The Marks & Spencer Shwop & Sew Lab

On the 20th June, I shall be setting up shop inside Marks & Spencer’s, Broadmead as part of The Bristol Big Green Week! Excitement!!

I’ll be running two Workshops, the first being for Beginners to Up-Cycle a T-Shirt in to a Shopping Bag or Infinity Scarf, the second for more intermediate Sewers will turn a T-Shirt into a Shirred Skirt or Tunic! All T-Shirts are being donated by Oxfam, and the event is completely free BUT it’s first come, first served so you’ll need to get in fast!!

You can see all of the details here, and the full Schedule is below:M&SYes, you can meet the winner of The Great British Sewing Bee! Eek!! And just look at all of the good things you can come along to learn, Up-Cycle or repair. I shall definitely be hanging around to take a peek at the Refashion Competition and for Matt’s talk (and a cheeky glass of something!).

I’ll be sharing the makes over the week as I put together the samples and instruction sheets so watch out! I love the idea of Up-Cycling all of those old T-Shirts into useful Shopping Bags (did you know the UK stops giving Shopping Bags out for free at the end of the year? Well, we do so make your own re-usable one now!!).

See you there, can’t wait to meet you all.

Happy stitching!

My 4th Sewing Bee Challenge!

Readers, this post finds me a little sad as I have just realized that there are only six weeks in this years Great British Sewing Bee, and not the eight there were last year. Which means I only have two left after this one! I’ll miss it terribly, but might have a sneaky idea up my sleeve to tide me over until next years ‘Bee… watch this space!

So this weeks Alteration Challenge was all about updating an 80’s Suit and I think I may have taken liberties with this one, but it’s updated in my eyes!

I had initially thought the Suit I bought was from the 1990’s however; it was yet again the best I could do for under £10. In inspecting it closer however;  the label and disintegration as well as construction made me realize it was a little older than that which made me happy. I really am trying to keep as closely to the parameters of the Challenge as I can!

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So, what do you think of this beauty then? It’s actually super thin fabric, and I just saw Victorian when I looked at it which made me smile! I did mean that my plan wasn’t necessarily  ‘modernizing’ it, but I decided that it was changing is sufficiently and making it entirely more wearable so I ploughed ahead!


Label… *snigger*!

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Having made my sketch, I started to drape like the wind as I knew this Challenge was pushing it and I wanted to make sure I finished. Cutting the Coat around the Waist to shorten, I pinned the front where I wanted it to lie, then drew on a piece of Pattern Paper the shape of the Faux Waistcoat I wanted underneath.

I spent a couple of seconds playing around with different Lace and Sequinned Fabric to see which looked best overlaid, and decided upon the Sequin.

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I then pinned the Side and Shoulder Seams to fit, cut them back to 1cm Seam Allowance ready for sewing and cut my new Collar line.

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Using the Pattern I had draped, I used a section of the Bottom of the Coat to cut the Faux Waistcoat. The Coat was lined so luckily I also cut the backing for this section at the same time! Hurrah! I also cut the Squin fabric to size and pinned everything together ready to be stitched.

I also quickly made up and cut a Peplum Pattern… so quickly!!

Now, a few people have been asking how I work so quickly so this is a little insight… I have done all of the above, and it’s all ready pinned and waiting to be sewn. I have laid each section as I’ve pinned it on to the Sewing Table in order of most time consuming/order needed to finish the garment… so starting with the Jacket which needs Side Seams, Shoulder Seams and Bias Binding around the Collar, then the Peplum which had to be cut in three sections and joined to the Bodice, then the Faux Waistcoat which needs to be sewn up, turned out and have three Button Holes popped in. This is what it looks like about a 3rd of the way through the Challenge…


I always try to stack up my workload like this, whatever project I may be working on, as I find it uses the time most wisely and I am able to accurately sew things together incredibly speedily.

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Binding the Collar took a little more time than I had thought- despite ‘ghetto fixing’ it with a Zig-Zag and not pinning! However; I was pleased with it when it went on the mannequin.

