Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


The Serpent – TV series review Episodes 1 & 2

The Serpent is a new 8-part TV series currently showing on the BBC in the UK. It is set in the 1970s and is based on the real-life case of the French serial killer, Charles Sobhraj. In 1975-76 Sobhraj posed as gem dealer in Thailand, Nepal and India and carried out a number murders, particularly targetting Western tourists. The drama also follows the story of Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg. He stumbled upon the case when the parents of a young Dutch tourist write to the Ambassador asking for help in locating their daughter and her boyfriend, who had seemingly disappeared. He spends many months trying to uncover the truth behind their disappearance, despite the disapproval of his superiors.

Episode 1 opens with scenes from a party in Bangkok. Scenes of revelers are juxtaposed with scenes showing the host and hostess attending a sick party-goer and also rifling though his bags for his passport and money.

Going by the names, Alain and Montique, Sobhraj and his girlfriend, Marie-Andree appear as a supremely glamorous couple. They are chic, they have a beautiful house with a pool and their invitations are seemingly generous and warm.

Seventies sophistication?

Seventies sophistication?

There is a blend of vintage footage interspersed with the story, which helps immerse the viewer in the period setting and location. I particularly love the seventies airport scenes.

The next part of the episode introduces young back-packer, Willem shopping for an engagement ring. He falls hook, line and sinker for the suave “Alain” and sophisticated “Monique”, as they persuade Willem that they can make up a sapphire engagement ring at a fraction of the price of those in the  shop window.

Wowza- this orange shirt and the scarf!

Wowza- this orange shirt and the scarf!

Finally, we also get to see the other main protagonist in this series, Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, running late for a social event. He has just been sent a letter from anxious parents, worried that their daughter and her boyfriend have not been in contact for over two months.

A cool seventies tennis outfit

A cool seventies tennis outfit

Unfortunately, in this first episode there is a lot of jumping between different time frames which can be a little confusing. We also get a little back-story involving two back-packers, Celia and soon-to-be Buddhist nun Teresa. They too get swept into the Bangkok party scene and find themselves at the Sobhraj house.

A very glamorous green party dress

A very glamorous green party dress

The episode ends with Herman’s investigation taking an unexpected turn when he gets some interesting information from the Australian embassy.

In Episode 2 we go right back to the start. We see Marie-Andree meeting Sobhraj for the first time. Even at this point Sobraj’s modus operandi appears to be well-developed. Taking a liking to Marie-Andree, and wanting her then boyfriend out of the picture, we see the boyfriend becoming “ill” and retching in the bathroom after the couple accept a drink with Sobhraj.

Then, it’s back to Herman’s investigation. The Thai police seem unable to devote any resource to the case so Herman Knippenberg doggedly continues with his investigations alone.

Oh Mrs Knippenberg you're not as glam as Marie-Andree, but when I finally sure the whole length of this dress I was much more impressed with your elegant style

Oh Mrs Knippenberg you’re not as glam as Marie-Andree, but when I finally saw the whole length of this dress I was much more impressed with your elegant style

He receives a bundle of letters previously written by the young Dutch couple and they mention a “French gem dealer”. Herman quickly follows up on this lead and gets to hear about a woman who has reported “wild accusations” about a French gem dealer to various embassies.

We also see the early days of the romance between Sobhraj and Marie-Andree. Clearly, Marie-Andree is infatuated, but he isn’t quite the attentive boyfriend she desires.

At the beach

At the beach

In this episode we are introduced to Dominique, who Sobhraj brings back to the house because he is “ill”. We’ll get to hear more from him in the next episode.

Fantastic denim skirt with a white belt

Fantastic denim skirt with a white belt

Obviously, being a real case we can all google what happened, so I wasn’t sure how the plot could be developed from here in an exciting way. If you’ve been watching this series so far, you’ll note that I am already a little behind and episode 3 has already aired….but just to let you know, it gets much more interesting….


#MakeNine2021 – Bring on the new

This year, I’ve really been noticing a change in what I need in my wardrobe. I think it is a given that most people are having similar thoughts, with casual wear being worn much of the time. I have a little more of an unusual take on this, as I’m quite happy to wear fitted garments in woven fabrics, whether I’m in the house or the outside world. However, I have noticed that as I’m no longer going into an air-conditioned office much, my wardrobe needs more items to cover greater extremes in temperature and, in particular I do need items that are warm. So this year’s Make Nine does feature many items that can be worn in the winter months.

Make Nine 2021 Drawings

Make Nine 2021 Drawings

Another focus for this year, is to experiment with zero-waste patterns. My first two will include the Pattern Magic “Wearing a Square” and the Clair skirt, see below.

