Embroidery will be the end of me…

Argh, embroidery is bloody tough! I’ve been thinking about learning for a while but today I decided to suck it up and buy an embroidery hoop and some thread. By the way, did you all know that teachers get 10% off in Hobbycraft if you can show school related photo ID? Slow hand clap, Hobbycraft. Anyway, I bought the hoop and thread and I’ve spent a lot of the day tinkering with them (trying out various stitches and such like) and it’s so much more difficult than I thought it would be.

I don’t know why I’m surprised by this because hand-stitching is a real challenge for me. I have no excuse other than I’m impatient and scrappy. This is exactly why I figured that embroidery could be good for me though: it would give me something to do when watching telly or commuting to work, it would help me get a handle on basic stitches that I’m sure I must have learned during my childhood but seem to have forgotten, and most importantly, it might help to change  my slapdash, half-arsed habits that undoubtedly have a negative impact on the finish of my homemade clothes.

I’ve been drooling over various embroidery projects on Pinterest for a while now and figured that the summer holidays might be a good time to learn.

(click the image for the source) 


Unfortunately (and I do realise that I’m being overly harsh) my attempts at embroidery look like shit and will likely never look as awesome as the aforementioned loveliness from Pinterest. Woe is me. See below for evidence of this. Oh and I should say that I’m trying to make a little piece of embroidery hoop decor (which is such a fab idea! Thanks Pinterest) for my wee niece’s bedroom.

First attempt at embroidery

Ok, so my husband tells me that I’m a drama queen. I know that it’s only my first attempt but dammmmmnnnnn it’s annoying! I’m thinking of buying some patterny things online to help and of course trawling YouTube until all hours of the morning to pour over tutorials*. I think I maybe tried a bit too much today and got too frustrated by the final attempt.

I feel the need to add that I normally wouldn’t post stuff that looks a bit rubbish, which is silly, I know, but I figure that I’ll only get better. I wish I’d started documenting my progress when I made my first ever dress. The progress I’ve made since then is brilliant and I’m really proud of myself for it. I hope I can say the same about embroidery in a couple of years time.

Plan of Action

  • Print off lettering and trace so it looks a bit more fluid and less wonky
  • Work on producing consistent stitches
  • Keep practising the stitches I’ve learned (back stitch, split stitch and satin stitch)

Any advice on how to improve would be most gratefully received!

*I’ll post links to useful websites, tutorials or YouTube videos that I’ve come across soon.

Fabulous Floral Flora

Floral Flora Dress

Cheeeeeers!!! For us Scottish teachers, it’s now officially the summer holidays! Woooooooooop woooooop! They are finally here and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a very difficult year at school and I’m so grateful to have some time to catch my breath, gather my thoughts, spend some awesome quality time with my family and friends, properly clean my flat and generally re-charge!

As well as it being the summer holidays, it’s also wedding season. I’ve been invited to a few weddings this summer, the first of which yesterday. My good friends were married in Edinburgh at Dynamic Earth. It’s such a wonderful wedding venue: it’s open, airy, it overlooks Arthur’s Seat, it’s very central, the rooms are lovely, you get to wander around the sciency bit after hours with booze in hand AND there’s a terrace that you can sneak away to so you can stand outside in the sun whilst you sip champers and gin. Perfect.

Disclaimer: I totally take Edinburgh for granted and forgot to take a pic. Nicked this one! Source: http://inzumi.com/en/travel/point-of-interest/d_id/Edinburgh/c_id/Sightseeing/p_id/Our-Dynamic-Earth

Floral Flora Dress

Sipping champagne with my husband on said terrace.

So, as you’ve probably guessed from the floral number in the photos above, I decided to make a dress for the occasion. I bought By Hand London’s Flora pattern a while ago after silently creeping around a few sewing blogs and BHL’s awesome Pinterest board. I was dubious though because it’s not the style I’d normally wear. The coupling of high neck line and exposed arms was terrifying for me. I HATE my arms. I always have. I think that in itself is the problem: I have always hated them so in my head it follows that I always will. I need to get out of that mindset. Despite this though, I made it and I’m so, so, SO glad that I did!

Floral Flora Dress

Floral Flora Dress

Construction-wise, it was so unbelievably easy to put together. I figured it would be because I found Anna and Elisalex to be the same. After looking at the sewalong posts and knowing from past experience that BHL’s patterns fit me really well straight out of the packet, I decided to just cut my main fabric.

