Firstly, a huge thank you friends for your very kind words about my Neolithic Hawthorn - you're all so lovely and encouraging!

I'm now in with a chance of winning one of the Colette contest prizes, so please go vote for your favourite Hawthorns by midnight Pacific today. No hard feelings if mine isn't your cup of tea, there are so many other beauties to choose from, as well as a second round of voting tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm sunning myself in Portugal, where some of my sewing mistakes and gifts reside. More on that soon....
Are you sitting pretty? Good, because I'm about to wax lyrical about my latest make - Colette Patterns' Hawthorn. As soon as I saw it, it was love at first sight - the fitted bodice, front button closure, flattering semi-circle skirt and the sweet collar! The silhouette has such a retro feel!

Not only did I instantly fall in love with the pattern, I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to pair it with - a unique seersucker gifted to me by the extraordinary Karen at a swap last year. I'm so glad I 'sat' on this fabric for so long, because it quite literally is perfect for this dress! I love the uneven stripes and hunting pattern. It reminds me of drawings found in ancient caves, maybe even Neolithic?!? Keen historians among you are probably cringing at my ignorance, so please do enlighten me if I'm saying something completely stupid.

I'm really pleased at how well I managed to match the stripes down the front, side and back seams. Because of the semi-circle skirt, the stripes create a cool chevron effect down the skirt side seams.

And the collar...oh, the collar! It's so sweet and low enough to show off the collar-bone, which is always flattering. The design also creates a cute little 'V' at the front...perfection! The best thing is that the collar is edge-stitched and top-stitched into place, so it sits perfectly.

Onto juicy fit and construction details and in both respects, I can honestly say Hawthorn is a dream. I know that sometimes Colette patterns get criticised for their extra ease which can lead to gaping necklines and whatnot. But, as Jo has already said, it seems like they're always paying attention and making improvements. I kid you not friends, but after cutting out a size 6 the ONLY adjustments I made to this pattern were to shorten the bodice pieces by my standard 1 inch and to take 3 inches off the hemline. That's literally it and I hope you'll agree it's a pretty good fit!

In terms of construction, this was a breeze! The minimal pattern pieces matched up perfectly and the dress comes together surprisingly fast. The most time-consuming part is lining up the buttonholes and buttons, but as part of the Hawthorn sewalong there's a post dedicated solely to this if you're feeling nervous.

Hawthorn is the perfect summer dress, it's casual yet chic and wearing it makes me feel so feminine! I'm already eyeing up some polka dot seersucker in my stash for the blouse variation and I've got my heart set on a colder-weather version made from either the Sorbet or Strawberry chambray from The Village Haberdashery...YUM! 

I wore my Neolithic Hawthorn to work the other day and I got SO MANY compliments. Like, a ridiculous thank you Colette Patterns and thank you Karen! I made this with the sole intention of taking it on holiday with me next week, but I love it so much that I'm now tempted to enter the Colette Pattern Contest.

Have you made this dress yet and are you entering it into the contest? If not, are you tempted at all by the design?
Intergenerational learning is a wonderful thing! Passing down years worth of knowledge and expertise is as satisfying for the 'teacher' as it is for the 'learner', but perhaps not as commonplace as it should be.The Amazings are working hard to change this, offering people over 50 (the elders) the chance to share their passion and skills with anyone who wants to learn something new - through online classes, as well as local classes in London.

"We see the potential to change learning; the opportunity to re-think retirement; te possibility tof bringing together communities; and the chance to bring back the make-do and mend spirit, so we can at the very least, know how to hem a skirt or fix a bike."

The online classes are filmed in HD and priced between £8 - £20, upto 20% of which goes directly to the elders. Classes are available to you forever once purchased, they're broken down into helpful bite-sized sections for easy browsing and you can even contact the elder with further any questions. There's also plenty of incentive to introduce friends, with a credit system that leads to free classes. 

I think you'll agree that it's a fantastic concept, but are the classes any good? Well, I was offered the chance to try one out and I wasn't disappointed. Upcycle a Man's Shirt into a Summer Dress is ideal for beginners, or even more experienced stitchers who want to try their hand at re-fashioning. I certainly learned a few new tricks like turning a sleeve into a pocket (with the sleeve head as your pocket placket) and using an unwanted cuff as a back closing.

