Pencil Skirts are top of the pops for Spring 2018

A classic pencil skirt – Butterick 5466

What have dressmakers been sewing ready for Spring? Top of the pops is the perennial classic – a pencil skirt. A pencil skirt can be a classic knee skimming business skirt, a sassy and shorter option in four-way stretch or slinky sequins for evenings or for a contemporary twist on the style make it as a calf length hobble or wiggle skirt. It’s no wonder this simple skirt is such a popular classic, not only can it be worn for so many occasions, it’s an easy garment to make too.

Style variations

You can  choose to make your pencil skirt with a waistband, or waist facing instead, which I prefer and you can  add darts to the back to shape it around the derriere and even add kick pleats or a fashionable ruffle at the hem for a variation.

Size Wise

Do take care to make the right size though because it is a close fitting garment, so there isn’t a lot of ‘ease’ allowance. Check your hip and waist measurements and choose the size by the hip. It’s easier to adjust for a different waist size – grade the side seams out or in slightly, remove or reduce darts etc. Remember that whatever the difference between your waist and the pattern size waist will  need to be divided by the number of seams or darts you are altering. So if you are 5cm (2″) bigger on the waist than the pattern is for the hip size you’ve chosen and you have 2 side seams plus two front darts, you can divide it by 4, and grade out the sides by 13mm and slim down the darts or leave them out completely.

Which pattern to choose

A constant best seller, this simple pencil skirt is designed for stretch knit fabrics

There are a number of easy to make pencil skirt designs to choose from, including a top selling classic such as McCalls 6654 which is an easy to make skirt for knit fabrics, with elasticated waist and just two pieces – front and back.




This short and sassy style, McCalls 7631 is a great design for beginners

Go short and sassy with McCalls Learn to Sew design 7631, which is a Learn to Sew design so has detailed how-to instructions for inserting a zip, learn to make a back slit and sew with difficult fabrics.





This Vogue Pattern 8750 provides classic design with contemporary styling

For a more contemporary look, try Vogue Pattern 8750 which has several curved seams to give a classic style chic detailing. And why not add some piping within some of the seams to lift this easy to sew pattern into the designer class!




Great for four-way stretch and woven fabrics, Butterick 5566 is one of my favourites

My final top pattern pic for a pencil skirt is Butterick 5566 which is perfect for the lovely new  four-way stretch knit fabrics as well as woven fabrics. Make one or two up and you will have some figure hugging staples to add to your wardrobe.

Enjoy sewing your own pencil skirt this Spring.

Sew Necessary New Year Resolutions

Just one shelf stacked with stuff to sort out!

My new year’s resolutions for 2018 are not about dieting, drinking and exercising, but Sew Necessary New Year Solutions to sort out and clear out my sewing space. My list includes a cull of patterns, fabric, trimmings, haberdashery and machines!


Patterns – to make or not to make

  1. I’ve too many boxes like this. Have to be firm and weed them out!

    I will go thorough my stash of patterns and weed out all those that I will never make. As Brand Ambassador for the McCall’s Pattern Company, I have access to all the new designs of Butterick, McCalls, Kwik Sew and Vogue Patterns. So out go:

    A. Patterns I’ll never make because I’ve gone off the style (or it has gone out of fashion – I do have some dating back many years)

    B. Out go those I’ll never make again – because although I love the original I’ve already made, I really don’t want two of the same style.

    C. Set aside those I do want to make again and make a list of fabric requirements so I can put them on my to-do list.


UFS – cull or complete

  1. Go through my UFS (unfinished projects) and decide which I will realistically finish and those that I’ve long gone off the boil about and will never really finish. Life’s too short to make something that you’ve fallen out of love with. And if it has remained unfinished for a year or two – it’s past it’s sell by date!


Banish unread books

  1. I need to banish some of the books too. That’s going to be hard!

    Go through my library of books and weed out all those I haven’t looked at for years and probably never will. I have a lot of those. Books I have bought or been given because they are about the subject I love (sewing) but actually, I have other more recent books that I prefer and do refer to.

    My name is Wendy Gardiner and I am a magpie! I can’t bear to throw away something that might come in useful one day. But this time I will.