The fabric is from The Cloth Shop and I bought it for just under £20. It was £11.99 a metre, with 20% off. You can buy it online here if you’re interested! I love that they often have random sales! It’s quite thick cotton with a tiny bit of stretch, which I think is great for adding a tiny bit of drama to the circle.

Floral Flora Dress

The bodice was very simple to put together and I managed to sew it up in a very short space of time. Unfortunately I didn’t have any colour appropriate lining in my stash (which is very strange!) so I just decided to go for a green polycotton instead. Hmm… it sort of goes. The straps were the only fiddly bit, but I reckon after one attempt at them, I’m now a total pro and next time will be much easier.

Floral Flora Dress

The skirt is glorious. I absolutely love it! I’ve always struggled with a circle skirt because my 31 inch waist is apparently a bit too chunky according to Google. I’ve always found myself trying to follow tutorials that require me to cut it out of lots of bits of fabric, or which requires maths skills that I simply don’t possess/haven’t used since Higher Maths circa 2001. However, this circle skirt was so easy. SO, SO EASY! I’m actually glad I bought the pattern just for this skirt. It’s brilliant and I plan to attach it to everything! AND I plan to make a couple just as skirts.

Floral Flora Dress

The only thing that I found tricky with this dress was hemming the skirt. I followed the BHL guide, which was really clear, but I think the fact that my fabric had a tiny bit of stretch made it a tad more difficult. As such, the hem is a bit wonky, but it’s hopefully obscured by the fullness of the skirt. In the past, when people complimented my handmade clothes, I’d immediately point out the flaws but I’ve managed to resist with this one. I’ve managed to avoid saying: ‘Thanks! But LOOOK at this hem, it’s so wobbly and shit!’ And instead, replied with some variation of: ‘Thanks very much. I really like it too.’ Gah. So. Difficult.

Anyway, I love this pattern. While I will always wear the dress with a cardi (unless I’m in a country where no one knows my name), it’s such a perfect fit and I already have in mind many other versions and variations.

Floral Flora Dress

Laters, pals! 

Beach Party Emery

A few weekends ago I was invited to a friend’s hen party in Brighton. Her wedding will be in Thailand in the summer (fingers crossed things settle down in the coming weeks) so she decided on a ‘Full Moon Party’ theme for the Friday night. If you’re unfamiliar with a Thai full moon party, the following might help:

Amazing! Now, because it’s Brighton and because it was likely to be BLOODY FREEZING (!!), I decided to make a dress that would provide some warmth but also be quite summery and bright…

Emery Dress

Sorry about the mess in the background. I was in the middle of a packing frenzy when I took this photo.

I bought the fabric a while back from Hulu Crafts. It’s a lightweight cotton in ‘Peony.


It was the first time I’d purchased fabric from them (it was quite a haul I can assure you) and they were just lovely. There was a shortage of one of the fabrics I’d ordered and they were very helpful and the communication was great. I’ll definitely use them again.

I made the dress up using Christina Haynes’ Emery Dress pattern (again). Nothing new to report on the construction of the dress, other than the fact that I lowered the neckline quite significantly to make it more summery. I LOVE the neckline on this dress I’m glad I re-traced it so I can use this version again.

For the very first time, I understitched the neckline. Why have I not been doing this all the time?! It makes it look so much neater and lie so much flatter! I used The Coletterie tutorial, which was fab.

Also, because the fabric is quite light, I decided to line the dress. I’ve just added enough under the skirt so that it covers my bum (& hides my uncoordinated pants!!) rather than a fully lined skirt which might make it a bit too toasty in warmer weather. I’m aware that I live in Scotland and that it is NEVER that warm.

It was just perfect for the party and I got a lot of compliments, which is always good. I’m so glad that I opted for a dress. If I’d worn anything skimpier, I think it would have been the end of me. Although it was chilly, Brighton is just beautiful and I can’t wait to go back. Here are a few snaps for your viewing pleasure…


Prosecco Face 
Candyfloss face

And a few snaps of Brighton pier…




Navy Sureau Dress

I present my first attempt at Deer & Doe’s Sureau Dress:


By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I heart a floral print…

Mad Men Inspired Dress



However, what I really lack are plain staples that can be worn for a variety of occasions. When I saw the Sureau Dress pattern by Deer and Doe a while back, I knew that it would be the kind of dress that could be made up as one of those staples. I like the fact that it’s not too fussy but also has the potential to be quite cute and feminine. I was slightly apprehensive about ordering from Paris, but the shipping costs were really reasonable and it arrived pretty quicky too.


