High street hack: Tied Inari in merino knit

Just a quick one today. I saw this dress in All Saints yesterday for £98, came home and made myself one for precisely zero in a couple of hours. And people ask why we sew?! :)

As soon as I saw the dress in the store, I thought ‘Inari with ties!’, so that’s the base pattern I used. All I changed was to scoop out the neckline a bit and add the ties.

To do that I basically completed the entire dress, made my ties (2″ strips sewn into a tube) and pinned them in place while wearing the dress. I found I preferred them set into the front of the dress rather than the side seams, so I sewed them on using a small zigzag, directly over the raw edge of the tie. The zigzagging gets concealed when the ties are done up so it looks quite neat.

I used a gorgeous merino jersey knit which The Fabric Store kindly sent me to try out. It’s the 200gsm merino in charcoal specifically. This knit is just amazing to work with – it’s stable, loves both the overlocker and sewing machine, and takes very well to a steamy press. It gives a beautiful luxurious sheen and drape to the final garment as well. You would not find knit of this quality in a £100 high street dress, put it that way!

The ties lend themselves to being arranged a few other ways too…

I’m reaching more for trousers than dresses lately in these awkward in-between days where I want to ditch the black tights but it’s not quite bare-leg temperatures yet, but I can’t wait to wear this with sandals when spring properly kicks off.

Mono Ansa dress

I sometimes have a strange ‘gotta-have-it’ urge for a pattern that at first glance doesn’t really seem to be my usual thing. That was definitely the case with Named’s new Ansa dress, and I’m happy to report that my inkling was true and I lurrrrve this dress.

I bought the pattern at the same time as the Ronja dungarees, and sewed them one after the other. Named patterns are just such sewing joy, and I need those sorts of projects when sewing time is scarce. I really agonised about whether to sew to the top or dress first, but haven’t sewn a fun dress in a while and I have an event next weekend that it may get cracked out for.


Based on the finished measurements I cut a size 40/12. The waist has a couple of inches of ease and the bust and hips are even looser, so I figured I could fit as I sewed. I found the waistline tucks a tiny bit lower than my natural waist, so took a cheeky dart out of the shoulder line to hike the whole thing up a bit. I also took two inches off the length and sewed the side seams at a slightly larger seam allowance, and the fit’s pretty perfect!

Sewing it up was quick and fun, even all the tucks and darts (eight in all) which I used to avoid like the plague. If a pattern has a lot of dart/tuck markings on multiple pieces, personally I find it much more manageable to deal with preparing each piece in turn, i.e. I cut the back, marked the darts and immediately sewed those before moving on to cutting out the front. Unfortunately most of the design details get totally buried in this print, but the silhouette and the drama from the butterfly sleeves (easy-to-set raglans) make up for it.

The fabric is a lovely viscose challis from Minerva. It’s now sold out; I bought the last of the reverse colourway, probably to make the top version of this pattern! Challis has a natural springy stretch which makes it very comfy to wear, but you just have to be extra careful about not distorting it at the cutting stage. I lay the folded fabric out on my cutting mat then give it a quick press with a warm iron to get it flat and on-grain.


Nothing too fancy going on in the construction or finishing: I overlocked most of the seams, French seamed the side seams, and the neckline is finished with bias facing which I handstitched down.

I feel like this dress is made for dancing, so hopefully she’ll get a spin soon!

Ronja-rees

Allo allo! I haven’t had much time for either sewing or blogging lately, but I have been thinking about it a lot, as ever. At the weekend a bit of enforced-relaxation time meant I could get stuck into a nice project with a shiny new pattern.

Like a lot of the sewosphere I went totally heart-eyed for Named’s new spring collection, Playground. I bought two printed patterns pretty quickly: the Ansa butterfly dress/blouse and these, the Ronja dungarees. I loved the apron-style top, fitted waistline and on-trend cropped straight leg.

I cut a straight size 14/42 as I find Named quite narrow through the hips for my pear shape and wanted a comfortable fit through the waist. Overall this decision turned out well: there are double back and single front darts so they end up roomy through the hips and snug at the waist.

I think next time I will alter the shape of the bib piece a bit though. I feel like it’s quite skimpy, not wide enough across the top in particular, and almost like I need to FBA it – I’m not sure how I’d go about that! Looking at the picture below the back seems a little baggy, but a bit of ease is needed to be able to move and bend in them.