Blitz the bits and bobs box

  1. Most definitely need to blitz the bits boxes

    Go through my Bits and Bobs box(es) – sadly a lot more than one box. This includes all the short lengths of ribbon, cord etc that I have saved from fancy carrier bags because they may come in useful one day. I’ve bags of big glassy jewels – they were fabulous when I got them about 10 years ago (!), card making supplies – I tried that once, definitely mustn’t give up my day job – and part packs of felt flowers etc. I really need to weed these out and of course, make room for new trims…

Fabric Stash Bust

  1. Too many boxes are filled with remannts. They’ve got to go

    Again truth is I have fabric stashes – not one or two! Firstly I will go through my remnants box(es) – again more than one. I will sort out all those small pieces left over from projects – you know what I mean – those bits that you never know might come in handy! Sort out the half metre lengths from dresses I’ve made where I buy more than a pattern requires because I often buy the fabric first, so over estimate, just in case. They are big pieces, but I will not really ever use them, and someone else may do so.


I will also try and be very bold and brave and sort out all those lengths of fabric I bought many, many years ago that I’ve never made up and really never will. Being a fabric lover and hoarder, I do have a tendency to buy more new fabric at every opportunity, so have a few boxes I’ve not touched in years. So out with the old it is.


Fabrics to be saved need to be paired with patterns to make or remake like this one

And then, I will pair up the remaining pieces with patterns and put them in a Projects to Complete box.


  1. I will sell off some of my sewing machines. I do have more than I need and they take up space. (I mean, do I really need 15!). Right now in order to get to my fabric boxes, I have to move an ironing board and a dressform out of the way. To reach interfacing, I have to move two sewing machines and an overlocker! So time to sort out those I don’t use and sell them. After all I can then use the money to buy more fabric, haberdashery, patterns – or a weekend sewing retreat to get over my exhausting sewing space overhaul!


Once the clean up is done, I will take the bags of fabrics, books, haby etc to a local Hospice charity shop that specialises in Arts and Crafts so I am sure they will go to good homes. And then, to redecorate the room and add more storage and workspace so perhaps I can leave out my most used sewing machine and overlocker, all set to sew at any time. Oh bliss…

Happy New Year

Top Styles to Make with Big Sleeves

Vogue Pattern 1565
This stunning dress, Vogue Pattern 1565 by Tom and Linda Platt really has Big Sleeve Detail

The High Street shops are packed with tops, dresses and jumpers with sensational and stylish sleeve detail. So, I searched through the pattern catalogues to see what I could make myself which includes this new fashion detail. Of course McCalls, Butterick and Vogue Patterns have ensured what’s available ready-made is also available to those of us that like to create our own unique fashions. I’ve noted a few of my favourites which I shall get ready to sew over the Christmas break.


Classic Jacket with a twist

Vogue Pattern 8991
The sleeve detail turns this classic jacket into a fashion piece (Vogue Pattern 8991)

A classic simple jacket has a new twist in Vogue Pattern 8991, which includes lapped and buttoned cuffs up to the elbows. I like the way this is still a classic design so will last for years, even when the Big Sleeve detail has passed! This one is worth making in a good quality LintonTweed or similar quality wool coating fabric.


Top Styles with big sleeve details

McCalls 7657
I love McCalls 7657 which includes a top with ruffled sleeve detail

More familiar in the high street are tops with long ruffled sleeves so I really like the simple top in McCalls pattern 7657 which has long sleeves ending in ruffles. If I make this one, I might leave out the choker style neckline and just keep it as a simple V-neckline which is of course the beauty of making your own clothes, you can choose to add or leave out elements that you want to change. And of course, there are other options in the pattern pack as usual. I could include ruffles down the front too!


McCalls 7658
McCalls 7658 is another twist on a top with big sleeve detail

Sew Now featured another McCall’s top, this time an overlay front extends into the sleeves (McCall 7658) which makes it different and fun.


Best Dresses

Vogue Pattern 1565
This stunning dress, Vogue Pattern 1565 by Tom and Linda Platt really has Big Sleeve Detail

If you like dresses, the wow-dress by Tom and Linda Platt is stunning with it’s cape like sleeve detail (Vogue Pattern 1565). Shown here in bright red, it can of course be made in any colour so doesn’t have to be such a show stopper if that is not your thing!





Butterick 6482
Butterick 6482 by Lisette is a dream in denim

For the more conservative, Butterick 6482 is a dream in denim with top stitch detail on the bodice and belt and then pleated and top-stitched three quarter sleeves. Just remember to use the quilter’s guide on your machine to stitch row after row of perfectly parallel lines! (That’s the little metal rod that fits into the back of the foot holder and can be moved left or right so you get parallel rows of stitching equally spaced every time. Just stitch the first row, then move the rod so it runs along that line of stitching and stitch the next row, watching the guide not the needle).

