Refashioners 2013: Guess what I made?

Refashioners sneak peekThe gorgeous Portia of the fabulous refashioning blog Miss P asked me to take part in this year’s Refashioners event. Joining the lineup of super stitchers (just check them out here) was like being asked to join an all-out awesome rock supergroup to simply tinkle my triangle in the background. But tinkle away I did, and I’m delighted to say I got a wearable result which I’m actually pretty pleased with. But what did she send me and what did I refashion it into?

Well you’ll just have to mosey on over to Miss P to find out. And while you’re there check out what those other amazing ladies have been up to. You’ll be amazed at the ingenuity, and if it doesn’t make you get down your local charity shop to unearth a gem then you are a FOOL! A FOOL I say!

My Handmade Style: Oonaballoona

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

I know I say this every time I put up a new one but this series just gets better and better! This week we have a humdinger, nay, a GRAND SLAMMER of a guest on Handmade Style. It’s the delicious, the eloquent, the beautiful, glass-always-full (except when she’s downed it) darling of the blog world Oonaballoona! Need I say more? I don’t think so. Oona – over to you.

Oona, you must have one of the most distinctive blogging styles in our corner of the internet! But how would you describe your handmade style, if you had to sum it up?


if by distinctive you mean drunken, I’M YOUR GAL.

i thought a moment on this, and came up with “schizophrenic”.  so i asked ruggy.  he said “funkariffic”.  i approve wholeheartedly of both summations of my handmade style, and kind of want to put the two of them together and travel around the world singing al green covers and coloratura arias.  i think it would be appropriate to open the show in my purple space alien burdastyle dress.

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me made wardrobe


a heeeouge portion of my style inspiration absolutely comes from all the wonderful blogs in our community.  no question.  i’m either fueled by admiration or overwhelming jealousy.  they are both excellent motivators!

i also love to look at what other women are wearing when i’m at auditions (for those of you that might not know, in my secret double agent life i am not a secret double agent.  unless i’m asked to play one).  it’s interesting to see how a waiting room full of women interpret the same character, clothing wise.  there’s a casting director in town who knows i like to come in dressed exactly as i think the part should be–as you can imagine, i love her for knowing that.

and the waiting room is soooo much more fun as a fashion experiment.  i’ll sketch on my generously gifted ipad or jot notes on my script.  i always come away with ideas… and the occasional odd glare from a competitor who’s wondering why i’m staring at her waistline pleats with such insane focus.  they usually think i’m trying a mind game on them. they brighten up considerably when i chirp about their ensemble.

i try my best to channel those sketches into my wardrobe, but they often change along the way.

What’s your creative process in deciding what to make?  Is it a fabric based decision or a pattern that inspires you?


again, schizophrenic!  whatever i say it is, the next day it will change up totally.  it’s like the chicken or the egg for me when it comes to patterns and fabric– although i will say i’ve gotten better at knowing if a fabric has to come home with me.  although, this gold craziness was a home dec fabric on sale at joann’s.  there was no question in my mind, yet the itch factor?  is RIDONKULOUS.   hopefully today, i’d at least line this sort of thing…but patterns, i can easily grab a dozen and leave them untouched for years till inspiration strikes. most times, my problem with both is that i have too many ideas, and don’t know which one idea to start on.

Who are your style icons and why?


i’m not sure i have icons. if we’re talking people who constantly inspire me, i’m going to go with mokosha, kazz, and david bowie.  now THAT’S a party.

music is a huge source of inspiration for me.  i sort of can’t move without it, i have to have it on to function.  the bad plus, radiohead, classic r&b, led zeppelin, fun, phoebe snow, seu jorge…

Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?

sadly i don’t keep up with designers… i rely on pretty grievances to do that for me!! i’ll pin things here and there through other’s links and surfing and such.  store wise, i “dressing room shop” at those beasts h&m and F21, with the intent of getting ideas and looking at construction.  but now that you’ve asked, why in blazes aren’t i doing that at neiman marcus and the designer floor at saks?  THEY’RE WALKING DISTANCE AWAY!  okay.  be on the lookout for spyoona…

If you had to select one self stitched garment that really encapsulates your style, what would it be and why?



if forced at empty bottle point, i would say my anna sui silk maxi print dress…i draped it myself, which i’m insanely proud of…and the print is sufficiently loud… but there’s so much color amiss here…come to think of it, that’s probably why i shot it against this hyper blue wall!

