I love an end-of-year round-up and judging by the recent posts popping up in my blog reader, so do lots of you! 2013 has felt hectic in so many ways for me, so I'll start my round-up by borrowing Crafting a Rainbow's Top 5 of 2013 idea, but will add a few more elements as I go along. First, a quick look at my 2013 handmade wardrobe in numbers:

Dresses - 8 (38%)
Skirts - 3 (14%)
Tops - 10 (48%)

Jersey / Knit Fabric - 4 (19%)
Woven Fabric - 17 (81%)

Top 5 HITS of 2013

1. Peter Pan Collar Blouse - Simple Sew. Despite the basic pattern this blouse is adorable, super easy to wear and a perfect fit for my lifestyle.

2. Hawthorn Blouse - Colette Patterns. So chic and elegant. It's easier to wear in warmer weather, but I love it nonetheless.

3. Elisalex Dress - By Hand London. Not exactly an everyday dress, but I took great care over the making of it and it really shows in the details. It's a show-stopped every time I wear it.

4. Armistice Blouse - Folkwear Patterns. Not in regular rotation due to its delicate nature, but I'm so proud of this blouse as it's made from silk hand-spun and woven by my great grandmother.

5. Hawthorn Dress - Colette Patterns. Once again more of a summery number, but I love the fit and style of this dress. It would probably also look good with tights, a cardigan and boots...something I must try.

Top 5 MISSES of 2013

1. Ballet Dress - Dixie DIY. Love the pattern and my fabric, but I wish I hadn't drafted tulip sleeves as my jersey wasn't really stable enough to hold their shape. I still wear it, but with a cardigan mostly.

2. Summery Mathilde - Tilly and the Buttons. Unlike my first rendition of this pattern, this silhouette just wasn't flattering, so I ended up giving it to a very grateful and Liberty-loving friend.

3. Macaron - Colette Patterns. Although this looks pretty in the pictures, the fit isn't quite right and I made an error in fabric-weight judgement.

4. Laurie Striped Tee - Named. I do enjoy wearing this a lot, but I ended up shortening it a tad too much. Next time I'll also lower the neckline.

5. Anna Dress - By Hand London. I really want to love and wear this dress more, but I can't escape the fact that it makes me feel self-conscious about my tummy. I'm inspired by all the beautiful skirt variations I've seen online, so I will try again and with a less clingy fabric too. 


Aside from selfish sewing, I also made my mum a rather large patchwork tablecloth and a number of cute little things for friends' babies. Some of the above I've yet to blog about, but I've surprised myself by how much I've enjoyed sewing for little ones. I swear there's something in the water because a handful of babies 'arrived' this year and there's three more on the way for 2014...so expect to see more titchy sewing!


2013 definitely started with an exciting bang for this blog! After coming across a large amount of delicate vintage lace, I somehow managed to convince eight talented and beautiful bloggers to join me in sewing up something wonderful with it. If you missed it at the time, you can still read all about Watch This Lace and explore each of the creations.  


There's never enough time in a day / week / month to take part in all the exciting sewalongs out there, but I'm so happy that I managed to squeeze in a few super special ones and thankful that in some instances I was asked to participate in the first place.

1. One Pattern, Seven Bloggers...the sequel.

2. Sewing the Trends Summer 2013 - organised by Sew Country Chic.

3. Sew for Victory - organised by Lucky Lucille.

4. The Refashioners - organised by Miss P.

5. Archer Appreciation Month - organised by Miss Crayola Creepy and Lucky Lucille.


September, October and November was when 2013 really got really crazy for me. Amidst buying a first home with the boyfriend and proceeding to renovate parts of it, Rachel from House of Pinheiro and I co-hosted the Dakota Sewalong. The sewalong was a first for us both and I'm immensely proud of what we achieved and the quality guest bloggers we had on board. However, I'd do a few things differently next time. First and foremost, I wouldn't buy a house and renovate at the same time...this was a hugely stressful time for me already. I would also never host a winter sewalong again, whilst holding down a 9-5 job. Due to poor lighting in the early mornings and afternoons, I was limited to photographing tutorials at weekends, meaning I was often working too close to deadlines for comfort. A great experience overall though!


1. Having this blog feature on The Guardian online (in a blog by Karen from Did you make that?) and  in Sewing World Magazine.

