is that all there is?

I had a lot of fun with this month’s Minerva make (yes ‘fun’ is a word that sometimes enters my vocabulary, just not the ‘organised’ kind).

Full deets over on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. And here are the visuals of some gems from Butterick 5368:

Travel Sewing Kit

Remnants used – indigo blue denim and cotton poplin dress fabric

Wall organiser

Remnants used – black stretch denim

Pressing Ham

Remnants used – indigo blue denim and cotton poplin dress fabric

maude for sale

To visit my fledgling shop, please click on the link below:

How much for the doll’s head? It’s not for sale she said … but then I wore her down with my enthusiasm and for a few pounds, maude came into my possession and a dream was born. Fast forward a couple of years and here she is – transferred onto fabric and incorporated into a design of my own making.

I’m not expecting an influx of enquiries. I’m fully aware my tastes in dolls’ heads has niche appeal. And that’s the thing about taste – it’s completely subjective. So it saddens me, when individuality is so often met with resistance rather than celebration. What drives the tendency towards homogeneity?

I’ve had the recent misfortune to be in unconversation with someone, who when I volunteered new interests and passions, felt the need to repeatedly assert their opposite view. There’s avenues a plenty in life for challenging debate but for me that’s not a conversation or what I’m seeking over a sandwich and a catch up.

If we’re truly happy with our own life choices, why not greet an alternative approach with curiosity rather than instant dismissal. A conversation can be an opportunity to move closer to another by appreciating life from their vantage point. However, to converse we need to listen, rather than utilise the gaps to formulate responses which validate our own opinions.

Good listening is definitely a work in progress for me. I’m all to quick to enthusiastically jump in, when I perceive I might have encountered a like minded soul. And I have to remind myself that a turn taking hijack is still not listening, even if it’s well intentioned.

Still I’m gentle on myself – when you’ve been on the fringes so long, finding your tribe can be overwhelming. I started this blog to connect with fellow stitchers and thinkers and through Instagram I’ve discovered a world of niche – there’s a whole sub genre of #vintagedollface aficionados out there – who knew?

Maude was never going to be for sale – she was my personal plaything and on the dismembered doll head front, I was prepared for scant fellowship. So, it’s heartening to find that my tastes are not as singular as I thought. Encouraged by a select number of enthusiastic followers, I’ve created a Big Cartel shop to sell a limited number of wrong doll creations.

Take a look if you fancy flouting my wears and embracing your inner non-conformist. And if you don’t, I won’t be in the least bit offended. I’m very happy for maude to remain an anti commodity and keep me and him sorted in neckware for the forseable. 

maude for sale

the stories we tell ourselves

For those of you who’ve kindly followed my sewing journey to date, you’ve probably worked out this blog is less about sewing and more about what I think about when I’m sewing.

Whilst my spiritual leanings are distinctly Buddhist, formal meditation does not come easy. Movement has provided a window into the benefits single pointed attention might bring – yoga, cycling, running – and recently I’ve discovered another portal in sewing.

I started journalling my adventures in stitch with the aim of documenting my makes and writing about the process in a traditional fashion. However, when I got down to the business of writing, what emerged were my thoughts whilst sewing, rather than the craft in hand.

I’ve always had things I wanted to say – just not the vehicle through which to express them. That is, until I discovered Maude and tentatively embarked on creating my own handmade wardrobe. Writing propels me to give memory form and in the process I’m aware of how much is edited and filtered through the eyes of the scribe. I’m sure people could read my recollections and find them markedly divorced from their own. For what are our memories, other than the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happened to us.

Writing this blog is an opportunity for me to revisit the past and celebrate a difference which used to elicit shame. It’s also caused me to consider the subjectivity of my reflections and their validity. I’ve always had strong opinions and am drawn to people who are emotionally articulate. I’m fortunate to be in close relationships with people whom I can be frank without fear of rejection – exploring differing viewpoints in constructive exchange. However, seeing things differently can result in disharmony and for me, managing conflict will always be an ongoing challenge.

The stories I’ve told myself have not always been conducive to a healthy state of mind. In adulthood, I’m pleased to be writing a different script, as I’ve worked out that most people aren’t thinking very much about you at all – they are far too busy making up their own stories about what’s happened to them. I’ve also met someone whose take on the world is filtered through a much rosier hue and he’s a joy to be around. Which has led me to rethink – if we are simply expressing our stories to one another, I’d rather be happy than right, fluid than fixed.

And finally, something about this post’s creative endeavour – a progression in the story of Maude. I’ve been toying with the idea of making Maude centric accessories and this is a tentative attempt at a make up bag. Folks on Instagram have been encouraging me to think bigger than I’d envisaged and I’m starting to think there may be scope for Maude to emerge on a wider platform than my clothing. But I’m a new kid on the block, with a head for words, rather than business. So, any ideas are most welcome … where do you see Maude?



