Practical Workwear From Old Tents

My mate Loukas, to whom I have owed a few days’ work for aaaaaages, came to stay last week so we could get to work on a project he’s been eyeing up for a while.

Somewhere, he’d happened upon a small mountain of old scout and guide tents, the cotton canvas kind, and his creative mind had whirred into action. Oh, the possibilities!

His creativity and vision, combined with my aptitude for garment technical design and construction, ended us up with these babies. Based on the traditional fisherman’s smock (but with the neck in the right place, what is WITH that?) and with as many awesome little tent details left in place as possible, the result is pretty damned cool.

He’d also managed to acquire some old sailboat sails, complete with lettering and edge grommets. So of course, a waterproof version was necessary!

Lined with some of the tent cotton for comfort and minimal sweatiness, the result is practical, comfortable, and really very cool indeed.

There’s a bit of pattern grading and a whole lot of construction to go yet, but watch this space for his line of seriously awesome, recycled, super-practical, workwear. With added awesome.

I believe he’s also got a few pre-orders, so get on that bandwagon soon! Loukas can be contacted through his website:

Shirt In A Day

I was lucky enough to spend a day this past weekend at Running With Scissors in Sheffield, teaching some lovely people to make a shirt in a day. It is every bit as ambitious as it sounds.

But they were well up for a challenge and they did magnificently.

Up to and including this course, I’ve been making custom patterns for each attendee, according to measurements provided. Which amounts to an extra day of work, unfortunately. Normally I don’t mind because it’s fun, but these days I have, like, three other potential uses of that said day.

So in future, we are going to break the course in to a “draft your own pattern to your chosen measurements” day and a “make the resulting shirt” day. Which I think will be a genuine improvement, because if you can learn to draft a custom pattern, and learn to make the shirt, you can just make shirts for everyone you know for the rest of your life. What’s not to love?

So yeah, I had five lovely people on the course this time and they all, as usual, had a range of really nice fabrics (though Phoebe went conservative with white!) and a lovely sense of fun on the day. I love teaching that course.

The best bit is seeing people be pleased with themselves as they achieve something really quite difficult that they didn’t realise they could do.

It is a bit of a brain-meltingly intense day; a shirt in a day is ambitious even if you DO know what you’re doing when you set out. And in truth, we’ve never once managed to actually get the buttons on on the day.

But still, people’s shirts were absolutely beautiful, and rather inspired me to make a shirt or two of my own.

It’s just a pity I have to use up some of the *mountain* of fabric I already have, rather than going out and acquiring more. They say buying materials and doing craft are two different hobbies. I quite agree.

Anyway, fabulous job, folks, thank you so much for attending! See you for the Pants course in July.

Phone Holster “Tutorial”

Ok, it’s not much of a tutorial, since you could have figured this out on your own, but in case you are really new to this augmented apparel thing, here you go:

Dig into your spare denim stash (which you totally have, right? You cut the legs off knackered old jeans before you chuck them, right?) and choose a colour that will work on your recipient garment. Using your phone as a template, cut a rectangle as big as your phone plus about 2.5cm all round. Then cut a curved corner away, bit enough that your phone will fit into the pocket if that’s the opening. Bear in mind a bit of seam allowance.

Turn just a bit of the curved edge under and stitch it down. This will be easy if it’s stretch denim and a little harder if not, but it’ll work if you turn under only about 5mm. Stitch that down all along the curved edge. Don’t worry about the raw edge on the inside, it won’t fray much.

Plonk it on your jeans along the side seam, about mid-thigh. Turn under each edge about 1cm as you pin it in place. Adjust pins until you are happy with where it is and that it is not all wonky. Maybe stick your phone on it again to make sure it hadn’t got too small.

Manouvre the jeans into your machine and stitch round the perimeter, skipping the curved edge (obvs, that’s the opening) and reinforcing with some backstitching either side of the opening, where you’ll be pulling at it every time you take your phone out. Be careful not to stitch bits of the leg to the back of the work, but if it happens, it happens. Rip the stitches and do it again.

You are ready to go. Commence to quote various spaghetti westerns as you reach for your phone. And enjoy not having to stuff your phone in your stupid girlie pockets that can barely hold a tissue and are already on a fairly crowded bit of your anatomy if you’re shaped like me…

Bead and Wire Necklace

I’ve been messing about with this bead and wire technique since I saw a Very Expensive necklace in a posh artisan shop in town and thought to myself, “I could do that…”

I love the bit where I go to my stack of drawers full of beads of every shape and colour and just choose a colour palette to work in.

This style is very meditative to do; the sort of thing I turn to when I’ve had enough of being outside my comfort zone and need to make no more pressing a decision than what bead to use next.

And at the end of a day’s meditation, I have a lovely necklace to show for it.

Further Adventures in Pants

Emboldened  by the success of the first pair of boxers I made, and somewhat overexcited by the re-opening of charity shops, I decided to make Julian some crazy new boxers.

