Category Archives: Home Management

New Year – New Dress

 New Year – New Dress

In this new dress sewing post: Project organisation; Matching Checks/Plaids; Creating a Neck facing; Inserting a Zip; Inserting Sleeves; Using Tacking

My new dress has both a high waist and both bodice and skirt darts which are flattering to my curves.

Project organisation

My aim is to use up the fabrics and resources I already have, reducing my storage needs and simplify finding everything.

I had already prepped some red, brown and navy plaid fabric: washing and drying it and then pinning the selvedges together, matching the plaid pattern up. Having decided to use a high waist winter dress pattern, I had stored the fabric and pattern together in a stacking basket, complete with thread and zip notions.

This is one of the ways I organise my projects.

After hearing a podcast on fabric and pattern organisation I’m considering options for my New Year goal of simplicity.

I already use Evernote for general organisation so this may be best for specific sewing project organisation. I would then have the info on fabrics and patterns, including the fabric & notions required on my phone with me when out.

Cutting Out

When I realised I had a spare afternoon towards the end of December, when the rest of the family went off to the cinema, I washed down the Kitchen Island (which is just the right height for me to cut out fabric without back issues), and grabbed the basket for this project.

Having the plaid pattern already matched up, and using my fabric weights, which I find quicker than pins, I had my dress fabric pieces cut out in no time.


I made my own fabric weights, filling them with rice, and you can order some  yourself choosing your own colour fabric, from my Etsy shop.

These pattern weights are not just handy for sewists, but make great paper weights or for  juggling practice!

All the pieces were returned to the basket to take back to my studio and stay together during construction.

Over the following week, whenever I had a little time spare, I went to my machine, and pieced my new dress together. My aim became to have it ready to wear on News Year Day, and I did achieve this, even though I sat sewing the hem by hand at my sister in law’s New Years Eve gathering!

Matching Plaids

As I mentioned I had already pined the selvedge edges together, matching the plaid pattern up.

Fabric is not always folded up on in the bolt straight to the pattern so the first step to pattern matching is to straighten it out.

Pre washing means I know there will not be any distortion after making up.

When placing the pattern pieces on the fabric I considered what would need to match up.

My pattern needed matching horizontally and vertically, so I needed the skirt and bodice plaids to match up, as well as the front and back pattern to match horizontally.

I placed the pattern pieces to allow for this.

I also added an inch to the bodice armhole as shown, to give a little more movement.

In places, even after pinning the plaid to match on seams, there was some slippage. So the plaid did not quite match after pressing the seam. This is an instance when tacking, in this case sideways on the plaid line, as well as just inside the seam line, saved unpicking and resewing!

Creating a Neck Facing

An interlined facing creates a neat neck edge. I attached iron-on grey interlining to the fabric facing pieces. (It is not necessary to try to do any plaid matching, as the facing is turned to the wrong side and is not seen when you wear the dress).

The shoulder seams both of the bodice and the facing are sewn first

The facing is then sewn on to the bodice, right sides together. This curved seam needs clipping to ensure the facing lies flat.

I then pressed this facing seam to ensure a smooth neck edge.

Especially when pressing curves, a tailors ham makes a really good accessory, giving a firm surface to press against.

I made my own tailors ham, filling it with sawdust and you can order one yourself (choosing your own colour fabric if you choose) from my Etsy shop

I then used understitching the facing to give extra strength to the neck edge and help ensure the facing lies flat.

This involves a line of stitching on the opened out facing.

When the facing is folded under you don’t see the stitches.

An alternative would be to topstitch the folded neck edge, where you will see the stitches. This can add an extra design feature, especially if you use a contrasting thread colour. As my fabric already had plenty going on, I chose to understitch.

Inserting the Zip

I used a regular zip, rather than an invisible one, as that is what I had in.

When your fabric has several colours, it can be tricky to decide which colour zip to use. I had brown and red zips, so held both against the bodice pieces to choose which blended best. I went for the red zip and made sure the thread blended well too.

My zip method: tack the seam together, press it open and then lay the right side of the zip down centred over the seam.

Tacking again helps keep the centred and in place during stitching. Using a zipper foot helps get the stitches close to the zipper teeth.

