Challenge accepted?

Do you join in with sewing challenges? There’s so much choice around at the moment, I sometimes feel like that the sewing community is like one big Freshers’ Fair. There’s all these shiny, attractive groups vying for your attention that you end up joining 12 but never actually make it to any meetings. I had a similar experience with #sewphotohop on Instagram in September (it’s a photo-a-day theme challenge) thinking it sounded like a lark. I posted one photo, then went camping for the weekend and never posted again.

TBH I felt a bit guilty about it at first. I felt like I’d committed myself to something and couldn’t follow through. But then I reasoned that I was probably taking on too much. I was doing my own personal challenge, Sew My Stash September, and that was as much as I felt capable of at the time. Don’t get me wrong – all this choice means you can really find your sewing tribe, which is awesome – but my #sewphotohop fail got me thinking about how much I participate and what’s realistic.

I’ve taken part in a number of sewing challenges this year, and the ones that have been most successful have been because I’ve got something out of them. I’ve learned something about my sewing/clothing preferences (Me Made May), I’ve been challenged to sew something out of my comfort zone (Cosy Cardi Challenge), or the challenge has fit in with my current plans (The Monthly Stitch and Sew Together for Summer). They were a lot of fun, too! It’s great to see how other people interpret a challenge, and pick up tips and tricks for something you might also be making.


The smile of someone who’s taken part in a challenge that absolutely fit in with her sewing plans.

I should ask myself whether I’m going to get anything back from a challenge, or if I’m just doing it for the sake of joining in. I was thinking of doing the Little Red Dress Project and the Big Christmas Jumper Sewalong in the run up to the festive season, but I realised I don’t actually need either of these. I don’t wear Christmas jumpers and I have no need for another dress at the moment. There’s no point in stressing myself out about a deadline if I’m not getting anything back from it.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (cos I love a get-out clause). I’m currently doing #BPSewvember on Instagram (run by Bimble and Pimble), which is another photo-a-day challenge. I’m not getting anything material out of it – I’m not learning a new skill, or sewing a specific garment – but I am having a lot of fun thinking about things I can post that fit the daily theme. I’m haven’t posted every day, and that’s ok. I won’t lost sleep over it.

But in general, I’m going to be a bit more selective about the challenges I join in with from now on. It’s fun to join in, but it’s worth so much more if I’m getting something back.

How about you? Which ones do you like? Are there some you absolutely must take part in? Would you run your own?

Against the clock: part 2

Did you take part in the Cosy Cardi Challenge on Instagram? Amanda from I Sew A Lot and the Stitch Sisters encouraged us to sew a snuggly cardi before the end of October and I thought it sounded right up my street. I love a cardi but I’ve never made my own, so this seemed like a good opportunity.  But, as seems to be my way at the moment, I left it until the last minute to take part. And when I say last minute I mean I hadn’t even cut anything out on the morning of the deadline day. Usually, the UK is eight hours ahead of Seattle, but by happy coincidence the deadline fell the day after the clocks went back in the UK. Ours went back a week later so on deadline day we were nine hours behind – time was actually on my side for once (sort of)!


There’s a bit of extra fabric in the sleeves, but that’s an actual design feature (it says so in the instructions!)  – means you have snuggly hands too!

Anyway, my finished cardi is something of a birthday present. I got a little bit of money plus a voucher for Harts Fabric for my birthday at the end of September, and I bought the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan and some soft n’ snuggly knit to make it. All the knit fabric I’ve used so far has been reasonably well behaved, but this one was a little curly so I cut out the pattern pieces very carefully (a medium blended to extra-large at the hips). I also didn’t fancy putting it through my sewing machine for fear of stretching it out of shape, so I cracked out my overlocker instead.

It was a really fast, easy sew, too. The pattern is really simple and well thought out, and the instructions are so clear it’s hard to go wrong. They even offered some beginners’ tips, like stabilising your patch pockets with tear away tissue paper. My only beef with the comprehensive instructions are that they don’t give an example of what a short zig zag stitch actually is – I looked it up in a Tilly and the Buttons pattern instead, which recommends 1.5 width by 2.2 length for seams, then 2.5 by 2.5 for topstitching.


