Vogue 8333 jacket

The pattern

It’s a long time since I cut out this pattern. I think it was about October 2017, so nearly a year ago. And even longer since I bought it. This was one of the first patterns I bought when I came back to sewing in 2014. It was printed in 2006.

Claire Shaeffer is a brilliant teacher – I have enjoyed reading and using her books. I made up a couple of her patterns. I follow her on Facebook, and at one point she kindly contacted me to congratulate me on making my favourite dress. She doesn’t teach any more, but one of my bucket list plans had been to attend a class with her.

I don’t know exactly the story of Claire’s pattern series, except that they have couture sewing advice clearly outlined in the notes. I  made Vogue 8804 a couple of times in both the long and short ways (couture and soft tailoring approaches). Having a look at Claire’s collection it seems likely that she has developed patterns based on interesting vintage designs – maybe jackets, dresses and coats she has in her collection or has examined closely. I think I read that she sees herself primarily as a couture constructor rather than a designer, and I admire her for that. I think there are some beautiful shapes here and if the patterns were available they would be the kind of thing I would like to make up.

This is a really pretty pattern in my view.  I love the look of the jacket on the envelope. The collar and lapel, and the waisted look is a 1940s look in my opinion. The sleeves are narrow and well-balanced. Many of Claire’s patterns celebrate an hour-glass figure. Although I have not met Claire herself she appears to be fairly petite and slim with a shaped figure. In any event I think she likes a classic feminine look.

I decided to follow the instructions to make the jacket B – the quick method including a bagged lining. For some reason I haven’t made a jacket with a bagged lining. Also what was new to me was to underlining the whole bodice, everything bar the sleeves, with an iron-on product. So I decided to try it all out.

The fabric

I haven’t tested this fabric which was sold to me as linen. However I would not be surprised if it included silk as it has a definite sheen. It may also include wool. I would say, although it was inexpensive (about £8 p/m from Simply Fabrics)


It did not occur to me to make a toile on this occasion. I used a fabric that I had bought for another project, a jacket for my son Gus, in the hope that I could make a wearable jacket and learn about the fitting from making it up. I cut out a size 10 which is purportedly for a bust of 32 and a half inches, with a 25 inch waist, and 34 and half inches for the hips. I am actually a bit bigger than this (about 33, 26 and 38) but I do like a fitted look.

Once I had assembled the jacket it was clear there was too much fabric across the centre back. I just pinned it on myself with my hands behind my back, so you can see it is not very accurate. The shoulders and front looked quite nice.

I took 1cm out at each of the seven seams – the two side seams, the centre back seam, the two princess lines, and the style line seams. That’s about 14cms, tapering up and down to the hip! It is quite a lot of fullness to suppress, but I have a fairly narrow back and also I wanted a more interesting style. Often Vogue patterns have quite a lot of ease in them and I have to do something like this.

Fitting V 8333
Too much fabric in the back of the jacket


Although the jacket can be made with couture approaches plan B is not difficult. Even the pocket approach – hiding them in a pleat at the front went together very easily. The sleeves are nice and went in well too. I used shoulder pads. The jacket looks a little bit tight on Camilla, who is a little wide wider in the waist than I am.

Vogue 3888
V 3888

All was going swimmingly. However I have got to the bagged out lining. I can’t understand the instructions! I am sure it will make sense once I do it but I am falling over at the first hurdle. I guess the internet will provide a video or more information on how to do it.

Any hints?


Top down Autumn League jumper

Introduction to my new project

I mentioned in my previous post that I was done with Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweaters for a while. I want to learn something new. And I came across this.

Autumn League sweater

I have started to have a go at this lovely, loose, sweat-shirt type jumper. It appealed to me as an Autumn project, and had two interesting features – it is knitted from the top down, and although it is in one piece it has seams at the side and along the sleeves, making it quite a different proposition to the sweaters I have been knitting influenced by dear Elizabeth Zimmermann.

These top down jumpers are a slightly more modern proposition than the traditional way of knitting a sweater – knitted from the bottom up and in pieces (back, front, two sleeves). Mrs Z doesn’t like top down for some reason, but I have found it interesting and enjoyable. The key advantage of this top down method over the Zimmermann approach is that you shape the back neck and overall neckline by knitting back and forth to create a wedge shape, before progressing to knitting in the round, meaning you don’t have to do the short rows as we did with the EZ sweaters.

The yarn

I bought merino yarn in “heavy DK” from Colourmart yarns. It is lovely yarn and I bought 450grms in the sale. I made a few pairs of slippers by using the yarn double. I actually only just had enough for left for the jumper, so all the way through I was thinking – I can always unravel my slippers if I need to!

Turquoise blue slippers made with heavy DK merino

The pattern

This particular pattern has seaming to the sleeves and sides – one long seam on each side, with a slight detour for the underarm. The seams provide structure, and although I was tempted to go seamless which I can see is very possible, I stuck to the pattern on this occasion.

I don’t love using a pattern. It means carrying a piece of paper around, and counting stitches and rows and doing what you are told rather than feeling empowered. Nevertheless, as a learner, I gave it a go. I still can’t “read” a knitting pattern and understand it in the way that I can with sewing, so I have to do a toile. I have to actually knit something up in order to understand how it works in terms of method and shaping.

So I have done a toile. But before I did the toile I made a mistake.

The mistake was not to do a swatch. How daft! I have got over-confident with the Zimmermann method and know how many stitches I need in the yarns that I use and, reader, I winged it. I used a 4.25mm circular needle with my “heavy DK” merino from Colourmart. But this created fabric that was too firm. I only worked this out once I had completed the whole yoke and the front, including the ribbing. It was too dense, and small and blurgh. The other thing I did wrong was the little V at the neck with a travelling stitch. I didn’t know what a travelling stitch was and I didn’t follow the instructions correctly and so right at the CF I had a set of nasty stitches that didn’t work properly. So I pulled it all out and started again.

The undoing of me

Second time around I choose 5mm needles and the size magically came good. Also I was able to more or less do the neck triangle right. Not perfect, but I don’t know yet how to correct something like this. I can pick up a dropped stitch, or a sort out a mistake in the ribbing by going down a few rows in just one column. But I couldn’t see the problem with the V until it was too late. So I will ignore it this time and put it right on my second sweater which I will start once this one is finished.

If you like the look of this sweater, designed by Alexandra Tavel, the pattern is free (with ads) or available to buy from Two of Wands. 

Thank you Alexandra for your kindness in providing this pattern free of charge. I am learning so much from knitting in a new way, for me. I hope to have it finished by next weekend….




Elizabeth Zimmermann striped raglan round up part 2

You may remember the Knitalong I organised in July, based on the beautiful Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweater. A few of us went on to do a second jersey, and some of us took a little longer than others. This post showcases the second round (gettit?) of seamless jumpers, and pretty wonderful they are too.

First up is Kim from The Material Lady. Kim is an amazingly gifted knitter and always produces first class work. She has done a great job in the past on the Botanical sweater that is on my wish list for when I get to cables… I also envy her as she lives near the Colourmart yarns shop. Here she used up many of her smaller balls of yarn to produce a harmonious sweater in warm shades. Love your look Kim, very sassy and confident and I am sure you will wear this often with lots of different trousers and skirts.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan

Look at Helene. What a gorgeous, elegant woman combining the best of French style with Canadian practicality and order. I love the way the bright colours in her short sleeved, picot-edged, cotton yarned sweater combine with clean black and white. Here she models the bright colour palette to perfection alongside local statues in her neighbourhood. By the way Helene is the best knitter and has ensured that all her decreases slope the right way and there are no jogs in evidence.


Lisa in Australia has made her sweater in lovely bright colours. Look at that red and how well it contrasts with the purple and blue! Lisa was concerned that it was a little on the large side. Do you remember the post on the length of your sweater? This one reaches down to the hip which is a good look, the body doesn’t look too baggy, and the sleeves are the right length.   Could it just be that it stopped too soon? I think another inch at the front neck and a couple at the back would stop this looking a bit big, but that is only my suggestion! Lisa says she will be making another slightly smaller one, so there is always another opportunity to correcting any fitting issues you may feel you have. Well done for reaching the finishing line Lisa, and I hope you enjoyed this freestyle manner of knitting. You may need one of these when you visit the UK later this year!

Elizabeth Zimmerman knit a long

And going for another short-sleeved look is Sue of Fadanista. I love the colours on this sweater, which really look like they are straight from the 1930s to me. Or possibly a box of macaroons – pistachio, chocolate, coffee and rose. Doesn’t she look yummy? I think the top brownish yarn is textured – what an interesting and delightful outcome. There is also a row of embroidered-on knitting stitches (is that Swiss darning?) to cover a row of stitches that Sue thought needed covering up. There is another technique I need to learn. This is Sue’s second version. Her earlier one was shades of orange and blue-grey. I hope she enjoys wearing them although it will be warming up in Australia right now.


And over to Michelle. Oh Michelle – what a great sweater. Again this is a second one – her earlier version was strong turquoise and deep red stripes. This one used very special yarn – each of the four balls slightly different, creating the appearance of a striped sweater. Isn’t it just great? Michelle is now well and truly hooked and says this seamless approach is her favourite way of knitting a jumper. I think this one has hems at the sleeve and hem.


Hila has made a super sweater, although it took a sprained ankle before Hila (nearly) completed it. Photographed here before the finishing process (underarms and sewing in the pesky tails of yarn). Hila, who features prominently in my book as she models the capsule wardrobe, looks stunning in bright, cool colours. And she shows how it is done yet again with her red and purple striped raglan. Hila has a fun blog and vlog. She knits and sews for her whole family (7 including the parents!), and it always inspires me how much she achieves.

Zimmermann raglan seamless

And finally my own version. I now have several of these sweaters and I really must stop. However two of my favourites have been ruined by going in a hot wash – the pink and the blue colourful yoke sweaters unfortunately.  I do love this one though – I like a shrunken boyish look (not really shrunken, see above).. I bought some small remnants of two ply cashmere yarns from Colourmart and meant to create a sweater that went from fairly dark to fairly light using very light and dark grey to punctuate the colour. But going between London and the Cotswolds meant that I lost/misplaced the darker grey and the mid blue, so I made substitutions – mainly using some green. I think it worked out OK in the end although I had planned to match the sleeves to the body a la Sue Fadinista. It is so soft and comfortable and I do like the lightness near the face. And the stripe of red. By the time I got to the end I had misplaced the dark grey so the bottom ribbing is in the mid-grey.

Fabrickated Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan
Fabrickated Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan

I am not sure if there are any more unfinished sweaters out there. If so I would be pleased to include them so do let me know. For myself I have decided to try a more traditional pattern – a top down sweater in double-knit. Always keen to learn something new.

A nice 1960s hat

Do you know what a pierrette is? A female pierrotte of course!

Here are a couple of charming old photos. What attracted me of course were the pom poms. 

The key feature seems to be a jaunty brimmed hat that slopes away to a narrow (if not fully pointed witchs’ hat shape) crown.

I found the early 1960s pattern in a Cirencester homeless charity shop. Originally sold by a wool shop in Northwich, (not too far from Liverpool), and I was pleased to discover the shop, now called Crafty Stitches (get it?), still exists. Naturally punning is still popular in the knitting community, with references on the booklet cover to the “hat” parade and “knit them for six”. Inside it says “whether you are young or not so young, fashion says knit a hat and wear it as you like!”. Clearly the two larger photographs feature a young model with her eye liner flicked up and pale, shiny lips, and the older lady, with her grey hair clearly visible, has a more 1950s look with deeper lips, made up eye brows and pearls. Interesting marketing, and of relevance to the discussion of age and clothes (see Americanagefashion, and the latest Instagram group (@sewover50).

P and Bs Hat Parade; Knit them for six

I picked up the pattern for the hat bottom left – the others did nothing for me. I liked the elongated and rather angular look of the hat, the contrast and of course the pom poms. Fairly new to knitting I could not immediately “read” the pattern and understand how it was made. Few patterns actually explain what you are going to make and how the shapes fit together, they just launch into the K.1 P.1 etc.

So if you are like me here is a description that may help. The crown is knitted as a ribbed rhomboid strip, with a decrease at the start, and an increase at the end, of every other row. This means if you use a varigated yarn as I did you get a nice “bias” look to the knitting.  However because the strip is a parallelagram the slope towards the crown is not real. The styling in the photograph makes it appear to be narrower at the top but it is not. You would have decrease more often to achieve this look I think. The crown is a separate moss-stitch piece, that is oval rather than round, as it should be for a hat. If you narrowed the top of the crown this would need to be smaller. Finally the brim is made by taking up 89 stitches along the long side of the crown strip and knitting in moss stitch for one and half inches. The pieces are pressed and joined up. The pom poms are sewn along the seam.

If you would like to make the hat here is the pattern. You will see I looked up the needle sizes. It is suggested to knit the hat on 3.5 or 3.75mm needles, with the brim in 4mm, in DK yarn.

Pierrette in Bracken
Pom Poms!

And just for Jess here is the little dress I saw last week:

Unfinished work – UFO round up

I have really enjoyed my summer raglan sweater knit a long, followed by the Frida sew a long. I hope you did too. But now I need to think what I want to do next. To be honest the sew and knit alongs may have been a bit of distraction activity for me. I knew I had some projects languishing in bags (out of sight out of mind) that I didn’t want to examine. One of which was my second raglan sweater for the sewalong. But eventually, after doing the underarm seams, and weaving in all those ends, this project moves from UFO to WIP to Finished project….

We have been living in our Cotswold house for a year and a half now and I have accumulated some UFOs which I have reluctantly decided to share in the hope that this will encourage me to resolve the outstanding issues and allow me to clear my work space and move on to new projects.

So I will “share my shame” (I don’t really feel shame, but there is something wasteful and negative about not getting to the finish line) and maybe this will encourage you to look at what you have not managed to finish (there is always a practical or psychological reason). Fadanista Sue and @Geopri123 have been making good progress and this has inspired me. Of course, one of the things you can do with unfinished items is to throw them out, pass them on, or unravel/unpick them. You don’t have to finish them. But I plan to finish all these items.

Firstly is my shawl. This is an active project. It involves lots of rounds of fine, lace weight yarn on fine circular needles, and is ideal to do while watching TV. At the moment we are enjoying the new series of Call Saul, and Unforgotten and Fauda. I have a liking for ultra-violence I am afraid – at least voyeuristically. In real life I abhor violence.

Knitting a shawl in lace weight merino

To make the shawl I just cast on lots of stitches – around 300 I think, with a view that I would double the fabric so it is stocking stitch on both sides, and attach lots of small pom poms. I think because the stitches and yarn are so thin this will take me months and millions of stitches. I am putting in three rows of colour every 25 rows or so. The yarn feels lovely and soft. I have two cones of white left over from my Helmut Lang top so it will be mainly white but the colour makes it more exciting and less baby-blanket.

The next unfinished knitted item is the Elizabeth Zimmermann “Ski Sweater in color patterns”. This can be found in Knitting without Tears Chapter 3. Obviously without actual colour as the book only has vintage black and white photos.

EZ Ski Sweater in Colour Patterns
EZ Ski Sweater in Colour Patterns

This chapter is introduced before all the seamless sweaters chapter that I have been doing for a while. I found it a very attractive jumper but it involves cutting into the body, and seems far more advanced than the seamless ones, so I gave it a wide berth as a beginner. Now I feel I can face doing this sweater, so I made a good start. But because of summer weather and a fear that I had made the colour work a bit tight I stopped knitting.

Unfinished EZ Ski Sweater in Colors
Unfinished EZ Ski Sweater in Color Patterns

I think I know what I need to do here. I don’t like the very light blue at the top or the blue shoulder band. I think I will rip it out and bring in one of the deeper blues again. And the sleeve feels too narrow, so I will undo that too and start again on the sleeves.

Next up is half a pair of log cabin gloves. I already made a nice pair of these, and wanted a second pair. I even posted this singleton on Instagram (I boasted) believing I would quickly make the second one. But I made a false start. The gloves have a different pattern for left and right so that they mirror each other. But when I started the second one I got confused and it wasn’t working right. I will have to go back to the pattern and start again.

Log cabin gloves
Log cabin gloves

With the warm weather I fancied a nice work dress. I have made one or two already, the latest with the border print (which I will share soon). This pattern, which was introduced to me by Jay, is one I really like by a designer I love. I have already made this up in white. 

It is such a lovely 1980s style, with the cap sleeves (it includes shoulder pads, but I will leave them out. The skirt is full but slightly tapered and the upper part has nice princess lines. Also. Pockets. Really lovely pockets built in behind the hip pleats. Just a great design.

Geoffrey Beene dress Vogue 2031

The other sewing project has stalled for a long time – maybe as much as a year – is the Claire Shaffer jacket with a pleat in front of the pocket (is this a theme?). I bought some nice yellowy beige linen at Simply Fabrics and thought this might make a nice summer jacket. Nick loved the fabric and I showed it to Gus, but while it suits both of them better than me (being muted), I really like it too. But I am wondering if it stalled as I know this is not my best colour. I think I had in mind to toile it in this linen, because I haven’t altered the pattern at all. This is a bit risky! But the fabric wasn’t very expensive so I really ought to get on with it. I am not sure I need another summer jacket as the weather has been much cooler recently. But I am curious about the pattern, so I should press on.

Vogue 8333
Vogue 8333

Finally, when I paint on fabric, I sometimes practice first with the colours and shapes. This results in pieces of fabric already painted on. I meant to finish these to make cushion covers. Maybe. Or maybe not. These fabrics can be very nice for covering books as gifts (Christmas is coming).

making hand painted cushions
Painted fabric

Dress like Frida sew along reflections

What did we learn from our Frida Sewalong?

Personally I got a huge kick out of it. I learned

  • that making things, music, dancing and collaboration stimulates community and teaches children and young people about the benefit of working together on an exciting project
  • that colour is related to our habitat and weather as well as our natural beauty
  • that simple shapes are really fun to work with – the huipil, long skirt and shawl have both a temporary and eternal feel to them
  • wearing unfitted clothes is freeing
  • one size can fit all
  • embellishment is a fun activity, allowing endless variations and individuality
  • that showy, lively, colourful items like a yellow, painted huipil can play a role in an ordinary wardrobe, when paired with jeans or a plain skirt. These ladies made beautiful Huipils to mix into their wardrobe without going the whole hog. Look at what NowSewing has done!
  • there is a role for shawls, and I  find myself knitting one.
    Knitting a shawl in lace weight merino
  • we need to wear more things on the head – flowers, pom poms, head ties, hats, fancy hair styles.
    Wren and Liz
  • There are lots of ways to bring a little bit of Frida into your normal outfits
Stephanie from Ernie K Designs made marvellous Frida fabric trousers
  • Pom poms are always fun
    Linen pom poms, with feathers

Using my pom pom makers I wrapped thin slices of linen and other fabrics to create large fabric pom poms. These charcoal linen balls hang above my desk, complemented by feathers I picked up on walks.

  • Frida is now a brand and some of the mechanise is wonderful. I am grateful for CoreCouture Ruth who very kindly brought me a little bag back from Mexico. Let the Sewing Begin blogger Jen from Rochester, NY visited us recently and kindly brought me a special Frida mug (and some lavender hand cream, which means I think of her every time I use it). Both of them were so kind and thoughtful.

And finally I learnt again that sewalongs – international collaborations of women who are full of ideas, and style, and talent, and exuberance – are the best fun ever. Everyone had their own take and, while we all pushed our normal boundaries a little, everyone produced a very wearable look. I am so grateful that so many people gave it a go, and put a look together with jewellery, head-dresses, shawls and even little monkey (Sue) or a penguin (thanks DF).

Those are my reflections and learning! How about you?

Photographing a fashion show

After two terms Nick and I have finished our beginners’ photography course at Morley college in South London. The course ended with a show of the students work – beginners, intermediate and level three. We wandered through the work and found it interesting and competent. You can see one of Nick’s entries below, inspired by the Arnolfini portrait. He also submitted four very beautiful photographs of our lake at different times of day. I submitted my book, and a portrait of Bella.

Anolfini portrait
Nick’s intriguing photograph inspired by the Arnolfini portrait

And then there was a fashion show!

Some of the photography students attended to take photographs, me included.

It was pretty challenging as the room was dark and the models only briefly stepped up in front of me. I used flash and the images are just about acceptable.

I thought I would share them so you can see the work that is being done.

The theme was the Planets. This is a famous piece of music written by Gustav Holst who was associated with the college. Here you can see how the students have created beautiful fabrics – mostly on silk I think. The dark blue fabrics below appeared to be woollen, possibly knit on a knitting machine.

One of my favourite outfits was pink! That little gauzy, cross-over blouse with shiny palazzo pants looked so elegant and swishy.

Some of the clothes were worn by models, and some by the creator. The first dress below appears to be painted on silk in a similar way to some of my work – and made into a caftan or butterfly dress.


These three blue outfits had a lot going for them. The first one had sleeves made with folded organza panels from the elbow to the wrist. It was very effective. The middle outfit include a shawl with music on it, and a felted bag. The lovely third outfit was a fitted grey dress with appliqued feathers, complemented by a bolero jacket with important sleevs in shiny peacock fabric.

I really enjoyed the fashion show despite trying to be a photographer on the night. It reminded me of doing much the same thing about 30 years ago in Moss Side Manchester, and then again when I was on the City and Guilds Fashion course in Battersea. 

In Manchester I had made a blue crepe wool dress that I had copied from an old (1940s) film, painstakingly drafted, fitted, and constructed using a star burst pin-tucked bust darting technique. And when I heard the compare saying – and now we have “a nice dress for the office” I was well and truly annoyed! Later, in London, I had to practice twirling between the bars of Carmina Burana.

Finally the winner! A special prize was awarded to the student who had acieved the best work overall. The three items were really very pretty and showed a high degree of expertise in the pattern-cutting, construction and fabric choice. The coat was really very accomplished.

Normally at this time of year I think hard about what courses I might like to attend. This year it is relatively easy as both Nick and I have decided we want to learn more about photography. So we have signed up for the Intermediate photography course at Morley. This is a one year evening course and I am hoping we go much deeper into the topics we covered in the first year, with lots of projects to stretch our technical learning and creative composition. If I get to photograph the fashion show next year I hope my pictures will come out much better.




The Dress Like Frida Sewalong Week 7

About a dozen of us have been participating in the Dress like Frida Sewalong. Inspired by artist, Mexican revolutionary and creative dresser Frida Khalo we made tops and bottoms, belts, scarves and shawls. We put on jewellery and swept up our hair, including flowers or other ornamentation.

And here are ten portraits that have come in already!

Lisa is in Carolina, USA, and didn’t want an obvious Frida look. But she was so inspired by Frida and I love the red/yellow combination, the really nice floral top and the way Lisa’s gorgeous grey hair and silver jewellery complement not just her lovely outfit but also the interesting striped, antique chair.


Michelle (Grannieinstitches), from East Anglia, UK, has been seen on this blog before, in her gorgeous Elizabeth Zimmermann sweaters. When considering the sewalong I know she was not at all sure that she could get away with a huipil. But what do you think? Big success, yes? What a lovely mix of pinks and turquoise, braid and borders, green bangles and jade earrings. And the flower crown is so pretty. I imagine the sari-silk skirt and checkered top could be worn very happily with a T-shirt or jeans.


Helene is a marvellous sewist and knitter and works hard to support and lead the sewing community from Quebec in Canada. Helen has her head-dress wound around her wrist, and made her own espadrilles! On their own the shoes would have surely been enough. The motifs and shapes are so Frida-ish – Frida decorated her own shoes and boots with embroidery, ribbons and bells. Helene made her huipil braid by joining small pieces of left over cotton to create a patchwork effect. Lovely, isn’t it? In fact, having discovered this completely charming effect, Helene is going to make up a full quilt.


Raquel is based in Taiwan and made several, super outfits. I had not met her before but was so impressed with her energy and verve. Have a look at her Instagram for a whole variety of outfits. This one is made from woollen Kimonos. Aren’t the colours, including the shawl draped over her bag, beautiful together? Well done – such lovely work.


Based in the Midlands, England, my dear friend Elaine aka Demented Fairy, does lots of dressing up – usually in corsets and a range of items more common in the Victorian age. She used a Mexican Day of the Dead print, beautifully matched with red floral headpiece, green beads and blue rebozo. She also included a stuffed penguin (?) in some of the shots. Why not? Here in her lovely garden, with a beautiful, simple blouse she looks serene and powerful. Thanks for joining in DF – you are such an enthusiast.

Demented Fairy

Sue is a trouper and always game for a community event. Based in Perth, Australia she has a super blog where she has outlined her approach and thinking for this challenge. Don’t her full legged trousers look good with a huipil? She made more than one huipil, several hand painted T shirts, a couple of crowns and even dressed up in an authentic Mexican outfit (see Instgram). She worked out two unique ways of making the headdress and printed her own tea-towel huipil. I love your shoes too Sue – totally Frida appropriate. Do go and look at Sue’s blog for lots of idea – she completely went for this challenge.


Mary is someone I have met through instrgram, who is based in Portland, Oregon. I love Mary’s Instagram and it would be fair to say that she normally wears very simple, Japanese and shift type dresses in quiet colours. And she rarely shows her face. So this was a wonderous picture of her in the full Frida garb. The blouse is made from a thrifted skirt with lace inserts. I think she looks very regal (in her local jungle) and I love the skirt (although I think is now becoming a caftan).


I had not met Jess before, and I think she is fairly new to Instagram. But what a triumph her outfit turned out to be. Look at her posts to see the evolution of this outfit and some especially gorgeous Spanish needlework and dancing outfits. Jess put lots of thought and care into her outfit which she says she didn’t intend to wear together, but it has gone on holiday with her to Spain and I am sure it the two items will work well with other items too.


Janet @sewdalriada from Scotland, is another new friend, met through the sewalong. Janet is a pro, and isn’t this outfit just perfect! I love everything about it, but especially the way the colours co-ordinate with such subtlety, really enhancing Janet’s fair skin. Every element is so beautiful. I love the white border, the embroidered huipil and the crown made with silk scraps sewn into buds and blooms. What a fantastic photograph Janet – so full of joy and creativity.


And finally, someone who doesn’t have a blog, but is a friend in real life. Linde Carr has featured on this blog before. 

Linde has kept to a simple black and white palette, enhanced by brightly coloured embroidery, charity shop specials and crochet work. Don’t you think the patterned trousers are gorgeous, peeping out below her skirt? And the bag looks so authentic too. With her long hair Linde could easily create a very nice hairstyle and her earings set it all off so beautifully. Thanks for coming to see me at work Linde, dressed appropriately for work, but also with such a strong individual vibe. Lovely.


There maybe more in the works. Do send me a photograph if you would like to be included in the second post, due next week.

I think this sewalong has been a huge success, driven by the energy and enthusiasm of a group of women, all over the globe. Thanks to Frida who got us going, the V&A for inspiring me, and all of you who watched, unsure if this look could work for you. As you see it works well for so many different personalities, body shapes, ages, backgrounds, areas and colourings. Strong, passionate women; body confident and full of life.

I know I was challenged in a range of ways and my thinking and creativity expanded. How was it for you?




A bias halter top and refashioning a blouse

Huipil fever has somehow been getting to me, and I have been wondering how to make a scarf huipil with a simple square. Of course my scarf – Japanese, polyester, from the charity shop – could have been combined with a plain back in order to make a huipil. But then I realised it was the perfect size to make a bias halter top.

This is very simple to do. You fold the scarf in half, wrong sides together, to create a big triangle. About 5″/12.5cms  down from the point put in two rows of parallel stitching, about 1.5cms apart. Thread some braid or cotton tape, or a thin leather piece through here, long enough to tie at the back of your neck. To wear it tie the other two corners around your back waist and tie in a knot. This top is better without a bra, or perhaps over a bikini or sports bra. Or wear it under a cardigan or jacket. As you can see I have styled it with Gus’s lobster shorts and a pom pom head-dress! This Fridishness seems to taking over my life!

Before I briefly describe the refashion I want to share something else.

It is Borrow Box. You may have heard of it, or even use it, but I only just discovered it. This is a way to borrow audio books completely free, simply by joining your local library. There are plenty of good books available this way, and obviously you can listen to them easily while you sew or knit, or brush your teeth, do the ironing, yoga etc. I have taken to putting my phone in my pocket while I wander around the house, and I am very excited about it. I am also thinking it might be good for children as an alternative to reading.

To find out if the books are any good I still go to Amazon for reviews and information. I quite like the idea that while people look at books in shops and then buy on Amazon, now we can browse on Amazon then get the audio books for free from the library.

On with another cheapskate idea.

I sometimes pick up items from a sale rack at Topshop and other high street shops, regardless of size and without trying them on. This is a good example. I was attracted to the print – I liked the colours and the big red flowers –  and thought it was worth a £4 bet. If it didn’t look good I could use the fabric.

It didn’t look good.

Restyling project
Unflattering HM blouse

The neckline is horrible on me. Too high. The colour is too dark (it is a deep charcoal grey rather than black) near my face. The body is shapeless and overall the effect is deadening.

So what would you do (other than give it away)? I suspect it was on the final reductions rack as it is hard to decide who would suit this other than a dentist with a penchant for florals.

I ripped off the collar and sleeves, and very slightly straightened up the shoulder line.

By revealing much more skin the “too dark” rather overpowering look has gone. I looked through lots of trims – white, pink and various greens, and decided that a muted, faded green would give the lightness that I wanted. I used the last of my Liberty print bias binding handmade by my friend Linde Carr, to bind the neck, sleeves and hem. This provides a nice “frame” for the print.

refashioning a blouse to make a shell top
Refashioned blouse

I cut away some of the length as it was swamping me. And the piece I cut off from the back included some pink flower print. I cut this out and appliqued it on to the front to increase the pinkness of the item.

I have kept the sleeves which I like. Maybe they will turn up later on something else. We will see.

The only issue is the depth of the armholes. Once the sleeves were removed and, the armholes bound, I realised they would reveal my bra. I put a sleeveless T-shirt under it, but it is not an ideal solution. I guess this is what happens when you get a baggy top with rather full sleeves. When you draft a sleeveless top you usually bring the armhole up a centimetre of two – which is obviously not possible with a re-make.

But overall, I like it. Florals – and pom pom crowns – all the way…

I haven’t done many re-fashions. The last one was a SWAP requirement that wasn’t massively successful. The skirt was Indian and horrendously over-sewn with every panel and section very determinedly overlocked. Unpicking is such a bore when it is not even your own mistake, don’t you find.

I suppose if you find nice fabric, at a low-cost – in charity shops or on sale – refashioning might be a good way to go. And if you have something with sentimental meaning that might be good. Last month I met Shelagh (of @sewshelagh) who told me she made cushion covers with old silk ties from the charity shops. It’s a nice idea. Does it work for you?

The Dress Like Frida Sewalong Week 6 – Accessories and styling

posted in: Designing, Finished projects | 9

We have got our huipils finished, and our skirts (or trousers), and our hair is coiffed and we are sporting a head-dress. Do we need to do anymore?

Not necessarily! There is always the danger of overdoing this look, and turning it into fancy dress. The vast majority of you are people who like to create “wearable” looks. I am the same. But if you want to put a look together, perhaps only for a one-off photograph, there are a number of things you can do to absolutely nail the look. None of these takes very long, and if you use the “more is more” principle you can get the full Frida look in a few minutes and at minimal cost.

The Rebozo (Shawls)

Frida invariably wore a shawl or long scarf, incorporating this traditional item into her outfits to lend colour and style to an outfit. They were some of the most valuable items in her wardrobe. These would have been woven in specialist workshops, embellished with intricate and knotted fringes. They were both comfortable, luxurious and introduced an important element of colour and design into her unique style. Frida wore her rebozos in many different ways – draped over the shoulders, low at the back, across the body like an ammunition belt, and covering her head. This rebozo, in the collection of the V&A, looks like a little jacket with a stand or shawl collar. I love the stripes. I must admit I have an aversion to shawls. Maybe something to do with the 1970s. But recently, to cope with over-cold air conditioning at a dinner, I tried one and rather enjoyed it. So take this opportunity to use up another rectangular piece of fabric that you love but cannot yet find a use for. Or a table cloth, or a hand woven item perhaps. The rebozo could bring in a third colour, or it could be patterned to pick up other colours. Bella’s rebozo was made from African wax fabric, and her Mum wore my hand-woven scarf. (Just seen on her wrists in the second photo below)

Here, two of my models wear rebozos that complement their outfits.

Millie and Mandy, dressed like Frida

Make up

It’s all about the eyebrows, but I would avoid going for the full monobrow. Just strengthen them a little – if you are fair you get quite a marked effect by darkening and emphasising. We used brown shadow to enhance our brows and extended them slightly at the inner edge. Mascara, yes and also lipstick. If you have read my book here is beautiful Bella again, this time with her Mum and little sister.

Domino, Claire and Bella, dressed like Frida


Frida invariably wore lots of jewellery. She had important earrings and her necklaces were bold and often comprised local materials or antique artefacts. She regularly wore lots of rings, sometimes one on each finger.

None of our models had any sensational jewellery to wear, but if you have something dramatic, or sentimental, or from your own folk tradition, why not put it on? Although a head-dress with local plant material and poms poms made by a five-year old were good enough for us. I embellished Maia’s T-shirt with dark purple lace and four granny squares. The yellow crocks were the model’s own!

Maia and Mel, dressed like Frida

Once we were all made up we like Frida we put on the Mexican music and organised a catwalk around our houses, dancing and swaying, and showing off our clothes. And finally – we had a #DresslikeFridaSAL party. Four ladies, one teenager and three little girls all dressed like Frida. Our men did the cooking, except William, our youngest grandson. He just enjoyed the cuddles.

Frida Khalo party
The Fridas
Girls dressed up as Frida Khalo
Bella, Kate and William with the Little Fridas [Maia, Domino and Millie]
When you have made all your items (augmented with RTW if you like), assembled them and put them on, please ask someone to take a portrait of you, dressed like Frida, against a suitable background. Maybe a brightly coloured wall, or in your garden, or by a mirror as Frida may have done. Possibly with your dog, or baby, or monkey – if you have one. Or with an artefact from your heritage.   Concentrate on the colours, wear your hand-made items with pride and joy, dressing with care. Make yourself up, do your hair and express the most creative version of yourself.  Use our hashtag to share if you are on Instagram, or blog it. And please send it to me for a final round-up. The best bit!!