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

Monday, 13 March 2017

Sewing tips - or I love YouTube videos!

Isn't YouTube fantastic for all kinds of things?  It most definitely is extremely useful for the many videos about sewing and dressmaking.  The trick is finding them.

Here is one on Ten Sewing Tips that I think is very good. One of the best 12 minutes you'll spend!

National Sewing Circle's '10 Sewing Tips from the Experts'

You may have come across some of these, but I bet that there is something here that is useful. I know that I had not heard of surgical seam rippers before (they sound kind of dangerous? But they could be quite good for the purposes described) and I thought the tip of how to test whether a sewing maching needle is the right size by threading the loose needle by hand and checking if the needle runs easily along the thread - that tip alone was worth the time watching the clip!

Some of the tips concern the sewing machine, others are general tips. All useful.

I really liked what Ellen March says about reading your sewing machine's manual.  Now if you're like me then your eyes glaze over at the thought of reading through the whole thing when you just bought your machine, or even later on (let's face it: none of us did that when we first got our machines. I know I didn't).  It takes a lot of focus and concentration to follow along - particularly when it is all theoretical at this stage, without an immediate practical use.

I would rather break this up into several sessions and avoid the long slog of a single sitting reading.

My problem is that I tend to forget things that I don't use soon after reading them. That's why my advice is to dip in and out of your manual and for that reason it is a really fantastic idea to designate a permenent place for it near your sewing machine. You'll want to know where it is at all times - it's beyond frustrating to start searching for the damn thing every single time you'll want it.

I learned how to do lapped zips from my manuel. The drawings are very useful and the description tells you what you're looking at. I don't do lapped zips all that often and therefore find it a very good idea to open my manual to remind myself how to place the fabric layers and which bit to fold over or under...

It saves time and energy that I prefer to use for actual sewing.

Having praised this video, I also have a book containing hundreds of sewing tips (by both experts and everyday seamstresses), called: "1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips", by Deepika Prakash from - it is very good. There is so much material in this book that I have not been able to even get through a tenth of it.  This blog post reminds me of the book. I'll think I'll go and put it with my machine manual!

What are your tips of something useful that you do all the time? Please share!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Sewing motivation in little steps

You know what sewing is like: you're really into it, making great progress, you're so looking forward to the finished garment... and then something happens that slows you down, interrupts your flow, gums up the works - you put your sewing aside, and despite your good intentions, you don't get round to pick it up again another day. 

Unfortunately it often happens that a short break from sewing results in a much longer period of not sewing at all.  Sewing is not like knitting that's easily put-downable and pick-upable, to coin a phrase.  You have to pull the sewing machine back out, free up the space for all the stuff you need, get all the bits back together, - and you generally need to plan things a lot more than just carrying on on impulse.

I have found it incredibly easy to lose my motivation to sew.  While the thought of my massive fabric stash, and all those lovely patterns, and all these exciting ideas what I could make (if only), and what design features I could incorporate... they seem to percolate away but not lead anywhere.

Tash has written a great post about sewing motivation, I very much enjoyed it.  My post is about  one technique that I use to overcome the not-sewing-but-I-really-want-to slump: do something, anything that comes to mind, even if it's just a little something.

Small steps, the itty-bitty tiny ones, are very useful to regain your motivation to sew again.

The sorts of things I like to do, just one at a time, - in no particular order:

