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

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sewing a jersey dress when you are scared of knits

A number of sewers have told me that they love to sew jersey knit fabrics, that they run up garments in no time using their serger.  I haven't got a serger, they seem even more scary to me than sewing jersey on an ordinary machine because they sew, overlock and cut the fabric in one go.  Where is the chance of unpicking if you get it wrong?     I even bought "Sew U Home Stretch, The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics" when I saw it discounted in a book shop but was put off trying the included patterns because therein I read "For the most professional-looking stretch fabric clothing, I recommend using a serger and a cover-stitch machine together" - so that would be two expensive machines just to make a T-shirt.  To be fair, this book did give tips on using a conventional machine and several blogs and magazine articles urge readers that it is perfectly possible get good results with an ordinary machine. I have made shrugs and relax-at-home trousers using more stable jersey fabrics, such as Ponte Roma, but the tendency of finer jerseys to stretch and slide while being sewn still made me fearful of tackling  a dress in this type of knit. 

 However, inspired by Chinelo Bally speaking recently at the launch of her book "Freehand Cutting" and urging sewers to be brave and face up to a challenge because it wasn't the end of the world if your garment didn't turn out perfectly, I decided to dig out one of the pieces of jersey that had been languishing in my stash for a couple of years and make a dress.  This was a purchase from Ditto Fabrics, in Kensington Gardens, Brighton, which always has such desirable materials and this arresting print, with a soft velvety feel to it,  grabbed my attention.

The patterns in the "Sew U Home Stretch" book included a simple dress with only 5 pattern pieces, bodice back and front, skirt back and front and sleeve.  This is the page from the book showing the pieces and the dress.  However, ignore the inclusion of a waistband piece and a waistband insertion on the dress.  Why this is shown I do not know as the waistband is only used when making a separate skirt and the inclusion of it in making up the dress would make the dress skirt sit very low.

What I learnt in the process of making:-

Pattern size.  Many knit patterns have negative ease and it is the stretch that creates the fit to the body.  Consider carefully just how close you want the fit to be.  I checked on the internet to see if anyone had blogged about making this dress.  I found a couple of blogs that mentioned it was a very close fit.  I didn't want a really tight fit so went for the Small size, which is slightly larger than my own measurements.  In doing this I also took into consideration that the seam allowance stated was only a quarter of an inch (OK for a serger but I was not happy with this for a conventional machine) and by using the bigger size I could use a larger seam allowance if a pin-fit of the dress showed this was possible.  I also added extra length to allow for a lower hemline as usually patterns are a bit short on me as I definitely need knee coverage.  Actually it turned out that it was not necessary to add that length.

Laying and cutting out the fabric   I took great care when laying out the fabric ready  to cut that I did not stretch or distort it.  If you have a surface where all the fabric can be laid flat at the same time then you are lucky.  Otherwise you may have to resort to the floor or cut out a section at a time and don't allow any fabric to hang over the edge of your table.  I used ballpoint pins to pin the pattern to the fabric, it is much easier to insert them into jersey fabrics than ordinary pins.  Some dressmakers use weights and a rotary cutter but I haven't mastered this method yet and used sharp dressmaker's scissors.

Sewing machine decisions.  Sewing Machine Needles. I have used both ballpoint and stretch needles on knit fabrics.  I find that with any stretch fabric I have to do a test sewing on scraps to see which type of needle best suits that particular fabric- in this case it was the stretch needle.  Usually it is ballpoint for thicker, less stretchy fabric and stretch for thin jersey and those with more stretch.  For the hems I used a stretch twin needle.

Stitch.  For the seams I used a stitch called stretch stitch on my Janome, also known as lightning stitch due to its appearance.  It sews a stretchable seam that can be pressed open to lie flat.  In the distant past, when using an old mechanical machine I have used a zig-zag stitch set at a very narrow width but it does not press open as well as a stretch stitch.

Presser foot.  I did consider using a walking foot to make sure that the layers of fabric went through the feed dogs at the same rate  but my test sewing on scraps showed this was not necessary if I lowered the thread tension slightly.  Adjusting your thread tension or the pressure of your presser foot can help you achieve a smooth feed when sewing jersey.  Make sure you do not pull or stretch the fabric as your machine sews, just guide the material gently under the presser foot.