What I loved most about this class though, is how Judith's (the elder) experience and passion really shines through - exactly as as you'd expect of someone who was first introduced to sewing by her seamstress mother (and to darning by her grandmother) aged just three! I really enjoyed the conversational tone of the class and as the 90 minutes unfolded I learned all manner of interesting information and anecdotes, including: the history of traditional shirt making, the story behind the 'classic' sizing introduced by M&S over 20 years ago, that the distance from the nape of your neck to your waist equals the circumference of your head, and that you can manually use your machine's flywheel to safely sew through multiple layers.

So don't hesitate, have a go at something new today - you even get your first class for free!!! There really does seem to be something for everyone in terms of the range of classes offered by The Amazings. Among many others, you can...

 Needle Felt a Furry Friend

Retro Hair Dos

Make a Mosaic Flower Pot

Hand Sew an Heirloom Patchwork Quilt

Make Your Own Natural Beauty Products

Big Knit a Weekend Bag

I'm on an advice-seeking bender at the moment, but I hope you don't mind as you guys always deliver the goods!

When I wrote about my patchwork bunting tablecloth, I got some really helpful advice from Sew K2 about seams:

"The only suggestion I have is that unlike clothing construction where you iron your seams open, you should iron your quilting seams to one side. Usually you iron the seam towards the dark. Occasionally you will iron a seam open to reduce bulk, but not often."

So with this sound advice fresh in my mind, I've embarked on more patchwork fun and as you can in the picture, I've pressed all my seams to alternate sides to reduce bulk. 

My question to you is this: What do I do next? How do you finish seams in patchwork or quilting? Do you leave them like this and suffer the bulkiness in certain areas? Do you trim them down and by how much before you start endangering the strength of the seams?  Do you finish them in any other way?

So many questions...with hopefully many expert answers.

Thanks in advance!
Guys, I want to thank you so much for being so amazingly solution-focussed! I totally love you for the host of clever advice following my Summery Mathilde conundrum on Monday, which broadly fell into the following two categories: construction-based and practical.

In terms of construction some of your suggestions included concentrating the gathers towards the centre, adding waist darts and changing the gathers back to the pattern's original tucks. All excellent suggestions, but I'll let you know into a little secret...I'm such a lazy arse! For me, when a make is finished, it's finished. I honestly can't fathom unpicking overlocked/finished seams and fiddling around to fix things. Terrible, but true!

Sooooo, this is where your practical advice came in very handy indeed. I'm kicking myself for not having thought the following: try it belted or tucked in and wear a push up bra, sports bra, camisole, slip or vest top underneath. It turns out that wearing a vest top underneath really does stop the gathers from dipping between my boobs...hurray! Aaaaand, it even looks quite nice tucked into high-waisted jeans...with the vest top still underneath of course!

So a big thumbs up to you for the helpful input and a massive thanks to those of you who were complimentary about my blouse before the 'fix'.

In other 'hilarious' news...I got pooped on whilst taking these photos yesterday evening! Yep, you heard me. Right in the middle of my photo shoot a bird did the biggest and loudest poop ever, part of which landed on my arm. It was such a gross feeling and the smell was something else! I had to photograph the rest of it so you could see how big and gross it was...pardon my foot in the photo, but I wanted you to have a sense of scale.

Have you ever been pooped on whilst taking photos for your blog?
Ever make something you know for a fact won't suit you, just because you really want it to? Sounds warped, but it's exactly what happened to me when I saw Tilly's Summery Mathidle. Perfect for this glorious weather we're having, I thought, even though I knew full well how disastrous the combination of gathers and a large bust would be.

As predicted, the gathers rather obviously part my boobs (just like the red sea) and make them look super saggy...a look every girl surely strives for!?!

I can hide a toddler under there. Hell, I could even smuggle a fully grown human if I wanted to!

However, just because it doesn't suit me doesn't mean I don't love this Mathidle variation. If you have a smaller bust you should totally try it out - after all, look how adorable Tilly is sporting hers! And it has some really cute details that you'd be a fool to pass by: floaty sleeves, back buttons and gentle gathers (that I sadly can't recommend for large busts)!

You can see my full 'review' of the Mathilde pattern and its construction from when I tested it back in January. For this version I just followed Tilly's tutorial for short sleeves and replaced the fiddly tucks with easy peasy gathers. In a desperate attempt to make it suit me better I even shaped the side seams to eliminate some of the pattern's boxiness. I simply measured the distance from my lower armhole (the base of my armpit basically) to my waist and marked it on my front and back pattern pieces, approximately 1 inch in from the edge. I then sketched out my desired, hourglass silhouette, which you can see drawn onto the pattern piece below in red.

You can see how this has subtly changed the shape of the blouse, making it look slightly more figure-hugging.

