Fancy learning to sew for free?

If you haven’t ever tried sewing before and feel that starting with a full blown outfit might be a bit of big ask for your first attempt, then a Say It Ain’t Sew kit and free class could be the thing for you. It’s amazing what turns out to be on your own doorstep and you had no idea. Free sewing classes. How did I manage to miss that?

Iona Barker is the costume designer (she’s worked on Lady Gaga’s and Beyonce’s costumes) turned stitching evangelist on a mission to get Scotland stitching. And she runs free classes in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh designed to get you started. You get together with nice people and make stuff. Once you start sewing you just can’t stop so be prepared!

Say It Ain’t Sew free classes are funded through gorgeous precut felt craft kits (£5 each on Etsy) and all you need is a needle, thread and scissors to help you create anything from a squirrel or daffodil to my very favourite, a Wee Glesga Tenement Hoose! (I have a thing for a tenement hoose.) There are lots of sweet designs to choose from.

Each kit comes with simple step by step intstructions and is stitched together using basic running stitch. You can go fancy with blanket stitch or be more creative if you like. Iona demonstrates the kits at the classes or you can get order online and follow her tutorials on YouTube.

I stitched my Hoose using a contrasting brown thread for a bit of detail and here it is sitting next to my cardboard tenement.image I could do with a few more and have my own street!

Anything that gets more people into stitching is a good thing. It opens up a whole world of possibilities as well a potential new and unique wardrobe. Going along to a class gives you the confidence to try something new so go on, give it a go!

Say It Ain’t Sew Dundee is on every Tuesday for over 18s from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at Brewdog as well as classes in Glasgow and Edinburgh and soon in Aberdeen too. You can find out more at Say It Ain’t Sew on Facebook and at the Etsy shop.

Might see you there!





It’s been a while…

image…since we’ve posted here, that’s for sure! Life has been so busy and a few things sort of took over for a while there. Like yoga teacher training, for one thing. There is just never enough time for all the things you want to do. And there are so many things I want to do.

Back in February I went along to a gathering of lovely local bloggers and time was one of the many things we talked about. Most of us have day jobs as well as families and all of us have different reasons for blogging and sharing part of our lives in this way. But it’s something we all get a lot out of and hope that it’s something you enjoy reading. When we get round to posting.

So this is me getting back to it. Two thirds of the way through my yoga teacher training (which I expect will come in very handy in the the Stitching Kitchen), still baking sourdough bread (and about to teach others how to), growing veg, branching into nutrition (and the sweetest iced biscuits now and then) living part of the time in the beautiful highlands, still building up a fabulous collection of patterns and fabric and working full time. And loving all of it.

Coming up very soon…a post about A Wee Glesga Tenement Hoose.



The slapdash guide to sewing

In recent months I have made two Itch to Stitch Marbella dresses and neither of them fit properly at the neck. I have discovered I have a sway back, a hollow chest and probably need a full bust adjustment and may  also have forward thrusting shoulders. You would think that after the first attempt went wrong I would make the necessary alterations but no I just did again and hoped for the best.

Nicola and our friend Sandra both said you need to make a muslin and make the alterations so I got an old sheet.  But then I looked it up and it involved a  lot of measuring and trying it on to make the  adjustments. And after all that I would still need to make the dress?

I know myself and that was not happening. I love the Marbella dress for the skirt but I’d recently made a Sinbad and Sailor Hepworth dress and the top fitted but I wasn’t as keen on the skirt. Yes, you have guessed what happened next – the top of the Hepworth dress and the bottom of the Marbella dress. This is my first pattern hack.

It worked out pretty well. The darts line up at the front – not so much at the back but it’s a busy pattern so no-one will notice it.

