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

Monday, 22 December 2014

Sewing Resolutions

It's that time of year when people reflect on the past 12 months. It has been great to see how people have progressed with their 2014 sewing resolutions here. So how did I do?
My sewing resolutions were:-

  1. Make a tailored jacket
  2. Continue to make at least 1 garment per month
  3. Attend at least 1 sewing course or workshop to learn new sewing skills
I managed 2 out of 3 of these aims, with number 1 alluding me. I have the pattern and muslin in my stash, I just have not put aside the time to crack on with this.

Looking back on my sewing year it appears that I do like instant gratification sewing as I now have alot of easy to make dresses in my wardrobe. This is a shame as I have alot of designer Vogue patterns that I have yet to tackle and spend time on. So how has this shaped my sewing resolutions for 2015? My aims for the next year are:-

  1. Complete 3 designer vogue patterns
  2. Continue to make 1 garment per month
  3. Make a tailored jacket 
  4. No new pattern challenge (check out the details on this here)
These are not the most inventive, but they will challenge me to get to things that I have been putting off. As I am generally a one project at a time sewer it will also challenge me to have some quick stash busting projects in addition to a slow burning project that I can take my time with. Resolution number 4 should hopefully encourage me with resolution number 1 and curb my ridiculous pattern stash.

Has your sewing year shaped your resolutions for 2015? Are there any new skills that you would like to learn? And do you have any meetup ideas that could aid your resolutions?

Don't forget to post your ideas here!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

How many mistakes is it possible to make in one sewing session?

Quite a few judging by the number made between us at the social sewing session on 6 December.  Here are some of them so you can remember to avoid them in your sewing.
1. Putting pins in the wrong place for machining the seam.  By this I mean not thinking about on which side of the fabric and in which direction you will be sewing the seam when you are putting your pins in. Thus you find that the pins are either (or both)  on the underside as you sew or not pointing in the right direction for easy removal before the the presser foot arrives at that spot.

2.  The iron not being hot enough for fusing fusible interfacing to the fabric.  Remember always to do a test first on a piece of spare fabric with a scrap of interfacing.  This way you can find out how hot your iron needs to be.. Always press, not use an ironing motion, and you must make sure that your fabric and interfacing are perfectly smooth and flat before you start or you could create permanent wrinkles in your garment .  Once fused then leave the piece to cool before picking it up and using it.

3. Forgetting that you should add a seam allowance before cutting out your fabric.  Some patterns, such as Burda magazine patterns or patterns that you have drafted to your own measurements, need seam allowances adding to them before the pattern is is used to cut out the fabric- Don't forget to add them! 

4. Not sewing in the right direction on a seam when you are matching up a fabric pattern, such as stripes, checks etc.  Always machine away from the point where you have matched the design otherwise your fabric might slip and no longer match when it reaches that point.  Consider tacking (basting) rather than pinning and/or using a walking presser foot on your machine if you have one.

5.  Finding that you cannot hand crank your sewing machine.  I'm not sure that this is valid for all machines but one sewer was trying to lower the needle by turning the handle of the machine by hand but it would not work.  She found it would not lower the needle when the bobbin winder spindle was pushed to the right to wind the bobbin.

6.  Sewing with no upper or lower thread.  Don't forget to check that your needle is threaded and your bobbin has not run out, or about to do so, before starting to sew again after a pause.

7.  Stitching down darts or seams without checking that they are lying the right way.  Pattern instructions usually tell you which direction  to press darts or seams once you have sewn them.  Make sure that when you come to stitch across them, for example when applying a waistband to a skirt, that they will be sewn in the correct position and not the wrong way around.

8.  Sewing in a zip with the zip slider pointing down instead of up.  When sewing in zips by certain methods you can get around the difficult bit of sewing by the head of the zip by moving the head of the zip past the needle- see the previous post for an example.  However you can only do this if you can grab the the zip slider which is easier to do if the zip slider is pointing towards the top of the zip.

9.Not concentrating all the time.  Be warned, don't think that, just because you have managed to do a difficult bit of machining successfully, you can relax.  That's when your lovely straight line starts to wobble.

10.  Getting the wrong bit of cloth caught into your stitching.  Always make sure that you are only stitching together what you intend to.  It's easy to catch up some fabric unintentionally, especially when dealing with gathered fabric or curved stitching.

11.  Sewing with a zipper foot in the wrong position.  Zipper feet are designed to enable you to stitch as close to the zip teeth as possible.  In order to do this, depending on the design of your machine, you need to move either the needle or the zipper foot to the correct position  in relation to the side of the zip you are going to stitch.  If you don't then you could find yourself either sewing on the teeth of the zip or too far away from the teeth.

