Tuesday, 30 December 2014


It started with Debbie, then Kirsty, then all manner of other inspired makers. I swore I would not be swayed from my belief that these babies would look nothing but awful on me.

You see I remember them from last time they were cool - they were so not cool on me, thank you very much 1980s. But Debbie kept chipping away at me and damn it if I didn't start to covet a pair of my very own.

Humble pie, anyone? Mmmmm, tastes yummy!

I just kept seeing more and more covetable versions popping up in blogland and in the coolest of RTW stores. So I thought...only one way to find out... and I headed out to my local Gorman to try some on. Well, I'll be damned... pick the right style and you might just be able to make it work for you! I took some sneaky measurements in the changeroom (don't you all do that?), hem width, leg length. A speedy side trip to Spotlight later and I was set.

But which pattern? Hello stash!

Behold Vintage Vogue 9661, at a guess dated from the 80's. This was part of a massive bag of vintage patterns I was gifted by an old work colleague. I don't need office or corporate wear, so I'd never looked twice at it. But looky there on the left. It might just work.

For the first time EVER I decided to make a muslin. I don't have time for muslins usually but having only made one pair of pants/shorts before and never sewn a Vogue pattern I thought it'd be a good idea. Thank goodness, as apparently Vogue don't believe in any ease at all. They were definitely not quite right, so I posted pics of my muslin on Instagram and the gorgeous sewing community helped me figure out how to grade the pattern up a bit (thank you Rachel, Debbie, and Rosie), which wasn't as easy as adding more to the side seams. These pockets have a pocket extension flappy thing, but with the help of diagrams (diagrams! hand drawn!) from the lovely Rachel things worked out perfectly. I ended up adding about 1.5cm to each side from the waist down.

The fit is ridiculous. Check it out...


And that's just the front. Check out this...

And this...

Not a freakin' wrinkle or pull line in sight. In fact the most perfectly fitting pair of bottom halves I have ever owned. Squeeeeee!!!!!! I don't even have to yank them around to sit at just the right angle. I didn't re-adjust these culottes once during the photo session. Huzzah!!!!

And the comfort, oh good god, the comfort. Secret pyjamas? I've never owned pyjamas this comfortable.

I think the key to my happiness with these culottes is knowing my own body. Knowing that an a-line type culotte was going to suit way better than a heavily pleated or gathered version, even if I see those on others and adore them. I'd simply look ridiculous.

Being able to try on a few different fits and lengths in RTW was such a huge help. I was able to work out from the start the volume I could handle in each leg and the ideal length for my shape.

And I managed not to give myself a merkin! Yay for doing my best with pattern placement. It means the print is not smoothly kept around the seams of the culottes. But seriously people... avoiding pattern placement faux pax was my priority here.

I'm going out to swish around in my lovely new culottes. They may never come off again...

Monday, 22 December 2014


Well they're not the traditional Furoshiki folded bag, but a rough approximation! These bags are also known as a Japanese triangle bags or origami bags.

I was originally inspired by the lovely Anna's post on her teacher presents this year. I loved the look of her bags and how well they can be completely individualised for the recipient. I had wanted to delve down the path of handcrafted gifts (at least for some) this Christmas and I knew I'd hit on the perfect project. Who doesn't love another beautiful and lovingly made bag?

I sent out a few emails with some vague, but enlightening questions, about favourite colours, prints or vibrancy and I was off. I used the very gorgeous Cloud9 100% certified organic cotton canvas fabrics for all but the flouro yellow chevron which was a buzoku duck from Spotties.

It really is a super easy and fast make. You just need a rectangle of fabric three times as long as it is wide, and a bit of fancy folding and stitches later, ta-da, there is your bag. I used BurdaStyle's Triangle bag tutorial because the particular way in which the material is folded and then stitched made way better sense to me, and seemed to suit the dimensions of my material. I was constrained by the width of my fabric and ended up cutting rectangles 43.5 inches x 14.5 inches.

Other, alternative methods can be found in this tutorial by //Between the lines// and this one at whipup.net.

I also decided to work that leather magic again with some handle wraps made from scrap pieces left over from one of hubby's many leather projects (see here and here).

I dyed the leather Whiskey brown  and found it hugely annoying perplexing that the final colour of each piece was so different. But in the end I love that each piece is completely unique.

Each piece was hand-stitched which meant punching all those holes. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the love that went into my bespoke bag. This nifty little tool certainly makes the job a little easier though. Combined with a wooden chopping board or workbench and hammer you're good to go.

At this stage we've also accumulated a little collection of leather threads in different colours, so I was able to make every handle wrap completely different from the others and coordinate it with its bag fabric.

So much prettiness...

And I reinforced my seams by folding the seam allowances to one side and topstitching (kind of like a faux flat felled seam). You might be able to see in the photo below.

Equally happy on my shoulder or swung lazily by my side.

 I so have to go back and get more yellow chevron. Too perfect...

And to all you lovely peeps out there here's to a very Merry Christmas for you and yours, and a wonderfully joyful and creatively rich New Year! There might some radio silence from this here crafter as I work on getting fat and extremely relaxed over the next little while. Enjoy!

Sunday, 14 December 2014


Never work with children or small animals. I get it, I truly do.

This child never stands still or stops talking... she's talking above. Good lord, this was even after having to bribe her to model with the promise of a forbidden candy cane. Oh how the mighty fall when it comes to children. We truly aren't boss, you know. It's impossible.

Back to the dress. This is my fifth Xmas dress for the very lovely (if infuriating) Miss M. I'm liking it, and Miss M is ecstatic, but it's not the triumph of last year. Oh boy, how grown up she looks this year!

I was really pleased to use one of my vintage pattern finds for this dress, before she outgrew its one size!

Vintage Butterick 4983, View C. Isn't that illustration adorable?? It totally sucked me in... those pigtails, those bows, that cute floral. So much cuteness.

It's been a very rainbow year in the SewJillian household. Rainbows in every drawing, rainbows in every book. It went without saying that this year's dress would feature "rainbows". But I was down with that when it came to this fabric. Geo Rainbow. So. Much. Awesomeness.

Oh and stars, there had to be stars. Stars and rainbows apparently go hand in hand. Golden stars around the hem it was.

I thought I was all embellished out (I don't do embellishment), but then Miss M remembered the Daiso zips. I was all for sticking in a red one (very Xmasy), but it was pink or nothing. As I said: any illusions of being boss are completely thrown out in the face of a 4 year old's egocentric desires.

So we did pink.

And with a zipper as gorgeous as that I did an extreme exposed zip. I actually love how it turned out. I thought about enclosing the base of the zip in some dress fabric, but I really like the slightly industrial look of it as is.

I had a significant problem with design ease in this one. I tried the dress on Miss M before inserting the zipper or attaching the facings. It seemed quite tight around the chest, so I reduced the seam allowance to 1cm (from 1.5) and away I went. Entirely finished the dress and realised it was a sack of the most epic proportions, huge in every way. I ended up having to detach the armhole facings at the side seams (understitching and all!!!!) and take it in just over an inch each side and re-attach. Still seems a little broad across the shoulders, but it's much better.

And this little one is mucho pleased. And still ridiculously gorgeous. Look at that face...

Sunday, 30 November 2014

I'm obsessing culottes... Inspiration

I completely blame Kirsty and Debbie for this and I think I might have to eat my words and a little humble pie. You see they have both made awesome culottes recently and whilst I love them on those ladies, I was convinced they'd be hideous on me. I announced they'd never get me into culottes, no way, no how. Then I saw these babies from Gorman...

Photo source
...and I thought now there's a pair that might completely sway me. Then I went to Gorman and tried them on and now I'm a goner. I hope I'm not completely deluded, and they don't in fact make me look like an Oompa Loompa.

That said, I bought this amazing cotton/linen (85/15, I think) fabric and I'm committed.

Then Myra of MyZeeMoo very rightly warned me on Instagram: that print is gonna make for some potentially awful pattern placement faux pas. Oh lord, I'm not sure I can avoid it...

But I neeeeeeeeed culottes.

Are you falling head over heels for the culotte trend or are you happily avoiding it?

Saturday, 29 November 2014


I made cake!

Sort of. It's not a print, it's neutral coloured, but it does have some sneaky embellishment. I'm still gonna call it cake as it's the closest to cake I've made in... ever? I do like me some frosting/icing.

And it gives me angel wings when the sun is at just the right angle!

This is Pattern X Cape-style blouse in scallop-edge lace, from Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom. My last project was also from this book.

I'm a bit ambivalent about this one. It's not quite a "woohoo!" (those who are participating in Bimble and Pimble's Instagram #BPSewvember and who follow me will get the reference). A "woohoo!" result is a project that turns out just as you had envisaged in your mind's eye. This was close, but no cigar. 

The fabric is super pretty, no? A lovely, scalloped edge, embroidered fabric. Well let's have a little chat about fabric choice. Poly cotton. Ick. I knew the fibre content when I purchased the fabric, it even felt a little stiff and polyester-like, but I hoped pre-washing might soften it up a little. Not.

It's just a bit too "sticky outy". And where are my crisply pressed seams and hems? Polyester doesn't do crisp pressed, even when it's trying to play nicely with cotton.

Can you sense my ambivalence?
I wanted a fair bit of body for this one, but I didn't want wings. I got me some wings. Those sleeves won't drape, no way, no how.

The top tends to slide to the back of the shoulder, but it also does in the pattern photo. Shoulda' known it'd flash my belly button on 99% of shots and therefore in real life! Damn my long torso.

It also makes my narrow shoulders look even more narrow.

I did French all the seams though. Yay, me!

It'll get worn, that's good enough. I just really wanted a "woohoo!".

Sunday, 23 November 2014


You're not going to miss me in this one.

The name of this dress came about from an Instagram exchange with Gabrielle of Up Sew Late. In the process of sewing up this number I joked that I figured I'd stop traffic. Not because it's risque in anyway, but because I'm fairly certain you could use my fabric in place of hi-vis vests for traffic control officials. Ain't ever gonna miss this one.

But I love it! I spotted this National Flags collection cotton poplin in my usual hunting ground (Spotlight) and knew it was the fabric for this dress right away. I love poplin. So crisp, so well-behaved.

This is Pattern F Tunic dress with slit sleeves in Liberty print from Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with freedom.

My love for Japanese patterns these days knows no bounds and may even overtake my love of 70's vintage patterns. Cue wide-eyed disbelief...

I love the sleeve detail, which was also probably my impetus for making this dress. I like simple shapes, but with an interesting detail or two and this fits the bill.

I found the sizing initially tripped me up with this one. I measured an 8 at the bust and at least a 12 at the hip. In fear that the dress would be too snug, I graded up to the 12 in this area. Boy was I wrong. It looked like the worst kind of mu mu.

I took it back to a size 8 all over and then took a further 8cm (!!!!!) out of the hem circumference. Yikes! It doesn't appear to be that A-lined when looking at the pattern picture or the pattern itself, but good lord it looked ridiculous on me.

I am super-super happy with the result and can't wait to wear it. I might add I am not normally one to draw attention to myself so I am a little nervous. Ahhhh bugger it, I am crafter, hear me roar!

Sunday, 16 November 2014


It's here!!!!!!!!

I apologise now 'cause you're gonna get photo bombed. This bag is just. that. good.

Disclaimer: I didn't sew this... hubby did. He is the most awesomely brave leather craftsmen, full of heart and the most amazing sense of shape and design. I am the luckiest wife ever, oh yes I am.

Let's be clear here. This gorgeous work of art started as a loosely formed idea in my head after hubby asked one day "what would you like me to make you". I mean seriously - offer to make something for me as opposed to me begging!? That's true unselfish sewing as these pieces take a whole lot of blood (literally, those needles are viscious), callouses (you try hammering each and every single hole through which to sew), tears (when something you spent hours on just doesn't quite work... we'll get to that later) and time (a good few months).

But oh my, oh me, just look at her awe-inspiring perfection.

I set about finding a few inspiration bags and hubby designed a pattern from scratch, creating several "muslins" (made outta cardboard) until I felt it was perfect. To. The. Very. Last. Millimetre. P has the patience of a saint.

I spent literally hours at Birdsall Leather trying to find the perfect hide. We decided to buy a coloured chrome side in tan rather than dyeing it ourselves. I really wanted a uniform colour and when we've done the dyeing ourselves in the past it has tended towards uneven colour.


We managed to find one lonely last skein of Irish waxed linen thread in the perfect colour and we were off.

And just in case you still don't quite get it. This bag is made entirely by hand. From the cutting and finishing of each piece, the punching of every needle hole, to the very last stitch.

Which is why it's so devastating when something goes wrong. We thought we were done a few weeks ago as you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram. But when we went to attach the shoulder strap we realised one of the ends (the buckle end) was way too short.

The shoulder strap is two lengths of leather sandwiched and sewn together. This lends strength to the strap and also means you don't have raw leather against your clothes (which kind of leaves some flaking behind). 

It took hours and hours to hand sew. 

We had to start again. Not happy. 

Loss of hubby's sewjo and a short break.

But finish P did. And man, what a finish.

Rear strap fixing for buckle

And since P loves this photo because he says it feels so "panoramic" and world conquering...