Making up.  It went smoothly for the most part.  The dress has no darts or fastenings to deal with and just pulls over the head.  I followed the instructions on making up almost exactly, except for the neckband.  The suggested way of applying the neckband meant that I would have machine stitching showing on the outer side.  I did not want any stitching showing at the neck so, instead of sewing the right shoulder after hemming the neckband, I applied one side of the band, then sewed the right shoulder and then hemmed the neckband by hand, using catch stitch which allows for some stretch to the band.

 After sewing the shoulder seams and insetting the sleeves I thought the shoulder seam might stretch with wash and wear so I tacked in by hand a piece of seam binding along each shoulder seam.  Not beautiful to see but it should do the job.  In future I will sew binding into that seam or put some fusible tape along the sewing line.

The only adjustment I made to the fit was to raise the waist seam very slightly at the front, tapering to nothing at the side seams.  To hem the sleeves and skirt I used a twin needle for the first time with a zig-zag stitch to produce a stretchable hem with two neat lines of topstitching on the right side.  I tried this out on a scrap first luckily as it was a disaster.  Then I realised that I had threaded the machine incorrectly and it was so easy once I put this right.  Wendy Ward has an excellent piece on two methods of hemming knits, including the twin needle method, on a domestic machine here.  The picture below shows my hemming result.

And here is the finished dress.  It actually looks better on me than the Dressform but I had nobody to photograph me.  Would I make it again?  Definitely.  It has gathered sleeve heads and, initially, I thought this might look too fussy but decided to give it a go.  Now I am glad that I did because I like it as a design feature that makes the dress a little bit different.  However, in opting to cut a slightly bigger size I forgot to adjust for my shoulders so I will make this alteration next time.

Do you have any suggestions for sewing with knit or stretch fabrics?  Have you found a pattern that would be good for beginners to tackle?  Let us know about it in the comments section.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


One of the most importants things in sewing is fabric.  So there are aspects we need to check before we get started.

CHECK that you are going to use fabric appropriate to the garment you are intending to make.  If you have a commercial pattern there are usually suggestions as to suitable fabrics to use on the back of the envelope.  Is it for woven fabrics or knit fabrics?  What sort of weight and drape does it require?  If you do not have suggestions for the fabric to be used try examining the materials used on similar garments made commercially to get an idea of what would work.

CHECK whether the fabric you have chosen has a nap or pile and thus the pattern pieces need to be laid out in one direction only.

CHECK whether the fabric you have chosen has a discernible repeat pattern that will require matching at appropriate points.  And check really, really thoroughly - I have used what I thought to be an even plaid when checking by eye only to find that there was a small variation on the thickness of the line and the repeat pattern occured at a far greater distance apart than I thought.  Luckily the seams to be matched were on the upper underarm so don't show really.

CHECK that you have laundered ( if you are using a washable fabric)  or otherwise prepared your fabric before cutting out.  Not only does any shrinkage then occur before you send time and effort sewing but this is also useful to see whether the colour runs so that, in future washes, you need to launder it separately from your other clothes.  Make sure when you hang it to dry that you do not hang it in such a way that the straight grain of the fabric gets distorted or that you get clothes peg marks distorting it where pegged.  Knit fabrics, which can stretch when hung, are best dried flat to prevent this distortion.

CHECK  whether or not the pins that you use could mark the fabric.  When you are cutting out, as far as possible you should always pin within the seam allowance so that any pin marks will not show when the garment is sewn up.  Think about the pins you are using- pins come in different types and there are special pins to use on silk, lace and knits.  If you are struggling to push an ordinary pin through the fabric or it keeps catching consider using a different sort of pin.  Using a ballpoint pin made it so much easier for me to pin certain jersey fabrics.

CHECK which is the right or wrong side of the fabric.  Sometimes this is obvious, at other times it is not and you can decide which to use but you will need to be consistent when cutting out.

CHECK that the thread you are going to use for sewing up your fabric is appropriate to the content and type of fabric, for example.  Here is a useful list compiled by The Sewing Directory with all sorts of tips on sewing different fabrics.

Have you any useful hints on this subject or stories of sewing a particular fabric (success or disaster)?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Second in the series: I Love...

I am carrying on Barbara's theme of LDC members sharing things they really like.


If you have never heard of ponte roma knit fabrics before Plush Addict has created a great blog post on this here. So why do I love them so much? Here are some of the reasons and the garments I have made with ponte roma knit fabrics. 