That’s kind of academic here as I only used my machine for the final step, where you topstitch the front band seam to the cardigan body. If I was making it again, I probably would switch between my overlocker and standard machine a bit more. I did all the seams on the overlocker so where the instructions recommended pressing seams open, I pressed them to one side which has meant a little bulk in some places. Not enough to annoy me about the finished garment, but maybe something to consider next time.

In all, the Blackwood took me a couple of hours to put together. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out – I’m happy with the fit and the fabric feels suitably snuggly against my skin. But mostly, I’m really pleased that I managed to sew it in such a short space of time. I messed around a lot while I was sewing – snack breaks, just-checking-the-news breaks, oh-look-a-squirrel breaks – but I still managed to finish and get a quick pic taken before the deadline. Well done me!

I’m glad I took part – it was a great challenge to gently push me into sewing something new, I’ve got something that slots nicely into my wardrobe and it’s another step towards confidence with knits. Yay!


It’s pretty cold and wet in Seattle this weekend, so indoor photos it is. It also means I have to tidy up the bedroom, which can’t hurt, I suppose…

New to me: Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

I spend most of my year in either jeans or skirts/dresses, with my legs covered in thick black tights. That’s fine for nine months out of 12 in Seattle, but now that summer’s here it’s time for my pasty-white pins to see the light of day. Now, I will never have the legs of a gazelle and in the summer that means I’m a victim of chub rub. The struggle is real, y’all. I can cope with a London summer, which lasts about two weeks if you’re lucky, but I’m told that we can expect consistently higher temperatures from mid-June well into September. It’s time to try making shorts.

Unlike Homer Simpson, short shorts are really not for me, but knee-length is definitely more within my comfort-zone. And if it can look like a skirt but with the anti-chafing benefits, so much the better. Culottes are the definitely the answer. After seeing so many ace versions around the internet (here, here and here) , I thought I’d give the Winslow culottes by Helen’s Closet a go.

That’s a Grainline Scout tee I’m wearing on top too.

One of the things I like about them is how they can work in a range of lengths – the pattern includes four lengths from short shorts to trousers (and also tells you which PDF pages to print – super useful).  True to form, I cut the knee-length version in bright red rayon which I thought would be light and breezy for when the mercury climbs.

It was quite breezy yesterday so these photos look like I’m standing in a wind tunnel.

With only four pattern pieces and super-clear instructions, sewing up these culottes was a cinch. There are some nice optional features, too. I particularly like the recommendation to put a bar tack in at either end of the in-seam pocket openings to help the pocket to sit forward. Sometimes I think understitching isn’t enough, especially in a slinky fabric, so giving it an extra bit of encouragement is a great idea.

Check out the bar tacks at either end of the pocket opening.

If I had any issues it was with the fabric itself. Rayon is super slinky so obviously I used extra pins where I could, but no matter how many I used I still couldn’t get the pleats to hold together completely through the machine, so they’re not quite as sharp as I would have liked at the waistband. I’m also trying to save a bit of space in my sewing area (it’s a corner of my living room), so at the moment I am overlocking insides in either black or white thread, depending on the colour of the fabric. I went for black in this instance, which seems to have worked out ok, but I think if the fabric was any lighter in weight it’d be noticeable.

I wore these out and about yesterday and felt comfortable all day. It was a reasonably windy day and it was refreshing (ahem) to be able to walk around town without flashing my undies to the good folk of Seattle. I have one change to make for my next pair, which is to raise the crotch by about an inch and a half. At the moment it’s a little bit too low, which means I don’t get any of the anti-chafing benefits. I’m looking forward to that next pair, which will be in a palm-leaf print cotton for a Hawaiian vibe – I’m staring at it longingly as I type.

No more Marilyn moments!

If you’re looking to dip your toe into shorts/trouser-making, this is a great pattern to try. Easy to fit, easy to sew, easy to wear. Recommended!

This post also appears on the Monthly Stitch blog as part of their New to Me challenge for Indie Pattern Month 2017. Check out the other entries here and be inspired!