I'm trying to think if there is anything I have sewn without making a mistake at all and I can't think of one.  What is your most frequent or your worst mistake and how did you deal with it?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking By Wendy Ward.

This book was written by a teacher of dressmaking, pattern cutting and creator of MiY Collection patterns.  Wendy has held classes specifically for our members so, of course, I had to see what the book was like when it was published in November.  Here's a picture of the book and its twin in cake taken at the Launch Party.  The cake was made by 2 of Wendy's pupils, the lady who iced it also spins her own wool  and knits with it as well as doing perfect top stitching and making collars with beautifully sharp corners. 

 Unlike other books for beginners that I have seen, Wendy plunges the reader straight into what those buying a book on dressmaking want to do- make clothes.  I think some people are put off by wading through pages of technique or making aprons before getting to any mention of making a garment as with some books for beginners.  There are 6 full size patterns with this book ranging from bust size 84 cm (33 ins) to 101 cm (39 3/4ins).  You do have to trace these off and they overlap but they are on stiff paper and clearly marked ( forget about the nightmare experience of trying to trace a pattern from the flimsy overcrowded pattern sheet of a Burda Magazine).  The brief introduction describes how to use the book followed by the tools you will need  and then it is straight into the projects, which start with the easiest and gradually increase in complexity.  Each project has the techniques that you will need listed and these techniques are described and demonstrated in the rear section of the book.  I like the way that the finished measurements of the garments are clearly given so you know how much ease there is in the pattern.
I thought that I would try making a garment following the instructions to see how easy it would be for a beginner.  I am not a beginner,   more of a "can put a garment together but definitely could do better if she paid attention" type of sewer.  I adored the zip jacket, project number 5, and this seems to be the item that most people pick on as a garment they would like to make so here is my version and how the construction went.

First I wanted to know how the jacket might fit me so I took a commercially made jacket that I had with the sort of fit I was hoping for and measured around the chest of the jacket to compare it with the finished size that Wendy gave for the size I was making, size 1.   Bingo, what a match!  Please remember when you are measuring to make sure you are using an accurate tape.  If it is an old one it may well have stretched or distorted so check it against a solid (metal or plastic) ruler.

 Next I traced the pattern using Waitrose greaseproof paper, which I like because it is white- do not use baking parchment because it is not so easy to write upon and, if you have to stick sheets together with sticky tape to get the width , it does not stick.  Below is a picture of the pattern sheet and the paper laid out and weighted down to stop it sliding while I trace.  Always check that your tracing paper has not shifted once you have completed tracing the piece, you need to be accurate in your tracing.  Some people use a highlighter to emphasize the line of the size that they are tracing and this would be particularly useful if you are grading between 2 different sizes, for example if your bust size is a size bigger than your hip size.

Here are the finished pattern pieces, traced and ready to use.  There are only 3 pieces in total, front, back and sleeve, for the simplest version of the jacket and you will cut two pieces of each piece.  You cannot see it very well in the photograph but I have penciled on the pattern all the marking, notches, grainlines etc that are on the sheet.

Wendy gives the yardage necessary for the garment and a cutting layout.  However I suggest you trace out your pattern before you go to buy the fabric for it and play around with various layouts and fabric widths for the pattern you have created to find out how much you will need to buy.  I found that I needed less fabric than stated for the 140 cm wide fabric I was using.
Once you have cut out your fabric and transferred the markings to the fabric then I suggest you pin fit the garment.  That is you pin the darts in position and pin the shoulders and sides together and, very gingerly, try on the garment.  This will give you a good idea of how it will fit you.

As you can see, the body of the jacket looks fine - but always check the sides and back too.  Below you can see that the back of the neck gapes.

 Luckily there is a centre back seam so I could easily deal with this by increasing the seam allowance from the neck and gradually tapering it down into the back.  With this jacket there are no facings or lining so that you do not have to make alterations for these.  There is limited scope for alteration with the patterns (taking in or letting out at side seams and lengthening and shortening) although Wendy says that she has designed these patterns to need little alteration.  She does not recommend making bust adjustments on any of the sleeved garments in the book, and this is an area where many women find it hard to get a good fit, so there is no information on how to do this.

Taking the pins out, and dropping a few on the floor, I was now ready to apply the fusible interfacing.  Wendy suggests cutting strips from iron-on interfacing of the appropriate weight for the fabric, and this is a good way of using up those odd bits of interfacing you get stuck with but cannot bear to throw away.  However I had some fusible seam tape, already in narrow strips, so I used this.  I would have liked to see Wendy draw attention to the need to identify which is the fusible side of the tape because I have heard even seasoned dressmakers bemoan the fact that they put the tape on with the wrong side facing up so it stuck to the iron or press cloth and not the dress fabric.  Be warned, check and double check and, if in doubt about which is the side to go face down on the fabric, test a tiny bit on a waste fabric scrap.  Below is my seam tape in position ready to be fused.

