Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Book Review: The Sewing Book by Alison Smith

I have updated this review on the 05/04/2013.... here lots more pics there!

Please follow my blog to receive updates!

Just giving you another review of one of the books that I have bought recently. This time it is the Alison Smith book "The Sewing Book" or maybe a more accurate description would be "THE Sewing Book". Yes, THE. This book is good, very very good. I have it on my bedside table when I am trying to figure out a plan of action with a project. Alison Smith herself is experienced to an enviable level of expertise. She knows the lot and this is shown in how she writes, from the basics to the couture. The easy way and the fabulous way. The new school and the old school. Its all in here... and I like it.

When I was first given my sewing machine, I quickly went on and bought this book (I need books, books and more books when I start a new hobby) and, as previously reviewed, "The Dressmaker's Bible". Never before has the Bundana hit jackpot on two purchases at the same time. Where the 'Bible' loses brownie points in my view for being lacking in important details, this is spot-on. Broken up into 3 chapters of 'tools', 'techniques' and 'patterns', you'd be hard pushed to find something sewing that isn't covered in this book.


This is again the usual explanation of all things haberdashery and the equipment that you are more than likely to find yourself buying once you are hooked on sewing. What is quite superb is the fabric section, every single fabric (I reckon) is here, pictured and explained with its properties, weaves and general uses. Excellent and seeing as it is only 10 pages of information, it's already worth its money spent on the book by this excellent section. My eyes were suddenly opened with the amount of fabric available out there! WOW! I take my hat off to the author for this, it is excellently written and left me with no hanging questions after reading it (no-one is going to remember them all, but it was a good idea to familiarise myself with them all). THEN... jackpot again, a thorough and EXCELLENT section of patterns- what they are, why they mightn't fit and a concise and explanatory section of how to increase or decrease the pattern of pretty much any piece of clothing.


Thorough, precise and fab. This chapter was very helpful when I was inserting my first invisible zipper. That is a yardstick that I have been using with these books! The tone of this book is very clear. I often find with 'how to' books that they start with some very simple tricks, explanations and goals... then BAM, into really technical and almost incomprehensible instructions. This book does not do that. You are taken by the hand and talked through the whole process. I truly believe that nothing in sewingland is impossible. It just takes courage, madness and passion to get anything done. There is no exclusivity in sewing, you are all welcome... just give it time and patience. I could talk about everything that instructions are given for in this chapter... but basically, its everything. Darts, tucks, pleats, gathers, facings, collars, sleeves, waistlines, belts, pockets, linings, interfacings, mending, couture techniques. I am able to read and understand EVERYTHING in this section (I would like to add that I cannot DO everything, no no NO... just understand) and as it comes up in my dressmaking development, I will turn to this book time and time again. 


Rubbish. Sorry to let you down. But it really shouldn't be in here. I don't like one thing in here except maybe the Kimono Dressing Gown. I understand WHY it is there, to consolidate techniques that are in the book. But no, not one thing from this chapter has inspired me to sit, measure and make. I have said on previous posts that I am a dressmaker not a good or enthusiastic crafter. So sewing a shower tidy has never or will ever float my Bundana boat. Still though, the pieces given as projects really lack what I would call individualised sewing, they are just generic. Nope, not a success. Even showing the readers how to make a patchwork throw cushion would have been lovely idea- individual, yet easy. The modern ethos on why people are sewing their own things in 2012 is totally lost here, you will see what I mean when you buy the book....


No, that is not my conclusion... well, it is basically. I doubt there is a seamstress out there who would not benefit from this book. I use it with every pattern that I get, I plan and research what method I will use and swot-up like a good one. This book and maybe a few more points of contact is pretty much all you need. I am green as grass with sewing, this is only my opinion but I truly believe that it has come on leaps and bounds with this book.

Good Points:
  • Clear, concise and I'd say exhaustive of the techniques of sewing your own clothes
  • Clear pictures and diagrams are very informative
  • Able to pass any Bundana test of ''I bet it hasn't got this in it.... oh, it has''
Bad Points:
  • Pretty poor project section
  • Very large book, not as sewer-friendly as the 'Dressmaker's Bible'

I bought mine from : Amazon UK

Sunday, 12 February 2012

12 in 2012... My Challenge and Lists!

I'm in, I'm in, I'm really REALLY in! If there is one thing that can keep me focused in life and achieve goals- crossing an item of a list as 'done'- is it. I love it, so satisfying. 

Suzie @ Su Sews So-So has a group of peeps (me included) to come up with 12 aims of the year and work to attain them goals- and write about them on their blogs. So, here is mine:

12 Dresses...

1. Angela Kane's - Pinafore Dress -DONE  
2. Jamie Christina - Sunny Day Dress - DONE
3. Burda Sewing Handbook Dress
4. Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook- Sweetheart Neck Sheath Dress
5. Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook- Asymmetrical Flounce Dress
6. Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook-  The Lined Dress with Gathered Sleeves
7. Sewaholic - Lonsdale Dress
8. Jamie Christina - Honey Girl Dress
9. Colette Patterns- Peony
10. Colette Patterns- Eclair
11. Colette Patterns- Macaroon
12. Colette Patterns - Rooibos

12 Separates...

1. Colette Patterns - Sorbetto DONE and a few more refashions from old clothes (pending...) 
2. Burda Sewing Handbook - Skirt
3. Burda Sewing Handbook - Blouse
4. Burda Sewing Handbook - Bag
5. Butterwick - Cape 3566
6. Colette Patterns - Negroni Shirt
7. A pair of Jeans
8. Colette Patterns - Clovers (Trousers)
9. Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook - Scalloped Hem Skirt
10. Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook - Flutter Sleeve Blouse
11. Sewaholic - Pendrell Blouse
12. Colette Patterns - Beignet

12 Skills...

1. Darts - DONE!
2. Inserting Elastic - DONE!
3. Bias Tape - DONE (ish)
4. Zips
5. Inserting Sleeves
6. Cuffs
7. Gathering
8. Lining
9. Tucks and Pleats
10. Pockets 
11. Necklines and Collars
12. Buttons and Fastenings

12 Things...

1. Dressmaker's Dummy
2. Pinking Shears
3. Burda Sewing Handbook DONE!
4. Colette Sewing Handbook
5. French Curve
6. Overlocker
7. Tracing Wheel - DONE
8. Invisible Zipper Foot
9. Rolled Hem Foot
10. Blind Hem Foot
11. Wildcard
12. Wildcard

Seeing as I am a late comer to the 12 in 2012, I have included some of what I have done already in 2012 to catch up somewhat. Acceptable, I think. I'm sure Suzie will tell me if not!

What I will do, is as I complete a project I will refer back to my lists of 12 and then cross them off accordingly with updates of my progress. Now I have 4 lists of 12, I feel its attainable but a stretch... exactly what's needed to get myself going. 

My ultimate aim this year is to truly feel like I have gone from 'novice' to 'intermediate' this year. My sewing classes were cancelled due to lack of interest and numbers, so I am going to teach myself with the amazing patterns, books and tutorials, community and blogs available online. Please feel free to be critical about what I do, I won't improve if I never get any critcism!

I'm going to make Clovers from Colette Patterns and refashion this dress into a Sorbetto. That's next up.....

... with black bias tape? I think its a winner? I love this dress, but I am a tad bored of it. It's about 5 years old. I think a Sorbetto would be cool with a pair of shorts and sandals for summer.



Saturday, 11 February 2012

Valentine's Oven Gloves... How I did it!

I made these oven gloves for Q and I took pictures as I went along as I *think* I found some quite interesting methods of doing this! I got given this fabric on Freecycle and used red stitching and bias tape as its a luuuuuuuurve gift! I do dressmaking, not generally stuff like this... But I think that a shirt, like other seamstresses seem to have gone for is a bit beyond me right now (both ability and time!)

First off, I drafted a pattern, not rocket science or anything- just the main body of the gloves, which I cut on the fold and the glove part which I made slightly larger at the wrists so Q can get his hands in!

I cut out 4 gloves of wadding and one main body in wadding. For the fabric I had 4 gloves and 2 main body pieces of fabric.

For the gloves I sandwiched 2 of the fabric pieces between one of the glove wadding pieces.

For the main body, I made a sandwich of one glove wadding and one main body wadding... then used the fabric as the bread! I did this to protect a bit more against heat by adding thickness.

 After pinning my fabric sandwiches... I then used my quilting ruler and using the white horizontal line on the fabric and angled the ruler 45 degrees... 

... Then I used 2 pieces of tape on that 45 degree angle and then got the old sewing machine ready...

... then I sewed on each side of the tape!

I kept on moving the pieces of tape and sewing... then again using my ruler I found the opposite 45 degree angle and sewed some more.....

Quilting, quilting and more quilting later......


I then bias taped the bottom of the glove and then attached the gloves to the main body by stay-stitching....

I then bias taped the whole of the edge of the gloves.... yes, I was that determined to make something nice for Q!


.... DONE!


  • Bias taping is still an art-form I have yet to master. T'was my own fault for making the thumb part of the pattern. It was really was hellish to sew and tape around.
  • He loves them, but loves them so much he doesn't want to use them!!
  • It took ages! Ladies and gentlemen who make and sell stuff like this for a living, I take my hat off to you. This was a day job from drafting to quilting to bias taping, I was exhausted!

Q has been great these last few months, helping me pin my clothes, turning up my hems, bringing me copious amounts of Diet Cokes and snacks and hours spent on his own when we used to be chilling out together. He deserved something nice and seeing as cooking is his 'thing'... I thought, why not?! 

OK, back to dressmaking... Onwards with the Clovers. I now have the pattern traced and altered. I'm keeping original patterns intact now and tracing off them. I like it for preservation, thrift and making my mates clothing! Just need to decided on the fabric of my wearable muslin now.... hmmmmm. I'm still thinking 'Dresden'.



Time Taken: 6 hours
Pattern: Bundana Original
Make again? Yes, but probably miss off the thumb bits and just make it more streamlined for an easy peasy bias experience!
Cost: €3 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Sunny Day Dress by Jamie Christina...."The Winkerton Flasher"

I have a confession... I have a 'Tramp Stamp' that went a bit mad! No, I jest... I don't. Its a cat and a lotus flower and blah blah blah. BUT, being from my shoulder blades down to my tailbone, I don't often get to flash it off... this dress however can do this. Winkerton is my bestest friend in the whole wide world who gave me some inspiration and her opinion when deciding what to with this fabric.... thus it's called the 'Winkerton Flasher'. This naming of the garment I make has stuck, expect this everytime I make something!

What do you think? I really like it... the orange of my hair and the mint of the dress makes me hungry looking at it, like a dessert... where is the chocolate?! I like the fit and the style... very 'chilling about on a sunny day' aka very Bundana.

In regards to the pattern, it was a dream! I am sooooo used to yards and inches now (even though my little metric brain thinks its gobbledegook) and other than that, the pattern was like putting your spoon through a chocolate mousse- easy and soooooo satisfying!

OK, so my little reflection about the dress...

  1. Greaseproof paper does NOT work ever so well as a tracing paper substitute. It's OK... hmmmmm.... well, you know..... it did the trick. Problems that made the process an unhappy one were that I had to use a pencil as NOTHING else would stay on the paper (grease included presumably, ahem). Pencils go blunt like HELL! What a pain in the posterior. Also, the paper is so shiny and cutting out was a task not to be undertaken lightly, the light bulbs, sun, my fuming red eyes would all reflect happily off the surface and obscuring totally my view of my lines to cut. Worth a shot though, no?! €1.89 rather than €8 on tracing paper here in Ireland. As I say, it was fine... just not enjoyable, at all.
  2. I do not have any shoes to go with the dress, yet. Excuse for shopping?! Go on, then.
  3. I can't wear it because it's still freezing in Ireland
  4. I love it though! Get me, wearing pink! If they could see me now. ('They' being people who only know me as 'Brown Cathy', a colour during college I just LOVED!! Indie, Hippy, Belle and Sebastian 'Twee and Studious'... all phases of my fashion tastes during that hormonally charged and generally fun and drunken time of my life were accommodated with the wonderful colour of brown.) OK, so I am not Barbara Cartland pink, but this is the best effort I have made in a long long time.... those flecks of pink you see are a landmark for me.
  5. Thou shall not rush. I rushed the gathering because I didn't enjoy it. I also didn't like doing the hand stitching so much, so I rushed that. Don't get me wrong... I love making clothes, but I have this habit (in life as well as in dressmaking) of rushing and bodging over things that I don't enjoy... I didn't like the gathering because my sewing machine wouldn't produce a stitch that I could gather, so I had to do it by hand... couture, you know... But I don't like what I did, so that gathering is a bit bulky and not how I would ideally like it
  6. Cotton is too heavy and bulky for lining. Next dress will have no skirt lining or a VERY much thinner one. Caffy the Cheapskate did NOT strike again. The rest of this white cotton will be used for muslin... which I MUST start doing. But I lined the whole thing, used catchstich and it looks rather good. It's just a tad too heavy and clumpy.I've used a lickle wickle bit of the Iced Frappe cotton from Backstitch, it's a winner folks! Get some! It's a beaut of a colour and is going to make another beautiful garment for summer... watch this space
In conclusion....

I like it, Q isn't so keen. I think it's girlie and he not used to that! Oh well, its my new staple for the sun that Ireland WILL get. Chilling in the garden with a chilled Pinot Grigio. Oh yes... my willpower will make this happen! Anyways, Jamie Christina is a name to watch. The dress was a dream to put together and with clear instructions and a clear, concise and fun voice guiding you through, I skipped away from making this dress feeling that little bit more closer to sewing well. Success!

Next up.... Colette Pattern 'Clover' Trousers in...


Dresden Blue. Can't beat a pair of trousers in blue, can ya?!

Slightly tempted to make them in red, but we shall see. As always, this is an idea... not set in stone!



Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bundana Summer and REVIEW "The Dressmakers Bible"

Just thought that I would add a bit of bumpf and filler to my blog as I am taking sooo long to complete my next project!! Was anyone else a slow starter?! Well.. I was also waiting for my payday and deliveries to arrive of the:

Colette 'Clover' Trouser Pattern


Jamie Christina Summer Day Dress Pattern

I purchased both through the fabulous Backstitch Shop. Great patterns, fabric and information carefully selected for the discerning and fashion conscious dressmaker AND Alice is a dream, your parcels come so beautifully packaged- you feel a villain opening them up. That didn't last long, that feeling, as I knew that I had my two 'Summer Staples' inside and three shades of Bundana Summer in 2.5m lengths....


'Iced Frappe'


OK, so be prepared for.... first is the dress and then the trousers. Watch this space for them... I think that the dress will take me about a week to do and I am hoping I will have it complete by Sunday for a blog to read with your tea, white pudding and of course whilst waiting for Antiques Roadshow to come on, spot on... no?!

Also, I am awaiting the delivery of The Burda Sewing Handbook and The Colette Sewing Handbook: 5 Fundamentals for a Great Sewing Experience. I think that they will keep me going for a while.... or probably not! Along with Burda Dressmaking Paper, Tracing Wheel and Prym Carbon Paper.

OK already, to the review section of this blog... I am an obsessive person by nature. I have had umpteen phases in my life.... Kayaking, playing the guitar, playing the flute, collecting Animal World magazine, collecting National Geographic magazine, making my own jewelry, being a goth, being an indie girl, being a rocker, I've wanted to be a journalist, a UN worker, being a hippy, being studious, being twee...... but Dressmaking has really, really, REALLY stuck... finally I can be artistic and not be frustrated when it doesn't go the way I want it to like drawing and playing an instrument (rubbish at both). But I am actually not bad at it. Not that I am bragging, but I seem to be flying with it. I love clothes and I have always dressed anything but normally... ask my long suffering parents.

Now, with this obsessive nature I QUICKLY start to channel all available time and cash into things! So I have gained a fair few books on sewing, already. I thought that any new dressmaker out there, or an expert or a teacher or anyone might just appreciate my view on books and patterns that are out there.

So, I begin.....

The Dressmaker's Technique Bible: A Complete Guide to Fashion Sewing Techniques by Lorna Knight

I bought mine (and actually all of my books) from

  • Spiral-bound and A5(ish) size, opens nice and flat so you can be manipulating your fabric, machine or self whilst you know that the page that you are looking at is staying put.
  • Usual sewing starters help stuff to begin with... what you'll need to buy, what you might want to buy (which I obviously do), reading a pattern. Very nice and clear... maybe missing a few bits and bobs here and there.
  • Fabric Manipulation section is excellent and my first self-taught sewing lesson I got myself to do was go through and do all the seams, the hems, darts and tucks. I love the visuals of the book. The stages are usually drawn rather than photos which is better for my to see it 2D but the finished product is a photo. This section is the best of the book in what it teaches you and how it explains.  
  • Techniques section is also good. Sleeves and necklines are particularly well explained but this book was not adequate enough to help me to insert and make good my first invisible zip. For someone who had never inserted one before the method goes against what you think you will be or should be doing and this is not so well executed and explained in this book.
  • Finally, Embellishment ideas.... good section that can give you some loose ideas to work with and personalise. Some rather antiquated but could be changed to suit according to your taste. Smocking just ain't my thing on sleeves, but hey ho... that's just my opinion.
  • Fabric glossary and general glossary.. very good and thorough index (I've never not been able to find something that I was looking for in it)


.... A damn good book. Easy to orientate around and with clear instructions from an obvious expert. Detail are often lacking, but that is not a fault of the writing of the book.... that is the whole idea of the book. Open, find and use... BAM. Want more info? Then find more info... atleast you know what you're looking for from the visuals given. Yep, it couldn't teach me how to insert an invisible zipper (YouTube did that) BUT next time I will be able to remind myself of how to do it through this book. If you buy this book, you will probably need a few more bigger ones to have a complete reference and explanation... but it will always be used by you.. novice, expert or just inquisitive. It fits on your sewing table, not in the way like other ones and its always there for you. It's the Bible for the seamstress, not the War and Peace.