McCalsl 7654
McCalls 7654 is a pack of evening dresses with sleeve detail

For evenings and special occasions, McCall 7654 combines cold-shoulder sleeves with ruffles and more. Again there are other options in the pack


Its a Wrap

Vogue Pattern 9276
Vogue Pattern 9276 is a pack of wraps and tops to cover bare shoulders

I also love the pack of wraps with sleeve variations or simple flared sleeves with lace detail shown on Vogue Pattern 9270. Having a wrap, bolero or short jacket is a must-have when the nights are colder and bare shoulders a no-no!


So join me and get sewing the latest fashion trend this season and make your sleeves sensational!

How to successfully sew with faux fur and pile fabrics

Use McCalls 7511 for your first faux fur jacket
McCalls 7511 is easy for faux fur

There are lots of lovely faux fur garments in the shops this winter and so of course, it’s time to start sewing with faux fur. Butterick, McCalls and Vogue Patterns have a great selection and best of all,most are easy to sew so quick to make as well! (You only need simple lines to let the fabric do the ‘talking’).



I’ve based my simple shrug on McCalls 7289

I’ve got my cocktail dress to wear this winter (Vogue Pattern 8997) but need a little topper to keep my shoulders and arms warm  so I’ve made McCalls 7289, a little shrug that’s super easy to make.


Faux fur is handled the same as many other plush fabrics, such as luscious velvets, faux suede, velour, brushed cotton, brushed denim, fleece and more. Because of the wide range of fabrics available with a pile or surface finish, they can be used for a huge variety of garments from luxury eveningwear to casual but cosy clothing.


Cosy up in a fabulously warm faux fur coat made from McCalls 7257
McCalls 7257 is an easy to make boxy style jacket, coat or shrug


Needle choice – The needle of choice will depend on the weight of fabric but generally, you can use a sharps/universal needle. So for light to medium thickness faux fur, a 80/12 is fine whilst for a lightweight silky velvet, you might want a 75/9 and for dense fabrics a more robust needle such as a 90/14 or jeans needle. For stretch fabrics such as velour or fleece, opt for a ball point needle again with the size to suit the fabric.


Seams – A regular straight seam is fine for fabrics with pile. Press seam allowances open and neaten raw edges separately. If the fur you are working with is ‘long haired’ trim away some of the fur from the seam allowances before stitching the seam. Also on furry fabrics, you can use a pin to tease out the fur from the right side along seam lines making it almost invisible.


Use Kwik Sew 4197 with a double sided suede/fur fabric
Lapped seams work well on double sided fabric. This is Kwik Sew 4197

Lapped seams – these are ideal for double sided fabrics such as faux suede or some fused woolens. Cut the underlap seam allowance off and then lap the top layer. Sew close to the edge of the top layer and again 1cm away. I did this for a faux suede/fur  backed fabric from which I made a coat. I love it, so cuddly and warm.


Stitch length – lots of faux fur fabrics are thicker because of the pile, so a longer stitch length may be better (a longer stitch will prevent the fabric puckering). Try a stitch length of 2.8 – 3.5 depending on thickness and number of layers. Try out a seam on scraps of the same fabric to see what works well.


Hemming – its best to have just a single layer of hem allowance, so neaten the raw edge before turning it up the required amount. Consider using bias binding wrapped around the raw edge for a really neat and ‘designer’ finish before turning up the hem. Then stitch with a blind hem machine or hand.


Vogue Pattern 9231 is ideal for a double sided fabric
I’ve used Vogue Pattern 9231 to make a faux suede and fur coat


  • Follow the ‘with nap’ layout when cutting out fur or fabrics with a pile so all pieces are the same way up, head to toe.
  • Cut from a single layer of fabric and flip tissue pieces over to get a right and left.


  • Rather than using pins, which can get lost in the pile, use paper clips or quilter’s clips.
  • Stitch all seams in the same direction, and preferably with the pile, ie from top to bottom
  • Use a walking foot to keep layers together as you sew – otherwise the pile on the fabric surface can cause the fabric layers to ‘walk’ unevenly as you sew. Also pin more closely together, pinning at right angles to the seam so you can whip the pins out easily as you sew.
  • When pressing, use a press cloth and always press from the reverse and over a needleboard (which has velvet or tiny pins into which the pile can sink) or alternatively, use a scrap of fabric or soft towel to press onto, which will also protect the pile.


