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!

A-Line Skirt hack!

Hello lovelies! Having been very inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee a couple weeks ago, here is my A-Line Skirt Hack based on my super duper popular Patternless A-Line Skirt Tutorial to make an Inverted Box Pleated Skirt as they did.

The original Tutorial is amazingly simple, and I highly recommend it if you are learning to sew or want a quick make for a cute Skirt. You need just 1 and a half meters of fabric for the A-Line version, but you’ll need 2 meters for this Pleated version, which will make a knee length Skirt just as beautiful as Tamara’s was!

pleats 1

Firstly, you will need to make up the Pattern for the A-Line Skirt. In the original Tutorial this is simply drawn on to the fabric after taking a couple basic measurements (a la Chinelo!) however, for the Pleated Skirt you will need to make it up on Pattern Paper.

Once you have your Pattern, divide the waist line and hem in to three, and draw a dotted line between the markings as illustrated. Cut up these lines to separate the pieces, the tape the first piece on to another piece of paper. Decide how deep you would like your Pleats- the Great British Sewing Bee had 8cm, and I like 12cm- then measure from the first dotted line out by this measurement… i.e. 8cm. Measure and mark out along the whole line, then tape the second piece along this line, effectively moving it 8cm away. Repeat for the third piece.

pleats 1 pleats 2 pleats 3 pleats 4

Mark a circle at the top of each of the the dotted lines. This is to mark where you will need to make Tailors Tacks which will help you see where the Pleats are to be made, and keep the Skirt the same size as it is made up.

Fold your Skirt Fabric Selvedge to Selvedge (so you get a long, thin folded piece), then lay the Pattern on the Fold, pin the pattern and cut around. Move the pattern down, flip over and lay next to the Selvedge as illustrated and pin and cut again. If you have an obvious print, you will need to match it.

cutting diagram pleat skirt

Before you un-pin each piece, place Tailors Tacks on each mark. Tailors Tacks are a great way to mark your fabric without resorting to a pencil or snipping the fabric as you can with Notches.

pleats 5 pleats 7 pleats 8

To make the Pleats, fold the fabric, right sides together, so that the Tailors Tacks lie on top of each other. Pin, then press the Pleat flat, distributing the Pleat evenly each side…

pleats 9 pleats 17 pleats 15

pleats 2

… thanks to The Great British Sewing Bee for that! Once pinned, you can follow the rest of the A-Line Skirt Tutorial and sew the Skirt up.

Alternatively, and this word strikes fear in to my classes because they know what I am going to suggest will probably be exciting enough they want to do it but difficult!, you can sew the Pleats down before continuing to sew up the Skirt! I love this technique, it makes the skirt incredibly flattering, and distributes the flair about the Hip and not the Waist (which is great if you aren’t stick thin).

pleats 10 pleats 17 pleats 15 pleats 16

Fold the Pleat so that the Tailors Tack matches as before. Place the second Pin 12cm down. Using the Tailors Tack as a guide, sew straight down (for example, if you have done 8cm Pleats, you will have 4cm Seam Allowance at this point and will need to sew 4cm away from the edge from top to bottom) until you reach the Pin marking 12cm. Remember to reverse stitch at the top and bottom. Distribute the Pleat evenly on each side as before, pin and then Top Stitch down each side of the Pleat on the Front as in the last picture.

Once you have pinned your Pleats, or sewn them down, you can continue to sew up the Skirt at in the A-Line Skirt Tutorial. You can choose to sew it up with the Simple Zip method included in the Tutorial or use an Invisible Zipper, or a Lapped Zip as in The Great British Sewing Bee.

As ever, I’d love to see your makes! Happy stitching!

A sewing pouch to rival Mary Poppins’ bag!

So, how do you fit all this…


Into something manageable to carry around with you to fittings, back stage or on a film set?



