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Which Dressmaking Pattern Should I Buy?

Please accept my apology of posting this blog again (although updated) as at each cycle of six week classes I meet new students who have been home dressmakers who are confused by the range of patterns available to them – so I have updated the post for recent students and new sewers who have yet to discover the fun at The Sewing Shed.

Many students ask me, why are dressmaking patterns so varied in size? There is ONE main reason.

The high street was re-sized in the 1970s in the UK, as a better diet was developing larger female silhouettes and with different proportions of our mothers and grandmothers generations. Dressmaking patterns were not necessarily re-sized to take into account the more modern figures. This is why on the reverse of many patterns bought today we are one, two or even three sizes larger than our ‘usual’ high street dress size. This can be said for Simplicity, New Look, Burda, Vogue and Buterick. 

For beginners learning dressmaking I recommend patterns that have been developed within the last five years, particularly Colette as these are more true to the dressmaking size that we are used to. There are also more artisan makers that sell at sewing shows and on line for example, Amy Butler, Sew Over It, Simple Sew and Tilly and the Buttons. I can personally vouch for Amy Butler, Colette and Simple Sew having used many of their patterns in my classes and I am in the process of stocking a carefully selected range of new artisan patterns; Colette, Sew Liberated, Made by Rae as well as bag patterns by Noodlehead and childrens patterns by Oliver + S and Made by Rae.

For all sewing patterns you should reach for the tape measure and use these measurements when deciding which size garment to make.

When sewing a garment you should be able to measure accurately, sew to this size, then the garment will fit and look like the picture on the pattern packet.  Home dressmaking should not require a toile first or to need many fittings, i.e. putting the garment on and off, altering it to get the desired fit. For this reason I really would not recommend Merchant & Mills for the novice home sewer. 

August 21, 2016

Children’s Summer Activities – Lost Sock Campaign


A staggering 616 million socks go to landfill in the UK each year as households don’t know how best to recycle them. Love Your Clothes Org are encouraging everyone to extend the life of their odd or holey socks and in particular have aimed many activities at the family to help occupy the children during the holidays. Why not make an old sock into a sock puppet puppy? Recycle a stripy sock into a sock snake or that lonely old sock into a sock monkey?  Here’s just a suggestion of the TOP FIVE ODD SOCK TIPS FOR THE KIDS.

1. Odd socks make great sock puppets! Recycle them for play, although they get used for dusting in our house-a great way to get the kids involved with housework and to lessen Mums load.

2. And when you sit down to play a game with your kids, you’ll be thankful you kept all those tiny plastic pieces together in an odd recycled sock. It definitely makes play time a lot easier!

3. They  also make ideal sleeping bags for the little ones’ favourite toy animals, dolls or action figures.

4. If you’ve got a chalk or marker pen board that the children love to scribble all over, an odd sock makes a perfect eraser so they can wipe that board clean and get creative all over again.

5. You could also try making a hacky sack. Simply cut off about half the top part of a long sock or about three quarters for a short sock. Fill the sock with dried rice, dried peas or beads and then sew the opening together in a ball shape.      

Visit to enter the family fun competitions, view activity sheets and learn more about re-cycling. There’s even an on line tutorial on how to darn your socks – I might point my Dad in that direction as he is always asking me to do that for him.


August 11, 2016


I had a bit if a shock when asked to address a local WI groups as I had totally under estimated the resurgence of the popularity of the WI organisation and when I casually enquired how many could I expect to attend was told – well about 100 to 120 participants if the topic is interesting!

I was invited to speak to the local WI group about the success of being a woman in business and building The Sewing Shed from scratch and also if I could throw in a demonstration that would be great as they also like to learn a new skill.

On the night I was faced with a church hall full of giddy (as we say in Yorkshire) ladies, who clearly don’t get out much. What I wasn’t told was that tea and cake had been replaced with wine and cake so my audience were very supportive, if not a little forward with the Q&As session and VERY enthusiastic at joining in the hands on activity for the month, if not a little tipsy! The demonstration of applying an applique onto an item brought from home was a huge success as long as I ensured the correct side of the applique paper was bonded to the fabric not the iron!


August 5, 2016

Love Your Clothes Org.

I am very proud to announce that I have been accepted to be a Love Your Clothes Super Crafter! apologies to existing students who have I have bored as I have gone through the selection process…

Love Your Clothes aims to reduce the environmental impact of clothing by raising awareness of the value of clothes. It encourages consumers to think about the way they buy, use and dispose of their clothing. Every year an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK. Love Your Clothes provides practical tips, hints and knowledge to influence and inspire people to take action and start loving their clothes! Find out more at

The Super Crafter network connects clothing experts, textile upcyclers, tailors and skilled crafting professionals who are champions of the Love Your Clothes campaign because of their shared passion for sustainable fashion, crafting, caring and repairing clothes, upcycling, and teaching sewing skills. By joining forces more people can be reached, knowledge can be shared, and a greater impact can be made to reduce textile waste and keep clothes in use for longer.


August 5, 2016

Sewing World Collaboration

As home crafters we all have a stash of fabrics and pre-loved textiles from the home that we will use and up-cycle one day; outgrown children’s clothes that you can’t bear to part with, a well worn skirt, a no longer fashionable shirt, a pretty threadbare tea towel and ladies top which might have become home to a moth, a blouse with fancy buttons and a pair of jeans that might just come in useful one day…

As an ambassador for Love Your Clothes Org I have been invited to write three articles over the next twelve months to encourage the home sewer to sew seasonal items from up-cycled home textiles. A corner of The Sewing Shed was transformed into a photographic studio as I prepared to write for Sewing World Magazine using recycled materials and up-cycled fabrics.

It’s a really good opportunity to create something stylish and a potential family heirloom if there are lots of garments that  have memories. I can’t show the finished article but here’s a little peak of the Advent Calendar pocket in stages which will be published in Novembers edition of Sewing World.


August 5, 2016