And here is the seam tape fused along the front and a view of the back seam finished with bias binding.

I followed the making up steps as described up to and including step 9.  Then I decided to insert the zip (Step 11) before setting in the sleeves.  Unfortunately step 11 refers to positioning the zip stopper level with a notch.  This notch should have been marked on the pattern sheet but, as I discovered, it was left off.  I checked and checked the pattern sheet and re-read the instructions and then just guessed where it should go- not that hard.  The right hand side of the open-ended zip needs to be pinned and tacked  to hold it in the correct position for sewing.

Then, using a zipper foot, sew the zip in position close to the zipper teeth so that, when you flip the seam allowance over, your zip teeth just extend beyond the jacket edge.

I then went to step 12 and finished the jacket fronts with bias binding.  This covers the edge of the zip on the right hand side of the jacket enclosing the raw edge that you see to your right in the picture below.  Wendy's technique instructions for attaching bias binding as a facing  instructs the reader  as the final step to stitch the binding to the wrong side of the garment by machining.  This gives the effect of topstitching.  However I did not want the look of topstitching so laboriously hand picked all the facings and hems.   Next time I think I will topstitch!

Then I jumped to step 16, attaching the left side of the zip.  This is because I felt that I could better ensure that I could get the bottom hem of the jacket level by doing the hem after inserting the rest of the zip fastening.     One of the problems with inserting a zip is getting around the zip stopper while maintaining a straight line.  I  open the zip partly and sew up to a point before the zip stopper.

 Then, making sure that the needle is down in the fabric, I raise the zipper foot and pivot the fabric 90 degrees. 

With a bit of tugging I can then pull the zipper closed up to a point past which I have already stitched- sometimes, depending on your machine, you can remove the zipper foot, close the zipper and replace the foot.  Pivot the fabric back to the start position, lower the presser foot and off you go, continuing your stitching from where you left off.

Jumping back to step 10 in the order of work I set in the sleeves.  I always have difficulty with the fit of sleeves so I was very pleasantly surprised to find they fitted reasonably well for me.  I  might add a sleeve roll as my shoulders are a bit narrow  and I am distinctly lacking in biceps so the sleeve needs to be narrower  But I can live with it as it is.

Finally I hemmed the bottom of the jacket and the sleeves.  I wanted to conceal the loose top end of the left side of the zip.  I toyed with the idea of a button but eventually made a knot from a tube of the jacket fabric and sewed it in place.

 Here you can see how the bias binding finish looks on the inside of the lapels.

 My verdict, yes, a beginner could do it on their own by paying close attention to the instructions.  I was lucky to get a reasonable fit with only a simple alteration and I would be interested to hear how the fit worked for other people.

Wendy encourages the reader to experiment and develop their own take on the garment and I have certainly been inspired  to do another version of this jacket.  Also, in view of the lack of fitting difficulty encountered with the jacket, I may well have a go at the shift dress, graded as the most complex of the patterns and see how that would work for a beginner.  I have some of this fabric left, not enough for a complete dress, so I  will be looking for another fabric to use with it and how best to use the two together.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Using stay tape at the waist

I blogged about bias tape last time.

I've since come across a technique that re-inforces the waistline to keep it from distorting. Using tape at the waist looks very interesting and it isn't complicated at all. In short it's the sort of thing I really like!

Re-inforcing any area with tape (or ribbon) makes use of said tape as something referred to as 'stay tape'.  The area "stays" in shape, so I suppse it's easy to remember.


Good old Sewaholics put me onto the concept:

A Different Kind of Waist Stay


Gertie from her Blog for Better Sewing has more about the whole thing:

The Wild World of Stay Tape


It even turns out that Claire Shaeffer describes it as a couture technique in her book of the same name, I even think I have this book:

Couture Sewing

Sewing the tape onto a foundation layer is a whole different kettle of fish that I want to explore at some future point.

Have you used either bias or stay tape?  How did it go?  Please post some photos of your projects, either as works in progress (yes please!) or completed projects, in the appropriate photo album on the Meetup site.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Bias tape on

This is a really good demonstration on how to use store bought bias tape to finish off raw arm hole edges:

Sewaholic's 'Finishing of armholes with bias tape'

It makes a lot of sense to use tape cut on the bias because it smooths itself around curves a lot more than tape cut on the grain would ever do, even if you were to iron it to within an inch of its life - straight grain tape would still pucker and misbehave.

I bought this kind of bias tape in a few colours, the one that is folded in at both edges - and I never knew what to do with it because it seemed to me that you would want it folded over just once with the crease running down the very centre.  I think I was thinking of using the tape as binding rather than as a facing.  Aha!

