berlin is not Germany!’, he said.  I  laughed, thinking I knew what he meant, because isn’t this what we say about London too; that it’s not England, or Britain?  The next morning after lots of sleep, I was much less lost and the more I discovered of Berlin, the more I felt I was finding all my old homes.

1 choriner-horz

Choriner Strasse, before and now.  With thanks to Roger Schlinke


Scarlett O’Mara

1 Style arc Mara Shirt Dress1 mara shirt dressIf Style Arc was a parent rather than a pattern company, the kind of parent it would be is the kind that teaches its kid to swim by throwing it into a lake off a jetty.

There ain’t much handholding in the Mara Shirt Dress instructions.

1 Pocket with Flap Style Arc MaraExhibit one: constructing the shirt pocket.  “Fold the pocket in half and stitch as marked on the pattern to create a box pleat.”  But fold in half which way?  Right sides together or wrong sides?  I went with right, which was wrong.  An inch of ink could have explained.  Instead I hear voices:  ‘But Marianna mate, it’s so obvious, how could you have been so …. stupid?!’

1 shirt cuffExhibit two: here’s the shirt cuff.  And amongst the following sentences are the instructions on how to achieve it: “with right sides facing sew the top sleeve to the under sleeve. Follow the notches.  Sew the under sleeve seam and the back seam to down to the sleeve opening.  Sew the outer cuff edge to the sleeve opening, pin the inner cuff to the sleeve seam and sink stitch.”

Yeah,  😕   I’m gonna need some diagrams….1 Stylearc Mara  pocket and short sleeveNotice my sleeves are a lot shorter than on the pattern illustration.  That’s right, there’ve been … amputations.

My choice of fabric – a sheer linen from Simply Fabrics (£6) and redder than these pinkish pictures suggest – compromised the project somewhat as the seam finishes would have been visible from the right side.  So to achieve a less unkempt look, I had to choose French and flat-felled seams; both annoying to alter. Also, I had to omit the side pockets as they showed through and just looked floppy like elephant ears.

1 Style arc Mara Shirt Dress Back view

But despite being traumatised by evidence of my incompetence and amateurism, I enjoyed making this and I think it’s a great-looking dress.  The collar is elegant, the button fly-front looks very professional (and that part was easy) while the sleeves are narrow-fitting and feminine.  During the project, which was drawn out and marked by many interruptions, each morning I’d enter the room where the dress draped over the dummy by the window and I’d be overwhelmed by the gorgeous colour, all walls awash in a shade of blood.

I’m not sure what to wear under it yet.  My jeans are a bit heavy.  Maybe a black leotard and a mini (sooo 1993)?

I’m sewing another vibrant-coloured version of this for my mum but she’s not around for a fitting so I’m off to make something from Colette Patterns now.  Colette’s a helicopter parent.  The kind that reminds you that after sewing the left sleeve to do the other side!  :-)1 S o M

Loopy Dress

1 loopy loops1 Measurements BackMy newest client, who got in touch via this blog, lives on the other side of the world so I’ll never even see her 😥 She asked for a copy of a dress I made for myself that I blogged a while back.  We exchanged a few emails to get an idea of how this would work, discussing fabrics, a deadline, payment and measurements – but mostly measurements.  I sent a couple of pictures like this one.

Then off I went.

The main worry was making the dress too small.  The black fabric I picked has the tiniest amount of stretch and I used the Winifred Aldrich close-fitting dress block (which, as you may know, isn’t all that close-fitting) to design a sloper on which to base the dress pattern.

Making the inside of the garment nicely finished is very important to me, even more so when sewing for a client who might only have RTW garments to compare to, but on this occasion I abandoned my usual French seams.  The dress will probably have to be adjusted by the client and while contour darts can quickly be narrowed or widened, letting out a French seam can be a bit of a nightmare.  Not only are there two stitching lines to unpick, but the inner seam is likely to be closely trimmed.

1 inside outInstead, I left the seam allowances untrimmed (in case there are places where the garment needs to be made bigger) and bound them Hong Kong style.  The white binding is consistent with the colour scheme of the dress: can you guess what it is yet?!

