It's taken 11 years into my sewing journey for me to give shirring a go - that's how averse to change and failure I am. Ridiculous, I know! I'm so glad I finally ventured out of my comfort zone though and it's all thanks to the super cute Raspberry pattern from Cocowawa Crafts. I was seriously torn between the jumpsuit, playsuit and dress options, eventually opting for the former.

Needless to say, I watched a lot of YouTube videos about shirring, most of which made it look like the easiest thing in the world. But the method you need to use seems to depend on your brand of sewing machine.

Mine required me to take my bobbin case out and tighten the tension for it to shirr, which was a very scary prospect. What made it a bit less daunting though, was this tutorial by Ana (the beautiful human behind Cocowawa Crafts), who calmly and expertly guides you through the various steps you may need to take for success.

This make would have been my entry for Portia's Refashioners 2020, which was thoughtfully cancelled to allow for a more inclusive and representative line-up in the future. This year's challenge was to give a new lease of life to unloved/unused textiles from around your home like bedding, tablecloths, towels and old garments. 

It was the perfect opportunity for me to use these vintage curtain or table runner panels I found in a charity shop once upon a time. The cotton is surprisingly soft to handle so perfect for shirring, plus the colours and print are just so stunning. It had been in my stash for years as yellow's not a great pairing with my skin tone, but I think I can just about get away with this?!?

I shortened the bodice by 4cm and added those to the crotch length instead, which thankfully worked a treat. I also had to shorten the trouser length by quite a bit (maybe 8cm) and tapered them in by 2cm below the knee. I'm pretty happy with the final fit though and it required minimum effort to get there which is always a win. 

The only downside is that the bodice does sit a little high at the underarms, as it's a rectangle. Being a shirring novice, I've no idea if shaping the bodice piece would be possible, but I might be tempted to try it next time. It's absolutely not a deal-breaker for this version though.  

Naturally I had to make the ruffled straps as they're pretty AND they're better at covering bra straps. I'm not a massive fan of elasticated waists, so to hide the evidence I made a fabric belt and used this tutorial by Melly Sews to add handworked thread loops. Of course, the finishing flurry had to be a matching label from Modista's gorgeous French-inspired collection.

I really went to town with my stripe placement on this make, which was no mean feat as I was working with three narrow fabric panels, requiring a lot of pattern Tetris and cutting out on single layers. I'm so happy I went to all of that effort though, because the end result is exactly what I was hoping for!

The Raspberry Jumpsuit gets a big thumbs up from me. Are you a fan of the pattern?

Long time no post, friends. I've actually been relatively productive on the sewing front during lockdown, but seem to have lost the appetite to photograph myself in my makes. The backlog was stressing me out though, so I made a start last weekend.

This was originally a straight Republique du Chiffon Violette Dress, which I made for last year's summer party hosted by Hannah and Rosie of The New Craft House. You can see me wearing it here, but suffice to say that I wasn't a fan of the relaxed bodice on me. However, I was a huge fan of the tiered skirt and the gorgeous viscose from Like Sew Amazing, so I was determined to refashion it into a dress worthy of my friend's dreamy Tuscan wedding last August. 

I had just enough fabric left over for a By Hand London Flora Dress bodice and I even managed to piece a belt together too. The transformation was absolutely worth the hours of unpicking the zip and overlocked waist seam, gathers and all. I felt totally fabulous swanning around in it at the wedding!

Annoyingly, I omitted the customary waist stay I like to add when sewing with viscose, so there is a bit of sagging at the front skirt. Also, I made a lot of adjustments to the Flora bodice at the time to get a perfect fit, which isn't really reflected here as my shape has changed a fair bit since then. I think the belt does a great job at hiding these niggles though and it sure is a comfortable wear.

Overall, I'm really happy with this combination of patterns - which I've named Florette - and would love to make a solid version in linen maybe. I know, I know...who even am I?!?

I'll finish with a confession, because it's bugging me and I need to come clean. Have you noticed the difference in lipstick colour and lighting in some of these photos? It's because we took the first batch with the pink lipstick and the lovely lighting first...before I realised that my zip was only halfway done up on the back bodice. Sadly, this made the fit look terrible in the front and back shots but we didn't have time to reshoot straight away due to a family Zoom quiz (the 'gift' that keeps on giving in lockdown). By the time the quiz had finished the day turned grey and rainy and I forgot that I'd changed my lipstick! We could have reshot everything on a different day, but I really liked some of the original takes, so I begrudgingly settled on mixing the two. 

