My photography homework

posted in: Tips and Techniques | 5

I mentioned I was finally getting to grips with the photography course. Please remember I am an absolute beginner, although I hope by June that I will be able to take good enough photographs for my book, and my blog. I realise these photography posts are not for everyone!!

The homework task is in Italics.

Depth of field

Pick subjects which are appropriate to a shallow or deep depth of field and take a picture to indicate this. Use Av or A mode.

I chose the table laid for dinner with three glasses in a row. You can see in A that I have focused on the furthest away glass, and with a large depth of field (f stop) I have got blurring at the front. You can see out of the window at the end. With B I have focused on the first glass and the third glass, even the second is blurred, and the window shows very little.

Freeze and melt

Shoot images which exploit different shutter speeds using Tv or S mode.

I more or less understand the theory here. But I don’t think my photographs show the effect very well. I probably need a proper waterfall (to freeze) or a moving creature (to melt) to get a better effect.

Mug shots

Take the subject straight on, from above and from below.

I really enjoyed this relatively simple experiment. I used my depth of field knowledge (notice the backgrounds are out of focus), to take reasonable “mug” shots of my very handsome “son in law” (strictly the partner of my step daughter Charlotte) Lee.

White balance

Take shots indoors and outside; shoot the model using daylight, tungsten (incandescent) and fluorescent settings.

Nick’s camera only has automatic, incandescent, daylight and flash. I won’t share the photographs, but I found that when taken inside the white balance can affect the heat of the photograph, making one bluish and the other yellowish.

Photo journalism project

Half term project – ten photographs to tell a story (these were the dawn and dusk landscapes that didn’t really come out, that I shared last time. I tried again with Nick’s camera and got a completely different effect than with Gus’s camera. Incomparable. I have decided what to do for my project and will share the outcome next time.

I want to thank Monica Wright for suggesting Understanding Exposure. I bought it and am finding it very helpful.


posted in: Finished projects, knitting, SWAP | 5

After the short interlude last week, compounded by snow-caused train issues, I have managed to make a further garment.

Zimmerman Yoke sweater

It is another Elizabeth Zimmerman knitted top, using the old yoke pattern that I have already made up before. In the round up from the EZYokeKAL you may have seen a similar one by Kerry who used black and white yarns. The design “Rusty” in English is available on Ravelry.  It is based on an old Icelandic pattern and it is very pretty indeed. It is knitted over 34 stitches so just make sure your final number of stitches can be divided by 34. I decided I wanted two motifs across the chest and back and one over each sleeve, so on my first decrease I got there. Then I knitted the motif and finally reduced once again before knitting the neckline. My version is a little lower than Kerry’s.

Kerry in black

I used a navy yarn from Colourmart. The yarn is cashmere, reportedly from Chanel, and it has a beautiful light blue fleck in it. I used two strands creating roughly a double knit effect and knitted it on 5mm needles. It is much more chunky than my previous versions of this jumper, and I made it longer and wider so it had more of an outdoor look. I finally finished it by knitting a nice ribbed border at the hem with 4mm needles.

In creating colourwork the choice of colour is important, and I felt I wanted the biggest possible contrast (like Kerry’s). I had some small balls of four ply in two off white shades, so again I put two stands together to produce a satisfactory outcome. As ever I knitted it very very loosely, and it looked a bit uneven at first. Then I lightly pressed it with the steam iron and it came together perfectly.

It is now my favourite jumper. Soft and cosy, loose and comfy, but also traditional and elegant. It will go with everything being a nice simple neutral look.

Wool circle skirt

I also managed to finish the hem on my Circle Skirt.

I let the skirt hang while I considered how to hem it. It dropped quite a lot – up to one inch in parts.