#sewtogetherforsummer: part two

Are you sick of shirt and shirt dress posts yet? I hope not, cos here’s another one! I like a fitted shirt dress, but I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to slouchier shapes, so I thought I’d have a bash at the Alex shirt dress from the Sew Over It City Break ebook. I’ve already made two versions of the shirt (one here and one as-yet unblogged) with great success, so it was definitely time to make the dress for the summer, and in time for the Sew Together for Summer deadline on 21 June too!


I might add an extra button at the bottom there – that might just get indecent.

The fabric is a lovely mint green chambray from Threadbare Fabrics, a denim specialist in LA (I think they’re online only though). I love chambray – I love how stitches look on it, presses beautifully and pretty much succumbs to your every whim. This one is no different, but it has a linen-y feel rather than a more closely woven chambray.


You can see the high-low hem detail here – the only real difference (apart from the length) between the shirt and dress pattern.

One of the things I like about the Alex dress/shirt is that it is so slouchy I don’t need to make any alterations to accommodate my rear. According to the sizing chart I should grade up two sizes at the hips, but the finished measurements told me I wouldn’t need to. Yay for no extra work! Having said that though, I did think it would end up a bit long especially with the high-low hem that is more pronounced than on the shirt version. I took off two inches, but if/when (let’s face it, I’m making another) I make it again I’ll add an inch back on. This dress is fine for casual, but it’s a bit short for summer office for my personal taste.

Button tab

So pleased with the button tabs – so crisp!

I said in my previous Alex post that I found the order of construction a bit odd. If you follow the instructions to the letter you should put the collar after completing the yoke but before sewing the side seams. That just seems a bit weird to me – you have fabric flying everywhere so why not make it easier for yourself? I also completed the button tabs in full before sewing up the sleeves. It struck me as easier to insert a buttonhole on the tab before attaching it to the sleeve, as well as popping the button on the other side. This meant that I wasn’t faffing about with hand sewing and manipulating a whole dress around the machine when I was basically sewing on an extremity.

Anyway, this dress is ace, and I am pretty taken with it. It does need a belt (uncinched it looks like a cross between a nightgown and surgical scrubs) but I would pretty much always wear one with a shirt dress anyway. It’ll see a lot of action over the coming months. Yay!


In the background to the right – that’s a HAMMOCK! Will be staking my claim on the next sunny day.


How I got on with Me Made May 2017

Here we are in June, so it’s time for that Me Made May round up I’ve been putting off!

This year I wasn’t sure how I’d get on – at least half of my me-made stuff is for work and as I am currently a lady of leisure my casual wardrobe needed to stretch further. I pledged to do five days a week, and I managed it without really trying that hard. Yes, there were a few repeats, but that’s just a reflection of how much I like those particular clothes (I’m looking at you, stripy Scout tee). I’m also a bit pleased that I managed to wear a mix of things – the weather here has run the full gamut of wet and windy to oh so very hot, so I’ve managed to bust out a summer dress or two as well as stuff for cooler temperatures.

So what did I learn? Well, I’m pretty obsessed with shirts and shirt dresses at the moment (you’re gonna be sick of seeing them over the next few posts) and I have a gaping trouser/short-shaped hole in my wardrobe. Not just amongst my me-made stuff. I have three pairs of jeans that I wear all the time, and that’s great from autumn through to spring, but I could do with something lighter for the summer. Shorts ahoy!

In general, I was pretty good at posting photos on Instagram every day, but I definitely petered out in the last few days. Here’s a quick round-up of my faves from the last few weeks.

5 Sew Over It Alex shirt stars

Alex shirt from week one


Deer and Doe Chardon

I went almost the entire month without doing a mirror selfie – this one, of my first Chardon, was from last weekend.

Deer and Doe Datura

We have a blackboard wall in our flat (because why not?) and this is one of my Deer & Doe Daturas.

Stripy scout

This stripy Scout tee is the most worn of the month – at least three times – which means it was constantly in the wash.

Ultimate shirt and Cressida skirt

There’s a post on this one coming up soon – I’ve made three So Over It Ultimate shirts since February and this white one is the shirt of my dreams. The skirt is the Jennifer Lauren Cressida.