This is actually something I teach on my Introduction to Sewing workshop, with Flo-Jo Boutique. I stumbled across various tutorials for Sewing Pouches, or Wallets via Pinterest  (follow me there too, it’s a mine of information!), when looking for inspiration for a small project to do with Adults. My normal army of small projects is firmly aimed at a younger audience however; I felt it important to make something even though the Ladies (& Gents!) booked on the workshop are only with me for 3-hours. I believe it helps them remember the various techniques covered in the class, & there’s something lovely about learning how to use a sewing machine for the first time & still being able to take something away with you.

My first class looked at me in horror as I explained that after a mere two hours being taught the finer points of the sewing machine for the first time in their lives, fortified only with tea, they would be making something which included a Patch Pocket, Seaming & a dollop of their imaginations… They lived to tell the tale, & all thoroughly enjoyed it too! I have two more coming up in quick succession so I shall remember to photograph their creations this time!

On a much, much funnier note, I held my first exam this week!

My Teen Sewers’ have become shockingly lazy over the last weeks & I noticed a worrying trend of simply moving to the machine which was still threaded up & working when the one they had been using went wrong, the devils! So, armed with a stack of Haribo shaped bribes I made each & every one of them load & insert a bobbin, thread a machine, sew a 1cm seam & zig-zag neaten the edge of the seam! I felt so mean, but it flagged up a few who had missed out on a couple of the finer points & has already improved their stitching so I feel slightly vindicated & I am sure I shall be dreaming up another pop quiz soon!! Suggestions on a postcard…

Happy stitching!

Notions: Beginning to Sew Up the Simple Skirt

Hopefully you have seen my previous post How to Make a Simple Pattern Free Skirt, I do hope it has inspired you, & those of you new to sewing, to make an A-Line Skirt!

Carrying on, I wanted to give some instructions on how to cut the skirt out & start to make it up. Often in my classes I am asked questions about the simplest of techniques & I am slowly realizing that whilst there are many lovely books out there with gorgeous photographs of dresses, tops & other garments to make in them, they sometimes skip steps, or brush over the finer points.

aline 1

Firstly, you will need 1.5m of a nice 100% Cotton fabric. I have chosen the above from Flo-Jo Boutique, which is most jolly! I’ll hopefully be adding the Velvet Ribbon Trim & pockets as Tilly did in The Great British Sewing Bee. Also needed are a 25cm Zip, Thread to match your fabric, a 1m x 10cm strip of Iron On/Fusible Interfacing & a 1,.5cm Button.

Fold your fabric from Selvedge to Selvedge, & with Right Sides together & lay flat on your cutting surface. It should look long & thin, with a fold along one side & both Selvedges  matched on the other side. All of this is covered in the How to Make a Simple Skirt instructions, & you will need to follow them to make the pattern.

For the purposes of this I have cut my pattern on Pattern Paper:

aline 2 aline 3

I have marked all the instructions on the paper: where to cut on the fold, the Centre Front & Centre Back, the Grain Line & Seam Allowances for future reference, and cut it out ready to use. 

Once your Pattern is cut- whether directly on to your Fabric, or as a Paper Pattern- pin the Fabric/Pattern to the Fabric as directed & cut out. These photos show a little more clearly what I have illustrated here.

aline 4 aline 5
Pin in to the corners first, then around the rest of the Skirt. When cutting out, lay your scissors flat on the cutting surface & cut. This will enable you to be a lot more accurate!

Once you have made & cut the Pattern, & cut the fabric out (don’t forget your Waistband!), you are ready to start sewing! On the pattern I have designed you have a 1cm Seam Allowance & somewhat scarily, the first thing to do is insert your Zip. As in the majority of sewing, this is all in the preparation. Firstly, mark the length of the zip on the Centre Back seam- line the top of the Zip up with the top of the Skirt, & put a pin in the fabric alongside the metal Zipper end.

aline 15

With 1cm Seam Allowance, sew straight down the Centre Back Seam. From the top to the Pin marking the Zip end use a large stitch, which will be easy to unpick. Reverse stitch a couple of times over the Pin, then change the stitch length to a normal straight Seaming Stitch & continue to the end, as illustrated above.

aline 17 aline 16

Introducing Mr Vader, my swanky new Iron! 

