Category Archives: Sewing

Grokking Pavlova

(Isn’t ‘grok’ a great word? I first heard it on the Knit Knit Café podcast, and according to Google it means “to understand (something) intuitively or by empathy”.)

I love sewing pattern geometry. Actually, I love geometry altogether – when I was in my third year at university I decided to code from scratch a visual representation of matrix transformation algebra because I honestly couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do for my ‘Teaching Mathematics in Schools’ project*.

Mostly my grasp of sewing pattern geometry realises itself in the same few fitting alterations I have to perform upon variations-on-a-theme of the standard garment blocks. Every so often, however, a challenge presents itself. This time, it has been in the form of Cake Patterns’ Pavlova Wrap Top.

The starting point is this: I am tall, 6’0″ tall to be precise, and have a proportionately long lower abdominal region. This means that trousers and jeans tend to ride uncomfortably low, and tops tend to ride annoyingly high, resulting an good inch or two of bare skin if I am not careful enough when choosing my outfits. I want to be able to wear my Pavlova top in cosy knitted jersey with jeans, and this is going to mean lengthening it.

(Unfortunately this is also going to mean that I have to lose the “hole-less” side seam feature of the original – a shame, but a sacrifice I’m prepared to make for a warm and covered tummy).

The thing is – how do you lengthen a top like this, where the main pattern piece bears very little resemblance to anything you’ll find in a drafting textbook? StephC, the designer, provides a ‘lengthen/shorten here’ line but if you own the pattern then you’ll notice that the line given on sizes 35-45 is in a completely different place and at a completely different angle to the corresponding line on the size 30.

Er, what?

So I went back to the start. I hammered out exactly how the geometry of this pattern works – where the back is, where the front is, where the neckline runs, and how attaching the wrap around ties is going to effect the vertical hang of the fabric.

Let me share my results, as a help to anyone else who is struggling with the same problem. You need a lengthening line parallel to that given on the size 30 piece if like me you are performing a fitting alteration for a long back. The line on sizes 35-45 is what you use to add length in going diagonally across the body – and you could also use this line to add a pivoted wedge in for an FBA if the side gathers and the stretch of your knit combined aren’t sufficient for your boobage.

Some people will need to do both alterations, of course – but they are not the same thing.

I have to admit, I am slightly dubious at the methodology being employed here by StephC, someone who advertises herself as an experienced sewing teacher and a fitting revolutionary. Yes, knits have give in them which means that the fit of the garment doesn’t have to be quite as precise as in a woven. But I am not convinced that you are doing beginner sewists any favours by encouraging them to take short-cuts. Help them really understand the pattern – help them grok the pattern – and they will get much better results in the long run.

(This is of course assuming that she understands the issue herself. I am not at all convinced having seen her take on knit grainlines – sure, a wrap top employs lots of different angles and the rest of it, but not all knit fabrics are created equal. If you have a knit where the horizontal stretch is significantly different from the vertical stretch then surely it will affect the finished result?)

All of that said, I do love the design of the Pavlova, and am really looking forward to putting scissors to fabric, hopefully easier this afternoon or tomorrow. Watch this space as to how it goes…


*Sarcasm-free zone. I am a geek, and I don’t care!


Finding Local Cake

A happy envelope appeared for me in the post today. It contained Cake, or perhaps more accurately Pavlova:

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I’ve been wanting to try the top from this pattern for ages*, so when I came across a gorgeous rusty-red knit jersey in a small shop in Kenilworth recently, I knew it was just meant to be.

I’m not a very loyal customer by habit. Choosing to order my pattern from The Polished Button was a simple case of wanting to make my purchase as cheaply as possible within the UK (so that I wouldn’t have to wait for it to be shipped from Australia) and little more. Looking after the pennies is a philosophy that has been deeply ingrained within me for a long, long time.

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Still, the envelope with themed sticky tape caught my fancy – and imagine my surprise when I turned it over to find a local postcode written for the sender address! It turns out that The Polished Button is physically located under four miles from my current home, and only two miles from where I grew up.

I don’t know the business owner. To give you an idea, my postcode was recorded at the 2011 census as having a population density of 4660 people/km². But it’s nonetheless nice to think that (however inadvertently) my pattern purchase has supported the micro-economy of Ruth and our shared community.

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*recent spat on Stitches and Seams notwithstanding

FO: Kirsten Kinomo Mk II

You would think that such a simple tee wouldn’t take that long to make, and I guess it didn’t really by my standards. However I did want to make sure that the added neck and armhole bands were applied evenly, with no twisting or puckering. My success was worth the short delay – I forsee myself wearing the heck out of this t-shirt!

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My first version of this pattern (which some of you may remember from my old blog) was made in a knit with considerably more give. This one fits fine, but either I need to stand up straight or I need to occasionally pull it down around the hips to prevent the horizontal wrinkle around my waist that I’ve only just realised is present in both of these photos. Jonathan only has so much patience for photo-taking.

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The main fabric is an inkjet printed remnant that I bought off eBay yonks ago. It has already featured in my wardrobe via the skirt barely mentioned here, so I had to piece the back in order to have enough for the tee. But actually I really like this as a design feature too, especially with the diagonal rough plaid print.

