Mrs Bowden’s top tip – a few charming ideas

Mrs Bowden’s top tip – a few charming ideas

It’s World Cancer Day today (Thursday 4th February 2016). As you may know St Elizabeth Hospice are running a very splendid event based on the popular BBC programme ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’. You are being encouraged to purchase a garment from one of their wonderful charity shops – take it home, make it even lovelier and then enter it for the competition. As you can see I have also attached the competition details provided to me by the Hospice. I thought I would suggest a few easy modifications that can be made to a garment should you wish to enter or indeed play about with some clothes you already own.

Recipe; a jacket, a sprinkling of gorgeous buttons, velvet ribbon, 30 cm square of tweed, 30 cm square of lining fabric, a piece of felt cut into a circle about the size of a jam jar lid, a brooch back or safety pin, sewing kit.


A charity shop jacket enhanced.

A charity shop jacket enhanced.

To make the appearance of this jacket a little more interesting I added a velvet trim to the collar by slipstitching around the edges – be careful on corners as you will need to manipulate the ribbon to sit nicely on the edge.

forgive the bodice toile in the background!

forgive the bodice toile in the background!

Buttons can be added to create a corsage effect. Using mother of pearl buttons also adds a bit of lustre so they catch the sunlight and sparkle – just a little bit. You may have noticed that this jacket only has two buttonholes on the centre front. The addition buttons added are there to enhance. The cuff vent buttons have also been changed to tie the modification all together.


A strategically placed corsage!

A strategically placed corsage!

Onto the corsage you can see on the pocket. Draw a petal shape (mine were 5 cm height by 4 cm width) cut the tweed and lining to make 6 pairs. Using the edge of the presser foot on your machine as a guide sew around the curved edge, trim ad turn through. Give them a press. Arrange them on the felt circle – you will need to overlap the petals and slip stitch in place. Use a large button to cover the raw edges of the petal. Sew the brooch back or safety pin into position OR stitch the corsage straight onto the garment if you don’t want to use it elsewhere.

I was flicking through my considerable collection of vintage sewing books and came across a few snippets and pictures which could also be used to modify an existing garment.


From 'Teach yourself Dressmaking' by Isabel Horner, 1935

From ‘Teach yourself Dressmaking’ by Isabel Horner, 1935

Lengthening a skirt – great for adding a contrasting fabric. There are also instructions for adding a flounce (love the word ‘flounce’).

godet skirt

Godets – bias cut inserts that add a lovely movement to skirts and tops.


Taken from 'Pins and Needles New Treasure Book of Family Needlework' by Christine Veasey 1953

Taken from ‘Pins and Needles New Treasure Book of Family Needlework’ by Christine Veasey 1953

godet cutting

Godets can used to great effect to jazz up a plain skirt. If you try and find one that has lots of panels it means you can unpick from the hem up to the height of the godet you are inserting and it makes the job much easier. Remember that godets should be cut on the bias as this encourages the fabric to drape in a more flouncy fashion!


In stitches,

Amanda x

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