Stable Knit Fabric
If you have been thinking about trying knit fabrics ponte roma is a great place to start. It has a lot more stability than a slippery jersey and has a good weight and thickness which makes it easier to work with, both in terms of cutting out and under the sewing machine. As long as you use a ball point needle you should be fine. The fabric also does not fray which is great. 

Vogue 8667

Fit Issues
When I work with a knit fabric I find I have fewer fit issues than working with a woven as it moulds to the shape of your body so much easier and works very well with patterns that have negative ease (negative ease is when a garment is cut smaller than your actual measurements but stretches to fit).

New Look 6123

Comfortable Fabric
On a personal level I just love how comfortable knit fabrics are to wear. Ponte Romas are soft and warm and the perfect fabric for an Autumn/Winter garment. 

New Look 6735

So are there any cons to sewing with a ponte roma knit? The only thing that I have found is that  I have had varying success with finding good quality ponte roma knits that don't pill. If I am honest it is also something that happens with ready to wear clothing.

Where is the best place to find ponte roma knit fabrics? You can find this in most of the fabric markets in London such as Walthamstow Market, Shepherds Bush Market, Ridley Road etc. Fabric Land also supplies a wide range of solid heavy ponte knits at very reasonable prices here.

Has anyone else had any experiences with ponte roma knit fabrics? Which fabrics do you love or hate? 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Last chance to visit the Riviera Style exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum

If you haven't already been, scoot along to this exhibition before it closes on 13 September.  The Museum is closed on Mondays but open until 8 pm on Thursdays.  Their website gives the details of opening hours etc here
 It is not mentioned in the information that Art Fund card holders get in at half price.  Also there is a very nice cafe at the side of the museum should you arrive before opening time or need refreshment.

I loved this exhibition because of all the ideas on shaping fabric to fit the body and decoration that it gave me. The pictures that follow concentrate on women's garment but the display includes men's as well.  Before you get to the main exhibition there is  a room dedicated to the display of shoes by Rayne, a prestigous shoe makers.  Most of these are suited for a lifestyle where you are not tramping the wet streets of the city, in fact you are probably not tramping much at all, but they are beautiful things to look at.  Personally the shoes I longed for are these from the 1930's included in the Riviera Style exhibition.

I loved the way braid is used to trim these early bathing costumes.  I can see this being translated into a stylish shirtdress to wear today.

And these women's swimsuits from 1920's  show further inspiration for adding decoration to a simple garment.

Here is a close-up of one of them.

This boy's costume in knitted fabric shows a good way of stabilising knits when doing buttonholes by backing the placket with a woven fabric.

These two outfits , a playsuit from 1935 and a 1930's beach outfit could be worn today.
 There were not many swimsuits manufactured during the years of the WWII; most people knitted their own and I have a pattern for one in a book published at that time.  However this is one manufactured costume, which has the CC41 utility label, and I love it for the simple shaping, bold pattern and great colour combination.

 Here is a cotton playsuit and matching jacket from the late 1940's that is very much in line with the fashion for day clothes of the time.  I have just made a cotton jacket from a vintage pattern for a day ensemble that is very similar to this jacket here.

By the 1950's there was a lot more demand for leisure clothing, and fabric designs were so imaginative.  This blouse with cuffed kimono sleeves and narrow collar has a  matching pleated skirt and is made in a super print with scenes of produce harvesting.

This rose patterned 1950's playsuit, which also has a matching skirt, shows the variety of methods used to get a skin tight fit.  From the front you can see the princess seaming and centre front seam used to shape the bodice.

And from the back ruching is used to shape the side panels with a centre back zip to allow the tight fitting garment to be taken on and off.
 Ruching (or shirring) was a popular way of creating shape with woven fabrics using elastic tread in the bobbin.  This British cotton swimsuit from 1957 uses this and makes a garment that, elongated, could be copied to create a delightful summer dress for today.

From 1960's  I liked this set that seemed so typical of the period in shape and fabric
  And now the 1970's.  The skirt of the orange costume unbuttons for ease of dressing  and the red one is in then popular "wet-look" fabric.

And, although it is not a garment, I can't resist showing you one of the bathing hats, this one is from the 1960's.

This bikini from 1980's had a caption saying it shows how small swimwear became in that decade.  Difficult as it is to believe now, when you see me, I used to wear ones even smaller than this!