1 scrap practice


The dress has a ‘loop and button’ closure but not of the delicate, bridal variety (this is meant to be a utalitarian garment).  I’ve only done loops once before so thought I might do some desk research to enable me to do it as professionally as possible.  The buttons on the left side are placed exactly at the centre front, as for a shirt with buttonholes, but the loop side edge therefore has to move back and it’s really the loops that are placed at the centre front of the right side.  But which part of the loop is the exact middle?  The  outer edge?  The hole?   And as for the rouleau strips: how long to make them in relation to the button size?

Well, maybe there’s a magic formula somewhere but I realised I’d have to make some samples and take measurements from those that worked!

I did pick up one helpful tip (from here, as usual) for sewing loops.  Use sticky tape when aligning the strips with the raw edge of the garment as there’s less movement than if using pins or tacks.

1 raw edges together

Place loop strips at tailor tacks, raw edges aligned, stitching facing up, and affix with narrow strips of tape

Trim away SAs and remove tailor tacks

Oh, and place the stitched side of the strips up so when the sewing is done and flipped over, the stitching doesn’t show.

No need to peel off all those bits of tape: this whole section will get cut away.

It was hard to ‘let go’ and put the dress in the post.  I guess I feel it’s not quite ready as I haven’t seen it on the client.  And I no longer have control, if that makes sense.  But we posed for a photo together, the dress and I, with the ever-present Blogstalker looking on.

1t blogstalker is so silly

Sleeve Drama

1 Sleeve

1 Sleeve pattern

click for pdf link

The sleeves of my Refashioned Men’s Shirt attracted some comment, both here and on the Pinterest Refashioners board, so here’s the sleeve pattern in PDF and instructions for making it below.

The pattern has been created to fit me, and I have an arm girth of 25cm (10″). This is roughly a size 8 (not that my ass is size 8 :-( ). When folded, gathered, stitched at the underarm seam and ready to attach to the bodice, the sleeve armscye has a stitching line of 47.5cm. This, coincidentally, makes it fit the bodice of Colette Aster size 4. But you can fit it to any other bodice if you know its armscye measurement simply by using the reduce/enlarge function of your photocopier and some mathematics.

The Formula

My PDF measurement x Y% = Your required measurement

So for example if your bodice armscye is 51cm, you need to enlarge by a percentage Y

47.5cm x Y = 51cm

51 / 47.5 = 1.073

1.073 (x100) = 107%

So print out the pattern at a 107% enlargement. Be brave; it’s easy.


Making this is also very easy. The protruding fold covering the sleeve head can hide a multitude of sins so if setting in of sleeves isn’t your forté, your luck is in! If you lack the confidence to cut into fabric, play around with a paper version first, using pins instead of stitching (to round the sleeve head, make 2-3 little pintucks; it doesn’t have to be perfect). Or cut up some rags.

1 Sleeve pattern

Step 1 – Begin by sewing 2-3 rows of gathering stitches, into and around the 1cm seam allowance

Step 2 - with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings...

Step 2 – with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings…

Step 3 - and press open

Step 3 – and press open

Step 4 - fold sewn section wrong sides together and align notches with the centre sleeve head notch

Step 4 – fold sewn section wrong sides together

Step 5 - align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together).  Sew the underarm seam.

Step 5 – align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together). Sew the underarm seam.

Step - pull on the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges to they're lined up

Step 6 – pull the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges so they’re lined up

Step 7 - with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method

Step 7 – with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method


1 sdThe original white shirt sleeve was hemmed with bias binding but the blue version has a cuff. The cuff has a 2.5cm finished height, is cut on the bias and interfaced.

Other ideas

  • When making the white shirt, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the sleeve from a single piece so I had to split the pattern into 3 sections (the head and two wings). This has created interesting change of direction in the stripes which you may want to try.
  • Consider using the stripes of your fabric horizontally.
  • If you’re a drama queen (or would like to make a pressie for one), you can make these sleeves out of a soft voile then attach to a matching t-shirt, with more voile for a breast pocket and bias binding for the neckline.
  • For another dramatic sleeve variation, try my Status sleeves tutorial.



pinterest sourceThe original idea for the design came from this Pin (before any of you get ideas about me being clever; I’m just the copycat). I printed out the pattern, then enlarged it with the photocopier until I made a version that fit me, having made three toiles. I never did achieve the lavishly folded sleeve in the original picture but I’m pleased with the result nevertheless. Let me know if you uncover any more information about the source or if you have alternative ideas how to effect the lower fold.