I have had to rein in my creativity a little with my choices and have decided to include four makes using stash fabrics. This is getting more difficult now as I have really slashed the stash, but I have to be realistic about shopping. There may be many months ahead where in-person shopping will not be possible and although I am reasonably confident with on-line purchases for fabrics I use regularly, that won’t cover all my choices. Even worse, I’ve added a knitting project to the nine and I have very little idea about buying wool. Whenever I’ve bought wool before, I have had long conversations with Laura  in Wool Bath. I’ve never been disappointed, so I’m fully intending to do the same for my next knitting project, but even the short journey to Bath is out at the moment.

1. A Winter Jumper

Now that I’ve managed to finish a sweater, albeit one without sleeves in the past year, I should feel confident in my knitting skills to make another sweater. The only problem is that I want to make a very basic knit and I’m struggling to find a pattern. I would like to use the same construction techniques, just to reinforce the knitting skills that I do have. This means a sweater worked flat with set-in sleeves and ribbing at the cuffs, neckline and hem. All in all, a garment which isn’t too complicated, although I could be tempted by some simple colourwork, or cables. Can I find anything, with the whole of Ravelry at my behest? No! It’s possible, I’m being too picky in my search, but if anyone can suggest a good basic pattern I would be super pleased.

2. A Long Wool Skirt

I’m going to use the Clair pattern which is one of Liz Haywood’s zero-waste designs. I’m really looking forward to giving this a go, even though this will be a little out of my comfort zone. I’m still not sure about the fabric yet, although I do feel it should be a wool skirt. I can envisage both long winter walks in this and curling up on the sofa with the fabric tucked over my toes like a blanket! I’m really not sure about the colour, the skirt in my drawing is red, but I’m equally drawn to blue and even using a tartan.

Zero-waste Clair Skirt

Zero-waste Clair Skirt

3. Grey Burda Trousers

On to a less tricky make as far selecting materials goes! I’ve already purchased some grey viscose twill for this make. It drapes well and I’m sure will give the same vibe as the photo in the Burda Style magazine. The “Lady in Red” collection from the August 2019 edition is one of my favourite Burda collections. The whole collection looks super cool. I’ve already made the top with the shirred sleeves.The only thing that holds me back is that the trousers are definitely not a winter make, so I’m not so drawn to starting this one, at least not yet.

Burda Style #120 08/2020

Burda Style #120 08/2020

Burda Style #120 08/2020 line drawing

Burda Style #120 08/2020 line drawing

4. Nikko Top

I bought a small remnant of ribbed cotton jersey at Guthrie and Ghani’s last year. I thought it would come in handy for a Nikko top. I’m not sure what length of sleeves I’ll be able to manage, perhaps the remnant will just make the sleeveless version. Either way, in navy blue it will fit perfectly into the wardrobe, and will pair well with the Grey Burda trousers, and just about anything else blue and grey in my wardrobe.

True Bias Nikko Top

True Bias Nikko Top

5. A Skirt with Scottish tartan

This one is a carry over from last year’s Make Nine. All the usual reasons for procrastination have haunted my relationship with this fabric. I’m scared about cutting into this precious tartan and I’m not sure how to squeeze a kilt out of the yardage I have. This year I’ve really struggled to find time to myself. All the lockdown months and endless hours spent cramped in the house with a noisy teenager haven’t been very conducive to projects that require lots of thought. I intend to start 2021 with quiet optimism for this make.

6. Wearing a square from Pattern Magic

This is another project where I already have the intended fabric and have even made a start on this. In fact, I had to draft the pattern in order to make sure I bought the right quantity of fabric! Pattern Magic is one of those Japanese sewing books that are a little intimidating, but I’ve spotted lots of versions of “Wearing a Square” on line and it is generally regarded as one of the easiest makes in the book.

Pattern Magic: Wearing a square

Pattern Magic: Wearing a square

7. Black Palisade trousers

I fully intended to make these trousers last year, and they were on the 2020 Make Nine list. I did make a pair of shorts using some cotton-linen blend left-overs using the Palisade pattern. Here’s a weird thing, I haven’t had a pair of shorts in my wardrobe, since I was a teenager. I really do not wear them at all, but call it one of those 2020 things, I actually wore this pair rather a lot. I wore them cycling loads and also around the house (where obviously I spent a lot of time) when the weather was hot. Anyway, although I’m not 100% happy with the fit, I need to reduce the rise and lengthen them a little, I’ve actually enjoyed wearing them. Furthermore, I’m absolutely convinced that I need to make the full length trousers out of the same cotton-linen blend. They are so comfortable. I’m also considering whether I should make another shorts version with the improved fit.

Papercut Palisade Trousers

Papercut Palisade Trousers

8. Corduroy trousers

I’ve been mourning the loss of my last corduroy trousers for a while. They were just too threadbare. Corduroy is just the best fabric for a pair of cosy winter trousers and I can’t wait to make these. I do need to make sure that I find a colour that works well with my recently-made brushed cotton shirt. I’m completely undecided about the pattern. I could go all out seventies and choose a vintage flares pattern or alternatively I could use the True Bias Lander pattern.

9. Dropje Vest

More cold weather clothing! I’m thinking that this vest could be worn inside (Yes, it is that cold in this house and I swear I’m half-reptile, because unless warmed by the sun, I’m really sluggish!). I think this make will stretch me as I’ve not made anything quilted before. Again, I’m going to have to buying some more wool fabric, so I may not dive into this immediately.

Dropje Vest

Dropje Vest

All in all, it is an ambitious set of makes, with a few garments that will take me out of my comfort zone and into new territory. I had difficulties reducing my list down to nine makes, and I don’t make much more than nine makes in a year anyway, so my plans have to be achievable and also useful. I did toy with the idea of including underwear in my make nine. I really do need at least nine pairs of knickers! That would have made the Make Nine really dull, but it would have been useful! I’m sure some underwear will, nevertheless feature at some point in the year.


2020 Reflections

I’m writing this post has been almost an after-thought. But hey, I’ve got to the end of this momentous year, so for posterity a few thoughts…..

No big things have been achieved this year within these four walls. We continued to work from home throughout the year. Mr Steely and I both do work which supports key workers and we so really appreciate the work they have done and continue to do throughout the pandemic.

Master Steely spent much of the year being home-schooled. Not an easy task considering the hours we were both working. I think this quote from Lord of The Rings pretty much sums up how this year has felt for me:

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”

But, even though this year has thrown challenges our way, I am so grateful that my family has weathered this storm and we are all safe and well at the end of it.

On a lighter note, 2020 was the year when:

  • The quest for toilet paper, pasta and rice became all consuming
  • My boss actually encouraged me to work from home at every opportunity
  • The punchline to every joke seemed to be “it will end in tiers /tears”
  • A familiar greeting was “Hello, you’re still on mute!”
  • Hobbies are the best! Sewing, cycling and Tai chi have really kept me going this year.

Every day brings the end of the pandemic closer and although we’ll all be starting 2021 under the latest lockdown restrictions, it seems like a more hopeful place to be.

My thoughts go out to you all and I wish you all the best for the coming year.


#MakeNine2020 – How well did I do?

This morning I took a look back at the post I’d written at the beginning of the year called “#MakeNine2020 – The Plans”. I had thought long and hard about the selection of makes and I was really excited about making them. But as we all know 2020 just threw massive spanners into everybody’s lives.

1. A shirt with vintage 70s brushed cotton

This shirt uses a 70s pattern and fabric from the era too. I think I was quite intimidated to start this make, since I only just about had the right amount of fabric for the garment and there was no way I could get any more. The fabric is beautifully warm, I’m only missing a pair of corduroy flares to go with it!

A real step back in time: Seventies shirt complete with flares

A real step back in time: Seventies shirt complete with flares

2. A skirt with Scottish tartan

The thought of this make just scared me too much. Let’s just say that I need more headspace for this one; it couldn’t be tackled after a day of working at home, whilst simultaneously trying to home school.

3. A pair of skinny trousers with cracked-glass design fabric

This is my latest make. I made a copy cat of an Issey Miyake design for #designindecember with this fabric. For the full details, take a look at my previous posts, part 1 and part 2.

Shattered Glass Jeans Front View

Shattered Glass Jeans Front View

4. Black Palisade trousers

I didn’t get round to this one at all. Last year I made some shorts with the Papercut palisade pattern to iron out any difficulties. Actually the shorts turned out rather well and I did get good use out of them in the warm weather. They also convinced me that linen-cotton blend fabric would be a great choice for these. I’ll get round to this one soon, I promise.

5. Lilac tunic

This was another early make. I wasn’t very sure about the colour initially, but I have found that it does work well with lots of the blues and purples in my wardrobe. Although I have worn this layered over a long-sleeved top, it does work best on its own on a hot day. I can see why lots of people are in love with linen as a summer fabric, it feels so cool to wear it.

Style 1522 Top

Style 1522 Top: Worn over long-sleeved t-shirt, worn without t-shirt underneath.

