Saturday, 31 January 2015

My experience of cosy winter fabrics.

As the temperature starts to lower and amber warnings of snow and other wintry conditions abound, I thought I would share my experiences of using warmer fabrics for winter clothing.  It always amazes me when I see photos on blogs of cotton dresses being worn in winter, they must have thermal vests underneath because I'm afraid I need a little more warmth than that.

Early morning view on Thursday

So I'll start with what I think is the warmest and work my way down.

1.  Wool

I suppose that's pretty obvious - it would have to be wool.  I am a big wool fan in every shape and size of strand and fibre.

It is, of course a natural fibre, it is breathable, comfortable (unless you are unfortunate enough to be sensitive to it) and warm.

I suppose it's general performance depends on both the weave (dense or more open) and also the weight.  You pay for what you get, the heavier ones will keep out the cold better, but will be more expensive.  Prices range from £8 - £50/metre, the latter being perhaps Harris Tweed.

In general, wool fabrics I have found easy to work with, both cutting and sewing.  It also stands the test of time, in that it is generally hard wearing.  The only slight down side is that you may need to dry clean or hand wash, but usually less cleaning is required overall.

Lately I also used a viscose/ wool mix in my Delphine skirt which is very cosy, more detail here.

Some of my 'wool projects'

Beige wool fabric from Guthrie & Ghani
Colette Albion

Black wool fabric from, Liesl & Co Woodland Stroll Cape

2.  Merino/Knit fabrics

To me, merino knit fabric is fantastic.  The only source I have purchased merino knit from is  I haven't found a source here in the UK or in Europe and the last lot I purchased the postage was quite a bit and you also are liable to pay VAT.  However, there are lots of offers and remnants so if you get the fabric at a good price, it works out fine.  There are lots of patterns and colours and excellent quality.  I generally receive my parcels in about 7 days.

Some fabrics have more stretch than others and there are different weights, so bear that in mind so that it matches whichever pattern you have chosen.

I have also bought some wool jersey in, they have a great selection and are reasonably priced.

But as most of my dresses are of the knit variety in winter these sort of fabrics would be the ones I use most.  Here are some examples:

Victory Lola, wool jersey from myfabrics.
Jennifer Lauren Enid sweater, fabric newzealandmerino
3.  Ponte knit jersey

I don't want to appear a fabric snob, although I love the merino jersey, I do use ponte jersey quite a bit too.  There are various qualities and weights, but overall they are cheaper than wool jerseys.  They are comprised mostly of polyester, some have rayon and, of course, elastane for stretch.  As they are predominately synthetic they are not really breathable, so probably will require more frequent washing. They are very easy to work with for cutting and sewing and can be washed in the washing machine easily and require minimal ironing.  Although slightly different double knit jersey is another similar alternative, although personally I am not so keen on it.  Like most jersey fabrics there will be considerable shrinkage so definitely pre-washing is required.

Ponte jersey dress (Onion pattern)

Heavy double knit from minerva fabrics

4.  Sweatshirting

Sweatshirting fabrics vary a lot both in weight and quality.  Again they can have different fibre content, I prefer cotton sweatshirting, but there are reasonable polyester based sweatshirting which are very good value for money.  I have tried some from and they have been super, ranging in price from £10/metre to £15/metre.  I also love the sweatshirt fabric from, it's really thick, soft and cosy and 1.8 metre wide so goes a long way.  Of course, there is also the option of the luxurious Liberty sweatshirt - I treated myself to some with some birthday money and it is really lovely, but pretty pricey.

Gray sweatshirt fabric from
Papercut sweatshirt pattern, Liberty sweatshirt.
5.  Flannel

This may seem a strange one, mostly associated with pyjama making, but I have found that flannel can be used pretty well for some garment sewing.  One source are these lovely cotton flannels which I have used a couple of times and on searching for the link I discovered there are lots of new additions.  Although these are cotton, because they are brushed, they can be cosy for shirts and tunic dresses.  Sometimes the Japanese fabrics have flannel in their collections.

Flannel fabrics are also excellent for cosy jacket/coat linings.

Merchant and Mills Camber top in flannel from raystitch

Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt in Kokka flannel, Dragonflyfabrics.
6.  Denim

Denim is an all year round fabric, but like most fabrics they come in varying qualities and weights, so for winter a heavier weight is better.  You can also get denim with wool content also, although I haven't tried any as yet.  I have mostly used denims from and

7.  Heavier weight cottons

Some of the Japanese double gauze fabrics are a little bit heavier which are good weights for blouses, tops and even dresses.  It must be the double layer, maybe it traps warm air making it more insulatory.

Japanese double gauze.
Like the denims, you can also get cotton fabric with a wool content (usually about 20%), I have some Lantana from Liberty in my stash that I haven't used yet, so can't report on it's warmth (or not?)  The only cotton/wool fabrics I have used is a check fabric which I used for a Camber dress.  It is warmer than a normal cotton, but unfortunately is quite itchy.  I'm not normally sensitive to wools so a bit strange.