  • Read through some of the sewing instructions to check how it deals with a particular part of the sewing process
  • Wind my bobbin - ready to sew whenever that might be ('bobbin mates' are great for keeping a bobbin spool and sewing thread together)
  • Look at my fabric and stroke it a bit (yes really. Though that works slightly better with wool when comtemplating a knitting project)
  • Clearing my cutting table. You never know it might make me spread the fabric out and maybe even cut out some of the pieces... or all of them once I get started and it's not as horrendously labourious as I expected...
  • If I am further along: pin something, measure something, baste or tack pieces together, do a little pressing with the iron, ...
  • Set up the ironing board, including iron, tailor ham, clapper or whatever else I like to use
  • Heck, even dust off my sewing machine.  It likes a bit of tender loving care occasionally
  • Write a bullet point list of steps needed from now to the end of the project, or just a couple of points of my next steps
  • Lay my dressmaking pattern envelope on my sewing table, or put it with my machine.  Adding the fabric to keep it company is good too
  • Cut out the pattern tissue pieces.  Even if I only start with the big ones, or the little ones, I can usually go on to do all of the ones I need (I have big freezer bags, with a ziplock top, that I put the tissue pieces, pattern envelope and other materials into ready to use)
  • Look at the pattern envelope to familiarise myself with the line drawing, what kinds of pieces there are, what shape they're in, where the seams are. That sort of thing
  • Take out the sewing instructions and circle all the numbers of the pattern pieces for my chosen view or option
  • Go out and buy or look for the other bits I'll need: check the zip colour and length against my fabric, pull out interfacing, set out pins, chose buttons (or pin different options to the fabric to see which I like), grab tape or ribbons, double-check that my sewing thread hasn't gone dry and brittle if I had it a while (been there, done that), double-check the pattern for anything I forgot
  • Check out the fabric in the mirror to see what it'll look like on me
  • Sew 'just' the one seam... which usually leads to a bit more... and this little bit here, and that one bit there...

Any of these things might be all I do at the time.  It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I managed to successfully put a stop to my slump.  And strangely enough one small thing is often enough to do a second little something: either straight away, or a bit later in the day.

The best thing about the little step approach is that everything more is a bonus and you're not expecting that you'll complete your project in a few hours from the time you get up to do anything.  If you're literally only reminding yourself of the sewing instructions then that's enough to get you thinking about things in a practical manner again.

And that seems to losen the paralysis of "I really want to sew, so why don't I?"

What other small steps can you think of?  What do you do to get yourself over a long pause in sewing?  What gets your creative energy flowing?

Please let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sewing tips - needles and pins

I bought a great book about clever sewing tips some time ago and promised myself that I would dip in and out - these are tips everyday people have come up with for making sewing easier, more accurate or better in some other kind of way. There's shortcuts and all kinds of tips in there: including stuff that I had never even considered before!

This is easier said than done because I misplaced the book. Ach, most annoying. Please let me know if anyone has borrowed it from me at one of the Dressmakers meetings!

We can come up with sewing tips ourselves, please add yours in the comments!  I am sure there are lots of useful things that I haven't listed. This blog post ne is all about pins and needles. Here goes, in no particular order:

To keep two layers together for sewing, put pins sideways (i.e. perpendicular) into your fabric: you won't distort the length of the two layers in relation to each other - pins that run parallel to the cut edge can bunch up the top fabric and shift the layers out of alignment.  NB: If you are left-handed you can try inserting the pins from the left for easier removal.

A great article on pinning for beginners here at How To Sew. And a very fabulous post by Threads Magazine here - who knew there could be so many tips on pins and pinning?

Removing pins
It is probably best to remove pins before you sew over them. Some people do as a matter of course - I find it just as easy to take them out as I sew along than do it later. One big thing: the machine needle usually slips past the pin and keeps on sewing but it is very possible for the needle to hit a pin and break. Small parts of a broken needle can get propelled incredibly fast and quite a distance and would be very bad news if they end up in your eye. It would do serious damage. I would therefore strongly recommend removing pins at all times. Even wearing glasses cannot completely protect your eyes and may provide a false sense of security.

Right side/wrong side
I like to put a pin with a glass head into the right side of all fabric pieces as soon as I cut them out. Some fabrics make it really tough to tell one side from the other, except when you've sewn everything up - then the one piece you got wrong may be glaringly obvious.  At some point I tried to use white glass pins for the front and darker ones for the back but found that too much faffing around.  Other people like to put a chalk X on the wrong side of the fabric instead.