The trials and tribulations of being a blogger, eh!?! I'd love to hear about your quirky photoshoot stories in the comments...

We're partial to a bit of twinning, my sewing bestie Amy (Almond Rock) and I, but this time we've really outdone ourselves! We've made matching PJs out of this crazy cat print seersucker and have decided to throw a Pyjama Pictionary Party to celebrate. The best part is, you're all invited!

You can join us live by tuning into Amy's YouTube channel this Saturday (25 April) at 7.30pm (BST). We'll chat a bit, play a bit and there are kickass goodies up for grabs too. You can enter the prize draw and even help plan the party here - just send us your sewing-related Pictionary suggestions and any burning questions you want us to answer on the night.

It all started when I found this bonkers fabric on Leicester market more than a year ago. I had no idea what I would do with it, but that didn't stop me from buying a small bolt. It's quite a sheer seersucker with a subtle plaid pattern and the scruffiest little kitties all over it. 

Inspiration eventually struck and I decided to gift Amy some if she agreed to make matching sleepwear with me (always read the small print before accepting gifts). Reader, she said yes!

Do you like my cute lil rainbow label? It's from Paige Joanna.

I paired mine with the Nina Lee Piccadilly pattern, which is incredibly sweet, and they've turned out pretty darned cute. It was my first time using the pattern and I made up a straight size 12, leaving out the Mandarin collar as it's not a detail I love on myself. 

The fit is quite good, but next time I'd probably add an inch to the crotch rise to accommodate my fuller butt. Also, I think I would pinch a centimetre or so out of the shoulders and tweak the armhole a little as movement is a tad restricted (I like to do big yawns with my arms stretched out).

The most time-consuming part of this pattern is sewing on the bias tape which creates the darling details on the pockets, sleeves and along the hems. Once that was all done though, I sped through the rest, which felt really satisfying.

So that's the story of pussycat Piccadilly pyjamas - do you like them? And more importantly, will we see you at our Pyjama Pictionary Party on Saturday?

I can't quite believe how much life has changed in one month. Back in February, while coronavirus was gaining momentum worldwide, we were still free to come and go as we pleased in the UK. While our current locked down status is absolutely necessary, I'm so grateful that I got to catch up with sewing friends in the flesh at various events just weeks before.

One such event was The New Craft House Galentine's Party. The night itself was such a giggle, made even sweeter by the fact that Amy of Almond Rock and I won the #SewingWife bingo, for which our matching fabric choice definitely gave us the edge.

We both randomly bought this gorgeous cupid/cherub print viscose twill from Ditto Fabrics a while back with no real plan in mind, until the perfect occasion revealed itself. When Hannah and Rosie announced their party, I knew I had to use this fabric and I knew exactly which pattern to pair it with.

I'd been lusting over the stunning Solina dress in Breaking the Pattern by Named for ages, so I seized the chance to finally make it. Something about the whimsical ties and floaty silhouette really called to me, especially after seeing SO many amazing versions on Instagram.

I think I made a straight size 4 (or 5...I can't remember) and miraculously, I didn't have to shorten the bodice for the ties to hit at my natural waistline. I also didn't have to shorten the sleeves, which was another pleasant surprise. However, I removed 15cm off the length, and I probably could have trimmed more off. 

Inspired by a number of clever stitchers, I lengthened the waist ties to 80cm each so I could wrap them all the way around as I was worried about how the 'shift' shape would look like on me from the back. I'm pretty happy with the result. 

I was gutted that I had to sacrifice the centre skirt slit because I didn't have enough fabric, so I'd love to include that feature next time. For a second version I would also pinch a small wedge out of the front neckline and tweak the back bodice as it's a little too long, giving me a slight hunchback. Even though the ties are one of my favourite elements of the sleeves, I would probably skip them again as they're so impractical.

All in all, I felt super glamorous in this dress and I'm pleased that I tried (and liked) a shape that's out of my comfort zone. Have you seen the super cute top version of the Solina pattern? I'm 100% making one this summer!

For my birthday (I'm 37 today...yikes!!!), I usually like to make a new dress. This year's dress still needs hemming though, so I thought I'd show you another recent make instead!

Meet my second Tilly and the Buttons Indigo Dress...she's a grizzly little bear. Not really, but the amazing grizzly bear crepe was from Fabric Godmother ages ago, who always has such a great ex-designer/deadstock collection.

