From Inspiration to Reality: How this top was made

I made this... Chalk & Notch Farrah Blouse

I like to wander around the shops to get a feel for what people are buying and want to wear, so that I can plan my workshops to be something that my students will actually want to wear and during one of these window shopping trips I came across this lovely little embriodered top that I thought would be fab for me for the summer.


The top was in Gap and was £34.95 and I thought I could draft myself a pattern for something relatively similar without much trouble.

However, what I did not anticipate was how much trouble I would have with finding suitable fabric. I wanted a cotton (not poly-cotton) scalloped border Broderie Anglaise in white with coloured embroidery and I searched the internet hight and low without success.

At this point I noticed that Gap were running a promotion and I could buy the top for £9.99, and as my fabric search appeared futile I trotted back to the store to buy the top; even though on principle I do not buy clothes on the high street; this top had got into my head and I had to have it!

Imagine my dismay when I tried it on and I did not look like the model in the picture (and they didn’t have the blue/white version in my size). I loved the sleeves but the top sat a bit wide on my shoulders and a bit snug around my hips and belly, so I decided to stick to my principles and not buy it after all.

The idea struck me like lightning: what about some vintage bed linen?! I know I had seen pillowcases woth a similar type of embroidery, so I started trawling eBay and discovered this fabulous vintage tableclot, that I knew would be perfect for my version of this top.


I knew I could use the corners and borders where all the detailing is to create an amazing top inspired by the one I had originally seen.

So I purchased the table cloth for around £15 from eBay, it duly arrived and I loved it and then other more pressing projects arrived and the poor tablecloth got pushed farther and farther down in my current projects box.

Until this week that is; I was browsing on Instagram, as you do, and came across Chalk & Notch Patterns and I spied some flutter sleeve tops (the Farrah Blouse) that reminded me that I had this beautiful tablecloth waiting to be turning into something even more fabulous with sleeves just like that.


  • on Sunday I purchased the PDF of the pattern
  • on Monday I printed the pattern, stuck it together and cut the paper pattern in my size &
  • on Tuesday I finally finished by top, months after my initial inspiration!

And guess what? I love it! It’s going to be a perect summer top to wear on my holiday!

Because I wanted to create a feature of the corner embroidery and the borders on the tables I cut the main front and back panels on the bias, which skims the body in a way that the Chalk and Notch pattern doesn’t as it is cut on the straight grain. The corners also give a brilliant hankerchief hem, that I think works so well.

I was a little short on fabric to get it all out of the tablecloth, so I had to cut the front yoke on the bias too, but it is stablised by the front yoke facing. I raided my Mum’s old pillowcase stash and found a white cotton pillowcase, which I cut up to make the back yoke, back yoke facing and the front yoke facing.

The border on the tablecloth meant that I did not have to hem the top as the lower edges are already finished.

These photos were taken just as I completed the top and was so excited to try it on, I hadn’t even pressed it!

I made this... Chalk & Notch Farrah Blouse

A sucessful upcycle inspired by a Gap top that I love so much more that the original insiration!

Alison xx

***EDIT*** After the response to this, I’ve added a workshop to make your version of the Chalk & Notch Farrah Blouse or Dress on Saturday 21st July. Click here for more info.


January 2017 Workshops

I know everyone will be deep into the seasonal festivities at the minute, but I’m excited to let you all know about January’s upcoming workshops.


Sunday 8th January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Lounge Pants – St Nicholas Church Hall, Bawtry (DN10 6JD)

This is a fantastic beginner’s workshop, you will walk away with your cosy made by you, for you Lounge Pants or Pyjama Bottoms, a unique garment that you can be proud that you made yourself. (Can be made for adults or kids.)


£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.


Wednesday 11th January (7-9pm) – Learn to Sew Bunting – Helm, Balby, Doncaster (DN4 8QN)

In this quirky class you’ll learn to sew pretty bunting. Perfect for a party or decorating your home. You’ll leave the class with new skills, some bunting & the instructions to make it again.

£25 (all materials included) – Click here for more info. Email Rachael at to book your place.


Saturday 14th January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Kimono Jackets – The Hub, Retford (DN22 6PA)


A favourite workshop, you will create a beautiful made by you, for you Kimono Jacket, a unique garment that you can be proud to wear.

£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.


Saturday 21st January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew A-line Skirts – St John’s Church Hall, Swinton, Rotherham (DN10 6JD)

The workshop is suitable for beginners or those lacking in confidence or experience and I will guide you through the steps, so you will learn as you make. There is no better feeling than receiving a compliment on an outfit and being able to say that you made it yourself.


£55 (all materials included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.