Thank you all for your thoughtful advice on the hem. Most of you said hand sew, but I also listened to Annie and the machine stitchers. I planned to do a fold over narrow hem by machine, then hand sew. But the narrow hem took quite a long time on the machine I decided on trim, fold and resew – a traditional narrow, machined hem. It worked pretty well, with only the slightest of splaying out (I was so careful with the sewing). I managed to steam it back into shape and I am happy with the outcome. I just couldn’t find the time to do the hem by hand – sorry you perfectionists out there.

Nick took these pictures so maybe not the best for showing the sewing. The snow has nearly melted but it was cold – as you can see from my rosy cheeks.

Fabrickated SWAP18
Hand knit sweater and circular skirt

I was hopeful we could get a picture of the skirt flaring out, but it wasn’t to be. 

I am pretty happy with these two items. They are both very me. I don’t suppose a baggy jumper and a circular skirt is the ideal combination, and the footwear was really the best I could do in the country. But overall it works fine I think. Wearing one dark colour makes you look taller and slimmer so the bulky clothes still have a streamlined look. Even when jumping!

Navy handknit, circular skirt
Jumping for Joy!


Finally some progress on my Photography!

posted in: Photography | 12

I hesitate to write this post as I expect my son Gus will read it.

When I signed up for the photography course I didn’t own a camera. I still don’t. I aimed to learn to use a camera before buying one. Unlike most people on the course. And my husband. It surprises me when people spend quite a lot on swanky equipment but then don’t use it because they don’t know how to. So until I knew what all the knobs did, and had a chance to experiment, I wasn’t sure I would trade up from my very acceptable iPhone. I actually considered going on a course on how to use the iPhone camera better as it is surprisingly versatile and to a large extent does everything a camera does when you use the automatic settings.

Once I had signed up for the course I whatsapped the family and asked if anyone had a DSLR (ie a real) camera, that they could lend me, and Gus offered up his camera. I was very grateful.

It arrived like this, only in a plastic carrier bag.

Olympus camera
Gus’s camera

Hmm. You may be able to see the cracked viewfinder. You may be able to detect the generally grubby state. It lacked a lens cap or camera bag and the lens may have got a little damaged. The state of the camera was not too surprising (you should see his flat), but to be honest I didn’t care too much (beggars can’t be choosers).

Sadly I have returned the camera to him. I just couldn’t grapple with the focus. I found the size and shape of the camera to be cumbersome and the first six weeks of the course were very frustrating as I combined complete beginner naivety (I didn’t know how to focus), with a complicated camera, which also had some quirks I cannot sort out by using the brochure (down loaded from the internet). Also the act of getting the photographs I did take onto my computer so I could look at them, was irritatingly complex and I broke the little thingy with fine wires in that I had to plug into the computer.

Also everyone in the class has a different camera and our tutor (naturally) doesn’t know all about all of them, so flicking through the instruction booklet (poorly translated from Japanese), plus trial and error, has meant that my learning  has been hit and miss.

As I say, after six weeks, I was exasperated. I wasn’t able to do the half term “story” project – ten photographs that communicate something. My pictures were not coming out as expected and I was not handing in homework as I couldn’t achieve the correct outcomes. I suspected I was a bad workperson blaming her tools, and just like when I started knitting I had this feeling that I would never learn.

The syllabus so far

Nevertheless I listened intently to the lectures which covered

  • What is aperture?
  •  What is depth of field?
  • What are shutter speeds?
  • Alternative ways of calculating exposure
  • Reciprocity Law
  • Exposure shooting modes
  • Composition
  • Using Light
  • White balance

Unfortunately I missed the reciprocity law class due to having to be at work, but Nick explained it to me (in outline).  The class also includes a slide show, looking at the work of an important photographer, and by class members sharing their work which is then subject to critique. The classes have been very interesting. But I was like the kid without the equipment – it was mainly theoretical for me as I couldn’t successfully complete the homework tasks.

