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!

High waist Emerson culottes

Hurrah, I have a new project to post! I’ve barely sewn at all since early December to be honest. I don’t feel too bad about it because it was for a catalogue of good reasons: a pre-Xmas holiday to Mexico (which you can read about on my other blog if you’re interested), straight back into Christmas with family, my 32nd birthday a week ago, and also dropping my machine into the shop for a much-needed service. So, I’m back, fired up and inspired after spending some birthday gift money on pretty new fabrics with my #2017makenine list forefront of my mind. I’m glad to get one thing ticked off before the month is out.

(Apologies for the obnoxious phone-gazing in these photos by the way. I discovered my phone can act like a wireless screen and shutter trigger for my camera, but obviously then I have to look at my phone to take the shot. I think I’ll go back to the old remote set-up.)

I picked a simple project and a pattern I’ve made before to ease back into things: the True Bias Emerson culottes, a lovely pattern released by Kelli alongside the super-popular Ogden cami last summer. I never actually shared my first pair, but here’s a quick snap from when I made them.

(Ugh, looking at this makes me miss warm weather and tans…) This pair was made exactly as patterned from a lovely Sevenberry indigo cotton. I wore them a lot when it was warm and they were also perfect for my Mexico holiday. The only thing that bugged me was the rather low waist, which I find limits how I can wear them. They’re great with a cami but nothing works tucked in, and together with the pleats it created some slight crotchal weirdness.

No one wants crotchal weirdness, so in making them again I added two inches to the rise. This is pretty much as simple as slicing the pattern horizontally between crotch and waistline and taping in a strip of paper to make up the length. After doing that I cut out a little rectangle at the front side seam in order to slide the diagonal pocket opening back into place, so the shape of the pocket opening remains the same. If you don’t do this you’ll need to lengthen the pocket lining/facing piece to match the new front pieces. I’m much happier with how they sit now – the front looks nice and smooth thanks to the pattern’s smart flat-front-elastic-back waistband and I can wear all my silly T-shirts tucked in to my heart’s content.

I also cut the pattern down a couple of sizes between waist and hip to take into account the higher rise meaning a smaller waist measurement, but I still had to cinch the elastic quite a lot at the back to make it fit snugly. If I went any smaller I wouldn’t be able to pull them up over my hips though; ah, pear-shape problems. The non-lazy-girl solution would be to add an invisible zip to the side seam, but as it is I’ll usually wear them with a half-tucked tee so the slightly bunchy back is concealed.

They’re made in a heftier-than-usual viscose, a Man Outside Sainsbury’s Of Walthamstow bargain, which I actually used inside-out as I preferred the more subtle side of the ikat-style print. While the fabric is warm, it’s currently hovering close to freezing in London so baring any ankle skin is a pretty foolish idea. That makes it difficult to match up footwear; however once it gets back up a few degrees I’ll happily pair them with brogues or clogs and a flash of dashing white ankle.

#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

2016 (and 2015) Top Five

I might not have time to squeeze in any more sewing this year – I’m all done with work and off on a little holiday before Christmas – so it’s a good time to reflect back on another year of sewing by doing my Gillian’s top five. Here they are!

1. My Named Yona coat was one of this year’s first projects back in January. It’s on its second winter now and holding up quite well, although I wish I had used a better quality interfacing as it has sagged and stretched a little bit through the raglan shoulder seams. I also think I need a slightly warmer or fasten-able coat if it gets any colder. But style-wise I still adore this coat!
2. This rib-knit Celine dress feels like me in dress form. I love it and feel great whenever I wear it, and it always gets comments! I gotta make another one, it’s just such a pain to cut out that I’ve been resisting it, ha ha.
3. While this black midi V1501 is not a wardrobe regular, it still makes my favourites list because I am so pleased with the fabric, construction and minor pattern hacks I put in to make quite a unique dress.
4. It’s been a Named-heavy year! Mt first Inari dress set the scene for making a few others. This fabric’s held up really well and I think it’s still my favourite of them all.
5. This starry silk Named Helmi dress is another one that I always feel awesome in and really represents the sort of style I try to shoot for. (I just wore it on Friday to celebrate my last working day of the year, hurrah!) Again I was really pleased with the construction I achieved and must make another one soon.

Looking at my list, I think there’s definitely a correlation between sewing enjoyment factor, quality of the result, and frequency of wear/wardrobe success. I don’t always get it right and there have certainly been garments this year that haven’t made the grade. But I do think it’s been a good year of solidifying my skills and making better choices about fabrics and silhouettes to make garments I’ll love to wear.

I also thought it would be good to look back a further year, and see which garments from 2015 are still going strong. As sewists it’s often our goal to make long-lasting and non-disposable garments, and I could definitely do better at this. But here are some older makes that are still in regular rotation.

My black cotton Roberts dungarees are still my go-to on ‘nothing to wear’ days. I love them! Likewise this Shibori swing dress is trans-seasonal and so easy to wear. Of all the jeans I’ve made, not that many have stayed the course; these Blue Gingers have done because the fabric has such great recovery and hasn’t bagged out (and I still love that shirt too!). My black Waver jacket got a second season of wear in the autumn before it got too cold, and my lovely Alder dress gets rocked out every summer – and is safely packed for my upcoming holiday to Mexico!