Men’s Shirt Refashion

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Sleeve and bodice toiles
Sleeve and Bodice Toiles

I’d been experimenting with drafting a particular kind of sleeve and also working on a close-fitting bodice when Lesley alerted me to the Refashioners 2015, the Men’s Shirt Challenge.  This is a mass participation event with so many prizes that I haven’t yet been able to read the list to the end – I  keep getting terrifying premonitions of the winner being me then having to incorporate this treasure-like haul into my over-cluttered home   :-)

1 Marianna and the Giant ShirtI’ve long been a fan of  making stuff out of men’s shirts.  I cut up my husband’s work shirts whenever I get mad at him the cuffs get frayed and make something for my daughter: it’s by using such scraps that I first taught myself to sew!  But this challenge seemed a good opportunity to make my bodice and sleeves out of something attractively stripy so I turned to the local charity shops to buy a shirt in as large a size as I could get.  Would you believe that charity shops charge £5 or more for second-hand men’s shirts?  😯  Luckily this M&S behemoth (size 17in/43cm, easy fit) was just £3 as the cuffs and the collar were in a bit of a state (I really don’t see how they hope to sell such shirts, unless it’s for refashioning or fancy dress!).  The cotton is firm and fresh-smelling, with nicely defined grey pinstripes and variation in the weave of the thick white stripes (not sure what this is called).  There were two side pleats coming from the yoke at the back so extra fabric too!1 back view

1 sleeveAnd yet …  Just as in the previous ‘challenge’, in which I cut up a man’s jacket to make a skirt, I found my plans thwarted by a lack of materials.  Have you ever been in the situation when you’re constantly glancing around your cutting area and the floor, in case there’s one more piece of fabric you’d forgotten about that will save you!?  The result is that the sleeves aren’t as attractive as I’d intended and the top isn’t as  practical since the buttons had to go round the back which makes putting this garment on somewhat time-consuming.  But I do like it.  I’ve added a grosgrain tie and belt loops to break it up a bit, though I may revert to the plainer look: this is certainly something that will get a bit of wear in the next month or two before the woollens come out.  Look, I’ve even replaced the original yellowing buttons with smoky iridescent ones, which I think look great with the grey stripes.

1 new and old buttons

1 hip1 the refashioners 2015

But my favourite part is the little slits just over the hips.  Can you tell which part of the shirt they come from?


Nipples Dress

1 nipples1 kate's mugI know what you’re thinking.  “These lurid post titles of hers are clickbait-desperate!”  But what else to call it?  When I found this plastic-coated, bumpy material at a stall in Bromley market, I immediately recalled my friend Kate’s ceramic and celebrated  nipples mug which I love to wrap my hands around whenever we drink coffee.  I inspected it, wondering what I could do with it and noticing it had stretch.  “Where does this come from?” I asked the stall-holder.  He smiled (finally!  Thank you :-) ) saying it’s from Ann Summers.

1 inverted1 kennethI got home shouting “look at this nipple fabric, whereupon my doubting Thomas of a husband said the appearance was more like bubble-wrap.  But then he pressed in one of the raised bumps and it.. well, inverted!

My kids are impressed by the fabric’s futuristic credentials.  This would work grandly for costumes in Dr Who.  And I love how from certain angles it looks like a carapace or armour.  Have you seen anything like it, either in fabric sales or on RTW?  I’ve tried to find out more with a combination of search terms on Google but to no avail. I know that dark blue and green had also been available.

1 Nipples dress1 back zip

It was cheap – possibly reject – as it has quite a few flaws: creases and areas where the plastication is absent, which you can spot at the centre back zip.  I didn’t have enough to be picky about placement and in any case, as you can probably guess, this isn’t a dress to be worn too seriously!1 bye

1 sampleThe horizontal stretch is slight; too much pulling apart and the fabric deforms beyond recovery gaining the strange appearance of laddered tights 😯 .   Although it was only slightly temperamental to sew (I had to look out for skipped stitches), the hardest part to making this dress was not being able to press seams nor shape them as under the iron, the material darkens and the bumps flatten.