Camber dress, cotton/wool fabric from myfabrics
8.  Corduroy

Again with cord fabrics there are different weights and qualities.  The wale count is the number of parallel ridges per inch, the less there are the thicker the cord, for example, a 4 wale cord is much thicker than 11 wale cord.  The thicker ones are more suitable to coats or jackets.  Although I like cord a lot and have included it here, to be honest, I don't think it's really that warm a fabric, the wind can blow straight through it.  I do love the Liberty cords though, they are very soft and smooth.

Corduroy Lisette Market top
I know there are lots more possibilities with winter-type fabrics like knit acrylic, velvet, fur, water repellent, the list could be endless, but these are the ones that I have come to use mostly because I have found they keep me warm and/or suit my lifestyle, my style and are practical for me.

I think I have mentioned most of the main companies that I prefer to purchase from, there are more but these are the ones I deal with mostly. (in particular for warmer weight fabrics)
Guthrie & Ghani
Craftswoman (local store)

Happy Winter Sewing!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cosy Enid Sweater for the first make of the year.

Thought I would start the year off with what I hoped would be an easy make, the Enid Sweater by Jennifer Lauren Vintage.  I wanted to try a top that was cosy, but perhaps a bit more shapely.  The pattern is designed really to be made from sweatshirt fabric, it is a cropped style and the fabric is cut on the bias.  It offers two different necklines, a V-neck and a square neckline.

Enid Sweater worn with Delphine skirt.

I chose a purple merino fabric that I already had (bought from, it is a medium weight with a little stretch.  Going by the measurement chart I decided to make the size 14, which just  fits me, so I would say it is a neat fit.  I would probably go up a size if I was using sweatshirt fabric with no stretch.  Being cut on the bias does give it a lovely shape and there is a slight grain on my fabric which you can see.

The one thing I'm not too sure about is that the sleeves are rather wide and baggy.  Maybe this a vintage style thing, fitted body and baggy sleeves, also they are quite long (I don't have particularly short arms).

I used a cotton knit rib banding (from, they have a great range of colours).  It was my first time using it and  it's fairly easy to work with.  My first attempt at the 'V' was a bit puckery, I toyed with covering it with a button or some other disguise, but it was bugging me, so I unpicked it very slowly and carefully.  I was afraid of distorting either the main fabric or the banding, but I repositioned it, stitched it up and it was fine.  It's important to be quite exact about the way you pin the band to the base of the 'V', otherwise it can bubble.  It was my first time doing a V-neck and also it is the first garment sewn on my new Janome.

So I think if I make another one, I will shorten the sleeves and look at possibly taking the sleeves in even slightly (they just feel a bit floppy, but I guess if I used sweatshirt fabric there would be less floppiness) and also try the square neckline.  Overall I do like it, instructions are good and it gives me a nice cosy outfit with my Delphine skirt (blogged here)

Next project up is a Liberty shirt for the hubbie - better get cutting, it was meant to be for Xmas.  Oops.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Winter Ten Item Wardrobe an first attempt at Project 333.

So I thought I would share my Winter Ten Item Wardrobe.  This is something I started in the spring and the idea comes from Jennifer Scott and her little book, Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris.  It seems very drastic, but I was amazed how well it worked, far easier to get ready in the morning and freeing up so much space.  I wasn't sure if it would work as well for winter, as there can be so many fluctuations in temperature and weather conditions.  I think the secret is having more options for layering in the 'extras', which are jersey tops, cardigans, jackets, coats and accessories.

Anyway, here's what I settled on for three months, mid November to mid February.

Item 1

Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress

Made in ponte jersey and very easy to wear.

Item 2

Lisette Portfolio dress

This pattern has gone out of print, it was one of the first items I mad.  It is in a gray wool fabric, trims are a Japanese flannel.  It is one for cold days.

Item 3

Grainline Hemlock tee pattern (free pattern)

I just lengthened the tee pattern to make it tunic dress length to be worn over jeans or leggings.  It is made from a heavier weight ponte jersey from Minerva.  Very cosy.

Item 4

Victory patterns Lola dress

I love this pattern, the different sections give it a nice shape and the pockets are great.  I made a plain navy one previously, which got a lot of wear.  This one is a wool based jersey from, again it is very cosy.

Item 5

Liesl and co pattern Cappuccino top

This pattern was an update on the Lisette Portfolio only with a V-neckline.  One of the great additions is that the instructions show you how to do full bust adjustments for better fitting.  I have worn this a lot so far.

Item 6

Maria Denmark Yasmin yoke skirt

Back in the spring I was wanting to make my perfect skirt and this is pretty much it.  I made it in denim so it's fairly neutral and hard-wearing.

Item 7

Tilly & the Buttons Delphine skirt (from the book Love At First Stitch)

My most recent make, an A-line skirt in pink viscose/wool fabric from ditto fabrics, a very cosy, less expensive fabric than boiled wool, I love it.

Items 8 - 10

Meandem Denim slim jeans
Meandem Gray jeans
Toast chinos.