2. Meeting and catching up with so many of your lovely selves at Rachel's epic London meet-up and at another big meet-up in Birmingham organised by Krafty Kat, Sew, Incidentally... and I. I was also fortunate enough to spend some quality time with some of you during smaller gatherings. 

3. After an enthusiastic start with knitting, 2013 was the second year running I didn't finish a single project.

4. Despite an incredible year overall, I often felt over-stretched in 2013. I sometimes took on more than I could sanely handle and I think this compromised my own stitching agenda at times. 


I gave up on setting myself specific goals a couple of years ago, which has suited me much better. Some would say I have commitment issues, but I say I just like my freedom! There is one stipulation for 2014 though: I want to try and slow down my stitching a little, focus on quality and enjoy the process. I know this sounds boring, but by not spreading myself too thin I'll have a greater chance of fulfilling my own stitching agenda (whatever that may be at any given time) with better results. That's the theory anyway!

If you got to the end of this self-indulgent post, well done and thank you! I hope 2013's treated you well and that 2014 brings each and everyone of you plenty of good health and happiness. 

I'll see you on the other side with a great giveaway to celebrate the New Year!

Merry almost-end-of festive season friends! Are you feeling suitably stuffed and lethargic? All I can say is that I'm glad I took these photos BEFORE Christmas kicked off..ha ha! I can also safely say that I've been wanting to try the Archer Button Up Shirt by Grainline Studio ever since it was released, so I jumped at the chance to join in with Archer Appreciation Month, hosted by Miss Crayola Creepy and Lucky Lucille.

Normally I need plenty of notice before I can join 'sewalongs' and don't take part in as many spontaneous ones as I'd like to. But for Archer, I had already assembled and cut out my pattern and I had a soft flannel from Cyprus already earmarked for it.

Before going into specific construction details, I'll fill you in on my sizing. I'd heard about the roominess of this pattern and I knew I needed it to be slightly more form-fitting on my shape, so I sewed it up in a straight size 6, after shortening the shoulders by a couple of centimetres and taking off some length both the shirt and sleeves. Overall I'm pretty happy with the fit, but I would definitely grade the hips up to a size 8 or 10, as doing up the last button is tres unflattering at the moment. But I can live with that for this version.

**Full-on gushing alert** 

The making of the shirt was such a satisfying and relaxing (yes, relaxing) process. There's a good reason why this pattern has been universally well-received...everything just comes together so beautifully and the time-consuming details I would usually opt out of, I gladly took my time over. Having never made a shirt like this before, I followed Jen's Archer sewalong posts religiously and they are just superb! I don't know whether I was feeling unusually zen during the making of this shirt, or whether Jen's tutorials are just the best thing ever!?! They are so methodical, well-paced and...well...easy! I found her video tutorials particularly soothing as she has such a calm way of speaking. Anyway, I seriously recommend the sewalong posts if you are nervous about making a shirt like this.

I opted to cut my pockets and back yoke on the bias, which I think adds a bit of interesting detail and Jen has a cool tip for a bias-cut yoke. I also love all the topstitching detail which gives the illusion of flat-felled seams, as well as a really professional-looking finish. The collar is just the sweetest little thing, but I think my favourite detail has to be the pleated sleeves and cuffs...too cute!

Oh, and did I mention how soft and snug my fabric is? It literally feels (and looks, my boyfriend assures me) like wearing pyjamas! Not sure that's a look most people would be going for, but I really, really, really love this shirt! Possibly more because I'm proud of the care I took over making it, rather than how flattering it may or may not look on me, but either way...I love it!

I consider this Archer my successful practice go and have very special plans for my next version. I'll be using a luxurious double gauze (Pocho - Metallic Gold Dots, from M is for Make) and making View B with the pretty, gathered back. I've always loved this girlier version and have hight hopes for it  doing a better job at hiding my junk ;o) I also plan on grading the hips up, maybe slimming the sleeves down a touch and possibly omitting the pockets, as I'm not sure I need the added volume on my bust.

Have you made an Archer yet? Are you tempted?

Friends, have you heard? There's a brand new, British pattern company on the scene - a heartening sign that domestic-stitching is still going strong, if not gaining popularity! Simple Sew design and print their patterns in the UK using a British pattern printing company and they offer all customers an email support service and UK customers free postage!