I came home with this haul of old garments:

And from them I made this pile of pants:

These take a up a lot more fabric than the girly version. I only really got one pair per garment, except from the stripey swing top in size XL, from which I got two, at the price of giving up on pattern matching. Averaging just under £3 per pair and I made them all in a short day of sewing.

Definitely never buying pants again.

Jeans That Fit From Jeans That Don’t

You know how it is: you buy a pair of secondhand jeans without trying them on, maybe you’re too lazy or maybe you’re buying them online and there’s no option, but you’re safe because these are from a company you know, they are a style you have already tried and they are the same size as the ones you already have.

Nope. You cannot trust that shit. I mean, one of my recent purchases had one size on the label in the neck and a different size on the inside of the skirt seam. This is how these things end up on eBay I guess.

The jeans in question fit so badly there is not even a “before” picture for this post. I could, technically, get them on, but it was not pretty and I will not subject you to it. Almost every aspect of them was wrong. There was a bit between about mid-thigh and over-knee that was fine, but aside from that, every damn thing needed to change.

Challenge accepted.

First, the silly flap pockets. Off! And the newly orphaned rivet buttons, likewise, which left holes in my back pockets, but that’s why god created buttonhole stitch. So far so easy.

I also took in the outer side seams on the legs between over-knee and hem because these were beyond boot cut and I like straight cut.

I needed about 2 inches adding to the waist and hips area for a decent fit, so I set about unpicking the side seams.

I started by removing the waistband from everything else for a strech of a few inches either side of the side seam.

And proceeded to rip about half a dozen over-sewn, top stitched, crazy-secure stitch lines… why? Your crappy short-staple cotton will give way LONG before the seams! Oh, for a decent long-staple denim!

But anyway, seam ripped, waistband cut and I had basically flayed these jeans from mid-thigh upward.

I cut four rectangles of denim from the non-knackered bits of some knackered jeans I’d kept (always keep the non-knackered bits of your knackered jeans!) and extended the waistband with an insert on the outer and lining sides.

And from the same bit of old leg, cut some long triangles to add as a sort of upside-down godet.

The results look decidedly customised, which is exactly the look I love. I have a roll of thick orange thread that makes a very authentic topstitch. Details count!

I’d added a bit too much, really, at the waist, and they gaped (in the normal way, you know what I mean, don’t you?) at the back of the waistband. So I opened the top only of the waistband either side of the back belt loop and added small darts either side.

Fairly subtle, but making a curve out of what they always cut as a straight section of waistband. Why do they do that? Everybody always has a four-finger gap at the back of the waistband unless they really have no arse to speak of. These were even meant to be “curvy” jeans. What curves? My knees? WHAT CURVES?!

Anyway, the end result was pretty damn good. Probably a little too loose in the waist for wearing without a belt, but that’s fine by me, I’d rather the belt did the heavy lifting than the jeans anyway. Maybe not less fat rolls, but certainly subtler ones that way.

Now I just need to add a phone holster and I’ll be on my way.

Pirate Puffling Pants

I wanted to call them pirate pants. Julian suggested puffling pants. It was inevitable.

You may (if you have been paying attention) remember that my enormous stash of knit fabrics contained some awesome stripe stuff (pictured below under some less-desirable green fabric). It was actually cream, gold and dark green when I bought it but I felt it could benefit from a round of green dye. I’m quite pleased with the result.

Part of the inspiration for this was a youtube post by all round rad lady Morgan Donner about Historybounding, the act of wearing everyday clothes that are in some way remeniscent of historical clothing without going the whole, period-accurate hog.

I am so in. Especially where breeches are involved. I am working on another look that skims the silhouette from an 18th C gent and does it in slinky knit fabrics, but I may be getting ahead of myself…

There was only *just* enough of my awesome stripey fabric to make a pair of breeches, so I had to piece it a bit to get the inseam curve, but on the plus side, I had next to zero waste after cutting. One bit of waste I did have become a hair accessory. Trés piratey, non?

Sorry, no info on the making process because I was winging it so completely, I didn’t even photograph them in the making. I will do better.

Teapot Leaf Mould Roller-majig

Inspired by the one we saw at Harlow Carr, I decided a couple of days ago to make a leaf mould roller/container in the shape of a teapot.

For one thing, it’s something to do with the rolls of fencing wire I have somehow acquired over the years, and the chicken wire (I don’t even know where that came from) that’s been stored outside the shed I just took down.

After an entire iteration of this project that, while I won’t call it a failure, didn’t come up to the mark in terms of quality (falls apart at the seams when rolled) or appearance (more of a blob than a globe), I decided to just go right ahead and improve on the design.

Looking at my blobby, wobbly mess of a non-spherical first attempt, I decided that measuring and being careful were maybe worth trying. So I put some marks on my deck and marked the fencing wire lengths at 50cm intervals.