  • Consider cutting facings,pockets etc from a cotton or satin lining fabric rather than the fur which may be too bulky.


Grade the seam allowances by cutting the garment seam to 1cm and the facing seam to 6mm.

Sew Saturday at Sew Creative

Sew Saturday at Sew Creative Challenge one, to make McCalls 7582 dolls

What a day packed full of fun challenges. Sew Saturday at Sew Creative in Petersfield was a jam-packed event, which coincided with the shop’s third anniversary too so it really was a day of celebrations.

Team challenge 1 – McCalls 7582

Customers were invited to participate in one of two team challenges – the first in the morning to make a pair of dolls from McCalls 7582. The pattern pack includes a number of cloth dolls with different outfits including shoes and hair variations.

The dolls, lookalikeys of Sharon, Clare, Jo and Steve

The Blue team, lead by Clare had to make dolls of Steve and Sharon whilst Sharon’s Pink team had to fashion their dolls into Jo and Clare. Lots of hilarity, doll stuffing and fevered activity resulted in these amazing dolls. Mini Jo has four arms – so she can continue to multi task! Mini Steve was suitably adorned with gold rim glasses whilst mini Sharon – smaller than the rest (as is she) had a lipstick in hand. Well she is a very smart lady.

Little Clare also has a mini copy of the pattern McCalls 7582!








Whilst all this was going on, other areas of the shop offered alternative activities, such as programming and stitching out your name on the latest Janome Horizon sewing/embroidery machine. The complete piece of stitched graffiti will be displayed in the shop. Or you could hand stitch a patch to a chair – the aim being to cover it completely throughout the day.


A really simple project to sit and sew whilst chatting with friends

Happy Hearts

If you preferred something quieter and comradely, you could sit down at a table covered with felt hearts, stuffing and embroidery floss and make a hanging Happy Heart. A moment of relaxation, chatting to fellow customers and learning different hand stitching techniques from each other.


The Live challenge make-overs: hat into sewing basket and dreamcatcher

Live challenge

Back to the bustle of the shop, Jo (owner of Sew Creative and organiser of the Sew Saturday adventures) and I were challenged to turn something into something else in30 minutes. We found out what that would be 5 minutes before we had to start. Both had spent a sleepless night the night before, trying to think of what we would do with a T-shirt, pair of jeans, tote bag etc – but neither of us had thought about a hat! So thinking on our feet, Jo chose to make a dream catcher and I decided on a sewing basket. With the clock counting down we began, and to add to the ‘fun’ we had an audience asking questions at the same time and were filmed for a live facebook feed! No pressure then….. The results may not be magnificent, but they were achieved within the 30 minute time slot. Both of us were relieved when it was over and time for the next customer team challenge.


Upcycle challenge

Again new team blue, lead by Clare and team pink led by Sharon (both these lovely ladies are regular tutors at Sew Creative) found out what they had to upcycle moments before the 1.5 hour challenge began. It was a curtain, pair of fluffy socks, long sleeved t-shirt and belt. Fortunately both Sharon and Claire were full of ideas immediately – hats off to them (excuse the pun) and away the teams went.


The pink team’s upcycled ensemble, skirt, gypsy style t-shirt, armwarmers and waistcoat

The Pink team turned the curtain into a fishtailed skirt with elastic waist and waistcoat using the gathered top as a ruffle around the waistcoat edge. The T-shirt had the sleeves shortened, the neckline removed and a gypsy style gathered top instead to go with the Spanish theme. The socks were turned into arm warmers (pretty and practical) whilst the belt became a headband. One of the team bravely wore the ensemble for the final reveal.


Impressive results from the Blue team – curtain, t-shirt and fluffy socks into pinafore, bunny and bag, PJs and hat with pom pom

The blue team went down a completely different route – making a pinafore dress for a toddler from the curtain. The t-shirt was turned into a little top and leggings, both of which were trimmed with a little of the fluffy socks. Another team member made a cute hat with pom pom (from the curtain and more of the socks) whilst team leader Clare made a very cute bunny with pink fluffy ears and body from the curtain which she popped into a bag made from yet more of the curtain (with strap from the belt).


It was really impressive how the teams worked together and against the clock to produce something very wearable.


