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

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:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Can I make a Dress in a Day? Part 1- Tracing a pattern from Burda Style Magazine

Of course, I am addicted to reading Dressmaking Blogs and am always amazed when the blogger says how little time it took to make a garment.  I was prompted to try and make a dress in a day after reading of a top with interesting seaming and a peplum that took only 40 minutes to make.  I had a whole day when I thought I had nothing to do so decided to give it a go.
There was a dress that I wanted to make that appeared to be straight-forward with only 4 pieces - Back, front, sleeves and a facing strip.  It was designed for stretch fabric and needed no closures or fastenings.  It was a pattern in a Burda Style Magazines.  If you are not familiar with these magazines, issued monthly, they appear to offer Dressmaker's Heaven, that is a large number of patterns for a small monetary outlay: for example 17 patterns for £4.75.  However, you might not like all the patterns in an issue plus you have to trace the individual pattern from sheets inside the magazine.  This is when Heaven may turn into Hell so I am going to show how I do it.
Each garment is given a number (106 in my case).  On turning to the instruction in the magazine for that particular number you will see a box that tells you which Pattern sheet you want  and what colour the outline of the pieces will be.  It also shows you the pieces and the number that they are allocated on the sheet .  Below you see the information for my chosen garment (plus some pencil notes of simple lengthening amendments I intended to make to the pattern).

So I need to locate pattern sheet B, with a red pattern line, pieces 21 to 23 for style 106 with the type of line marking used for size 36.  Below is the confusion with which you will be faced (this is sheet B and the pieces shaded completely in pink are the ones for a featured garment in the magazine, unfortunately not the one I chose).
But persevere.  Once the pieces have been located I use highlighter to go over the lines of the size that I want and to highlight any pattern markings, such as grainline, notches etc.  You can see the outline of the first piece for my dress highlighted in pink  across the bottom of sheet B.

Here in the picture below  the pattern markings are highlighted.  You can see I am highlighting piece 22.  Should you decide to make another garment using the same pattern sheet make sure you use a different colour highlighter to highlight that pattern.

I highlight each piece one at a time and then trace it before going on to highlight the next piece.  To trace I use ordinary greaseproof paper, cheap and easily obtainable from supermarkets.  The drawback is the limited width but you can always tape a bit on if  the width is insufficient.  When tracing I find it useful to put something solid on which I can rest my tracing hand, this both helps to stop my hand from shifting the paper and provides an extra weight to keep the paper and pattern in place.  My grader's set square is ideal for this, see the picture below.

Below is the traced pattern on which I have marked details such as fold line, gathering points etc. and size, model number and which issue of the magazine it came from as I shall add it to my file of traced patterns in case I wish to use it again.

Patterns in the Burda Style magazine do not have seam allowances included so you have to add them yourself where necessary.  This does mean that you can choose the seam allowance you want, narrower or wider than the standard 1.5 cm for seams and the depth of hem allowance you require.  I use the grader's set square to mark the seam allowance for any straight lines and a seam gauge,as below, to mark the allowance on curves.

Then, at last, I have my pattern pieces complete and ready to cut out with paper scissors before laying on my fabric.  All this took one and three quarter hours, although that does include stopping to take even more photographs of the process than you see here.  And then I went for a tea break, as I am about to do now.  Part 2 to follow later.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sew-along: a simple one metre item from stash fabric


Many of you that have met me already through the LDC meet-up know that I love a good sew-a-long. This is my progress on the most recent 'a simple item from stash fabric' challenge.

As soon as this was announced on the meet-up group I knew that I was going to make another version of Simplicity 1884. This was perfect for the challenge for a number of reasons: -
  • The top only required 1 metre of fabric (win!)
  • It didn't require any additional notions such as zippers, buttons etc. 
  • It is an easy pattern and quick to make

One thing that I always have to bear in mind when I am doing sew-a-longs is whether or not I will be able to finish the project within the given time. Not that it matters if I don't finish it by the end of the sew-a-long, being motivated by to start a project is always exciting. However, the timescale is good practice for me when it comes to time planning, and it helps me when I am sewing projects to wear for a particular event, for example a work event or special occasion where the deadlines are more crucial. 