Types of pins
Pins come in different lengths and thicknesses. If you want to take a look to compare them, places like John Lewis department store sell pins that are for all kinds of purposes (dressmaking pins, bridal & lace pins, appliqué pins, and many others) - I like to use the longer ones that are quite thin. These go into fabric more easily and also come back out without having to wrench them (not all fabrics work well with thin pins, others need different ones).  Try out several kinds, see what you like best.

Thread Magazine desribes an astonishing range of pins.

Pins to use with jersey (or stretch or knit) fabrics: pins are also available as ball point pins!  To be completely honest: I had no idea so you learn something new every day. (I also didn't know that there are even Glow-in-the-dark pins! Not kidding)

There are also other kinds of pins: U shaped fork pins, much longer with yellow glass heads or flat flower disks. The latter ones are for use in quilting and might come in useful for dressmaking too. There are also items that pin layers together without being pins: clips and similar that are often used in quilting. Use these on leather and other materials that should not be pierced - if you don't have these, try sellotape or pin only in the seam allowance.

Collecting spilled pins
Magnets are great for picking up spilled pins. Who wants to crawl around on the floor and get them stuck in your fingers. There is just one very important thing: please keep your magnet away from your laptop and computer. I have heard nightmare stories of people who have wiped their harddrive because their dressmaking magnet got too close. Better safe than sorry.

Machine sewing needles

Don't worry if you never paid attention to what kind of needle is sitting in your sewing machine. I sewed with the pre-installed needle for years before having to change it - but I don't think I was sewing very well.  Using the right kind of needle can make things a lot easier.

Universal or sharps needles are for woven fabrics. They come in different sizes, use a 70 or 75 for thinner fabrics, and a 80 or 90 for medium weight fabrics. If you sew with very heavy and dense fabrics then you may need a needle with a higher number but the 70-90 sizes are usually sufficient.

Ballpoint or stretch needles are for sewing knits, also known as jersey fabrics, Ponte, IDC, interlock or any other material that is not woven but made from interlocked columns of stitches similar to what you get when knitting. I find these ballpoint needles better even than universal needles that are supposed to be good for all materials - a ballpoint is just that bit better at slipping in between the fabric's threads rather than piercing them which is what the sharp needles do. In a fine jersey this can potentially cause holes and damage to the stretch fabric. Go with the right needle, it just makes sewing lots easier. I like to put a small dab of nail varnish on a part of the ballpoint needel that won't touch machine or fabric to tell them apart from sharp needles.

Sewing with different and specialised fabrics calls for different needles: there are all sort of special needles: leather, denim, metallic, to stitch, embroidery, gold embroidery, and a few others.

Here is a list of needles by Schmetz and a visual guide here.

There are also twin needles: a single shaft (for inserting into your machine just like an ordinary sewing needle) that carries two needles below. They are a distance of 2mm, 3mm or 4mm apart - depending on the effect you want to get. You use an ordinary bobbin with these. Make sure you use the exact same thread for all three stitchlines, I ran into huge problems using a different bobbin thread once (loop and loops and loooooooooooopppps of thread down below. It took me ages to rip it back out because it got entangled. I wouldn't recommend it)

Problems with stitching
Always make sure that your needle is inserted as high up as it'll go (check your machine manuel for the right position) and ensure the screw is tight. If your machine suddenly develops a problem with the tension, or it starts making a unusal sound, or any other issue - re-threading the machine (top and bottom) is your best bet. This sorts plenty of tension problems. But if that doesn't help then changing your needle is the next step: your needle might have got blunted, or bent too slightly to be noticeable, or just plain gone wrong somehow. A new needle can make a big difference. Make sure to get rid of the old needle (put in some paper and wrap with sellotape to avoid injuries) before you are tempted to use it again. I did run into the problem once that my sewing thread started to shred: it split into different strands and had bits of fluff hanging around. My needle's eye had gotten damaged and was splicing the thread. Get rid immediately.
I ordered some Millinery straw needles #10 (red box), they are incredibly thin

Hand sewing needles
I am still searching for the holy grail of thin but sturdy hand sewing needles that aren't too short for my poor short-ish fingers. Most hand sewing needles are not quite thin enough for me, I find them tough to get in and out of fabric. Also the needle eyes tend to be really tiny on the short, thin ones. I have heard of Japanese made needles that are supposed to be very good. If anyone knows these or can recommend something else, please let me know in the comments!