Zig Zag scout

Scouts were a big feature of my month. This one also got worn several times cos it’s awesome and the print is funky.

The second part of my pledge was to finally cut into the silk I got last year from the Man Outside Sainsburys. My original plan was a Sew Over It Alex shirt dress, but I didn’t have enough to do it, so it ended up as just the shirt. I need to take photos of it, but it’s made and ready to be posted soon! Well done me.

Did you take part in Me Made May? What did you learn?

Sew together for summer

I’m taking a new tack with Me Made May. I’m doing a daily post on Instagram (I’m @stuffjohasmade in case you’re interested) but on here I think I’ll just do a round up at the end of the month. Part of this is sheer laziness, but it’s also because we’ve invested in a fancy camera and the weather’s suddenly gone from grotty to glorious, so I’m suddenly a bit more interested in taking pictures.

First up, it’s my entry in the Sew Together for Summer contest. The competition is the brainchild of Sarah of Sew Sarah Smith (@sewsarahsmith), Monika (@rocco.sienna) and Suzy (@sewing_in_spain) These lovely ladies seem to have read my mind; all I am making at the moment is shirts and shirt dresses, and all you have to do to join in is whip up a shirt dress and share it on Instagram!

So for my entry, I decided to revisit an old faithful. I’m flying back to the UK next month for a wedding and obvs I need a new dress. I’m trying to sew things from my pattern stash rather than buying new, and the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress seemed perfect for the task. I’ve made it a few times before, I know it fits nicely and it’s reasonably simple to sew up.


This was taken on the roof of our building. It’s a bit of a sun trap and has awesome views over Lake Union to downtown Seattle. It’s basically what sold me on living there. And there’s a chicken coop up there too!

I picked up my fabric in Dry Goods Design in Seattle. It’s a lovely, buttery soft cotton lawn with a nice handle, and was a dream to sew with. I had no issues working with it, apart from when my machine decided that buttonholes were a bad idea. I had to unpick a few but they generally went off without too much bother. The buttons themselves are from another shop in Seattle, Nancy’s Sewing Basket. It’s a great shop with a brilliant range of dressmaking fabrics and notions, but it’s at the top of a massive hill (a bit of a feature in Seattle) so I’ll be visiting only when I have a good shopping list. Seriously, that hill is steep.


The back. Plenty of space in that hem for bad wedding dancing.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The wedding’s in Norfolk and I’m hoping for some good weather. The dress feels light and airy, so should see me through the day right up to the point where we’re drunkenly singing Take That’s Never Forget at the end of the night. And isn’t that what weddings should be about? Dresses and drunkeness?

Collar close up

Here’s the collar. The fabric is so nice to work with that it was easy to get a crisp finish with my iron.

Bonus top!

I… ermm… accidentally bought too much fabric and ended up with enough left over to make a bonus top! I managed to squeeze out a new version of my copied RTW top. I wore it this weekend when we visited Bainbridge Island for a spot of exploring and wine tasting. Mostly wine tasting. I had to have a nap when we got home.

Photo May 20, 13 28 55

Pre-wine tasting.

Me Made May 2017, Week One

One of the things I particularly like about Me Made May this year is that it began on a Monday. That means I should (*should*) be able to post an update of the previous week on a Sunday evening. So here I am with my first MMM post on a Tuesday morning…

Anyway, this week I have mostly been wearing (and mostly eating):

1 Deer and Doe Chardon

Food: carbonara with miscellaneous pasta

Day One: my anchor print Deer & Doe Chardon. I love this skirt. It’s constantly in the wash because I wear it so much. I love the chambray and the way it presses So. Damn. Neatly. And it seems to go with everything.

2 By Hand London Zinnia

Food: we got back late from the cinema so dinner that day was a couple of pizza slices from the takeaway up the road.

Day Two: a crinkly gingham By Hand London Zeena dress. I don’t think I’ve blogged this, but I originally made it for a christening last summer, which was cool but still church-appropriate. In recent months I’ve been wearing it to work and occasionally at the weekends.

3 Grainline Scout

Food: I’m obsessed with guacamole at the moment, so I whipped some up for wine and snacks on the roof. That’s Lake Union and downtown Seattle in the background. It’s a pretty sweet view.

