No small feet

I was planning on next sewing up a long-sleeved linen shirt for James using BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern, but having read through Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin, I soon realised that all my previously sewn shirts were terribly amateur and that I’d learned SO MUCH in just reading the first ten pages that I’d now longer be able to go back to my own ignorant ways after eating from the tree of knowledge.

One of the things Coffin said is absolutely necessary is a felling foot for your sewing machine, which I don’t have. These seem to be a rare item for non-Pfaff machines in the UK, so I’ve had to buy one off American eBay (along with a rolled hem foot from the same seller, which Coffin also recommends).

Before I bought the feet, I had a quick rifle through my sewing machine feet box first to see if I already had them and just didn’t know what they were. When I got my sewing machine from my sister-in-law, she threw in a little plastic box full of feet and spare bobbin casings and screwdrivers and all sort of random pieces that she thought went with the machine. Some I’ve been able to identify, but others are still a mystery, so I’m hoping some of you will be able to help me out…


The A Team – the feet I use all the time! From left to right: the standard foot, the adjustable zipper foot, and the walking foot

Fabric Shops and Sewing Magazines in Buenos Aires

We’ve been back from our Argentina trip for a while now, and now that the “holy crap I’m a world champion and world record holder!” glow has subsided a bit and I’ve had time to unpack all my goodies, I wanted to share with you the sewing-related finds from our time in Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, and Iguazu Falls (all three of which I heartily recommend visiting – even if you don’t like tango! I really don’t care about tango, but the food and cocktails in Buenos Aires were out of this world!).

Fabric Shops in Buenos Aires

Handily, the fabric shops in Buenos Aires were concentrated in one small area near the centre, so it was really easy to just pop over and buy some fabric souvenirs, even if you just have an hour or two spare in your schedule (as often happens if you’re in a city for work or on a guided tour).

The shops were much smaller than those in NYC or Goldhawk Road, but they contained a surprisingly wide variety of fabrics, and prices were cheap (but not ridiculously so). It was a pretty laid back atmosphere – no pressure to buy, but employees were around if you wanted something cut.

I paid $260 pesos (about $25US or £18) total for the 3.5 metres of fabric I bought. Prices weren’t marked on any bolts that I saw, so I have no idea of the individual prices of my fabrics, and the fibres were only loosely labelled in sections – “algodón” (cotton), “seda” (silk), etc, so you’ve got to be good at identifying fabrics by feel!


My purchases – 1m each of the printed and grey lightweight jerseys for me, and 1.5m of the coral sweatshirting to sew a Kimono Sweat for my mom

Lengths are in metric measurements (“meters” or “medio”, for half), so just know your lower Spanish numbers or hold up fingers, and most shops have calculators at the tills to just show you the price in pesos if you’re not great with your higher numbers in Spanish. Like pretty much everywhere in Argentina, the fabric shops are cash only – it’s really rare to find anywhere that takes payment by card, though cash machines are fairly easy to find in major cities.

Not Much to Show For It

I spent all Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening sewing up a storm, making myself mentally exhausted in the process. Unfortunately I can’t actually say what I was so busy working on, but I should be able to by the end of the month. I know that’s a tease, and I’m sorry!

Anyway, if you recall, I was going through all my sewing machine feet earlier and I asked if anyone could help me identify some of them. Big thanks to Debbie for identifying the straight stitch foot, and also to Lis and Noile for telling me that the mystery notion in the upper right is a seam gauge:

The GBSB Live and storewide sale

If you had told me from the start that buying my first ever stall at an expo would require so much time, effort, stress and money, I’m not sure I would’ve ever said yes in the first place. But back when the Great British Sewing Bee Live event was announced, I was tempted, talked it over with J, and decided to go for it and stretch myself as a small business owner.

It’s been a huge learning process, even just moving from a purely digital business into one that not only has to fill a space (which the organisers kept making bigger!) but also taking in-person card transactions, and ordering supplies to try and really show off what Fehr Trade Patterns really is to someone just walking past who may have never heard of us. If you’re coming along, we’re on stall H1 (turn left once you enter, and I’m in the corner with the workshop rooms).

The show is finally upon us, and hopefully now the panic attacks and stress and dwindling bank balance can give way to the enjoyment of meeting new people and putting faces to long-time customers’ names, too. But if I don’t manage to get a pattern released this calendar year, we can definitely point a blame finger in the show’s general direction as much as the book’s!

I made socks

With the book writing and marathon training in full swing over the past few months, I needed a bit of a diversion in my spare time. Because, even though I love them both dearly, when you’re thinking about sewing and activewear and running all day long, sometimes you want to just sit down and not think about either for a bit!

I’ve never knitted before in my life, nor have I frankly had any desire to. I have enough hobbies, and I don’t get excited by yarn in the slightest. I’ve never had any desire to knit a scarf or hat, which seems to be the basic beginner projects you must suffer through in order to learn the craft (a bit like making PJ bottoms in sewing I guess?). But socks are different – yes, I could definitely see the appeal in making socks, but they seemed really complicated to knit, and again, I have zero desire to go through months of learning how to do the basics in order to get to the thing I actually wanted to make.

Burda magazine Jan 2017

I think Burda Towers must’ve taken a break for the holidays or something because everyone I know received this issue really late for some reason! But better late than never to kick off a brand new year of Burda sewing patterns, and this one’s not only got the traditional January carnival costumes (and nary a “recycled water bottle lady” bonkers one in sight!) but also… activewear! 😝

A tour of my new sewing room!

I know I’ve been talking about my new sewing room for ages (and believe me, it feels like even longer to me!) but I’m finally moved in and so chuffed to finally share it with you!

My new sewing room is very small, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in cool points – who else has a sewing room on a boat, concealed behind a hidden bookcase door, eh??

This is the bit everyone loves – a modified Hemnes bookcase from Ikea, with reinforcements, casters (wheels), and a hidden pull latch to keep it closed. Our joiner is a genius and we’re so lucky to have found him!! The greatest thing about this is that my sewing room is at the very end of the corridor, and the way the various deck heights work means there’s a porthole just above the bookcase. So it really does look convincing, like there’s no boat beyond it!!

Once inside, I’ve put a corkboard on the inside of the door as a place to pin all my magazine clippings, sketches of designs past and present, and general mood-boardy stuff. You can also see how small the room is here – it’s only a little under 2m (6 feet) long by 2m wide at its widest point.

Also take note of the smoked oak parquet floor that I painstakingly cut, laid, sanded, and hand oiled myself. Loooouuuurve my floor! It was expensive, both in cost and effort, but so worth it.

When you enter the room, immediately on your left you’ll find Susan, my dressform (seen here wearing my Laurie King fabric collaboration VNA Top pattern), and my pattern rack, which I’ve had for quite a few years but came from the garment industry supply shop, Morplan. As you can see from the number of patterns on it, I find it unbelievably useful! Also note the cute sewing machine clock my mom sent over to me!

A classic pair of jeans

I know I’ve been recently focusing on sewing for my upcoming Mexico trip but I’ve been wanting to sew these since my FW12 and SS13 plans so it was high time I actually just sat down and made them!

After umming and ahhing for months over which pattern I should use, then muslining two different patterns which were both too small, I ended up making this pair in two days’ flat! As you’ll recall, it’s #120 from the April 2010 issue of Burda magazine (sadly not on Burdastyle.com!), an issue which also had a great pair of men’s trousers I’ve been eyeing up for James, too.


Worn here with my plum bamboo Jalie top

I’m a bit scared that I can sew an entire pair of jeans now (including the front fly) without looking at instructions a single time… I did, however, inspect a pair of James’s RTW jeans once or twice to see which side of the seam they topstitched!


This one has been lightened so you can see the details a little better!

Oh, and remember when I tried on the muslin for this pattern and it was way too small in the waist and hips? Well, I put the muslin to the side in my sewing cave and tried them on a few weeks later and they fit perfectly now! Yes, only I would go and change my body instead of just doing a pattern alteration…

Sequin running vest and purple leggings

I’m going to break from tradition here and actually post my next two outfits out of sequence from when I made them, mostly because I just shared my elastic waistband tutorial with you, but also because I’m really freaking excited about sewing exercise gear right now. Honestly, it’s starting to become nearly lingerie-levels of hysteria with me – super quick to make, easy to fit, and lots of wild colours and patterns in small doses! But you’ll get to see my “civilian” top and trousers later this week, so no worries if you’re starting to glaze over at all the lycra…

For this set of running gear, I’ve paired up the Papercut “Ooh La Leggings” pattern (UK stockist here) with my self drafted knit block (from Metric Pattern Cutting). And in the case of the top, I altered the seam lines and armhole shape to suit!

You may remember the ex-Prada sequin trompe l’oeil fabric from a few years ago when I used it to make a cowl top. I wear that all the time, but I only had a small piece leftover in my stash, and it was far too lovely to throw away. But with a bit of creative thinking, it was enough for this! Though I think I’ll lower the curve a bit for my next running vest so the peak is just at my underbust…

As you can see with the leggings (or maybe not, the purple fabric is quite dark!), there are no side seams here! The shaped front and back yokes give some really cool, curved seams, and they merge nicely into front- and back-leg seams instead.

DIY Boat Skylight covers

I’m very excited because this is the first opportunity I’ve had to crosspost anything between this sewing site, and our site for our boat, Hendrik!

We’ve got a total of six skylights on Hendrik – four flat metal ones in the front of the boat where we live, and two peaked, wooden framed ones in the back captains cabin which we rent out to our lovely lodgers. We’ve largely been able to keep our front skylights from leaking too badly, but the age and design of the ones in the back meant that they really needed some covers both to limit the drips and to protect the woodwork and the original 1930s patterned glass.


(this is the larger, saloon skylight)

So a few months ago I got some swatches from Pennine Outdoor to have a look at their tent fabrics, and decided that the “UV Treated Window Material” (P49) and “PVC Coated Polyester” (P9) would work best. Importantly, since I had the swatches I also tested to make sure I could sew through these on my regular domestic machine! I bought two metres of the green and one metre of the clear, which came to £23 including shipping (and this gave me plenty enough for these two skylights, and probably enough for at least one of our flat skylights).