So another successful Sew Saturday at Sew Creative. It was wonderful to see how the customers and staff are such a community, sharing their passion for sewing on this special Sew Saturday. And of course, I bought some fabric too – a lovely soft jade coloured jersey which will be a new Vogue Pattern shortly!

Pretty Vintage Pinny

Make this Pretty Vintage Pinny, Vogue Pattern 8643
Make this Pretty Vintage Pinny, Vogue Pattern 8643

Pretty Vintage Pinny

This pretty vintage pinny is just one of the patterns available in the Vogue Pattern range of retro styles. Vintage designs are still incredibly popular so I’ve made this retro-style pinny (Vogue 8643) all ready for a swish dinner party!


The apron came together easily although it does have some unusual shaping, which adds to the vintage style. There are two side panels which are gathered to a shaped centre panel. Big patch pockets can be trimmed along the top with lace or ric rac, or have appliqué or lacy edging.

I made view A which has lace edging along the top edge – a nice touch with a definite vintage feel.


Patch pockets

The first step was to make the patch pockets. Step one is to add the lace edging along the seam line of the pocket top. With right sides together, stitch in place so the straight edge of the trim is along the seam line and the scallop edge hanging down towards the pocket. Then add the pocket lining sandwiching the lace trim between the layers which are placed right sides together. It’s best to work with the pocket front uppermost so you can see the stitching holding the lace trim in place, and therefore sew just to the left of the first row of stitching so it will be encased within the seam.


Continue around the pocket and to get a smooth curved seam, at the curves, stitch slowly, stopping with needle down, raise presser foot slightly and pivot the fabric. Leave a turning gap in the bottom edge.


Again to help the curved seam turn through smoothly and without visible lumps and bumps in the seam area, clip and notch the curved seams of the pockets – cut little wedge shapes from the seam allowance at the outer curves.

Edge stitch the pockets to the side front pieces
Edge stitch the pockets to the side front pieces

Edge stitch the pockets in place

The pockets are then edge-stitched to the side panels – edge stitching is just stitching close to the edge. To achieve a straight seam, nicely on the edge, use the inner edge of the presser foot as the guide and move the needle to the far right  (using the stitch width button to move the needle when sewing with a straight stitch).



Add gathered side panels
Gather the top of side front pieces to fit into the curved front
Gather the top of side front pieces to fit into the curved front

The side panels are then gathered and attached to the front panel but first, it is important to stay stitch the inner curves on the front panel, to prevent them stretching out of shape as you sew and attach the sides (to stay stitch – stitch with a standard stitch length just within the seam allowance, close to the seam line.) To gather the top of the side panels, sew just inside the seam allowance with a long stitch length of 4-5mm. Pull up the bobbin thread to gather the fabric to fit the inner curve of the front and sew together.


Trim added to top edge

Attach trim to the top edge just like the pockets
Attach trim to the top edge just like the pockets

The top of the apron has ties and a facing, but before adding these, first attach ric rac or lace trim to the top edge of the front piece p following the same technique as attaching the trim to the pocket top.


Ties stitched and attached
Attach ties to the back section for a neat finish
Attach ties to the back section for a neat finish

The ties are stitched, right sides together around the pointed ends and up to a large circle near the other end beyond which is left unstitched in order to insert the apron back into the tie end neatly. This is an unusual way of attaching ties, but does produce a neat finish.


The apron is then finished with an interfaced facing across the apron front to give a waistband effect.


I hope you enjoy making your own pretty vintage pinny.

Little Black Dress – Vogue Patterns Cocktail Hour

Vogue Pattern 8997

My Little Black Dress is the second version of Vogue Pattern 8997 I’ve made recently as part of the Vogue Patterns Cocktail Hour collection. My first version is in a bright yellow cotton with big blue spots – fabric I’d had in my stash for over 20 years and which is actually furnishing fabric. But it holds the shape beautifully and makes the full skirt really stand out. Unusually for me, I’ve now made it again, but this time as a real cocktail hour dress, my first Little Black Dress!

The beautiful fabric without any interlining yet

I say unusually, because I very rarely make a pattern up twice – mostly because of the steady supply of new designs that are introduced – and which just call out to be made! But this time, it was the perfect pattern for the fabric I wanted to use – which again I have had in my stash.

The Fabric

I bought it from Sew La De La at a Knitting and Stitching show a few years ago with a view to make just this kind of dress. It is a black net with a swirling ribbon design appliquéd on it resulting in a very textural piece of fabric. Much of the fabric is see-through and the swirling pattern is busy, so the pattern needed to be simple! Hence Vogue Pattern 8997.