This makes a lot more sense.  Very glad I found this blog post. is a good site to get your supplies from

What kinds of projects have you used bias tape for?  Do you use it like a facing (on the inside of the garment) or like binding (visible on the outside of the garment too).

Please post in the comments, and better yet!  Why not do a short blog post about your project and show us how you used bias tape?  We would love to see!

Let's bring this blog to life again - now that summer and the holidays are over.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A short one, two links

As promised in the headline, I quickly just wanted to share two links.

I came across this interesting web page where a few pattern making and couture techniques are explained. For example, just click on "pattern making techniques" and you'll see three articles about sleeves. I could spend hours and hours looking for inspiration ...

And I wanted to share my favourite link about pockets, those little gems I need to remember when cutting my fabric: And, of course, the hint to our current sewalong:

See you

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Paris- Art, Architecture & Amour OR Fashion, Fabric & Food

Well, which would you go for?  To tell the truth you can do all six.  I was in Paris for a few days recently to visit an old Parisian friend, to catch up with some Canadian relatives while they were traveling in Europe (I love them dearly so there is the Amour) and to enjoy myself generally.
While I was there I went to a current exhibition," Paris 1900" at the Petit Palais, appropriately built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle-(Architecture), in which, according to the publicity "Over 600 works will plunge visitors to the Petit Palais into the atmosphere of Belle Époque Paris. There will be paintings, objets d’art, costumes, posters, photographs, films, furniture, jewellery and sculptures"- (Art).  It evoked a sparkly atmosphere of sophistication, luxury and change- ignoring the less fortunate of the time.  But what you want is the Fashion!
Look at the hours of work that must have been necessary to create this jacket. 

Clothes like these really were only for the rich. Even a day dress had much in the way of pin-tucks, insertions and frills to be sewn by some poor seamstress.

And you needed a maid to get into it as it is fastened down the back with buttons and hooks and eyes.

Even elegant footwear must have been a struggle to get on unaided.

And as for evening wear-  this dress is believed to have been designed by Worth, one of the most famous designers of the time, for a rich American client. 

However this exhibition closes on 17 August 2014.  Luckily you have until 2 November 2014 to get to  the Palais Galleriathe  and the exhibition  on French Couture in the 1950's.  Unfortunately absolutely no photography was allowed at this exhibition but you will see some images on another blog here.  This blog seems to indicate that it is only Christian Dior garments but it includes over 100 items from many different couturiers including Gres, Balenciaga, Cardin, Vionnet, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Piguet and many more.  It included both day and evening wear, swimwear, lingerie plus hats and other accessories.  Well worth a visit and I would have loved to get the hefty hard back catalogue but it was almost 45 Euros.

And I was saving my money for the next item- Fabric.  If you have never been then I can assure you that all you have heard about fabric shopping around Sacre Coeur is true.  And not just fabric but haberdashery of all sorts as well.  If you are going by Metro then the nearest is Anvers and the shops are concentrated in the area between that Metro and the steps leading to Sacre Coeur.  Look out for Rue d'Orsel, Place St Pierre, Rue Seveste, and Rue Charles Nodier.  Some retailers have several outlets so you come across stores with the same name "Au Bonheur des Dames", or  "Au Gentleman des Tissus" for example.  Just wander and rummage.  The most tempting are the "Coupons", lengths of fabric cut into 3 metre lengths and piled high inside and outside the shops.  You can also buy fabric by the metre, it ranges from the very cheap (and rather nasty) to the absolutely exquisite ex-haute couture and everything in between.  Furnishing fabrics are also sold.

Shops are open Monday to Saturday, usually from 9.30 to 19.00 but some do not open until the afternoon on a Monday.  The staff are usually knowledgeable and helpful.  Below is the lovely Sabrina, at one of the branches of "Au Gentleman des Tissus",  who eagerly asked me about fabric shopping in London.  I am about to buy the black and white striped cotton laid on top of the other fabrics near the counter: 3 metres of 148 cm wide for 10 Euros.  I eventually came away from the area with another 2 pieces of 3 metres each, for 5 and 10 Euros, making a grand total of 25 Euros for 9 metres of fabric.
There are several shops devoted exclusively to haberdashery with a fantastic range of colours in items such as zips and lashings of trimmings of all sorts.

Several shops also sell leather

And now for Food as after all that shopping I wanted a quiet and restful spot for a pot of tea so I went to my favourite place for afternoon tea and cake.
  Musee Jacquemart-Andre, 158 boulevard Hausmann- a fabulous mansion house, now a museum filled with works of art collected to decorate this home of a very wealthy 19th century husband and wife.  It is open every day of the year and, although you have to pay to go around the museum, entry to the cafe is free.  The cafe is a work of art itself with a ceiling by Tiepolo and Flemish tapestries based on the story of the Greek warrior, Achilles.

It is very peaceful ( I suspect people do not realise it is there and you can just go in the cafe without going to the museum) and I can imagine myself as a wealthy guest of the previous owners, choosing which type of tea I shall have from the varieties on offer, note that they do other drinks as well but tea has a sort of old-fashioned graciousness that goes better with the decor.  Oh, and the food- really you should go in two's because the cakes are so huge and rich and it is better for one's diet to share one.  However I did manage to consume all of this pile of deliciousness.  It's a massive pistachio macaroon cake filled with pistachio cream and the hugest raspberries I've ever seen.  I'm afraid I'd eaten a fair bit of it before I thought to take a picture But I think there is enough to give you the idea.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Scissor Sock Tutorial

Hi everyone!

I haven't posted on here yet, and I have been invited by Giselle to contribute every now and then. For those of you who don't know me, I have been sewing for about 20 years of which the last 10 were the most productive. I tend to stay away from creating fitting clothes but love making costumes and anything practical. 

By popular demand I have finally posted the Scissor Sock tutorial :) It has taken a bit longer than planned, but in the end I think it came out quite well. I've never made a sewing tutorial before, only a cooking one (trust me, those are so much easier!). 

Some of you have been given one of these as I just love them and think everyone should have at least one. As you can see, I made three of them for myself and that is when I realised how great these are. I always lose my scissors so this is perfect for me!

This is a great project for stashbusting or gift giving, especially with the holidays creeping up on us slowly. Please click on the picture for the tutorial, you will be redirected. I tried making it as easy as possible by photographing every step, so please let me know if I've missed something!

It probably goes without saying, but as this is not my pattern please don't use this for commercial purposes.

I hope you like it and will be curious to see which ones you make! 

UPDATE: Win a Scissor Sock, I'm hosting a giveaway! Enter HERE.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Create your own Kimono Tee or Dress

Here’s how to make a tee to your own measurements and your own design (courtesy of Miss P.)  Blogger Miss P. has developed and refined a kimono tee that you can draft to your own measurements.  Her clear instructions on how to do this are  at  What bliss!- a garment with only one pattern piece.  You can see from the  photographs of her finished result that the tee can look both elegant and casual, could be worn to the office, slung over a bikini for the beach or dressed up with accessories for the evening.
It is also a wonderful blank canvas so you can create your own unique garment.  This was the pattern I turned to when I wanted something quick and easy for summer wear.  The top does not take much fabric, I had a metre of cotton poplin and used 70 cm of 150 cm wide  for the main body and then cut into the remainder for bias binding and the belt backing plus oddments for the cuffs and outer side of the belt. My bust measurement  is 84 cm and thus I could place both front and back of the pattern on the same width of fabric.  If you have narrower fabric or more generous curves then you'll need a longer length but you will be able to figure out your fabric requirements once you have drafted the pattern to the size and length you want.
Here is my first effort.  The only addition I made to the pattern was to extend the sleeves and to add a simple belt fastened with a button to ring the changes

This is also an ideal pattern to use up leftover fabric from other projects.  As to the type of fabric to use, something with some drape, not too thick is best.  You definitely need some softness in the sleeve area but you could get away with a thicker central panel.  Personally I would not want to use anything stiffer than the cotton poplin that I used.  There are no darts so the shape relies on how the fabric hangs on your body.
I've sketched some ideas (sorry, I'm no artist).

1.Parti-coloured tee.  Simply adapt your pattern by adding a seam allowance to the centre back and centre front  as you will need to sew the right and left sides of the front and back together before proceeding to sew the front to the back.

2.  Tee with a panel.  Got a bit of fabric that you really want to use but there is not much of it?  Then this is the answer.  Depending upon how much fabric you have , you can have a panel both font and back, just a panel on one side or different fabric panels on each side..  Remember to cut your pattern where you want the panel to be and add a seam allowance to both sides of the cut.

3.Your addition of a different fabric doesn't have to be straight down or across.  Try going asymmetrical, a chevron or undulating wave ( this latter is trickier and probably best done as an applique).

4.  Trim the neckline, hem and sleeves with a different fabric.  You can make your own bias binding for the neckline, see Miss P's technique here.  That's how I cut my binding to trim the neckline of my tee.
Alternatively you can cut facings for your hem, neckline and sleeves in your alternative colour fabric.  Stitch them to the relevant edges with the right side of the facing against the wrong side of the fabric of the body.  Trim the seam and, if necessary, clip around curves.  Do not press seam open but press toward the tee body.  Then flip the facings over to the right side of the garment, press the neckline (or hem or sleeve) edge on to the right side of the garment.  Press or pin a hem of about 1 cm on to the wrong side of the facing around the outer edge of the facing and then pin or tack the facing to the tee preparatory to topstitching around the outer edge of the facing to secure it.    The advantage of this is that you have no raw edge to hem.

