Moving beyond the basics

There comes a time when you run out of ‘basic’ sewing skills or pattern making skills to learn, and you are hungry for more. But look for “Advanced Sewing” or “Sewing Level 2” books, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any. Heaven help you if you are in that spot with pattern cutting. And don’t suppose that a degree will teach you. That is not a given.

What to do next

To advance your sewing skills you could take up the following leads:

  • Pattern Cutting
  • Tailoring
  • Lingerie
  • Dancewear
  • Reverse engineer your clothes
  • Fashion Incubator

Pattern Cutting

If you’re not already making your own patterns, what are you waiting for?!

It doesn’t really matter what system you use to draft your blocks (although I like Metric Pattern Cutting by Aldrich) because you’ll need to fit them anyway. Even if you make a block to your personal measurements, you’re probably a different shape and will have to adjust. But once you’ve done that, you can draft whatever you want!

If you’re grading from a dress block to a jacket block, or jeans to panties, there are things you need to learn or figure out. But that’s all part of the fun!

I really wouldn’t go back to commercial patterns now because I’m so hard to fit to. I’d much rather design and draft my own and know what I’m altering.


This is on my to-do list. You can use pattern cutting and industrial techniques to get shape, or you can use classical tailoring. I’d suggest learning both.

  • Bernadette Banner on Youtube


This one is also about building shape, but more in that it matches yours, rather than has its own. You’ll learn about taking precise measurements and sewing with precision, and with stretch fabrics. You don’t need an overlocker. I like sewing lingerie (well, underwear, as mine is currently very basic) on my sewing machine.

  • Ohhh Lulu
  • Bare Essentials (bras)


This sort of follows on from lingerie in concept, but you can do it without having sewn lingerie. Someone I know taught herself to sew dance wear for her little girl because of the cost of dance wear (the child is pretty much professional and costumes are necessarily plentiful). You will need an overlocker, I think, because the fabrics have so much stretch. I intend to ask my friend for tips when I get round to dance wear.

Fashion Incubator

I’m not affiliated, I just love this website. Sewing the way professionals do is the only way to get really professional results, if you ask me. Look up the tutorials on zips.

Pattern Scissors Cloth

Her tutorial on RTW tailoring is second to none. She has ones on sewing slips and things too. She’s a professional pattern cutter and therefore incredibly cool and knows how to make things well. Go and learn!

And those are my suggestions for moving beyond the basics. That list can keep you going for years! 🙂

Adobe Illustrator for Pattern Cutting Shortcuts

I do 99% of my pattern cutting on Adobe Illustrator. It’s almost the only reason I’m paying for it. It makes my work quicker, more accurate and easier to fix when I do something wrong. Here are some ways I make it even more efficient. The ones in bold are the ones I use most/like best.

The line tool ( \ )

This is used as you would use a pencil and ruler. Click where you want to start your line, enter the length and the angle, and press enter.

Direct Select Tool ( white arrow, a )

Used for selecting individual things like lines and anchors.

Move tool ( black arrow, v )

Used to, well, move stuff. To move something a specific amount and direction, select it by clicking on it, and press enter. Then enter the coordinates and press enter.

Offset path ( alt + cmd/control + o )

Use this to add seam allowances and make facings.

Shaper tool (cmd/control + m)

Used to add seamlines and, in conjunction with the Offset Path, to make facing patterns.

Make guides (control/cmd + 5)

Select the path you want to by a guide and then press cmd + 5. This means you won’t accidentally add anchors or whatever.

To release guides press shift + ctrl + 5. That’s handy for when you want to use your now ex-guide with the shaper tool

Paste in front (ctrl/cmd + f)

This is useful for non-destructive editing of patterns. Use the direct selection tool to select the lines/segments you want, copy (ctrl/cmd + c), then ctrl/cmd +f to paste directly on top of the originals. Now do what you need to do, and then delete the copy when you’re done.

Eye-dropper tool (i)

For copying appearance of lines and shapes.

Blend tool (w)

Used for grading. Draft the smallest and biggest sizes. Press W. Click on a corresponding corner of each size.