Homework tasks

  1. Pick subjects which are appropriate to a shallow or deep depth of field and take a picture to indicate this. Use Av or A mode for this
  2. Freeze and melt – shoot images which exploit different shutter speeds using Tv or S mode for this
  3. Half term project – ten photographs to tell a story (these were the dawn and dusk landscapes that didn’t really come out, that I shared last time).
  4. White balance shots indoors and outside; shoot the model using daylight, tungsten (incandescent) and fluorescent settings.

So now I have handed Gus his camera back (with a new bag, a spare battery and an extra memory card), and will be using Nick’s camera for the rest of the class. This way we can both learn about one camera, and help each other. By the end of the class if we both become very active photographers then maybe we will buy a second camera. But this seems to be something we can happily share. And I love it!

Better quality photographs already!

SWAP #6 – catch up week

posted in: Inspiration, SWAP | 10

I have just had another look at the Sewing with a Plan rules and spot a “desirable” but not “essential” requirement to reflect current trends in at least one item! Eeek. When I first read the rules my eye seemed to have  just flicked my eye over that requirement.

Let’s have another look at the modern trends, as captured on Artisans’ Square.

Fall 2017/Winter 2018 Trends
checks, neutral plaids
florals/garden prints
silver/metallic, sparkles/glitter
red, gold
americana: folklore, patchwork
trench with a twist
feathers or fringe
black leather
polka dots


Spring 2018 Trends
yellow, lavender, orange
bold graphic prints
geometric cutouts
more denim
tassels, sequins
sheer fabric
matching or coordinating fanny pack/bum bag

Eeek again!

I couldn’t help but focus on the  matching fanny pack/bum bag!! I would struggle with that one. Maybe I can make a bag for my camera as the one I have is pretty dorky.

What about feathers, sequins, fringes, black leather, and sheer – these items make me think of erotic dancers (sorry, just me!).

And Americana – is this a trend in England?

Well – I had a quick look at what is trending at Topshop and Americana is indeed fashionable, often badged as Western or Rodeo. How about these looks? Float your boat?


And would folklore be something we could adapt to our own folkwear traditions? If so would my yellow (a spring trend) gansey (folklore) qualify? And I could always include jeans (navy jeans) as a previously made or ready to wear item.

Allthough you can see fringes on the dress and white blouse, this trend has been cropping up in knitwear, where I am actually enjoying undone, distressed knitting and trailing threads. Here are some images from the Financial Times How to Spend It magazine.

Financial TImes feature

I think this idea was in my head when I finished my woven scarf (which may be the accessory I use in the SWAP). I was really reluctant to trim off all the left over yarn on the right of the photo below. I felt these threads made the item unique and only a hand made item could include them. Even on the left I allowed the yarn to present as it came off the loom, with the red a little bit longer than the blues. And this scarf is full of errors as it is a beginner project. I am fine with that. Everytime I wear it I think of two people

  • Jo who gave the yarn, and
  • Bridget who taught me to weave, and allowed me to colonise her loom for weeks, and entertained me throughout with funny stories, and wound the donated yarn (in such lovely colours) around the shuttles. She also knitted (facecloths) during our conversations.

I loved the weaving process, by the way. At that point I decided, when I come to retire (I am thinking in about four or five years) I will ask my colleagues to buy me a loom! I want a loom of my own (when I have the time to use it).

Woven scarf with trailing threads


How is my SWAP going?

That’s where I am this week.

My first (knitted) hat

posted in: Finished projects, knitting | 16

I really like hats, and enjoy wearing them. Unfortunately formal hats are rarely worn these days and nearly everyone struggles with them. But weather hats are a different matter. You can wear warm ones in winter and sun protection ones in summer. So if you like dressing up a little bit hats can finish off an outfit.

If you have been reading this blog for a while you may remember me saying how, while I love the look of a pull on beanie type hat, I find them worse than useless. Because they don’t keep my ears warm! I have wimpish ears. All chilly breezes drive through them and result in a bad pain that prevents me enjoying the English countryside, for at least nine months of the year. Many is the time I have improvised, mid-walk, with a scarf tied in an ostentatious turban, or bits of tissue plugged into my ears. But most days I just reach for a range of items that serve the purpose including a nice, rabbit skin lined leather German hat with flaps. Here I am, close to the Arctic Circle, with my ears warm and protected.