They cross over at the bottom, fed through a loop in one of them. I used some smaller gauge wire to weave a bit at the bottom to keep the wires pointing in roughly the right directions. I also put small loops in the main frame wire at the marked 50cm intervals for some latitudinal circles, which I had to make of the lighter gauge wire, but it is too bendy, really. I think I should have used the heavy stuff. Still, the overall stiffness of this design is better than the first.

I cut the chicken wire into big triangles and bent/twisted it around the wires, or later, itself, in an attempt to make the seams on this one more robust. The first one was rather haphazardly thrown together, and also the leaves we put in it were already wet and compressed, making them heavy and awkward to roll.

We haven’t filled it yet, but hopefully, between drier leaves and a better design, this one will do the job better.

Anyway, it looks super cute.

Vegan Wedding Cake

It had been a while since I made a fancy cake, and as usual, the longer the while has been, the more I feel like doing a thing. So when my neighbour told me she and her (husband? What time is it…?) were getting quietly hitched today, I thought, aw, thanks, man! Just the excuse I needed.

I have not traditionally been a vegan baker, because I am not vegan and because all my vegan cakes turned out horrible when I gave it a try a few years ago. But time marches on and culture changes and the vegan/plant-based arguments are getting pretty hard to argue with… I get a litte more vegan each day/month/year. So it was time to try again.

Happily, I nailed it. Here’s the recipe:

I used two 6″, one 4″ and a glass tumbler lined with paper. You can use 6 muffin tins or a single loaf tin or any similar volume. Grease and line the tins however you prefer to do that. Turn the oven on to about 170 or so.

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup white caster sugar, or whatever sugar you like
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of bicarb
1-and-a-bit cups (300ml) oat milk
1 tablespoon vinegar, any kind
1/2 cup oil, something not too strong tasting
1 big splash of vanilla

Don’t worry too much about being exact with all that. Measure however you measure. Substitute whatever you want, within reason. Stick spices in it, get wild. The important thing is the mixing technique and how you bake it.

Put all the dry stuff in a bowl and run a balloon whisk through it as a way of avoiding sifting it.

Mix the oat milk and vinegar and set aside briefly to curdle/thicken slightly. I am actually doubtful this makes a huge difference, but it’s traditional by now. Then add the oil and vanilla and wisk this mixture up.

Pour the wet over the dry and whisk vigorously for a good minute, till very smooth and then a bit more, using the balloon whisk. If you use a spoon, beat it longer. If you use an electric whisk, I have no advice, sorry.

Pour it into the pans, whack it in the oven and set a timer for 20 or 25 minutes, depending on the surface area to volume ratio of your chosen baking vessel situation. Mini-muffins will likely be done after 20 minutes. A single tall 6″ cake will take longer. It should be browning on top, firm to touch and if in doubt, a skewer in the middle should come out clean. This is a moist cake by nature, so don’t be tempted to underbake it for fear of dryness.

Cool it to pretty much room temperature before you take it out of the tins, as it can be a little prone to breakage when warm.

Then decorate it however you want.

I used buttercream made from vegan spread and icing sugar, plus sugarpaste from the supermarket, edible powder colours mixed with gin for painting and a tiny goblet from a charity shop. And a sprig of new cherry leaves for garnish.

The sugarcraft stuff, the stacking, covering, piping and painting, etc, I am very happy to teach you on one of my courses, please get in touch if you’re interested. A very tasty course, that one.

The detail work is a little chunkier than I usually achieve, because I tried to do royal icing with chickpea water/aquafaba and I  **FAILED** so utterly that I threw the soupy mess out and piped with leftover vegan buttercream instead, which is always more challenging. Someday I may try again.

So there it is. Now I am waiting for them to arrive for their tiny afterparty next door, which looks to be a lovely little event from the decorations I can see over the fence. I suppose I’d better get on with some real work in the meantime…

Knits. Not Knitting.

Like most sewists, I was terrified of knits. Especially super-drapey-floopy knits that look and feel divine, but NEVER do what you want when you put them through a sewing machine. But I am fearless. It’s my thing. So I spent the week figuring that shit out.

I had somehow (I don’t know how this happens!) acquired a maaaaassssive stack of various colours of lovely knit over the years. I maybe shouldn’t be allowed into Abakhan ever again. But I think I couldn’t bear it.

Step one was to make a pattern. Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can just whip one up off the top of my head. And luckily I had enough fabric to perfect the pattern as I went along.

The main seams were mainly a task for the overlocker, but the hems allowed me to get some sweet, sweet double needle action in my life! I love a double needle.

So here’s the gallery of finished products. Some accessories and bits are not part of the collection (two underskirts and a scarf) but everything else is what I made this week!



And here’s a timelapse video of me making one of the cardigans.

Hey, did you know I teach this stuff? If you want to learn how to make something, let me know ( because I am dying to teach you.