Their designs are contemporary fun, flirty (as is the artwork) and mixing and matching their patterns could result in a pretty cute capsule wardrobe I reckon. There's definitely a By Hand London feel to some of them, but that's no bad thing in my book. So if you fancy the chance to get your hands on a Simple Sew pattern, look out for a giveaway on their Twitter and Facebook pages on Christmas Eve!

Typically, when Claire contacted me about trying out a Simple Sew pattern I chose The 'Pretty' dress which isn't yet available. My second choice was the Peter Pan Collar Blouse because, well, I love collars and back buttons. I was a little apprehensive about the lack of bust shaping on this pattern, but it actually hangs remarkably well and I'm really, really happy with the end result!

As a whole, this pattern is ridiculously easy to sew up with just three pieces and no darts or zips. And if you have a one-step buttonhole function on your sewing machine, you really are laughing! The only time consuming thing is making bias binding, but you can always cheat and buy that if you're feeling lazy ;o)

I 'graded' the pattern across three different sizes -10 for the neck and shoulders, 12 for the armholes and bodice (up to the waist) and 14 down to the hips. Doing this eliminated my usual neck-gaping issues and has allowed much needed room for my hips and posterior. In fact, I probably could have gotten away a 12 for the entire bodice, but I love how roomy and floaty this has turned out. Despite the lack of shaping, I still don't feel like I'm wearing a tent. Odd, but true...unless you guys disagree entirely of course!   

What I liked about using a Simple Sew pattern

The pattern came in a tidy little envelop with great artwork...seriously, I want the entire outfit and hair people! Very cool! It's printed on what I would call 'sturdy' tissue paper, which is so much easier to work with than the usual super-flimsy stuff. It feels like it can take a whole lot of manhandling, pinning, annotating...you name it. 

I think my favourite touch has got to be the nifty little pattern piece tags, which you can cut out and pin to your fabric pieces to keep track of them. I've not seen this before, but it's a clever idea, especially if you're working on a more challenging pattern and/or with fabric that's hard to mark.

Suggestions for improvement 

I can't speak for all Simple Sew patterns of course, but it's only natural that there would be a little room for improvement, especially with beginners in mind. Mainly it's really small things like the cutting lines being very similar and the fact that a shorten/lengthen line isn't included in case adjustments are necessary. The pattern also didn't require you to interface your button plackets which I found odd - I went with it though and it turned out fine so maybe it's not strictly necessary?!? 

I think the biggest stumbling block for beginners could be the instructions - there are lots of useful diagrams, but the written instructions do assume a certain level of knowledge. For example they mention French seams and bias binding, but no hints on how to do/make either. Fear not though, for the good people at Simple Sew have big plans for online tutorials (which will also feature contributions from fellow bloggers) and as I mentioned above, they offer email support to those who need it.

Next up, a couple of detailed close-ups. I really love the collar on this blouse, especially the shape at the back. Do you like my fabric by the way? I stash-busted the whole blouse - the animal print a cheap polyester I've had for a couple of years, the collar a viscose blend and the buttons I received from a swap. Originally I picked out black buttons, but I think the cherry red is much more fun!

I know you're all thinking about the elephant in the room - the chilly and dreary weather we're experiencing. Well, until Spring/Summer I actually intend on layering this baby up like so...

...which is exactly how I wore it at a cheeky little get-together in London today with Rachel (House of Pinheiro), Tania (Sew It Anyway), Louise, and our guest of honour all the way from California, Erin (Miss Crayola Creepy)!

Just moments before we drooled all over Shaukat's extensive Liberty range!

I don't think poor Erin had ever experienced so much rain in her life! It's alright for some, isn't it?

Yesssss! I did it friends! I finally found a sewing project suitable for baby boys to rival the cutest little dresses I made this summer. Cue the Quick Change Trousers! They can totally be made for girls too, but I'm relieved that I now have a go-to project for boys as I wasn't convinced I'd ever find one.

Apologies for the quality of these smartphone photos, I blame the trousers entirely. Why? Because these little babies were so fast to make! I whipped them up in less that an hour an a half, including cutting out, the evening before my lunch date with a friend and her little boy. My only option was to photograph them on my desk at work. Haha!