I make no secret of the fact that I don’t buy into Christmas, so you could easily infer that I’m not a buyer or giver of presents. Quite the contrary, I love to both give and receive – just not at a pre-ordained time dictated by a marketer’s dream.

I’m a staunch advocate for treating yourself as you would have others do – if you don’t know how to make yourself happy, how do you expect someone else to. I buy myself flowers on a regular basis and cook a slap up meal for one without bemoaning the lack of company. But I also embrace avenues to share with like minded souls and the Internet affords opportunities a plenty. My adventures in stitch have had me dipping my toe into a whole world of social media I’d previously had no cause to explore – Instagram and Pinterest are my new playgrounds.

I’ve also re-discovered Etsy as a source of inspiration and a welcome alternative from high street trends. Inspired by these beauties I gifted myself from DangerousJane and RubyBijou, I got to thinking how Maude could be used to create handmade gifts for the niche market of #vintagedollface lovers. I knocked up this make up bag for my partner’s daughter and my mind is now awash with the possibilities – scarves, bags, card holders … any ideas most welcome.

Despite tentatively exploring Maude’s transferability, I remain firmly stuck in a Japanese dress loop and have just completed my current favourite – Box Dress D from Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops. This pattern’s simplicity is its strength and whilst laid out it favours a tent, something miraculous happens when you try it on and the simple lines transform into a surprisingly flattering shift. It lends itself to a medium/heavy weight fabric and I opted for what is becoming my signature denim and a fitting backdrop for Maude. I cut on a medium and no adjustments were necessary as the shape fits my propensity for a loose fit.

So, Christmas is fast approaching and relieved of the burden of present shopping in bulk, I’m celebrating my birthday month as is my predeliction. Meeting up with friends one on one and eating my way through some of Sheffield’s finest – Maveli, The Grind, Marmadukes, The Street Food Chef – and still three weeks to go before I notch up another year of my forties. And there lies the rub – balancing my appetite for food with a handmade wardrobe based on static measurements. I can smell a New Year’s cliche a mile off – it’s time to dust off my running shoes.

the good, the bad and the ugly

There’s an art to a hand worked buttonhole and it’s something I’ve far from mastered. Like every discipline, it has it’s own language and tools – all of which I neglected at my peril. Gimp, wax and a bit of twist – who needs them?

I first saw Kelly a few months back on a Sunday afternoon indie pattern trawl. Whilst I loved the shape, with it’s high waist and glorious pleats, I was unconvinced with the centre front buttonholing and treated myself to a Brumby instead. The lastest issue of Love Sewing – with the opportunity to try out a Megan Nielson pattern for free – gave me cause to re-consider. And not for the first time, I’ve eaten my words and done a complete 360. Without a hint of hyperbole, I ADORE THIS PATTERN. It’s an absolute dream to construct and I followed the clear instructions to the letter without a hitch. That is until I came to the pattern’s swansong – buttonholes – where I swiftly began to unravel.

I’d engaged in some scant sampling before launching into the seven buttonholes smack bang down the centre front but I have to concede I was ill-prepared. Whilst my placement is not too shabby, the zig zags produced from each poorly executed four step must have been too close. Every slash was accompanied by stitch casualties and my buttonholes fell apart in less time than they took to construct. Unpicking my unhandiwork revealed fraying edges galore and whilst Google provided me with a remedy, the damage was already done. I hastily set to work with some heavy duty thread but was unable to salvage the carnage of my butchery – the results are nothing short of Frankensteinian.

The Bad and the Ugly refer to my buttonhole debacle but what about the Good? Whilst my mind is quick to discount the positives – with it’s predilection to meditate upon fault – there’s is much to laud. I picked up the denim at Sheffield’s Direct Fabric Warehouse for a tenner and it’s a joy to work with – beautifully soft and virtually crease free. The vintage buttons were another e-bay steal and a perfect accompaniment in both hue and form. But most importantly, this pattern’s arrival coincided with an event in my calendar worthy of note – Maude’s debut.

I discovered Maude over a year ago, just before I embarked on an evening course in Fashion and Dressmaking. As soon as I clapped eyes on her, I knew she was destined for a wider platform. Whilst the appeal of a dismembered vintage doll may be niche, in my head the fringes are full of wrong doll afficianados. I knew immediately I wanted to transfer her image onto fabric but hadn’t a clue how. A few months later I happened upon Spoonflower and mentally edged a step closer to realising my dream. Fast forward another six months and some underwhelming experiments with applique before I discovered a world of double sided fusibles, courtesy of The Cotton Patch.