I used the Renfrew T-shirt pattern, size 8, elongated with the aid of my skirt block where I left the darts unsewn.  After the first fitting, I added bust darts (which sadly took off 3cm from the final length) plus contour darts at the back. And though I love making corded piping, it doesn’t really work here as there isn’t that sharp, flat edge that I would have achieved had I been able to use an iron.

You might think but where’s a girl to wear a dress like this to?!”  Well, I’m wearing it to the screening of the Rocky Horror Show tonight!

1 magenta space girl

Magenta, Domestic Goddess and Style Icon, plus her embarrassing brother

Shirt Pocket with Flap

1 shirt pocket with flapI wanted to do a nice job on the patch pockets of the Mara shirt dress  I’m making for my mum, but Stylearc is sadistically terse with their instructions.  1 mara shirt dressSo I dipped into my  tome of power –  Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing  wherein lie the instructions for achieving the clean finish on the pocket flap attachment (below). 1 topstitch seam allowanceI’ve done a demo of this in Tutorial One.  In Tutorial Two I show my way of making the patch pocket using two pieces of fabric instead of one.  These are then bagged out.  Probably to many of you this won’t be a revelation.  Again, this produces a clean finish so there’s no risk of peering inside the finished pocket to the sight of raggedy or fraying seam allowances.

N.B. The pocket here is a sample sewn from an old bedsheet.  Unfortunately, the weave in the cotton is causing something of a photographic moiré effect, especially if I post the pictures in a large size.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.  If you get moiré, just pretend it’s watered silk! :-)

Tutorial One: The Pocket Flap

The pocket flap should be attached after the pocket has been sewn onto the shirt.


1 cut flaps

1 – Cut 2 flap pieces for each pocket with the seam allowance of 1.5cm for the seam where the pocket is attached to the shirt body. Stylearc Mara has a 1cm SA for this seam so I’ve extended it by 0.5cm as shown.


Step 2 - Interface one piece.  Trim the second piece by 1mm around the three non-straight sides

2 – Interface/fuse one piece. Trim the second piece by 1mm around the three non-straight sides.


Step 3 - Stitch around the three sides up to the 1.5cm Seam Allowance.  Press to embed stitches and trim the wide seam giving the shorter seams a scant trim

3 – Stitch around the three sides up to the 1.5cm seam allowance, leaving the tops opened (this is very important). Press to embed stitches and trim the wide seam then give the shorter seams a small trim. Turn out, press flap, pressing the seam allowances to the inside. Now is a good time to place flap over the pocket to double-check the flap is wider than the pocket.


Step 4 - With raw edge aligned with the top of the attached pocket, stich pocket flap along the 1.5 Seam Allowance.  IMPORTANT: the interfaced piece should be against the shirt body and the non-interfaced piece should be closer to you.

4 – Align raw edge of flap with the top of the attached pocket, and stitch pocket flap along the 1.5 seam allowance. IMPORTANT: place flap so the interfaced part lies against the shirt body and the non-interfaced piece is uppermost.


Step 5 - trim the interfaced seam allowance by half.  If it helps, press the top seam allowance out of the way.

5 – Trim the interfaced seam allowance by half. If it helps, press the top seam allowance out of the way.


Press the top Seam Allowance over the bottom one, using the iron tip to fold away bulging corners.

6 – Tuck the top Seam Allowance over the bottom one, using the iron tip to fold away bulging corners. Press.


7 - Topstitch the seam allowance securely and press.

7 – Topstitch the seam allowance securely and press.

8 - Press flap closed.  If you're paranoid about it flapping upwards, you can topstitch the top edge down or secure the tops of the sides to the shirt with a few stitches.

8 – Press flap closed. If you’re paranoid about it flapping upwards, you can topstitch the top edge down or secure the tops of the sides to the shirt with a few stitches.


Tutorial Two: The Patch Pocket

The first step is to create the pocket piece with a box pleat.  Stylearc’s Mara instructions ask for the pocket to then be shaped at the rounded corners by pressing the seam allowances under.  My method requires less skill, I think.  Cut the second piece to same size as the pocket after the box pleat is made.  If your shirt fabric is thick, consider using a thinner fabric in matching colour such as a lining fabric.


1 - Fold pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, and stitch top to bottom to form box pleat.  Press.