6. Grainline Driftless cardigan in black

This was a very early make in the year and I was supremely pleased that my #makenine had got off to a good start. I’ve made a couple of Driftless cardigans previously, so it wasn’t a difficult make or time-consuming make. Black is a neutral, so it will pair nicely with much of my wardrobe.

Black Driftless Cardigan

Black Driftless Cardigan

7. Closet Case pouf

I made this pouf in the early part of the year, and was immensely proud to use up lots of fabric scraps. Unfortunately, it is a huge pouf and although it looks nice and plump in the photo below, it squashed to nothing. Even after regular feedings of scraps throughout the year, it still gets squashed to nothing under Master Steely’s butt. Still, at least it is used!

Closet Case Files Pouf

Closet Case Files Pouf

8. Pattern Magic make

This particular ambition has been on the #makenine two years running. At least this year I did make a start on this. The pattern / toile has been made (I drew straight onto the fabric) and I’ve also purchased the fabric for the final garment. What I do need is some time when I can lay things out on the living room floor, which probably isn’t going to happen before Master Steely goes back to school. I’ll call this half-done.

9. Wildcard make

My planned make was to try out a zero-waste design as the wildcard. I really wanted to try out one of Liz Hayward’s designs this year. I bought this pattern for a zero-waste skirt and fully intend to make a skirt using wool. The biggest obstacle for this was that I was unsure about what fabric to get and I think this task would have been easier with a trip to Birmingham where I could handle the fabrics. It was not to be, my travel (and everybody else’s) has been massively curtailed this year. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the trip soon.

Perhaps I should have just chosen one of my other garments  to go in this wildcard space, or would that have been cheating?


Five and a half, or perhaps I give myself six and a half, if I count the wildcard! Not too bad especially given my lack of fabric buying opportunities.

One of the most interesting things about reviewing this list is that I tackled most of the makes with fabric from the stash. Overall, I didn’t actually buy much fabric this year at all. SewBrum happened virtually. Thank goodness for my local shop Like Sew Amazing!  It is so hard to choose fabric over the internet and I do like to shop in person and “fondle the fabric”. Let’s hope the new year allows some more “in-person” shopping.

My second observation is that my wardrobe is orientated strongly towards the spring and autumn seasons. Working from home, I do experience more temperature extremes compared to the air-conditioned office. I did find that I have very few summer clothes, although this isn’t too much of a problem since they can be slung in the wash and dried quickly on the line. More problematic is the lack of truly warm winter clothing. I generally end up wearing lots of bulky layers, and I think I would prefer to create some warmer clothing instead. I’ll make another Make Nine soon, complete with the dubious little drawings; I still haven’t mastered drawing hands.


#DesigninDecember 2020 Part 2: Making my Issey Miyake inspired jeans

Welcome back for the second part of my Designin December 2020 challenge entry. This year, I decided to use this Issey Miyake design as my inspiration:

Issey Miyake Cruise 2016 inspiration

Issey Miyake Cruise 2016 inspiration

One of the things that made this make tough was that this was the only view I had to work with. But I did manage to spot another similar pair of jeans in the same collection, which gave me at least a front view too:

Issey Miyake Cruise 2016 Jeans

I can see the shape of the front pockets and I think I can spot ankle zips? (I zoomed in and I think they are there) Anyhow, don’t you think that any jeans this narrow have to have ankle zips or you’ll never get the jeans over your feet? Anyway, I didn’t hesitate to add the ankle zips to my plans for this make too.

My base for this make is a classic five pocket jeans pattern, Burda pattern 03/2014 #115

Burda 03/2014 115

Burda 03/2014 #115

I could see that one of the most important things to get right would be the pattern matching or pattern placement in this fabric. Compared to the inspiration jeans above, my chosen fabric is actually louder! There is quite a lot of white in my fabric, which contrasts strongly with the bright red, blue and background black. I decided that the pattern was so “busy” that I wouldn’t need to pattern match across the back and front seams, but decided that I needed to horizontally align the bold white bursts on each trouser leg. I managed to cut out the leg pieces with the pattern positioned as I wanted. However, I did find I couldn’t get the waist band as one piece and it is pieced together at the back, but that doesn’t really show as it is hidden by a belt and the belt loops.

Burda is not known for the clarity of its instructions (that’s a polite way of putting it), so I resorted to the Ginger Jeans instructions, especially for the front fly construction. I did have to adapt even these instructions somewhat because the Burda pattern has separate fly extensions. I think in future, since I get such good results using these instructions, I should really just change the front leg pattern pieces to include fly extensions.

To add my ankle zips I used another tutorial from the Ginger Jeans sewalong. I added the zips to the outer seam. It was a tricky operation. Measurements have to be taken, such as the where you wish the zip to finish on your leg, where the zip stop should be positioned and the size of the adjustment to the seam allowance to accommodate an exposed zip. The tutorial though guided me through this very well.