I made the exact same fit alterations as I did for my leopard print version, but because crepe is heavier than viscose, this dress has ended up longer which I don't mind. At the time, I wanted a speedy make, so I left out the pockets, went for plain sleeves/waist and made the bold decision not to add waist ties. Loose styles are never the best look on me because of my big bust and admittedly this looks better from the front than it does the side or back. But, I love it nonetheless - it's super cute thanks to the print and as comfy as you'd imagine!

My favourite thing about this dress is that you can wear it loose, or pair it with a cropped cardigan/jumper for an instant cinched in look. So it really is the best of both worlds!

Now to go find all the forest green fabrics because it's such a delightful colour and I need more of it in my handmade wardrobe...

Starting the new year by sharing a failure is not ideal, but I’m surprisingly chipper about it thanks to the valuable lessons I’ve learned and the unexpected confidence it’s given me.

This make came about after Simplicity asked me to take part in their hack-along blogger challenge to raise money for The Eve Appeal, the only UK national charity funding research and raising awareness into the five gynaecological cancers (womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal).

For every hack-along pattern sold in the UK, Simplicity will be donating a portion of the sales to the charity. Keep reading for my ambitious hack and to find out more about how you can win great prizes by entering the competition.

The hack - what worked

Egged on by my sewing wife Amy at Almond Rock, I decided to hack Simplicity 8700 into a raincoat. Having never made outerwear before, I really had my work cut out for me, but I'm pretty pleased with how the hacking process went.

I started with the short version of the jacket and eliminated the shoulder tabs, breast pockets, collar and sleeve cuffs. For a more streamlined look, I got rid of the back yoke by overlapping the two back pattern pieces (yoke and back) at/by the seam allowances and treating them as one pattern piece.

For the hood, I used the Tilly and the Buttons Eden Coat as a starting point. I traced out the pattern pieces and compared the dimensions of the Simplicity neckline to the base of the hood. I had to pinch out a fair few centimetres from the base of the hood so it would fit the jacket neckline, but I was careful not to take too much of the excess out of rest of the hood to avoid it becoming too shallow.

Next time I would address the super dropped shoulders - which probably look worse on me due to my narrow frame - but overall, this was actually a less challenging hack than I envisioned.

The hack - what didn't work

I'm sad to say that despite the successful elements of this make, it's completely unwearable due to my fabric choice. Don't get me wrong, I love the colour and print so much, but when it arrived in the post from Sew Me Sunshine, I knew in my heart of hearts that it was too heavyweight. A softshell waterproof or treated twill would have worked better, but because this was so pretty I was determined to plough on.

I could have looked past the stiffness and lack of breathability of the fabric - which in my opinion would be better suited to tablecloths, aprons, bibs, etc - had my sewing machine played ball. But it hated this fabric so much. It could just about handle sewing two layers together, but for bulkier areas like the neckline, hood and pockets it skipped stitches and the bobbin thread tension was too loose, resulting in very weak seams. It didn't matter what needle/tension/stitch length/etc I tried, or whether I used my walking foot, the result was always the same.

Not wanting to waste even more materials/notions/time/sanity, I decided not to finish the jacket. I didn't add the gorgeous bronze snaps I had picked out, the full lining I had sewed up, or the drawstring waist detail I had planned - all of which were provided by the generous people at Minerva Crafts, along with some other notions and tools. Don't worry though, I'll put them to good use soon.

I was even planning on pressing the lining to the outside before topstitching the sleeves and hem, to create the illusion of piping, just like I did for the pockets. Oh well, next time!

There will be a next time, you see. Because the one thing I'm taking away from this experience is confidence. I realised that making outerwear isn't as hard as I imagined and that it's actually quite fun. I'm now fully pumped to make a wearable jacket and look forward to the sense of accomplishment I know it will bring.


If you’ve been inspired to take part in the challenge, you can choose any of the nine patterns in the Simplicity Pattern Hacking range, pick a category to enter and share your hack on social media with the relevant category hashtag:

DAYWEAR - #HackalongDay

PARTY - #HackalongParty

UNIQUE VINTAGE - #HackalongVintage

Email your entries with the pattern number and category to for a chance to win Sewing or Coverstitch machines from Janome and goody bags from Simplicity and their sister brands. The full pattern list and rules can be found online at SewDirect.