Polka Dot Carolyn PJs


Not blogged in a while, but lots going on in the studio.

I’ve mainly been working on drafting my own blocks, and designing, but have managed to find time to squeeze in some sewing too.

In my last post I blogged about the shorts I made for my sister using the Carolyn PJ pattern from Closet Case Files. After seeing how lovely they turned out I decided this would be the perfect pattern for the polka dot brushed cotton I had been hoarding. I think it was from Minerva Crafts, but I bought it several months ago, so can’t be certain. This fabric is super soft to touch, so it’s perfect for PJs.

It’s been a nightmare trying to photograph this make with the limited daylight in Shetland during the winter. I think the only option for taking photos in a decent amount of light here is to wait for a clear day and take them outside, but we have recently moved into a lovely new flat in Lerwick and while on the island I could have run outside in my PJs and taken photos of myself, don’t really fancy doing so in the middle of town….ha. So apologies for the rubbish pics, but I really wanted to blog these.

Polka Dot Carolyn PJs

Polka dot Carolyn 3



I love this pattern, I found this such an enjoyable make, it was relatively straight forward, but the effect is really professional. I particularly found the collar instructions to be fantastic as I have struggled with collars in the past, but this one was simple to sew and looks great.

I serged the seams and after much deliberation decided to use self-cover buttons. I really struggle to find nice buttons, if anyone has any tips on where to source some nice ones I’d really appreciate it.

I have so many more ideas for this pattern. I really want to make a long leg and long sleeve pair next and as I didn’t add the piping to these, I will experiment with that in my next pair.

Coincidentally, while making these, I opened my copy of Grazia to see that PJs as day wear is back, which gives me a great excuse to wear them in public…

These photos are taken in my new studio space! It is so awesome that our new flat has this beautiful loft space, I practically live up here at the moment. It is so nice to have a dedicated sewing space that I can close off at night and not worry about people standing on my pins…. I will maybe give you a virtual tour next time, when it’s less messy 🙂



Birthday Bulldog Shorts

Okay, this make is a bit far removed from my usual taste, but I love this mad fabric.

Ages ago, during my first experience of online fabric shopping, I bought this fabric from Modes4u with the intention of making a birthday present for my sister. She loves french bulldogs and it just seemed too hilarious and cute to pass up.

I ordered 1.5m, knowing very little at that point about how much fabric it takes to make a garment. My order arrived, and was promptly shoved in the fabric cupboard, where it stayed until last week (sorry Lizzie).

Lizzie’s birthday is on halloween, and as I had failed miserably to make her something last year, I felt the time had come to bring out the bulldogs. 

I took a long time to decide what to make with this fabric, novelty fabric garments can be tricky to pull off.  My first thought was to make a dress, but I felt it was unlikely she would find many occasions to wear it. I eventually decided night-wear would be most appropriate considering the fabric choice.

I fell in love with Heather’s Carolyn PJs pattern the moment I saw it. I am a massive fan of Closet Case Files, and this is my favourite of her patterns, although they are all fabulous. I have been meaning to make a pair for ages, but have never managed to find the time. Finally I did, and man am I hooked. I see many pairs coming my way. I have some brushed cotton polka dot fabric waiting in the wings for this pattern. I love a good pair of PJs.

Anyway back to the Bulldog PJs. The fabric is 100% cotton and therefore nice to work with, however it does fray a lot.

I found these came together really easily with the help of Heather’s instructions. They were an extremely satisfying make as the construction was relatively simple, but the finish looks really professional. I especially love the addition of the cuffs and the faux fly front.

It was tricky pattern matching this garment due to the size of the bulldog pattern. This is an area I need to work on.

If I’m being fussy, the waistband seam was slightly uneven on the inside, so I will make sure to rectify that with my next pair, but as it’s on the inside, it won’t be visible anyway.

I hope Lizzie approves of these shorts, I would have loved to make the matching top, but unfortunately didn’t have enough yardage this time.

I really enjoyed this make and thoroughly recommend this pattern. Happy Birthday Lizzie! 🙂

French Bulldog PJ Shorts 2

French Bulldog PJ shorts3

French Bulldog PJs4

Another Ultimate Shift Dress and Sewing with Knit Fabric


I’ve got the sewing bug again.

 After the velvet ordeal, I needed a break from my sewing table, but I am feeling inspired again and ready for some new projects.

I’m not one for counting down till christmas, but as the nights are drawing in and it’s starting to feel pretty wintery up here in Shetland, I felt the need to make a cosy winter dress.

The inspiration for this make came from a post I spotted on twitter a while back, Elena from (randomlyhappyblog.com) had tweeted about her lovely knit fabric “Ultimate Shift Dress” by Sew Over It and it looked so fabulous, I thought I’d make my own.

The fabric I used was a gorgeous red ponte de roma, funnily enough, from Sew Over It (must have been meant to be).

You may remember I made this dress before for my trip to India in a light cotton lawn. It was a relatively easy make and I was really pleased with the fit. Although this pattern is designed for woven fabrics, it is quite a simple shape, so I think it lends itself well to either fabric type.

It may just be me, but I really struggle with knit fabric on my machine. I have spent endless ages trying to figure out why my machine misses stitches when sewing knit fabric. I have tried: changing tension settings, different needles (ball point, stretch), sewing at different speeds, but nothing completely solves the problem.

My latest discovery to aid sewing knits on a standard sewing machine is to place a layer of tracing paper or greaseproof paper under the fabric to stabilise it during sewing. When stitching is complete, rip it off. 

This has partially fixed my problem, but I still see some skipped stitches and ripping the paper off can pull the stitches, leaving them looking loose and unsightly, especially annoying when topstitching.

I ended up using a combination of my old sewing machine, my overlocker and hand sewing to finish this garment.

Below is a brief overview of the process:

  • sewed the darts with a straight stitch on the machine (I think you are supposed to use a zig zag stitch, but they look fine)
  • stabilised the shoulder seams with a thin ribbon and sewed with a zig zag stitch on the machine
  • overlocked the side seams and sleeves together
  • set in sleeves creating a couple of very small tucks on either side of the shoulder notch, to account for the excess fabric in sleeve head (gathering as with woven fabric didn’t really work)
  • turned neckline under 1cm and topstitched with a zigzag stitch
  • hemmed the dress and sleeves by hand using a hemming stitch
  • Added a hook and eye closure to the back neckline

I love the finished product, super cosy and flattering. I think I have a bit of an obsession with sewing dresses in knit fabric now…

Also, if anyone has any tips on sewing with knit fabric on a regular sewing machine I would love to hear them.

Handmade Red Dress

Red Jersey Dress side

Red Jersey Dress

Handmade dress

Velvet Bridesmaid Dress


It’s been ages, so let me explain why. Firstly I was down in London doing an intensive pattern cutting course for most of August (I will tell you more about that soon) and secondly, I have been working on a special project for a while now…

I spent the last few months making a bridesmaid dress for a friend’s wedding. It was a challenging project for me as it was the first time I have made something to fit someone other than myself, the fabric was velvet (enough said) and it was for a wedding, so obviously the pressure was on.

The pattern I used was the Lilou dress from ‘Love at First Stitch’ by Tilly and the Buttons. I had already made this dress twice, here and here, so I was confident with the contruction.

This was the first time I had to fit a garment to someone else, and it was great to learn new fitting techniques. I made two toiles using floral cotton. The first I made using a straight size closest to Marjolein’s measurements.

When she tried on the first toile, she felt the waist was sitting slightly low, so I removed 1cm from the length of the bodice. The overall fit was good, but there was significant pooling of fabric at the back, which I felt indicated she may have a sway back? This amused Marjolein no end (“I have a what back?”). I pinched out the excess which was approximately 5cm, and did a sway back adjustment on the back bodice pattern piece.

The second toile (see below) with these new adjustments fit well, so I got on and made the final dress.

I have to say when I first saw the velvet I was besotted. It’s probably the most beautiful fabric I have ever worked with. The way it reflects light and drapes is divine. However, I quickly realised it was also going to be the most tricky fabric I had ever worked with.

Red Velvet

Now I know everyone says velvet is a nightmare, but man, I had no idea how much of a nightmare.

Have you ever tried to cut the stuff? I will admit i was terrified, I researched loads before I started this make as I was concious of only having one piece of fabric to work with and therefore, no room for error.