Shattered Glass Jeans Front View

Shattered Glass Jeans Front View

Here are the finished jeans; I didn’t quite get the model’s pose when I was out in the park! I’m really pleased with the fit of these jeans, but I have used this pattern previously. The cotton sateen is relatively light-weight so I can see that these jeans are more a spring or autumn item.

My copy of a pair of Issey Miyake jeans in a colourful print

My copy of a pair of Issey Miyake jeans in a colourful print

The jeans are from a 2016 collection so I couldn’t easily find the price, but looking at the Issey Miyake website, I can see trousers costing between $300 and $1,150 (£222 to £851)

I tried to cost up my jeans and came up with the following price:

Item Price Total
Cotton Sateen Fabric £7.25 / metre £11.60


3 x £1.65 £4.95


2 x £1.60 £3.20
Jeans button 1 x $0.95 * $0.95 (£0.70)

This works out at a mere £20.45 (or $27.63) with optional swearing!

* Yes, you spotted correctly, the jeans button was bought in the United States, actually at Britex Fabrics. They are quite pretty jeans buttons, so I stocked up on them.

Shattered Glass Jeans Back View

Shattered Glass Jeans Back View




#DesigninDecember 2020 Part 1: Inspiration

I have taken part in DesigninDecember before. I really like the idea of making a designer copy of a garment and then being about to reproduce it for a fraction of the price. In a nutshell, it is simply one of the biggest benefits of knowing how to sew.

Throughout the year I’ve been collecting images on pinterest that interest me. Here are some of the ideas I had.

  1. Quilted denim jackets
  2. Outfits in different shades of green
  3. Vibrantly coloured skinny jeans
  4. Coats with lots of buckles and buttons
  5. Skirts with tassled hems

I spent a long time coming to a decision over what to make. I wanted to be ambitious, but this year has really taken its toll and stymied my choices. We are still in a high tier in my area and I can’t leave, which means my options for visiting fabric shops are really limited. Plus, Master Steely is home in self-isolation at the moment and my time is almost exclusively taken up with working and schooling from home. I really feel like its sucking the joy out of me at the moment! Anyway, without spinning into a downward spiral, I meant just to say that I chose a fairly straightforward make using a fabric that was in my stash.

Below are a series of images of skinny jeans in interesting prints. The top two are from an Issey Miyake collection in 2016 and the bottom two are taken from pinterest. I collected these images a few years ago when I first thought of making a pair of jeans in a loud print and I wasn’t sure what fabrics I would find to realise my dream.

Not too long ago, I spotted the perfect print for my make – it has just the right level of loudness! It’s a colourful “shattered glass” print in a stretch cotton sateen and looks very similar to the print on the model in the top-left of the montage below. Master Steely, gave his verdict while I was working on these jeans and loudly asserted that he was disowning me if I ever set foot outside the house dressed in them. But, as a parent to a teenager, that really makes it all the more fun!

Skinny Jeans Inspiration

Skinny Jeans Inspiration

I’ve chosen this very classic skinny jeans pattern, Burda pattern 03/2014 #115 as the basis for my make. I would link to the Burda website, but I suspect it would be a long fruitless search. Fortunately, I did take a line drawing from the website, when it was still usable (you’re welcome!) I’ve made a pair of black skinny jeans using this pattern before, which has been worn loads.


Burda pattern 03/2014 #115

Burda pattern 03/2014 #115


I did decide to make a modification (probably not included in the original Issey Miyake design) and that is ankle zips. My fabric is reasonably stretchy, but the ankle zips will make it so much easier to pull them on and off. Plus, I think they look cool too. So, here’s a sneek peek of my make:



Velvet and zips: a tale of woe

If you follow my instagram you may have seen this charming little Lulu cardigan that I knocked up on the Sewing Weekender. I didn’t manage to finish it on the day, and it remained in my unfinished pile waiting for the right zip to come along so that I could finish it.

The fabric is a stretch cotton velvet from Stoff & Stil and the ribbed cuffing is also from Stoff & Stil. It was great to be in a shop with so much choice and being able to go around and compare combinations of fabrics. The result was I chose this combination, which works so well.

Halfway through lock-down I did pick it up again and tried to insert a zip from an old RTW cardigan that had reached the end of its life. The colour was a perfect match for the green in the cuffs, but the zip itself was way too long and needed to be shortened. The ribbing I was using was single layer and so it wasn’t easy to hide the cut ends of the zips, so I abandoned this idea. Once again, the cardigan languished in the unfinished pile……

Then a couple of months ago, I decided to order a new zip and selected a couple of zips in different shades of green with brass teeth and pulls. They are very elegant zips, but I felt they were too heavy for the cardigan. So, the cardigan was left again in the unfinished pile……

Lulu cardigan - it's actually finished!