Inserting Sleeves

Tack the sleeve heads, with the thread secured at one end. Pull up these stitches then to match the bodice armhole.

I place the pins sideways to the seam. Wind the unsecured end of the tacking round a pin in a figure of eight, after pulling the gathering to match.

The regular sewing machine foot used, glides over pins that are sideways.

My finished new dress for the New Year and Burns Night. Bring on the neeps and tatties!

I would love to hear from you. Please comment here, or using the contact form.

What is your most recent make?

How do you organise your fabric and patterns?

Replacement Cover – Ironing Board Hack

I show you that creating a replacement cover for an ironing board is quick, easy and inexpensive.

I love the convenience of my Ikea JALL table ironingboards which I use in the guest room and in my textile workshops. It was the Simple Sew Sheffield launch which made me stocktake and realise that one ironingboard was really not fit to be seen in public. I’m not sure I really want to “bare all” and show you how tatty it had got here, but in true before and after style, I have decided I will.

ironing board hack BEFORE

Not a pretty sight heh?

Replacement Cover

Ikea sell replacement covers for their larger ironing boards but not for the table ironingboard.  I am really into up-cycling rather than replacing so I set about investigating how to make a replacement cover.

Going to my fabric stash I found a piece of cotton just the right size. It was a remmenant I was offered very cheaply at Economy Fabrics. This project needs 90 x 40 cm of fabric.


Taking the existing cover off, I found the wadding still usable and used it as a pattern, adding 5cm all around

Using the wadding as a pattern

I decided to improve on the single wadding and added some Insul Bright heat resistant wadding. This wadding feels more like felt and contains heat-resistant properties, often Mylar fibre which is used in the space programme.  It is ideal for such projects as place mats, cool bags, tea cosies etc. where it is important to keep things hot, keep them cold or protect surfaces from extreme temperatures.

I was glad I did add this extra wadding as the board is not only more padded and so nicer to use, pressing seems quicker too. In order to prevent the two layers of wadding sliding around I sewed them together using a large zig zag stitch.

sewing wadding layers together

Binding the Cover

I used pink bias binding, to edge and create a casing to thread some cord through.

I often make my own binding but for speed I used some matching bought binding I had in my stash. This project used 1.8m of binding and 2 m of cord.

adding bias binding

Open out the binding and place right side to the wrong side of the fabric, on the edge of the cut out cover fabric. Sew along the fold line. This makes it easy to then turn over to the right side  and sew along the egde to secure and form the casing. before turning over the binding and sewing the second line of stitching, clip the seam around the curved parts so that the cover will lie flat.

clipping the curves

Finishing the replacement cover

I used a safety pin attached to one end of the new cord to thread it through the pink casing I had made.

threading new cord through the casing

Make sure you secure the other end though! You may be able to reuse the existing cord, but mine had weakened too much.

To complete this hack, just lay the cover face down, place the wadding on top (of the wrong side) and then lay the iron board on top. Pull up the cord so the cover gathers up to fit the ironing board. Tie the ends of the cord together.

And voilla, you have made a replacement cover and a good as new, or even better, ironing board.

ironing board hack after – back

ironing board hack after – front

If this blog post inspires you to investigate updating worn out items, I would love to hear about your projects.

Apple Recipe for Autumn

What a large apple crop this year! But what to do with them – here is a wonderful apple recipe.


I have made some crumbles, but this weekend I was invited to a pudding and wine evening with some women from church. I love puddings, wine and these church events, but remain largely unconvinced about combining  sweet pudding with non desert wine!

So I wanted to make a light-on-sugar but luxury feeling desert, and considered what ingredients I had. Although gooseberry fool is more usual, I made an apple version.

Light, fluffy apple stirred through  sweet vanilla flavoured custard and whipped cream – a deliciously comforting autumnal pudding recipe, which proved popular.

This so fits with the cosy concept of hygge, simple food using garden ingredients to share with friends.


You only need one or two egg yolks for this recipe. Store the egg white in the fridge for up to two weeks for making meringues.

If you have a glut of apples, you can cook up more and freeze the puree for another time.



Serves approx. 10


  • 800g apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 450ml milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • the rind and juice of a lemon
  • 250ml double or whipping cream, lightly whipped


Chop the apples into 2-3cm chunks and place in a small saucepan with 150ml tablespoons of water or apple juice.