Pretty packaging!


Before I traced the pattern and cut my fabric, I decided to check out Paunnet’s really helpful sew-along posts just so I had an idea of what I was up against.

Sureau Sew-along

If you’re thinking about sewing the dress, I’d recommend having a look at those before you begin. It really made the process a lot quicker for me and meant that this dress only took me a few hours to complete. It definitely helps that my measurements matched up pretty perfectly (I cut a 44) and it looked so straight forward that I decided to skip the muslin and just go for it.

Navy Sureau Dress

I used a navy cotton that I bought from Edinburgh Fabrics, which cost a mere fiver a metre. I bought 3 metres in total (and actually only ended up using about 2.5m). To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I like it because it’s quite stiff but I’m hoping that a few washes might help to soften it slightly. Having said that, it’s the first time that I’ve bought a fabric from Edinburgh Fabrics that I’ve been unsure about. They have such an amazing range and the staff are really helpful and knowledgeable; it’s definitely one of my favourite places for fabric in Edinburgh.

Putting the dress together was really straightforward. The trickiest part was gathering the bust, mainly because I’d never done that before. It was quite hard to get them to look identical and actually I’ve noticed that since then it’s a nightmare to iron them properly. However, I think they look pretty good and that the wonkiness… ahem… adds character? Meh.

Navy Sureau Dress

 The skirt doesn’t look as full here but it was pretty windy today despite it being gloriously sunny.

Everything else was pretty straight forward. I don’t think I’ve ever put a side zip in before but obviously the logistics are the same. The length of the skirt was pretty perfect as it was and the facings were easy to insert. I’m used to lining my dresses so initially I scoffed at using facings; however, they took hardly any time to cut and insert so I’ll probably do that again in future.

Actually, I say the bust gathers were the trickiest but in fact I think picking the buttons was harder! I’m so rubbish at that sort of thing and spent a good 30 minutes eyeing up rows and rows of buttons looking for some kind of divine inspiration. In the end I went for these and think they give the dress a more vintagey feel.

Navy Sureau Dress

 The gold leaf buttons are from Hobbycraft and they cost me £4 for two packs of 2.

They are shank buttons so they were a teeny bit more time consuming to attach (I had to make sure they could withstand my washing machine) but still fairly straightforward.

Navy Sureau Dress

I felt so awkward getting my husband to take these pics today! Gahh. Hopefully I’ll get used to it.


Overall, I’m really pleased with this dress. I think that I’d maybe adjust the neckline slightly next time because it gapes a little. Perhaps I need to add in a couple of darts?  However, I don’t think it’s that noticeable and it certainly won’t stop me from wearing the dress. It’s perfect with a pair of leggings & pumps and so, so comfy! I think next time I’d like to sew the pattern in a fabric with a bit more drape. I’d love to hear your recommendations and/or ideas.


On a side note: until now, I’ve been taking most of my pics inside despite the fact that the beach is pretty much my back garden… as in, if I threw a stone from my bedroom window, I could definitely get it to land on sand. Silly girl. It’s been glorious the last couple of days so I’ve been taking advantage of it to go for lovely long walks…

Portobello Beach

Navy Sureau Dress

Still not quite warm enough for pretty dresses that require bare legs but lovely nonetheless.

Mad Men Challenge #3 – Pretty, Flowery Pleats


Although this wasn’t originally the dress I had planned for the Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men Challenge, I do feel that it’s very Mad Men-esque. I’m fairly new to the show. I’ve always drooled over the costumes, but I hadn’t actually watched it with any dedication until a couple of months ago. I’m currently approaching the end of Season 3. I can’t believe what’s about to happen with Don and Betty!! Well I can, of course, because she’s a bit of a sociopath and he’s Don Draper, but it just feels very strange. Anyway, I remember stumbling across the Mad Men challenge last year and being in awe of all of the outfits all the sewists out there had created. While I’m still a bit of a novice, I decided to enter this time too.