Threading your needle
Lots of people wet the sewing thread before threading a needle. There is a better way: leave the thread dry but instead put a little moisture at the back of the needle eye. Thread is attracted to moisture and will slip easier through the needle in order to get to the liquid. It sounds a bit mad but it does work.  If poking away at the needle doesn't work, do cut the thread again to get a blunt end (Please DO NOT use your dressmaking shears for cutting sewing thread, paper or tissue - this will damage and blunt them. Cutting thread will put a tiny nick into your dressmaking shears and you won't be able to cut thin fabrics like chiffon or satin without getting stuck).  If that doesn't work either: there are threaders you can try. Try online or at craft fairs. I have yet to figure out how they work, but amazingly they do!
If you can't get your auto threading device on your machine to work: once you wound the thread around the correct bits and hold it slightly tensed: make sure to release the leaver quite slowly. There is one moment just before the magic happens when you need to go extra slow. Try and avoid the leaver jumping upwards.

And last but not at all least: check your pins and needles for any that are bent or rusty. These just make your life more difficult and sewing somewhat annoying. Which would be a real shame. Let's all go with gadgets and processes that make sewing fun and easier!  Rusty pins can damage your fabric or even ruin it if your WIP is left for some time before you are able to go back to it.

These are the tips I was able to come up with. Can you think of anything else that's pin and needle related? Please add in the comments.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sewing Productivity

We all want to complete more sewing projects. I often look for articles on how to sew faster, and I love reading sewing blogs. In the last year I've become much more productive! There are lots of tips in different places so I've tried to bring them all together and also explain what works for me. The ideas are laid out into several categories including real life, sewing room setup, materials, methods and you. 

1. Real life
We're all busy people, trying to fit sewing into the gaps between jobs, family, friends and other hobbies. Sometimes sewing is the lowest priority and that's definitely ok. One difficulty is overcommitting oneself, which is a major problem I've had in the past. Is there much point creating a rigid queue of complex projects each needing sewn in two weeks, when in reality you might complete three garments in a year? Why not keep a note of all your ideas but use simpler patterns again and again so you don't have to fit them, and have a shorter queue? I now only have one or two projects on the go at any time so changes to the "queue" are easy. This means I'm more likely to finish items when I need them but I can still keep dreaming of fancy ballgowns. Another thing I learnt after the first few years of sewing is to think like the big fashion houses in terms of when to make garments. Make a coat in Summer so it's ready when the cold hits, rather than starting a coat in October, feeling cold, getting busy, giving up, buying one anyway and finishing the coat in March. And make a swimsuit in Winter!

Me and my real-life distraction :)
2. Setup
The ideal setup is a whole sewing room, or even part of a room with a table, sewing machine and ironing board always up. I used to have that but now the room is the baby's nursery so the ironing board is folded until needed. Often use my sleeve board or ham instead which are quicker to pull out! You may only have a tiny desk and that's ok. Whatever your situation, figure out how much stuff you can keep ready to go in an instant. This prevents time being wasted by setting up and putting away equipment.

My sewing room setup: an old school desk with patterns in one drawer and notions and scraps in the other. Fabric is in the large bookcase, and ironing accessories are to the left of the desk. I made no effort to clean up before taking this photo!
Minimising the amount of patterns, books, notions and fabric you have also makes it easier to find things when you need them. What is minimal to one person and their sewing space is different to another so this is your decision. I have one shelf on a bookshelf which contains fabric. My sewing desk is an old school desk with two deep drawers so one contains patterns and paper, the other contains notions and fabric scraps. I try to keep all these areas regularly cleared out.
The pattern drawer: large patterns in pockets on the left, smaller ones on the right. I have around 60 patterns in here, neatly arranged. 

