Adapt or Buy?

Have you ever got to the point when you’re looking at patterns and thought that you could get the same dress by tweaking a pattern you already own?

I bet quite a few people have, but do you actually do it?  What would you prefer to do – spend the time tweaking a pattern you already own or shell out for a new one?

I’ve been looking around on Etsy and eBay for scooter skirts, or skorts – shorts with an overskirt.  In this very narrow field there is little in the way of variation; your choices are basically this:


or this:

Do a search for ‘vintage shirt dress pattern’ though and the variations are amazing!  Pleats on the bodice, vertical and horizontal, collar styles and sizes, sleeves and their million and one forms, skirts…

I am increasingly ‘franken-patterning’ to make the garment I want.  My dress for Harry’s Christening and my current shirt dress project are the two that have really shown me the possibilities that open up when combing patterns.  I can take the elements that I love / want and combine them into one garment.

The next logical step up, I guess, from mashing two patterns together is to redraft part of the pattern, or draft new pieces.  I’ve started adding Etsy items to my favourites based on a design detail rather than because I want to buy them – they’re there as future inspiration.  My intention is to take an element I like such as a sleeve or collar and add it to another pattern that I own to make whatever is floating around in my head into a reality.

The vintage patterns that have mini drawings of the pattern pieces on the back are particularly useful in this regard.  They’re great should a piece go missing as you know what you’re aiming at, but they’re also fabulous as a starting point for that perfect bloused sleeve with a deep cuff…

Click on the Simplicity 8698 pattern above.  This pattern’s been sold now but you can see the technical drawings of the pattern pieces used to make the garment up.  I find this really interesting and useful.

I’m not sure whether using the images shared by someone, with the intent to sell the item, in this way is really fair though.  Could I get the same information else where?  Should I or is it OK to use the images even though I’m unlikely to buy the pattern?

However, if it looks like there’s an unusual or interesting construction technique, I will shell out for the pattern.  I’ve just bought a scooter skirt pattern (Simplicity 9332 for £2 inc P&P) on eBay; it’s the wrong size and would need grading but my motivation for purchase was actually to see how the overskirt is attached to the shorts.

I want to learn about the mechanics of it all so that I can apply it myself to create my own version of the garment, with my ideal elements (short design, length, etc etc).

What’s your take on all this?  Do you like mashing patterns together or would you rather just sew the garment as designed with your fit alterations?  Have you tried drafting – your own original designs or using a technical drawing as a starting point?  I’m curious!

Mmmm, Cookies!

Mango, Cranberry & Almond Cookies

I managed to do a little bit of baking this week!  I enjoy baking but finding time between cooking, being a Mum, a Wife, an employee, sister, daughter, aspiring seamstress and all the other things that we all try and juggle I don’t often find the time.  But I managed it this week and it was a quick fix – cookies!

I love this recipe as I can make the dough up and whilst its chilling in the fridge before its baked fit a job or two in.  Or as was the case encourage boy that going to sleep was a really good idea!

I have a fail safe (for me) cookie recipe that has worked every time for me.  Lovely crisp edges but still a bit of sqwudge in the middle – a bit gooey, a bit chewy.  I can’t remember where the recipe came from, it’s hand written in my rather battle-scarred cooking notebook.

I think it’s the use of two different sugars that helps these work.  The recipe states granulated but I now use caster sugar as I find I prefer the texture it gives.  The other thing that I feel is crucial to its success is the chilling of the dough between the mixing and baking.

It’s a really versatile recipe as the flavourings can be so easily changed.  The written version is for chocolate chips, may be with some nuts thrown in.  The current favourite here though is dried mango, dried cranberries and almonds.  I leave out the vanilla for this otherwise it all becomes a bit too much for me in the flavour department!  My husband will quite happily swap the almonds for chunks of plain chocolate though.  Smarties also work with this recipe, although the colours bleed a little on baking.

Anyway, here’s the recipe if you fancy doing a little baking:

300g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1 teaspoon of fine salt (I normally only use 1/2)
170g unsalted butter, melted
215g soft light brown sugar
120g granulated sugar (I use granulated or caster, I prefer the texture caster sugar gives)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
300g of flavouring

Stir together the melted butter, sugars and vanilla.  Add the egg and yolk.  Beat well to ensure the egg is evenly distributed then stir in the vanilla.  Sift in the flour, bicarbonate and salt.  Fold in your flavouring so that its evenly distributed in the dough.

Cover the dough with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190c.

When ready, put 1/4 size mounds (a large walnut size is what I go for) onto a greased baking tray.  I put 12 onto a 30cm x30cm tray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are starting to turn golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray.  If you try to take them off too soon it’ll be a bit of a squishy disaster as they’re still quite soft.  Then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling and pop the next lot of dough in to cook!

Mmmmm, yummy!