Sewing jeans: Ginger jeans pattern

Sewing jeans: Ginger jeans pattern

Along with making bras making jeans has been on my to sew list since last autumn. I bought two patterns and enrolled on a Craftsy class and bought denim and then ran out of making time.     

I finally made a pair of jeans a few months ago by butchering the pattern that was written by Angela Wolf who ran the Craftsy class. Her pattern was for a low rise bootcut whereas I wanted a higher rise skinny pair so I took in the legs and added height to the rise. It worked pretty well and fit but the denim I had used was horrible and the zip broke when I tried it on so I left them to languish in the must-sort-one-day pile. I wasn’t entirely happy with the fit, the pockets at the front pulled open where my belly was pushing the fabric out and despite anchoring the corners to the denim I wanted a better fitting pattern. 

 I had heard many good things of the Ginger jeans from Closet Case Files (closetcasefile) and last week I set about taping the pattern together and making a pair of jeans. The denim was a nice sturdy dark blue and I used a gorgeous yellow top stitching thread. I read the sew along as well as the instructions and found a very clever way to fix the pulling problem I had found before in the sew along. The inner pocket and facing are extended to make an internal panel to provide support for the front of the jeans and keep unruly bellies in check. Ingenious! 

I used my new to me Pfaff 1475 which coped admirably all the way apart from when it suddenly lost its timing on the very last row of stitching. Top stitching is quite heavy on machines, it’s hard to keep the thread from knotting badly underneath and hard to keep an even tension. My machine, being electronic, when faced with a large knot which stopped the needle carried the motion of the bobbin on and hey presto the timing was kaput. It was too delicate a thing to fix myself so off to the shop she went. Luckily I still have an ancient Bernina 700 and used her to finish the jeans off and make another pair straightway!

So. The fit is perfect, second time around it only took me about 4 hours and I’m a happy bunny indeed! Even really splashing out on denim and needles and thread you can make yourself a pair for about £35 and being able to doctor the fit exactly is priceless.

So fitting wise I did what I always have to do. I have no discernible waist so had to start with a waist size 15, grading down to a size 12/11 on the legs. As long as you make the line connecting the sizes nice and smooth you can easily go between sizes. I also made the crotch curve at the front and bit deeper and this took out a lot of the extra fabric I had previously had when doing the first fit. 

Once I make my own knickers and knit socks a bit faster I can be totally self sufficient! So cool. 

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Autumn sewing plans

Autumn sewing plans

I’ve just bought myself some new patterns. I subscribe to Sew Direct which gives me a magazine full of the latest big name patterns as well as great articles on tailoring, fabrics, threads, pattern cutting etc. Some of the patterns are pretty vile, some very boring and almost all are made of fabrics I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. But armed with funky £2/m fabric from Walthamstow market you can’t go wrong especially as you get a big discount on the patterns as a member. 

So here’s what I’ve bought. 

 I quite often buy patterns that then get lost in my stash of patterns so I aim to keep these aside so I’ll actually make them. Good luck with that as that’s what I always say. I buy patterns, printed and PDFs, and they just languish… But this time I have you guys to prod me!

Nice patterns huh? Quite a few interesting shapes out there at the moment. Dresses and tops with crazy hems and big pockets. What’s not to like?!

It’s Selfish Sewing Week in a couple of weeks I believe so that should be perfect for me. 

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Adventures in dress making – the Gertie bombshell dress

Adventures in dress making – the Gertie bombshell dress

One of the very first Craftsy classes I ever joined was the Bombshell dress making class by Gertie. She wasn’t as big a name then as she is now, none of her books had been published then and initially she still interacted with the class as she was supposed to as a tutor with Craftsy. I loved the look of the dress, with a fitted, boned bodice and I loved the idea of all the new techniques I would learn.

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Alas my life became hectic just like Gertie’s did and I didn’t get very far then, four and a half years ago. I got as far as ordering thee boning and attempting to make the fitted bodice but it all ended up in a box, tempting me on occasion and mocking me at others.

With a wedding in Barcelona to attend I wanted to make a cool looking dress and decided to restart the class. This time I sped through it all and found having been making and fitting my own bras for a good 8 months stood me in good stead for fitting the bodice. Or so I thought.
I kept googling other bombshell dresses and kept looking at how the dress fitted Gertie. Something wasn’t right with the cups, I thought it would work itself out in my much bigger cupsize, and I put my doubts about the odd elliptical look of the cups down to Gertie’s much smaller chest. I mean, the muslin still looked a bit like that on me but I thought with padding and proper stitching it would all look ok. I had a lot of gorgeous cream and red cherry print fabric at my disposal and about a week to do all the hand stitching, padding out and adapting a 3/4 circle skirt to fit.

IMG_1408Well. I learned a huge amount. I went lots of couture techniques such as working with just the pattern pieces without any seam allowances, using contrasting stitching to mark the stitch lines. What a lovely way to work. I learned more still about the size and shape of my own boobs. I learned all about cutting steel spiral boning (with blunt cheap cutters this was no joke!) and using quilting wadding to pad out the bodice. I learned to use a synthetic horsehair braid to hem the skirt with, making for a hen that stood out and accentuates the 3/4 circle. The skirt went in like a dream and the dress felt amazing on. But what had looked merely slightly off when the bodice had just one layer of fabric looked heinous by the time it had a lining and padding. Elliptical boobs rather than nice round ones. Major fail.

By this time it was 11pm the day before we flew out to Barcelona for my old friend Steve’s wedding to the lovely Sabrina and I didn’t have time to make another bodice. So the dress was left behind, I attended the wedding in a doctored (in the cab on the way to the wedding!) dress from Sainsburys and put it all down to experience.

The class has been retired by Craftsy as not long after I joined Gertie’s first book was published and she barely interacted with her students anymore. The good thing about Craftsy has always been the tutor-student interaction, you can ask questions and get answers, talk about problems you’ve encountered and share your progress. Not so in this class and for a while it became a student led class, with people helping each other out. I’ve definitely been helped a lot by the other people on the course and will go back and ask for advice when I come home. But I understand why the class was taken off the schedule as it did not measure up to Craftsy’s very high standards   Still, I’m glad I did the class and even if I never get a functioning dress out of it I still think it was fantastic value for money. But fingers crossed I will finish it and when I do I will post the pictures up here!

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cheekyhandmades is 5!

cheekyhandmades is 5!

Cheekyhandmades is five!

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On 11th July 5 years ago I left my job at Whipps cross hospital. I had handed in my notice in April and by the time I left not only was I without a proper job, I had also just separated from my partner of 8 years, the father of my youngest son. All was up in the air. What had seemed like a viable idea when there was still a breadwinner in the house, to give up work and spend more time with the kids whilst making the odd bespoke quilt, now with me being a single parent of three boys, a huge mortgage to pay and no business plan, or even much of a plan full stop, seemed madness.

I spent that summer making some stock as I had a stall booked fort first e17 art trail event at the end of the summer holidays. It was a tiny table in my friend Sarah’s back garden. She was an established artist, drawing astonishingly beautiful and detailed pencil drawings of insects. She always drew a respectable crowd to her open studio event but it was hard to predict how they would take to me and my colourful fabric wares. As it was I made some pocket money, and met some lovely people and felt very encouraged especially as there were a few people who had come to Sarah’s garden specifically to see my wares.

E17 Art Trail quilt

E17 Art Trail quilt

Never having got round to writing a business plan, free wheeling and improving all along, never forgetting how fortunate I was compared to my colleagues still at the hospital, never forgetting how much I cherished being my own boss and being to just do rather than endlessly talk about doing, I somehow made it work. I added teaching to my repertoire in January 2011, cutting my teeth in the lovely Create Place, where I found my feet as a teacher, as a fixer upper of sewing machines and where I made some lifelong friends. Fast forward to July 2015 and I now teach from my gorgeous bespoke studio in my sunny e17 garden, I still do the art trail each year, I still make and sell bespoke quilts in my Etsy shop, and I still love my job. Not a day goes by where I don’t appreciate not having to ever sit in another stifling meeting room taking minutes (now my meetings are with great creative people in cafes over coffee and cake!), not ever having to sit on my hands not being able to implement changes, having to deal with power crazed managers and a behemoth of a system, having to beg for days off to be with sick kids and never being able to go on school trips. I cherish my days alone sewing and planning and doing admin, I even love doing my accounts, I love being able to go into school to read with my 7 year old, I love downing tools at 3pm for the school run. I love writing this blog post in a sunny park in Barcelona under a palm tree with parrots playing overhead, I love meeting new students who are nervous and excited about their class and go away full of joy and pride in what they’ve achieved. I love keeping in touch with my old students, a great many of whom have become friends. I love interacting with other amazing women running one women businesses and exchanging skills rather than money to pay for each others’ services. I love working in my fabulous garden studio with the baby foxes streaking past and the cats keeping me company. cheekyhandmades' studio

My kids have got older, I’ve met a wonderful new partner, I’m as happy and fulfilled as can be. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m grateful to everyone who has joined me along the way. I’m even grateful to Whipps cIMG_8841ross hospital for being such awful place to work that I just had to leave and try making a go of cheekyhandmades!

To celebrate my birthday I am offering a 3 for 2 deal on all classes booked before the end of August. Just book in for 2 and email me on [email protected] to let me know which 3rd one you want free.

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E17 Art Trail 2015

E17 Art Trail 2015



This year’s art trail is now finished and I feel a bit flat, empty and tired. It was again (but more so this year) a whirlwind of art, crafts, meeting new people, hanging out with old friends, lots of alcohol and skipped meals, a hive of activity for 2 1/2 weeks, a re-confirmation of why Walthamstow is the best place to live and work.

Check out the Art Trail blog to get the real low down on what has been taking place here and keep an eye open for the Walthamstow Garden Party on 18/19th July, another festival or arts, crafts, music (Femi Kuti, Ghospoet and Skatalites among others!), film, dance, circus, poetry and spoken word and yummy food. All a hop and a skip from my studio in LLoyd Park. Check out the website here.

I love living and working in e17!

e17 art trail

Anna Courcha’s cool stitched wall hanging


Sean reading from his novel ” I never did like the sound of bagpipes”


The Wool Kitchen’s sumptious hand dyed yarns



St. Barnabas Church

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Pygmy Cloud’s open studio




We love Lego, an art trail favourite




Howard Road House, always worth a visit, an entire knitted garden, this year’s entry was Roald Dahl themed!




Cris Thompson’s lovely 3D printed necklaces




Catboy’s show


Diane from Pygmy Cloud with her lovely cloud biscuits


End of trail party at the wildcard Brewery; Sean and I and new pal and neighbour Louise






Anna’s work in the studio


Improper Art Show

E17 Art Trail quilt

E17 Art Trail quilt


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cheeky handmades