The Seamstress Tag

I’ve just read Emily Ann’s Seamstress Tag here and really enjoyed it, so I’m going to do one myself.

Here goes…

Who are you?

I’m  Norma and I live in beautiful Mid-Wales.

When / why did you start sewing?

I’ve always enjoyed sewing. My Mum was a dressmaker by trade and sewing was a part of life when I was growing up.

I was pretty awful at it though – my clothes were Mum-made rather than Me-made.

I started taking it seriously in my twenties and got obsessed in my thirties. The obsession continues – I love sewing.

Favourite / proudest make?

A “knock-off” Armani suit made from fabric fr0m the Jaeger factory – I bought it on Grantham Market (Lincolnshire). I needed something for a job interview. I got the job & wore the suit to death. I’m still proud of it even though it is long gone.

Disastrous Make?

Lots of those – I laugh when I think about my early attempts; I must have looked a sight. I always wore them to death though.

The worst one recently was probably my bra. I managed to put the cups on upside down. I haven’t tried again but I will one day…

Favourite place for fabric shopping?

Charity shops, vintage stalls, jumble sales, old clothes. I love a good rummage.

Most used pattern?

My own pattern free designs. And just recently, a pattern from a 1934 magazine I’ve made twice and I’ll be using again as a base pattern.

Most Dreaded Sewing Task?


Favourite sewing task?

This is a hard one: it changes often. Anything involving handstitching is my current favourite.

Favourite sewing entertainment?

The radio. I like Radio 3 and Radio 4. For those of you outside the UK, Radio 3 specialises in classical music and Radio 4 has plays, current affairs, stories and so on.

Printed or PDF patterns?

I am trying to like PDF patterns but I find them very hard work.

What sewing machine do you use?

A Pfaff Select 1548 – it’s a mechanical rather than electronic machine and it’s been a pleasure to use since the day it arrived. My previous computerised machine went insane (yes, really!) and I decided to go mechanical. I’ve never regretted it.

And I’ve also got this


It’s a 1930s machine and still sews perfectly.

Any other hobbies?

I’ve got two Labrador Retrievers so walking is a big thing, I run, and I keep hens. And I’ve started knitting.

I hope you’ll want to join in this tagging because I’d love to know more about you.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x





Filed under Clothes, dressmaking, sewing, Singer sewing machines

Velvet Fest

I’ve just finished five velvet “quilts”. There are the mini quilts above for fundraising for the Quilt Association.

This bag uses up more bits.



And the quilt is finished.


I’ve used up more or less all the velvet scraps but there’s more now.

A friend rescued some very long blue velvet curtains which were destined for a skip, so now I’m contemplating a cloaky sort of coat. And the contemplation is all part of the fun…

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x




Filed under bags, Clothes, patchwork, quilts, scraps, sewing, textiles, Thrift

Some Practical Sewing

This shirt was made by Monsoon – a good and well known label here in the UK. It’s a size too big for me (because it came from a charity shop) but I liked it and I’ve been wearing it to my yoga class. It didn’t really work for me – loose tops can be a bit revealing when you’re upside down!

Seemed a shame not to use such a pretty shirt so now I’ve lengthened it and it’s a much needed nightdress.

It’s been a practical week – some bootcut jeans made of lovely fabric are now straight enough to tuck into boots and then there’s a dress waiting to be a tunic and a boring skirt which needs some magic.

Do you like this sort of sewing? Or do you only make new things? My budget won’t allow for buying anymore fabric at the moment so I’ve started to look around to see what can be done with what I have. I feel better already.

Let me know what you think about reusing and mending – I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x


Filed under Clothes, fashion, jeans, mending, recycling, sewing, textiles, Thrift, upcycling

This has been my go to skirt whenever we’ve had really good weather.

I made it at the beginning of the summer from most of a batik jellyroll. I bought the jellyroll thinking that it would do for a workshop I was taking but it was not to be, and I was left wondering what to do with it.

There’s a lot of fabric in a jellyroll: a knitting bag for a friend, one of my fabric pots, this skirt and a few scraps.

My other go to skirt this summer has been this lavender 1934 linen one. I love this skirt.


And talking of the 1930s, Emily Ann is moving along with her 1930s dress and has been investigating laundry and dressmaking techniques from the time. Why not go over and take a look?

Thanks for calling by.