Lulu cardigan – it’s actually finished!

Eventually, because I was struggling to motivate myself, I decided to pick this make up and finish it. I thought it would be a quick win, because there wasn’t much to do. Oh, how wrong was I! This last stage of the make was a mind-splitting headache.

I decided I could cope with the “heavy-weight” zip, but that it was necessary to create a facing for the inside, as I felt I wanted to “hide” a little more of ugliness of the zip. Actually the facing is more like a strip of fabric, but it does make the inside prettier (I know no-one except me sees it, but I can be a perfectionist when it comes to sewing). I duly pinned and tacked the zip in place, but as I had such obvious ribbing I wanted to make sure it lined up. I discovered that one side of the cardigan was slightly longer than the other (how do these things happen?) so I unpicked a little of the seam between the hem ribbing and the cardigan and made it 1 cm shorter and then sewed it back again. I then pinned and tacked the zip again to the cardigan and tried to zip up the cardigan to test if my alteration had resolved the problem.

Lulu cardigan in velvet

And the ribbing on the left and right matches up!

And there I hit a problem, the zip would not move against the velvet, which fluffed and bounced its way against the teeth in an irritating fashion. Laying the two sides of the zip against each other, I felt reasonably confident that everything lined up, so I just stitched the zip in place. And tried to do the zip up again…….ugghhh, not a centimetre of movement was possible!

I then spent an agonising time pinning the cardigan away from the zip edge. Most of the velvet could be held out the way with a bit of top-stitching, but I had to re-do a couple of places where the fabric was a bit close to the zip.

Happily once the top-stitching was in place, it all zipped up nicely and wasn’t a problem, but it was all very problematic during the process. Put it this way, the quick win I had forecast, took over a week to put right.

Lulu cardigan in velvet

Lulu cardigan in velvet

What do I think of my new cardigan? First of all, I was pleasantly surprised how warm it was. I had fully expected that it wouldn’t be warm enough as a layer in November, but actually it has enough warmth to be warm in the house, over a long-sleeved t-shirt.

It is a little on the short side for my taste though. I think just another inch would make it work better, since I find that each time I move, the t-shirt I wear underneath becomes visible at the waist. I wonder actually whether the cardigan is designed a little longer and my ready-made ribbing shortened it a little. This may also be the reason why the length doesn’t completely tally with the length of the zip that I chose. I would definitely recommend making sure that you change the cardigan’s length to suit the zip, rather than having to mess around with changing the length of a zip.

I’m quite short-waisted, so I can imagine that this design will be very short on a lot of people. I suppose that I’m just not used to wearing such a short top. I wonder if it looks good combined with wide-legged trousers? Must try it out.




More loungewear in African Wax Print

What do you call loungewear when you’ve made more than one set. A set of loungewear sets? Loungewear set sets? Neither sound right, but that’s what I’ve made. I was extremely pleased with the bottoms I made previously from the Peppermint Loungewear set, so I immediately set about completing the set with a top.

Peppermint Loungwear top

The construction of the top is very simple – it only has four pattern pieces; front, back and two neckline facings.

I hadn’t worried too much about pattern matching with this fabric, but I decided that I wanted to place one of those large triffid-like flowers centrally on the top’s front.

Peppermint Loungewear Set

Peppermint Loungewear Set in African Wax Print

I’m sorry to say that there are a few things that niggled about making the top. First of all, the sleeve is tapered all along its length. This means that making the deep hem they suggest in the instructions is actually not physically possible. I made my hem a little narrower as a result. Sadly, I didn’t foresee this problem when I cut out the top, but it could be easily fixed, just making the sleeve a little wider where the hem is going to be. Secondly, according to the instructions you are supposed to top-stitch the neckline at 5 cm from the neck opening. I assumed that this is supposed to catch the facing, but the facing is only 6 cm wide and there is a 1 cm seam allowance when it is attached to the neckline. So, I top-stitched at 4 cm from the neckline. It’s a small detail, but it makes you re-read the instructions. I did wonder whether I had made some mistake, or whether the instructions have a mistake, or whether the facing should be bigger.  I was also a bit concerned about the lack of instructions regarding the hem. The hem of the top is really beautifully curved, but in order to make that curve you need to do something other than a simple hem, especially if you wish to mirror the top-stitching at the neckline and the deep hem on the sleeves. In the end I just gathered the bottom of the top a little to ease in the excess fabric, but I think some other method, such as a facing or bias trim would work well as a finishing method. It seems a little bit off to me to criticise the pattern which is supplied free or with a voluntary donation, but I hope the comments above will be useful to anyone trying this pattern out.