Day Three: A super awkward pose in my stripy Grainline Scout tee. I’m a big fan of this one. Dead easy to throw on, goes with everything etc.

4 Colette Zinnia sparkly

Food: Chris made it up to me with a packet of peanut butter M&Ms.

Day Four: An as-yet-unblogged Colette Zinnia skirt. I finished this a couple of weeks ago and haven’t really had a chance to wear it till now as the weather has been awful. On the first really decent, warm day we’ve had, I was excited to take it out and wear it in the wild. But Chris decided that was the day to take my keys as well as his own, locking me in the house.

5 Sew Over It Alex shirt stars

Food: lamb pasanda at our local curry house.

Days Five and Six: I wore my Sew Over It Alex shirt two days in a row, mainly because I wore it out to dinner for about two hours, so it was clean enough for another day’s wear. I’m loving this shirt at the moment, mostly cos the fabric is awesome – light and airy, and funky AF as well (as funky as I get, anyway). More of these will be in my life soon!

7 Self drafted butterfly top

Food:  pulled pork burger, fries and a bottle of water as I’m watching my figure (ahem). I swear my diet usually contains some fruit and veg.

Day Seven: My self-drafted/copied Oasis top. I have plans for more of these, perhaps replacing the pleats with something else. It’s a useful basic top, especially under cardigans.

How’s your Me Made May going so far?

My last-minute Me Made May pledge

I, Jo of, sign up as a participant of Me Made May 2017. I endeavour to wear handmade clothes at least five days a week for the duration of May.

Hola! Just ducking in before the sign up deadline to say I’m taking part in Me Made May this year (check out the So Zo blog for the details on how to take part). I’ve stuck to the same pledge as 2016 as my work wardrobe is largely out of action while I wait for my US work permit so I’m limited to casual wear. I suppose I *could* wear my work clothes if I wanted to, but I’d much rather be comfortable. And anyway, I think sticking to five days of me-made casual clothes is a decent challenge for my current circumstances.

As a side challenge, and because I have a bit of time on my hands at the moment, I’m going to do something with the 2m of sand-washed silk I’ve had in my stash for a bit too long. Question is, what should I do with it? The current contenders are either a rather luxurious Alex shirt dress from the Sew Over It City Break e-book, or their pussybow blouse, both of which I have in PDF format… The dress would be for general wear, whereas the blouse would be more of an office-to-bar sort of thing, so wouldn’t get the immediate wear. I may be talking myself in to making the dress here – what do you guys think?!

My other hope for Me Made May is that I get back to blogging a bit more. I’ll try and do a MMM round up each week but I’ll also share some of my recent makes. I have the time; I should be writing.

Are you taking part in MMM this year? Are you using it as an excuse to get something done?

Final Me Made May round up!

Well, despite not managing to post updates in the last ten days or so of Me Made May, I did manage to complete the month. I smashed my target – I had pledged to wear me-made five days a week but actually wore handmade clothes for all but one day of the month. And that was a much-needed pyjama day so I am not begrudging myself breaking the streak. My interest in taking photos waned a bit towards the end of the month (and of course, taking photos is not the point), so here is your slightly depleted final installment of bad photography and awkward poses!


Day 19: My Tilly and the Buttons Arielle skirt. Still love this one, though the lining does twist about a lot when I have a rucksack on my back. Not much I can do about that one, though!


Day 20: A long day at work and at Guides in my blue Colette Zinnia meant that all I wanted to do was get my feet up and have a glass of wine. That’s Chris in the background blocking the telly.


Day 21: If I look bedraggled in this one, it’s because we got caught in a downpour in Dublin. This is my second rayon Mathilde blouse.


Day 22: Feet up in my Margot pyjamas – made ages ago but unblogged.


Day 25: Not the best view of it, but here I am at the Book of Mormon in my gingham Grace dress. Enjoyed the show – not the best I’ve seen but still pretty funny with some catchy tunes. Top tip: don’t go if you’re easily offended.


