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my etsy shop


  • Would you like to award someone special a knitted rosette? See the pattern to knit one here!

  • Little Squares Scarf, (quick pattern).

  • Little Squares Scarf, (step-by-step pattern, with lots of step-by-step photos).

  • How to sew up crochet or knitting with an invisible stitch, step-by-step tutorial

  • Sisterhood Crochet Blanket pattern for square.

  • step-by-step pattern for Sisterhood Crochet Blanket square. Makes crocheting this pattern a doddle for beginners!

  • step-by-step tutorial for some basic crochet stitches

  • Tara's failsafe cup cake sponge recipe

  • knitted slipper pattern

blogs I read

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« Apparently sewing clothes is the new knitting. | Main | The Starboard Skirt! »



Vanessa, your turquoise dress is a gem! As usual, you have found clever ways to style it with great stripes and color. Bravo also to Hugo for his wonderful photography.

I have never gone for that toile step in my you said, it just seems like too much bother doing a "dress" rehearsal. And I am sure that foregoing the toile lead me to some imperfect garments, but not That imperfect.
Best wishes on your visit to Walker. xo

Judi A.

I had to smile when you started in on "doing this here, and that there" to make the fit more to your liking, because you sound more like a seasoned seamstress not a beginner! :-) I have sewn for umpteen million years, and marvel at your great results with all your efforts. (any progress on the red check dress?) When you said you had a 5-hour trip each way, I thought,"What a glorious uninterrupted time for knitting or reading a good book!" Something that rarely happens in my life! I know it is a tiring trip, but do know there is a bit of envy by others. :-) One more thing: I thought of you when I received an email re. this May not be quite your style, but might be fun and a good learning experience. Hope your trip goes well.

Liz W in Missouri, USA (With Lucy)

Hi Vanessa! It's been busy at my house all weekend, but I hope that by now you are feeling much better and that your trip to the city will go well for you.
Another great dress that looks really good on you. Well Done!! Back in the day when I used to sew clothes we were told that if we had questions about fit, the best thing to do was to simply baste the pieces together and try it on. Removing the baste stitches was very simple if adjustments were needed - or easy enough to go back over with a tighter stitch if the fit was fine. Always seemed to work well, without the added expense of another piece of fabric.
Anyway - I think your sewing projects are looking great - and obviously Douglas thinks so too. I believe that Miss Ellie ALSO thinks so - she's just trying to play it cool and LOOK disinterested - when really, in her little heart, she's just bursting with pride.
Good on Hugo! He's such a good sport. Let him know how much we appreciate his photographic skills, and his dedication to the RNLI.


I don't even sew but I'm tempted, that dress is gorgeous! and I know what you mean about the Liberty fabric, I'm the same with expensive sale wool. x


Lovely, lovely dress, but my favourite picture is the one of waggy Douglas :D


This is soooo cute - looks lovely on you. I loved what you said about knitting and crochet and sewing in the last post - it's just where I am at the moment.


Well, Vanessa, you look positively girlish! What a sweet dress, and I love the keyhole. I agree, that the top could stand a tiny reduction in fabric, but the way you've styled the dress with tights and a long sleeve jersey, is really imaginative.

Another great dress to add to your wardrobe. Have fun on your trip.

Bobo Bun

How I love paella and miss it. Since having Millie Mike announced he was giving up fish too. I don't eat farm animals, but I do love eating fish so and it's a bit much to cook for one isn't it. Ho hum enough of that waffle.

Loved the dress and your chat through the process of it Vanessa. The edging of purple around the keyhole sets it off a treat. What a star to have a great photographer up a ladder too. You are lucky. Like you I've struggled to get my mind around the toile thing, but then I don't do tension squares either as I'm impatient to get on with playing with new yarn. Toile making does seem like doing it twice doesn't it, but I bet the people who do it are really glad they did. I basically learn from making something the wrong size and then trying to find ways to alter it as I go. It always seems to work.

Please don't forget your knitting. It sounds utter bliss to be on a train for that long and to be able to really get into it so hope you've packed it in your bag already. Have fun with the publishers too.

Should have just emailed you this as it's so long along with a catch up shouldn't I?



What a lovely dress, have been on the look out for some thing like this....the fact you think it is flattering too is such a relief!!!

harmony and rosie

So glad you didn't give up on the sewing because you've made yet another goodie. I can't stand making toiles and in fact when I have done I've never made any changes to the original pattern. But I'm still glad I did the toiles as it would be awful to ruin some gorgeously expensive fabric. You can still take in your dress if you want to though, it's taking out that's a no no once it's made!

Lucky you having a valid opportunity to throw wet sponges at your husband, I think I might dream up a reason or two to do the same. To mine, not yours, you'll be pleased to hear!

Hope the meeting went well for you today xxx

Ruth A

Wow what a pretty dress and at £2.50 a metre that's amazing. We don't have anything that cheap in Oxfordshire - I'm happy if I can get it for £5/m but most places have lovely fabric at around the £10 or more / metre. Boo!

I'm in the process of making a pair of trousers and I just know it's not going to fit around my hips! So, I've be experiementing with the pattern using lining fabric and hopefully I'll end up with beautifully lined trousers.

All the best...


I love the original way you have photographed yourself wearing the dress reflected in a door

Alice and Raymond!!!

Vanessa the dress is gorgeous! I love it and you are right, it is very slimming... I always feel uncomfortable with things tight around my waist, but the effect is quite stunning I now see, love, love, love this dress on you!
Have a nice trip and yes, plack your knitting bag completely!
Love Alice XXXXX


Like you not sure I could bother with making a toile unless the original was made from very expensive fabric, I'm still a beginner, so it takes long enough to make just one, plus I'm still on basics and childrens clothing, so not much need for that sort of stuff yet


Toiles are best when tailoring and making your own pattern/adapting a pattern,otherwise (unless you are REALLY picky and precise and have loads of time to spare) baste and use your dressmaker's dummy and yourself to try it on and make changes as required.
As to the puffiness- bear in mind a different fabric will behave differently- softer fabrics will drape and fold more readily,I suspect the puffy effect is more to do with the type of fabric you have used, a fairly crisp cotton- I would err on thee side of caution: cutting smaller on the next one,especially if the fabric is a different quality,could be problematic-cut the same size, baste and check the effect on the dummy- you can always cut off before the final sewing if it is too puffy again,but you can't add on!
Hope Thursday goes well.

Sandi Lee

Aww, Vanessa, you look lovely in this color. For someone who 'couldn't' really sew you are doing a great job. Your puppies are sweet and your hubby too for 'not just' taking your photo, but going to the effort of climbing up a ladder to take great photo's.
x sandi


Oh I adore that dress on you Vanessa, it is totally charming (and am already imagining making it in Liberty!)
How lucky we are to have you discovering such gorgeous patterns, would never have known it existed, I love that collar so very much and totally agree with you making the keyhole just that bit smaller
ps I always "mean" to make a toile, but then usually just dive in
pps you have the bravest husband, but you knew that already?!
ppps Snowy sends love to you all

Jenni at Baa-me Kniits

Your dress is so pretty, and what a lot of work! You have really mastered this sewing haven't you. I am still only game enough to do straight lines Hee Hee :-) I don't think I would be keen on doing a toile, it does seem like doing it twice. I like your idea of doing it in a cheaper fabric to start with. Knitting swatches are only a smidgen of the main pattern. Now you can dive right into that Lovely Liberty Fabric.....Yipee!


Gorgeous dress, Vanessa! I love the colour and the style really suits you, with the fitted waist. Making a toile first seems to be a real labour of love! I smiled at the sponge throwing bit - what a nice husband you have! I loved all the pictures he took, and the bird's eye view of Douglas is very cute!
Helen x


What a gorgeous dress - really beautiful colour! Suits you perfectly. Flossie teacakes is very good isn't she? The key hole is a lovely feature, so what a good thing you knew to make it smaller for yourself. I love the contrast binding you used for it. I think I agree with all your other comments here. I haven't made a toile but I would if I was making something that I was unsure about because of its difficulty (something very tailored perhaps because of the lack of room to manoeuvre if something went wrong), or due to past experience I knew a certain type style would be likely to need adjustments. I definitely would though if I was using very expensive fabric.

Otherwise I would do the same as Kate suggests and fit as you go. You could err on the side of caution and cut for the bigger size if you had any sizing worries, but take it down to the next size if that was more appropriate (or anything in between). The expense of doing a toile would concern me as any fabric is not that cheap. It is like the swatching thing in principle isn't it? On a bigger scale though and of course you can't unravel it. If I did a toile I think I would do it in wearable fabric and then if I got a dress at the end I could wear, it would be a bonus. The other thing I might do was try out anything tricky first - a collar for instance. Just using the appropriate pieces to practice on rather than doing the whole thing. I love the other fabric that you showed us; it's extremely pretty.

I bet it was fun throwing the wet sponges! It was all in a good cause wasn't it? What a good sport Hugo is. He takes a lovely picture of you too. I hope you had a good trip to Walkers and you got a ton of knitting done on the train.


Oh Vanessa - the dress is gorgeous and you look wonderful together! I love the way it's turned out (and also quite like the idea of a stripey t-shirt beneath).

I'm just like you with the fabric - it doesn't matter how much I actually paid for it, it's what its intrinsic value is that matters.

I love the sound of a long train journey, so hope you end up enjoying it and that your Walker meeting goes well.

Florence x


That is a LOVELY dress in one of my favourite colors! :-) Hehe, love the other pics as well..! :-D

Janic ePerkin

you look great in that dress - clever you - how about a shirt for Hugo after all those wet sponges!


I simply love your dress and the colour is fabulous.

Love the sponge in the face too - it reminded me of many a childhood Summer fete.

Nina x

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Hello and welcome!

  • Hello, my name is Vanessa Cabban, and I'm so pleased you've dropped by! I'm an artist and illustrator, working from home. I have two Miniature wire-haired Dachshunds, Ellie and Douglas. I love being part of the blogosphere, reading your comments, and feeling like I'm part of a community. I hope you enjoy reading about my small world.

Books I have illustrated!

  • The Best Gift of All

  • Book and dvd,(narrated by Kevin Whateley), of Bringing Down the Moon

  • There's a House Inside My Mummy

  • The Magic Donkey Ride

  • Down in the Woods at Sleepytime

  • Dear Tooth Fairy

  • Dear Mermaid

  • No Place Like Home

  • Diamond in the Snow

  • Bringing Down the Moon