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Sashimi pays her way…

11 Aug

Some of you will have met my dress model before – if not, her name’s Sashimi and she came into my life one happy Saturday when I was strolling around in Angel, London. I’ve never used a dress model before, but I was really excited at the idea of using one since I hate patterns. Here are some of the things I’ve been using Sashimi to make recently…

At the moment I’m pinning together a super slinky halter neck top in a kind of stretch velvet in navy blue that I found remnants of in my local junk shop. As you can see from the picture below, it will require a rather daring mood – but I’ve worn tops of this kind before and  since I’m on the petite side, I found them to be really flattering, especially this kind of softly plunging neckline, so I went with what I thought would work.

I also made this cool little dress. It was originally this maxi dress that I got in a cheapo shop for just £3. I had to have it since I thought the material alone was worth that, but the dress was very poorly designed (for £3, not a surprise) and it was put together very strangely. After a couple of years of sitting in my projects drawer, I’ve finally had a moment and more importantly, the resources (I don’t think I could’ve done the re-style without a dress model to be honest) to get it changed into something I might actually wear!


Meet Sashimi

5 Jul

I’ve been dreaming of her for years, and now she’s finally here in my life! I’m so excited. Please meet Sashimi Boss… Sasha for short.



I found her after dilly-dallying with the boyo around Angel in London. We’d had some wonderful sushi at a little restaurant on Upper Street (it’s shocking to admit it but this was basically my first sushi experience… yummy but a bit scary at the same time) and then took a little walk on some of the back streets where all the vintage shops and markets live. I’d seen this shop before but every time I’d gone by it had been closed… This time, fantastique!, it was open and there was Sashimi standing outside of the shop and waiting to be bought for a mere £39. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her – just think of the hours I can spend pretending to be on Project Runway!

Getting her out of the shop required a battle with the eccentric (cough… plain evil) shopkeeper who only really wanted to sell to retailers and not to poor members of the public such as moi, but I came out victorious and Sasha’s the prize. I can’t wait to design something a little bit crazy on her – something that would never come in pattern form.

Do you have a dress mannequin? If so, what’s their name?

Alessa’s Tutorial

27 Jun

A while back I caught sight of a gorgeous top made by Alessa at Farbenfreude from a skirt. I love refashioning clothes (often a lot easier than making them from scratch) so I asked Alessa whether she might be able to create a tutorial on how to set about turning a skirt into this kind of babydoll top. Hurrah – she accepted the challenge, and below is the tutorial.


p.s. Can’t recommend Alessa’s blog enough!


Hi everybody, I’m Alessa from Farbenfreude! Mona asked me for a tutorial on the babydoll top I refashioned from a skirt last year, and I am very happy to oblige.

I started out with a tea-length skirt. Because of the box pleats and the elastic waist, once I had unpicked all the seams, I ended up with two rather big, square pieces of fabric. One I saved for a skirt I have yet to make, the other I used for this babydoll top.

You could also start out with a new piece of fabric that is at least as wide as your hip measurement + at least 4in of ease and the length that’s between your upper bust and where you want the top to end, or a straight or A-line skirt that has some ease when you pull it up over your bust and still has some ease in the hips. The fabric should be rather lightweight, though, since we’re doing some shirring in the back.

Now for the cutting out. I don’t quite remember if I used another top as a pattern. You certainly could, if you already have a babydoll top that fits you. Remember to add about an inch of ease for shirring. You can also just start with your bust, waist and hip measurements. My fabric was a slightly stretchy knit, so I cut it on measurement, with the shirring just adding some negative ease. If your fabric isn’t stretchy, make sure to add enough ease that you can still get it on and off. 🙂

Because I had a limited amount of fabric, the top as I first cut it didn’t have enough ease/sweep in the hips to look good. Basting the side seams and trying it on is a good way to find that out. I used the remnants I had, to cut out two little triangle shaped godets, and added those into the side seams from the hips down. With the print I used, you can’t even see it if you don’t look very closely.

The next part is to use your fabric scraps (or some contrast fabric) to make a ribbon for the halter neck. I had never done that before, so I just cut a fabric strip roughly four times as wide as I wanted the finished ribbon to be, folded in the seam allowances, folded once in half to enclose them, and edge-stitched down the length of fabric. I have since learned that usually you fold the strip right sides together, stitch down one short end and the length, trim the seam allowances and turn it with a device for turning ribbons or a knitting needle. However, my version works, too. 🙂

In the next step, we’re going to attach the ribbon to the bodice. First, we’re doing some gathering stitches right down the middle of the bodice part. Depending on your preference, you can just do a couple of inches or go all the way down to the line under your bust. Since I didn’t knew how to do gathering stitches last year, I actually just did one row of shirring here, and then stitched the shirred gathers in place with normal thread. Afterwards, you fold the ribbon in half lengthwise (it should be long enough so you can tie it behind your neck) and stitch it in place on top of your gathering. Here’s a little sketch and how my finished top looks like:

Now we’re almost finished, except for the shirring and hemming. As you can see on the finished top, I used the bottom border and hem of the skirt as the bodice part, so I didn’t have to hem my neckline. If you can’t or don’t want to use the hem, it’s a good idea to finish it before you start shirring, as shown in Gertie’s shirring tutorial.

I didn’t shirr the whole back panel, just about a little more than half of it. It’s smart to mark a line down each side where you want your shirring to start and end, because the lengths get confusing once the first lines of elastic are in. Shirring is actually a ridiculously easy technique. Your pretty much just wind elastic thread on your bobbin, stretching it a little. Use normal thread for your top thread, then the only thing to remember is to sew with the right side on top! Since the elastic is going to be your bobbin thread, you don’t want it to show.

My rows of shirring don’t look very regular, but it’s actually not too bad from the right side…

If the gathers aren’t tight enough for your taste, a bit of steam from your iron should tighten them up a bit more.

And that’s it! I hope you liked my tutorial! If you happen to make your own babydoll top from it, I’d be delighted if you dropped me a link here or over at my blog. Thanks for reading and have a great day, and another thanks to Mona for having me!

the use and abuse of patterns

8 Jun

I have a fear of patterns when it comes to making clothes. It started when I was thirteen and too impatient to look up what all of the little symbols meant in the pattern I was using, and so ended up with trousers that didn’t make sense as an item of clothing, let alone look any good. To be fair, it’s not just the memory of this bad experience that makes me dislike patterns – it’s also the fact that I am as impatient as my thirteen year old self. I STILL can’t be bothered to look up the symbols, and I still hate leaving projects half finished – I want everything to be finished and ready for me to wear now now now!

So while I might not be a fan of using patterns, I do think that some of the older ones are incredibly beautiful. My mum has a stash of patterns from when she was my age (23, 24 on the 17th of June… cough cough) and clearly a little mature in her approach to maknig clothes. They’re gorgeous. Most of them are either published by Vogue or Butterick… I’ve posted pictures of my favourite.  They’re great as inspiration for designs that I might want to try and make pattern-free.

oh crap… where are the scissors?

6 Jun

I don’t have much room to work in when I’m crafting. Things are a bit of a tight squeeze. One of the major downsides of working in amongst so much bloody stuff (are crafters hoarders by nature?) is that you end up losing stuff constantly. To be fair, I can’t completely blame the space I’m working in – this is also a character trait.

me: where are my scissors…. oops, there they are.

me 2 mins later: oh no. where have they gone now?

This is why I need to make myself a craft belt. Then when I’m not cutting, or threading, or sewing, I can put my tools ON ME. Safe and sound. And then I found this tutorial. Amazing – my woes are sorted. Well, they will be as soon as I’m back home, with my sewing machine (hallelujah! This sewing only by hand is starting to get me down), and I can design a beautiful pleated craft belt. If I haven’t blogged with a picture of me in a craft belt within a week, please prod and poke me until I come up with the goods!

back to basics

30 May

hello… or should I say g’day.

That’s right. I’m on the other side of the world, down under in Oz. It’s amazing here. Even though it’s their winter time, I’m on the beach pretty much everyday – it’s not called the Sunshine Coast for nothing! As well as meaning I have my very first opportunity in about five years to develop something of a tan (even then, it’s a slow burner… ha ha), the trip also means that it’s back to basics in terms of sewing.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no way I’ve stopped crafting because I’m on holiday and without my sewing machine or normal crafting supplies. Still, this is the perfect opportunity to start some new projects, and it so happens that my sister (who I’m staying with) lives down the road from a shop called Lincraft (probably famous but I’ve never come across it before) with fabrics galore. What with a couple of trips there, and my sister’s travel sewing kit, I’ve started three new sewing fiascos… cough cough, I mean ‘works of art’.

1. A maxi dress
2. A baby’s quilt for my gorgeous neice
3. And a patchwork quilt made of fabrics so brash that they made my sis and her bf almost retch.

TA DA! Here’s the dress… painstakingly stitched by hand. But actually not that painstaking as it turns out. There were really only two essential steps involved in making this dress and two materials – elastic (thicker is better) and c. 2 metres of a floaty fabric.

STEP ONE: The skirt is made up of two pieces of elastic that go around the waist, just below the bust, one on top of the other. One swathe of fabric is then folded over these pieces of elastic and sewn into place, with a line of stitching separating the elastic pieces from each other.

STEP TWO: The top half is just made up of a trapezium (I think that’s the shape – four sides, two diagonal, two parellel horizonal lines – dammit, I should’ve listened better in year 8 maths!) of fabric. The top side of the trapezium is folded over one skinny long stretch of the fabric that’s been hemmed (the tie that goes around the neck). And the bottom side is sewn to the fabric of  the skirt.

OPTIONAL STEPS THREE & FOUR: Try the dress on as you make it and once it’s up to the end of step two, you might want to put some darts in the top half so that it fits better over your chest. Also, if you’re a little more chest-conscious, then you might want to add a back part to this dress so that you can wear a bra underneath… at the moment, it’s a backless design. You could try a rectangle sewn to the skirt part, but tied to the front trapezium with mini-ribbons. I’m suggesting tying it to the front part rather than sewing the pieces together because there’s a chance that if you do this there won’t be enough elastic to get it over your head! But I’m right lazy so there may well be a better way to do this… if you find one, let me know!

Oooh, and of course you’ll need to hem any edges. But you knew that already!