If it doesn’t work properly (often you’ll get weird corners), ctrl/cmd + z, and simplify the shapes (click on one, right-click, “simplify”). Try again.

If that still doesn’t work, Paste in Front the smaller one, move the anchor points of the copy to the corresponding ones on the larger one and remove the original larger one. Now, as both shapes will have the same anchor points and path directions, W should work.

Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but it’s easier and more accurate than grading each individual size.

Join ( Ctrl/cmd + J )

When you have two disconnected anchors that you want to join, select them with the direct selection tool, right click, ‘average’, and ctrl/cmd + j. They are now one anchor point. If you don’t average, you can sometimes get two anchor points and it’s just annoying later on when you add seam allowances or grade things.

Group and Ungroup ( ctrl/cmd + g ; ctrl/cmd + shift + g )

Select which items you want to group and group them. Ungroup if it gets annoying. When grouped, you only need to click on one with the black arrow tool (v) and they will all be selected. This means they move at the same time, which is helpful for pattern pieces with markings on them.

Reflect ( o )

More useful than you’d think. Mostly for asymmetrical garments and for checking necklines are actually round etc. Also helpful for making techs.

After you’ve pressed o, alt-click the reference point and a box will come up. Select your plane of reflection or type in the angle, and press enter (or alt + enter if you want a copy). It’s a good idea to work with “preview” ticked.

Rotate ( r )

Useful for shifting darts. Draw in the new dart line with the pen tool, cut off the section with cut and/or the shaper tool, then press r. Click on the pivot point and move the section round. Use the shaper tool to make the pattern whole again.

Do again ( ctrl/cmd + d )

Useful for making grids when drafting blocks, and for marking spacings for pleats etc.

Outline Mode ( ctrl/cmd + y )

Sometimes when you’re trying to add seam allowances or make shapes, it just won’t work. The chances are that something isn’t intersecting. Use outline mode and zoom in all the way over the bit you suspect isn’t connecting. Fix it, and then press ctrl/cmd + y again to go back to normal.

Send to current layer

Useful for organising pattern pieces or sizes. Top menu: Object -> Arrange -> Send to current layer.

It’s helpful to make a keyboard shortcut for this. I use ctrl/cmd + m because I never minimise the window.

I’ll add more if and when I think of them, but I hope this was helpful 🙂

I’m not affiliated, but this course was extremely helpful for me when I was in college. Pattern Workshop: Creating PDF Patterns

A Simple Denim Waistcoat

#40102 Waistcoat Pattern

For no particular reason, I wanted to make Graham a waistcoat. So I did.

At first I tried the pattern from Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear, but it’s quite the wrong shape for him. That has darting at the front. Graham needs it at the back, as most men seem to.

Green pattern as in Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear (I think). Black pattern as for Graham. Slash illustrates tummy room added. 🙂

So I copied his jacket pattern, drew a waistcoat shape over it, and took it in at the side seams, making sure that there was enough tummy room. (He’s not fat, he’s just a little soft about the middle).

Using #40101 as a block

I looked at other waistcoat patterns to model on and I didn’t think any of the classic ones would match his body type. I considered a more casual silhouette but ended up just drafting it without the front darts and adding a bit of tummy room.

I made a toile out of the jacket toile (saving fabric) and it was pretty good. Then I got impatient and cut the real one out of a remnant of stretch denim and some gold lining fabric I had, both from The Shire. I fused the whole thing (except lining, obviously) to give it some body as it was fairly thin “denim”.

It went quite well, until I realised (most of the way through) that I didn’t know how to finish lining a waistcoat. So, emotional, I scoured the Internet and read and reread Fashion Incubator until I understood it.

How to sew a waistcoat

It’s actually very simple when you don’t spend the whole day frustrating yourself carefully read what to do first.

This is what my Order of Work sheets look like.

Features he likes

He picked the buttons “because they look like car wheels,” and he likes that the pockets are actually useable because on most waistcoats “They’re usually pretty useless.” I think that is because I naturally (and without paying attention to other pictures) put them at a natural angle.

Tips for sewing waistcoats

  • Use the right method
  • Fuse/interface everything except the lining
  • Pull the pocket bags out of the pockets when you sew the buttonholes to avoid getting them caught.
Check out those car wheel-like buttons!
Look how nicely it hugs the back of the neck! There’s a little shaping in the pattern there 😉
A gold paisley lining

Book Review and a Recipe for Scones

Cookies had never worked out for me. No matter what recipe I used, they always turned out like tiny cakes or scones. I couldn’t achieve biscuits, let alone chewy American style cookies. And as I’d said I’d make some for whoever did well at work, I had to deliver.

I bought James Morton’s ‘How Baking Works‘ kindle book and that was a start. The cookies weren’t quite right however and were too scone-like, though a lot closer to biscuits than my previous attempts. Then I found Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which appealed to the math-geek in me, and the my love of simplicity. I tried the sample and it looked interesting and promising, so I downloaded the full book.

Bearing in mind that the author is American, I looked at the Cookie Dough chapter, rather than the Biscuit Dough one (their idea of a biscuit is more like a scone made from flakey pastry). It has the classic 1-2-3 biscuit/shortbread recipe, but also a few variations for cookie types, with comments for how to get different effects by varying the ratio. I followed one and lo and behold! I can now make American style chewy cookies! They have been requested again at work, and they’re so quick and easy to make, and don’t even need chilling!

After that success I was spurred onto trying scones, which had always been a bit of a messy faff for me, and there seemed to be as many recipes for them as there were bakers, and mine were always wet and uncuttable. There had, I thought, to be a basic ratio of ingredients that people are altering a bit, but that would produce a decent scone. This book doesn’t have such a recipe because Americans don’t seem to have proper scones, so I set about finding such a ratio, inspired by this book. I will be adding sultanas next time, and I will be making them more than once a year!

Quick, Easy Scone Recipe and Ratio

5 parts flour : 1 part fat : 1 part caster sugar : 2 parts liquid (milk or egg), + 1tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp baking soda (bicarb), and a pinch of salt. Sultanas optional. Bake for 210°C/190°C for 12-15 mins.

I use ounces for baking, because they’re nicer numbers than something like 225g. I like the easier mental maths too.

5 oz plain flour
1 oz spread, chilled
1 oz golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
a pinch of salt
2 oz milk (milk weighs almost the same in g as it measures in ml, so this works)

  1. Put the flour in the bowl, followed by the grape-sized lumps of spread or butter. Lightly rub together with your finger tips until the mixtures looks a bit like breadcrumbs. This will take about a minute.
  2. Pour in the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in with a spoon and mix.
  3. Gradually pour in the milk (or whisked eggs), mixing just until combined. Pat together and leave while you prepare the tray and oven.
  4. Preheat your oven to 210°C/190°C Fan. Get out a non-stick baking tray or grease and flour a non-non-stick one.
  5. Lightly flour a surface. Put the dough on it and pat out to 2-3cm thick. Using a floured pastry cutter, cut out your scones until all the dough is used up. You’ll probably end up with a sort of knobbly-looking one. This is the tester that you eat “just to make sure they’re alright” when they’re done.
  6. Put all the scones in the middle of the oven and bake for 12-15 mins or until a light golden brown.

Variation: Drop Scones

If you put in another part liquid, so the ratio is 5:1:1:3, you’ll get a wetter mixture for more “rustic” scones that are uncuttable before baking, but nice nonetheless, and perhaps a little moister. When the ingredients are combined, dollop onto the baking tray and bake for 12-15 mins.

Variation: Fruit Scones

Add a handful or two of sultanas to your dry mix and coat them in the flour so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the scones. If you soak the fruit, you may need to use less liquid.

These make nice snacks to take to work or school, and if you have one of those tiny jam jars, you can take a serving of butter or jam with you too!

Graham’s Waxed Jacket

Me being me, about a year ago I started designing a jacket for G (my bestie). Me being me, it never happened. This is partly because the drafts in Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear are so erroneously titled as “easy fitting jacket block” or whatever but don’t really give much idea as to how they fit (examples of real-life garments would help), when the first toile didn’t work, I didn’t really know what to try.

This year it struck me to try to make a rubbing of his favourite green bomber jacket and base a pattern off that. I’ve never been very good at rubbings (not that I’ve tried much) but this was a fairly simply shaped garment. I tried doing it like you see in tutorials, but found that that didn’t work, so I took measurements and essentially drafted it in reverse. The drafted it forwards on Illustrator.

Changes to the original draft

(NB: the green pattern shown is actually from Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear 5th Ed. I deleted the draft from the green jacket, not thinking I might blog this. The Purple is the final block.)

First off, I changed the armscye. It was way to symmetrical. Armscyes, if you don’t know, should look like this:

Purple armscye is good. Green is not.

This is because of your primary range of motion. It kind of gives you a bit of a gusset in the back of the arm, and a cut out to avoid bunching in the front. Read Kathleen Fasanella’s book for more info (note: not getting paid for that).

I also tapered the back neckline a bit. I don’t understand why that’s a straight line on most patterns. My neck certainly doesn’t go perpendicular to the floor from my shoulder blades. I’m fairly certain no one’s does naturally. The spine is not a straight line, so the CB seam shouldn’t be either.

Final block in purple. Previous in green.

I made the front pattern lower than the back. This happened largely as a result of adding tummy room. Kind of like a FBA but a FTA (Full Tummy Adjustment).

I also had to really lower the CF neckline because G has a prominent Adam’s apple, and like me, he doesn’t like his clothes choking him.

And, I added a bit of tummy room to the CF. That’s not a straight line, and it’s not parallel to the grain. It fits. This was actually common practice on Victorian patterns.

The Sleeves

I tried drafting the sleeves by Aldrich’s method, which is usually a good starting point, but it just would not work out this time. So I did it by eye. I know what a sleeve head should look like, and based it on the armscye. It came out with very little ease and was plenty roomy enough on the toile.

Two sleeve blocks. One is a bit wider (on the body) for a looser-fitting sleeve, but both have very little ease.

You want to know something annoying about sleeves? Even when you draft them without ease, YOU HAVE TO EASE THEM IN! It’s because of the seam allowances. I’m so glad I don’t have inches of ease to work in like on home sewing patterns. I don’t know how people cope with those.

I also darted the back waist. Quite a bit. Men are curvy there too and shaping this made the fit so much nicer.

The side panel needed shaping at the shoulder pleat. Only a bit, and I only shaped it at the protrusion and on the pleat bit that sewed onto it. This was actually quite faffy but worked in the end.

The pattern before you take it apart, draft the lining, and add seam allowances and collar.

The design pattern

Things I’ve never sewn before:
1) ribbed collar on a jacket
2) good double-welt pockets (I forgot how to do these)

I really wanted to improve the CF zip too. I bought the zip and it was SO WIDE! It was a heavy duty one from YKK for £3 and about 3.5cm wide, compared to the usual 2.5cm. What does this matter, you ask? Well, it means I have to offset the CF line on the shell and facing, and work out the seam allowances. More on this later.

The welt pockets were a source of stress too. As I mentioned, I had forgotten how to make them. So I did them in an “unorthodox” way. They look okay, but then I made a sample according to Fasanella’s instructions and IT’S SO MUCH BETTER AND EASIER AND NEATER THAN ANY HOME-SEWING INSTRUCTIONS YOU’VE EVER TRIED! I used her instructions (measurements adapted for metric) on the waistcoat I made next. I’m pretty pleased with them. 😀 I may do a tutorial.

The front of Graham’s Waxed jacket #40101
The back of Graham’s Waxed jacket #40101

There is quite a bit of 3M reflective tape on this jacket; it’s a cycling jacket after all. And my word, it works! I should have got a picture. He rides a black bike, you see, and doesn’t have a whole lot of reflexives on. And his winter coat is navy. Frankly, a live Graham is better than a dead one.

I put back pockets, because they’re life-changing. I didn’t adjust these when I darted the back body so they stick out a bit, but that’s alright because the fabric is stiff and would be uncomfortable with his sunglasses in there if they lay flush.

There are shoulder-pleats for leaning forward on a bike. This make it so much more comfortable, even with a well-drafted armscye and sleeve. They have elastic inside holding them together so that they fold back into place instead of staying out once you’ve moved.

I double-fused the collar with stretch interfacing (being grown up now XD) and that gave it some body, which is much nicer.

Photos and what I’d do differently

We’re treating this as a prototype because, nice as it is, and proud of myself as I am, there are several things about bit that bug me. Like the fact that I cut the front shell pieces too close to the selvedge/on the selvedge and there are tenterhook marks there as a result. And I may need to grow the armscyes a bit because it’s uncomfortable to try to arrange your short sleeves (long sleeves are fine). I might make it a little bit longer too. And seal the seams. And add an inside pocket (which I forgot to do but he requested.)

Back view
A little reflective logo I made based on car logos (he’s mad about cars)

And so that is his jacket. I should have taken more photos as I made it, but it was very stressful as I wrestled with the stiff cotton and flapped about trying to sew the zip in (oh, how I’d love a flat-bed sewing table!). Also, as much as I hate to have to use pins, they did make the job easier because this fabric along with the zip LIKE TO CREEP! And that makes things not match up, even when they’re the same length. I’d also like a decent cutting table because my knees do not appreciate being on the floor that long.

I’m happy with it. I might make him another one. In red maybe.

Sewing Tutorial: How to Make Cosy Slipper Socks from an Old Sweater

I used to have a lovely sweater. Until I washed it without looking at the instructions (lesson learnt). Then I had a cropped sweater that wasn’t quite as comfortable. So I made it into earmuffs for my hat, and then these wonderful, cosy, mustard yellow slipper socks!

I sort of draped these. Meaning, I stuck my foot inside the remaining sleeve and pinned round the bottom of my foot. Then I traced that onto paper to get the pattern you see above. The CB seam didn’t match so I trued it and added 1cm seam allowances. For the sole, I just drew around my foot onto paper. The seams aren’t the same length, but sweaters are stretchy, so I eased them to match. (Shh! I’m new to footwear!)

Anyway, I made a method for making a pattern so you can just draft your own. Because pattern cutting is fun. And so is maths. So, you’ll need a few measurements…

Measurements You Need To Make Slipper Socks

a) Around your heel and in-step (on me, 28cm-ish)
b) Length of foot (22cm)
c) Around the balls of your feet (for drafting the sole, if you’re not just going to draw around your foot).
d) length/height of slipper sock (30cm approx.)

This is the draft:

I did this clean version in Adobe Illustrator. (I wish they were paying me to say that, especially now my student discount has expired.) It looks almost exactly like a sleeve pattern, curiously enough.

How to Draft a Slipper Sewing Pattern

  1. Draw a big cross on the centre of your paper. Label the intersection A.
  2. A-B = a / 2 [14cm]
  3. A-C = A-B
  4. From B and C, swing a line to touch the vertical axis, measuring b – 1cm. Mark D.
  5. Divide B-D and C-D into 4 segments.
  6. On line B-D, mark E 3cm out from the top segment, and F 1cm in from the bottom segment.
  7. On line C-D, mark G 1cm in from the bottom segment, and H 1.5cm out from the top segment.
  8. Draw a smooth curve from C-G-H-D-E-F-B as shown.
  9. I and J are 2cm in from the lines coming down from C and B respectively.
  10. Join I and J with C and B with curved lines. The corners at C and B should be right angles (90°).
  11. Clean up your pattern and add seam allowances everywhere except on line I-J.
Cleaned up slipper sock sewing pattern with seam allowances, information, and grain line.

I was going to do a method for drafting the sole, but it’s really just easier to draw around your foot.

You’ll notice that pattern says “Cut 2 Pairs.” I like thick soles (and I cannot lie) on my slippers. Squishy ones are more fun to wear. So I doubled them up.

How to Sew Your Slipper Socks

  1. Sew the CB seam, RS together. Finger press open.
  2. Pin one sole to each slipper, RS together. Stitch all the way around with a 1cm seam allowance.
  3. Pin the next sole onto the slipper (still with the inside out) and hand sew on with overstitches. This is easier and neater than zig-zag stitching on.
  4. Turn RS out and apply to your foot.
  5. Dance around on wooden floors and scream “wheeeee!” as you slide about.

As I’ve already shrunken these (in their previous life as a sweater) I think I can wash these with confidence, with their older cousins which I made from socks, not half as neatly. Why not have half a dozen pairs of these squidgy little wonders? Or make some for your friends and family? If I still lived at home (and had any way of getting there affordably) I’d make Mum some (especially as she has water retention and can’t get shoes to fit).

I wonder if I could make actual shoes? I’d just need something more hardwearing for the soles…..

PS. Please share your makes! Leave links in the comments, or tag me on Instagram or FB! 😀

The Bare Essentials Sewing and Pattern Cutting Kit

One of the things that separates experts from enthusiasts is the amount of tools they have. (Not calling myself an expert, but definitely an aspiring expert). I realised this when I was watching Jamie Oliver teach a class of teenagers kitchen knife skills. He uses 1 knife 90% of the time, he just knows how to use it.

This got me thinking that it might be helpful for people if I rewrote my post about a minimalist sewing kit, and maybe updated it to include pattern cutting tools. The pattern cutting tools are used if you don’t do your pattern cutting on the computer, or if you edit your patterns by hand. I think there is a kind of zen to making things with the most basic tools, some peace and quiet, and taking your time. There’s a feeling of craftsmanship and self-pride in knowing that you know how to do something well.

Here we go:

The Sewing Kit

  1. Shears
    I have some Fiskars Heavy Duty scissors that I like.
  2. Paper scissors
    You have to have paper scissors because cutting paper with your fabric shears dulls the blades. Ironically, these paper scissors cut cheap lining fabrics better than my shears (I don’t know why).
  3. Snips or embroidery scissors (with strong, sharp points)
    For buttonholes and also to wear around your neck for cutting threads at the machine. You can also use these to unpick stitches.
  4. A quick-unpick.
    For buttonholes and mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.
  5. Chalk
    The best way to mark your fabric along with notches.
  6. Hand needles
    On occasion you will need to use one, perhaps for a spot of mending
  7. A couple of pins (you seldom need them).
    In factories you’re not always allowed pins, according to one of my tutors, and I only use them when I have to.
  8. Tape measure in metric and imperial (fibre glass)
    A good tape measure is essential. I like the retractable ones. I still have the non-retracting one I got with a course 11 years ago and it does the job well. I had to re-write the early marks though.

The Pattern Cutting Tools

  1. A Pattern Master or something similar
    Good for right angles and adding seam allowances, as well as drawing curves neatly.
  2. A good square, quite large
    The bigger your tailor’s square, the more accurate your right angles, and accurate right angles are ESSENTIAL
  3. A metre stick
    As with the square, this aids neatness and accuracy
  4. Pencil (mechanical ones are good because they have a nice, precise point all the time)
  5. Notcher (not essential, but I love how neat and professional my patterns look when I use one)
  6. Pattern drill (the kind used by book-binders)
  7. Cutting mat or something like that to use under it

Note: 1-3 can be replaced with Adobe Illustrator and some sticky tape.

Sewing Machine Stuff

  1. Sewing machine
    A good quality, basic sewing machine is all you need. Features I like are sometimes quite expensive. They include a knee-lift, a good flatbed, decent harp-space, the option to lower the feed-dogs, and needle up-down. I like a DC motor because it’s more powerful than a standard AC motor, and quieter and smoother. Now, my Bernina 380 has 115 stitches and two alphabets, but I very seldom use anything other than the utility stitches, including the basic buttonhole. The exception being that my best friend is obsessed with cars and wanted me to use the Truck stitch on whatever I make for him. Bless him 🙂
  2. Feet/attachments
    You obviously need a zigzag foot, a zip foot, and a buttonhole foot. Other feet you might need will depend on your particular machine (e.g. how it makes blind-hem stitches may mean you need a blind-hem foot to do them well) and on what sort of thing you will be doing. I have discovered a passion for free-motion work so I love my free-motion foot #24. I also love my jeans foot #8 that came with my machine. I love it for straight stitching because it has handy guides (of a sort) for neatness, and I just feel like it does a better job than the standard foot #1.
  3. Basic accessories
    Bobbins. Have plenty of them. About 10 will do you.
    Oil and cleaning stuff. A watercolour brush works well, or an old makeup brush. Softer bristles are better.
    Possibly also a feed-dogs cover.

Once you get used to a flatbed and a knee-lift you’ll hate going without them. If I don’t have a knee-lift on a machine I’m using, my leg will go anyway and find nothing there!

Quick update after Uni

So, I’ve finished uni now (I get my grades next week). I’ve also moved to another house share. I still work at Levi’s and will do for the foreseeable. But now I need a new goal. And I have one: my own home.

Now, I want to be free, so it will hopefully by either a Tiny House (if I can sort out the land and plumbing situation) or a houseboat. And the first hurdle to overcome is money. I need to earn more and/or spend less. Spending less is virtually impossible, but I’m looking into ways of doing it.

Spending less is one long-term benefit of my latest obsession: being (nearly) zero-waste. I want to grow my own food too. I’ve started making my own underwear (after about 10 years, the old stuff finally wore through). But I’ll go into my new “Elven” ways (rather than “hippy” ways) in more detail in future posts.

This blog can no longer be a Student blog, so I’m rebranding it with the interest of Sustainability and Ethical Living, and Hygge and all that good stuff. I don’t know what it will look like yet, but it will unfold 🙂 Fear not, sewing WILL be involved. I think sustainability will be such a part of me that it will have to channel through my career, however that pans out. I feel like the picture is just becoming clearer and in more colour now. I can’t see it properly yet, but it’s slowly getting there 🙂


There are three jeans-type garments in #TheShire: The Golden jeans, the “skinnies,” and the shorts.

ShJ01 finals 1.jpg

LOOKBOOKArtboard 29.jpgLOOKBOOKArtboard 28.jpgLOOKBOOKArtboard 27.jpg

That’s quite a bit of embroidery. 🙂 These jeans have a button fly, which I had to relearn because it’s such a long time since I’d done one.

The waist somehow ended up rather larger than I expected, even after toiling, so now it’s a paperbag waist. Well, they are inspired by Levi’s 501S anyway, which have a square-cut hip. 🙂

LOOKBOOKArtboard 30 copy 3.jpgLOOKBOOKArtboard 30 copy 6.jpgLOOKBOOKArtboard 30 copy 8.jpgLOOKBOOKArtboard 30 copy 9.jpg

This fabric is quite thin and stretchy (though still not stretchy enough to be proper skinnies), so embroidery wouldn’t be advisable. Apart from that I was running out of time. So used lace overlays on the pockets instead.

You may have noticed the pockets: they’re shaped like shields, which I thought fitted because it’s heraldic. 🙂




The lace bits at the hem are not symmetrical. They were cut the same, but I should have used more notches. One of the back pockets is floral embossed leather, and the other has gold and silver embroidery in the style of Tolkein’s illustrated trees.

These and the skinnies have a zip fly, which still took a bit of reworking out. I still have to perfect the specs to make it look exactly like RTW.


The Viking Dress

Some years ago now, I came across an article in Threads Magazine about Zero-Waste patterns. There was a Viking dress in there, and it kind of stuck with me. As Tolkien was largely inspired by Scandinavian culture/myths and legends, and would likely have been a proponent of sustainability, I thought I’d have a go at using this concept.

The initial design is very different to the final one.

Initial Design


It looks wildly different on different sizes. This is actually a couple of sizes too big for me. It looks miles better with a belt. 🙂 The sleeves were too narrow for anyone bigger.


Trying it on the right size mannequin. With potential embellishment. I like it better on me. Moving on…

The Final Dress

Completely different silhouette. And I love it! 😀 Note the dart in the back hem that just curves the silhouette. 🙂

I tried it on one of my taller friends and we established that for a model to wear it, it would have to be longer. So I added a few inches. Also enlarged the neckline.


DSC00522.JPGViking dress portfolio.jpg

It’s a versatile pattern because you can remove the sleeves and wear it as a pinafore or a sleeveless, so it’s a good transitional piece, or you can switch up the sleeve and pleat fabric. I’d like to make it in a lighter colour. I have some grey jersey, but that might be a bit sweatshirtish, in a bad way. :/

Also, pockets are essential. 🙂