The main things I learned through my “working with velvet” research are as follows:

1. Never ever iron velvet, just don’t even go there (I used steam and my fingers to press seams and remove creases)
2. Tack every seam to prevent slipping or movement of fabric during sewing (I mainly did two rows for extra stability)
3. Normal machine needles work fine for woven backed velvet
4. Silk or cotton thread would give best results, but polyester is also okay (i used cotton thread with good results)
5. Velvet has nap, so make sure all pattern pieces are the same direction

The main resource I used was this By Hand London post, and I also picked the brains of some very knowledgable sewing pals who gave me some excellent guidance.

Cutting the fabric was dreadful, it moved all over the place, as though it were liquid. I didn’t cut my pattern pieces on the fold because I was worried it would be difficult to achieve a symmetrical result .

As an alternative to ironing, I hung the fabric up for a day before cutting to let gravity remove some of the creases.

I layed the fabric out wrong side up and traced around  the pattern pieces using my wonderful chalk roller pen and used a rotary cutter to cut for accuracy. I used pins to mark out the direction of the nap on the fabric before flipping it over to make sure I cut all the pieces in the right direction. I cut all my pattern pieces with the nap going from top to bottom (i.e. from shoulder to hem).

When it came to sewing it up, as I mentioned above, tacking really was critical and I did tack every seam by hand before stitching the seams, darts etc.

I found that for sewing on the machine (which I did for the darts and the longer seams) using a lower tension and slightly longer stitch length worked best. The needle left visible marks in the velvet, so ripping out mistakes wasn’t really an option. I took my time over each step to make sure I didn’t make too many mistakes.

When it came to choosing a method for finishing the seam allowances, I tried a scrap of velvet on my overlocker as a test, but thought it looked messy and in the end decided to pink the seam allowances. This worked well, it looked neater than overlocking and as the bodice was lined, most of the seams were hidden anyway.

I used a lovely floral cotton lawn for the lining from Sew Over It, which worked well.

Sewing Velvet

The skirt was gathered, so I drew out the rectangles for the skirt pattern pieces with a width twice that of the waist. I wanted a good amount of gathers, without too much bulk. I wasn’t confident about how much extra fabric to add for gathering and in an ideal world I would have done a trial run to see how it looked, but had to make an educated guess and luckily the width I chose worked well and it wasn’t too bulky, as I had feared.

The zip insertion was by far the worst part of the process. The thing would not lie flat. I spent so long tacking it in and ripping it back out (luckily tacking by hand didn’t leave marks like the machine stitches) until eventually I was happy with how it looked.

I left the dress to hang over night to let the hem drop, levelled it, pinked it and turned it up to give a 3cm hem depth and used a hemming stitch to hand sew it up.

Velvet Hem

I ended up sewing quite a lot of this dress by hand, and although it was time consuming, I felt I had more control sewing by hand than I did on the machine, so I think it was worth it in the end.

So here’s the finished product …


Photo taken by Mike Guest

I am so pleased with how it turned out, especially after putting so much effort into this project. The velvet meant everything took so much longer than with a regular fabric, but it was worth it.

It was a joy to see Marjolein wearing it on the wedding day. I felt honoured to have contributed to Floortje and Tim’s special day.

Phew! Velvet is tough! Cotton for the next project I think 🙂

Vintage Pledge Dress

Back in March I signed up to the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge challenge. My goal was to try my first vintage sewing pattern in 2015.

Joan Holloway style dress

I chose this pattern as it was classic, but the triangular cut outs gave it a modern feel. I selected a simple black linen/cotton mix as I felt any design on the fabric might look cluttered with the cut-outs, and I really wanted them to stand out. I was aiming for a classic little black dress, to wear to formal events. I decided to omit the sleeves, as I felt it would look more modern without them.

Vintage Pledge Dress 2015 (attieanddora.com)

Vintage Pledge Dress 2015 (attieanddora.com)

Sewing Vintage Dress Shetland.attieanddora

Back Darts Vintage Dress Shetland attieanddora


This was my first move away from Indie sewing patterns and it was a real eye opener. Indie sewing patterns really hold your hand through the process (which is great for those inexperienced seamstresses among us), but in the instructions for this vintage pattern a lot of knowledge was assumed.