Day 26: Believe me when I tell you that this is my bird print Scout. I’m at a Prince tribute night on ice at Alexandra Palace here and the lighting was not playing ball. It was good fun, though – basically like the roller discos you went to as a child but with better music. My name is Jo. And I am funky.


Day 29: And another unflattering photo of my zigzag Scout! I swear this one looks better in real life. Chris and I were on a walk in Oxshott woods, hence the greenery.


Day 31: Cheesy grin because I made it to the end! This is my blue Zinnia again, which I think is possibly my most worn me-made of the month (three times I think?). Hardly surprising though – it’s probably my favourite project this year.


So now that May is over, what have I learned? Well, as I said at the halfway point, I feel like I am sorely lacking in colour in my handmade wardrobe. It’s either blue (who am I kidding, it’s mostly blue), white or black. It’s summer now; I need more colour in my life! It doesn’t help that a lot of the fabric in my stash is blue. I’m relaxing my stash diet for the summer months so I can sew colours that suit the season and I’ve already got a few things planned that are a bit brighter.

Speaking of summer, I spent the month hoping that it wouldn’t be too warm as I would have struggled to find clothes suitable for work in hot weather. It would have been one long parade of Scouts for the whole month (it’s Me Made May, not One Week One Pattern). Light and airy workwear is on the cards for the future.

There are a few patterns that I’d like to revisit because I still like them, but I reckon I could do a better job with the fit. For example, my Mortmain has all sorts of problems in the bodice that could probably be solved with an FBA, and my Mathildes are ace, but again the darts are a bit high.

Last year I found that I wore mostly separates during Me Made May, whereas this year a few more dresses have crept in. That’s cool – I’ve made a few since January and I’m really enjoying wearing them.

It’s been quite an enlightening month for me and I’ve really enjoyed seeing what other people have been making/wearing both on the blogs and Instagram. Lots of inspiration on offer (e.g. have you seen Hila of Saturday Night Stitch‘s Instagram feed? AWESOME) so I’ve finished May wanting to sew all the things. I should really get a handle on what I want to sew and how it fits into my wardrobe – I’ve got a reasonably clear idea of what I want to do over summer, but before I make a start on my A/W2016 collection (ha!) I want to have a go at the Wardrobe Architect series. Maybe I’ll find out even more?

Me Made May round-up no. 3

It’s Wednesday, so it’s time for another Me Made May round up! We’re now more than halfway through the month and while I’m enjoying wearing clothes I’ve made myself, I am getting a bit bored with taking daily photos (and let’s face it, some of them this week are bloody awful). I’ll persist though, because I am learning stuff.

Anyway, here we go with this week’s outfits!

12th resize

Day 12: My favourite Grainline Scout. This was taken on an impromptu night out with my old team, hence the awful photo. It was fun though, good to catch up on the gossip.


Day 13: Copied RTW top in butterfly cotton lawn. I love this one – really comfortable and easy to wear. Still persisting with the blue though.


Day 14: My gold shoes! These still feel a little tight over the top of my feet, so I wore them around the house all day to try and stretch them a little bit. But gold shoes are always awesome.


Day 15: My nautical viscose Scout. Let’s see if I can wear all my Scouts at least once during the month. I make that four so far. Only three more to go (and is it bad that I can’t think what the other three are??)


Day 16: My green Zinnia. Look! Some colour!! I do like this skirt – it’s about two years old and by now, cost per wear must be in the pence I wear it that much. As one of my earlier makes it’s not great on the insides and it has a small tear next to the zip, so I will retire it soon, but I need to make a new one and soon.

Day 17: I didn’t manage a photo yesterday, but I wore my black and white gingham Grace dress. 


Day 18: My first repeat – my purple Anna dress, which has been through the wash since the bird poo incident.

Since last week and all that blue I have been making a conscious effort to wear more colour. However, it’s hard to wear colourful me-made clothes when all you seem to have is blue! Colour aside though, I think I’ve got a good mix of handmade and casual work clothes – I’m not struggling to find things to wear in the morning, but I am picking a few things up that I’d like to make again, whether that’s to revisit a pattern or replace a well-loved garment. The sewing list grows ever longer…

How’s your Me Made May going?