As you can see, they're fully reversible with an adjustable leg length thanks to the nifty turn-ups, which hopefully makes them wearable for longer. I think my favourite part is the the back butt panel, because you can have so much fun with contrasting fabrics.

The project is from Anna Maria Horner's book called Handmade Beginnings, which I bought for a bargain from The Works. The instructions are straightforward, but could do with a few more diagrams for trickier parts in my opinion. The patterns are printed on sturdy paper a la Burdastyle, so they do need tracing I'm afraid. Overall though it's a lovely book and I'm particularly impressed with the variety of projects included, both for wee ones and parents. I've picked out a few of my favourite below... 

I've also made the Patchwork Sleeping Sack, sans the patchwork, but I'll save that for another post. All I'll say is that I made it winter appropriate and it turned out really awesome!

In other news, I spontaneously decided to take part in Archer Appreciation Month, because Grainline's pattern has been on my wishlist for ages. I've been following Jen's sewalong posts and it's been an absolute pleasure! Are you joining in?
A little later than promised once again, but worth the wait I hope you'll agree! Here's a roundup of darling Dakotas that have been posted to the Flickr group - Rachel and I will share more of these posts as other finished Dakotas are shared with us in the future.

Jennifer Gal made her adorable, sleeveless Dakota in a soft chambray with Liberty Wiltshire pocket linings and bias binding to finish the armholes. I love the cool denim look!

Can you believe that Shar's awesome Dakota in jersey is just a muslin version? The fit is literally spot on and the colour is divine - I really, really want my own jersey Dakota now!

Cathy over at Kalali made her Dakota from Japanese cotton with a really interesting stripe and dot pattern. I's a great fit and looks like the perfect dress for Autumn or Spring weather!

And finally, let's not forget Rachel's own two stunning versions - her Winter Dakota in ponte knit and her Summer Dakota in linen.

If you head over to the Flickr group you'll also see another beautiful Dakota muslin in progress by JenniferR which actually had me stumpted for a second because the fabric is SO similar to mine! Great minds think alike obviously ;o)

Boy, oh boy, does this feel like my most drawn out project to date! When Rachel and I first dreamt up the Dakota Sewalong, my plan was to have my dress and all my sewalong posts done and dusted before moving house. Of course life never works out that neatly, so it took me forever to make this dress and...well...I ended  up sewing along!

That's not to say that I'm not delighted with the result though. I attribute this in equal parts to Named's beautiful pattern and the luxurious Prada crepe generously gifted to me by Minerva Crafts.

I won't go into construction details as the sewalong has covered every imaginable aspect, but I will share some additional bits and bobs.

My favourite things about the Dakota Dress pattern: Details like the side pockets, interesting hemline and shawl collar. The fact that it can be customised in so many ways.

What I would change: I'd take a leaf out of Rachel's book and draft a wider collar. Not only would this make it into more of a feature (think nice and nautical), it would also probably help it to lie better.

The truth about my sleeve plackets: Because I was using slippery and medium-weight crepe, I found it impossible to make 'proper' plackets like in Rachel's tutorial, so instead I went for easier plackets that I learned during the making of my Armistice Blouse.

Although the pockets probably aren't in the most flattering placement for girls with hips and/or muffin tops, I do love them so! You could of course forgo them altogether or move them from the side to the front if you wanted to.

Staying true to my inspiration post, I've paired it with my clever leopard spot blouse from M&S. I totally stand by my original idea as I think the combination looks totally kickass! However, I do think I'll wear my Dakota with something slightly less 'bulky' underneath in the future, as it doesn't have much ease in it. I also dislike wearing long sleeves on long sleeves...it makes me feel a little 'funny' if I'm honest. Anyone else experience this, or am I the only weirdo here?

So there you have it, my finished Dakota Dress! Hope it was worth the wait!

I also just want to take the chance once again to thank everyone who put an awful lot of effort and talent into making the Dakota Sewalong happen:

All the sewalong posts can be found here or on Pinterest and I hope some people will follow along in their own time, or refer to specific posts for future makes.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing some of your finished Dakotas on Friday. There's still time to send me a link to yours - add your photos to the Flickr group, comment below or email me. If you miss out on being featured in Friday's post, do keep those Dakotas coming in because Rachel and I will be doing future roundups too!