Staying true to my inner copycat I even donned sunglasses for my 'shoot' and used a floral Liberty lawn - sorry Tilly, but they do say imitation is the greatest form of flattery! The Liberty lawn cost just £8 a metre from a stall at the Birmingham Rag Market. Although this is cheap for Liberty, it was the most expensive thing I bought during our meet-up last month, so I could only face getting the 1 metre. But, I still managed to squeeze this blouse out of it by disobeying the grainline instructions. I wouldn't recommend living on the edge like this regularly, but throwing caution to the wind honestly doesn't make a difference when using this kind of fabric to make this kind of pattern...if you know what I mean!

If nothing else, I enjoyed making this super quick Mathilde and I now have a very pretty and a very comfortable top to lounge around the house in during this warm weather. Which is pretty apt really, considering I was recently bemoaning my lack of nice 'home clothes' when Karen brought up the subject last week.

Are you a lady who can carry this kind of top off in public? If so, I hate you are you tempted by this Mathilde variation?

Also fellow Britain residents...are you too pinching yourselves daily over this amazing weather? I can't believe we're actually getting a summer! And, no, I'm not exaggerating foreign readers...this is a novelty for us!
**Edit: there's some invaluable twin needle advice coming through in the comments!**

Remember my metallic Briar I made not so long ago? Well, despite my long-standing flirtation with jersey fabric, that project was the first time I used my twin needle. I was really impressed with the professional finish it produced, so why did it take me so long to have a go? Because trying new things is sometimes scary, especially when you're not sure how involved they might be. Like most things we procrastinate about though, using a twin needle is surprisingly easy, so I figured I'd share some tips to encourage you to give it a go as well.

I use a Brother Innovis 10A - generously gifted to me by Bamber Sewing Machines - which already came with the accessories I needed: twin needle, zigzag foot and extra spool pin. I'm sure these can all be bought separately if necessary though. Different machines may vary regarding some of the steps I'm sharing below, so if in doubt, do have a quick look at your instruction manual.

Twin needle

Zigzag foot

Step 1: Replace your regular needle with the twin needle - this is exactly the same principle as changing any needle - and attach your zigzag foot.

Step 2: Thread the left needle as you would normally thread any needle, using your regular upper thread.

Step 3: Place your extra spool pin onto the bobbin winder shaft and top with your second spool of thread.


Your machine should now look like this, with the two spools of thread and a twin needle in place.

Step 4: Thread the right needle using your extra spool of thread. Again, thread it in the same way you would a normal needle, but don't pass the thread through the needle bar thread guide this time.

Step 5: Go ahead and start sewing - it's as easy as that! Below I've demonstrated what a zigzag and a straight stitch look like. Pretty neat, no? I used a regular stitch length and tension for this medium weight scrap of jersey, but you may need to experiment with both depending on the thickness and texture of your fabric.

I hope this is helpful to twin needle virgins out there, but if you're a twin needle pro please do chip in with any further advice!

In the unlikely event that you haven't heard of the Victoria Blazer - By Hand London's third commercial pattern - I implore you to go check it out now! I've been sewing for over three years now, but I often tend to play it safe and shy away from 'difficult' projects. The Victoria Blazer is perfect in the sense that it's a surprisingly easy make, yet by the end of've made a fully lined jacket!!! It's a great confidence-building pattern, but if you're still unsure about tackling it yourself, you're in luck - the By Hand London girls have just announced a sewalong!

As you can see, I opted for the cropped version in fear of the full-length blazer swamping my short frame, but I can see a longer version in my future for sure. I made a straight size 12 and I'm pretty happy with the fit, but I might be tempted to cut a size 10 next time - at least for the shoulders, armholes and sleeves.

I used a lovely aqua/minty linen for the shell of my blazer - which I won in an epic Megan Nielsen giveaway - and a beautiful stripy cotton for my lining.

The pattern itself has minimal pieces and is very cleverly constructed, with clearly written instructions which are nice and easy to follow.

I absolutely adore the flattering front dart detail and the collar/lapels come out so crisp, making you feel like such a clever stitcher. Although the pattern doesn't call for it, I chose to top-stitch my collar/lapels to stop the lining from peeking out and to help it hold it's shape better. 

Another detail I love about this pattern are the cute little cuffs, which I chose to make out of my lining fabric, but they can also be made form your main fabric if you want a more uniform look.

Look, I fully lined a jacket! I feel so clever...even if it was easy peasy! And the design of the blazer even makes me feel cool by default!

How do you feel about this pattern - made it already or tempted to give it a go? Perhaps you're a tailoring pro and have some advice for aspiring stitchers like myself...