The beauty of using the pattern again is that I had already done the full bust adjustment needed (which was minimal because this design has Custom Fit bodice pieces for cup sizes A, B, C and D which are such a boon if you are full busted).  It’s also a Very Easy Vogue design – which means simple lines and minimal piecing – another good thing for this busy fabric.


I have to say, the fabric was a pig to sew too! But so lovely I persevered! The undulating appliqué, varying from thick rose clusters to thin trailing ribbon tails meant it was difficult to sew through. I used a sharps needle, size 80/12 – a bit big for the netting, but just right for appliqué.

Pattern adjustments
Fabric interlined with a flesh coloured lining

I pretty much followed the pattern, making the same view as before. The bodice is supposed to be interfaced completely, but of course, I didn’t want to do that and ruin the transparency and lightness of the fabric, so I interlined it instead with a flesh coloured lining (cutting the pattern pieces again in the interlining fabric and then sewing them around the edges to the reverse of the pattern pieces. From then on I treated the joined pieces as one and continued to construct the garment). I then lined the whole garment with a nude colour lining which also doesn’t detract from the lightness of the netting nor deaden the impact 3D appliquéd ribbon.


I did attach the lining so the right side faces the wrong side of dress rather than the usual way of having wrong sides together. This means that where you can glimpse the lining through the transparent netting, you don’t see any seam allowances. I also left gaps in the lining at the pocket position, and made the pockets out of the lining fabric (less bulky) so that they slipped inside the lining too – again making them invisible.


Some parts of the base fabric didn’t have the applique so I needed to cover these
I covered bare patches of netting with remnants of the appliqued pieces

At a couple of places, where I had to use the full width of the fabric for the full skirt pieces, there were patches without any of the appliqué, so I cut some spare fabric from remnants and stitched it in place over the netting – seamless joins (and as the pattern of appliqué is fairly random, no careful pattern matching was necessary).

Invisible Zip Insertion
An invisible zip is just that, virtually invisible!

I chose to put in an invisible zip (my preferred zip method anyway). It went in easily and is only visible by the little zip pull at the top.

To hem the fabric, I used a rolled hem on an overlocker. It gave a neat finish without worrying about hem allowance being visible from the right side and as the fabric is bouncy and bulky (although very light and floaty too), I didn’t need anything to add support in the hem – the skirt flares out beautifully all on its own.

Which shoes!?

Now the big decision is which shoes to wear with it when I attend the Cocktail Hour party at the Knitting and Stitching show in October (Alexandra Palace). Do I opt for the black and gold sandals, the silver/gold sandals which change colour depending on the light, the ultra high, golden heeled black and gold sandals or my newest acquisition, the dusky pink glittery sandals. Or maybe, I need four occasions to wear all four!!

Sew Creative Challenge 2017 using McCalls patterns

Winners of the Sew Creative Sewing Bee challenge 2017
Heidi and Grace, winners of the Sew Creative Sewing Bee challenge 2017

I had the pleasure and pain of  being part of the final day for the 2017 Sewing Bee Challenge for Sew Creative last weekend. I say pain because all the entries, without exception, were so good, it made picking out winners devilishly difficult! So not just a challenge for the entrants, one for me too! I also gave a talk about my career and responsibilities as Brand Ambassador for the McCalls Pattern Company.


Sew Creative is a lively fabric shop in Petersfield, Hants which is always abuzz with activity, classes and happy customers. So it’s no wonder that the aptly named annual Sewing Bee challenge attracts so many entrants.

The Sew Creative Challenge

Customers buy a Challenge box put together by Jo, Sew Creative’s owner, which has the materials needed to make the three challenges. This year it included two co-ordinating fat quarters, one with a whale print on it, a plain tote bag and a McCalls pattern.

McCalls 6095 used in the Superb Stitching Challenge by entrants to the Sew Creative Sewing Bee challenge
McCalls 6095 used in the Superb Stitching Challenge by entrants to the Sew Creative Sewing Bee challenge

Superb Stitching Challenge with McCalls 6095

The entrants were given a McCalls craft pattern (6095) and tasked with making a sewing machine cover, apron or circular organiser from the pattern. They had to use one piece of Bee fabric provided in the Challenge Box, but could add co-ordinating fabrics, trims and embellishments.

