FO: Vogue 9160 & The Eve Appeal + a Giveaway



Cocktails anyone? A couple of weeks back Vogue Patterns (The McCall Pattern company) launched a year long sewalong in aid of The Eve Appeal. Part of this includes a blogger tour which is where your’s truly comes in today. Yep I’m up….and….well….running a liiiiiitle late this morning. Might be to do with all the champagne and peach schnapps I had to drink last night. (My fave cocktail. Dunno what that’s called, lol!) So why the references to cocktails? Well you may remember I took part in last years event The Big Vintage Sewalong….and well….you gotta have a theme right? And this years theme is cocktails! Yum! They’ve even come up with their own recipe and you can sup it while joining in with sewists nationwide, by sewing up one of the patterns from a selection of 20, and raising money for The Eve Appeal in the process. Savvy? Good…here’s me with an empty glass having drunk the house dry…VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE (9)

Soooooo, what did I make then? Not being a cocktail dress kinda gal, (and actually not at ease in any kind of “formal/dressy” attire), this one really pushed me out of my comfort zone. But not one to shy away from a challenge (that would be super hypocritical of me considering what I put you all through every year with The Refashioners , ha!), I duly accepted said challenge and this is what I came up with. You know….if I ever get invited out for cocktails….VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE (9)

My Idea of dressing up is heels and a bold lippy, whilst keeping the outfit itself understated. Indeed this make (in a gorgeous grey washed linen from Ditto fabrics that I’m in love with) would look equally at home with a cropped stripey tee and birkies! I love clothes that do double duty don’t you?

The pattern is Vogue 9160….yep…. a jumpsuit pattern….Now I have been admiring the jumpsuit trend from afar since it emerged. But I’ve steered clear as I KNOW it won’t suit me. I’m too conscious of a tubby middle section right now (I’ve gone up a whle dress size recently!) One piece garments rarely do. So my original intention was always to adapt this into a two piece, with the appearance of a jumpsuit, by making it out of the same fabric.VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE

I knew I didn’t want the scalloped lace or lining elements of this pattern. I wanted to pare it right down and simplify it by just using one fabric for the whole thing. But I really struggled to find a fabric (in time) that would be substantial enough for the bottoms but not too heavy for the top. Crepe would be a good one I think.  Or a mid weight cupro or sandwashed silk. In the end I decided that the linen was not quite right for the top portion, which led me more towards view C.  A Contrast top and bottom with a tie belt. I swapped out the top portion of the pattern for a looser fitting top in a lurex knit (I’m not a fan of anything too close fitting up top), then set about turning the bottom half of the pattern into trousers by adding a simple narrow waistband and back zip fastening.

But what elevates this make to something dressier I think….is the tie belt. I made a slightly longer version than the pattern so I could wrap it round twice and wear it more Obi style…VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE

I like…..NEVER…wear anything tucked in. That’s how conscious I am of my (lack of ) waist. But I do have proportionately narrow hips so from a “glass half full” perspective, I try to focus on those instead. But what I like about this make is what the belt does. Aside from the added interest, it cinches me in at the waist and draws the eye down to hip level where I’m narrowast. The overall effect is actually quite slimming and I don’t feel self conscious at all in these…VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE


It even camouflages my Mum/crisp/bloaty/bulge at the front! So the obi style tie belt may be a bit of a revelation for me!

Vogue Patterns  are giving one reader the chance to win a copy of this pattern…VOGUE PATTERNS BLOGGER TOUR FOR THE EVE APPEAL - VOGUE 9160 - PORTIA LAWRIE

To enter,  share this post on social media, then leave me a comment to let me know where you shared. Multiple shares gives multiple entries. Giveaway is open UK only (sorry) and closes at midnight GMT on Friday 24th March! Good luck!

More info on this year long event and the list of patterns can be found here and you can find out more about this fantastic charity and their other awareness and fundraising activities here.




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Perfect Pinning (+ a giveaway!!)