Put the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Then cover with a lid, turn the heat down to low and cook the apples for about 15 minutes until completely softened. Set aside to cool.


While the apples are cooling, set up a double saucepan (If you don’t have a double pan, use a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of boiling water). Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then take off the heat. Place the egg yolk(s) in a heatproof bowl with the sugar, flour and vanilla extract, and whisk together. Pour the warm milk into the bowl while whisking, then pour this mixture back into the top of the double saucepan on a medium heat and whisk the mixture as it comes to the boil. Watch out –as soon as it boils it will go lumpy, so keep whisking.

home-coaching-apple-fool-vanilla-custardOnce it is thick, take it off the heat, strain into a bowl and allow to cool.

Mash or process the cooked apple, add the lemon juice and fold together with the cooled custard and softly whipped cream.



Pour into one large, or individual dishes. Chill for a couple of hours (or overnight if you want to prepare ahead).

Garnish with the lemon rind.


Hard Decisions

Home Coaching Healthier Cakes Judging1

I am very rarely overwhelmed by food to taste, but came near during  judging the Cookery Section at the recent Bamford Annual Show. The above picture is just one of the many categories, the healthier cake section, where I had asked participants to make a healthier cake, for example, by adding vegetablesand reducing the sugar.

Thanks to my assistant, Sue Mitchell all were sampled and scored. Some lovely bread, biscuits, scones, preserves …and the winner is the Lime & Courgette Cake! Lovely, looks, texture and taste and easy to cut and eat.

Home Coaching Healthier Cakes Judging2

Here is the recipe:


  • For the Cake
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 250g courgette, finely grated
  • For the icing
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 40g pistachio nuts (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest



  1. Preheat oven to 180 C / 160 C fan / Gas 4. Grease and line two 21cm sandwich tins.
  2. Beat together the eggs, oil and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate soda and baking powder and beat well. Stir in the grated courgettes until well combined. Divide the mixture into the cake tins.
  3. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven and carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Carefully peel off the paper lining and leave to cool.
  5. For the icing, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and stir in the lime juice.
  6. Use a bread knife to level one of the cakes if necessary. Use 2/3 of the icing to sandwich the 2 cakes together, the levelled one on the bottom, and use the remaining icing to cover the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts and lime zest.

I was then asked to judge the much smaller textile craft category and choose this lovely felted cushion cover.

Home Coaching Bamford Show Judging

So just when I thought my judging role was completed, I was asked to choose best in show! This set me thinking about all the many decisions we face each day, and how we can become overwhelmed. If we don’t get enough rest and know our own worth, making decisions can become really hard.

I was ill this last week and appreciated Nick looking after me, easpecially making me lots of drinks. There were times though, because I felt so rough, that the choice of what to drink seemed hard!

One of the most important choices we constantly have to make is how we spend our time, all 1440 minutes of each day. A new academic or calender year can be excellent times to consider our time management.

Home Coaching Brand New Day

Like so many things, there is a need for balance, to make sure we are looking after ourselves with enough rest, time to reflect, exercise, healthful food, time with loved ones … as well as choosing our goals and how best to reach them, challenging ourselves to step out of our comfort zone and grow.

Home Coaching Your CallToo often we think it is one or the other, but there really is the need for work (aka personal development), rest and play. If the balance is not right for us we can burn out or stand still!

step forward

If you think your tendency is to stand still, make sure you schedule some time to consider goals and steps to achieving them. If you think your tendency is to go too fast, make sure you schedule time to play and rest. What recharges your batteries?

And if you are thinking but where on earth do I find the time, spend 30 minutes considering what is steeling your time and how you can better manage this.

Home Coaching Disappearing TimeIt may be  habits, struggling to say no, or be down to procrastination, three age old time stealers!
Sometimes we can move forward with these ourselves, sometimes it helps to talk to a coach. Please get in touch if you would like chat about how we can help.

We would love to hear what you do that recharges your batteries, please comment below.

Happy Upcycling Day

It’s Britain’s second National Upcycling Day!

The desire to be  innovative  and environmentally consciousness has led to upcycling in nearly all areas of life.  The “Upcycling Revolution” is the result of a desire to contribute positively to our planet and also be the owner of a unique, one of a kind product unlike any other. This has led to a shift back to handmade artisan craftsmanship.