One key alteration I made was to swap the buttoned side fastenings for a simple centre-back invisible zip. I thought I’d prefer the more streamlined look and also fancied doing a technique I’ve got pretty good at than something new and potentially tricky, ha. I also made self-fabric straps rather than the ribbon the pattern calls for.

My fabric is a forest green brushed twill from Ditto that I’ve had in my stash since I went to their Brighton store for my birthday last year. Weight-wise I think it’s a good match but that peached finish does show every little dent and wrinkle. The pockets and bib are lined in lightweight cotton lawn (spot the leftover Liberty from my Sudley dress!).

The instructions are very clear and you’re left with a lovely clean finish inside. The waist is finished with facings which also hide the raw bib edges, and the pockets also have a facing before the lawn lining starts. Lovely little details which I’ve come to admire from Named. I reckon these will join my Roberts dungarees in regular rotation, and I also want to make another pair, perhaps in denim, to adjust the little fitting niggles I found.

Wear-in your handmade jeans in five minutes

I’ve got a bit of a confession. I’ve got quite the stock of handmade jeans now – Gingers, Safrans, more Gingers – but they don’t tend to get worn as often as my trusty RTW pairs. The reason was always they they felt too crispy-new, too uniformly-coloured, with none of that lovely age (or slightly less lovely artificial ageing/distressing) of my favourite vintage or store-bought pairs.

So why did nobody tell me how fast and easy it was to get a lovely soft, faded, subtly-patina’ed finish on brand new handmade jeans, with nothing but a bit of sandpaper and five minutes of elbow grease? I’ve just turned three pairs of handmade jeans from meh to dreamy in a weekend.

Here’s how I did it. I got some fairly heavy-grade sandpaper out of our DIY cupboard and wrapped it around my hand. A sanding block would probably do the trick, too. I put the jeans on and simply started buffing away at the areas I wanted to fade and distress. I started around the front pockets, fly and waistband, then took long strokes down the inseam and outer seams. Then I crouched down (this is where you start to feel pretty silly) and rubbed the paper down my front thigh, down to the knees and calf. Finally I took it over the back waistband, back pockets and centre back seam.

The trick is to start with a little pressure and build it up. Hold the fabric fairly taut where you want a smooth fade and let it wrinkle and bunch a bit where you want whiskers to form. You also may want to put some paper or plastic sheeting down before you start as you’ll get indigo ‘rubbings’ falling off.

Finally, you can take the jeans off, check over for any bits that don’t feel uniform and scrub away a little more. I hung the jeans over the edge of my ironing board or over a tailor’s ham for this bit.

Here’s the same thing on my Cone Mills denim Gingers. This effect might not be for everyone, but I know I’m going to get a lot more wear out of these jeans now they feel soft and worn-in.

Magical McCall 7445

You know it’s a true love sewing project when a) I peel myself out of bed a little early on a school day to photograph them in the semi-dark for the old bloggo and b) I want to wear them so much, I do so even on a highly weather-inappropriate day. It’s close to freezing here in London and here I am, flashing a bit of ankle in my snazzy new pants.


These are the wide-leg cropped pants (yes, more!) from McCall 7445, which I got – and is still currently – half off at Minerva Crafts. This is a design by Melissa Watson for the Palmer-Pletsch line, and I actually discovered the pattern via Melissa’s Instragram feed showing her own versions of the pattern. Look at her silk velvet pair in action – swoon! I made view B, which has an exposed front zip and a waist facing instead of a waistband.

Fun fact time – Melissa is Pati Palmer’s daughter, and in case you didn’t know Palmer-Pletsch are known for being the goddesses of fitting. They’ve written several books on the subject and pioneered the tissue-fitting system. An unexpected bonus of this pattern is that the instructions have thorough guidance on how to tissue-fit the pants and make common alterations – flat/full butt adjustments, sway back, crotch curve adjustments, that sort of thing. The pants also have a one-inch seam allowance on the side seams for easier fitting. I assume all of the Palmer-Pletsch line patterns have the same?