Saturday 28th  January (10am-3.30pm) – Learn to Sew Blouses – St Nicholas Church Hall, Bawtry (DN10 6JD)

A brand new workshop, sample photos to be released soon of this on trend blouse.

£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.


Monday 30th January (9.30am-3pm) – Learn to Sew Shift Dresses – Austerfield Study Centre, Austerfield (DN10 6RG)

The first weekday workshop is the popular Learn to Sew Shift Dresses.


£45 (materials not included) – Click here for more info and to pay £15 deposit to secure your place.

There are many more exciting things coming in the New Year, so keep a look out for details coming soon.

Alison xx

PS. If you’re not a member of my Facebook Group, Learning to Sew yet, click here to join for tips, advice, support & inspiration.

Recommendations for Fabric Shops in South Yorkshire & Retford

Updated 8th May 2018

I am often asked where I buy my fabric from and I have promised to share the local fabric shops where I buy some of my fabrics.

I am based in Bawtry, South Yorkshire, which is a lovely little town, about 10 miles south of Doncaster, but it has no fabric shops, so my fabric shopping circles out from this point.

I do use online shops from time to time but that’s a whole different kettle of fish and I will save telling you all about my online recommendations for another day.

Here are my recommendations for fabric shops in South Yorkshire & North Nottinghamshire…

Thread Mill Fabrics in Swinton

4 Church Street, Swinton, Mexborough, S64 8QA. Tel: 01709 571684

Let me preface this by saying that I run Learn to Sew workshops in association with Thread Mill Fabrics in Swinton once a month with fabric supplied by Thread Mill and I help out in this shop one day a week, (on Thursdays). Having said all that, I love this shop and even before I had started my business I always shopped in Thread Mill Fabrics.


The shop is owned and run by Cheryl Barnes and Cheryl herself is the reason for this shop being my number one. Cheryl is so knowledgeable and experienced that whatever sewing project you are working on, she can offer you advice and support and will give you options for the best way to complete your project. There have been many times when I have popped in to pick up some thread or other bits and bobs and have ended up spending the afternoon there, leaving so inspired and motivated to get sewing again on my current project or even several new ones.

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The fabric you see when you walk into the small shop is floor to ceiling and is just the tip of the iceberg. In the back room is where Cheryl keeps all the bridal fabrics. In there is everything from sumptuous satins and chiffons to decorative brocades and lace.

This shop if definitely worth taking the time to go to the slightly out of the way location, it takes me about 40 minutes to get there. Just don’t visit on a Sunday or a Wednesday as the shop is closed and if you go on a Thursday you will get to see me!

Waltons Fabrics in Goldthorpe

47-49 Doncaster Rd, Goldthorpe, Rotherham S63 9H

Waltons Fabrics is a father/daughter team and used to have a stall on Doncaster Market, the market stall has gone now, but there is still that market kind of feel to the shop. They specialise in dancewear fabrics so if you are looking for high shine or sequinned lycra about a third of the shop is dedicated to this, but I must admit I tend to ignore it.

There are hundreds of rolls of fabric here at bargain prices, they tend to buy up end of lines from clothing manufacturers such as Jaques Vert and sell them at heavily discounted prices. There is usually a queue at the counter when I’m shopping, and the staff definitely know their stock.

SewCute Fabrics, Doncaster Market

5a York Buildings, Edlington Lane, Edlington, Doncaster, DN12 1BU

Tracy has recently moved from a stall on Doncaster Market to her fabulous new shop in Edlington, Doncaster, SewCute Fabrics sells mainly cottons & polycottons suitable for crafts & patchwork. However each time I visit this stall the selection is expanding.


Fabric for Lounge Pants From SewCute Fabrics

The Craft Den, Sheffield

23 Loxley Road, Sheffield S6 4TE

Lynne Hunter is the brains behind the Craft Den and it is a veritable quilters paradise, with hundreds of quilting & patchworking cottons and supplies. Lynne also runs a programme of workshops from her on site studio.

Please check opening hours before you visit the Craft Den, Lynne is due to retire and the shop will close in 2018 and is currently open for reduced hours only. (May 2018)

Tim & Gills Fabrics, Retford Market

Retford Market: Thursday & Saturday and Melton Mowbray Market: Tuesday

A stall selling craft cottons & soft furnishing fabrics, worthy of a mention in this blog as I got my fabulous map fabric from this stall.


There are other shops in the area, but although I have visited I have not bought or used their fabric so they have not made it to my list of recommendations.

Please comment below if you have any further recommendations to share in the area.

Alison xx

Ps. Don’t forget to join my Facebook group, bringing together a supportive community of those who are new to sewing and more experienced sewers.