An ensemble from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

I swear, you wait weeks for a project and then two come at once – my first two projects of the year are the blouse and pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing.

gertie skirt and top

Suffering from some wonky tripod syndrome…

In all, these two were a breeze to sew up – which is just as well considering how low my sewing productivity has been of late. As many reviewers have pointed out before me, Gertie’s book is a dream and full of classic and easily customisable patterns.

I put far more effort into the skirt than I did the blouse, which is refashioned out of a floor-length lace skirt I bought second-hand months ago. In the end, I decided to bother with neither a lining nor facings, instead finishing the raw edges with bias tape. The whole thing was stitched together using my overlocker, getting trustier by the minute now I’ve got the hang of it. A few adjustments were made to account for the scant fabric I actually had, as the original skirt was constructed out of four rectangles rather than the two.


I had to fudge the sleeves a bit in the end because, lacking a muslin, the bust darts somehow ended up closer to my waist. Oops! To remedy the sagginess, I just did two tucks which I sewed on the outside of the fabric – you can barely notice really. I also widened the darts on the back of the neck, again due to some unnecessary sagging. The top’s too short to wear with anything other than a pencil skirt, but I love it.

Speaking of pencil skirts – this bad boy took a lot more effort. It was all about the muslin-making, meaning the whole thing took twice as long as it would have normally. Definitely worth it with such a form-fitting garment.

The only adjustments I really needed to make were to take in the skirt at the sides and to shorten it. I’m a petite one at 5″3, so this is a standard procedure for me by now. While I was reticent about the double darts at the front of the skirt, I actually really like them now.


As suggested by Gertie in the book, the high waistband is boned. But instead of using Rigilene or steel boning, I opted for plastic cable ties. I know, I know, I promised I wouldn’t cut corners – but they really have worked a treat. I’ll let you know how they hold up after multiple washes, but I’ve heard good things. To give it extra strength, I ended up using the muslin’s waistband instead of iron-on interfacing.


Then there’s the buttonhole. Er, the less said about this, the better. We all know I hate buttonholes. For some bizarre reason I thought things would turn out better if I did it by hand. It looks like it’s been sewn by a child. Perhaps these things get better with time…

I opted for a more expensive lining than usual – I forget what kind of fabric it is, but it’s so smooth and keeps static away a treat. The main body of the fabric is a floral cotton poplin, the kind which sticks to your tights if you don’t line it!

Excuse the crinkles!

Excuse the crinkles!

While it’s by no means the tidiest, for the first time, I’m not ashamed to show you how this garment looks on the inside. My new favourite toy has to be my pinking shears – you wouldn’t think it to look at them, but these bad boys are unbelievable at keeping unravelling fabric at bay. All that was left to do by the end was to cover the raw edge on the hemline with a matching pink ribbon.

As I said before, my aim was to make a perfectly fitting pencil skirt and I think I’ve achieved that. The only change I would make would be to taper the lower half of the skirt in just a touch.


Next up on the sewing block are two sewing challenges – the first being Sew For Victory (which began yesterday, but I shall post my plans later this week!) and the second the Mad Men challenge. Woo!

Me Made May 12 – Make do and mend

Apologies for the lack of Me Made documentation yesterday! I travelled back to Cardiff more or less straight after the end of my placement, meaning I didn’t get back until about midnight.

Needless to say, I’m glad I won’t have to do anymore long train journeys for a while now!

Day 10 was all about the graduation skirt, paired with a lace t-shirt – a birthday gift from the lovely Ki! You should see the pink jeans she got me as well, they’re a treat.

Me Made Day 12 was all about comfort – sitting on a train for five hours is no joke! My Me-made item is actually one you’ve seen briefly before, but, as yet, has gone unblogged.

Too often, I make something which just ends up lost at the bottom of my wardrobe. I really loved my Cynthia Rowley jumper dress to start with, but, as happens all too often with clothes, I fell out of love with it and left it to gather dust in my wardrobe.

Now, as I recall, the double-knit fabric was actually pretty expensive, so I decided it was high time I did something with it. Knowing how much I wear my black double-knit pencil skirt from H&M, I nabbed some elastic from my sewing box, traced the skirt shape and made myself a green and navy houndstooth skirt out of my abandoned dress.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with the results, and now I know how well it withstands the train journey! I was really wary about cutting up the dress, because the sleeves took me bloody ages, but I’m glad I did. After all, what was the point of all that effort if I wasn’t going to wear it?

There are a couple more me-made items in my wardrobe needing to be upcycled, so this won’t be the last you’ll see of projects like these.

Me Made May Day ’12 – The Apple of my Eye

One of the best bits of Me Made May is it gives you an excuse to get up and dress up a little, even if you’re staying in for most of the day.

With two exams on the horizon, that was what was in store for me today, but I may have got a little distracted getting dolled up for Me Made May numero uno. Today, I wore a second-hand lace top found during a lucky trip to a Swansea charity shop some time ago and another blast from the past, a bright red Cynthia Rowley-designed skirt I made while living in Germany.

As promised, I said I’d tell you a little bit about one aspect of my Me Made May outfits and I thought I’d start off with something a little bit different.

While I was still working at Lush Cosmetics, the Cardiff branch opened up a pop-up shop in the brand-new shopping centre. For the short while it was open, the staff were split between Lush on Queen Street and Lush in St David’s 2. The funniest moment came when customers asked how staff in one store felt about the other competing against it even though we were actually, for all intents and purposes, the same team.

St David’s 2 attracted a lot of brands to the city centre, including accessories specialist Ollie & Nic. Now, I’m the kind of girl who will buy the sturdiest bag possible and put it through its paces. Most of my bags are ‘Mary Poppins’ bags – i.e, I can fit just about everything in there, whether I need it or not.

But one bag really caught my eye. You know how you sometimes pass a shop and have to turn back to look at the window display and sigh? Yeah well that’s what happened whenever I saw their wicker apple bag. Totally impractical, but absolutely amazing.

Unfortunately, at £40, it was a little bit out of my price range for an impulse buy. So, every time I popped into work, I stopped to stare a little bit longer at the lovely, expensive and impractical shoulder bag. I expected it to go away when the seasons changed, but I imagine it’s quite the bestseller, because it’s stuck around since Christmas 2010.

How did I come about my little apple bag? Well, for my 23rd birthday, my Mum bought it for me, knowing how much I’d been eyeing it up. I feel bad, because it’s an expensive and impractical bag (not to mention something new during the pledge! Shh, I didn’t buy it so it doesn’t count…) BUT I LOVE IT SO.

So there’s the first of my little wardrobe diaries! It’s a little contrary to what the pledge is about – but a little treat once in a while isn’t so bad.

How’s everyone else’s Me Made Mays panning out?