The challenge was to stitch superbly and add techniques to embellish such as appliqué, piping, quilting and binding etc. What an array of choices – from multi-pocketed craft aprons to organisers trimmed and filled to sewing machine covers with beautiful embellishments.

This was probably the hardest category to judge because the entries were so diverse but the same! (The same three options, but with so much individuality).

My chosen winner was beautifully embellished with appliqué and hand embroidered lettering, finished inside with quilted lining and bias binding around the edges.

The Fat Quarter challenge produced amazing and diverse results
The Fat Quarter challenge produced amazing and diverse results

Two fat quarters Challenge

Contestants could add trims and embellishments and make anything they wanted but had to use only the two fat quarters for fabric. The collection of projects submitted was outstanding – ranging from cute lined waistcoats for tots to soft toy Whales, bags, wall hangings and booties. Picking out one to win the Category was very hard, but in the end I plumped for a Wash Caddy – with pockets and straps for all sorts of lotions, potions, toothbrush etc. I liked that it was different and well stitched, but when I then found out it had been made by Matt, who is visually impaired too, I was amazed all over again!

My favourite tote to... entry is a lampshade, hand painted and stitched
My favourite tote to… entry is a lampshade, hand painted and stitched

Tote to…. Challenge

The next challenge was to make-over a calico tote. Again the range of ideas was fabulous – many creating something so different its origin was hard to believe! I loved the wall tidy with lace pockets – very vintage inspired. Some had deconstructed the bag, dyed the fabric and then turned it into something else. Others had added amazing hand stitching, bargello panels down the sides etc.

Pat made a cute doll with clothes for the Tote bag challenge
Pat made a cute doll with clothes for the Tote bag challenge

The winner for the Tote Bag challenge was a lovely doll with clothes by Pat. Such a beautiful doll, very cuddly and I can imagine it will be loved by a little girl.

I also chose a ‘Wendy Wow’ winner for this category –  a lampshade created from the bag front and back. It had been hand painted and then hand and machine stitched creating a beautiful scene which was then turned into a lampshade.

Grace, winner of the Children's Sewing Bee tie-dyed the tote and turned it into a little dress
Grace, winner of the Children’s Sewing Bee tie-dyed the tote and turned it into a little dress
McCalls 7551 pattern was used by the the children to make Alphabet cushions for their stitch challenge
McCalls 7551 pattern was used by the the children to make Alphabet cushions for their stitch challenge

Kids can sew too

Of course, there was a Children’s competition running alongside the main one and there were six excellent entrants for this. They also restyled a tote and used fabric provided to stitch a cushion from a McCalls pattern (7551). Their pattern included alphabet cushions which involves sewing around curves and corners, and being able to clip and turn through smooth edges.

Again the tote challenge showed their creativity. The winner Grace had tie-dyed her tote and turned it into a baby’s dress with patch pocket and tie shoulder straps. But as always, all of the entrants deserved to win a prize and of course, all did – a bag of goodies from Jo and Sew Creative.

The overall winner, Hazel made cute fabric booties, top hat from the tote and appliqued, patchwork embellished sewing machine cover with piping and quilting
The overall winner, Heidi made cute fabric booties, top hat from the tote and appliqued, patchwork embellished sewing machine cover with piping and quilting

Overall winners

As well as having category winners, there had to be an overall winner. Fortunately for me, there was a short list but even so it was a task and a half! Finally I chose Heidi who had made a pair of cute booties from the fat quarters with decorative stitch detail, a top hat from the tote – with black keyboard and notes and an appliquéd machine cover. The top had had a tune around it which Heidi later said was ‘Let it Bee’ – so appropriate!

Sally Ann created a collection that we all considered Outstanding
Sally Ann created a collection that we all considered Outstanding

We then had an Outstanding Entry winner- Sally Ann whose collection of Challenges were fabulous – with a fish metal frame bag made from the fat quarters, ice-dyed baby dress from the tote and bee-hive machine cover from the pattern challenge.

So a fab day in a great shop that is understandably a very successful enterprise. Indeed, the collection of delicious fabrics tempted me to add to my stash! I bought the softest, cuddliest double sided fleece to make a blankie and a new flower printed cotton to make a full skirted dress.

It had to be done!

Enjoy sewing, Wendy

Butterick by Gertie Vintage style Dress

B6380_aI made this fabulous vintage style dress from Butterick 6380 which has a sweetheart neckline created by the tabs on either side. A nifty idea!


I made up the pattern to check the fit and finish for this design. Usually I have to do a full-bust adjustment before I can cut into fabric, but first, I always check what the finished garment measurements say (on the pattern envelope) and what the garment measurements say on the pattern tissue. Noting that there was a generous extra 5 inches between actual bust and finished garment measurement, I didn’t think I’d need to do the full bust adjustment but I did double check by doing a tissue fit – pinning together the front and back pieces, gathering the fabric below the bust as shown on the tissue etc. It was fine without the FBA so I launched into the fabric!

Gertie dress 1I’ve used a red cotton print with white spot that I’ve had in my stash for some time. It is  a lovely medium weight fabric so holds the shape of the skirt well. I also lined it with a poly/cotton – not only do I prefer a cotton lining, especially for summer dresses where a polyester lining can get hot and sticky, but again, it helps hold the shape better I feel.

I also decided to use the Surface Mounted zip insertion method because I had a pretty red zip with lacy edging that fitted the bill perfectly. I blogged about how to do this insertion in June’s Zip Tricks – Surface Mounted Zips so do take a look if you want the step by step instructions.

gertie dress2To hem the dress, after allowing it to hang for 24 hours, I cut the edge straight, overlocked it and then turned up a narrow hem of just 1cm and top stitched it in place. This is a quick way to deal with a curved hem such as this and avoids having too much excess fabric in the hem allowance. The alternative is to stitch with a long stitch length (4.5-5) about 13mm from the edge. Turn up the hem allowance tucking raw edge under and pin in place, slightly gathering the hem allowance where necessary to ease in the excess. The excess gathers should only be in the hem allowance and invisible from the right side.

gertie dress 3I’m pleased with my Gertie dress and luckily have a pair of red and white spot shoes that match exactly!


Enjoy sewing. love Wendy

Zip Tricks – Surface Mounted Zip

front of dressGone are the days when a zip was simply inserted with teeth covered into a centre back seam. A fashion favourite nowadays is to lay bare the teeth or even mount the zip onto the top and use the zip fastening as a design feature. With the introduction of pretty zips and decorative teeth, it makes sense to show them off. I’ve used the Surface Mounted zip insertion method on my zebra dress


Butterick 4386

Dress details
The dress I had chosen is a simple shift dress with front and back darts for shaping through the torso. It is Butterick 4386, available in sizes 8-22. I decided to reshape the neckline as I prefer not to wear high round neck garments (I don’t feel they suit a fuller bust, so prefer to lower it or add a V-neckline). And as the fabric is so dramatic, decided to add a surface mounted zip to further enhance the design.
close up of zip

Surface Mounted Zip

The ideas of a surface mounted zip is that it is totally on display so it’s great when using a zip with decorative teeth and pretty edges like this zip with lace edge tape.

  1. Neaten the raw edges of the seam allowance into which the zip is to be inserted and then fuse strips of interfacing, 2.5cm wide to the wrong side of the fabric in the zip placement area.
  1. Still working on the wrong side of the fabric, draw and then machine baste the zip placement lines 2cm either side of the neatened edges and the length to just below the zip stop..
  1. Fold the dress sections, right sides together and stitch the remainder of the seam from bottom of basting stitches to hem, taking a regular 15mm seam allowance.
  1. At the bottom end of the basting, snip diagonally into the seam allowance down to the corners, taking care you don’t snip the basting. Press the triangle at the base down to the wrong side.
  2. Turn the seam allowance for the zip opening to the RIGHT side along the machine basting. Press.
  3. Working on the right side of the fabric, place the zip, right side down hanging down towards the hem and with the zip stop just below the horizontal basting. Stitch across the bottom of the zip tape across the teeth section only, just below the zip stop.
  1. Bring the zip up and over the exposed seam allowances so that the teeth back of dressare over the gap between the two fabric pieces, pin and baste in place. Note that some seam allowance may extend beyond the zip tape on either side. Attach a zip foot and machine stitch the zip tape to the seam allowance close to the teeth.
  1. Unpick the basting, and then carefully trim back the seam allowance only from under the zip tape, Take care you don’t cut the garment fabric underneath nor the zip tape.
  1. Still with the zip foot attached, stitch down both long edges of the zip tape again, effectively encasing the raw edge of the zip opening under the zip tape. NB: If working with a lacy edged zip tape like the one I used, zip just inside of the scallop edging.