The display of contemporary swimsuits show that designers have an element of nostalgia in their creations.  Even men's swimwear has a print showing a resort in the 1960's and women's suit often have the ruched style of the 1950's.

John Galliano's design has echoes of the late 1940's ensemble in pink, a little fitted jacket and a belted suit.
 And the burkini harks back to the European costumes of the early 1900's.  There really is nothing new under the sun.
 Have you visited an exhibition that you would like to blog about on this iste?  Please contact Giselle through the Meetup site of the London Dressmakers Club for more information on how to do this.

Thursday, 20 August 2015


Tell the World- the Sewing World, that is- about something you really like.
The organisers hope to encourage members of the Dressmakers Club to post some blog articles.  Any member can do this, just contact Giselle or Barbarags, either in person at a meeting or send a message via the Meetup site, and we will tell you how.  I promise you it is really, really simple.

I thought of trying to persuade members to write about themselves, a new member each month but I discovered that you are so busy that it is hard to work to a deadline or you are so shy you hide your light under a bushel.  So this is a new theme, write what you want when you want, as long as it relates to sewing, about the things you love, are inspired by, couldn't do without etc.  Maybe it is a particular pattern that really works for you, your sewing machine or gadget that you think is brilliant, a shop or on-line company that has great stuff to offer, a course ( hands on or on the Internet)  that has increased your proficiency, a designer or exhibition that has inspired you, a particular style ( 1940's, Goth or such) that shapes the clothes you make or a book or magazine that gives you help or ideas.  There are so many possibilities  that I hope you will be queueing up to tell us about these things that make sewing a joy and about which you can spread the word .

To start off I am going to say  I LOVE OUR MONTHLY MEETINGS.  It is such a good way to meet other sewers in a relaxed and friendly way.  Often people say that they don't know any one else who sews and with whom they can talk dressmaking.  The monthly meeting attracts sewers of all standards and it is great to hear about and see what they are making.  You can pick up tips and ideas at every meeting, I hear people talking about fabric shops they have visited, where they buy vintage patterns. Often members bring along books, magazines or patterns that they have recently bought so you can browse and see if they appeal to you and maybe interested in getting them yourself.

At our August meeting I discovered that Celine had made the jacket and skirt that I plan to make in the future and she advised me that the fit of the jacket was looser it appeared on the photograph on the pattern packet and the skirt came up tight.  Even better for estimating how that pattern will fit me,  Celine and I appear to roughly the same size as we discovered when she tried on the jacket I had made and was wearing at the meeting.  This will give me a head start on the sort of alterations that I will need to tackle when it comes to making it myself so I am particularly glad that I went to the meeting.

You may get inspiration to tackle an item that you have always wondered about making.  At August meeting I saw an amazing corset and two beatuiful bras at a previous meeting, both of such quality that you would think they were made by professional makers.  Have you ever dreamed of making these to your own measurements?  Here is proof that you can.

Don't be afraid if it is your first visit, we are a friendly bunch and, although the meeting starts at 6 pm, we are always there  beyond 8 pm so pop in on your way home from work.  This month (August) we are sneaking in an extra meeting on Monday 24 August so come along to this one at Ev's near Waterloo station if you can't wait for the September meeting.  Check out the Meetup site for the details here

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Block fusing

Isn't learning to sew just really good fun?

You don't just get to learn how to do things in the general way (and following the instructions in the pattern envelope), - no, you also get to learn how to do the same things even better!  I really love that about it: that you get to figure out as much as you want to.

It is fantastic when you come across something that makes a process easier and more accurate - saving time and nerves. That's my kind of thing!  Particularly when the "old" way led to frustration because it just never turn out that well. Have you ever found that?

The new way of doing something can even turn out to not be quite easy, you just have to know of it: block fusing is one of those things.

Have you had to cut out a collar (x 2 in fabric and once more in interfacing), possibly even on the fold and found that your collar pieces ended up quite wonky?  It is so easy to get the 'on the fold' placement slightly wrong and you end up with a collar that's too tight, too shallow, or does any other kinds of things like sticking up a bit or having one side that's gone off the grainline, or even with a kink down the middle! Horrible. There's too much that can go wrong.

I did get round the 'on the fold' issue by redrawing the full collar pattern piece but it is still so annoyingly fiddly to cut out all three pieces and then iron the interfacing shape to one of the fabric pieces. I've never been really happy with the result doing it this way.