The fabric was picked up from a shop on Brick Lane (I can't remember what it was called but it was towards the Aldgate end) and only cost £3.50 per metre. This fabric had been in my stash for a while and although I knew that I wanted to use it for a top it always got pushed to the bottom of my priority list. I am delighted that this sew-a-long has made me do some impromptu stash busting!

Do check out the meetup page for this challenge to see what other LDC members are working on. It will also be great to hear what other ideas people have for 1 metre projects. 

Good luck with the challenge and don't forget to upload some pics so we can all see your 1 metre progress and projects!

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Link to a great invisible zip tutorial

This is a great tutorial on how to insert an invisible zip.

Actually, the whole By Hand London blog is great. Do check it out.

Do make sure you use a zip that's at least 4-5cm (around two inches) longer than the opening you want.  The lower end will dangle on the inside of your skirt but this is much preferable to messing around with pulling the zip pull up while you're in the middle of stitching along the sides. With a dangly end you can stitch each side all the way down in one go.  It makes sense once you try this!

Leave the back centre seam unsewn (if you are going to insert the zip into the back centre seam of course).

You need an invisible zip sewing machine foot.  Inserting an invisible zip without this is the proverbial pain in the backside.  Once you own one you'll be forever grateful that someone had the good sense to invent them.

Try pressing the zipper teeth aside (as per this tutorial), I am told it makes stitching easier and more accurate.

This tutorial also shows very clearly where you need to start closing the back centre seam once the zip is in.  Lots of tutorials don't show this, which is why I was never that clear about what you're supposed to do at this point.

The description says to start the back seam about a half centimetre away from where you stitched before.  That's half a centimetre horizontally away from the stitching line, not vertically as I first thought.  The photo thankfully clears up that potential confusion.

If back-stitching isn't suited to your fabric because it makes the end of the stitching line too bulky: reduce your stitch length to the minimum your machine will give you (around 1mm or otherwise 1.1mm) and use this for up to half an inch, then increase the stitch length back to normal. The resulting tiny stitches will hold your thread.  You can take the thread ends back below the end of the stitching line and back stitch them by hand a couple of times in a suitable place. If this will show through you can try to whipstitch the ends around your stitching line (on the inside)

Monday, 5 May 2014

Some great tips for sewing accuracy

I just came across this collection of tips on how to sew more accurately:

Tips for accurate sewing

This is posted on site - this lists lots of classes, courses and workshops and also shows some menu items in the navigation bar that I haven't checked out yet: Events, Fabric Sales, Projects, Reviews, Interviews and the Techniques section that the above link goes to, and a few more.

Well worth checking out.

The blogger who wrote the Sewing Accuracy article is Sarah Flynn from FairyFaceDesigns blog. She does some great quilts, ie patchwork and quilting.  Check out her cushion covers!  They look like excellent stash busters when you have a few scraps that are too nice to throw out and a half meter or so of another fabric for the back.

She also does some sewing, like this excellent tutorial for a pencil case, so cute! Or these baby leggings, even more cute!  All together now: awww......

Back to the article on the sewing directory.  What I particularly liked was her emphasis of using a dry iron (no steam) to just press (not iron) your fabric while you are constructing your project.  She feels that steam distorts seams and makes accurate sewing rather more difficult.  It's an interesting thought.  I tend to spray a bit of water onto hard to tame areas but not so much overall.  That might be a good thing now that I really think about it.

Her point on starting with an accurately cut seam allowance is a very good one. 

I hope you enjoy Sarah's tips.  

What kinds of things have  you come across that make it easier to sew accurately?  Please share any and all tips in the comments!
Sarah Flynn from FairyFacAccourate cuttinge Designs - See more at:
Sarah Flynn from FairyFacAccourate cuttinge Designs - See more at: