Style Crisis: Quick sewing for a spring break

Spring break blog topper2

I know we’re into ‘Marmite’ territory here but I was enchanted this week by Tracey Emin’s latest art installation – a pink neon-style statement hanging high inside one of my favourite buildings; Kings Cross St. Pancras. It reads:

‘I want my time with you’

Billed in part as a ‘love letter to Europe’ it’s also intended to conjure the romance of railway stations; of emotional arrivals and hopeful departures alike.

Slow train coming

I’ve a long-standing love affair with travelling by train. It began on dusty, dawdling diesels between Yorkshire and London, seeking big-city excitement with friends. By sixteen, I’d graduated to European rail travel on my own; a year or so  later, the morning after my last A-Level exam found me on a train to the Swiss Alps for a summer of chamber-maiding and life-guarding. Struggling across Paris on the return journey, late for university and coping with missed connections and broken bag handles, my sense of exhilaration and independence were only heightened. Although since then I’ve been on trains from Boston to New Orleans, London to Rabat and Tokyo to Kyoto I’m still excited to hop on board the single carriage that rattles between Spalding and Peterborough. That’s when it’s not replaced by a bus.

But sewing, Alice – what has all this to do with sewing?

Everything right now! In the last few weeks I’ve been enjoying some slooow sewing in the form of a checked jacket. Jetted and welt pockets, check matching and more besides – I’ve been posting my progress on Instagram and very satisfying it’s been too.

Jacket progress
Slow sewing in action – check-matching and pocket-making

Consequently I’m well behind in my sewing plans. I’d hoped to have my jacket done by the end of March. That’ll be March 2019 at this rate. Which isn’t a problem except that I have lots more I need to be doing. Running a business and enjoying family time over the Easter break have been priorities in the last month as have a heap of jobs and diary dates that required my time. As Tracey Emin might (or might not) say

I want my time with everything and everyone (plus an extended deadline)

I wish. Yet in a couple of weeks I have an immovable deadline in the form of – no surprise – a train timetable.

City B-B-B-Break

A small group of us are about to depart for a brief spring break in Bologna. It’s the latest in our series of visits to ‘Places beginning with the letter ‘B’. The ‘why?’ of that is a long story – suffice to say that having descended upon Bilbao, Brussels and Berlin, Bologna is our latest destination. Each trip has involved a train journey somewhere along the line and this time although my fellow travellers are flying, I’ve booked myself 28 hours of solitary contemplation from St. Pancras via Brussels and Cologne to Munich. Then, the trans-alpine train to Bologna. Look!

Now with less than a fortnight to go, I am unfeasibly excited. However although I have tickets, I also have an empty suitcase, two pairs of jeans, a couple of winter tops and a few tired summer staples.

At this point I could give up on my ambitions of drifting stylishly through honey-coloured Italian streets.

Can this be real…?

Given the weather this last few weeks (it’s still only seven degrees here – I mean, seriously??!) it would be understandable if I resigned myself to those jeans and my Tomato shirt from last summer. Like many of you, I’m terminally frustrated, trying to imagine myself in a ‘summer’ frame of mind in this incessantly chill, grey damp. However the forecast for the next week is, incredibly, sunshine. And although April is billed as Bologna’s wettest month (goes without saying, really…) we’re a positive lot and are hoping for a little warmth for our spring break. We’re only there for three nights, so this is hardly a major crisis – but I would dearly love not to have to scrabble around for a comfortable, stylish wardrobe. However I’m more accustomed to foreign jaunts at-2 degrees with a wind straight from the Urals. The last time I dressed for a warm holiday seems like decades ago (I think it was decades ago) and I fear I may be about to come unstuck on the wardrobe front.

Slow sew, quick quick sew…

On that basis I am about to throw caution to the wind. Never one to do things by halves, if my ‘slow sew’ project can last months, then I’m heading for the other extreme. I’ve decided to set my jacket aside for a couple of weeks to see if I can’t come up with an ‘Italian Adventure’ wardrobe in double-quick time. Easy patterns, minimum fitting, no linings and well-behaved fabrics will need to be the order of the day. A spot of wardrobe planning is required.