Ten items doesn't seem a lot, but it's actually quite a bit.  I have taken it a step further with The Project 333, this is having a TOTAL of 33 items for 3 months.  This is meant to include even jewellery, bags, boots and shoes.  I started it mid November, but excluded jewellery and accessories (like scarfs) of which I have loads.  I really didn't think I would stick to it, but already I am seeing how simple and great it is.  When you take it down to the wire like that, you really have to love all your stuff and they totally have to work for your climate and lifestyle.

So other than my 10 items, I have 2 winter coats, 1 cape, 1 long knitted cardigan, 4 cardigans (2 of which I don't seem to be wearing very much, as they are too thick in weight, so they won't be in next winters), 2 blouses, 3 sweaters, 3 jersey tops, 1 sweatshirt, 1 sweatpants, 4 boots & 1 shoes.

Already I can see items that don't justify being there as they don't get much wear, so I will probably tweak this list to exclude them and add in a couple of accessories, handbag and jewellery next time round.  I think that's not bad for the first try and I am definitely hooked.

This has had an impact on my sewing pattern purchasing, fabric purchasing and sewing/knitting in general, in a good way.  It has made me much more selective in patterns and fabrics and has made me more particular in my sewing and that can only be good.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy 2015, Highlights, reflections and Goals.

Happy New Year, just taking a little time to reflect on 2014 and divulge any goals I might have for the new year.


Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.  One of my 'resolutions' at the beginning of 2014 was overall to make less, but make better.  I did this but it was slightly enforced due to circumstances, in that my father was ill in May and then was in hospital for 8 weeks coming up to Christmas, therefore sewing and knitting took a back seat, but that's life.

I was also meant to be buying less fabric and patterns, which I did, but I still made quite a few purchases, so I have a list of things I want to try in 2015.

I also wanted to 'embrace the buttonholing' as my sewing machine was a bit hit and miss.  I did do some button holes, but it was a struggle, but my lovely husband bought a lovely Janome sewing machine for me for Christmas, so I really have no excuses now.  Very chuffed with that on Christmas morning!

My new Janome

Skills wise, I suppose my best makes as regards techniques were the Yasmin Yoke skirt (invisible zip), the Emery dress (fashioned a pleated version of the skirt, invisible zip, lining a bodice etc) and the Liberty Banksia (very proud of the placket and collar)

Megan Nielsen Banksia bouse.

So overall, in what was a personally challenging year, I suppose I didn't do too badly.


Highlights for me were things I took part in which helped to develop the mindset of 'less is more' and striving to be more minimal.

These were:

Taking part in the Wardrobe Architect series by Colette patterns. You can read about it here.

Striving to do the Ten Item Wardrobe as per Jennifer L Scott at dailyconnoisseur here, I have also a winter ten item wardrobe, which I will post soon.

Leading on from the above two and taking it all a step further, the theproject333.  I started this properly in mid November.  You basically pick a total of 33 items of clothing for 3 months and that's it.  It is meant to include clothes, jewellery, shoes, boots and handbags.  For me this has been an amazing process, I sold a lot of items on ebay, gave a lot to charity and at the start  I felt bereft, but I have only done a month and a half and I can already see the benefits.  Will probably do a post soon about this. For a craft person who sews and knits you would think it would be impossible to do, but it just makes you a lot more selective which is great.

Taking part in MeMadeMay for the second time, lovely to see other peoples' makes, receive nice comments and seeing photos of you in your own makes.  (good or bad?)

Taking part in OWOP in September, great to show how a particular sewing pattern can be very versatile.  You can see it here.

Sewing an Emery dress for sewdollyclackett

I suppose the last highlight was receiving my new sewing machine.

Emery dress sewn for Sewdollyclackett


To be honest, I'm almost afraid to make any goals as this year showed me how unpredictable life can be, so I'm going to keep this simple.

Knitting - Still want to knit socks, but am seriously evaluating the whole knitted garment thing.  Doing project 333 has made me realise that although I have quite a few heavy, thick sweaters I rarely wear them.  I hate to say it but they're just not very useful, usually too thick to wear under a coat and usually to wet to go out with just a sweater on, so I think either I stop knitting sweaters/cardis or I have to knit in finer, lighter yarns.  Also it is really expensive to knit now if you want to use proper yarn (ie. not acrylic and polyester)

Sewing - Continue to improve my skills, especially fitting, experiment with different necklines and shapes.  Try and stick to what I know suits both my shape and my lifestyle.

Immediate sewing plans

Sew a Liberty shirt for the hubbie.

Finish the Girl Friday Culottes - there was a little error in the pattern in the size I made, so it didn't work out, but I now know the problem, so I hope to finish them soon.

Make my perfect shirtdress - Could be McCall 6696, Grainline Alder, not sure yet
Some ideas I might try to emulate on my pinterest board here

Sew some cardigans, looking most likely is the Jenna Cardigan by sewingmuse

So quite a lot to be going on with.  2015 here I come.