Pins. It’s just as simple as sticking them through the fabric right? Well, not quite. Firstly, there’s the type of pin you use. Right tools for the right job applies to pins as much as it applies to any other sewing tool. Some pins are longer/sharper/finer depending on the type of fabric and project you are undertaking. Some excellent info about pin types and their uses here, here, and here….pinning tips

Then there is the question of quality. As with many tools, not all pins are created equal. The best pins will slide smoothly through your fabric without snagging and without force; and they will last you many years without becoming blunt or rusting if used and stored correctly. My personal bug bear are cheap pins with plastic heads. Ack! I only ever use glass headed pins. They tend to be of better quality and most importantly, if you’re pressing around them, they don’t melt if you accidentally touch them with the iron! (I learnt that lesson early!)

But what about how to pin? It’s one of those things that, when I first started sewing, I assumed was a no brainer.  Stick it through the fabric. Job done. Right? Well no. There’re subtleties to pinning, as with any sewing technique. Little things. But things that collectively, can incrementally improve your sewing. So I thought I’d share a few of my “personal pinning protocols” (shameless opportunity for alliteration seized, ha!). Little things that I was taught when I first learnt to sew and stick to still…and the logic behind them…pinning tips

This is the way I pin the most. Always within the seam allowance. So if my pins do end up leaving holes (some fabrics render this likely) then they are not visible on the outside of the garment. It also means that I can leave my pins in place until the very last second as they pass to the side of the presser foot rather than the middle of it. So shifting of fabric is minimised. I will also always pin with the points facing towards the presser foot. It makes them easy to pull out as you go. (If they were facing the other way…well…cack handed!)

pinning tips

When sewing some seams, you’ll be required to stop at a given point and back stitch and/or switch to a different stitch length. (Think preparing a seam for zip insertion for instance). I always mark this point with a different coloured pin, pinned at right angles to my other pins. It just gives me a visual aid and a precise marker as to where I want that needle to stop.

pinning tips

When pattern matching is important I will pin at right angles to the seam that I am sewing. When sewing stripes for instance, I will pin stripe on top of stripe at regular and small intervals.  Pinning at right angles “locks” the fabric more effectively than pinning in a linear way. The difference on a plain and/or stable fabric is negligible. But even minimal shifting will be visually really obvious on stripes. I will also employ this method of pinning on more slippery fabrics. There is an argument for always pinning this way all the time. But I tend to employ it when I want to ramp up the accuracy and precision on seams where the slightest shift would be really obvious either visually or where accurate alignment is vital. (easing in collars, sleeves, necklines etc) If I can get away with just using a few pins, pinned vertically and spaced far apart then I will always default to that. Heck, I have been know to dispense with pins altogether. Some projects are more forgiving than others. But sometimes, when it absolutely has to be accurate, this is the method I go for.

pinning tips

Now I am right handed. And my pin dish sits to the right hand side of my machine. So actually the way that I have pinned in the previous photo is actually a bit illogical.  Because I end up pulling the pins out with my left hand, passing them across to my right hand (or worse, holding them in my mouth as I go!) so I can put them in the pin dish to the right hand side of me. It’s actually a tad cack handed for me. And I have no explanation for that. Used to bug my sewing teacher no end, lol! When pinning at right angles it would make more sense to have the heads facing to the right like this. Just saying. But the cack handed way in which I do it is now so ingrained in my muscle memory, it’s unlikely to change now!

How you pin isn’t just about the direction of pinning of course. It also has to do with how you hold the fabric when you pin. This is how I would automatically put my pins in when I first started sewing. I’d pick the fabric up and stick the pins in like so…pinning tips

That is until my sewing teacher walked up and slapped my hand! (Old school she was!) I will preface this next bit of advice by saying that, as with most rules, there are exceptions. There are times that you can get away with doing this and times you when it will affect the accuracy of your pinning. Depending on the fabric, as you pick it up like this, the layers can shift. On trickier, more slippery fabrics, the more you move them, the more they shift….

pinning tips

As a rule, if you can keep your fabric flat like so…

pinning tips

And pin on the flat, then there will be less chance of layers shifting and therefore, more accuracy across your project.

Talking of keeping things flat…pinning tips

Pins are not always the final step when you absolutely must have a completely flat and secure fabric sandwich before you pass it through the machine…zips are the most obvious example of a situation where it’s vital that everything lies flat and secure before you put a permanent line of stitching in there…

pinning tips

If you’ve ever questioned why you ought to baste a zip rather than just pin it…just look at the photo above and the effect that pinning can have on your seamline, compared to how flat the fabric edge is on the basted section! Now I’m not saying baste everything. Life (and sewing time) is too short for that! But when it absolutely has to be accurate, you’ll be pleased you added in the extra step. Promise!

So, if all of that has you wanting to up your pin game, then here’s a treat for you. The pins featured in this post (above and below) are Hiroshima pins. Japanese pins of superior quality. They come in the most gorgeous packaging (I’m such a sucker for packaging)…hiroshima pins
hiroshima pins


And they are like miniature works of art in their own right. In order below are tulip hiroshima glass headed patchwork pins, Akari pins and Shizuku pins…pinning tipshiroshima pinshiroshima pins

Aren’t they STUNNING! They are part of the newly expanded range of hiroshima pins now available at Beyond Measure. Grace has the most exquisite taste. And she is very generously offering one reader the chance to win 4 packs of luxury Hiroshima pins of their choice.

To be in with a chance of winning simply subscribe to Grace’s newsletter here. Additional entries for facebook and instagram follows. Then leave a comment here to let me know how many entries (ie what you’ve followed/subscribed to). Giveaway is open internationally and closes at midnight GMT on Sunday 26th February.

Good luck and happy pinning!!

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A trip to Denmark….

If we hang out in the same social media circles you may be aware of this already. If we don’t then you may not be! In either case, here’s the full skinny on a recent trip to Denmark that I think you will find interesting and exciting!

A couple of weeks back, myself and 6 other UK sewists, were invited by Danish brand Stoff & Stil (meaning Fabric & Style) to visit their Denmark store and HQ.  This is a brand that has has a pedigree of over 30 years and will be familiar to sewists in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.  But less so to those of us in the UK, where they only launched their UK site back in May of last year.  They currently have 5 webshops and 23 bricks and mortar shops in the aforementioned countries.  They only ship to countries for which they have a dedicated webshop. So currently Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the UK but they aim to expand to other European locations in the longer term. This trip was part of their strategy to reach out to the UK market. Their newest venture; and that’s where we come in. We go there, we listen, we come back, we tell you all about it. (Clearly it would be ridiculously impractical, but I honestly think if they could’ve invited the entire uk sewing community out there they would’ve done!)   As hosts they were faultless, warm, welcoming, as passionate about making as we are, and thoughtful . Like, they think of EVERYTHING kind of thoughtful. And for me, this was my lasting impression of Stoff & Stil as a brand. They think of everything.

First stop was their retail space….and this is what we saw….STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)

Essentially, a department store for makers!  I have never seen anything on this scale in the UK! Seriously. it was huge…STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)


About 8 aisles like this one, stocking all manner of fabrics, yarn, patterns, haberdashery and supplies for all manner of other crafts like jewelry making, upholstery, bag making, lingerie supplies….even shoe making!!

Stoff & Stil’s retail strategy is for mega spaces like this. (And they were quite open about the fact that they would love to launch one of these stores in the UK! Yesssss! I know, right?!)  A minimum of 10,000 sq ft. Their approach to these spaces is very fresh and innovative.  It was so exciting to see our  sewing industry being approached with the type of scale, planning, and attention to detail that you would expect from a top end high street retailer.  It wasn’t just a place to buy supplies, but a carefully planned space, packed full with inspirational displays and ideas. You could literally get lost in there for days…ok maybe hours…but I bet  I could do days! If they put a coffee shop in there, I would be there for a whole day at least!

I love this picture of Marie, Fiona, and Rachel below. Marie’s gesture perfectly encapsulates how overwhelming it is to be given just an hour (our schedule was jam packed) to look around, lol!  Head in hands….where the hell do I start?!!STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)



That was one crazy hour. Lots of “oooohs” and “ahhs” and “oh my gosh have you seen this?!” Lots of fabric fondling. Trying to narrow down a selection of fabrics that size to a tiny edit of what you think you can get away with adding to your stash at home.  (This is not a shop that encourages restraint. Thank heavens I don’t have limitless funds, or it could’ve gotten seriously crazy!) A slight air of hysterical panic as that hour ticked by and we realised we had barely scratched the surface. STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)

Karen went for this showstopping boiled wool.  I can just see a gorgeous coat in this. Karen can rock red 🙂 In the background (On top and at the end of each stand) and foreground you can see the displays and little staged vignettes I was referring to, that give the whole place more of a high street fashion and home retailer feel.  Like John Lewis but for makers. And that’s how Stof & Stil see themselves. A fashion and interior company with their own designs and collections. (They have over 600 employees including a team of designers so many of their prints and other products are designed in house)




Here’s what I managed to pick out! I got sucked in by their gorgeous velours in teal and grey (naturally, lol!) plus some ribbed jersey. And that bottom fabric is my absolute fave!  In their look book,  (which I’ll come to) it’s made up as a kiddies onesie! Cute! Needless to say I won’t be making a cute onesie out of mine , but it’s always interesting to me how 10 people can look at the same fabric and have completely different ideas for it.

I didn’t even make it to the pattern section for a proper look. There are hundreds of patterns in this section with sample garments of some of them made up so you can try them on…I go into a little more detail about their patterns in the video (yes video!) at the end of this post….(although it’s just my voice. I haven’t jumped on the Vlogger bandwagon JUST yet)…STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)


Nor did I have a proper look at the vast range of haberdashery! But I took a few snaps so you could get a feel for the sheer volume of stuff there was!STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)


This is one of those “attention to detail” things I was talking about. Yarns made up into swatches so you can see and feel how the knit up. So simple. Like face palm simple. But I’ve not seen it before.


We went on a tour of their whole facility but were not able to take photographs of the warehousing operation. But it was seriously impressive. Think Amazon in terms of scale (Huge) then add clinical efficiency and precision, lot’s of light and shiny floors that would pass muster with a surgeon. It was like a sewists version of “the tour” in Charlie and the chocolate factory. Amazing. Oh, and women! It struck me that easily 75% of the workforce that we saw were women.  I don’t really know why that’s relevant, but for some reason it made me feel immensely good to see it. And the fact that the majority of them are active and passionate makers themselves certainly made me feel that this is a company run by makers, for makers.

We spent most of our day in this bright and airy room, listening, learning, playing with fabrics….STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)

We heard about the company’s heritage. From the first delivery of surplus stock sold on a market stall in the early 80’s…..(This is Peter and Marianne Lerche who founded the company in 1980 and still own it today)STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)


… how their catalogues have evolved into full on inspirational lookbooks over the years….STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)

These catalogues/lookbooks are worth a mention actually. I personally think they are a key part of what makes this company unique. Packed with inspirational images and examples of garments/items made up in Stoff & Still products with the corresponding product numbers. It’s basically like a Next catalogue for makers. It’s genius really. It just sits on your coffee table and there you have temptation right at your fingertips, lol! The only kicker is….it’s not YET available in the UK. It won’t be until their UK sales reach a level that justify  the commitment of a translation and print run of these books. (Which actually shouldn’t be long because their price points are very reasonable) But that is their aim (as is the bricks and mortar store).  We did suggest to them that they make this available as a pdf so that may be a possiblilty. But for now, not available in the UK.

However I did manage to get some images from the SS17 catalogue and permission to share so I’ve put together some slideshows for you so you can see what I’m talking about…just click on whichever link is of interest…

Adult fashion:


Kids Fashion:

Kids interiors:

Everything in those images uses fabric/patterns/supplies from Stoff & Stil that are either available individually or in some instances, kit form. I do have a copy of the catalogue (not in English obvs) but if you see anything and want to know the product number so you can find it on the website, drop me a line.

In cased you missed it on social media you can get 15% off everything on the UK site with code: portialawriexstoffstil until 15th Feb (This Wednesday)

There were also alot of things about their website that I liked and found unique so there’s a little tour of that in the video below. I apologise in advance for the amount of times I say “um” n this video, lol!  Oh, and the Essex twang that has crept into my accent over the years, ha ha!…

So there you have it. The full lowdown on our trip to Denmark. (In the interest of full disclosure, we were not paid for either the two days of the trip or anything we have done subsequently. Stoff and Stil did pay for flights, hotel and food. We received a discount voucher towards any fabric purchase we made plus a few very small complimentary gifts. None of which is enough to make any of us give a false review of any company. So please be assured all views are genuine).  My genuine view is that I like what this company does and what it is aiming to do.STOFF AND STIL UK BLOGGER TRIP (21)

If I sound enthusiastic it’s because I am. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about companies that are as passionate about what we do as we are.  (I’m wary for instance, of new suppliers to our industry that see it purely as an emerging market to exploit, without having a genuine passion for it first. This is not one of those companies in my opinion. These guys have earned their stripes over 30+ years with a genuine passion for making and quality.) And the prospect of having a bricks and mortar version of this store in the UK, and an English version of their lookbook…..well….that’s exciting to me. I can imagine meetups being arranged and whole days being spent in a space like this can’t you?

Definitely needs it’s own coffee shop though, don’t you think?

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How to shorten metal open ended zipper….

Very specific and what you could call “niche” post today. But I cannot be the only one to hit this obstacle so I’m sharing.  On a recent project  I hit a bit of a snag with this metal open ended zipper. (Who am I kidding. I hit a snag on EVERY project. Occupational hazard for a refashioner!) It was about an inch longer than I needed it to be. I’ve marked with chalk where I wanted the stoppers to be…Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper


Shortening a standard closed and plastic zipper is pretty straightforward.  With this zip though, I couldn’t shorten from the bottom. (Damn). That’s where the fittings are that make this an open ended zipper. It’s chunky and the design I had in mind called for the the zip stops (at the top of the zip) to still be visible on the finished garment.  So simply sewing thread stoppers wasn’t going to cut it.  (double damn).Shorten a metal open ended zipper

In some cases the fabric that encloses the end of the zipper at the top is sufficient to act as a stopper in itself. But in this instance that was not the case either….I couldn’t order another zip as the length I needed was not standard; and in any case, I much prefer to use what I have if I can. (Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn). So, in short (pun intended), I needed to shorten the zip from the top instead…

So if you ever find yourself in a similar position, here’s how to shorten an open ended metal zipper…Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

I needed to move this little sucker (above) down to where that chalk mark is. And this is one chunky metal zipper, so there was some serious brute force involved in this.

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Before doing anything,  unzip the zip about halfway down and create some makeshift stoppers with pins. If you’re anything like me you may inadvertently pull the zip pull straight off the top after you’ve removed the stoppers. Yes I have done that. After the zip was sewn into a garment. (Face palm).

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

You’ll need some jewellery pliers and side cutters for this…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Using the side cutters, and starting with the zipper tooth in front of your chalk mark, snip the end of the zip tooth off… then cut away as much of the rest of it as you can…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Then use the pliers to wiggle and remove what’s left…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Remove 5 or 6 teeth in this way, on both sides of the zip….

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Cut away the excess zipper tape…

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

You’re left with these zipper stops on the parts you cut away. Now you CAN buy zipper repair kits like these. And there will be replacement zipper stops included in those. If those meet your needs you can skip the next couple of steps. But  I didn’t have time to order and wait for a kit to arrive (I was on a deadline and everything is right down to the wire right now). Plus, you know, that “working with what I have” thing in me!

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

This was by far the trickiest step. It’s on there pretty firmly so this is where the brute force part comes in. Use the pliers (A second pair comes in handy if you have them) to wiggle/lever/coax the zipper stop off the zipper tape. Not shown in this pic, but I found cutting away the zipper tape as close to the stopper as possible, and then fraying it, aided the process of loosening it’s grip a little. As did swearing.

shorten a metal zipper -

Eventually you’ll get the little sucker off. Open it up slightly (2 sets of pliers again)…

shorten a metal zipper -

Slide it onto the zipper tape in the position of the first tooth you removed and use the pliers to clamp it firmly in place. (Repeat for both sides of the zip)

Makery - How to Shorten an open ended metal zipper

Ta dah!

So yeah! Random I know. But someone, someday, is going to find this useful. You’re welcome 😉


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