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Next in my pile of Sewing was to sew together the Faux Waistcoat, cut back the excess, trim the corners and turn out. After ironing I put three Button Holes in too.

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As each piece of my pile is sewn I pop the back on the mannequin… which can look a little odd!

After piecing the Peplum I pinned it on to the bottom of the Bodice including Pleats at every seam for a little fullness.

At this point I was still hoping to Bias Bind the bottom of the Peplum.


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I had also wanted to cut down the Sleeves a little as they’re quite large however; I was in the last ten minutes at this point and panicking! Instead, I sewed above the hem of the Sleeve, which meant I could cut the lining away then pinned the Sleeve back in to the Armhole with a large Pleat at the top (which I love!).

In the last few minutes I over-locked the Bottom of the Coat- stretching the Bias cut Fabric slightly so at to create a Lettuce Hem- and sewed on Buttons, as well as a couple extra Buttons to catch the Front of the Peplum back, which I think looks extra fancy!

As I was sewing on the very last Button my Brother Ast and his Son Errol popped through the door but I didn’t stop and sewed to the…   very…   last…      second!!

(I think they though me quite, quite mad!!)

But, ta daa!! What do you think of my 4th Sewing Bee Challenge?


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As you can see, I didn’t Bias Bind the Bottom of the Coat- no time!- and the Sleeve still looks a little full however; I’m happy with it. The Fabric is draping quite nicely in the Peplum and Pleats on the Sleeve too. I actually think the shape and fall of the Peplum is rather lovely.

So, as I am a little late this week with the Sewing Bee Challenge, I already know that my next is a Wet Suit! Eep!! Can’t wait for that but I’ll try not to think about it too much, and await the delivery of my Wet Suit!

Have you been inspired? Tried any UpCycles recently? I’d love to see, feel free to share below.

If you have been inspired to learn to sew, or would like to try your hand at the mysterious world of UpCycling, why not pop along to a Sunday Sewing Bee?

Happy stitching!

Notions: Appliqué

This week I have been furiously Up-Cycling some amazing Vintage dresses for sale at the next Gimme Shelter! Vintage Fair. I will be premièring a new collection of Vintage inspired Party Dresses and other pieces of finery there (as well as having my Sewing Machine on hand to quick fix any Vintage clothing you may find from Jayz Bags!).

Appliqué is a really great way to change something quickly, and indeed there is more than one way to go about embellishing a crafty make or up-cycling a piece of clothing.

The quickest is to Iron on some Interfacing to the back of the fabric you would like to Appliqué, which will stop it from fraying, and then stitch around it on the Sewing Machine.

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A slower method, which produces a lovely, raised effect is to Blanket stitch around the edge of the fabric piece by hand.

Securing the thread on the back (for a neater finish), stitch through the Applique fabric and the background fabric then, before pulling the thread tight, thread the needle through the loop of the stitch and pull tight.

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This will outline the piece, and can be done in a contrast or matching coloured thread as shown (above, right).

Happy stitching!

Notions: Simple Patch Pockets

What with The Great British Sewing Bee, the return of Project Runway and Channel 4’s new Vintage inspired show This Old Thing, I thought I would share a few basic sewing techniques which could be used to re-vamp Clothing or customize creations!

The first is Patch Pockets! Who doesn’t like a cheerful Patch Pocket or two? Great on a pair of re-vamped Jeans or Shorts, even better on a Top or T-Shirt, they can be made in contrast fabric, lace fabric, matching fabric… endless fun!

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Cut out the pocket as indicated by your Pattern, or to the size you want (plus 3cm Seam Allowance at the top and at least 1cm Seam Allowance on all sides). Turn the top over 1cm (above, left) towards the back, then 2cm towards the front (above, centre). Pin and stitch- using a 1.5cm Seam Allowance- at each end remembering to reverse stitch at beginning and end (above, right).

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Clip the corners (above, left), then turn out the right way (above, centre). Turn the rest of the pocket edges in by the 1.5cm Seam Allowance and pin. Turn over and pin on to the main fabric of the skirt, shirt or other garment you are making (above, right).