Norma x


September 25, 2016 · 5:25 pm

Velvet Scrap Quilt in Progress

This is a sort of scrap quilt. It includes bits of my old velvet dress, my skirt and my trousers. All of them probably date from the 1990s. It also includes other people’s scraps both donated and bought. Some of the scraps are in the form of long strips, so there should be plenty left for small projects.

The back used up what was left of my kitchen curtain fabric after I’d made the curtains.

The quilt is large throw size and strip pieced. I’m using some fancy variegated silk thread to add some extra quilting.

I’m linking to Scrap Happy September. Why not take a look at what everyone else is doing?

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x




Filed under patchwork, quilts, scraps, textiles, upcycling

A Very Local Skirt

This is it- my slowly sewn, 1934 oneyearoneoutfit skirt. It’s an all wool winter skirt and I can hardly wait to wear it. It’s not very photogenic  (like me sadly!) but looks lovely in reality. It’s the same pattern as this linen skirt but I’ve added a back pleat (as worn by Mrs Durrell in The Durrells), dropped the waistline and lengthened it to just above my ankles.

I chose a visible button fastening instead of the invisible snap panel. Although I do have some British made snaps from the days when factories here still made that sort of thing I decided to go with these lovely buttons.

Close up of the pleat topstitching – it’s the same back and front.

Now for the nitty gritty :

Fabric : Bought from Cambrian Wool, it’s a herringbone weave using Jacob wool in its natural colours.

The wool came from a farm in West Carmarthenshire and was spun at the Natural Fibre Company when it was still operating in Lampeter.

It was woven at Melin Teifi at Drefach Felindre. This is the location of the National Woollen Museum of Wales.

Buttons : Bought from a local craftsperson at the Wool & Willow Festival held at the Minerva Art Centre in Llanidloes. They are made from blackthorn.

Thread: Unravelled from the fabric and surprisingly strong. The darts were sewn with some very fine thread spun by my kind friend using fleece from sheep farmed in the local community. I was worried about sewing the hem invisibly with wool thread, but I needn’t have worried because it can’t be seen at all.

Overall : I love this skirt. It’s entirely handsewn so it was very slow to make. It was enjoyable though! I’m getting into handsewing.

Except for the linen at the waistline it is made entirely from very local Welsh products – I would guess that everything comes from less than a 100 mile radius of my home.

I don’t like waistbands and my 1934 pattern doesn’t use one either so I went with the undyed linen. It helps to stop the waist stretching.

What would I change?

I think it may need a lining to make it a very long lasting garment. I also feel that a winter skirt without a lining isn’t really right – does anyone agree? I may add one in time.

EmilyAnn has been sewing 1930s with me. A lot of very interesting topics have come up, including 1940s laundry. I recommend you to take a look.

If you are wondering what oneyearoneoutfit is, take a look here.

I have been busy over the summer, although not blogging. There’s a completed linen top – dyed with garden dyes – waiting to be blogged. And I’ve been knitting up some local wool. More to follow…

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x


Filed under Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, textiles

Solar Dyed and Upcycled


Transformed charity shop blouse – frills cut off, buttons changed, colour changed, white polyester stitching covered over with new stitching, fully mended.



Colour – It smelt of dead badger after being dyed with onion skins so I left it in coffee for a week in the greenhouse. The colour looks much paler here because of all the amazing sunshine we’re having – I’m not complaining. To get some idea of the colour, the wall you can see behind it is yellow. The blouse is coffee cream and still smells a bit. To solve that, I have a small bottle of cheap vodka to make into a spray – Frankie Beane kindly found the idea on the internet for me.

Buttons – the cream square ones are probably vintage and were found by a friend in a charity shop, but there weren’t enough so I’ve mixed in some others.

Polyester thread just won’t dye using normal methods and most shop bought clothes are sewn with it. The solutions are either unpicking or sewing over the top and making a feature of it.

More solar dyeing

I got some more dock leaves for the linen top and it’s now getting its third dunking. the sun has been strong this last few days and I plan to dry it and then do some berry dyeing.

In case anyone is wondering, docks are a weed, grow abundantly here and are often sprayed to get rid of them. I wouldn’t use anything scarce.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x



Filed under Clothes, dyeing, fashion, mending, sewing, solar dyeing, textiles, Thrift, upcycling

More solar dyeing

I’ve had two attempts at solar dyeing my oneyearone outfit Irish linen top. It is now vaguely yellow but not yet the colour I hoped for. I am thinking of using berries for the next stage – you can see reddish patches on the wet fabric and I think I would like more of those.