The other thing that helps productivity for me is using phone apps to organise my patterns and fabrics. I use TapForms for both but a lot of people like Cora for fabrics. I'm fairly sure both are only available for iPhones, but please comment below if I'm wrong! TapForms is database app where you can completely customise all the fields. Examples: 1. I have all my patterns stored with a photo of the front cover, the type of garment(s), the era (40s to modern) and the back cover, with an optional field for TNT; 2. Another form for all my fabrics with a photo, width, length, freeform box to note any scraps or other info, type of fabric and drape; 3. Another for notions... I also keep crochet patterns in one but that's not relevant here. This app takes longer to set up than some, but if you want something completely customisable it's amazing. It also has a search function. Using the database means I can search everything quickly when planning garments or buying fabrics.  It also prevents lots of fabric and patterns being scattered around each time I start daydreaming about making new things.

Lastly, my sewing queue is almost nonexistent. I work on a maximum of two garments at once, with the patterns, thread, fabric and all the bits and pieces for both in a shoebox. If I get bored of one I change to the other but I never have more than two. It would mess up the sewing area and confuse my tiny brain. Also, keeping to this means fewer UFOs.

3. Materials
a. Fabric and patterns
It's easy to get overwhelmed by patterns and fabrics, especially if a bunch of both get pulled out each time you ponder a new project. I have 50-60 paper patterns at any time and often clear out ones that I think I won't use again, or represent my fantasy self rather than being items of clothing I will actually wear. 

Regarding notions: keep a few extra reels of thread which match most of the clothes you make, as well as a few weights of black and white interfacing, zips, buttons, stay tape and anything you use a lot. Chuck the rest or use it up. I use up thread in colours I don't normally need by making tailors' tacks.

b. Cutting
A lot of bloggers swear by using rotary cutters rather than shears. They do cut faster and don't lift fabric as they cut, however, they need a big mat underneath and the blades need replaced often. There's an interesting article on Fashion Incubator about why they're not actually better at cutting: As ever, it's really up to you. Also while cutting you can use weights to hold the pattern in place on the fabric. These need storage space and don't hold slippery fabrics as well, but on the other hand they are much faster to place and remove, and won't leave marks in the fabric. I prefer pins but use as few as possible for each pattern piece.

c. Sewing
A comparison of sewing machines is definitely outwith the scope of this post, however, I would like to suggest exploring different feet and needles as these can help you sew better as well as faster. Most machines can take an invisible zipper foot and rolled hem feet of different sizes. I am a recent convert to twin needles for hemming. Lastly, change your needle often. When they get blunt or damaged you only end up unpicking which doesn't save time at all!

d. Pressing
Pressing every seam is important and is easier and faster with the right equipment. My iron is a Rowenta with lots of steam and a million holes on the bottom as well as a special point for tight corners.
Check out my iron!

Some people get big gravity-feed irons to press faster and better but these take up more space. Instead I would suggest investing in pressing accessories: a tailor's ham is amazing to help press curves; sleeve boards make it easier to press seam in narrow tubes e.g. sleeves or childrens' trousers; clappers help set in the seam and press cloths prevent fabric scorching and thus recutting of fabric. The only one I don't yet have is a clapper, though I definitely want to get one, and here's why:
My ironing gear: large ironing board, old tatty sleeve board from a charity shop (50p!), tailor's ham and press cloths. 

4. Methods
a. Blocks/slopers, toiles/muslins, and reusing patterns
Making your own blocks takes an initial time outlay but saves a lot later. Having even a basic bodice block means you can take any pattern and quickly check there is enough space around the bust, that the bust dart actually ends at the apex of the bust, and that the shoulder slope is correct. These things are hard and/or annoying to alter once you've cut and started sewing! Using a block often means you don't need a toile/muslin.