So, quite by chance I’ve discovered my dream pattern, accompanied by my sewing nemesis. After the inevitable meltdown which followed desecrating my finest craftwomanship to date, I’ve formulated a plan. I’m scheduling a lock in until I’ve fathomed a foolproof way of producing a four step buttonhole from my steed. But for my second Kelly, I’m taking no chances – I’m determined to master the skill so beautifully depicted in this excellent post.

Hey everyone, did you see the free Kelly skirt pattern available in Love Sewing Mag recently? Aimee made this gorgeously…

Posted by Megan Nielsen Patterns on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

dress you up in …

Wrong doll.  Where did it start and where will it end?

In the beginning there was Maude and Maude was … a dismembered doll’s head. Like a Beautiful Stranger, she caught my attention at one of Sheffield’s many vintage fairs and as soon as I clapped eyes on her, I knew she had to be mine. Even though she wasn’t for sale, the stall holder clearly saw this was a love that no vendor should cast asunder.

The acquisition of Maude coincided with embarking on a Fashion and Dressmaking evening class and a desire to breathe life into a vintage Jones. The sewing machine was a gift from an old and dear friend and has been sitting pretty on my window sill – its form triumphing over function for many years. It was during those initial painful months  – where the fruits of my labours consisted of sample after calico sample and the likelyhood of producing a wearable item was distinctively Borderline – that the tentative seeds of a plan were sewn.








My plan remains embryonic and is no small way dependant on the further development of my sewing skills. Until significant progress has been made, there will be no spoiler alerts within these missives. In brief and in vague – it involves combining my newfound passion for clothes making, with a long-standing affiliation for the off-kilter vintage doll. One day people’s eyes will be on Maude and the question on their lips: Who’s That Girl.

Since wrong doll came into fruition, I have neatly carved my friends into two – those who see the appeal and those who think I am mad. Unsurprisingly, the former is an extremely niche and select group, happening to feature some of my favourite people. Whilst a love of wrong dolls is not a deal breaker when it comes to forging relationships, this mutual appreciation is often reflective of other fundamental qualities –  a deeper understanding of What It Feels Like for a Girl.

In my formative years, I was plagued by a sense of being out out of step with the world; over-sensitivity and introspection; a longing and inability to connect with like-minded souls; a predilection for painful art and an increasing frustration at other people’s seeming preference for not wearing their insides on their outs. True Blue is an understatement and I sought refuge in the arts and the outcasts, revelling in their outpourings: Van Gogh; Egon Schiele; Francis Bacon; Morrissey; Michael Stipe; Pedro Almodovar; Hal Hartley; David Lynch ……. the list goes on.

Fast forward a few decades and the existential angst has all but fallen away. A succession of ‘alternative’ lifestyle choices has softened my edges and the adolescent conviction that I’m the only one who could possibly feel everything so intensely. There are subcultures a plenty out there teaming with freaks like me. You only have to type a few choice words into Google to find that whatever you’re into, you’re not alone. Express Yourself – find your people, Celebrate your difference and your parity. These days I happily steer my own idiosyncratic ship with pride.

So, back to my dismembered doll’s head and her lack of form – an absence which this week I have addressed in no small way. Now school’s out for summer, I’ve realised I’ll need some help to make the pattern adjustments my non-standard body shape necessitates. I’m hoping the Adjustoform Lady Valet is going to take me to the next level – meet Maude in head and finally body.








In preparation for things to come, this Material Girl has been on a fabric and notion trawl of late. In fact, I’m running the risk of option paralysis right now – an inability to make decisions faced with a plethora of choices (Coupland, Douglas, 1991. Generation X. 1st ed. Canada: St Martin’s Press).

Option 1: Apply the finishing touches to my second Hollyburn and seal the deal on the homemade bias binding that has been lingering on my sewing table.

Option 2: Bite the bullet and purchase this Megan Nielson Brumby skirt pattern. However, that would involve reneging on a recent pact with fellow blogger Twinks – her to desist creating shirts without sleeves and I to step away from denim topstitching for the forseeable.

Option 3: Indulge my obsession for patch pockets and utilise these dreamy fat quarters sourced from Heavens to Betsy’s stall at Eroica, as soon as this Dottie Angel pattern is released and inevitably goes viral.

Option 4: Do the spade work and start tracing patterns from Yoshiko Tsukiori’s highly aspirational Stylish Dress Book. I’m Crazy for You when it comes to choosing between the 26 patterns on offer but my choice of fabric was much easier. I happened upon this floral monochrome slashed in the John Lewis haberdashery sale and it beckoned me in with it’s Japanese smock potential.

So what will Maude be donning next? Unlike Madonna, it won’t be love … although it will be fashioned from its loins. I’ll sneak in those Hollyburn embellishments and then I’ll be getting Into The Groove and focusing my attentions – running amok with smocks.

Over to you – what’s in Vogue for your Summer Holiday?