Mad Men Inspired Dress

The sleeves are prettier when they’re not bunched up

Ok, so I must admit, that this dress isn’t exactly a new sew. I made it a little while ago but today’s the first time I’ve actually worn it. I made it one cold and dreary afternoon with my mind on sunnier climes, and I just haven’t had any opportunity to wear it. To celebrate the fact that it’s now officially British Summertime (yay), I decided to brave the cold and wear it out for Mother’s Day. I absolutely adore the fabric and have been stopped twice and asked if it was a Cath Kidston dress. Ummmmm, SURE IT IS? Not really… although I guess it does look Cath Kidston-ish. While I had to say no, it did give me the opportunity to look very domestic and say that I’d made it with my own fair hands.

I really enjoyed making this dress. It was fairly quick to make, despite it being my first ever go with one of the patterns. It consists of the Anna Bodice, which I’ve made a few times now (although this time I tinkered with the sleeves ever so slightly to adjust the width/length and the neckline, which I deepened slightly) and the Simplicity 2444 skirt (with the placement of the pleats also adjusted). I’d never used the Simplicity pattern before and, I must admit,  the only reason I have it is that it came free with a sewing magazine I bought a while back. I like it! I plan to make up the full dress soon.


The fabric was also another first: my first fabric purchase from Hobbycraft. Because I’m a teacher, I get 10% off (AMAZING!) and I had an additional 20% off coupon thingy (EVEN BETTER!). I think in the end, 3 metres of the stuff cost about £20, which is not too bad at all given the quality of it. I also lined the bodice of the dress with a hot pink cotton (from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh).

Mad Men Inspired Dress

teeny bit tight

There were no construction issues. I think the bodice is a teeny bit too tight because I’ve been hitting the pies/not going to the gym very much recently, but it should be fine now that it’s getting a bit sunnier outside. That aside, the Anna bodice is so bloody comfy and flattering, as is the Simplicity skirt. I love the length because it hides my knees (eugh – am I the only person who thinks my knees are gross?!) and I love the fullness of the skirt. I’ve been searching about for a petticoat because it looks like such a faff to make one. Hopefully I can get one before the summer because it would look great with this skirt.

Mad Men Inspired Dress


Anyway, another pretty floral dress to add to my handmade wardrobe. I can’t wait until summer so I can wear it with pretty sandals and a pair of oversized shades.






Comfiest Emery Ever

I’ve been ill recently (flu, ear infections, tonsillitis… ) so I haven’t been sewing much. I’m feeling a bit better now though and decided that I wanted to sew something unknown and fun to get me back in the game. Sooo, I dug out my copy of Butterick Retro B5605.  I had big plans and couldn’t wait to sew this vintage beauty. However, I opened the pattern and was confronted with this mess!

I must have attempted to sew this a couple of years ago when I was a complete novice and naively thought it acceptable to cut pattern pieces in the wrong size. Argh! No wonder I blocked it from my memory. There was just too much guesswork and fiddliness involved in saving this so it’s now in the bin and a new copy has been ordered. Sigh.

So, utterly frustrated with myself, I decided to sew something that I knew I couldn’t fail at (and of course just as fun): the Emery dress… obviously. I know. It’s slightly embarrassing that I’ve sewn so many of them (a couple of which I haven’t blogged about yet). It’s just so wearable and totally my style.

So here it is…


It was so sunny today!

I bought the fabric from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh. It’s a stretch cotton with a pretty floral detail. I bought 2.5 metres in the sale and it cost me about £25. I do love a floral print, but I really need more work-appropriate dresses and this is perfect for that.


Hmmmm… in retrospect, I probably should have hoovered up the bits of thread and material before taking this pic.

I still find it quite difficult to work with stretchy fabrics and this one was even more difficult because it was so difficult to iron. I must remember to use a damp tea towel whenever I need to iron this!

Despite this being a fairly quick project, I found it quite frustrating at times. The stretch resulted in it being a little bit bigger than I would have liked so I had to go back and tweak the darts in the back of the bodice. I also had to take a little off the shoulder seams, as always.

I decided to make the dress knee length so I could wear it without tights in the summer. Rather than gather the skirt or pleat it as per the instructions, I just pleated it myself in a fairly random fashion. Risky but I think it turned out well. I also opted for 3/4 sleeves.


Not as sunny an hour later after a wee walk along the beach

So, this is another Emery success! I’m not even sorry. While I probably will sew something different next time, I plan to make another couple of Emery dresses using some of my recent fabric purchases


Watch this space!

Summer Sewing Inspiration

I’ve been poorly the last week and a bit, which means that I’ve had very little time for sewing but a lot of time to ogle pretty dresses and outfits online and hatch various plans for making them. While I won’t set out a definitive list of the things I will make in the coming months, because a lot of that depends on the fabric available to me and the mood I’m in, I’ve found that the following images have really inspired me.