DSC01744 (1)I found I was able to bumble my way through using the skills I have already acquired from my past projects, which was encouraging.

The neckline construction with the triangular cut outs was a little tricky, it involved sewing a facing to the bodice, stitching along the lines, to give the triangular shapes, slashing between the stitching and then turning the facing to the inside and pressing. This was a bit fiddly, but gave a good result. The neck bands were then sewn to the top edge of the facing.

Besides challenging myself to try my first vintage pattern the other main focus of this project for me was to build my skills in fitting. I am tall, so I always have to add length to my pattern pieces. In this case I added two inches to the length of the bodice and two inches to the skirt length. I did a FBA, as I often find dress patterns which fit me in the waist and hips, are slightly small in the bust. I made a full toile of the dress to check my alterations.

Despite taking care to make a toile and check the fit along the way, my first attempt at this dress just wasn’t right. I had spent ages working on it, which was really disheartening. Unfortunately the bodice was too loose on the shoulders and bust, and the zip was buckling on the side. I haven’t included any pictures in this blog post, as it was too painful.

To remedy this, I had to do some major reconstruction. I unpicked the bodice from the skirt and removed the additional length previously added to the bodice, bringing it back to the original length. I unpicked the zip (sob, it was perfectly inserted) and moved it down the side seam by another 2 inches to eliminate the buckling.

These alterations fixed most of my fitting issues (WOOHOO). There are still some small gripes I have with the fit of the final dress. I think the bodice is still a bit too big, it would probably have been best to go a size down or to redo the FBA to add less fabric across the bust, but overall I am pleased with the dress and it’s such a relief to have overcome my fitting issues, and finished with something wearable that I am really proud of.

Signing up to the vintage sewing pattern pledge has been a great experience for me. It has pushed me out of my indie pattern comfort zone and opened up a world of possibilities for new sewing projects. I can’t wait to try another!

Pattern: Simplicity 3285 Slenderette

Fabric- Black Promenade Plain Linen & Cotton Blend Dress Fabric from Minerva Crafts

Grey Funnel Neck Coco

Just a quick one today. I wasn’t planning to blog this make, but I love it so much I had to show you. This is my third Coco (pattern by Tilly and the Buttons), you may have seen my first already here. My second (unblogged) was a grey and burgundy striped version with the same boat neckline.

This time I went for the sixties funnel neck style and kept it simple with a lovely dark grey ponte knit fabric from Backstitch.

Grey Coco Dress

Gold Converse

Grey Coco Dress

I am really happy with the result, a versatile addition to my handmade wardrobe.

Update// The Vintage Pledge Pattern Project is well underway, so I should be blogging about that soon. Can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on.

Contrast Lilou

Lilou dress contrast lining There is a project queue forming in my sewing room this month. I have so many plans for sewing projects waiting for me to find time to sew them up. As you may know, one of these is my vintage pledge pattern. The contrast Lilou idea was conceived as an ‘in the mean-time’ project, while waiting for the vintage pledge pattern’s fabric to arrive. I thought it would be a quick make, as I had already used this pattern before here.  Alas, I decided to try a different size, with different modifications and due to the see-through nature of the mint green polka dot fabric, decided to line the entire dress in a contrasting red lining material. Needless to say, this project became far more labour intensive than originally anticipated and therefore put the vintage pledge project on hold. Whoops.

Oh well. In short, I am really happy with how this project turned out. I like the style of the dress, it has a vintage, sort of ballerina feel to it in this fabric. There are still some issues with fit. I made it a size smaller than my last attempt, and increased the bodice length by 2 inches. Mostly the fit is good, but it is slightly tight under my armpits. The size up from this was far too big in the bodice before I altered it, so I think for my next attempt I will stick with the smaller size, but try and do a full bust adjustment. I am really starting to appreciate the art of fitting. I have a lot to learn.

Polka dot Lilou dressLilou dress

I followed Tilly’s excellent instructions again for construction and was really chuffed by how much easier I found the process second time around. My sewing skills have definitely improved since my first Lilou. I used my new Bernina overlocker to finish some of the seams and it was so exciting to try it out on a project and see what it can do.

Finally, a little off topic, but thought I would share a picture with you of the newest addition to the croft this week. Our first Lamb of the season. Happy Sunday everyone.

Shetland Lamb

Pattern: Lilou Dress- Love at First Stitch by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric- Mint Spot Cotton Lawn from Backstitch

Vintage Pledge

Today I signed up to the 2015 Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. I kept my pledge simple, as I am new to sewing with vintage patterns. I have pledged to use my first vintage sewing pattern in 2015.
Now, I could have made things a lot easier for myself I am sure, but I am so tempted to give this pattern a try…

Joan Holloway style dress
I was looking through my stash and just couldn’t resist it. Its not my usual style and looks complicated, but I love the cut out detail in the neck and I think it could look really awesome in the right fabric. I’m putting this choice down to my obsession with Mad Men and possibly the fact that I just finished reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

View 1 (Right) reminds me of something Joan Holloway would wear in Mad men, while View 2 (Left) is more Betty Draper. I think I will go for the Joan.

Not entirely sure which fabric to use at the moment, the pattern suggests a variety of fabric types from silk to linen, satin, wool or even jersey. 

I think I will make a toile first as I am guessing the vintage proportions may not favour my height.

This project will no doubt be a long one, so I will keep you posted.

An Alder on the Croft

It is a glorious weekend. The sun has come out after a spell of horrible weather and it finally feels like spring is coming. Here is my finished Alder shirt dress by Grainline Studio. I made view A using fabric from Backstitch, Klona cotton in Ash. I originally increased the length of the dress by 2 inches, but I managed to get all the way to hemming before realising I had forgotten to adjust the length of the button band to fit with my alteration. As it was all sewn in and the collar was already attached I couldn’t adjust it and had to cut the additional 2 inches off the dress length….woops. Thankfully, I think the length turned out fine. Alder Dress 1 Alder Dress 3 Alder dress 4 Other than that the project went rather smoothly, with the help of the excellent Alder sew along. The only bit I struggled with was enclosing the end of the collar stand. I just couldn’t get my head around it at first, but after a lot of messing around and re-reading of the instructions, it finally clicked. Alder 5

Alder 4

This was my first shirt type garment, so I learnt a lot from this project. I found it really enjoyable to sew, turns out I really enjoy topstitching. In hindsight, the fabric choice maybe wasn’t quite right for this garment. It is a bit stiff for this style, it creases easily and doesn’t have much of a drape. I don’t think it helped that I went one size up for a more relaxed feel, possibly if it was more fitted, the fabric would have been fine. Next time I will try this dress in a cotton lawn or maybe even silk if I’m feeling adventurous. Alder Dress 7

Recycled Slouchy Hat

With winter dragging on, I was desperate for a new warm winter hat, but didn’t fancy knitting one. I wanted an instant result, so I thought I would try making one from an old wool dress I had been planning to recycle. I sketched out a basic hat shape on dot and cross tracing paper for a pattern and added a 1cm seam allowance. Placing it on the bottom of the wool dress, double thickness, I cut both pieces in one go. The hat was assembled by stitching around the curved edge, right sides together. It really was as simple as that. I ironed the seams flat, as best I could, with a cotton cloth between the fabric and the iron et voila. Using the already finished edge of the dress as the base of the hat made it so easy, no need to add a band or finish the edge. I made it very oversized as I prefer my hats floppy. I am very happy with this result. It looks a bit like a tea cosy….but I love that.

Homemade Hat 4

Wool Dress Recycle

One thing I could have done to improve this make, would have been to felt the wool first to prevent unravelling. I didn’t here as the wool content of this fabric was low, so I didn’t think it would work.
However, I recently acquired a pile of old 100% wool jumpers to recycle, so I intend to felt them and try again. Check out my felted jumper stash below, should get a few hats out of that lot.

Felted Wool

4 Colours Felted Wool

I was originally planning to share my latest make with you today, a Grainline Alder Shirt Dress, but unfortunately ran out of thread before I could finish the button holes. Living on an island doesn’t lend itself to last minute haberdashery shopping, so unfortunately I only have a sneak peak of the nearly finished product for you. Happy Sunday.

Alder Shirt Dress