. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


It's a Stella Hoodie- but not as we know it.  Yes, I am continuing my love affair with Tilly & The Buttons patterns in her new book STRETCH.
I fell in love with this knit fabric at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia.  It is more suitable for pyjamas for the under sevens than a daytime dress for an over 70  but it made me laugh and I had to have it.  

The peppermint green base does not show up well in this shot but the quirky characters, which called to the infant in me, do. I thought that I had bought only enough to make a top but when I came to cut it out I realised that I had enough for a dress.  By this time, having made 5 items from STRETCH, I knew where to go for a reliable pattern.  I wanted to try out the dropped shoulder style of the Stella Hoodie but didn't actually want to wear a hood made up in this fabric- so the Frankenstella was born.

I traced the Stella top, added length from the hemline of the top  and finished it off with the curved hem of the Frankie tee.  This was easy, as you can read in my previous post about creating the Frankie dress,  because I had made a separate bottom piece for that dress.  I extended the end of the Stella hoodie straight down, marking horizontally the point at which I wanted the side edge of the hem to end.

I then placed the piece I had cut from the Frankie tee at the edge and traced around this, ignoring the part that extended past my vertical line.

All that remained was to decide how to finish the neckline.  I went for facings rather than a neckband and made these by measuring and marking 4 cm around the neck of the front and back bodice, then tracing the result for the facing pattern.

With hindsight I would have made a narrower facing of only 2.5 cm.  I understitched the facings after clipping and trimming the curve so that they lay flat and then zig-zag stitch round the neckline- no chance of them popping out from the neck!
The result I have mixed feelings about.

 I did not check the sleeve length and I feel they are too long, but not if I double the cuffs back so I will leave them as they are.  However there are issues on which I should like some opinions.

I  think that I should have made the dress a bit shorter, maybe the length that raising my arms achieves.  I also considered putting elastic in a casing around the waist to get a blouson effect.  Below I have achieved this with a belt. Does the curved hem make it look too much like a nightgown and should I shorten it by cutting the hem straight across?
What do you think?  Should I make it shorter or should I add elastic around the waist or should I leave it as it is?  Please leave a comment below to help me decide.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Tilly & The Buttons Frankie Tee becomes a Frankie Dress

Ever since I got my copy of Tilly's new book STRETCH I have been sewing like one possessed.  I highly recommend this book both for the clear explanation of techniques and the patterns that come with it.  I used to be afraid of jersey knits but no more!  I have a Bibi skirt and two Freya tops now, one with the mock roll neck and one with a modified cowl neck.  I was going to make the Stella Hoodie dress next but then the British weather turned from Arctic to Tropical and I decided to make a Frankie tee but as a dress.

This is so easy to do and probably the method requires no explanation but I am going to give one in any case.

Cut across the Lengthen or Shorten Here line on the pattern. Since the Frankie pattern is cut on  a straight centre back and centre front fold line all you need to do is place a sheet of appropriate paper  to align with that fold line as a continuation from the Lengthen or Shorten line.

Decide how much longer you require the tee shirt to be to turn it into a dress and place the bottom piece of the pattern at the desired length, remembering that the pattern includes a 2 cm hem allowance.  You will need to create a gentle flare line between the severed patterns pieces.  I went for a flare of 1 inch (this will give a total of 4 inches extra width to the dress at the hem) and positioned the bottom pattern piece 1 inch in from the centre fold line.

I then drew a straight line between the bottom of the side seam of the top part to the bottom edge of the side seam of the lower part.

And there is your amended pattern.  Since the front and back pieces of the Frankie Tee are the same from below the lengthen and shorten line, I only had to do this with one piece and carefully removed the dress bottom taped to the back bodice piece and placed it over the front bodice of the Tee to cut that piece.  Below you can see the difference between an original pattern piece and the amended one.


And now some more views of the completed dress.

I cut a size 3 (if I was doing the top only I would do a size 2) as I do not know what is the composition of the fabric, which has been in my stash for years so I am pleased to do some stash busting, but it was synthetic and I wanted a loose cut to allow air to circulate in the summer  but also that could take a close fitting polo neck (cue the Freya) in the colder weather.  I added 47 cm in length to the pattern.  It took 2 metres of  160 cm wide fabric for this dress in the long sleeve version.  I hope this helps in estimating how much fabric you would need if you wanted to make this pattern into a dress.

Finally a thank you to the Sun for shining.  It makes the flowers look glorious.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Please contribute: tips for sewing a simple skirt

Shall we do a collaborative blog post?  All about tips for sewing beginners about sewing a skirt.

At our monthly meetings we often get the question from sewing beginners: "I would like to sew but I never have before and I don't know where to start".  We have lots of advice and tips so how about collecting it all in one place?  Like right here!

We often recommend that a beginner sew a simple skirt first. There isn't quite as much going in terms of different elements that a dress or trousers would demand (getting sleeves to fit into the armhole, or doing a front zip on trousers).

First tip: when you want to use a stretch fabric and you have never sewn before then pick a firm jersey fabric that is a bit thicker than the cheaper jerseys that are very saggy and extremely difficult to sew with. Sewing with thin jersey fabric is something that I still can't do. Avoid it if you want to retain your sanity. Honestly.

Woven fabrics are much easier to sew with (as far as I'm concerned), but because they don't stretch they need to be fitted to your shape to look good.

There are different skirt styles with different degrees of difficulty. A gathered skirt made from two rectangular pieces is the easiest, - circular skirts and skirts made from flared panels are also relatively simple.

The more pieces your pattern has the more sewing you'll do, but you also get more opportunity to fit the garment to your shape because you have more seamlines you can adjust.

Sewing in a zip isn't as difficult as I feared when I was a beginner but you may want to go with a button closure on a first project. See how you feel.

A commercial pattern is useful because it has instructions: not just how to sew but there is also the layout of the pieces for cutting out, and it tells you which piece to interline. There is also really useful guidance on seam allowances and how to do the different ways of stitching (like top or edge stitching, under stitching, stay stitching, or how to stitch for gathering - all kinds of information).

The sewing pattern size is not the same as your dress size in shops. Measure your waist and hips and compare to the measurement table on your pattern. Most pattern envelopes have multiple sizes in them, often split by the smaller and the bigger sizes.

Above all pick a skirt shape that you are excited about! I often make the mistake of falling in love with the pretty fabric they used and forget to check the line drawing to see if I actually like the style. Which is kind of important.

Now I've gone on much longer than I meant to. I haven't even said much about sewing itself (the things we discover as we go along) - I hope that other Dressmakers Club members want to give tips and advice in the comments!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Little girl's dress - Burda 9420

I made a child's garment for the first time.

Burda 9420.  This pattern was easy to make:

I made version B because I didn't have enough of the blue fabric for version A (longer, without the ruffle).  I would have liked to angle the pockets inwards a touch more and would do that if I did this with two pockets again.

The top of the pocket folds in.  Depending on what the revers of a fabric looks like, I could also fold this out and under a little, and sew across before attaching to the dress. It is fine like this though.

I started out with two even sides along the back slit. By the time I was done, the left-hand side was a touch longer.  This has happened to me before and I don't quite understand it.  Perhaps I did slightly different seam allowances on either side when attaching the facing? Otherwise this is very odd indeed.

The little black button is perhaps not a little girl colour but I like the pretty texture of it. It was also the size I was looking for. I made the loop on the left-hand side with embroidery thread in its full six strands. That came together very quickly which I really appreciated. The button is just sewed to the side of the vent so it sits nicely centred when closed.

I sewed the ruffle down with suitably pink yarn.  That was not in the instructions but I thought it would make it hang nicely. Don't know if sewing this down is a good thing once this gets washed and needs to be pressed. I'll ask the little girl's mum to tell me so I'll know for next time.

I enjoyed making this a lot and think that it will make a great repeat pattern. I might use the binding on the armholes next time - I didn't have enough of the blue fabric so I went for a baby hem which unfortunately twists outwards a bit in the tightest under-arm area.

I will keep an eye out for a fun, bright and colourful 'kids' fabric for the next one. I can't remember if I heard mum say that her daughter doesn't like pink? Hopefully this shade is okay but that's something to keep in mind too.

I'm already wondering if I can use up some fat quarters and colour block it: use a fabric for the "bodice" part and at least one other fabric for the "skirt" part. And if a fat quarter isn't wide enough then maybe in pieced vertical stripes with a third fabric?

It would also be nice if I could draw sleeves for this. Short ones would be enough. I should be able to Frankenpattern this from somewhere else - the downside is that I wasn't exactly planning on starting a stash of kids patterns! Oh well, it might help me use up fabrics.

A great project and I can recommend the pattern!  You don't have to do a zip so this would be suitable for slightly more advanced beginners than complete new-to-sewing starters. If you are looking for a small and first project: do a gathered skirt made from two rectangles like Simplicity 9938.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Work on flat pieces first

So you're faithfully following along the sewing instructions of your pattern and then it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to get your project under the machine's needle so you can work on a really tight area?  It's enough to give you grey hair!

Been there many times and I hate it.  Some commercial sewing pattern instructions seem determined to make things as difficult as possible.  Unfortunately these difficult to sew areas then make your garment look home-made rather than beautifully crafted.

Here's a principle that cuts down on some of those problem areas:  If in doubt work on the flat piece first.

Plackets, zips, pockets - what's the point of closing the long easy-to-do seams first and then do the fiddly bits?  I just don't get why some sewing instructions do this the difficult way around.

You don't need to stick to the order suggested.

Look at what features your garment has: double-ended darts, zip, plackets, pockets, pocket flaps, collar etc, etc? These are really nice sewing exercises (as long as you don't let the instruction sequence make your life more difficult).

Once you've cut out your pieces and overlocked what needs overlocking* - do all darts first before you sew anything else. No side seams, no nothing else. The sewing instructions usually start with this too, so no problem here. (The only exception I can think of is if a dart needs to meet another dart exactly: then it is much easier to close the seam first and sew the two darts as one across the seam. Anything to make life easier!)

*: But sew darts that end in a seam before you overlook the piece: less bulk when you take a single pass with your overlocker over the sewn up dart avoiding three layers of overlocking.

I used to hate having to do zips, now I like them more and more.  Sew them in first!

Don't even close the seam underneath yet (a lot of YouTube videos show it this way too so you're in good company), sew the zip onto both pieces and once you're happy with it close the seam underneath (make sure to off-set this line by a millimeter or so to avoid the pucker at the bottom of the zip).

Same thing for plackets on sleeves: sew them in before you attach the sleeve or close its side seam (a very good placket article on Threads shows it that way too).

Patch pockets: why go to the trouble of working on an almost assembled item when it is so much easier to sew a pocket onto flat fabric. In-seam pocket bags are also easier to do before you close the longer seams: a) attach a single pocket piece to one outer piece and b) the other pocket layer to the other piece - then c) sew the pocket layers to each other, and d) close the seam of the outer garment above and below the pocket opening.

I would attach a collar as soon as the shoulder seam is closed, before any other seam stitching.

Depending on the shape of a sleeve it can be easier to sew the sleevehead to the front and back of the garment before closing the side seams of body and sleeve - this is easier for wider, more relaxed styles. Sleeves that are quite tight and where the sleevehead needs to be eased into the armhole are better done after closing side seams.

Flat pieces are easier to manoeuvre and allow better accuracy. They are also easier to press (best sewing tip ever: press, press, and press again!).

Once you have these kinds of elements done, the rest of the garment is much easier to assemble: nice long seams that pull everything together. After that you are left with things like neckline bindings and hems that need to be done across all closed seams.  Couture houses work this way too: everything is done flat until only the long seams and hems are left over,

What do you think?  Is this useful?