Peppermint Lounge Wear Set

Is the top a bit cropped? Drafty in November!

After making up this complete set, I still had plenty of fabric left and I set about making more bottoms. Eventually, my completed loungewear consisted of three bottoms and only one top. I suppose that’s rather lop-sided in nature – why three bottoms and only one top? I just wasn’t sure how much I would like the top. The top is very loose fitting, cropped and short-sleeved. I can see it being worn with the shorts on a hot summer’s night, but I can’t see myself wearing it for most of the year in the UK. The top can’t be tucked in (I tried, see below), and it has short-sleeves – I’d simply be too cold in it. I much prefer to wear a long-sleeved top, particularly in winter.

Peppermint Loungewear set

I can just about tuck this top in, but it won’t stay like this for long.

I’ve worn the top once or twice when the weather was still warm (as predicted), but now I’m only wearing the long bottoms. They are comfortable and I actually feel quite happy opening the front door still wearing these in the morning. Usually, bed is where old clothes go to die, but I’ve really appreciated wearing something I actually like in bed!

So, I suppose that my loungewear set(s) are not entirely finished. I should have a couple of long-sleeved tops too, to go with those long bottoms. I’m wondering what to make. I have a couple of RTW tops that are Henley style, long-sleeved t-shirts that I have worn as nightwear for years. Sadly, they are really threadbare and need replacing. Initial thoughts are the Seamwork Elli, and the Jalie women’s t-shirts patterns. Do you have any other recommendations that might fit the bill?

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Small Axe: Mangrove (Steve McQueen film set in 70s London)

I’m not sure why but there have been a dirth of good films showing on TV at the moment and coupled with the cinemas not being open for most of the year, I was craving a cinematic experience. The “Small Axe” set of films are directed by Steve McQueen and are currently showing on the BBC over the next few weeks. The series title comes from a Jamaican proverb, “if you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” which means that relatively marginal or small voices of dissent can successfully challenge more powerful voices.

The films span three decades and the first film, Mangrove, is set in the seventies, so I really wanted to cast my eye over the fashions on screen.

The film is named after the Mangrove restaurant, which pays a pivotal part in the story. The opening scenes revolve around the newly opened Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, West London. Frank Crichlow, a Trinidadian-born business man has opened his new restaurant, serving Caribbean food, with high hopes that it will be an up-market meeting-place for the community. The restaurant quickly becomes established as serving the best Carribean food in the area, and it is reported that Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and Vanessa Redgrave all sampled the cuisine.

However, it soon attracted unwanted attention from the police. First, Frank’s licence to operate as an all-night cafe was withdrawn and later baseless accusations of drug-dealing on the premises were given as excuses for constant police harassment including two raids on the restaurant. After exhausting the normal complaints process, the community decide to hold a demonstration because “all other methods have failed to bring about any change in the manner the police have chosen to deal with black people.”

The story follows the afternoon of the demonstration at which several protestors are arrested on charges of incitement to riot and affray and the court case that follows.

Notting Hill demonstration, August 1970

Notting Hill demonstration, August 1970

The cast are fantastic in this film. Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow portrays the restaurant-owner with tremendous subtlety. He really taps into the dilemmas faced by a man who just wants to run his business, but is instead reluctantly propelled into taking a prominent role in a stand against racism. Malachi Kirby and Letitia Wright play the roles of Darcus Howe and Altheia Jones-Lecointe, who represent themselves at the trial, rather than accept legal representation. They capture superbly the mesmerising court performances of their real-life counterparts whose own eloquence and drama moved the jury and enthralled the media.

As is my custom, I am always drawn to comment on the setting and costume. At the start of the film we get to see a fledgling Notting Hill carnival, which really sets the scene for the film.

Notting Hill Carnival (1970s)

Notting Hill Carnival scene

There are lots of little details too from 1970s London; the children playing in the bomb sites (a common scene even as late as the seventies in the UK) and the construction of a huge concrete monstrosity of a flyover, right through Notting Hill.

There are a whole range of costumes in this film too. Some of the older ladies wear colourful shirt dresses (probably in polyester – I can feel their static coming off my screen!) I suppose these wouldn’t have looked out of place years either side of 1970. The younger actors all wear clothes more typical of the era. (I thought about saying “fashion-forward”, but that’s such a modern term!)