As it happens, the size 14 was basically perfect on me out of the packet – or they look pretty good to me, anyway – so I didn’t need to use any of the enclosed advice. After basting at the given one-inch I ended up shaving about an extra half-inch or so off the waistline but that’s it in terms of adjustments. My measurements are actually a little over a Big 4 size 14, but they come up typically large, and I was also using a fabric with a slight stretch, a fine needlecord from Croft Mill, which meant I wanted to get them nice and snug. I also took one inch off the length.

They came together super fast, a few hours on Sunday evening. Turns out exposed zip flies are the easiest ever! It sounds gushy but I just love every detail of this design. It’s pretty rare I make a pattern exactly as designed without fiddling around with it, but these really are the one. It makes sense I guess since Melissa seems like a super stylish lady from her Instagram feed… alright, now I’m definitely gushing.


Internal details (excuse the fluff, needlecord loves it!): I love the squared-off pockets, which I lined with leftover silk from my Helmi dress, and the sleek self-faced waistline. I’m gonna make another pair of these pretty fast in some olive green heavy crepe I’ve got in my stash, perhaps with a concealed size zip.

And they’re a second tick off the 2017makenine list, hurrah. Yay for pants that make me want to dance!

#2017makenine

I’ve been a bit out of it with sewing lately, but I really want to kick it up again in 2017. The first thing to do is take my machines to get serviced and repaired as soon as possible. My normal machine has two really annoying issues – the thread-cutter blade broke off and the foot won’t stay raised on its own – which I need to get fixed as they drive me nuts whenever I start a project. I’ve also started a fresh Instgram account just for sewing to give me another boost – it’s, predictably, at @whatkatiesews. And I’ve been buying a few pretty fabrics in the sales to kickstart some ideas – my stash is pretty low!

2017 Make Nine

Of course another fun motivator is to make plans. With a few more months’ of sad winter ahead, I tried to pick nine projects which would be wearable in the cold weather and beyond into spring and summer. Here’s my inspo-board:

1. I never blogged it, but I made a black button-down mini skirt at the start of the year, self-drafted using my skirt block: here’s an Instagram pic. It was an unassuming little wardrobe hit which always garnered compliments, because it makes my waist look tiny! So I’d like another one, either in dark denim or full-on 90s-revival velvet like this one.
2. A black midi kimono dress. I’ve had the Sew House Seven Tea House dress cut and ready to make for ages, but it takes 3m of fabric and I always buy in 2m lots so I’m waiting for the right stuff to come along and buy the correct quantity.
3. More waist-wrappy dresses – I love them! Either a Style Arc Serena, Vogue 1395, Style Arc Celine, or Named Kielo.
4. Bibbed wide-leg culotte-overalls. I’ll probably self-draft from the True Bias Emersons, which I also made this year and never blogged, but were a total hit on my recent holiday.
5. Swingy printed dresses. Just a year-round wardrobe essential! i’ll probably use my Roberts hack pattern.
6. A jersey midi column skirt, perhaps in a pre-pleated type of fabric if I can find some and figure out how to sew it!
7. Mmmm, sack dresses. Vogue 1482 or 1496 will do the trick here.
8. Cropped straight-leg pants, maybe in stretch needlecord, to be worn with tees tucked in or sweaters.
9. T-shirts! Another thing that never gets blogged but regularly sewn. I like this ringer-type twist and the longer-than-short sleeves.

Capsule sewing

My nine projects were picked based on this idea of a trans-seasonal capsule wardrobe, which can be mixed and matched to make it easy to get dressed and ensure high rotation across garments that all work together. Here’s how I see it all fitting together:


The obvious great thing about dresses (and their legged cousin, the jumpsuit) is you can throw one on and be instantly dressed. I wear dresses more than 50% of the time, and they are also funsies to sew, so it’s a win win. Plus you can use all the fun prints since they don’t need to match anything! In addition to the ones in my #makenine list, I also want another Helmi and probably some more Sudleys too.


I hope this trend for wide, slightly cropped pants doesn’t go away – I really like them, though I haven’t quite cracked the chilly-ankles issue now it’s getting close to freezing. I think they’re best with a slimmer top to balance them out, like a ribbed tee or turtleneck.

A variation on the above that I can throw tights under and a cardi on top of for winter. It gives me a chance to rock my main RTW indulgence too, silly slogan t-shirts and band shirts, a habit I can’t quite kick.

It worked, I’m excited to get sewing now! Happy Christmas and new year, everyone.

p.s. all image sources on Pinterest