#SewingCoco Party – Coco meets Miette!

I’m celebrating Tilly‘s Coco Party today with a stripy Breton-inspired Coco top paired with my midi and maxi Miette skirts.

Until yesterday evening, I hadn’t done any sewing this week, so Coco was the perfect quick basic pattern to get me back into the swing of things. I sewed the whole thing up apart from the neck and the hems on my overlocker in about an hour.

I really like that the blue and red top can be teamed up with both my blue and magenta skirts and each skirt brings out a different colour in the top! So versatile!

Well done Tilly, you’ve produced another great pattern to add to my wardrobe staples.



Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 and Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee

Carnival must have worked its winter-banishing magic because cold weather seems far behind us now and the sunny spell has me itching to get cracking on my 2014 summer wardrobe.

As luck would have it, just as I’d begun excitedly daydreaming about patterns and fabrics, lovelies Jill (Made with Moxie) and Rachael (Imagine Gnats) approached me to get involved with the launch of Perfect Pattern Parcel #1! The timing couldn’t have been better and I couldn’t have been happier to lend a hand!

Perfect Pattern Parcel (http://patternparcel.com) is an initiative that supports indie pattern designers, donates to children’s education charity and supports the sewing community by offering great deals on patterns – we get to choose how much we pay for each Pattern Parcel! (See the bottom of this post for all the deets.) It’s a win, win, win all round!

perfect pattern parcel blog button

Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 includes five fantastic PDF patterns.

Parcel 1 Collage

For my first pick from the PPP #1 bundle, I went with the relaxed Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee because, despite the good weather, I can’t prise myself out of my jeans just yet – I’m a Brit brought up in cooler climes who needs easing into summer – very gradually!

Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee in Italian viscose jersey

Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee in Italian viscose jersey

The Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee pattern is a ‘loose fitting knit t-shirt with scoop neck and drop shoulders. Hem cropped in front and long in back. Cool enough for hot summer days and hip enough for a music festival.’


We haven’t quite reached ‘hot summer days’ yet, so this is how I’m layering mine up in the meantime – with a self-made vest and jacket.


I used a drapey Italian viscose from my stash to make this. The pattern suggests using almost two yards of fabric but my fabric was wide enough to need only one metre. Patterns requiring one metre or less of fabric are my absolute favourite kind, just perfect for using up remnants or expensive fabrics that you can only afford the tiniest bit of.

Organic cotton ribbing used for neck and sleeve bands

Organic cotton ribbing used for neck and sleeve bands

I used an organic cotton rib knit for the neck and sleeve bands. I made the sleeves into bands instead of hemming them because I’m a bit lazy and it just seemed easier. I sewed the hem of the tee and topstitched the neck and sleeve bands on my regular sewing machine using a zig-zag stitch and a jersey sewing needle. I used my overlocker for all the other seams, but you could also easily make this top using just a regular sewing machine, provided you use a jersey sewing needle and a stretchy stitch such as zig-zag.


The beauty of this pattern is that it takes no time at all to whip up. In fact, once you have your pattern cut out, you could have this sewn up in the time it would take you to watch an episode of ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’!


I made mine in the smallest size XS. I lengthened the front piece by about ten centimetres and the back piece by about seven centimetres and took in each side by a couple of centimetres to cut some of the fullness. It’s still pretty roomy but that’s the breezy nature of this tee. I also lengthened the neck-band to fit the neck opening because my fabric isn’t very stretchy.


It’s a relaxed fit but I’m sure that as the weather heats up, I’ll be glad of a bit of ventilation and of course, it’ll be perfect for when I’m hanging at the summer music festivals!

(BTW – if you’re wondering why I’m jumping around like a fool in these pics, it’s because I’m really uncomfortable posing and in reality, I’m rarely still for long. So I set the camera on self timer, put my favourite tunes on and had a little dance party! Don’t know if it improved the photos, but at least I had more fun!!)

To get your mitts on this and the other patterns in this parcel, head over to Perfect Pattern Parcel now and name your price! But hurry the sale ends on March 21st 2014.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a fabulous giveaway to celebrate the launch of this worthy venture, with some really great prizes, so don’t miss out!

Thanks so much Jill and Rachael for bringing me on board for this launch. You picked a cracking set of patterns for this first Parcel, I was spoilt for choice about which to make first! And I now feel all virtuous for helping out in aid of such worthy causes that are also dear to my heart! I wish you lots of success with your new venture!

Readers, I’m in very fine company for this blog tour, so go and check out the other bloggers’ sites and see plenty more reviews of these fabulous patterns –

One Little Minute | SeamstressErin Designs | One Girl Circus |casa crafty | the quirky peach | Kadiddlehopper | Sew Caroline | Groovybabyandmama |Fishsticks Designs | the Brodrick blog | verypurpleperson |sew a straight line | Adventures in Dressmaking | true bias | Idle Fancy | La Pantigana | Crafterhours | Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy Crafts | Max California | SewBusyLizzy | la inglesita | Diary of a Chainstitcher | four square walls |Lauren Dahl | Sewbon | mingo & grace | Dandelion Drift | VeryShannon | Sanae Ishida |buzzmills | Sew Jereli | Figgy’s | Froo & Boo | a happy stitch | Disaster in a Dress | Things for Boys | mama says sew | sew Amy sew | Made With Moxie | imagine gnats

About Perfect Pattern Parcel:
Put together by two entrepreneurial makers driven by their internal voices and one self-taught hacker with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality, and Perfect Pattern Parcel was born. We are passionate about supporting independent designers in their craft and fostering a community of makers to grow. Our mission is to offer high-quality pdf sewing patterns written by indie designers while supporting children’s education.
About Donors Choose:
Donors Choose is an organization that matches up the needs of teachers and their students for specific projects with willing donors. The funds raised from each Pattern Parcel sale will go to help K-12 students in minimizing educational inequality and encourage a community where children have the tools and experiences necessary for an excellent education.
About Parcel #1:
Pattern Parcel #1 includes sewing patterns for women that are modern classics, featuring both flattering silhouettes and garments that are comfortable to wear. From a new little black dress to weekend play wear, the patterns in Parcel #1 have got you covered.
Support Indie Designers
Independent designers create patterns that are innovative, imaginative and in line with current style trends. Their patterns encompass a broad range of sizes and fabulous “out of the envelope” fit because they’re thoroughly tested by real people. With detailed and well-explained instructions, these patterns often teach as you sew. Independent designers are approachable, providing support, suggestions, publishing additions to your favorite designs, and hosting interactive sewing events. When we are patrons of indie designers, we are supporting small, mostly women owned, businesses. We are developing the community around us. We are helping to making dream come true.

Fancy Dress Costumes – Part Two – ‘Yes little Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!’

Fairy/princess type bits and pieces for my children!

P1300129_2This is the second installment of my Carnival makes for my children although this costume isn’t so much of an outfit, more a collection of accessories that can be worn together or played with separately.

P1300162 The main piece is this tulle skirt. I used the tutu pattern from Liesl Gibson’s book ‘Oliver and S Little Things to Sew’ to make this and followed the instructions pretty much word for word. Although I may have skipped a couple of steps such as finishing the ends of the ribbon because my little daughter was so desperate to wear it that she literally ripped it from the sewing machine mid-sew!

It was easy enough to make but it has five layers of tulle all folded double so ten layers effectively and one of my layers had a sparkly treatment to it which makes it a bit thicker than the other tulles and when layered up, this tulle put up the fight of its life to escape! I learnt that working with tulle requires the patience of a saint which evidently I don’t have!

P1300064 To accessorise the skirt, I made my daughters a crown each. As with the previous costume, I used wool felt for the band reinforced with a hat band inside and with an overlap and velcro fastening at the back. I used up trims from my stash to embellish them. This was the first time I’d sewn sequins but I found this YouTube video really helpful.

Sewing on sequins by hand is easy and surprisingly addictive! Sewing these led to this!


Every fairy princess needs a wand so that was the final piece of this outfit. I used wooden sticks 6mm in diameter bought from my local DIY shop to make the main handle of the wand and two star shaped pieces of wool felt sandwiched together to make the wand tops.


I sewed the sequins on before I sandwiched the pieces and sewed them by machine together and hand-sewed the bells on last. The wooden stick is encased in a grosgrain ribbon that was folded over and sewn together to make a tube which encases the stick.

I enjoyed making these pieces even though they took a fair bit of time and my little daughters were really happy to receive them. My little daughter was whizzing down a slide in her tulle skirt shortly after she first put it on – I’m learning that you can’t be too precious about things you make for children!

Ahh Carnival, we’re going to miss you – till next year!

Fancy Dress Costumes – Part One

I wanted to share a couple of costumes with you that I made for my children to wear for Carnival season. Firstly because I’m happy with how they turned out, but mainly because they were just so easy to make!

It was my first time to make anything like this but the good news is, you don’t need special patterns to make costumes, you can just adapt ones you already have in your stash. Also I made these costumes for my young daughters but they could also easily be adapted for adults too.

First up, here’s fancy dress costume Part One.


My daughter wanted a native American costume and there are many fancy dress patterns available, Burda has a big selection of Carnival costumes for instance. I was after a more subtle look though, something that could be worn everyday if my daughter wished and not look too out-of-place.


Instead, I chose to use the Citronille Patterns ‘Henriette’ model no.175 dress pattern from my stash as the basis of my design. The button placket gave me a chance to add detail to the front of the dress and showcase some of the striking ribbon and I felt the style of the dress was reminiscent of native American dresses.


Also I wanted to use a simple shaped dress that wouldn’t compete for attention with the embellishments and really let the fringing, ribbon, buttons, and other details, shine.

The pattern was fairly straightforward to make although the instructions were in French so I had to rely on the illustrations for some of the explanation. It worked out ok though and there was always Google for the bits I just couldn’t get my head round.


Carnival here is always in February or March when it’s usually still cold, so for practicality and warmth, I went with wool suiting fabric to make the main body of the dress.


The headdress was a bit of a labour of love! The main part of it is a strip of wool felt cut to the length of my daughter’s head circumference plus about five centimetres extra on one end for the overlap where it closes with velcro.


I hunted high and low to find the feather trim and I went to the extraordinary lengths of ordering proper hat bands from Japan to line the inside of the felt band to strengthen it! The hat band has made the headdress durable and stable though so I think it was worth it! (And thankfully the others I ordered have been used on other projects too!) I plaited wool for the fringing and sandwiched it all together with ribbon on the outside.


I’m really pleased with how this outfit turned out and my daughter ended up wearing it to a ton of different events ranging from themed birthday parties, to Kindergarten parties and just general dress-up play at home. It’s been a really useful little outfit to have in her toddler’s wardrobe!

If you haven’t made a fancy dress costume before, I urge you to make one because it’s just so much fun! I loved picking out the trims and thinking up ways to make it look more authentic. However, I warn you, trims can be very expensive – for this dress and headdress, the trims cost double the price of the main dress fabric! As an alternative to buying them new, I suggest seeing what you can find in charity shops and flea markets to make some savings.

Have you made a fancy-dress costume? Did you use a pattern or just your imagination? Where did you find your materials? Spill the beans in the comments below.

‘Helau, Alaaf!!’, It’s Carnival!!

If Project Sewn or the new season of The Great British Sewing Bee haven’t whet your sewing appetite yet, then I offer you something a little different to get your creative juices flowing!

Check out all this hand-made goodness!

Hand carved and hand painted wooden German Carnival mask

Hand carved and hand painted wooden German Carnival mask

Mayhem has descended on the little southern German town where I live!Carnival street parade

Carnival street parade 

You see it’s Fasching – or carnival time!Hand-made German carnival costumes

Hand-made German carnival costumes

A festive season when excessive consumption of food, drink and fun is de rigueur and creativity abounds, as all and sundry clad themselves in fancy dress costumes.

It’s a long weekend of living it up before Ash Wednesday, when the Christian Lenten fasting period begins!

Fasching or Carnival street parade

Fasching or Carnival street parade

Yesterday on Rosenmontag, costumed townsfolk took to our streets and led a parade of music, merriment and ….

Hand carved wooden masks and hand-made carnival costumes

Hand carved wooden masks and hand-made carnival costumes




There was no escaping the carnival fervor!

Carnival parade drummers

Carnival parade drummers

Live music sets the upbeat atmosphere of the carnival parade and gets everyone’s toes tapping and the carnival participants greet each other by shouting ‘Helau, Alaaf!’.

Wooden carnival masks to drive out winter and 'scare' away evil spirits

Wooden carnival masks to drive out winter and ‘scare’ away evil spirits

Carnival celebrations are intended to drive out winter and all of its evil spirits – hence the ‘scary’ masks!

Sweets for the children

Sweets for the children

My little girls love it because they get to dress up and eat lots of sweets!

Elaborate hand made carnival costumes

Elaborate hand-made carnival costumes

But check out the costumes! They’re nearly all hand-made!


The attention to detail and love that has gone into these is palpable!

Hand appliqued jacket!

Hand appliqued jacket!

The carnival participants go to great lengths to make their costumes. These garments and accessories are labours of love and I get it! On a cold winter’s day, all this creativity was enough to warm the cockles of my sewer’s heart!

Horse tail hair!

Horse tail hair!

The man behind this mask told me he’d carved and painted his wooden mask himself and the hair around the mask is a horse’s tail, given to him by a butcher from deep in the Black Forest. His outfit also included sheepskin, foxes tails and cow’s horns!


I marveled at these costumes and props and all the hours of sewing and planning and creativity that have gone into them!

I loved them all!

Helau, Alaaf!’

Project Sewn, Final Week – ‘Signature Style’ – Simple with a sprinkle of sparkle!

So it’s the fourth and last week of Project Sewn and what a competition it’s been! The finalists outfits this week are out of this world! I absolutely love the wearability and effortless chic-ness of Alida’s outfit – I want all of it including her fabulous hair! The creative tour-de-force that is Oona just blew me away again –  her dress and coat left me speechless! Uber cool! And finally only a statuesque Brazilian beauty such as Rachel could pull off that amazing sculpted dress with all its fasinating design details! How inspiring it’s all been and what a pity it’s about to end!

As in the previous weeks, the general sewing public are invited to get involved by posting a pic of their ‘signature style’, an outfit that reflects their personal style and sewing ability.

Republique du Chiffon Viviane dress

Republique du Chiffon Viviane dress

This challenge got me thinking about my own personal style and how I express this with my sewing. My sewing skills are still somewhat rudimentary and with two small children to take care of and a dog, I don’t have endless time for sewing. So I definitely prefer sewing simple designs that are comfortable and practical to wear for my active lifestyle, aren’t too taxing and time consuming to make and which I can choose to enhance either with fancy fabrics or with embellishments. My latest make is a prime example of this.

Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon

Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon

This is the Viviane dress pattern from French independent pattern company, Republique du Chiffon. It’s a simple style that is easy to sew up. It pulls on over the head so there’s no need to worry about zips or buttonholes, it just has a simple loop and button at the back of the neck. You can choose to make either a top or a dress from this pattern, which you buy as a PDF download and print out.

Scalloped quilted yoke

Scalloped quilted yoke

I think this dress has many endearing features such as the elbow length sleeves and the dropped waist but it was the quilted yoke that attracted me to this pattern. I love the scalloped quilting lines and wanted to emphasise them in my dress.



I’m blaming my daughters for the sequins! It’s carnival time here in Germany and I’ve been working on costumes for my girls which involved lots of hand sewing of sequins and well, I got a bit carried away!

Quilted yoke and bust darts

Quilted yoke and bust darts

I don’t know yet if I’m happy with the result but I don’t really mind because I had a lot of fun trying this out and I enjoy experimenting – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Plus that yoke isn’t just decorative, it’s functional too! Oh yes, it’s this dress’s secret weapon, it’s a Trojan horse, if you will. You see this baby is working double duty because it’s stuffed with this:

Organic wool!

Organic wool!

Wool! – pure and unadulterated complete with bits of straw, fresh from the German organic sheep farm it came from. And boy does this make a difference to the warmth of this dress! It’s toasty! I may have to work a bit of this insulation into all my winter garments!

Dress fully lined with viscose lining fabric

Dress fully lined with viscose lining fabric that needs pressing!

The dress is fully lined with a viscose lining fabric. I actually treated the top of the dress and the lining as one to sew up because it all got too complicated with the yoke attachment and the sleeves.

P1300102If you’re unfamiliar with Republique du Chiffon, then go and check them out, they’ve got some great French chic patterns and have just released a free dress pattern to kick off the launch of their 2014 pattern collection.

For oodles more French inspiration, also stop by the Republique du Chiffon fan blog, where you can see the wonderful creations that have been made by fans of the Republique du Chiffon patterns.

Pattern recap

Pattern used – Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon PDF download. Made in Size 36

Fabric used – Wool suiting, linen for the yoke, organic wool batting for the quilting, viscose lining and sequins – all from stash!

Pattern Difficulty Rating – Easy

Don’t forget to exercise your democratic right and cast your vote for your favourite outfit over at Project Sewn!

Have you added any secret details to any of your hand sewn garments? How would you describe your personal style?  What’s the most experimental thing you’ve made? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below.

British Tweed Cowl Neck Dress

This is Burdastyle #118A 10/2012 and the first version of my Anglomania dress. I made this dress using British tweed wool with a herringbone pattern bought from the Hollander Stoffe Market, when it swung by my local town a couple of years ago.

Burdastyle #118A 10/2012

Burdastyle #118A 10/2012

I love using British wool tweeds. The fabrics are so warm to wear and durable. I throw this dress in the washing machine on a wool wash and it’s fine – it just gets softer and more comfortable with each wash! (BTW – not sure if this is recommended. I suggest checking with your retailer before you throw your precious wool fabric in the washing machine!)

Back view

Back view

I also love the richness of the colours. From afar it appears to be greenish blue, but on closer inspection, it has flecks of many other colours within it!

Herringbone tweed

Herringbone tweed

This fabric is just a little thicker and sturdier than the tartan wool that I used for the Anglomania dress and I think it holds the shape of the side gathers and cowl just a little bit better.

British tweed wool fabric

British tweed wool fabric

Anglomania dress in tartan merino wool
Anglomania dress in tartan merino wool

I didn’t line this tweed dress, I chose instead to do a Hong Kong finish on the seams.

Hong Kong finish on seams

Hong Kong finish on seams

I also hand stitched the hem and sleeve hems.

Back view and Hong Kong finished seams

Back view and Hong Kong finished seams and invisible zip

I really like the shape of the dress, especially the gathering at the front, as it hides a multitude of postpartum unruliness! It’s also interesting experimenting with the same dress pattern and using different fabrics to create quite different looking dresses.

Same pattern - different fabrics = quite different looks

Same pattern – different fabrics = quite different looks

Apologies for all of the dress form pics of this, but I’ve been too busy out testing the seaworthiness of this beauty below with my children, to do any dress ‘modeling’!

P1290825I have many projects on my sewing table at the moment that I’ll hopefully be sharing soon. First up is some Carnival goodness for my children.

What’s on your sewing table right now?

Have a good weekend!

Project Sewn Week Three – ‘If the shoe fits’

It’s week three of Project Sewn and this week’s theme is ‘If the shoe fits’.

The designer contestants have come up with knock-out clothes and images again! It’s so inspiring to see their interpretations of the themes and how expertly they put their looks together. They truly are a talented bunch of ladies!

For the rest of us mere mortals, I think it’s great that we get to join in with the fun. This week though, I thought I’d have to bow out because I’m busy making for my children and haven’t had time to make something for this challenge.


Sparkly ballet flats

Then, just as luck would have it, a trawl through my archives unearthed these photos taken in Italy last summer of an outfit not yet blogged about, which also happens to showcase this sparkly pair of ballet flats quite nicely.

So I thought, ‘if the shoe fits’……!

Grainline Studio Scout tee and Simplicity skirt

Grainline Studio Scout tee and Simplicity skirt and unknown furry friend!

This outfit is made up of a Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2215 skirt and Grainline Studio woven Scout tee topped off with a Smedley knit.

P1260252The Simplicity 2215 skirt is a pleated skirt pattern with uneven pleats on the front and back pieces and pockets in the side seams.

Simplicity skirt

Simplicity 2215 skirt with uneven pleating and side seam pockets

Once you’ve marked out and basted down the pleating, this skirt comes together really quickly and easily – with just one catch! I found putting the zip and the pocket into the side seam a little perplexing. I managed to put them all in in the end by attaching the zip to the side of the pocket but it wasn’t the neatest of zip insertions!

Organic cotton batiste lining

Organic cotton batiste lining

The main body of the skirt is made from linen from the Hollander Stoff market and I lined the skirt with organic cotton batiste from Lebenskleidung.  I added a fabric covered button to close the waistband and zip fastening and hand stitched the hem for a neater finish.

Grainline Studio Scout tee in cotton eyelet batiste

Grainline Studio Scout tee in cotton eyelet batiste

The Grainline Studio Scout woven tee is one of my all-time favourite staple patterns! It’s so versatile and easy and can be squeezed out of just one metre of fabric – always a bonus IMO! I’ve made several of these now but this white one and my Breton striped one are the most worn.

Body of Scout tee underlined with white cotton batiste and all French seams

Body of Scout tee underlined with white cotton batiste and all French seams

For this tee, I used cotton eyelet batiste and underlined the main body pieces with cotton batiste – both from Anita Pavani Stoffe and did French seams on all seams including the armholes.

This cotton eyelet batiste is the same as I used to make my first Anna dress in black. I really love this fabric, which is why I was so pleased when I saw a blouse recently, made from the same fabric in a boutique in my town by Italian brand 0039 Italy for 150 euros! Mine cost a fraction of that to make! Isn’t it great when that happens!


Don’t forget to cast your vote for your favourite outfit over at Project Sewn.

I’m so looking forward to the finale of the competition next week. What will the contestants pull out of the bag for that one, I wonder?

Blog updates and Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m updating my blog – particularly the ‘European Insider Top Tips’ and ‘Things I’ve made’ pages.

I still have much more to add so do check back for fresh content and links.

I hope the information that I’m including here is useful.

If anything has been useful to you or you’d like some other information about European sewing resources you can’t find anywhere else then do let me know and please leave a comment below!

I’d love to help!

I’m abnormally enthusiastic about European sewing stuff and resources so I hope I can share my European product love with you!

Happy Valentines Day!