If you don't have (or want to have) a block, making a toile is also useful, particularly if the garment has unusual features, your fabric is expensive, or ripped-out stitches would leave marks e.g. leather. I use cheap jerseys for testing out knit patterns and cut up old duvet covers from charity shops for patterns requiring woven fabric. Duvet covers give the most fabric for your money.

If you'd rather not do either, and jump straight into making things (and there's no shame in that!) one way to sew faster is to reuse a pattern several times as you know the fit and the sewing order already.

b. Pinning
Some sources advise using no pins while sewing. I think this really depends on how comfortable you are with the techniques e.g. curved seams as well as straight, armholes et cetera. I've seen articles suggesting using no pins while sewing in sleeves, but these are industrial machinists who do thousands. Personally I've moved from about 20 pins to 6 for a set-in sleeve, going with my comfort level and certainty that I won't have to unpick the whole thing again! Pinning is also very dependent on the fabric itself. If the two layers are flat and adhere to each other well with friction, you can easily forego pins; if one layer is shorter or the fabrics are slippery, use pins liberally. Again, the question is whether you are likely to have to unpick, losing the time you "saved" by not pinning.

c. Sewing order
One thing that has improved my speed and enjoyment of sewing is changing the sewing order and doing as much sewing as I can before stopping to press, trim etc. Instead of sewing a dress by making the bodice, then the skirt, then the sleeves, and pressing in between, do as many sewing steps as you can, then press as much as you can, then sew... It feels odd at first but does become second nature. While sewing, you can even "chain" the pieces by not cutting the threads in between until you finish sewing as much as you can. I have a small sewing desk and get confused by the resulting lump of pieces, but some people find this really helps their speed.

d. Specific techniques
There's not enough space here to discuss all the different techniques one can use when sewing. I like to read sewing blogs to get ideas and google specific techniques only on occasion. With each new technique, one must balance the time saved with the finished result. I recently made a knit skirt with a waistband containing wide elastic. I found a brilliant set of instructions for sewing a casing fast and neatly, so sometimes you can get lucky with both!

5. You
The usefulness of all of these tips depends on your skill and comfort levels and how much you wandt to push your boundaries. Just because you CAN sew fancy couture methods doesn't mean you have to every time. It's often nice to make a simple pattern with only a few pieces.

Find your mental blocks. If you hate cutting, why? Can you change your materials or processes or get someone else to do it? If you have fitting issues find a buddy to help. Figure out where your UFOs often halt and work through the issues.

Sew in small increments. If you only have ten minutes, do some stay stitching or change the needle and thread. Sometimes I will wind a bobbin while my baby's playing on her changing mat, or I'll simply position the next piece of fabric and put the needle down so that sewing can start immediately next time I have five minutes. Out of all the tips I've just written out, this by far is the reason I manage to sew so much now.

That's it! I hope you enjoyed reading.

A final gratuitous baby photo :) 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sew Small- and use up those scraps.

There are times when you need to think small. When you just can't face or don't have the space to make something that takes more than half a metre, when you are confronted with a growing pile of scraps that you cannot bear to throw out, when you need something small to take with you when travelling, when you want to play around with fabric - those are the times I am thinking about.  If you have small children for whom to sew you may have a ready outlet for this type of sewing - bibs, caps, coverall aprons for messy play, toys, pencil cases for school.  Cushion covers, pot holders, coasters  are all possibilities but there is a limit to the number you need for your own home. Thus I am pleased that I decided to take a doll-making class with the multi-talented Maria Anderson-Contreras, pictured here during a class break, at the end of November 2016.

That's my effort in the foreground on the way to completion .  All the materials needed were provided in the workshop so I didn't have to remember to take anything with me.  The doll pattern is simple as the the legs and arms are not separate pieces, here it is laid on calico ready to be cut out.

As directed I sewed around the doll, reinforcing the stitching at the necessary points, leaving a section unstitched at the top of the head where the stuffing would be inserted.  The face of the doll had been ready painted by Maria, there is no way that I could get such a lovely face.

My initial idea, when I booked the workshop, was that I could make dolls with the features of family and friends taken from photographs digitally printed on to the cloth but Maria pointed out that the proportions of the features on a doll are different to those of an adult and my idea would not work or be attractive.  Better start practising drawing faces!  Once I had clipped the seams in the appropriate places and turned the doll right side out, it was time to start stuffing.  This was made easier by using straight forceps to get the stuffing down the narrow arms and legs.  These are inexpensive items, £3- £5 depending on the length, available from medical suppliers and fishing tackle shops (they are used by anglers to get hooks out).

Hair is made from knitting yarn and applied with glue, although I used a combination of glue and stitching.  Once applied you can style the hair as you  wish, long tresses, plaits, a bob- the choice is yours.  I decided on a chignon.
Next it was time to make some clothes from the tiny patterns provided - a sleeveless top and a full gathered skirt with a ribbon tie at the back.  I only had time to get halfway with completing these- too much time chatting and tea drinking!  I intended to make these up swiftly but Christmas preparations and minor illnesses intervened and I have only just given the doll some clothes.  Here is the front and back views of her in the floral two piece I started in the workshop. I made a tulle petticoat to go underneath.

Here she is in casual gear, a cotton top (from the same top pattern but with extended arms and slightly looser fit) and denim skirt.
The tops are fastened with tiny strips of velcro and the skirt with a tiny press fastener. 
I am not happy with my attempt at shoes, made with red felt, so I will experiment further.  Meantime I am thinking of making her a shift dress in this bright striped jersey scrap - I am sure I will have fun playing about and sewing things for her. She can be my alter ego and wear all those items I no longer can or the styles I fantasise about. 

I may even become addicted to doll making, as Maria has.  Anyone interested in taking a workshop like this or having a personal lesson or commissioning a doll can find more information on Maria's web site 
And what about scraps of knitting yarn, as I know many of us knit as well.  My solution, a godsend in this frosty weather, has been to make Mobius Twist Headbands in crochet following the instructions on Youtube from Oana's crochet Channel .  You can make them as wide as you like and wear them with the twist in the front or back.  How my ears have thanked me for these, a few of which you can see below.  Even a beginner can make one quickly.

And finally, another cold weather scrap make - gloves.  They do not have to be one colour, in fact the more stripes the better in my opinion.  These are knitted on two pins using yarn of the same tension and I knit them both at the same time, using yarn from the beginning of the ball for one glove and the end of the ball for the other so the stripes will match in width and thus I do not have to calculate how much to use on each glove but just knit until there is not enough yarn left to complete a matching row on each glove.  They don't have to match at all and I am inclined to have odd coloured fingers in my next pair. Just remember to knit one shaped for the left hand and one for the right hand.

Anyone have any tips for using small pieces of fabric or knitting yarn?  Perhaps you can tell us about it in a comment below and then post a photo on our club web site in the Member's Makes  Album.

Friday, 27 January 2017

London Dressmakers Club meetings

Do you live in or near London and fancy coming to our monthly meetings?

This is the link: London Dressmakers on

We schedule the monthly meetings between Tuesday and Thursday per quarter so anyone with a regular evening class is able to attend at least two out of three. January's meeting was on a Tuesday, February will be a Wednesday and you can guess what weekday the meeting in March will be. The following quarter we start over, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

You may not have heard of Southwark, it is the tube stop between London Bridge and Waterloo - extremely conveniently only a few minutes from central London. Our meeting place is a lovely cafe under the arch in Isabella Street. Detailed directions are in the Pages section on the Meetup site.

Someone will be there from 6pm and we usually stay until at least 8.30pm if not even 9 o'clock. The get togethers are very informal: you can turn up whenever you want to and leave at any time. There is no agenda and no program.  We sit and chat about all things sewing (and all sorts of other stuff), the meetings are very social.

We are obviously not able to bring sewing machines along. We haven't found a venue that would be affordable so EV is as good as it gets. The staff are lovely and let us get on with it (we hope we are good customers for them) - many of us have some kind of craft project with us. Maybe hand sewing or mending, basting or similar things - or something other than sewing. It is up to you. New people who join us often say that they wish they had brought their own craft project. We seem to be quite motivating in that respect!

Hopefully in other respects too: we love to share our love, enthusiasm and knowledge of sewing. So if you ran into a dressmaking issue and need some advice, ask us. Even if no-one knows, we may know of somewhere to look. Some of us are keen on pattern drafting too, others are into making costumes more than everyday clothes. The group's members are a varied lot and we love meeting new people. So don't be shy, come along and see what the meetings are like.  We don't charge the (very small annual) membership fee on the first evening, if you like it and come back then I much appreciate the contribution towards the organiser's fee that I pay to Meetup.

Do you live too far to travel to meetings but you would love to be part of things?  Check out our sewalongs - they are virtual events that we don't meet up for.  We pick a theme of what to sew and participants can then post comments to share what they are hoping to make, or ask questions if they want - we usually get quite a lively exchange going. There is also a photo album that anyone can post a picture of their item to - lots easier to show then try to describe something.

The sewalongs are posted for a two week period, this is the longest that Meetup allows an event to be scheduled. Sometimes we put on a second part if we feel that some members would like more time.

The current sewalongs are about checking through unfinished projects, known as UFOs, to decide what to do with them (Part 1 is almost over (January 2017), Part 2 is here March 2017). There is a separate sewalong for picking a UFO project and finishing it (February).

One of our members suggested a sewalong to Make Two garments from the same pattern: two different versions, or a toile and the actual project, or any other kind of making two things that you only need to mess around with for the fitting once. This is also in February, immediately after the other February sewalong.

We also post monthly reminders about Sewing Resolutions that we hope will motivate us into great progress - you can also take part in these by posting in the comments. There is one a month so please check the general website.

Are there any questions about the group that I haven't answered?  Please let me know in the blog comments underneath this. Thank you.

Hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Tilly & The Buttons Cleo Dungaree Dress Part 3- In which I sew another version.

I was so pleased with my first version, like so many other sewing bloggers, that I decided to go ahead and make another, learning from my original effort. and making a few changes.
The fabric was a faux snakeskin in a bronze colour with a sheen, purchased about three years ago for a pittance at 34 Market Row, Brixton.  I did away with the centre front and centre back seams, as such seams would detract from the effect of the fabric, and added some length.

To  leave some walking room, as I was making a longer version, I left slits at the bottom of the side seams but rounded the side edges for a shirt tail effect.

 I also drafted new hip pockets with rounded bottoms echo that hem style.

I fully lined the dress and applied the fusible interfacing to the inside of the lining.  Below you can see the inside back of the Cleo.

The lining was from the Sewing and Craft Store by Tooting Bec tube station and was such a gorgeous purpley bronze colour that the photograph doesn't do justice. I would love to use it to make something you can see, it's ex-Jigsaw and so soft and smooth.  The buttons, which have an unusual concave shape, came from Simply Fabrics, Brixton. 

Unfortunately I can't take a photograph of it being worn as I have no "volunteer" photographer to hand today.  I cannot even take one of the dress on my Adjustoform Tailor's Dummy as the shoulders are too wide to get the dress on it.  This just shows that, helpful as they may be, these type of dummies cannot reproduce you exactly, I always have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment to garments I make. The best I can do is below.
I have enthused before, in the previous parts of this particular blog, about this pattern.  Not only is it easy to make and has no zips, darts, gathers or pleats to contend with but it is takes very little fabric and could be a stash buster, especially if you do a short version, - imagine it with contrast pockets and straps, using two fabrics, maybe two different colour denims, and dividing it horizontally, vertically or creating panels.  Let your imagination run wild! One day there may even be a part 4 to this blog if I make another.
Have you made a Cleo?  We would love to see a photograph of it in our Member's Makes Photo Album on The London Dressmakers Club Meetup site.