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill?


here i can give you a resounding and definitive no, i do not fill vital gaps in my wardrobe.  unless you count the fact that i have nothing to wear for every new occasion that fills up our calendar and therefore Must.  Sew.  Something.  i sew what i sew because it makes me happy.  sewing “gaps” in my wardrobe (that really, i do need, i have no business casual whatsoever) just isn’t fun to me.  when i try to fill the gaps, i come up with things like this technicolor top.  tres business casual, non?

i’ve always been creative in some way, to varying degrees of success (read: and failure).  i started sewing in los angeles, as a way to keep creatively sane and happy in a very unhappy town.  so, the happy rule became part of it by practice.

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

interesting… i wonder if those who know me think i experiment with my look, or i’m just sort of crazy all the time?  risk for me is dressing more conservatively, ooh, or matching, i truly hate matching.  (unless it’s gold with gold with gold.)  these looks work great on others and i can appreciate that, i do appreciate that.  i don’t think either of these looks work for me–mostly because when i look in the mirror, i don’t feel good and happy.  and again, what’s the point of that?

i do think my last jacket was a big risk for me.   in fact, it was such a departure i ended up giving it to my mom!  it’s not the sort of style i go for on myself, and it took everything in my power to keep myself from making it into a ballgown.  i am, however, glad i made it, and i just love that mommaballoona rocks it now.

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off…do you have a style bugbear?


i often wish, especially during summer months, that i could dress in that romantic sort of look– flowery chiffon in faded hues, fronds of lavender, tattered lace in a field sort of thing.  doesn’t work on me.  for example, this maxi crochet dress with serious facing issues has been long since hacked to bits. i think you have to be quite graceful to pull the romantic look off. i can play graceful. but i’ll holler my head off for rye the second five o’clock hits, fragile sunset fading against weeping willow trees or no.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

gold lame suit. boucle ballgown.  peacock feather maxi skirt. the inside of my brain is a drunken dreamscape of a closet with twenty foot high ceilings. at least to me it is, to others i guess it could certainly be a nightmare…

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

i really feel that every blog i read has great personal style, otherwise i wouldn’t be interested enough to read them!

looking at my blogroll, what jumps out at me are the sewing bloggers that took their personal style and feel so strongly about it, they’ve turned it into patterns. seeing the journey from blogging about it to holding the paper baby of their style?  AMAZING.  and their offspring truly reflects their style: christine haynes, by hand london, dixie diy, madalynne, and megan nielsen, to name a few.  i bet by the time this post goes up, there will be twenty more to add to that list.  volcanic activity, yo.  i love it.

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

there are always several works in progress at a time on my table, so: a top secret chiffon and velvet top, a taffeta ballgown, a lace and georgette party dress, and new arm slipcovers for the couch.  guess which one i want off my table…

oh, and a glass of cocchin vermouth, neat. naturally.

cheers to you, mama stitch and witter!

Gawd blimey guvnor – cheers to you Madame Oona. I’ve come over all giddy and think I may just be a teeny tiny bit in love with this dame. Clink clink and hiccup..!

Learning new skillz and sticking to my sewlution

Last week I took the little fella back home to meet his Norn Iron half of the family. It was fantastic having a multitude of willing arms to cuddle him and rock him to sleep, so I took full advantage of the spare time to practice embroidery. On a hoop! I must say I felt all Elizabeth Bennet stitching away.


I’ve been using Sublime Stitching as my go-to guide. It is brilliantly written – very simple and concise. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting to try their hand at embroidery. It also comes choc full of wonderful transfers, just waiting to be ironed onto your chosen fabric.


Although the book offers a multitude of stitches to choose from – two will pretty much accomplish anything you want to try your hand at – the chain stitch and the satin stitch. You can see the chain stitches outlining the pear above, whilst the satin stitches fill in the stem and the leaf. I love the raised effect – it adds a whole new dimension to your make.

I was just practicing so I stitched onto calico (a chopped up Colette Violet muslin in fact – check me out with the recycling) but I’ll be transferring my final chosen designs onto a lovely white cotton and then working them into a log cabin quilt for George. I was hoping to use the design on the front of Modern Log Cabin Quilting by Susan Beal but I’m wondering now where my little embroidered pictures might actually live on this lovely design without detracting from it. I’ll have a think about it.