Can’t find source. Please let me know if this belongs to you.

I’m learning to embroider and I’d love to give this a go on one of my handmade dresses. I think it could be time-consuming but beautiful.






Source. This would make a great Flora dress!

And finally, I’d like to experiment with lace or silk because, up until now, I’ve avoided these fabrics at all costs!!



Retro Pin Up Emery Dress


My second Emery is even better than the first one. I know I should try other patterns, but I tend to have a few tries at a pattern to perfect it before I move on. This one went without a hitch! I absolutely love it. Now, I must admit that it’s a complete rip off of the wonderful Dolly Clackett’s, but I just knew the minute I saw her version that I absolutely had to have it. I know I’m not the only person with DC Dress Envy! After reading her post, I immediately bought 2.5 metres from Fancy Moon. It arrived pretty quickly and they really do have some adorable fabrics.

The Alexander Henry fabric was an absolute dream to work with and because I knew the pattern, I didn’t have to look at the instructions at all. All in, this dress took me about 5 hours to make. I didn’t really think about pattern placement with this one… I’ll try to do it next time. 

I cut this one in a size 12 and had to make some small adjustments: I increased the size of the neckline darts at the back and had to increase/slant one half of the seam at the shoulders. I must have weird shoulders!!! Ah well. I’m glad I did it because it fits perfectly and I feel pretty svelte in it. Now I just need to find some time to adjust my tracing of the size 12 to incorporate those changes.


I created the gathered skirt and I found it so straight forward this time. I don’t know why I’ve had such trouble with gathered skirts in the past. I guess I always found it difficult to get the gathers to sit correctly. However, this time it was a dawdle. I decided to keep it just below the knees (pretty much to hide them… my knees are not my most redeeming feature).


I love the fitted sleeves on this version and the lining, although its just a blue cotton, is really pretty. I decided to go with a red invisible zip and I think it really goes with the red in the fabric.

The only issue I had when putting this together was with my sewing machine. Two years ago I bought a Brother RL417.


It was my first ever sewing machine and its ease of use is part of the reason that I can now make my own clothes. Back then, I had no idea how to sew and it took me about 20 minutes just to thread the machine! When I was making this dress the bobbin jammed every 5 minutes and I went through 3 needles because they kept hitting off the invisible zipper foot and snapping. I cleaned it, oiled it and yet it made no difference. I was going to get it serviced but honestly didn’t think it was worth it: it was only £100 and I’ve used it loads! Anyway, I decided to order a Janome DC3050 from John Lewis.


While I’m sad that I can’t use my wee Brother anymore, I’m really excited about my new one! The only thing that bugs me is that it doesn’t come with a hard case. I’m off for a look at Pinterest to look for ideas on fashioning one myself…

Blue & Cream Vintagesque Emery


My first attempt at Christina Haynes’ Emery Dress was pretty successful. The pattern was easy to follow and the fabric that I picked was just lovely. The fabric is from Ellie Magpie and this is the first time that I’ve sewn with linen. It was so easy to work with and a treat when pressing etc.

Overall, I didn’t have any major difficulties with the pattern, although I did cut it in the wrong size. I thought the size 14 measurements were the closest to my own but, in fact, the 12 is better for me. I contemplated making it a bit smaller by pinching in the side seams, shoulders and increasing the size of the darts but that sounds like a bit of a faff and, to be honest, I like the fact that this is looser  because I’ll primarily wear this during summer. Because it’s a bit bigger and it’s linen, the dress is super comfy!

I lined the dress with a soft pink cotton and inserted pockets in the same colour. The zip was a pretty good match to the lining.


The way that the lining is inserted in this dress is amazing! I’d never thought of encasing the zip in that way and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it has revolutionised the way I handle linings. It looks fantastic! I’m so chuffed with how pretty this dress is on the inside.


I’m also really happy with the waist match up at the back and with the way I’ve gathered the skirt. I saw that there were lots of cheat ways involving string etc. I just can’t seem to get the gathers right when I do it this way so I went back to the old two lines of baste and it worked out really well. I’m happy with the placement of the gathers although next time I think I’ll pin it on to my dressform so as to avoid adding bulk to the hips.

Overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this pattern and can’t wait to sew it again (in a smaller size). Expect to see many more of these in the near future in a variety of awesome lengths and fabrics!