Cowl neck Renfrews

Howdy! It’s been a while, but I still have lots to share with you so let’s jump straight in…

In my last post I shared my first Sewaholic Renfrew with you, there’s no doubt that this pattern has now become a firm favourite of mine – I’ve made many, many different versions. In this post I’d like to share the cowl neck Renfrews I’ve made. This neck line option was a big part of why I was drawn to the pattern in the first place and it also turns out to be the easiest of the necklines to sew, win!

My cowl neck Renfrew tops

First up was this 3/4 length sleeve version using a lightweight cotton jersey. It looks like a solid colour from a distance, but up close you can see narrow stripes with a bit of sparkle.

Oatmeal and gold stripe 3/4 sleeve Renfrew cowl top

I then moved on to a couple of long sleeve versions in solid colour viscose jerseys. These have proved perfect for work etc as they have a more dressy look than regular jersey tops but are still super comfy!

Sky blue long sleeve cowl neck Renfrew top

First was this blue version. I like my sleeves nice and long but have long arms so replaced the pattern cuffs with longer ones, lovely and snuggly ūüôā

Purple long sleeve cowl neck Renfrew top

For the purple one I changed the sleeve cuffs a little more so that they are wider over the hand than at the wrist. This feels pretty perfect to me now as the cuff contours nicely over my wrist and hand. The slightly wider diameter at the end also works very well if I get a bit warm and want to turn up the cuffs.

Navy and white 3/4 sleeve cowl neck Renfrew top

And more recently I’ve made a couple more of the 3/4 sleeve variety, lengthening the sleeve a bit for these as the cuff on the first one can get a little uncomfortable sitting right on my elbow. I only made these last autumn so they haven’t had a lot of wear yet as it is rare that I don’t go for long sleeves in the winter, but I’m looking forward to wearing them more now that spring is on its way.

Gold and green stripe 3/4 sleeve cowl neck Renfrew top

These 2 were made with better quality fabric than the others – as I’ve gotten more confident with my sewing I am now happy to pay more for fabric as I want my garments to last. The navy and white is a lovely soft viscose from Sew Over It, doesn’t look like they have it any more I’m afraid (it had been in my stash for a while). The stripey one is a modal from Guthrie and Ghani – I’d not sewn with modal before, but boy am I converted – this is exceptionally soft.

So that’s my collection of cowl Renfrews, nearly enough for each day of the week! Not so many bloggers talk about the Renfrew pattern any more, but I still love it and consider it my default t-shirt and jersey top pattern. Have you made any Renfrews? Or do you have another favourite pattern that was released years ago but that you still keep reaching for?

Hello again

Hi there! Its been a while…

Despite being very quiet in these parts I’ve still been sewing up a storm over the last year and am excited to share my progress with you.

I’ve been mostly focused on sewing every day clothes and have to say I’m loving that I now wear at least one me made item a day as a result. In order for this to become a reality I had to take the leap into sewing with jersey and I love it!

As so many people say, it really isn’t difficult and wish I hadn’t let fear/apprehension hold me back. If anything I’d say sewing clothes with jersey is bit easier than with woven fabrics, especially for getting started as the fitting process is so much easier – gotta love that stretch!

First Renfrew top front view

So here’s my first jersey make – the Renfrew top by Sewaholic. A pattern that I brought very early in my sewing adventures as I couldn’t resist the cowl option. The fabric is from Girl Charlee although I can’t see it on the website anymore, I think it is a cotton, viscose and spandex mix and is lovely and soft.

I started with the short sleeve scoop neck version to minimise fabric use while checking the fit. As I’m tall I lengthened the top, but don’t think I needed to as it has come out longer that I like for t shirts, so took that length away again for the next version. It took a few goes to get the neckband on without any puckers, but got there in the end and am pretty happy with it for a first attempt.

Spoiler alert, you’ll be seeing a lot more of this pattern from me!

First Renfrew top back view

First Renfrew top

Cord bootcut Gingers

Hello, hope you are having a good day! So it is taking me a bit longer than I’d hoped¬†to catch up on blogging my makes from the last few months, but next up are some trousers that I’d had in mind for quite a while – the Closet Case Patterns¬†Ginger jeans¬†in needlecord…

Cord bootcut ginger jeans

After the success of my first pair of Gingers I was keen to make another pair in a nicer fabric and to try a different leg cut. I’d brought this stretch needlecord from Minerva Crafts in olive green a while back, but always with the intention of making this pair of trousers. It is lovely and soft and I really like the colour for a versatile pair of trousers (although of course it is difficult to get a dark colour to photograph well!). Working with cord does need a bit of extra consideration – I ensured all pieces were cut with the pile running in the same direction and used a towel when pressing to avoid flattening the cord.

Cord bootcut ginger jeans

I wear bootcut jeans a lot as I find them both comfortable and flattering and thought I’d get more wear out of these with such a leg style. To adapt the pattern, I followed the instructions in the Closet Case Patterns jeans ebook for modifying your pattern to flares, but didn’t flare out so much at the hem.

Prior to that modification I did make a few adjustments to the pattern to get a better fit from my first pair – lengthened the legs 3cm at the knee, added 1cm to hip side seams and I also moved the inseam backwards by 1cm as I felt it was sitting too far forward on my first pair.

cord bootcut ginger jeans

I also made quite a few adjustments while sewing. Since the cord was stretchier than the denim used in my first pair and I was making a significant change to the leg shape, I baste fitted the legs twice (first to check the inseam, then again before sewing up the side seams to check overall fit). I took the jeans in at the knee as I felt the style looked better with a more fitted thigh.

cord bootcut ginger jeans

cord bootcut ginger jeans

For top stitching I used 2 strands of regular thread in a matching shade and think this looks pretty good on these trousers. I flat felled all the seams that I could, takes longer but is totally worth it for the neat and strong finish it produces!

The only “mistake” with these jeans is the waistband – as with my first pair I didn’t cut this out until checking the fit and sewing up the side seams. With the stretchier fabric, this meant a shorter/slimmer waistband than my first pair, which would have been fine except I also interfaced it as the waistband seemed to stretch out a bit too much on my first pair. Sadly the combination of a slimmer waistband plus the interfacing (which stops¬†it having any give) means it can get a little uncomfortable after a big meal hence I have to put a bit of thought into whether they are going to be appropriate for my day!

cord bootcut ginger jeans

They are still totally wearable and I’m very proud of them – I was showing them off quite a bit after finishing! And I’m certainly not done with this pattern, I’m excited to make myself at least a couple more pairs, perhaps trying the skinnier leg version too…

Belcarra dress

Hello! For various reasons I’ve been quiet here a few months, but have been doing plenty of sewing and I’m looking forward to sharing my makes with you¬†over the next few weeks…

First up, a dress that I’ve been imagining/planning to make for some time. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a fan of the Sewaholic Belcarra blouse, having made five to date and was keen to try adapting it to a dress. I debated between lengthening the pattern pieces into a kind of A line shift dress and this adaptation of adding an elastic waistband and gathered skirt, which I felt would work better with my fabric choice.

Belcarra dress front view

The main fabric is a lovely viscose from Minerva crafts (although I’ve also spotted some other suppliers selling it too). With the stripy design I thought a rectangular gathered skirt would work well. The black fabric is also a viscose from Minerva, that I’ve used in a few makes.

Belcarra dress back view

To convert the pattern to a dress I shortened the top length to a couple of inches lower than my waist (because I want to create a blousey effect) and squared off the side seam. For the waistband, I simply cut two rectangles the same length as the waist and 5.7cm wide (so the finished waistband is 2.7cm once the seam allowances are sewn up) to make a casing through which I inserted 1 inch wide elastic.

Belcarra dress waistband

I then ran into a bit of an issue as I realised I didn’t have enough fabric to make the width and length of skirt that I had in mind if I also wanted to ensure the stripes matched. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for a little while and then decided to go shorter than I’d intended, but add a black hem band to give a bit more length. I actually think the black hem band nicely balances the design ūüôā However, I was so focused on making the most of the fabric that I had that I ended up cutting a pretty wide skirt and it wasn’t until I’d sewn it up with the pockets that I realised I’d probably gone a bit over the top with the width! By this point I really couldn’t face unpicking everything (I’d used french seams for everything, including the pockets) so decided to try it as is.

Belcarra dress front view

In these photos I think the dress looks fine and the fabric is drapey enough that the wide skirt looks ok. However, the first day I wore this out was pretty windy and with the light and wide skirt fabric I felt like it had a tendency to blow up a bit too much so I mostly had my hands anchored into the pockets to keep it under control!

Belcarra dress pocket

I did take quite a bit of time over getting the stripes matching at the seams, they even match at the pockets! I also spent a while holding the fabric up in front of me deciding what stripes I wanted cutting across my torso. With hindsight, I think it might be a bit more flattering to have the widest stripe running across the bust rather than below it, I’ll just take that as a lesson learnt ūüôā

Belcarra dress side view

The jury is still out on how much I like this dress, its not as flattering as I’d hoped and there are certainly a few things I’d do differently if I made it again. But it is still a nice light and comfy dress for warmer weather, just so long as its not windy!

Knitted cuff down socks

As the temperatures cool and the nights start drawing in, my thoughts turn to cosy clothing and a spot of knitting. I really like my first pair of knitted socks and was keen to make some more, but also to try different styles. So when I saw the Craftsy knit original cuff down socks class on sale, I enrolled right away.

If you want to knit socks with easy customisation options I would highly recommend this class (there is also an equivalent toe up class¬†if that is your preference). The tutor Donna Druchunas¬†takes you through the fundamentals of sock construction, including a variety of stitch patterns suitable for socks along with both¬†video walk throughs and written patterns for 3 heals and 3 toes so you can mix and match to your heart’s content.

cuff down knitted socks

While I love the self striping¬†pattern of my first pair, my skin is quite sensitive to wool so I can only comfortably wear them over tights or other socks. Hence for my next pair, I wanted a yarn that was cotton based with no wool content – turns out this is not easy to find in a sock yarn! Eventually I found¬†a¬†yarn called superba cotton stretch which is 79% cotton, 18% polyamide, 3% polyester at Liss Wools, a lovely village shop in Hampshire near my parents. I’m afraid I can’t find a link to the same yarn, but I brought colours 003 and 004.

knitted cuff down socks

Despite the many stitch options covered in the class, I felt that a classic pair of socks in stocking stitch would work well with the solid colour yarn I had. Although I used a contrast colour for the cuff, heal and toe to add interest. I ended up unraveling and restarting twice in order to get them the right size as they started out way too baggy. I see now why the rib pattern of my first version was such a good choice, far more forgiving fit wise!

knitted cuff down socks

For the cuff I did a simple 1×1 rib then the heal and toe are short rows which I hadn’t done before. It wasn’t until I’d done the heal of a sock that I could try them on to make accurate assessment of the fit, so the unraveling meant I got plenty of practice at short rows! Once I got¬†the hang of it, I didn’t find it very difficult and like the look it gives with the solid colour socks. The heals get quite stretched out when wearing which shows a few small holes¬†where the heals start, which probably means my technique could do with some improvement!

I really enjoyed working on the socks – a great project to work on while watching TV or chilling out with friends/family as the majority is just simple knitting in the round. So it wasn’t long before I had the next pair cast on using the opposite colour combination.

striped knitted cuff down socks

I decided to go for a stripe pattern this time as I wasn’t sure I wanted so much pink. I don’t think I was carrying the blue yarn in the best way as there is a bit of a ridge down the stitches on which I was switching, but I don’t think it really matters for a project. I might even call it a design feature!

striped knitted cuff down socks

The yarn is lovely and I like the colours together, but I think there were only one or two other solid colours to choose from at the shop. Must admit I feel a little disappointed at the fact that of the many lovely self striping sock yarns out there I couldn’t find any that had no wool, so if you know of any non wool sock yarns, especially of the self patterning variety, please let me know!

striped knitted cuff down socks

I’m very tempted to make myself another pair as I enjoy knitting them, but if I’m honest with myself 3 pairs of knitted socks is really all I need. Perhaps I should switch to a pair of mittens for a similarly straight forward knitting project!

Are you a sock knitter? Do you have a favourite heal and toe style or preference between knitting them cuff down or toe up?

Grainline Scout Tee

This make is all about the fabric for me – it is a gorgeous soft viscose that I brought on sale at John Lewis a couple of years ago. Back then I didn’t yet appreciate the value of a good quality fabric and even at half price this was the most expensive fabric I’d brought at that time so I only purchased a metre. I dutifully prewashed it as soon as I got home, but then it was left sitting in my stash as I didn’t feel confident enough to do it justice.

A few more successful makes under my belt and it was time for this to come out of the stash. Having only a metre meant I couldn’t use my go to top pattern the Sewaholic Belcarra (I need 1.25 metres for that) but thought it would be good to try something different anyway!

Grainline Scout Tee

Enter the Grainline Scout Tee. I’d only heard good things about this pattern from my friend Caroline – check out seven of her Scout Tees that she wore this year for one week one pattern here. Her day five Scout is actually the same fabric in a different colour way so I knew this pattern would be a good choice! Also, I was keen to try another woven top without darts for a design that doesn’t break up the pattern of the fabric (not that it would matter much with this abstract print!) and it is one less thing to worry about when fitting the garment.

Grainline Scout Tee

My bust measurement would put me at a size 8 but I went for size 10 since I have broad shoulders and didn’t want to make a toile. I also lengthened the top a bit since I’m tall. I’m pretty happy with the fit of this in the soft flowing fabric, but think it would be too boxy for me in a stiffer fabric.

Grainline Scout Tee side view

It is my first Grainline pattern and got on fine with the instructions (although this is quite a simple make so not much of a test). One thing to take note of is that the seam allowance is half an inch rather than the usual 5/8. I wanted to use french seams and found the smaller seam allowance a bit tricky for this on the shoulder seams as I don’t have a quarter inch foot. So for the side seams I decided to make it a bit easier on myself and sewed a 5/8 seam allowance, given there was plenty of ease and I’d sized up this wasn’t a problem.

With the flowing fabric and smaller seam/hem allowances I also found the neckline and sleeve hem a bit tricky to sew up neatly so next time I’ll probably use slightly wider allowances there to make it quicker to sew.

Grainline Scout Tee back view

Overall I’m very happy with this make and it has been worn quite a lot already! I love the print and the bright colours and even though it is a basic design think the quality of the fabric really steps it up so this top can be easily dressed up as well as down. Also I have been¬†totally convinced that it is worth paying a bit more for good quality fabric as it makes this such a joy to wear!

Grainline Scout Tee

The Handmade Fair

On Friday I went to The Handmade Fair for the first time and despite the heavy rain for much of the day thoroughly enjoyed it. I came away with lots of inspiration so wanted to share some of my highlights with you guys.

Probably what I liked best was being reminded what a lovely group of people crafters are, everyone I spoke to was super friendly and it was great to chat to the exhibitors about their products and hear about what they are doing with their business as well as how they got to where they are.

The product I was most impressed by was this kingfisher applique and machine embroidery cushion by Jessalli¬†who runs the machine embroidery workshops at Tilly and the Buttons. Isn’t it stunning?

Jessalli kingfisher cushion
Image source:

While browsing through the great selection of fabrics for sale, I discovered some new to me fabric shops including:

Lovely Jubbly Fabrics who caught my eye with a variety of fun Disney prints. They are more quilting fabrics than dressmaking fabrics, but if I start doing some quilting I’ll be remembering them!

Disney films fabric

Mickey films fabric

On a similar theme, I was also drawn to some minions and superheros fabric at Fabrics Galore.

Minions fabric

No photo I’m afraid, but I was really tempted by¬†the lovely rayon and jersey prints at Maud’s Fabric Finds, most of which were organic. I didn’t buy anything this time, but the link has definitely been bookmarked!

For a breather from the hustle and bustle of the exhibitors tents, I went to a couple of talks including Cath Kidston who had some great stories about turning mistakes into opportunities. I also had a go at one of the many workshops Рmaking cat eye masks with Elisalex from By Hand London.

Cat eye mask

In terms of purchases, I managed to be reasonably restrained. I had gone with a plan of focusing on¬†buying some knit fabric as I’ve been wanting to make the Sewaholic Renfrew top pretty much as long as I’ve been sewing. I ended up buying three different fabrics from knit fabric specialist Girl Charlee. I also couldn’t resist buying one of the many lovely woven viscose prints, this one was from Fabric Godmother:

Fair purchases

Clockwise from top left:

Two cotton, rayon and spandex mix prints (that are lovely and soft): first, second. A solid navy blue cotton/spandex mix. And a butterfly woven viscose.

Finally, as well as all the craft stalls there was also a food tent where I found myself drawn to a couple of chocolaty treats at the end of the day:

Dark Matters were selling a selection of vegan brownies, mine was scoffed before I could take a photo! And I’d not heard of Seed and Bean chocolate before, but they had lots of interesting flavours. The two I chose are so tasty¬†that they won’t last long!

Seed and Bean choclate

Overall a very enjoyable day, think I may be back next year! Have you been to any craft fairs?

Plaid neck pleat dress

Back in January I went to the Pattern Cutting Weekend class at Ray Stitch taught by Alice Prier and thoroughly enjoyed it! Day 1 was making our custom fit blocks while on day 2 we got into the details of cutting patterns. Alice really knows her stuff and I came away super inspired with lots of ideas.

And viola, here is the first dress that I cut from my block!

Neck pleat dress front

I brought the fabric at Ray Stitch the weekend of the class, it is a mix of viscose and polyester and I was really drawn to the plaid. After the success of my plaid Laurel dress I was keen to have another go with some plaid.

When I brought the fabric, I was leaning towards making a skirt so I only brought 1.5m. However, after a bit of time to ponder, I wanted to use this for a dress. The dress was inspired by one I saw on Modcloth РI really liked the effect of the neck pleat with the plaid fabric.

Neck pleat dress profile

I calculated the position of the pleat such that when sewn up it would be parallel to the vertical line of the plaid. Although I originally planned for the shaping to be a simple folded pleat, when made it up I felt there was too much volume above the bust so I stitched it down more like a dart, but not all the way to the point so there is still a bit of movement and give there.

Neck pleat dress profile

The back bodice is princess seamed and the closure is an invisible zip down the centre back seam. I debated for a while about the skirt – a pleated ¬†rectangle or some variation of a circle skirt. Turned out that only having 1.5m of fabric made the choice for me! All I could fit was a half circle skirt, but I’m pretty happy with this.

Neck pleat dress back

I took my time cutting this out so that I could center and match the plaid РI feel like I was pretty lucky to be able to do this so well with my limited fabric. I particularly like the way the plaid matches up in a diamond pattern on the side seams of the skirt.

Neck pleat dress side

Of course I had to add pockets to the design! Fabric limitations meant that I needed to use a different fabric for the pocket bags. So I used some black viscose that I had in my stash, which works well as it is lighter than the main fabric and drapes out of the way.

Neck pleat dress front

The neck and armholes are finished with an all in one facing. I used red cotton for a splash of colour on the insides. Then to match, I used some red bias binding from my stash for a hem facing that I finished with hand stitching (all 3m of it!).

Neck pleat dress insides

I made a couple of toiles of the bodice, which was just as well as they showed a few fitting adjustments that I still need to make to my block. Once I’ve done that, I’m very excited to be able to make lots of different designs that (hopefully!) will require minimal or no fitting adjustments.

I’ll leave you with some spinning photos that I tried out for fun with my new camera remote…

Neck pleat dress spinning