With block fusing you iron a piece of interfacing onto your fabric first and then cut out the lower collar piece out of the fused, stiffened material (plus the upper collar piece without interfacing: you only want one stiffened layer) - it is much more accurate and so much less fiddly nor frustrating!

You want to make sure you use a big enough piece of interfacing by allowing a generous enough margin but still avoid ending up with too much scrap material - I like to cut the interfacing along one long side of the pattern piece and leave enough on the other sides to take account of any slight shifts if your tissue piece moves around a bit.

You fuse your roughly chopped out piece of interfacing to your fabric, and then place the collar pattern piece on it to cut the interfaced layer (make sure you get the fabric grainline right) - you will only need one, so do make sure you cut the other layer from just fabric, without the interfacing.

You will probably find that interfaced fabric has shifted a little and that longer edge you cut earlier may need trimming - but you do get the chance to cut out a very accurate stiffened piece overall.

I have seen this technique presented on at least a couple of blogs, so if you want to know more then these blog posts have lots of photos that you can check out.

What do you think of cutting out interfaced pieces this way?

Please leave some comments below - we would like to know that the blog is getting readers! If you have problems posting, please mention it to me at a meeting.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Member of the month - Beth

How to sew a ball gown in a bedsit without (entirely) losing your mind
I am fairly new to sewing and when I started I shared a large two bedroom flat with one other person....  now I live in a very small "Studio" (really a bedsit) in East London.
This adventure started as most of my sewing projects do… with some beautiful fabric I bought nearly eight months ago. And for the sake of full disclosure I am still working on this project. But there is a photo shoot on the 31st of May  and I am hopeful it will be ready.  I will post photos of the completed dress. 

It being an African printed canvas as I had to buy 6 yards of this beautiful gold and turquoise material, with a complex geometric pattern.  For £15 how could I go wrong? If you live in London go to Dalston market and look for the store near to the butcher selling cows feet.
Having so much beautiful fabric I decided to make myself a ball gown length full skirt. To put this decision into context I live in a tiny bedsit in central London so sewing something this big was always going to be a challenge but little did I know how much of a challenge it was going to be.

Also I am also a very novice sewer and the only things I had managed to complete before starting this project were a pleated skirt and some shoe bags. But fortune and fashion favour the brave, and I foolishly thought that it would only involve sewing longer seams. A lot of unpicking for accidentally sewing the pleats together happened when sewing the skirt.

I experimented with various ways of pleating the fabric, but as it was very stiff it looked more like a kilt than a ball gown.  My solution buy a vintage vogue dress pattern and just not sew the top bit, and add half a meter to the bottom. Turns out that this would have some interesting structural implications.
My first challenge was cutting out the fabric.  I discovered that the fabric was very narrow compared to others that I have bought. This meant that the gold bits would be hidden in the pleats of the dress if I used my original vertical layout, so  I opted for a vertical layout. I also had to cut from salvage edge to salvage edge. 

My room is only 4.5m long so I needed to rearrange my furniture so that I would have a clear path to lay out the fabric.  This was like playing solo twister! 

I then started to place the fabric so that the patterns would match, given the horizontal & vertical patterns in the fabric, choosing a pattern with princess seams, was not the best idea (next time solid colours only!). I thought I did the pattern matching correctly but turns out I matched on the cutting edge rather than the sewing line. GRRRRRRR!!!!!!!  After much foul language, tears  and ripping out seams I got to a place that I was happy with, the patterns if not the fit.

The pattern was originally a dress and in altering it I forgot to take account of the weight of the fabric.  It being very heavy I needed to put some structure in place.  I originally tried grosgrain in place of boning on the outer skit, then tried to use it as casing for plastic boning. Neither really worked. I tried boning the inner skirt, but it wasn't strong enough.

In order to provide the support  that I needed I had to sew a underskirt and add a wider boning to it. Professor Pincushion has some useful tutorials. But this didn't look that great. I have now opted to sew the boning to the grosgrain then sew the grosgrain to the outer fabric. 

