Sleeveless Bloomsbury Blouse


You know when you come up with a brilliant idea, rush out and buy the fabric, and then take so long to actually make the thing that the moment, or season, has almost passed before you first wear it? That’s the story with me and this sleeveless Bloomsbury, an idea of which had been percolating in my brain since I first conceived of the blouse at all. I picked up with pretty broderie anglaise from Sew Over It back in the early summer and then kaboom, was hit (well, not unexpectedly) by a series of demanding commissions that put all selfish sewing firmly on the backburner, if not off the stove altogether.

I finally got my act together and stitched the blouse up in a flurry of activity before I went to Wilderness festival at the start of August (and yes, it’s taken another full month to get this blog post done!). With belated speediness I omitted the buttonholes and stitched the buttons directly through the two button bands to fasten the back, with the exception of course of the button on the collar band.

How crumpled I look in these photos!

As the pattern is drafted for sleeves I removed some excess from the armscye by shaving half an inch off each of the side seams at the top, blending it down towards the waist. I then finished the armholes with bias binding; I couldn’t get a great colour-match but with the big ruffle it’s not really visible…

Sadly I think this hack will get little wear now until next year; these photos were taken on a walk in Richmond Park, on the last warm day before autumn seemed to set in. You’d hardly believe it was even warm enough for my Seamwork Weston shorts given the moody skies!

Anyway, I’m not the only person who had this idea this summer – one of my lovely Kew pattern testers, Laurene of Les Pleurnicheuses, has also made a fabulous sleeveless Bloomsbury. I’ll never look quite as elegant in mine, but I love it anyway! x

Introducing our printed patterns

It’s been just over 24 hours since the launch of our first printed patterns and I am hugely excited to say that I posted the first batch of orders out this morning! I hadn’t originally planned to produce printed patterns; I’m a big fan of pdfs and find the cutting and sticking process therapeutic as opposed to tiresome, but of course I appreciate that this process is neither easy (nor fun) for many people and hey, I sure love a good printed pattern with pretty packaging as much as the next sewist.

So this new evolution in the business was a bit unexpected. It was thanks to the New Craft House summer party – after enthusiastically booking a stand there to promote my patterns, I started thinking outside of the safe pdf-only box I’d been sitting in and over the course of one excited afternoon did some research, some costings, some forecasts and some mock-ups and suddenly the game had changed! Since then I’ve been through seemingly endless iterations of designs and colours, familiarised myself with paper weights (I feel like I could practically tell you grams per square metre with a stroke of a sheet now…) and experimented with a million ways to fold a sheet of A0 paper… I exaggerate, but it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve dreamt about envelopes on more than one recent occasion.

The illustrations on the back of each envelope are based on the streets or areas which have inspired (and named) the patterns. Carnaby Street was a pretty straightforward one – I’ve chosen to feature the shops and buildings from my preferred end of the street, the one that begins with that sewist’s dream, Liberty’s.

Carnaby Street illustration Nina Lee

For Bloomsbury I took inspiration from Gower Street, whose rows of tall brick terraces are archetypal of the area and must surely be filled top-to-toe with books (or so I dream…).

Bloomsbury street illustration Nina Lee

Portobello is the only street illustration with colours, because the wonderful painted houses that form the backdrop to (possibly) London’s most famous market are pretty much my favourite shades.

Portobello Road illustration Nina LeeThe illustrations that form the pattern border on the front are similarly inspired by the individual areas’ reputations – Carnaby for sixties’ fashion and shopping; Bloomsbury for writers and their works; Portobello for its amazingly varied market stalls – everything from exotic fruit and foods to antiques and knick-knacks. I rather love the bizarre pineapple and teapot pairing on Portobello!

Background pattern clips

Excuse my limited grasp of colour modes but these are a touch more muted than they appear when printed!

The patterns are printed on durable paper up in Edinburgh; the envelopes locally here in London; the instruction booklets very locally here in my flat 🙂 But we can send these out worldwide – check out the FAQs section for full details on postage costs.

Instruction booklets

The top instruction booklet is one of the ones I made before realising quite how much ink full-colour borders were going to drink up! I think of them as limited edition…

We’ve also set-up arrangements with a couple of other shops – physical and online – so very soon you’ll be able to purchase Nina Lee Patterns in person at Crafty Sew and So in Leicester, or along with some fabulous fabric from new store Sew Me Sunshine.* And of course you can come along and see the patterns and me in person at the Great British Sewing Bee Live on 21-24 September! This new phase is incredibly exciting and I can’t wait to send more printed patterns off to lovely sewists around the world; I’ve now got to crack on with getting those Kew illustrations done…

Nina x

*If you’re a shop interested in stocking our patterns, do get in touch with me via!



Kew inspiration and fabric suggestions

Kew inspiration blog post header

It’s been just over a week since the Kew pattern was released and I’ve been blown away by the response – so, thank you! I released Kew on the Friday, held a stand selling printed patterns(!) at the New Craft House Summer Party on the Saturday and then delivered a wedding dress a few days’ later, so I feel like I’m just starting to catch my breath…  But not for long, as super excitingly I’m on the verge of launching my first set of printed patterns (for Bloomsbury, Carnaby and Portobello, with Kew to follow next week) and then I’m going to be exhibiting at the Great British Sewing Bee Live event in September! No rest for the wicked, as they say… 🙂

So anyway, I wanted to share today a bit of the inspiration behind the Kew dress and skirt pattern. As with my other patterns, there’s a mix of vintage and on-trend elements behind the design. Kew Version 1 very clearly harks back to 1940s tea dresses with its ruched sleeves and shoulder yokes, whilst there’s a bit of ’90s in the button-down fronts and the high-low hem and the midi skirt are very ‘now’. But also behind the feel of Kew was my love of the British summer.

The pattern is of course named after Kew in London, most famous for being the home of the exquisite royal botanic gardens. The gardens are one of my favourite places to go for a wander (all year round) and a summer picnic (pestered by the peacocks!). (Picnic blankets and deck chairs inspired the striped version of the Kew skirt I made for the photographs.) A beautiful sunny summer day here in the UK is simply heaven, with its inevitable associations of Pimms, strawberries, lawns flanked with colourful borders, or ice creams and beach huts, but of course these are notoriously rare thanks to our fickle weather! Hence Kew version 1 has sleeves, and Kew version 3 could easily be paired with a jumper.

Here’s some very summery Kew inspiration, should you have a garden party or wedding to attend…

Kew dress inspiration - dressy

From left to right: 1. What Olivia Did 2. Memorandum 3. Poor Little It Girl

Of course it doesn’t have to be a dressy affair; a comfortable dress is always an easy-wear…

Kew dress inspiration-casualFrom left to right: 1. Reformation 2. Polienne 3. Harper’s Bazaar 

The Kew skirt has the option of being made in a heavier-weight fabric such as a denim which gives it a completely different type of versatility:

Kew dress inspiration-skirtsFrom left to right: ASOS 2. Pinterest 3. Cupcakes and Cashmere 4. Steal the Look

Sure, I’ve gone on about summer rather a lot here and Kew is most obviously a ‘summer dress’ – BUT there are plenty of ways all three versions could be styled for winter. Layer version 1 with a cami, chunky tights, ankle boots and a big throw-over cardigan for a vintage-inspired autumn look. Pop on version 2 over a turtleneck for a ’70s vibe. And I for one am definitely make a version 3 skirt in faux suede this autumn!

Speaking of suede, here are just a few fabrics currently on the market that I think would make fabulous Kews.

Kew Dress fabric ideas

  1. I am in love with this new Cotton & Steel rayon from Sew Me Sunshine. What a colour!
  2. Embrace version 1’s vintage feel with this polka dots rayon from Sew Over It.
  3. Les Fleurs Rayon by Rifle Paper Co, from the Village Haberdashery.
  4. Wear your own portable picnic blanket with this gingham beauty from Sew Over It!
  5. Go tropical for a seriously summery version 2, with this bananas cotton from Pigeon Wishes Shops on Etsy
  6. Cotton lawn from Sew Me Sunshine: perfect for a beach-ready Kew version 2 or 3.
  7. Linen or linen blends such as this from Fabric Godmother will be perfect for block-colour versions 2 or 3.
  8. Dress up Kew for a romantic night out with a sophisticated print like this gorgeous swan viscose from Guthrie and Ghani.
  9. My love affair with Liberty prints means I couldn’t help but include one here – and this from Fabrics Galore is simply so sweet.

Well, phew, that’s a lot of inspiration for one blog post! I’ve already found Kew such an easy dress to wear that I really can’t wait to make it up in more versions. Let me know if you’ve got a Kew in the works too! x

Pattern Testers Required!

Pattern testers ad

Hello! I’m so excited to be looking for testers for our next pattern, the Kew dress. Kew is a button-down dress/skirt variation with two bodice options. Each option finishes with a front button closure and features an elegant high-low hem. Version 1 features shoulder yokes and ruched sleeves, Version 2 has straps with optional cold-shoulder sleeves, and Version 3 is a simple skirt variation with a waistband.

Kew Dress line art

If you would be interested in testing Kew, or any of our future releases, please complete the form below. The Kew testing process will begin with material sent out at the start of next week (24 July) and last for two weeks, with final feedback being required by Monday 7 August. I’ll send out notifications to chosen testers on Sunday 23rd.

Please indicate on the form which pattern(s) you’re interested in testing, your social media details (if relevant) and in the comment section any other useful information such as previous pattern testing experience. Don’t feel you have to have testing experience or even a social media presence to apply – if you are happy to follow the instructions and give constructive feedback on fit, accuracy and construction, accompanied by clear photographs, then that’s great! I will be selecting testers to achieve the widest range of sizes, experience and pattern variations.

[contact-form subject=’Pattern testing’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Patterns’ type=’checkbox-multiple’ required=’1′ options=’Kew dress version 1,Kew dress version 2,Kew dress version 3,Future patterns’/][contact-field label=’Blog’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Instagram ‘ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Comments’ type=’textarea’/][/contact-form]

I really appreciate the work of pattern testers; nothing I do here would be possible without your generosity! All testers who give feedback will of course receive a finished copy of the pattern and a discount off any of our other patterns. Thank you! x


Portobello Culottes hack!

Portobello culottes hack blog header
Hello makers! I’m very excited to be sharing with you our very first pattern hack blog post. I know this blog has been thus far a largely neglected space but I have so many hacks, freebies, new patterns etc on the way that it won’t know what’s hit it. This will include a new space on the website illustrating what I’ve been so busy with over the past few months – wedding commissions!

Anyway, onto the good stuff. This week I finally finished and have already been wearing to death a pattern hack that I’ve wanted to do almost since the release of the Portobello Trousers sewing pattern – Portobello culottes. Continue Reading →

Portobello Trousers fabric picks

Portobello Trouser fabric picks blog header
Hurray, fabric chat! I don’t suppose any of you really need help finding fabulous fabrics but it would be a shame not to showcase some of the wonderful possibilities for making the Portobello trousers. Sometimes the versatility of a pattern lies in its many variations; these trousers are simplicity themselves and their usefulness (IMO) lies in how different fabrics can give them such vastly different looks. Suitable for linens, lightweight cottons, drapey fabrics such as rayon and crepe, and lightweight wools, your options are nigh on endless. Continue Reading →

Carnaby Dress inspiration

Carnaby Dress Inspiration blog header

One of the very first sewing patterns I ever owned was for a simple shift dress and since then I’ve always had an arsenal of them in my wardrobe. If dresses are your thing, a shift is one of the most versatile garments you can sew – and although we’ve added the ‘skirt’ seam line and the pocket details to Carnaby it remains a wonderful option for creating a whole gamut of different looks. Here’s some inspiration to get you started on making Carnaby your own… Continue Reading →

Portobello Trousers Inspiration

Portobello Trouser pattern inspiration

Every time wide-legged trousers are top of the trends (and it’s pretty regularly), I rejoice. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I live in skinny jeans and jeggings as much as the next woman, but there’s something so inherently elegant about wide-legged trousers, coupled with the comfort (oh, the comfort!) of not having a permanent wedgie. I’ve pulled together here some of the inspiration (and you can see more on our Pinterest) I had in mind whilst designing our Portobello trousers. Continue Reading →