Fur hat
Finish holiday

I have been planning to knit myself a warm winter hat for ages, “with ear flaps!”.


I enjoy Karen Templer’s Fringe Association blog which focuses on knitting. She featured a great free pattern – the 1898 Hat. The innovative and elegant design came about as a result of a competition, launched by the Seamen’s Church Institute, to design a hat to explicitly cover the ears, especially essential at sea. Karen  recently mentioned she was making the 1898 Hat herself;  which was a coincidence as I too was having a go at it.

This was my first attempt at a hat.

While this pattern by Kristine Byrnes is free,  it is published in the hope that knitters will donate to the Seamen’s Church Institute, to keep Seamen warm. They specifically request no pink or lavender yarns to be used!! But I made mine for me. There are so many versions and variations – nearly 3000 – on Ravelry – some more inspirational than others.

The pattern was not perfect for me (and Karen found the same thing) – the decreases on the hat occur too slowly, creating a bit of a point. I expect I could steam this out, but I am partial to the pixie look. Next time I will adjust the shaping. The band, which is knitted double worked perfectly; it cups the wearer’s ears in a comforting way.

I got Nick (and George) to try the hat on and, while he was reluctant to stretch it, it fit him too. So don’t worry too much about the size.


You may remember I made a green jumper for Gus and one for myself. I accidentally bought too much of this yarn (can you have too much dark green cashmere DK? – maybe you can!). Once the hat was completed I only have about 130 grams left.

His n Hers


I do put comfort over style, but I like style too. I wasn’t sure about a stylish ear flap hat. But I think it is OK! I got Nick to take a photograph of me with his camera (he is doing the photography course with me). I think the picture quality is amazing. I will write up my photography progress soon. I haven’t cracked it yet,  but I have made a few breakthroughs.


New ear flap hat


SWAP #5 The circular skirt

The circular skirt has lots going for it. This one appears to have exaggerated underpinnings giving the model the appearance of an exceptionally wasp like waist.

1950s circle skirt

It is flattering for women with smaller waists and disguises larger hips. It can be showy and fun, supported by a full petticoat, or it can be restrained and modest and drapey, if made in a softer fabric.

The original – cut a hole in a table-cloth and wear it tonight – approach shows just how simple it can be, and for many it provides a good way in to sewing.

The pattern

I have reviewed the wide range of instructions on the internet and some are decidedly dodgy and will not give you a good fit. I have also read all the old books I have at home (showing that this skirt has been permanently in fashion, and that there is nothing new under the sun). So here, having distilled it all down, and piloted the approach, I offer you what I think is the easiest and best way to make a circle skirt.

You can start with your skirt block you can eliminate the darts, creating a flared skirt (with a curved waistline). Then additional slashes (from hem to waist) allow you to get the CB and CF at right angles to each other, with the waistline becoming a quarter circle)

But of course the easier method is to create a “donut” shape, where you just cut out a circle from the middle of the cloth. You can create just one seam into which the zip is inserted (unless you make the skirt in very stretch fabric and add a piece of wide elastic for the waist band). Most of the web “tutorials” are based on this approach in order to make the job as easy as possible.

How to get the size right?

Here we go back to basic maths and we need to work out the radius based on our circumference/waist measurement. The circumference of a circle is just slightly more than three times the diameter. To calculate the diameter we need to divide the circumference by pi  which looks like this: which is 3.14 (or very slightly more, but we will don’t need to be more accurate). The radius will be half this so 3.14 x 2 which means you must divide the circumference by 6.28 to find the radius. Measure your waist snugly. My waist is 68 cms. 68 cms divided by 6.28 = 10.8 cms.