Marbella and Hepworth Dress in Hemingway fabric from Johhn Lewis Edinburgh

Marbella and Hepworth Dress in Hemingway fabric from John Lewis Edinburgh

So here are my top tips for the slapdash guide to sewing

  1. Be honest – will you really make a muslin and all the adjustments – if not stop making a pattern that doesn’t fit you
  2. Go for fabric rather than a new dressmaking pattern. Once you find a shape that fits, it’s amazing how a different pattern can totally change the look.
  3. Sleeves – unless there is stretch in the fabric don’t bother with sleeves.
  4. How close do people really look at you? You may notice imperfections but will anybody be close enough to see it and should anybody ever be close enough to see it?
  5. Invest in cardigans – now this is easier for me – living in Scotland it’s very rare that you don’t need a cardigan.
  6. Read sewing blogs, especially of people who look a similar shape and find out what works for them – certain patterns are better than others for different ‘issues’.

Wedding guest dresses

Spring has sort of sprung (it’s been blowing a gale here on the sunny east coast of Scotland for almost three weeks, non stop but never mind…) and it’s that time of year again – wedding season!

Are you looking for inspiration for a wedding guest dress? Worried you’ll end up wearing the same Coast/ Phase Eight/LK Bennett number as at least one other guest (and that she might look even better in it than you)? With homogenous high streets and shopping malls making it harder than ever to find something original to wear, making your own or enlisting the help of a friend who can sew means you can whip up something lovely and all your very own.

Making your own dress can be really simple – just pick the right level of pattern, a plain or non-repeat print fabric, follow the instructions and take your time. It’s honestly so worth the effort.

As I’ve said before here, I love a dress. There are just so many lovely, lovely patterns to choose from and sewing supply stores bursting with beautiful crepes, voiles, cotton, satins, chiffons and much more. So I’ve limited my choice today to two of my favourites that I’ve made up and worn and had very nice compliments on so you know that these ones are tried and tested and known to do the job beautifully.

Like this lovely simple style – Vogue V8615.

Vogue V8165

Vogue V8165

It’s from the Vogue Very Easy range with custom fit so no need for the melodrama of a full bust adjustment as you can select from cup sizes A-D. And it’s fully lined. Seriously easy peasy. Although the beautiful swishy full skirt means there’s a lot a material to manage for cutting out so that’s my one word of warning. Clear everyone and everything out of the kitchen and do your cutting out on the floor unless you have a supersize table available.

I made it last year for a June wedding in a plain grey drapey moss crepe from with a silver lining.

My Vogue 8165 in grey moss crepe

My Vogue 8165 in grey moss crepe

I left out the sleeves and trimmed it with a silver grey grosgrain ribbon turned into a neat bow for the waist with a bar hook to keep it in place at the front.

I love wearing this dress. And I love dancing in it even more!

New Look 6069

New Look 6069

If you like the simple glamour of 1940s tea dresses which suit day and evening, then I think you’ll like New Look 6069 and you’ll definitely love the 1940’s tea dress from Sew Over It.

I made New Look 6069 in this beautiful cotton lawn from Mandors Edinburgh store before it closed down. I think it’s a Liberty Tana lawn but it was ages ago now and I can’t find it anywhere else so definitely not one that anyone else will be wearing! It’s a beautiful elegant dress with heels but I have also been known to wear it with my grey Converse All Stars. It worked so well – in my head, anyway.

Just so you can see the length  and A line shape of the skirt

Just so you can see the length and A line shape of the skirt

New Look 6069 in gorgeous cotton lawn

New Look 6069 in gorgeous cotton lawn

For patterns check out Sew Over It, Guthrie and Ghani, Fabric Godmother and Sewbox to name just a few of our Stitching Kitchen favourites.

They also stock lots of beautiful fabrics and all the bits you need like zips, thread, buttons and stuff as do Croft Mill, Minerva Crafts, Plush Addict and Ditto Fabrics.

By the way, if you or anyone you know who’s planning  a wedding, need any wedding type inspiration, head over to Love My Dress and Rustic Wedding Chic which are two of the most amazing wedding blogs.  I got married almost two years ago (yes, I made my dress and I’ll tell you all about that another time!) and these two blogs were just the best.

Do let us know if you take the plunge and have a go at making your own wedding guest dress and don’t forget to share your photos with us here.

Here’s to a whole lot of making going on this week!



New fabric for my 1960s sofa

Last year I bought a 1960s sofa.  I’d been looking for something like it for ages.  I really like the mid century modern look and I’m slowly collecting things for my flat. I bought in from Vintage Retro – I spend way too much time on their website and want everything.

1960s sofa with a selection of fabrics

1960s sofa with a selection of fabrics

Moon fabric choices

Moon fabric choices

I need to get the sofa recovered.  I have narrowed it down to Moon fabrics which is not very narrow as there are so many choices. Halley and Stevensons in Dundee have all the catalogues and they ordered me six samples.  I can’t decide as I love them all.  But I think a plain fabric might be better as it gives more options for cushions and other furniture.  I want to get a 1950/60s armchair so I might use more patterned fabric for that.  But rather than the purple I might go with a teal or duck egg blue – decisions, decisions


The other great feature is how it folds out as a bed. As soon as I get it covered I will post a picture.


A simple box pleat skirt for spring

Ms Gray and I are going a bit skirt mad here. Probably something to do with time and lots to do with rubbish weather that means we’re not quite ready for bare arms and legs in dresses!

So with not a lot of spare time just now, I have found the time to speed make a really pretty, very wearable box pleat skirt that I’ve been meaning to make for ages. Something started and finished in just a few hours. Result!

My box pleat skirt!

My box pleat skirt! Love my new shoes too  – Autograph at M&S

It’s a really straightforward skirt from Sew Your Own Wardrobe (Quadrille), the book following the second series of the Great British Sewing Bee in 2014. I got the book as soon as it came out but this is the first thing made so far.

Box pleat skirt in 2014 Great British Sewing Bee Sew Your Own Wardrobe

Box pleat skirt in 2014 Great British Sewing Bee Sew Your Own Wardrobe

I used the lovely pink geometric print that I posted about a while back, having decided that it would be just a bit too much for a dress but perfect for something smaller.

The book came with full patterns for each project (way better than the first book where everything had to be downloaded which I didn’t do and can’t seem to now) so it was a case of tracing either onto the fabric itself or onto paper. Seeing as this was a speed project, I used dressmaker’s carbon and, after a fair bit of faffing to get the pattern lined up, just traced straight onto the fabric. The box pleats need adjusting if you use a fabric with an obvious pattern repeat otherwise it’ll look higgledy piggledy and less than professional. All good so far.

The instructions are short and to the point although I’m not sure that a beginner would find the zip instructions entirely clear – I got confused about the lapped zip from the directions given. The box pleats are simple to construct though and the waistband easy enough.

This is a lovely graphic print cotton so it really holds its shape and sits out a bit which is what I wanted. Inspired just a teeny bit by “Homefires” (my new total favourite Sunday night viewing – catch it on ITV!), I made it a bit longer than the pattern – knee length or just below is more my style for a summer skirt without the safety of a nice pair of substantial opaque tights to cover up my knees.

If you’re a beginner then this is a great little project to get stuck into and if you’re more accomplished, stretch yourself with a challenging pattern to match. I’d love to see your photos if you’ve made the same pattern. Just post below or tweet us anytime @gilraygray

Happy sewing!



At last – a finished sewing project

At last I’ve managed to complete some sewing.  It’s a really simple skirt and easy to make.  Here is the pattern.

Simplicity 2451

Simplicity 2451

And here is my skirt. I love the fabric which I bought from Clothspot.  It has a great retro feel and I have enough left to make a dress. I need to find a way to take pictures when I’m wearing things.

Simplicity 2451. Fabric from Clothspot

Simplicity 2451. Fabric from Clothspot

Can you see the pocket.  I have made this skirt three times – I love the pockets.