40% of Brits say they have tried their hand at upcycling and a further 1 in 5 upcycle on a regular basis according to research carried out by classified website Gumtree. However, 40 per cent who don’t upcycle say the biggest obstacle to upcycling is not feeling creative enough, whilst a third don’t know what to upcycle. There are however,  lots of blogs and also workshops to help you. In my area  (Sheffield 11) please get in touch about upcycling workshops.

It is amazing what a lick of paint or varnish and a needle and thread can achieve! Sometimes a power tool can be put to good use too.

And if you don’t want to upcycle your own stuff, then why not give or sell it to someone else and avoid landfill?


Recycling Vs Upcycling?

Recycling is the process of taking waste, generally consumer materials – plastic, paper, metal or glass – breaking it down and turning it into a reusable product.


Upcycling involves turning an unwanted product into a better quality product. It’s about prolonging  a products life, but also the desire for bespoke items. For example, when we had small children, and our shower cubical started to leak, we moved the shower cubicle to the garden rather than the tip, where on its side it was a safe large cold frame for plants, but with reinforced glass, we didn’t have to worry about our children’s footballs causeing unsafe broken glass.


There are also a plethera of other terms that can really be used interchangably: restoring, reclaiming, remaking, repurposing, reusing, reviving… Let me know if you can think of others, especially if they begin with the letter r.

I love making things from the lovely hardwearing fabric of denim jeans (which may just be outgrown or have a stain or wear in one place) and men’s shirts.

My Upcycled Apron: made from a pair of jeans and a shirt

My Upcycled Apron: made from a pair of jeans and a shirt

I also love getting around moth holes in woollen clothes by “fulling”- washing at a high temperature to shrink them . I can then use them as the batting in a quilt, as in my Bronte Challenge Quilt 

I can also turn them into a different garment, as with the wool tunic I made for an upcycled garment challenge.

I would love to here about how you save money and get creative with upcycling, on any day of the year.


Wardrobe Management

It is said we only use 20% of your clothes 80% of the time,  and it is common to feel overwhelmed with the task of managing our clothes.

Although many stylists and wardrobe management advisors often recommend completely emptying a wardrobe to start organising. For most of us with only limited time this is not realistic and can result in overwhelm,  a half finished task, and more mess than when we started!

This was the case with a client who recently called me in to help her. Marie had an extensive collection of clothes, most of which were the result of bargain gathering and many  had been skillfully customised. Marie was already utilising many wardrobe storage techniques, such as scalf hangers, hooks for belts and necklaces on the inside of wardrobe doors for example. However, clothes were crammed into the space and it was difficult for Marie to find what she was looking for.

Here are a few tips:

First assess what clothes you need by thinking about:

  • what different occasions and activities you have (client meetings, dog walking, dance …)
  • what colours suit you well ( what makes you look good, rather than drawing attention to themselves)
  • what general style is really you (smart, casual, clasic, floaty …)

In general Marie suits smart, clasic, warm toned clothes.

Unless you do have a whole day to devote to your wardrobe management then break it down into managable chunks. Choose a particular category of clothing to work on at a time. Gather all the items in that category together, making sure you collect any packed away in bags, in the wash, in your car, hanging on the back of chairs …

  • Lay them on  a flat surface so you can see what you have
  • Group together, those of similar style, occasion and colour
  • Honestly consider if there are obvious duplicates, (eg. more then one navy work jacket)
  • Fill in an inventory against how many smart work jackets you have decided you need for example.

At this stage it became obvious to Marie, just how many smart jackets she had, far more than a realistic inventory required. She even had two of the same jacket! Although hard, Marie chose only those jackets she knew she needed as well as some she really wanted to keep to put back into her wardrobe.

Wardrobe organisationNow these prefered jackets can be easily got at and enjoyed! Marie has the others to give away or sell and most of all she declared “1 hour well spent, I now know what to do”

Just too many jacketsThe inventory I gave her, enables this process to be repearted for other categories of clothing, as well as possible gaps to be filled. Whenever she has an hour, one or more category of clothing can be sorted without overwhelm.

What are your experiences of wardrobe management?

I would love to hear from you.