1 – Fold pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, and stitch top to bottom. Press stitching but avoid the folded edge. Open the sides, press fingers down on folded edge to make a box pleat.


2 - Cut a 'double', the same size as patch pocket then trim 1-2mm from the seam allowances.  This should prevent the pocket lining from rolling outward on the finished pocket.

2 – Cut a ‘double’, the same size as patch pocket then trim 1-2mm from the seam allowances. This should prevent the pocket lining from rolling outward on the finished pocket.


3 - with right sides together, stitch two pocket pieces together along the top seam, using a basting stitch for approx. 4cm of the length.

3 – with right sides together, stitch two pocket pieces together along the top seam, using a basting stitch for approx. 4cm of the length.


4 - Press seam allowances open

4 – Press seam allowances open


5 - Fold so the right sides are together again, and stitch the remaining seams.  Press and trim.  Cut open the basting stitches along the top seam.

5 – Fold so the right sides are together again, and stitch the remaining seams. Press the sides and bottom seam and trim all around but don’t trim the top seam to more than 0.75cm. Cut open the basting stitches along the top seam.


6 - Turn right side out through opening and sew the pocket closed using the ladder stitch.  You can use the holes of the basting stitches as your guide for even stitches.  Press patch pocket, rolling the lining to the inside, then sew the patch onto the shirt.

6 – Turn right side out through opening, pushing corners outward, and sew the pocket closed using the ladder stitch. (I’m slightly in love with the ladder stitch tbh). If they’re visible, you can use the holes of the basting stitches as your guide for even sewing! Press patch pocket, rolling the lining to the inside, then sew the patch onto the shirt.


7 - Attach patch to garment then attach pocket flap as outlined in Tutorial One.

7 – Attach patch to garment then attack pocket flap as outlined in Tutorial One.


I’d love to hear if you’ve come by another own method of achieving good results as I can be a genius for missing the obvious.

Stylearc ItaliaAdvice also needed on this: I’m making the Mara dress for myself and would like to add to it the elements of another Stylearc design, the Italia shirt dress, for which I didn’t buy the pattern.  I’m after the sleeve tabs (which seem simple) but also would like to add the hem gusset. Any idea how to produce the hem gusset neatly?!  I was hoping to find a RTW garment with one of these and analyse how it’s been done but nothing so far in my search.

Le Sac Cami

1 le sac cami1 robe a la francaisI based the design of this top on the pleated ‘Le Sac’ or ‘Watteau gown’ popularised by the artist who painted the well-dressed ladies of 18th century France.  I discovered Le Sac at the Danson House Vivienne Westwood exhibition but the feature of large pleats hanging from the back neckline lives on in wedding dress design as the beginning of a gown’s long train.

As you may notice, my top has pleats at the front.  The back is plain.  Sorry it’s so sombre!  I made it to go with a particular very cheerful A-line skirt, only of course it doesn’t: it goes with tight skirts and jeans.   The fabric is silk: some kind of robust yet drapey weave with horizontal lines just visible.  I cut the fabric on the crossgrain, using the weaved lines to help form the pleats.

1 back of le sac

The Back of Le Sac

1 le sac rolled hemSewing Le Sac top was not without a lesson or two.  I think I did a decent job of the hem, mostly by foregoing my rolled hem foot.  And I believe I’m now able to make rouleau strips without losing my temper.  I recommend a combination of the Material Lady’s method coupled with (if you don’t have a loop turner) the trick of sewing in a cord as described here by ByHandLondon. The Back of Le Sac 

1 le sacThe biggest challenge in terms of making it look professional came during the joining of  bodice, straps and facing, where it’s key to make the straps emerge precisely at the apex of the neckline on both the front and back.  On the front, it shouldn’t be too difficult if you line up the rouleau strip with the box pleat edge before sewing yet it still took more than a go or two to get right.

I’ll be making this again soon and showing the drafting.  Next time it’ll be for a friend who is petite and I hope this will flatter her.  It’s not an ideal top if you’re busty: there’s a danger that the pleats will open like the wings of a ladybird!

At the end of every summer as it turns increasingly cold and damp and the heating is put on in the evening sometimes, I engage in a manic flurry of activity during which I make summery dresses and skimpy tops.  Do you do this too?  This phenomenon is called Denial.