We could now make a paper pattern by creating a quarter circle pattern piece, on to which we add seam allowances on the waist line, side seams and hem. The CF/CB can be cut on the fold. This creates a nice pattern that can be used again and again, with a side zip and possibility of side seam pockets if prefered. Unfortunately even reliable Mrs Aldrich lets us down with her fabric layout diagram. The CF fold is not on the fold as it should be, and with a different arrangement of the fabric it should be possible to avoid the CB seam.

Making a circle skirt
Winifred Aldrich circle skirt

However this approach is much more reliable that the quick and dirty method of avoiding a paper pattern altogether. All over the internet are “tutorials” that involve folding the fabric into four (cross and lengthwise), measuring out from the point to produce the waist line, and then measuring down from the waist line as far as the fabric allows for the length of the skirt (or shorter).

But before we start cutting let’s talk about ease and seam allowances (I have viewed about 25 diagrams and tutorials and none of them mention this issue). If we measure down 10.8cms and CUT along this line what do you think is going to happen?

As you sew on the waist band, sewing 1.5cms below this cut what happens?

You have now created a radius of 12.3 cms, which (x 6.28) gives a circumference of 77cms – 9cms too big. Assuming we take 3cms off for the back seam it is still 6cms too large. Even if you like a bit of ease this is way too roomy.

Let’s start again.

If you draw in your waist line as instructed at 10.8cm, and use your tape measure on its side to draw a second line 1.5cms above it as your cutting line you will be able to get a good fit from the quick and dirty/no paper pattern approach. However – and I have made several samples before I wrote this, in both paper and in fabric – I must issue a big warning.

  • Fabric becomes very unstable when a substantial circle is cut into it, and stretches markedly if you are not very careful.
  • Also cutting through four layers accurately is not easy. Even half a centimeter makes a difference to the fit. You do have to be very accurate. I would say a little smaller rather than bigger is better as you can stretch the bias a smidge to fit it into the waistband.
  • I stay stitched the waistline

Once the donut is cut out you will need to create the CB seam by separating the skirt along the straight grain on one edge.


I wanted a wool with drape and found the perfect fabric at Simply Fabrics. I think it is Paul Smith suiting in navy that is not too deep. The fabric really makes this skirt in my opinion. It is a nice quality and I should have lined it, but I wanted it to be as light and drapey as possible, so in the end I made it with nicely finished seams instead. It is a little deeper than this photograph shows.

Blue suiting fabric
Nice, blue, Paul Smith wool suiting


I made the waist band along the selvage edge two centimeters longer than my waist measurement – ie 70cms, to allow for ease. I kept it fairly narrow as this was the best use of the cloth, but a circle skirt can look great with a much wider waist band. If you are fairly petit a narrower waist band (and belts) may suit you better than a wide belt, and vice versa.I applied very light interfacing to the waist band then the cut edge of your skirt is coaxed to fit onto this straight edge. I  carefully pinned, then tacked, the waistline of the fabric. Even though I had cut accurately it didn’t have any trouble filling the space.

Before finishing it I added an invisible zip, closed the CB seam, and finished the waistband by hand.

I put the skirt on Camilla and let it hang before hemming. It is swishy and heavy, but also it drapes nicely. I am looking forward to wearing it. But first I need to think about hand or machine hemming. Any views?

Circle skirt
Circle skirt





Making a book #8


I mentioned my book was being professionally editorially reviewed in early January. Late January the book came back, with lots of encouraging and useful advice. Well worth the cost. I know some people dislike their work to be criticised, but I love it. it is easy to get too close to your work and think that it is great, whereas an outsider can see the flaws more easily. The two editors who read the draft – Sonya and Alison – made some very good suggestions. Essentially they proposed a restructure of the chapters and taking out some extraneous material.

I found the Mac very good for opening up the original, the edited version and the overview.

Book editing
Editing the book

I restructured as suggested and have finally been through all of the edits. Many of these proposed referencing every quotation and fact (which I rarely do with the blog) and raised a few questions – what is Normcore? Mattress stitch? A Dirndl skirt? A tenant leader?