Embroidery is a great craft to try if you’ve got a few minutes spare and it’s extremely cheap to get started. Hoops cost from as little as a couple of quid and embroidery flosses aren’t much more. Then as long as you have a needle you can get going. I used a size 20 tapestry needle and a 7″ hoop.

I am determined to keep up my end of the bargain with Karen’s Sewlutions Jar. This was my original Sewlution:

“Mine is to make a beautiful log cabin baby quilt with some embroidery technique worked in. Something really special for baby George’s first bed. And it will force me to start learning embroidery which I’ve wanted to do for ages but haven’t got round to.”

But at this rate it may be New Year’s Eve before it’s complete! How are you getting on with your Sewlutions?


Oh and here’s a little pic of himself, just so you can see what a little pudding he’s become! I’ve been feeding him myself and I’m just delighted to watch him grow… and grow… and grow!


Why yes Miss P – I’m in

refashioners 2013 600 width

Can you guess what it is?

Yes! I’ve been invited by the amazing Portia of Miss P to take part in this year’s Refashioners! I am so excited by the line up this year. I mean – check. this. out. PEOPLE.

Zoe – So Zo…
Dixie – Dixie DIY
Joanne – Stitch and Witter
Lauren – Lladybird
Tasha – By Gum By Golly
Christ on an Easter bike – how did I get to join this illustrious lot? Especially since the closest I’ve got to my sewing machine this year is a couple of longing looks. But this is the perfect project to stretch those old sewing muscles non?
Last year Portia rounded up a bunch of stitching geniuseseseses and cajoled them into creating astonishingly gorgeous garments from, let’s face it, some questionable items. Check them out here.
In the meantime I’ll be watching my doormat nervously for her mystery item…
Newsflash – this week I have the most amazing Handmade Style participant. You will not be disappointed. I repeat: YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED. Watch this space.
P.S. Congratulations to Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons who will be appearing in the sewing spectacular that is The Great British Sewing Bee. Every time I think of it I squeal with excitement. Have you ever seen someone you know on TV and gone all squeaky with delight? That’ll be me come April 2nd at 8pm. I believe the hash tag on Twitter is #GBSB. If I can unglue my eyes from the telly I’ll be checking out all those tweets too.

My Handmade Style: Rachel from House of Pinheiro

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

Today we have someone I’ve long admired on the blogging scene and found to be absolutely lovely in person. Rachel of House of Pinheiro must be one of the busiest seamstresses on the block. Not only does she make the most amazing dresses and separates, she’s also a knitter, a baker, an occasional model and an international craft swapper! Let’s take a look inside her handmade wardrobe…

Rachel, I love how on trend many of your makes are and how you’ve always got one eye on the world of fashion. How would you sum up your handmade style?

Thanks, Joanne. I try to wear what suits me but I am not afraid to try new things. Ever since I was young, I have always enjoyed playing with fashion and get inspired by design ideas. I would say my style is elegant with a twist. I love tailored and classic pieces with a unique feature or modern design that stands out. I am a lot about comfort too so if I feel uncomfortable I won’t wear it, even if it’s cute.

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

At the beginning most of my inspiration was my own closet by trying to recreate items I loved or just the pure fun of figuring out how they were made. I love watching fashion week and but with time my handmade style is being hugely influenced by other bloggers and by what was lacking in my wardrobe. I learned to appreciate different designs and great techniques even if they don’t suit me. I even included vintage inspiration on my modern clothes.

I channel my inspirations in two categories: Silhouette and colour palette. I love the 50’s silhouette, so all my projects try to highlight my waist and my Brazilian background influences drives my choices for rich colours and print.

This doesn’t mean I don’t sew practical garments, like my black skinny pants I sewed last year.

What’s your creative process in deciding what to make? Is it a fabric-based decision or a pattern that inspires you?

It varies daily. I made a small diagram to illustrate my influences. They interact and whatever variable that is stronger at the time gets made…


There are three fabric types I cannot have enough of : Cotton sateen, linen and wool. All my favourite items are made out of those.

I really enjoy the flat pattern stage of design where I change areas I don’t like in patterns or draft a pattern. I take a while before I cut things in fabric. Sometimes I work hours on some things and they never get cut in fabric because another idea and pattern looked more interesting to make and I embark on another adventure. Sometimes I wonder how I can actually finish things.

Who are your style icons and why?

My mom has always dressed well, inspiring me and she has instilled in me that style is actually about confidence and feeling good about yourself. Sewing is a great buster of accepting your shape and highlighting your potential.

Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?

My ultimate and hands down favourite is Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch. He was the ONE that made me rediscover fashion – the first time was actually when my 7 yr self used to sew clothes for my barbie and they were suppose to be “crazy”– Now I know what they were, Avant-garde. He was my first designer purchase and I was 16. I treasured so much his creations because I saw something in myself that came out wearing his clothes. Some kind of inner confidence. Something that I thought that no one else would understand in me but he and I knew in my heart those clothes were meant for me. Sewing my own clothes brings me the same amazing feeling.

Another designer that intrigues me is Belgian fashion designer, Martin Margiela. He worked at Jean Paul Gaultier before launching his own label in 1988. I tried my hand at Martin Margiela by making a jumper out of socks. Anyone that saw his latest collection for H&M could buy it for $100 (£65). My serger and a few pairs of socks I had around and voila, I made two sock jumpers. I had been meaning to get a tutorial on this project for ages. It is very simple and offers effective variations depending on the size of the socks used.

If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

My Sherlock Holmes Cape nicknamed: Sherlock’s horse. The pattern is V8674. Version C. It has a classic shape and I can wear it forever, and the funky lining cheers me up. It uses beautiful quality fabric and I learned the most with this project. It really changed my sewing horizon.

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill?

Both, I think it’s a way for me to recreate ideas I have and manage with my current skills. I cannot keep up with them so I try to sew what I can, always trying to push my knowledge forward and hopefully some day I will be able to actually sew what I have exactly in my mind. I love dresses and they are essential for my lifestyle. You don’t have to think what to pair them in the morning, they are comfortable and they look elegant and put together effortlessly.

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I take a lot of risks by not following instructions and many projects end up not looking as intended. I don’t feel fazed by that as it helps me understand constructions restraints and that mistake may turn into a fun design feature.

My biggest problem is that I overfit garments. I need to learn accept the right ease. For example, my peony. The style doesn’t suit me and by tying to get a closer fit, end up making uncomfortable to wear. In the end I had to open the seams and give myself more room.

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

Yes, and makes me so jealous lol. I cannot wear fussy or baggy clothes. Specially those boxy Japanese designs. Makes me look awful. My body needs structured garments. It’s a shame because I would love to be able to rock those clothes.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

That’s so hard to pinpoint because it changes very often. It’s a work in progress in my mind. I need personality, something that stands out without being in your face/out there.

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

There are so many amazing sewing bloggers out there that Its always hard to actually only name a few. My heroes are:
Kazz the spazz: She brings the modern elements of design I like and she explode them. Her outfits are always intense and creative. She has a great fashion sense.
Lladybird Lauren: Can sew a storm with a high productivity that’s hard to beat. What can I say, dude! You are just too cool for school.
Erica B is the trendiest sewing blogger I know. she rocks!

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

A coat. Yes, I will jump in the deep end. Its time to conquer some fears and start the new year with a project I been putting off for ages. (Ed’s note – that’s how behind I am on these interviews guys – sorry!) Catherine of Cyberdaze‘s coat journey really inspired me to go for it and of course the immense support of the sewing community. I’m privileged to have met so many amazing and talented people.

And we’re privileged to learn more about your unique style Rachel. Thanks for taking part! 

My Handmade Style: Katie from Little Red Squirrel

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

This week we’ve got a vintage style maven in the spotlight – Katie from Little Red Squirrel. I just discovered Katie’s blog late last year and wow – this lady is dedicated to creating truly gorgeous vintage looks. Plus she can rock  red lippy to the max. RESPECT. Katie – over to you.

Katie, I’d put you somewhere between a forties vixen and a fifties sweetheart with your fabulous vintage makes. But how would you sum up your handmade style?

Hi Joanne! Aw thanks, that’s really sweet of you! I must admit I am in a long-term love affair with forties and fifties fashion and the looks from both of these eras do influence my personal style very heavily. I make my clothes pretty much solely from vintage patterns and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I suppose I would say my handmade style is a nod towards the class and quality construction of a bygone age. People say “they don’t make clothes like that anymore”, but that’s what I endeavour to do!

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

I find inspiration for my clothes from all kinds of different sources. I am a big lover of film and television and find that watching certain things really influences what I want to wear! I went through a big Joan (from Mad Men) phase for a while – although I don’t really have the figure for her look! – and more recently I’ve fallen in love with the 1950s London look of Call the Midwife and Sienna Miller’s Tippi Hedren in The Girl. Can you tell that I’m a sucker for a costume drama?! I also find browsing online at sites like Pinterest can be very inspiring, or looking through old fashioned magazines or books from the eras that I love. If I find a look I like I’ll do my best to recreate it in my own way.

What’s your creative process in deciding what to make? Is it a fabric-based decision or a pattern that inspires you?

Mostly I start with the pattern before the fabric. Once I have an idea as to what it is that I want to make I set about finding a vintage pattern that is both suitable and the right size for me (or near enough so I can scale it up or down), then I’ll move on to my fabric choices.

Who are your style icons and why?

I have quite a few style icons; I admire the looks of classic starlets, for example Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, but I think the person who inspires me the most is Dita Von Teese. I adore Dita Von Teese’s style  because she made it beautiful and sexy to be pale and interesting, something that I’m thankful for! I also love that she dresses for every occasion, not because she’s obligated to but because she just loves beautiful clothes. She is glamorous because she chooses to be for her own pleasure, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?

The designers that I draw the most inspiration from are Christian Dior at the time of the New Look (I mean who isn’t in love with that suit?) and Adolph Schuman’s label Lilli Ann, which created some of the most beautiful tailoring during the 40s and 50s. I was given my very own Lilli Ann suit as a Christmas present this year and I cannot tell you how beautiful it is, the construction details are just ridiculous! I cannot imagine how much time and effort was put into making such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Work like that inspires me to become a better seamstress!


Lilli Ann

If you had to select one self-stitched garment encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

It would probably be the matching plaid cape and pencil skirt I made this year. It’s definitely the outfit that I’m most proud of at any rate! This outfit shows a lot about me, my love of vintage style, the new skills I have learned in tailoring and even my obsessive compulsive need to match patterns exactly! I love this outfit and all it’s details and it will definitely set the bar for all my future sewing projects. I just hope I can live up to it!

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill? 

During the past year I have pretty much just sewn what I wanted to sew because I didn’t have that much time on my hands for sewing projects as I was travelling a lot. I wanted to enjoy my limited sewing time so I allowed myself to just sew for pleasure rather than  convenience! However, this year I do think I will be looking to fill some of the gaps in my wardrobe, and there are a few!

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I took a lot more risks when I started sewing my own clothes, I look back at some of my first ever projects and I wonder what was I thinking?! For example, during my first few months of sewing I made a crepe dress and a pendrell blouse both of which are great patterns but neither of which suit me at all! They have long since been removed from circulation in my wardrobe. It has taken me a long time to develop my personal style – my current look took some work! – and now that I’ve found it I don’t really stray from it. But that’s not to say that in another five to ten years I won’t go through another drastic change!

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

I do not have the legs for leggings/jeggings or any kind of skin tight, lycra-esque leg coverings! And also I can’t see myself sewing up a mini-skirt any time soon! I’ve gotten too used to the length of the skirts of the forties and fifties!

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

That’s a hard choice, there are so many outfits I’d love to call my own… Well, if I have to pick it would probably be Grace Kelly’s iconic dress from “Rear Window”, a stunning dress from an even better film. Or maybe Jessica Rabbit’s sequined number, just for fun!

Grace Kelly

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

That’s another hard one, because I read so many blogs! Seriously, I have hundreds on my feed reader, I’m a bit of a blog addict! At the moment I would say that my top bloggers for great individual style would be Pia of for her effortless beauty, Cassie of for her fabulous individuality, Tasha from for her incredible knitting projects and both Johanna of and Emma of for channeling such exquisite vintage loveliness.

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

I’m so excited about the sewing I have planned for 2013, I have a lot of fun, new projects up my sleeve! My first project for the New Year is going to be my first ever pair of self-sewn trousers, something I have been wanting to do forever. Hopefully they won’t be too difficult, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see!

(Ed – 2013 update! Katie did make those trews and here they are! Marvellous – yes?)

Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your “My Handmade Style” series, Joanne! It’s been a real pleasure.

Why thank you Katie for taking part and letting us have a peek at your stunning vintage wardrobe, as well as introducing us to some amazing new blogs.