Using the Zipper Foot on your Sewing Machine- to Top Stitch nice and close to the edge!- stitch around the pocket evenly. You may choose to do a fancy top as I have done to strengthen the opening.

And that’s it, simple right? To make the slightly more swanky Curved Patch Pocket click here. You can add them to both the A-Line Skirt– for the Gathered, Pleated or Straight versions- and Pyjamas Tutorials I have in the Tutorials Section as well. Now be off with you to make Patch Pockets for everything!

Happy stitching!

Notions: Add a Waistband to a Skirt

This is a great technique to know & can be used for Up-Cycling Vintage finds- cut the top off a Vintage dress if it doesn’t fit but make a great Skirt for instance, or if you are making a Skirt, or re-sizing a Skirt.

Once you know the Skirt fits, you can construct & attach the Waistband.

Cut a band 10cm longer then the top of your skirt, & a corresponding piece of light weight fusible Interfacing. First, iron on the Interfacing to the back of the Waistband, then Iron the Waistband in half. Finally on one side Iron under 1cm as illustrated.

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Using a nice, hot Iron fold the Waistband over & Iron along the fold. It should lie completely flat. Use your tape measure to measure the 1cm turn up as you Iron. When completed it should look like the lower illustration. 

When you are happy, attach the Waistband to the Skirt. Find the Centre Front of the Skirt by folding in half, place a pin there to mark it. Fold the Waistband in half & place a pin at the half way point of the Waistband. Match the un-ironed side Right Sides Together to the Centre Front of the Skirt as illustrated. Continue pinning all around the Skirt until you have the Waistband completely pinned to the Skirt from Zip edge to Zip edge.

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Pin at a right angle so that your sewing machine will sew straight over the pins. Leave the excess fabric at the end, do not cut it off yet!

Sew, with a 1cm Seam Allowance, from one Centre Back Zip opening the other. Remember to go backwards & forwards at the beginning & end of your seams so they don’t fall open.

Once the Waistband is attached, fold back on itself & line up the pre-ironed fold with the freshly stitched one as illustrated. On the left hand opening cut the excess Waistband fabric down to about 2cm. On the right hand opening cut the excess down to 5cm. Pin both as illustrated, & so that each centimetre Seam Allowance fold is up/back.  Stitch each closed. The Left opening stitching should run parallel with the Zip. The right approx. 3cm away from the Zip. Cut excess fabric & clip the corner.

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Try to line up the Seam Allowance folds accurately as illustrated above left. Once trimmed place at least two pins in to hold everything securely as you stitch. Remember to go back & forth at the beginning & end of each little seam! Trim & clip as illustrated above right so that when turned out a sharp point will be formed. 

Turn the Waistband out the right way, making sure the corners are sharp, & start the pin the Waistband down along the Waist every few centimetres.


Match the pre-ironed fold to the stitching around the top of the Skirt & pin. Try to match this as exactly as possible- do not pin too high or too low. 

When the Waistband has been completely pinned down as best you can, sew along the edge to hold in place. Normally I would do this by hand with a regular Slip Stitch however; for this example I have done the more commercial Machine Top Stitch which; when performed neatly, provides an excellent finish.

You will need to attach the Zipper Foot to the sewing machine before proceeding, this will enable you to stitch as close to the edge of the Waistband as possible for a neater finish however; if you do not have a Zipper Foot just use the regular Foot & be aware you need to watch carefully as you stitch to get as close as possible to the edge.

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Be aware this may take a couple of goes to get right, keep your Quick Unpick close! As illustrated in the first picture above, line the fold of the Waistband up with the Machine Stitches already sewn & pin. Then- & this is where the Zipper Foot comes in handy, because you will be able to see what you are doing- sew along this edge neatly. The finished effect should be that of the centre picture (back), & the right hand picture (front). 

Now, if you’re anything like me you’ll be off to your favourite Thrift Store to find some pieces to Up-Cycle for the Summer! Contrast colour Waistbands are super cool, if there isn’t enough matching fabric, as are contrast fabric weights- try Velvet with Lace for instance.

Hope this has inspired you, happy stitching!