That’s all really. A great pattern, a result that I love, and a finished garment that will go some way to rectifying the current shortage of wearable t-shirts in my chest of drawers. Perfectamundo.

UK Summer Stash

I blogged about my holiday haul from Holland at the end of July. Today it’s the turn of all the crafty bits and bobs that I have acquired during my various UK travels this summer.


My in-laws moved to Richmond, North Yorkshire in July, and we visited them on their first weekend in their new house. It was a busy weekend, but we did poke our noses into Richmond market where I was delighted to discover Woolmouse*. The pictures on the website really don’t do it justice – it was a large and cheerful stall packed with nice-quality-but-not-extortionate yarns.

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I was tempted by the huge range of local Yorkshire yarns that they had for sale, but they were all in worsted weight which is not something that I’m really knitting with at the minute. It would have been rude to buy nothing, though, so I got some undyed Araucania Ranco and a pack of lovely little mother-of-pearl-esque buttons:

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Then there was Suffolk. We arrived in Southwold on the Saturday. On Sunday I was wandering down the high street and saw a sign pointing to a quilting display and fabric pop-up shop in a room at the Swan Hotel. Who was I to refuse?

In the downstairs, DaisyMay Quilting were showing off an assortment of their long-arm quilting work. They had some fantastic quilts on displays, but there was no contest when it came to picking a favourite:

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Upstairs, Glenroy Designs had a fabric sale. Even though I’m not normally one for quilting fabric, I spent about an hour in there, oohing and aahing over the fantastic range of cottons, chatting to the ladies in charge and trying to decide what to spend my pennies on (because there was no way that I was leaving empty handed). Eventually I settled on three fabrics. Two fat quarters – autumnal leaves for myself and a Japanese-inspired design as a present for K – and 1.5m of a rich berries design, which I intend to turn into a top of some sort.




I came across some yarn which I didn’t buy, but totally would have done if they’d had it in the 4-ply weight. Dunwich Heath is one of my very favourite places to be and we were there at the very best time of year for it – when the heather is in full bloom and the bright purple sets off the yellow gorse, just-turning bracken and the blue of the sea behind. I think the notice displayed by the yarn speaks for itself really:



And last but not least, I finally bought Simplicity 1882 because I found it on sale in John Lewis in Norwich!

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It’s been a great summer 🙂




I was considering calling this post “FO: Refashioned Tee”, but then decided that “FO” and “refashioned” were both slightly grand terms for what I have just done, which is essentially taking in the side seams on a bought t-shirt.*

Anyhow. Here is the original t-shirt which I bought from a stall at Camden Lock in June:

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I loved the print too much not to buy one, but the shirts were ‘one size fits all’ with a couple of different cuts to choose from. This particular cut had more fabric to play with – the problem is that its profile was shaped like 1), whereas my figure is more shaped like 2):

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So what I did is that I placed my kimono tee pattern over the front and used that to mark out a new seamline on front and back. In order to give myself a bit more ease at the hips, I used this tutorial from BurdaStyle to create neat slits at the side seams, using scraps of interfacing as my ‘facing fabric’.

And the result? Well, I now have a t-shirt which I can wear! The fit at the back isn’t great but it’s eminently wearable and I’m afraid I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about that – I couldn’t even be bothered to change my sewing machine thread from beige to ivory!

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Sorry for the lack of ‘good’ photos, by the way. That sort of thing just isn’t where it’s at at the minute either.


*We decided at a knitting evening last night that I am an ISTJ. Can you tell?!

Lesson Learned

I can be a bit of a glutton, especially when it comes to fabric.

Even after everything that happened with Minerva’s a fortnight ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about my tan jersey and its luscious handle. I kept thinking what a perfect match it would be for Vogue 1329, perhaps paired with a beige contrast. I kept salivating over the thought of a navy shift dress in the same soft, smooth, weighty jersey…

Well you know what happened, don’t you. I decided to risk it, ordering through the eBay shop this time so at least I’d have Buyer Protection. I opened the package and… it was the really crappy stuff. Bummer.

Then I got confused. Maybe it’s the tan fabric that they got wrong (to my benefit) in the first order. So I went back to the website again, and zoomed in on the pictures in detail. And look what I found. Click on the images below and it’ll hopefully bring up the full size versions.

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Look closely at the weaves. I know that computer monitors can play tricks and stuff but those are two different fabrics, right? Yet the website descriptions are exactly the same: “The most fabulous quality Morgan Crepe Jersey. A blend of Polyester, Viscose and Lycra, this medium-heavy weight jersey is perfect for skirts, dresses, jackets and more!”

After discovering this morning that eBay Buyer Protection isn’t worth the storage bytes that the title occupies, I’m just sucking up the wasted postage costs and sending the whole lot back (along with the polyester print that was cut so far off grain that there was only 88cm usable fabric in the metre:

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I’m sorry guys but there’s no excuse for that, especially in a fabric that is eminently snip-and-rip-able.)

That’s a part of me which is tempted to call Trade Descriptions on their asses, but at this stage I really can’t be bothered. I can say this with authority, though: I will never, ever be ordering from Minerva’s ever again.

WIP Detail Shot #6

I’ve been doing some sewing today, and I’m feeling pretty proud even if I do say so myself:

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intersection of corners

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mock French seams