Existing packing candidates:

The wardrobe items I have to choose from are:
– Jeans
– A fifties-style printed summer frock (a New Look gem, still doing good service 14 years on)
– A fifties-style printed skirt (ditto from Dottie P’s)
– A plain white shirt
– Plain navy & white T-shirts
My ‘Tomato’ shirt
My ‘Leah’ Lounge Pants
– Long jersey slip dress
– Oversized denim jacket and/or bright pink jean jacket
– The usual leggings, strappy tops etc.

What (I think) I’m missing

A laid back shirt with a bit of colour or print
A longer shirt dress or tunic that can be worn by itself or over trousers or leggings
At least one pair of lighter-weight trousers, probably cropped and semi-fitted
An easy-to-wear jersey tunic & skirt or dress
A top or shirt that will do evening duty

Pattern plans

To date my pattern research has turned up the following candidates. Realistically I’m limited to PDFs as I need to crack on from this weekend – so not much time to go hunting down paper patterns that I might end up not using. So – fom the top down…

Shirt / Shirt dress

I’m wondering if the ‘Sacha’ Shirt from Style Arc might not be a double-winner for me. I could start with a shorter-length version then add some serious length to a second version for a wear-it-over-trousers-or-leggings shirt dress. It would have the added benefit of pattern familiarity the second time around.

‘Sacha’ shirt from Style Arc

‘Evening duty’ shirt

My holy grail here would be a pattern along the lines of ‘Tucker Tunic Shirt’ as recommended by Alyson Walsh in her ‘That’s not my age’ blog.

Tucket silk tunic
‘Tucker’ silk tunic top

My best pattern candidates so far are the ‘Holly’ Woven Blouse from Style Arc…

‘Holly’ Woven Top from Style Arc

…or this ‘Long Sleeved Blouse’ from Lekala

Long-sleeved blouse
Long-Sleeved Blouse from Lekala


I’m currently dithering between the Willow Pant from Style Arc since I know their trousers need less alteration for my fit than most…

‘Willow’ Pant from Style Arc

…alternatively the ‘Ultimate’ Trousers Pattern from Sew Over It since they’re lower on the waist and have no waistband. Also I’ve had a couple of people ask me how they fit so perhaps this is the time for me to give them a go.

Trousers pattern
‘Ultimate’ Trouser Pattern from SOI

Suggestions on a postcard, please!

The big questions here – what am I missing in my spring break wardrobe? What garments should I be prioritising? Based on my ‘hit list’ are there any other patterns you think I should take a look at?

Plus, if any of you have warmer-weather travel experience, then please let me benefit from your experience. The autumn is my travel ‘comfort zone’ and dressing to keep cool seems like a distant memory. Advice as always, is very welcome.

In the meantime, I’ll update you with my progress over the next couple of weeks.

PS – Worry not – ClothSpot will in the capable hands of Judy for the few days I’m gone and I promise the fridge will be stocked for everyone I’m leaving behind…no need to call the RSPCA.

PPS – That shirt I’m wearing in the picture – it’s BurdaStyle Blouse 107 made up years ago with fabric we sold out of shortly afterwards, sadly….

19 thoughts on “Style Crisis: Quick sewing for a spring break

  1. Let’s Get Sewing says:

    Those pockets are incredible!! I haven’t sewn most of these patterns, but the willow pants in particular look really nice though. I would recommend the Tilly and the Buttons marigold trousers for travelling days or more laid back days in spring. The added bonus of them is that they are a wonderful base to pattern back! I’m looking forward to seeing what you end up making, especially the tops.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Oooh, thank you! I have a series of Insta posts planned that show why the welt pocket is a bit ‘off’ but overall I was very pleased (and a bit relieved too!!) My eyes are glad of the break from checked fabric. As I mentioned to Di (above) I am very nervous of elasticated trousers but thank you for the reminder of the Marigold – I suspect that if I do go down that route this summer it will be with that pattern as it works for lighter-weight fabrics and might not be as bulky as I fear… I suspect I am at a stage in life where I dread ‘descending’ into *that* department of M&S when in fact I am sure there are ways of easing up on the waistband front without losing it completely. Hopefully the Marigold may be a solution!