Altheia wears this awesome blouse. I thought it had rows of rick-rack as the trim, but when I got to examine this in more detail I noticed that it is actually a crochet trim, all in a seventies palette of much orange and brown-ness!

Altheia in a crochet-treimmed summer top

Altheia in a crochet-trimmed summer top

There’s also a very Caribbean / African flavour to some of character’s dress particularly in the Carnival scenes. Dashiki shirts and African textiles appear. (I had some difficulties getting screen shots from this section of the film as everyone is moving around so much!)

Mangrove: Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival

I like this jumper that Altheia wears too. Somehow I think it is a nod to the Jamaican and Trinadad and Tobago flags, as it features green, red, yellow and black.

Altheia's flag trimmed jumper

Altheia’s flag trimmed jumper

There’s even a notable stylishness about the male characters, who are often overlooked in dramas of this era. I really like Frank’s checked jacket or how about Darcus’s polo neck and denim jacket combination that he wears in one of the court scenes?

Mangrove: Frank's checked jacket

Frank’s checked jacket


Darcus's court room denim jacket

Darcus’s court room denim jacket

If anything the dress is a little more flamboyant than I can see the protesters are actually wearing in the real-life photographs of events, but it’s a film and a little added vibrancy doesn’t distract from the story at all. It’s a great little film and can’t wait for the next in the series.

Mangrove: a beautiful umbrella

Mangrove: a beautiful umbrella

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K4028: An army-green incarnation

This week’s make is a basic using my go-to t-shirt pattern. Yes, it is K4028 again! Now you’d think I would really have nothing to say about this pattern; I have made it five times. That is certainly a record for me, as I’m one of those sewers who loves trying out new patterns.K4028

The latest incarnation was made using a reasonably thick single jersey from Stoff & Stil. It has a brushed cotton feel and is the perfect weight for an autumnal make. I actually bought this fabric the Stoff & Stil shop in Copenhagen. I didn’t know before I booked the hotel, but the shop was literally round the corner and needless to say I visited it several times. (It would have been rude not to!) For this make I used the body of View A with the long sleeves and no cowl.

K4028, the fifth in 100% cotton jersey

One of the interesting (and at times really annoying) things about jersey is how the same pattern can look so different depending on the thickness, stretch and drape of the jersey. I’ve used Kwik Sew pattern K4028 with quite a collection of different fabrics now so here’s a comparison of my different tops.

K4028, Clockwise from top left: Beige in viscose-elastane blend, Hidden cats in 100% cotton, Grey and blue striped in viscose-elastane blend, Red and white striped in cotton-elastane blend, Army green in 100% cotton.

K4028, Clockwise from top left: Beige in viscose-elastane blend, Hidden cats in 100% cotton, Grey and blue striped in viscose-elastane blend, Red and white striped in cotton-elastane blend, Army green in 100% cotton.


T-shirt Description Fabric Verdict
Beige long-sleeved cowl neck t-shirt Light-weight viscose /elastane blend single jersey Poor choice of fabric because suffered pilling within hours of it being worn and the cowl stretched out horribly.
Hidden cats short-sleeved t-shirt, no cowl Light-weight 100% cotton single jersey Has a casual look, loose fitting
Grey / blue striped long-sleeved t-shirt, no cowl Light-weight ribbed viscose / elastane blend jersey Has a very casual floppy look, but actually a comfortable, “secret pyjamas”-type make.
Red / white striped long-sleeved t-shirt, no cowl Medium-weight cotton / elastane blend single jersey Clings more to the body and looks more fitted.
Army green, no cowl Medium-weight 100% cotton single jersey Has a stiffer silhouette, very warm


The beige long-sleeved version was a disaster, mostly due to the poor quality fabric. I think I would have been willing to fix the ever-growing cowl, if that had been the only problem, but the pilling led to its premature demise.

Since then, you may have spotted, I have left the cowl out of subsequent makes, but I really should have the courage to add it back in. I think it would work well with the cotton and cotton-blend jerseys, provided the fabric isn’t too heavy-weight. I think the cowl would have looked too stiff for the recent army-green version though.

I think my favourite versions are the hidden kittens and the red and white striped (so far). I expect there will be more of these. I’m still unsure about my latest “army green” version.  Initially, I made the neckline too high and I re-did it. As predicted my second neckline wasn’t quite as neat as the first, but I can live with it. It took me long enough to unpick, so won’t be doing it again.  Now, I’m wondering if I like the long length. That length works well with the fabrics with more drape, but not so sure with this thicker fabric. Perhaps I need to try a couple of styling options before I make any more changes?

K4028 in “army green” styled with a Grainline Driftless cardigan


K4028, a winter basic

K4028, a winter basic