5.  If you have quite a bit of fabric you can make a dress of any length, short, knee length or maxi.  I made a dress for my second effort, just adding the extra length to the pattern that I had created and leaving the cuffs off (see photo below).  If you wish you can gather it in at the waist or under the bust, as in sketch 5, by running some elastic through a casing sewn around the inside of the dress at the relevant point.

Necklines. As Miss P. says, you can cut the neckline into a lower curve.  You don't have to make the neckline the same at the back as the front, just adjust the pattern according to your desire.  Remember though that you need to make it wide enough to get your head through.  If you want it to be closer to the neck then you will need to make an opening, such as the keyhole neckline in my sketch no. 4 which is closed with a button and loop.  An opening could be placed at the back instead of the front.

Hems. The simplest and quickest is just to turn up  a straight hem at the bottom and machine along it.  The example from Miss P's blog has a hem curving up at the sides ( you can use a plate to draw this for your pattern, this is what I used for the blue tee).  You can follow the current fashion for hems lower at the back than the front, have an asymmetrical hem (sketch 3) scalloped...and so on!  For my dress I left a small slit at the side seams to allow for more walking ease.

Embellishment.  Here you can go to town if you want something truly unique- lace, ribbon, sequins,ruffles, pockets, pleats, pintucks, buttons, beads, fringing-- the opportunities are endless.  To my dress I added an old lace collar (detachable) and a slim belt to give a 1940's tea dress feeling.  See how it changes the effect.

Why not join in our sewalong and create your own unique version?  See the details here

Thursday, 26 June 2014

How to ... turn a weekend project into a week's project

Saturday, the weather forecast mentions heavy and thundery rain, hail and frequent lightning. My plans were cancelled, not due to the weather, so I had all possibilities at my fingertips, as long as it didn't include wandering outside. My eyes looked at my famous Ikea bag with fabric, went over to my desk with my sewing machine and my brain remembered the sew-along "A simple item from stash fabric" which was about to start. Still lying in my bed, my weaker self started to nag about closing the eyes and get more rest, but my fingers were already infected with the sewing bug and it finally got hold of the rest of my body, wanting to finish the skirt over the weekend.

I found a white polycotton with red polka dots which I wanted to use as the skirt part of a dress. Since I don't yet have a dress pattern, I work with body blocks rather than with commercial patterns, that fabric had to wait ... or not. I could just turn it into a circle skirt and wear it on a lovely summer day. I decided for the latter and, instead of inserting a zipper or using elastic band, I decided to use some of my buttons. It also helped that I found a similar fabric here.

The fabric itself is rather see-through, so I decided for an underlined skirt and used some of the white polycotton I bought a while ago. I used the half circle skirt pattern which Barbara helped me to make, and cut the pieces. For the back piece, I just traced the pattern onto my fabric. For the front pieces though, I folded the pattern in half, traced it and added some extra fabric for the buttons and button holes, respectively. The width of that extra fabric is the width of the buttons I used, in this case 2 cm. (More explanations on how to add a button front closure can be found here - although that tutorial is for a dress.)

My folded blue half circle skirt pattern on the fabric I want to use, the buttons are next to it. 

I then sewed together my red polka dot fabric with my white underlining, wrong sides up, just a straight line along the edge where the buttons and buttonholes will be, zigzagged it and then trimmed it. Ironing is essential, so I ironed it, flipped it over and sewed another straight line, just for effect than for anything else, two cm (my button width) from the edge. If you want to, you could add another layer of fabric or underlining for the part where the button holes will be. But since my skirt is already underlined, I decided against it.

The front layer

It turned one pm, and the weather forecast was slightly wrong. It rained a few hours, no sign of hail or thunder and then the sun was visible. Quickly sewing the back piece to the two front pieces, and all which was left were buttons, buttonholes and hems. But first it was time for socialising!

Sunday morning, and this is how you turn a weekend project into a week's project: I realised that my back piece is wrong side up, so I had to rip the side seams apart and start again. Important note to myself: You must never rush things! I spend most of Sunday evening to undo the wrong I did to my skirt. And I did the hems.

After I found my motivation the week after, and a very useful hint to start with the button holes from my fellow seamstresses at a monthly meeting, I did the button holes. And forgot to take a picture. But basically, I marked where the top and bottom button hole would be. I then put a mark on exactly half the way down and made this the centre of another button hole. I repeated that until I had no more space on my fabric and marked 9 button holes. After sewing all of them and ripping them open, I marked the middle of each button hole on the other skirt front to know where my buttons should be.

