Shirtdress Plans!

I’ve been saying for ages that I want to make another Alder shirt dress. The first one I made was meant to be a toile… but I never got round to making the denim one I had planned and have ended up wearing this one loads.

Alder Shirtdress front - Jem Weston blogI initially thought it was way too big, but after a few wears I started to enjoy the loose fit and as I’ve washed and worn it the fabric has softened and now has a nicer drape.

I wanted to make the next one with sleeves because two of the most worn items in my wardrobe are long-sleeved shirt dresses – one plaid and one denim. They’re basically secret pyjamas and I wear them with leggings while working at home.

Knowing that I like the fit of the Alder shirt dress – I thought I would use that as my starting point… and went down a Pinterest rabbithole! The first version I found with sleeves was this one by Bolt & Spool.

They used this Grainline Studio tutorial of an Alder and Acher shirt mash-up. I initially thought “great – just what I was looking for… Alder with sleeves added. Simple!”. Then I read the tutorial and have been procrastinating ever since because it sounded too complicated! Bearing in mind that I’ve only ever done a collar once… and despite being heavily supervised by Deidre at All Things Creative I still managed to get part of it upside down.

So then I started looking into whether it would be simpler to just make the Archer shirt and add length to make it a dress. And of course it would be simpler! I love this version by Vivat Viritas

But – the Archer shirt has quite a straight/boxy shape and I know that I would have to play with blending different sizes (as I’m generally two sizes larger on my bottom half) and that might effect the shape and overall look.

So I’ve settled on this version… the Archer + Alder mash up V2!

Using the Alder pattern for the bottom section should give me plenty of room around the hips and there aren’t any massively complicated tweaks to make so fingers crossed I’ll manage it without supervision!

I know that it’s going to take me ages. I don’t get much sewing time and I don’t want to rush it… but it would be really lovely if I manage to get it done before the end of the year so I can tick it off my make-nine-2020 list!

Summer Dress

I finished a summer dress!

Summer dress made in Atelier Brunette navy fabric with sporadic little green, cream and golden yellow squares.

I traced the pattern from a dress that I wear a lot… but it turned out quite differently as I tweaked it along the way.

I’ve never done an elasticated waistband before and initially created a channel to slot the elastic in, but it didn’t sit right so instead I stitched the elastic directly to the waist seam using a long zig zag stitch.

It’s made in an Atelier Brunette fabric which I bought from Guthrie & Ghani. I’d bought a small amount a while ago just because I liked it and then also bought a small bolt end which gave me enough for a dress. I’m concerned that the skirt is a bit see-through… but maybe that’s okay in the summer!

It’s a super simple shape and was quick to make (apart from the waistband faffing) so if it’s comfy to wear I’ll be making more. A lightweight linen would be great because I’m always too hot!

That’s another one ticked off the make-nine-2020 plan. Next up sewing-wise is a shirt dress – which might take me a while because collars are confusing!

Jem Weston - Make nine 2020 plan!

Peony Dress

The Peony dress has been on my to-make list forever. I finally made it… although the finished dress doesn’t really resemble the Peony!

The most major change I made was to the skirt section. After following the pattern… with a bit of grading out to allow extra hip space – I just wasn’t happy with the fit. It looked nice on the hanger but didn’t sit right on my bum! After removing and reinserting the zip three times I decided that I hadn’t done anything wrong… the shape just didn’t suit me – it was too straight.

Luckily I’d bought more fabric than I needed so I whipped up a gathered skirt which is much more my style. It also gave me the opportunity to fix the hugely wonky waistline!

I spent a long time preparing to make this dress and made three toiles of the bodice before I was happy to move over to using wearable fabric. I used US size 2 for the top part and graded out from the underarm to US size 6  at the waist… then made numerous tweaks to the darts.

Using the smaller bust size created issues with fit above the chest because I have broad shoulders. When I added the sleeves it was too tight and pulling across the shoulders, so I took the sleeves out and put them back in with less seam allowance. This helped the fit but the sleeves are now a bit messy and slightly gathered at the top.

I might have achieved a better fit if I’d chosen the bodice size based on the correct size for my waist and then done a small bust adjustment. I think this would maybe allow for the wide shoulders/small bust… but I have no idea how to do a small bust adjustment. If you know of any good tutorials please let me know!

I wanted this dress to be slightly fitted and have some shape to it – whilst also being loose enough to be comfy for working at home/mooching around in. It’s not perfectly made… but it fulfills the brief! And it replaces an old denim chambray dress which is too tight and far too short.

It also ticks ‘denim dress’ off the Make-Nine-2020 list!


New Vest Top

Last month I wrote a blog about summer tops where I somewhat optimistically outlined my plans to knit two tops and sew three tops before Autumn started creeping in!

I knew my plans were unrealistic, but I’m really pleased with how much I’ve done. I finished one of the knitted tops (Burnt by Kim Hargreaves), have a Ripple Bralette on the needles and I’ve sewn one of the three vest tops.

I traced the pattern from a vest that’s already in my wardrobe and I love the fit. This fabric is leftover from my Petal Sleeve Scout Tee and I knew the drape would work beautifully as a vest.

Although it’s super simple with no darts – it was quite time consuming doing the bias for the straps/around the armholes… lots of pinning. And I also hand-stitched the hem.

I’m going to hibernate the fabric for the other two vests until next Spring. I think it’ll be good to wear this one and check I’ve got the fit perfect before doing the others.

It’s nothing to do with the fact that I want to start working on my Winter wardrobe… honest!


Make Nine 2019 – Progress Report

Someone posted about their Make Nine 2019 on Instagram this week and I realised that I couldn’t even remember what was on mine! So it’s a good time to see if I’m on track and give a progress report!

So far this year I have ticked off my new mitts and my wedding cardigan

And yes… there was some cheating because I started making both of those things in 2018! But I’ve been super busy working on my new book which will launch later this year – so selfish making time has been extremely scarce.

I’ve made pretty good progress with my Esme cardigan too – I’ve finished the back and fronts – so it’s just the sleeves to do. It’s so fluffy!!

I should be cracking on with this now… but you know when you’re not in the mood to knit anything that you have on the needles and just want the excitement of casting on something new? Well that happened… so I cast on Burnt by Kim Hargreaves.

It’s not even on my Make Nine list. I’ve gone completely rogue! We’ve booked a holiday for later this year and I just fancied making something summery that I could realistically finish before we go away. I’m having to adjust the pattern a bit for my shape so hopefully it will work out!

I’ve also made a little bit of progress on the Peony Dress. I made a toile for the bodice (blending sizes) but I still need some help getting the fit right. Some of my friends have been going to classes and sewing clinics at Sewing Belle and I’ve been inspired by the lovely things they’re making. I’m hoping to join them soon and rediscover my sewjo!

How are your 2019 makes going?

Scout Tee with Petal Sleeves

In October I had the pleasure of attending two lovely weddings. My plan was to make a top and skirt that would look like a dress when worn together, but could also be worn separately.

It didn’t quite work out as planned… but I do now have a new top and a new skirt!

I finished making the top in time for the wedding of Eleanor (of Knit Nottingham) and Dr Chris. I didn’t get the skirt made in time but the top looked okay with my echinacea circle skirt… so that was lucky!

Eleanor and Chris had encouraged people to wear handmade garments so I was really glad to finish the top in time!

There was a fabulous array of handmade outfits and the bride looked amazing in her dress made from Kaffe Fassett brassica fabric. Eleanor also made Chris a tie to match the sash on her dress, knitted her cardigan, crocheted a bag and I think she made her jewellery too!

I made my top using the Scout Tee pattern – having made it before and knowing that it was simple to make and a good fit for me. Grainline Studios have added a sleeve extension pack to the pattern including a long sleeve, a cuffed sleeve and these petal sleeves…

The petal sleeves make it feel a bit fancier. I also used a drapey fabric which I picked up from Just Sew in Penrith while we were on honeymoon.

I don’t often go out-out, but this style is perfect for the kind of socialising I do – so I know that I will wear it a lot. It was great having the deadline of Eleanor’s wedding to get it finished!

I then managed to get the planned skirt finished in time for the following weekend when we travelled down to a beautiful wedding in Cornwall of our good friends Jen & Andrew.

In a way I’m glad that I didn’t push myself to finish it before Eleanor & Chris’s wedding because I decided that the skirt and top together didn’t look great!

The skirt did however look nice with another top I have – so from two metres of fabric I made two new half outfits!

The skirt is quite fine and floaty so I think I will get more wear out of it in the summer. In the meantime I’m planning to make a long sleeved Scout Tee and think about tackling a dress pattern!

By the way – I know that I said I was going to make some non-teal things… but I’ve got a stash of teal fabric and yarn to work through first, so it might be a while!

Huge congratulations to Eleanor & Chris and Jen & Andrew! X


New Denim Circle Skirt

Just over a year ago I made myself a denim circle skirt. I’ve worn it loads, it goes with everything and I love it!

I wore it a lot during Me Made May and mentioned that there were a few issues with it and that I wanted to make a replacement.

The waistband is too loose so I added belt loops – but even with a belt it drifts down and I feel uncomfortable in it. It only has one pocket because I put the zip in the side seam at the other side. And the zip is a bit wonky!

Here’s my second attempt!

I decided to go for a paler denim because I fancied something different and I know I’ll wear it a lot in Spring/Summer. I’m also planning to make a longer dark denim skirt to wear with boots in the winter… maybe with a gathered waist rather than a full circle.

It still isn’t perfect, but it’s a much better fit around the waist and has two pockets! I promised that I would do a quick guide to making a circle skirt once I had made a new one… so here it is:

  • Start by measuring your waist circumference and required skirt length.
  • Divide your waist circumference by pi (3.14 will do!) to find your diameter and then half that to find your radius. Make a note of these measurements!

I made the above skirt using a half circle for the front and two quarter circles at the back with a centre seam and invisible zip (which I’m not showing you… it’s very neat but definitely not invisible!). It also has a pocket in each side seam. If that’s what you want to make then continue as follows:

Start by making a paper pattern (I used brown parcel paper).


  • start by drawing two lines at a right angle then draw a quarter circle using your radius measurement (please use a ruler and set square… the below is just a rough sketch!)

  • Measure your required length down from each edge and draw in the bottom curve.

  • Don’t forget to add seam allowance (I did 1.5cm) on all edges apart from the centre front which will be cut on the fold to make a half circle for the front.


The back is pretty much exactly the same pattern as the front but will be cut as two separate pieces so you also need to add seam allowance to that edge.


  • I made mine 2.5cm deep – you might want deeper or narrower – just decide on the depth and cut a strip of fabric to your required depth x2 plus seam allowance and the length of your waist circumference plus seam allowance on both ends.
  • Then cut a piece of interfacing the same length but half the depth and iron this to one half of the reverse of the waistband.


  • I don’t have much in the way of tips here… I just drew around my hand in a roughly pocket shape and cut out two sets!
  • Sew the pockets to the side seams – this video is quite a good guide.

Putting it all together!

  • Join the side seams and finish the edges however you prefer.
  • Pin the skirt to the waistband evenly and stitch.
  • Insert zip (!) and stitch back seam. The technique for inserting your zip will vary depending on what type of zip you use. You should be able to find a guide to suit you on Pinterest or Youtube. If you’re new to zips I would recommend practising on scrap fabric first.
  • Clip into skirt top if necessary to ensure the waistband sits flat.
  • Fold half of the waistband over to the back, tuck under the raw edge and hand-stitch in place along all edges.
  • Sew up the hem and you’re done!

This is just a quick guide and I’m not an expert – so if you have a play and add any improvements please do let me know in the comments.

I’m planning to fill my wardrobe with lots of swooshy circle skirts!

Me-made Wardrobe Planning

Last week Eleanor from Knit Nottingham posted an Instagram picture of her fantastically minimal, mostly handmade and beautifully colourful wardrobe… I feel inspired! (fyi – she does have some stuff in drawers as well).

I’ve been feeling in a bit of a wardrobe rut and the ‘I have nothing to wear’ feelings have been creeping back in. Since I started living with a capsule wardrobe, this has happened whenever the seasons and/or weather changes. It makes me want to shop!

So instead of shopping I did some planning.

I think the main thing that’s making me feel stuck in a rut is the lack of variation of colour in my wardrobe. You can probably guess which colour is dominant?! I adore teal and am happy to wear teal everyday… but I don’t want to wear head to toe blue and teal everyday and Eleanor’s wardrobe made me crave more colour!

In the past I have bought clothes in lots of different colours because of being limited by the choice in the shops. I might find the perfect shape dress in a colour I wouldn’t normally choose – but if it only comes in that colour and it suits me then I’ll step out of my comfort zone.

I saw that lack of choice as a limitation, when in fact it was encouraging me to experiment with colour. When sewing or knitting a garment there are so many patterns, fabrics and yarns to choose from that the automatic choice is to go for my favourite – ie, teal.

So I’ve decided that rather than just choosing my favourite – I want to plan a palette for my wardrobe so that there are at least a few bits in there to complement the teal!

I started my palette by searching Pinterest for ‘what colours to wear’. I found this pin really helpful and quickly narrowed myself down to an ‘Autumn’ palette based on my hair colour, skin tone and eye colour. I’m not 100% sure whether I’m a ‘Deep Autumn’ or a ‘Warm Autumn’… but hey – they’re similar and it’s just a starting point!

I then searched Pinterest for ‘Deep Autumn colour palettes’ and discovered that my best colours are deep, rich and warm and I should avoid pastels! Luckily this sort of matches my current wardrobe content and I’ve learnt the hard way that pastels aren’t for me. So I just need to make sure I’m adding in some more of the accent colours as I’m making things.

I might not stick to this palette perfectly, but it will be great to have it as a reference to keep me focused when fabric/yarn shopping. It’s also helpful to know that the internet thinks my best neutral shades are mocha type colours rather than greys. After holding lots of little colour swatches against my face I can confirm this is correct!

I have a little notebook which I used to take to sewing class to jot down reminders about techniques or changes I’d made to patterns. It has now become my mini me-made wardrobe scrapbook! So my colour palette is inside the front cover and the notebook is packed with ideas and notes about patterns. It’s only A6 – so perfect for carrying around in case I happen upon a fabric shop.

For patterns I’ve already made there are some notes on sizing etc, and I’ve also jotted down fabric quantities needed for these and patterns I’ve not made yet.

I normally end up in a fabric shop googling the pattern and guessing which size I would make, then converting the yardage to meterage… having everything in one place will hopefully make fabric shopping less faffy!

Making these notes made me dread making the Peony dress! It’s a beginners pattern, but when I was looking at the sizing/fabric quantity I realised that I range from a size 2 on the bust to a size 10 on the hips (American sizes). That’s going to be a challenging pattern to adjust!

I’m currently knitting a blue/teal jumper and have a stash of blue and teal yarn and fabric… it might be a while before different colours find their way into my capsule wardrobe but it’s good to have a plan and I’m loving my mini scrapbook!

Quilt Love

I’m in the middle of making table runners for our wedding which I’m planning to make into a quilt afterwards. I’m sure the quilt won’t actually happen for years… but I’m really excited about the table runners! The fabrics are so beautiful I’m tempted to scrap my wedding outfit and wear a table runner.

Table runners/Quilt | Jem Weston blog

All this quilting made me think that a lot of you probably haven’t seen the first ‘proper’ quilt I made. It was the star of my third ever blog back in 2014 and I still love it just as much now. I even redecorated my bedroom to go with the quilt because I thought it deserved a nice room to live in!

Quilt Love | Jem Weston blog

I joined all the squares on the machine and then hand-quilted it over about a year… it was a labour of love.

Quilt Love | Jem Weston blog

The best decision I made was using cotton batting rather than the polyester wadding. It means it’s breathable but still a good extra layer when it’s cold. I think it gives it a nicer look as well… it’s less pouffy.

Quilt Love | Jem Weston blog

We use it most of the year. In the summer we have a sheet (or an empty duvet cover) with the quilt on top. Even when it’s super warm, it’s nice to have some weight and just a sheet isn’t always enough – so the quilt is perfect. In the winter we have a duvet, the quilt, a blanket and maybe hot-water bottles… it’s an old house!

Quilt Love | Jem Weston blog

When I do get round to quilting the table runners after the wedding I think I’ll have to go a step further than redecorating… we’ll have to move to a bigger house so that we can have a guest room and have both quilts out!