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi There.
    Looks like your going to be very busy. I haven’t sewn any of the following but at least one of the patterns is on my to do list. Sew Over It actually sell a ‘My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break eBook’ patterns designed for what you may be looking for. Also the Hot Patterns ‘Classix Nouveau Scarf-Shirt may be a possibility? Good luck!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Caroline – busy? You bet! *wipes brow* What have I got myself into? But I have to say that having an imminent departure has really helped me get cracking and I’ve hugely enjoyed getting things done having cleared the decks for this as best I can. I did look at the SOI Capsule eBook but wasn’t sure about the styles for me (though I loved the idea). However I am very keen on the Classix Nouveaux scarf shirt as a dressing-up option – thank you very much indeed for the tip-off as I hadn’t spotted it.

  3. Karen Kayes says:

    Oh my goodness. I’m rather indecisive at the moment, which is usually the way, for me, when a New Season meets the old, so can’t help, other than to say all your choices look great. Especially the Style Arc shirt.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you for the reassurance Karen. I too am still in a state of indecision over a couple of things – although as ever I can recommend a deadline for focusing the mind – it seems to work for me every time! Hopefully we will all feel a little more confident about the new season now we *actually* have some sun…. 🙂

  4. Marion George says:

    Well I’ve just got home from a Cruise round the Med and thinking it would be warm I packed lots of light clothes. Last week I spent a day in Genoa with the wind at 60 kpm and horizontal rain lashing down. I took one sweater with me which I wore almost everyday of the cruise. Back home in Antibes and the weather has changed, tomorrow we are promised 25 degrees. So my advice is pack for layers. I must say like the look of the Willow trousers and Sasha shirt. I think both would look good on you. A personal favourite of mine is New Look 6808, view A. I’ve hacked it about and made it up in all sorts of fabrics that end up both smart or casual. I’m also like Breton type tops that can be a tee of lengthened to a dress. Good luck and bon voyage!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Well Marion I can usually rely on you to bring me right down to earth and you haven’t disappointed. (Horizontal rain in Genoa? Hell’s bells after this winter that’s all we need!!) You’re the second person to tell me to layer, layer – and I *promise* that I am taking heed! Thank you for the New Look top suggestion – I have a feeling I may have that in my collection – time for a riffle. Very much appreciated and thank you too for your kind wishes – I promise to let everyone know how I get on!

  5. Eleanor Birch says:

    What about the Tilly and the buttons coco dress/tunic for a jersey option? it’s super quick to whip up.

    for a top for evening use stlye arc has several jersey tops which have stylish features suitable for evening wear (with the right fabric) but as they are jersey relatively quick to sew and fit – try the shelly, demi drape, ronnie wrap, or madeleine ponte top

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you Eleanor! I am seriously eyeing up the Coco – and thank you also for the Style Arc recommendations. I don’t sew jersey very often for myself so the recommendation is very much appreciated (and as you point out – I don’t have much time for fitting!!) Most grateful!

  6. Di says:

    Coincidentally I’ve just returned from a few days away, taking various iconic rail trips in the north of Scotland ie The Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig etc etc. The one thing I wore a lot was a long knit cardigan ( what’s currently termed a ‘boyfriend’ cardigan).This kept me warm/tidy, hid the ‘baggy bum’ look my fitted jeans acquired after sitting for hours in railway carriages, and could be removed if I got too hot (it was very sunny/warm at times).
    I haven’t spotted any knitwear on your list. Experience of living/travelling in Europe says you can’t guarantee sunshine all the way, even in Bologna. Layering is the key to survival. Perhaps a longline cardi, quickly run up in a ponte, which would do double duty over trousers/dresses/skirts (as long as the colour’s right). Style Arc have plenty of choice.
    As time is short I would make a pull on trouser, rather than the ‘willow’ which need a zip. The ‘Tori’ crop pant or ‘Tessa’ pant ( both Style Arc) with pockets, would work in lightweight wovens. I’ve made a few pairs of the ‘Tessa’. Admittedly I modified the pattern, and added a waistband for the elastic, which looked better. Pockets were made out of lining or a lighter weight fabric. Beware that the legs are a slightly wider fit, which is OK if it’s warm/hot and that style suits you.
    Hot climate clothes —-. To stay cool I prefer sleeveless or short sleeved T’s. Loose cotton shirts with long sleeves to either roll up, or down, or protect me from the sun. Skirts in linen or cotton either long and floaty or short pencil (not tight fitting). Shorts. Loose style dresses in linen/cotton/silk or mixes thereof. A lightweight knit cardi to go with everything. Sometimes the breeze off the sea, at night, can be a tad cool.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Di you star – I had completely neglected to think about a decent cardigan and will endeavour to knock one out tomorrow when I get to my planned jersey tunic. I have a few pieces of jersey in my stash that would be good to use up (trying to conserve the ClothSpot stock here!) Although (as you know by know) I am happy with leggings, I have a morbid fear of trousers with elasticated tops. It stems (in part) from getting lost in the wrong bit of M&S on too many occasions. I keep meaning to give them a go but worry that they will add unwanted bulk around my waist. It’s an experiment I need to have but I think I will probably stick with a zip this time around although before the summer is out I am determined to try a pair. Thank you though, for the reminder of layers that work together; it’s guidance that I had not thought about particularly and as ever, you’re absolutely right. All will be revealed in due course!

      • Di says:

        You obviously came across those ‘Granny Pants’ which M&S seems to think older women like to wear. (My 96 year old mum was OK with them ). I can understand your fear, which is why I changed the waistband on the Style Arc ‘Tessa’.
        Look forward to seeing what you end up with. I’m sure it’ll be good.

        • aliceclothspot says:

          You know those pants! In versions of blue and brown ribbed Crimplene as I recall… *runs away, hands over eyes*

    • aliceclothspot says:

      And Di I meant to say – your train trips in Scotland sound wonderful – I’m about to do some googling over coffee. I bet you had the most marvellous time staring out of the window – I’ve only trained up the east coast, never the west (so far) – consider yourself envied!

  7. Miga says:

    If you are planning on doing the SewOverIt trousers it would be worth having a conversation with Fiona from Diary of……. as she has recently posted about her “love/hate” relationship with fitting said pattern. Totally jealous of the train ride to Bologna. Sounds great 🙂

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Miga – yes I just read that blog – two days too late! I don’t know what the pattern would be like for a stretch fabric (which is suggested in the pattern) but there’s nowhere near enough ease for me and my shenanigans (or my calves) in the pattern as it stands. Although there are aspects of the cut I like very much. Suffice to say there has been some chimera-like pattern combining at work and the saga continues…there will be a full disclosure on the blog when I get back! And thank you – I am so excited! 🙂

  8. Doctor says:

    hello Alice
    For hot humid weather you may be most comfortable avoiding a waistband; tunics are the way to go and can be worn with trousers or leggings if it becomes chilly. A just-below-waistband damp patch is not a good look. Also patterns hide a multitude of embarrassments.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello there – thank you so much for the reassurance on the tunic front! I was thinking the same but was nervous in case I look overly tent-ish. I am trying one tomorrow and will report back. If I remember rightly I have been advised to make sure they fit nicely across the shoulders and upper chest to work well. And sister I am with you on the waistband front. There are garments that require them but not for travelling or relaxing. I *really* don’t get on with waistbands. Thank you again!

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