And this is where I have got to so far.  To do  this week: 
1) adjust fit of skirt (I have gained weight over the last 8 months)
2) finish sewing in the boning/grosgrain 
3) attach Petersham at waist 
4) attach underskirt
5) do zipper
6) hem 9m of circle skirt :( 

7) Find an occasion to wear this thing! 
What I have learned
  • Buy a foam gardening kneeler (pound shop ones are good), it will save your knees when pinning and cutting fabric.
  • Yes it is worth it to baste your seams.
  • If you are going to be walking on your fabric to cut it out wear clean socks.
  • Electrical tape is awesome for marking hemlines and holding seams together.
  • Write the piece number and direction to the centre front in the seam allowance so that you can remember which piece is which when you come back to your project  after a few weeks.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

A Day Workshop with Chinelo Bally,finalist in The Great British Sewing Bee, Series 2

Searching on the internet for dressmaking workshops I came across this one day workshop described as Freehand Cutting Dressmaking with Chinelo Bally.  It is run by Make Do and Mend in Chelmsford and this is what they promised - Learn how to make a garment using the freehand cutting method with Chinelo Bally (contestant on The Great British Sewing Bee). This course focuses on a stylish peplum top or, made longer, a beautiful dress to impress! 

 I had to find out more, having seen Chinelo's wonderful creations under pressure in the second series of Sewing Bee.  Would a one day workshop enable me to run up similar fabulous garments?  Well, I wasn't under the illusion that my sewing would be transformed in just one day but I did hope that I would be able to produce better fitting clothes that would be cut to fit straight on the cloth, rather than having to make alterations to the paper pattern and toiles before the final cutting out of the fabric, plus trying to avoid the difficulty of trying to fit oneself. I telephoned Make Do and Mend  to ask if one could make the garment without  help from another person with fitting etc.  I was assured that with this method one could do it all alone without recourse to any help, even taking the initial body measurements.  This sounded like a dream come true so I signed up straight away.

Getting to Chelmsford from London is easy as there are frequent trains from Liverpool Street Station and you can walk from the station, via the High Street, to Make Do and Mend in about 12 minutes if you do not dawdle window shopping.  You are asked to bring your own lunch to the venue and there are plenty of options, including a massive Tesco, on the walk to the venue to purchase something if you have not made your own packed lunch.

There were 8 students in all, of varying ages and sizes (from size 8 to 22).  The premises are delightfully decorated with enough room to carry out the tasks without getting in the way of fellow students.  We were all there before the start time and enjoying hot drinks and biscuits provided when Chinelo arrived.  She is the perfect tutor, calm, patient, giving clear instructions and always ready to answer any queries.

The workshop commenced with the taking of a given set of body measurements.  It wasn't quite true that you could take them all yourself as it is impossible, unless you are a contortionist, to measure your own back.  I would advise you to take your own tested tape measure to workshops as they can stretch with time and use.  I test mine against a rigid measure to make sure that this has not happened before I take measurements, unfortunately the one provided for me at the workshop was not accurate.  While we are on the subject of what to take to workshops I would also advise taking your own pins so you know that they are of good quality (not rough, bent or with blunted ends) and that you will have plenty.

 Next we were given a series of calculations to make using our body measurements, you needed a calculator for these and I had to ask another student to do mine on her mobile phone.  I think most of us hadn't used pi since school!  Here we are hard at work on our sums.

Chinelo then described how we should layout and fold our fabric and press it so that the fold lines could be used as guide lines for centre front etc.  This use of fold lines works well on cotton fabric and is quicker and easier than putting in a tacking line so I shall certainly be using it again with similar cloth.

Next, following Chinelo's directions and using the measurements resulting from the calculations, we marked out our pattern directly on to our fabric.  There is one problem that I could see with this free hand method - calculating how much material you need for making a specific garment.  With a paper pattern  you can do some test layouts to see how much  fabric you need before you go and buy the material but with this method you have to have your fabric in order to make the pattern.  We were told to bring 2 metres if making a top or 4 metres for a dress, I found, as I am slim, that 2 metres was more than enough for the sleeveless top plus the sleeves that I intended to add but another person was concerned that she might have insufficent cloth.

The subsequent step was the most terrifying for me- cutting out.  When using a paper pattern one has the opportunity to try the pattern against you, maybe measure the garment pattern and compare it with a similar fit of a garment you already have, to see if you have it roughly correct.  This freehand method was completely new to me and was a bit like taking both feet of the ground to pedal your first bicycle - would I proceed safely forward or crash disastrously?  I did not cut the armhole exactly as directed because I was intending to add sleeves, while the workshop is for a sleeveless garment, and my sketched-in armhole looked weird and not the lovely curve achieved by the other students but Chinello came to my rescue and corrected it.  After the cutting we had 6 pieces, bodice front, left and right bodice backs, skirt front and left and right skirt backs.  Below you see us with  our cut out pieces and ready to start marking in the bodice shaping.