Iron the Seam ‘out’ (also known as ‘busting your seam’ in the U.S.!), as illustrated above from top to bottom.

aline 19

Lay the Zip- with the opening lying down as shown- along the seam. Pin at the top, then continue to ‘roll’ the Zip down, matching the opening of the Zip, with the opening of the Seam, along the length of the Zip. It is important to make sure the opening of the Zip is lined up as closely as possible with the opening of the Skirt Seam, this will ensure the finished Zip opening runs neatly along the opening of the Skirt.

aline 18

Pin at a 90o Angle to the Zip, & Pin every few centimetres to ensure the Zip is lying directly over the Seam & wont move too much as it is sewn in.

You will need to attach your Zipper foot on to your Sewing Machine, then Sew neatly down each side of the Zip.  

aline 20

Start at the top & at the edge of the Zip, then curve the seam in to Sew alongside the Zip.  Because the Head of the Zip is so large, this ensures you leave room for the Zip Head to slide closed. 

aline 22

I always Sew on the Outside of the garment. Whilst this is slightly more difficult, & you have to use the Zipper foot to ‘feel’ the edge of the Zip so as not to Sew too close (or the Zip wont open!), it gives a more polished look to the garment. 

Remember, you are able to unpick at any point! Don’t worry if you make a little wobble, or are unhappy. Just unpick & start again as it is worth getting this right so your Skirt looks as nice from the back as the front. Once you have Sewn in the Zip, Unpick the Central Seam, remove all threads & check your Zip works!

Confused? See step 1 here, step 3 here and step 4 here.

Phew! I will be posting the next steps soon. Until then…

Happy stitching!

New stitches

I thought I’d share what I have been working on in my downtime this week. I’ve really gotten into embroidery over the last few months, and I am excited to try my remembered skills out on my Mini Top Hats!

I am making quite a few Mini Top Hats at the moment as my Etsy shop is sadly lacking in this department…

white hat 1 white hat 2

I get quite a lot of messages on Etsy about commissions for White Silk Mini Top Hats, so I thought I’d make up this little number. As the wedding season is fast approaching, I have made it a little more romantic than I normally might but I have to say I am very pleased with the result. The flowers are appliqued, then embroidered over. I shall probably add in some beads as well for the texture.

When I have finished decorating I still have to trim… can’t decide if I want feathers or not but I am definitely going to add in a buttoned on Birdcage Veil. I haven’t done one in a  while & in looking back over my Etsy sales they were popular, & look fantastic with the added bonus that they can be removed.

I also have a couple Mini Top Hat Kits in White Silk, & wanted some example photographs to show people what can be done with the plainer kits. I have been surreptitiously listening in to the conversations customers have about my little kits & one of the notes seems to be that the more colourful  Kits really stand out but the plain black or white look a little dull, & they wonder what to do with them! Hopefully this will inspire…

Happy stitching!

Bath Artisan Market

Tomorrow I shall be at the biggest market I have shown at to date! Somewhat disappointingly I have been unable to finish my capsule collection of dresses for it as I had hoped however; this is because I displayed some restraint & decided to make them immaculately rather than rush as I normally would… so in the end it’s good news as I shall soon be able to look forward to photographing my first model shoot outside of Film or Theater work! Yay!! Of course I have to find my model first, which is proving surprisingly difficult, but interesting.

In the mean time I have the following to show you. The very beautiful flier for The Bath Artisan market:


They have just released the line up of bands and they sound great! I shall definitely be letting you all know how this goes!!

Secondly this:

hat 3

How crazy awesome is this hat?! It has been residing on the mantel piece in my living room, & every time I am bored I have been adding more & more detailing to it! It will be debuting tomorrow, & I shall list it on Etsy if it isn’t snapped up by some lucky lady. I have been getting a lot of commission orders for bespoke Mini Top Hats- which start at £45.00, & ship in 7-10 days so get your order in for the Summer wedding season!!


fas 1

New packaging for my Fascinator Kits! Isn’t it adorable? They look like delightful little chocolates, all ready to be snapped up. They too are debuting tomorrow & I can’t wait to see the reaction they get.

It’s all happenin’ here at Midnight Heights, wish me luck!

Happy stitching!

Larks & Samples

I thought I should probably share these totally gorgeous samples I made for Flo-Jo Boutique on Friday… they are for my Machine Embroidery Class & my 1/2 Term Children’s Workshops, & will help the students figure out what they are doing, & aiming for, when creating their own projects. I very much wanted to take them all home with me!!

machine embroidery 1 machine embroidery 2

My machine embroidery samples… pins & a tape measure!! I think I’m a little in love with this…
cushion 1 bunny and bag
My Pinwheel Patchwork cushion, so simple yet so effective!, & an appliqued, decorated Tote Bag with a Bunny. I think I may have made over 50 Bunny’s now, but this is the most colourful!

bunny 1 bag 2 bag 1

A Bunny in the fabric, & the Tote Bag. Don’t you just love all their fabrics?!

Don’t forget to check out the full list of all my courses here … they book up quick to don’t delay!

Happy stitching!

Sewing is good for you!!


Surprise! Sewing May Be Good For Your Heart!
A clinical study commissioned by the Home Sewing Association (HSA) reveals that women who sew – both skilled as well as novice sewers — experience a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate when compared to women who participate in other leisure-time activities. Heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate are three key factors in the measurement of stress. The study’s results appear to indicate that sewing helps women to relax while they focus on a creative activity. 

I am always astonished when people I teach are surprised that they are having fun when learning to sew! I think it is one of the only activities a person can truly make something useful, whilst having fun and learning a new skill, all the while relaxing.  I regularly teach women with quite high profile jobs & it is always a pleasure to see them start to relax in to the activity & start to smile more, & even more so when they become repeat offenders & start to come to one of my drop-in classes!

So, whether it is a one-on-one session, or one of my one off classes like Machine Embroidery or Make do & Mend or something a little more challenging like Corsetry or Patchwork, why not learn something new in 2013? If you already know how to sew, why not join me for a quick brush up before heading off in to the world of the online marketplace and making yourself a few bucks? Or, as the article above tells us, why not just join in for a fascinating and completely absorbing new hobby which is good for you!

New courses for 2013:


This 4-week course starts on the 8th of January from 6.30pm at Flo-Jo Boutique, Gloucester Road. Continues from the first Tuesday of every month on a rolling basis. This course is ideal for beginners, or as a brush up on skills you already have. Bring your own simple pattern from Shift Dresses to Kids Clothes, & your own fabric and learn skills to make a lovely garment to fit perfectly.

Make do & Mend

10am-1pm Saturday 19th January at Flo-Jo Boutique, Gloucester Road.

Bought something on a whim at a Charity Shop & it doesn’t fit? Want to learn something specific like piping cushions, inserting zips or hemming? Come along to this one off course and we’ll tackle all of them!

Machine Embroidery

10am-1pm Saturday 9th February at Flo-Jo Boutique, Gloucester Road.

This one off morning course is so cool! Learn how to create and build up patterns using a machine to freehand machine stitch.


6-8.30pm for 5 weeks from Thursday 7th Feb.

This includes all the materials except one meter of your choice for the outside of the corset. Over the course you will learn traditional corset making techniques  so that you have a finished product with steel stays and fastenings. I have made up complete instruction sheets, and give you support via email too so from Gothic to Victorian fantasies by way of Burlesque & Vintage glitz come along to make the corset, tailored to fit you, of your dreams!

Pattern Cutting

6-8.30pm for 4 weeks from Thursday 14th March.

In this introduction to pattern cutting you will learn how to take accurate body measurements and transfer this to paper to make pattern blocks. Learn the basics of pattern manipulation and the process of creating toiles to develop your own designs. This is a course which doesn’t run often so be sure to book your place soon!

Watch out for other courses like Patchwork and Basic Dressmaking too!! I look forward to meeting you soon.

Happy stitching!

Original article from The Thrifty Stitcher.