Dock leaves stink when they’re soaking so they spent time in the greenhouse rather than the house. Oddly though, the smell went after I left the top out overnight. I am leaving it untouched until I find the right dye. According to this book:

Eco Colour by India Flint

the longer you leave the dye before rinsing the better. And I think the book is wonderful, so I’m following the instructions as carefully as possible.

Much smellier is this:

This is a charity shop blouse (frills now cut off) that I’ve solar dyed in onion skins. It was left for 9 days in the greenhouse and came out that lovely orangey gold. You can see it’s covered in flies & I’m really not suprised. I left it out for 24 hours but have now washed it in soap flakes. It’s clean, pale cream and smelly – worse than the decaying badger I ran past today. Not onion but just horrible. Will it go? I don’t know. It’s still pegged to the covered washing line – I’m trying to keep it in the shade to avoid more fading. It’s a pretty colour now but not wearable because of the smell.

So, no especially successful projects so far but I’ll keep trying & let you know what happens.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x






Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dyeing, fashion, India Flint, solar dyeing, textiles

#OneYearOneOutfit Progress


OneYearOneOutfit is really underway now I’ve sewn the Merchant & Mills top. It’s a bit dull at the moment because it’s waiting to go in the dye pot for solar dyeing. The mordant was a carton of sour milk and the first dye will be dock leaves unless I spot something better in the meantime.


The facts :

Fabric : undyed medium-weight Irish linen bought from a re-enactment trader on Ebay.
Thread: linen from the above fabric run through beeswax (bought from a Farmers’ Market). Obviously, it wasn’t possible to use thread like this in a sewing machine.
Seams : backstiched and then hand overcast to finish.
Hems: hemstitched by hand.
Pattern : Merchant & Mills long sleeved Curlew top from their Workbook. Lining omitted.
Next step: the dye pot!

It took me about 8 hours excluding cutting out – I should think 2 hours would be plenty if I were using a sewing machine. I really like the pattern by the way, and will make it up some other way when I get time.

Why am I doing all this?

I’m trying to make an outfit from my own “fibreshed”, which I believe to mean the British Isles.

So far, I’ve managed to get natural Irish linen fabric and very local undyed Welsh woollen fabric but I haven’t been able to buy threads.

For the linen fabric it seemed best to take short lengths from the fabric itself and wax it for smoothness and strength.

For the wool fabric, my generous friend has very kindly offered to spin me some local wool thread – I’ve had a go with her sample and it works well.

Dyes have to be natural and growing in the fibreshed for this project so I’ve opted for hedgerows, fields and gardens around my home village in mid Wales. I’ll probably keep overdyeing the linen top until I’ve got the colours I like.

If you’re interested in the project, take a look at the principles and the participants here.

Enjoy your week.

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dressmaking, fashion, sewing, textiles

No pattern tops for starters

Following on from my posting here, I thought I’d show my no pattern tops. They are very good tee shirt replacements for everyday life. This one used 1.5 metres of 1.2m wide fabric. As I’m trying not to save scraps, I’ll make the remainder into one of my fabric pots and some bias binding – both to sell over the summer if I’m lucky.

Me Made May Day 7

A younger me wearing one made from a charity shopped Liberty print skirt


And the whole collection…

They are all different, but all made by tucking and manipulating fabric to fit my shape. Buttons are my favourite fastenings so they always feature in these tops and dresses.

Odd? Yes, I suppose so, but they can be quite pretty, they are cool to wear and they don’t use much fabric. The dress was made from only 1 metre of 1.5m wide fabric.

Meantime on the 1930s front, I have a blouse I made a while ago which I think will make a good starting point for this:


Thank you to all those of you who offered sugestions as to where I could find a pattern – I think going through all your suggestions helped me to realise that I actually had something that I could use. I’ll show you soon.

EmilyAnn has some interesting pointers to share on her 1930s dress toile. I am learning a lot from her methods.

And for the #oneyearoneoutfit project, I’ve started sewing the bias Irish linen top. I’ve unpicked some of the threads from the fabric to use as sewing thread as I’ve been unable to source any suitable linen thread. To make it usable I stick to short lengths (about 12 inches)  and pull it through a beeswax block. It seems strong enough. Obviously, handsewing is the only way to do it.

Once I’ve made the top I plan to dye it with plants from my garden (or maybe my neighbours’ fields).

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dresses, dressmaking, sewing, textiles