Chinelo described how to mark out the darts on the front and back of the bodice and the way to sew them.  The way to sew the front darts is unusual and I found I had to rather play it by ear, as it were.  This was followed by sewing the peplum skirt pieces to the front and backs of the bodice.  To my amazement these matched exactly, not even a millimetre out.  The next step that Chinelo demonstrated was sewing in the invisible zip to the bodice back.  I had brought with me the 22 inch zip specified, this is fine if you are making the dress or a top with a longish peplum but it was too long for my top and, although Chinelo related how it could be shortened, at home I took the zip out and substituted a 16 inch zip.  I only got as far as putting in the zip before the end of the workshop.  Most of the class got a bit further than this and I could just have had time to sew up the sides but I did not want to do this because there was no opportunity to pin the seams and try on my bodice for fit before sewing.  Chinelo not only tutored us and helped with our queries and problems but also made a dress to the measurements of one of the Make Do and Mend team as she demonstrated the processes.  Here is the result.

My sewing continued- very intermittently- at home.  To make the sleeveless dress as per the workshop you finished the armholes and neck with bias binding before sewing up the side and shoulder seams.  However, for my sleeved version, I needed to close the side and shoulder seams, in order to establish the armhole into which to fit the sleeve, and I wanted to make a facing for the neckline rather than have a bias binding finish so this is how I progressed.

I pinned the side seams and discovered the fit was good except that the seam over my left breast was slightly out.  It took me a long time to rectify this because I had to keep trying on, tacking, re-trying, re-tacking numerous times and it was difficult for me to reach behind and use the back zip fastening.  I could manage to do it but it was a really hard and time consuming struggle  so, in the end, I only sewed when my long-suffering partner was there to zip me up and down.  Eventually, after a number of unpickings I altered it to my satisfaction.  I am sure, if Chinelo had been with me, she would have instantly spotted what I had done wrong and told me how to rectify it without all the trial and error. 

I puzzled how to create a sleeve and decided to cut out a toile for the sleeve from a New Look pattern for a top that I had made with a good fit to the sleeve.  When I made this up and tacked it into the armhole it fitted quite well and I only had to lower the sleeve cap a bit to create the pattern for a sleeve to the peplum top.  I made a facing for the neckline by making a tracing around the neckline using greaseproof paper.  I produced patterns for a front neck facing to be cut on the fold and a back neck facing to be cut in two pieces ( left side and right side).  I even managed to remember to add a seam allowance for the shoulder seams.  The rest of the sewing went really quickly, except for the hand hemming of the peplum, which seemed to take forever.  I was glad that I had not chosen to make a dress which would have required yards more hemming.

So now for the reveal, with photos taken at the crack of dawn by my dressing-gown-clad partner who I dragged into a cold but sunny garden.

Here's a close-up of the fit over the bust.
 And now for the back and side views.
  To sum up, here is the final verdict on the workshop.
a) Chinelo is a brilliant teacher.
b) This is the most fitted top that I have ever made in a non-stretch fabric and I never thought I could get such a good fit.
c) I learnt to trust measurements.
d) I found out that Chinelo is working on a book of her method  and it is due out in October 2015.  It will present a number of projects for you to make.  I will definitely be buying this.
a)  As is usual with this type of workshop, not enough time to get to the point that you want.  As I mentioned earlier, I would really have liked to have a quick try-on to see if I had made any major mistake.  If you have followed the instructions then it should come out correctly but I'm so muddle-headed, partly from the amount of brain cells that you lose the older you get and partly because I am naturally that way, that I would have liked that reassurance before I left the workshop.   I found it difficult to take notes and listen to instructions at the same time  but, after the workshop, you are sent a video on the process.
b) I had hoped that this workshop would show how I could apply the freehand cutting process to other types of garments  but I will have to wait for Chinelo's book for that.

Have you taken a workshop or done a course, maybe one on line, that you would like to blog about. Any member of the London Dressmakers Club can blog on a sewing related matter so contact Giselle or myself if you would like to post something.