I feel very happy that I have more or less got the book written, and while I will keep on polishing it and eliminating any cliches and wasted words, I think it has legs.

I will now be focusing on “making” the book.


Although I had suggested I might be ready to print by Easter I now realise that is hopelessly unrealistic. I am really struggling with photography. At the moment I don’t really understand it and am finding it hard to get a good result with a digital SLR camera. We are being taught to avoid the Automatic setting.

My first efforts of the lake at different times of day are rather disappointing. I think the focus and ISO was wrong but I am trying to take in so much new information I have no real idea of what is happening here.

Dusk Lake
Dawn Lake
Dawn Lake

I know there is tons of information on the internet but as ever I get quickly overwhelmed. I need much more practice with someone who knows what he or she is doing. It will also be alot easier as the weather improves to spend lots of time outside, taking pictures.

Book design

While photography has not yet clicked for me I have made good progress with InDesign. We previously bought the Adobe CDs when one of us was a student so I didn’t need to make the difficult decision to “rent” the software from the company which seems very expensive. Although there is a one year discount for students subsequent months are charged at about £50 a month, which is far too much for non-professional users.

The course ended last night and over six weeks I have made posters, business cards, a 30 page magazine, flyers, post cards and a CD cover. I feel confident enough to do these basic jobs and I look forward to building on my skills.

With the Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator I know that (like dressmaking) practice makes perfect. Luckily Charlotte is coming next weekend. Her cover is coming along well and I am hoping she will give me some one to one tuition on designing the inside of the book.

And between all these classes and homework, and the challenge of learning new things I have been reading and knitting. Two self help books which I snapped up at 99p on Amazon were really interesting and I would recommend them, if the topics interest you.

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker and

The Unexpected joy of being Sober by Catherine Gray.

And the knitting? I made another EZ yoke sweater and used the same motif that Kerry used on hers. Navy and white cashmere. I love it, although it still needs finishing. May or may not enter the SWAP, as I have a red Perry Ellis cardigan on the go.

Yoke sweater
EZ Yoke sweater with“Rusty” motif

SWAP #4 The sleeveless blouse?

posted in: Finished projects, SWAP | 8

I want a very simple shell top/sleeveless blouse as part of my SWAP. I plan to make some painted silk to pull the other items together. I am using grey and navy and a couple of other striking colours – possibly red and yellow. But before I paint the fabric I need to find a suitable pattern.

Ages ago, as part  my intermediate pattern cutting class, I was required to make a pattern for a halter neck dress. So I copied a lovely YSL pattern. 

Vogue 2093 YSL halter neck dress
Vogue 2093 YSL halter neck dress

I made a toile of the top but couldn’t make up the dress as I lost my self drafted pattern somewhere. I had bought boning, as it was required for the Vogue Pattern Original, as was looking forward to making up this item.


I chose Marfy 1913, a free pattern that has been made up many times, including by several of our best constructors, such as Mary of Cloning Couture. There are dozens of versions out there, many of them very nice. It is a simple woven top, all the fullness being gathered into the collar. It is not as cut-in as the YSL, and is a very simple pattern with just a front and back piece and a collar with an undercollar.

Marfy 1913
Marfy 1913

I cut this pattern out from inexpensive Chinese digital polyester satin I got at Simply Fabrics. I am not sure this fabric is dyed fast, so I saw this as a wearable toile. But the fabric is navy so it may be a SWAP item.


I added 3″ to the length and decided against an elasticated bottom.

It was really simple to make and it didn’t take very long. I used some very lightweight fusible interfacing on the collar and along the back neck vent, and used plastic press studs for the back neck fastening.

I used black satin bias tape that I was given by Wm Gee to face the armholes.

But I am not keen. The collar looks like a polo neck on me.

Marfy 1913 top
Marfy 1913 top

I am not very keen on this pattern so I will look out for something more appealing with a lower neckline.

And I had a lovely experience this week, spending an afternoon to fellow blogger and couture sewist, Ellen Miller .Ellen was in London to promote her new book, and she and her husband joined me to have a good look around the V&A.  Here we are in the tea shop!


Charity shop finds

Many of us who make our own clothes also enjoy shopping in charity shops. I have been wondering why. Here are some of my reasons.

  • The thrill of the hunt
    • In my life I have found some truly wonderful things in charity shops, probably the best ever being a bottle green Hermes handbag for £1. Over the years the really old and valuable stuff has been whipped off to specialist shops and the charities have become much more savvy, which is great. But much of the sorting and pricing is done by people with different taste to mine and you can still find interesting, exciting and beautiful things.
  • Insight into a community
    • When I go to my Mum’s in Lancashire I often spend an hour or so zipping around the seven or eight charity shops in Clitheroe. Although this part of England is quite run down and relatively poor, and many people use these shops for that very reason, the prices are low. Hardback books for £1 for example.
    • In the Cotswolds I visit the six or seven shops in Cirencester and any other town we visit on our walks or outings. Here the clientele is more wealthy, but the prices are higher too.
    • In London I always drop in, wherever I find myself for a meeting. London has such a wide mix or rich and poor. The Oxfam shop in Hammersmith told me that they had “really caught a cold” when Primark opened opposite them. Why should hard up people buy second-hand trousers for £6 when they could get new for the same price?
  • The idea of recycling and a less wasteful life (helping us deal with guilt)
    • All my unwanted garments go to the charity shop when I am done. I took virtually all my wedding presents (first time around – mainly vases and coloured towels) to Oxfam the next morning. This, in small measure, helps me deal with the guilt of oversupply. Gift Aid means that the value of the clothes, when sold, are treated as a donation allowing the charity also to get access to a portion of my tax, thus increasing the value of the donation. Conversely when I buy from the charity shop I am giving a donation in exchange for the goods. This means I never mind paying quite a lot for something I want. Two examples would be a leather shearing coat for £40 and £20 for a Natalie Bray book.
    • This year I bought all my Christmas presents in the charity shops. This is ideal with small children who are normally more interested in quantity than quality, unfortunately. They need a wide range of cheap, colourful items that will break and get thrown out in short order. Equally children’s books and clothes, with minimal wear and tear, are plentiful and cheap. Buying the latest expensive item strikes me as a waste of money.
    • While I offload my UFOs and fabric off cuts to the charity shop, sometimes you can buy someone else’s UFO. In Lancashire this week I bought a Julia Hickson trammed tapestry with a huge amount of yarn. I have just started completing this. What fun. These kits are no longer available so I will now keep a look out. I was thinking Nick may be able to create a chair or stool that this could complement!
      Julia Hickman Trammed Tapestry Kit
      Julia Hickman Trammed Tapestry Kit
  • The opportunity to donate to charity while also enjoying shopping
    • While I do visit high street shops to have a look at the latest fashions, i rarely buy, except in the sales. Spending an hour looking through other people’s rubbish and unwanted goods is as interesting. And if I am tempted to buy there is minimal guilt. This is also compounded by knowing I can bring the item back when I am tired of it and it will likely sell again. Double, treble, win.
  • The pure joy of getting a bargain
    • While I don’t ever resent paying top prices I also love to get a bargain. I often buy bestsellers for £1, with an original cover price of about £8. There is no cheaper thrill than five hours of book reading for £1. Sometimes I find a pure silk or vintage mohair scarf for £2.50, or a nice piece of fabric for £5.
  • Desperate measures
    • Charity shops on the high street are the best answer to a wardrobe emergency. One UK holiday caught us unaware when we found ourselves in heavy rain. I was able to clothe a family of five in raincoats, anoraks, wellies and hats. Once when Esme was horribly sick in the car I was able to get a new party dress in the next town. If I am underdressed for the weather I can always find a jersey or dry shoes for rock bottom prices. Sometimes these items are actually nice and remain in the wardrobe for years.
  • Learning
    • Obviously when you buy something old, like an embroidered table-cloth, a vintage book or a second-hand crockery you can examine it closely or look it up on the internet and find out something about its history – a voyage of discovery that I enjoy.


Sewing with a Plan requires 11 items. Having done a grey skirt and a yellow jersey I needed to get back to sewing.


Moving on to my second neutral – navy – I decided on a basic pair of trousers. Although I have a few vintage trouser patterns I went back to basics and made a new trouser block.

I dug out Winnie, and got to work. This book costs about £12 – the cost of one modern “Indie” pattern.

It has been a while since I made a trouser block, but it was really easy. If you struggle to get trousers to fit just go for it.

You may remember that I have fairly wide hips and a small waist. I was never able to buy trousers that fitted well over the years.  Making pants to fit was what drove me into dressmaking classes in the 1980s.

I often think making your own patterns is time-consuming, but only took an hour or so (a bit longer to trace off the pattern), and I was able to make a pair of pants that fitted really well. Because I am paranoid about my hips being too big (for most commercial trousers) I measured really loosely around the hip area. Consequently the pattern was a bit too curvy and I had to alter the pattern slightly by shaving an inch or so off the outer leg/hip/thigh area but that is the only alteration I made. You may be able to see that on my pattern (compared to the book diagram) the hips are excessively curved.

Although Aldrich suggests making the trousers wider or narrower in the leg to match current fashions, I left them at the middle position (“alternative leg shaping” on the right of the diagram). This is a little wider than I generally wear, and also a little longer. But I felt ready to try a middle-of-the road classic shape on this occasion.


Four pieces only, and the most simple approach.

I am not keen on waist bands. They either cut in or feel sloppy. As with my grey skirt I left the waist band off. I drafted a couple of facings, but after consideration of bulk issues, I just finished the inside of the waist line with a nice piece of Liberty bias binding, made by my friend Linde Carr. This is such a comfortable finish.

It is always possible to make garments directly from the blocks and get a nice fit. But when I tried these on, in plain navy cotton fabric (with a little elastane in it), they looked so boring I wanted to do something to make them a bit more exciting.

Worried that the SWAP this year favours TNT and neutrals and (frankly) dull but wearable capsules, I didn’t want to jazz them up too much. But then I thought they had a nautical look and that maybe a couple of buttons on the front darts would give a bit of interest. I had four nice vintage buttons from the charity shop and I used these.

Nautical trousers
Nautical looks

Bonus knitwear

Thinking neutrals I decided to knit up all my small left over pieces of neutral merino yarns – two beiges, a couple of creams and some grey, and a couple of pastels – lemon and pink. I was inspired by Neapolitan ice-cream. But when I put it on Nick suggested it looked like a rock formation and named it Lyme Regis. This jumper may be part of the SWAP or not. We shall see.

The photos below do not show off the trousers very well. All they demonstrate is that the fabric contains stretch. And that my husband has bought a boat. Oh well. They are nice trousers and I have no doubt I will include them in the SWAP. It is just anonymous dark pants are not my usual choice of legwear.

Nautical but nice
We got a boat!

Next week we are going up to see my Mum who is in hospital again (dislocated hip). So I may not get something made for SWAP next week. At the moment my outline plan is

  1. Grey pencil skirt (done)
  2. Grey evening circle skirt or trousers
  3. Grey Chanel jacket
  4. Navy trousers (done)
  5. Navy pleated skirt
  6. Navy jacket or coat
  7. Westwood skirt in navy plaid
  8. Yellow jersey (done)
  9. Red jersey or maybe a striped (patterned) jumper
  10. Painted silk blouse
  11. Another top

Eleven weeks for eight items is realistic. Especially as I could use a Ready to wear navy jacket (item 6) and a previously made top (11), which means six items in 11 weeks. All good.