Et voila:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Four kinds of finishing seams

This is an interesting blog posts about different kinds of finishing seams.  Four of them to be precise.  There are another few mentioned in the comments.

Do check it out: I want to be a turtle -Notionally Speaking: Finishing 

I don't agree that bias binding is a quick method, but maybe you get quicker with practice?  Love an overlocked or a French seam.  But then again the Hong Kong (bias strip) seams do look very nice!  Just make sure to use tape from a really thin fabric.  I wonder if organza would work?  Might be too slippery to work with though.

What's your favourite kind of seam finishing?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Can I make a Dress in a Day? Part 2. Fusible interlining, amongst other things.

So to continue, there I was with my fabric, pre-washed, spread upon the table.  Looking down at it I had one of those moments and thought "This fabric is not right for this dress because the bold pattern needs a more voluminous style to show it to better advantage".
Thus Hurdle Number 1.  Do I have another fabric in my stash that will be suitable and has enough yardage?  The answer, after a good rummage, was "Yes".
But Hurdle Number 2 .  It had not been washed.  I have learned always to launder fabric in the manner in which the made-up garment will be washed before cutting out and sewing it up.  It prevents nasty horrors, such as finding the fabric shrinks or bleeds.  Into the washing machine the fabric goes and 3 hours later, (no tumble drier so I have to wait for it to dry on the line), I have it washed, dried and pressed fabric on the table.
Just to show those 3 hours were not wasted I used them to finish this dress pictured below, made in a jersey fabric with a silvery thread through the material that gives it a slight sparkle as it catches the light.  Unfortunately the silver thread is so subtle that you cannot see it in the photograph, it needs body movement or shifting light to make it catch the light and glisten.  I finished it with silver ball buttons, taken from an old dress, at the throat and at the cuffs of the straight sleeves.  The pattern is an old one that I picked up for a few p earlier this year.

It is intended to be a dress that I can take on trips away as it doesn't crease or show marks.  However much I may long to wear shimmering pale silk with voluminous ruffles in the evening, in the end I need to have something that fits with my lifestyle and budget (i.e. budget airlines with cabin baggage only and washing and drying in hotel bedrooms)  The fabric came from Brighton Fabricland and the dress cost under £8 altogether..
To get back to the original dress and  Hurdle Number 3.  The substitute fabric came from the oddments bin at "Simply Fabrics"  in Brixton for £4.  There was plenty of yardage to make the dress but it had been cut out to an odd shape, which I didn't realise until I came to spread it out to place the pattern on it.  It took me some time to work out where the straight grain lay and it was a stretchy-stretchy knit that slithered away from me.  Anyone got any tips on handling fabric like this?  Also my old and fading eyesight made it difficult to determine which way the tiny but regular motif needed to be.It took an hour and a half to get it laid out, pinned and cut (not including the inevitable tea break because I got fed up bending over)  Once cut out I could legitimately sit down and put in the tack marks for various features- where to gather, match seams etc.
Then I basted the side seams and did the gathering required on the front of the dress so I could try it on for fit.  And, Boy!, did it fit- like the finest kidskin glove, absolutely skintight.  That was fine because the stretch of the fabric meant that there was no impediment to movement but -Oh!- I shall have to hold my stomach in as the evidence of every cake that I eat during the day will be there for all to see.
So now to Hurdle  Number 4  I had forgotten that the pattern called for Vilene Bias tape or stay tape to stabilise the neck and certain sections of the armholes.  I had tried to buy this from a fairly local store but they did not have it and I forgot about getting it.  However I now thought that probably I could use some light-weight fusible non-woven interfacing instead and that, as only a small amount was needed at each point, I could use some of the little scraps that I can not bring myself to throw away that were left over from other projects.  But it did mean tracing each piece individually from the pattern to fit the required section.. Luckily, as the interfacing was fine and see-through, I could trace directly from the pattern on to the interfacing- fiddly job though.
 The tracing one of the pieces is seen below.
 The piece cut out, the middle line, just faintly visible on the piece of interfacing, is where the seam line will be.
 Applying fusible interfacing

Now many of you will know all about this but, from questions I've had from some of our members, beginners are not always sure about how to use or handle interfacing and how to apply it.  Very basically there are two types of interfacing used to reinforce or stiffen garments or, as in this case, to prevent stretch fabrics from stretching where no stretch is required.  Those types are "sew-in", where the interfacing is stitched to the main fabric,  and the other is fusible where heat from an iron is used to fuse the special backing to the fabric ( and, once that is done, there is no unpicking it!).
So, to apply this fusible interfacing, firstly I am going to iron the fabric to which I am going to apply it.  If you fuse interfacing to wrinkled fabric it is going to stay wrinkled permanently
Next, check that you have the fusible side of the interfacing against the fabric or you will get the fabric sticking to your iron instead of the fabric.  The fusible side looks a bit shiny or has small dots visible.
I've pinned the interfacing in position in the photograph below so I can lay it on the ironing board. Then I remove the pins, making sure the interfacing and fabric are flat before the iron is applied. 
Check whether your interfacing should be applied with a dry iron or using a damp cloth.  Often that detail is written along the "selvedge"  of the interfacing.  Usually you should be pressing down for a few seconds rather than using an ironing motion.  Make sure this is not going to damage your fabric, scorch or melt it.  After doing this check that the interfacing has bonded to the fabric by very gently try to pull them apart.  If it starts to separate then apply some more heat until they are firmly together.
After applying all the interfacing pieces I confess that I gave in  and abandoned the idea of trying to complete it all in one day- failure.  What happened next will be in Part 3.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Clever idea: cut your fabric, not your paper pattern!

I just came across this very clever idea of how to cut out your garment fabric pieces without having to cut your paper pattern.

Here at Tilly and the Buttons: How to Cut Fabric Without Cutting Your Pattern (Much)

Such a good idea!

My approach was that I tried to retain the smaller size lines by going around the bits that stick out at curves etc only to have to fold those bits in - just so I can keep the paper pattern intact in case I ever want to make it again in a smaller size.  And that means that I had already given up on the bigger sizes!

This clever tip allows you to keep all the sizes intact so if you have the feeling that this might become a tried and tested pattern to make over and over again, here's the best tip I've ever come across on that: trace it off!

You can mark all your other parts (that you won't cut out) like darts, notches and other markings at the same time.  So efficient, what a great use of your time!  I am all for tricks that make things quicker.  And more accurate in this case too!  Brilliant.

What I also really, really liked about it:  Tilly gives the great tip to pin the pattern to the fabric first (or set weights down) but far enough inside each piece so you can slip your carbon copy paper underneath the edges only.  When I used carbon paper I used to put the paper under the entire piece even though I was never very happy with the result.

Now why didn't I ever think of this?  It just shows that it pays off to approach something from a different angle to see if you can do it a bit different.  Particularly when you've always done them one way - like me slotting the copy paper under the paper pattern as another layer.  It was never big enough and was such a pain to move.

I'll try this the very next time I cut out a new fabric!

PS: Does anyone know what Tilly means when she refers to two kinds of tracing wheels? One 'the blunt kind', and the other the 'sharp pattern drafting kind'?  I only know of one kind and you have to be careful with it about what surface you use because this wheel can do damage.  Is there a type of tracing wheel I haven't come across yet?

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Saturday, 31 May 2014

How to ... improvise a skirt

When I just started dressmaking, I could only justify to buy remnants. So I ended up with a lot of beautiful fabric, unsure of what to do with them. One of the remnants is a turquoise polycotton with yellow polka dots, about 130 x 115 cm. Perfect for a half circle skirt, or so I thought. It turned out that my skirt will be somewhere closer to a 3/8 skirt.

I started with the pattern Barbara helped me to make. I drew the circles, one for the waist and one for the hem. Since I did not have enough fabric, the one for the lower hem - of course - did not fit onto the fabric. My idea was to place the pattern right in the middle of the fabric so that the pattern could be easily altered. I can't stress enough how important it is that nothing from the waist circle must be cut off since that's the only part of a circle skirt which has to be fitted. I then connected the outer waist circle with the most outer point of the hem circle and made sure I left enough for the seam allowance. It should be a straight line.

I then stitched together the side seams and tried it on. It fits perfectly and I was so enthusiastic that I cut the fabric along the side seam. In my enthusiasm, I only forgot that I wanted to insert a zipper on one side and hence did not leave enough fabric to actually be able to do it. It was a big mistake (first time ever!) and I hope I learned for the future. After the shock, I decided to make my skirt a little bit shorter and put in an elastic band.

An unexpected hint from a friend to add pockets as they are quite handy to have lead to me finding this post with the "top 10" of pockets. It has a lot of ideas and is a very interesting read with a lot of links. For this fabric, I decided for in-seam pockets. I found this post clearer than the others but it's definitely worthwhile to read through the other posts as well. Since it is very well explained how you can add pockets in those blog posts, I take the shortcut and ask to read those if interested.

Once finished the pockets (I had to do them twice) the only thing left was the waist hem and the elastic band. I went for the most simple of options, zigzagged the edge and folded it over once to insert an elastic band.

Et voila: