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

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Autumn Skirt

Slapdashery - Autumn Skirt

My plans are always above my skills and most imaginings are very far from how things pan out. I have a limited amount of patience mainly because I have such limited time. Sometimes after a 9 hour day plus 1 hour commute (yes each way) & then bathtime/bedtime and dinner I wish I had an easier hobby! A lot of my sewing is alteration, being both taller than average and now (thanks recent baby) bigger than average. I buy in desperation and then start the process of trying to make something work. This is one such project.         


Inspiration: a chunky rust cord skirt I like that screams cuddly Autumn
Problems: Too big at waist; Too short to wear without leggings (don't like shorter than knees; Nothing to wear TODAY!
Possible solutions: what do I have in my stash/wardrobe that, as a long shot, "goes" with my autumn theme? An old skirt section of a 50s style dress that was so short in the body I hacked it apart but never did anything with it.
Things I thought about: utilising both existing hems to save time.
Things I hadn't thought about: attaching circle skirt to straight skirt not straight forward; distribution of fabric; properly measuring length I want.  
Method: Took out wedges from side to make cord skirt smaller. On to skirt addition: I pinned at side seams, then front & back, then half way between those pins, then fudged roughly even semi box pleats sort of inbetween those pins. Measuring? Pah, measuring is for people with time! (And who like to make a proper job of things).  Sewed a row of stitches on the right side a foot width from existing hem so I could follow hem with a straight line. Slid width dial to 5 and did same with foot in same place. Result? Two lovely rows of straight stitching. Drawback? I never pressed or tacked and some pleats caught backwards a bit at the edge. Oh well, who will know... thank goodness for overlap of cord hem. 
Result: I wore it as planned 45 minutes later on a nice autumnal day. 


Evaluation: I wish I'd added less extra skirt and made it shorter. I could alter it still... but will see if I wear it enough to warrant repeated effort. And whether it is worth hemming the hidden top of the extension fabric...? Well maybe next year. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

The Accidental Skirt

It wasn't supposed to happen.  As stated in my comment on my August sewing plans "before I sew anything, I MUST sort out my fabric and pattern stash, including all the remnants left over from past makes".  That is exactly what I started to do, diligently sorting into Washed, Unwashed, and sub categories Natural Woven, Synthetic Woven, Stretch and Remnants under 1 metre long.

One of the remnants that I came across was a seersucker cotton with woven blue and white stripes.  Seersucker is especially cool in hot weather as the puckering of the fabric allows air between the fabric and the skin  I knew this worked because I had made my partner an item from this material and it was his garment of choice in hot weather.  Encouraged by the news at the time that the warm weather was likely to continue, I couldn't help myself and set to thinking what I could make very quickly with this fabric .  I had made two summer tops recently ( three if you count the Laurel Blouse) so it was time to do something for my bottom half.  I really wanted a pair of knee length shorts but there was not enough fabric left for that so it had to be a skirt but one that gave me enough room to go bicycling about town.
 I wanted to use only items that I had in my stash.  I didn't have any suitable skirt pattern that worked with the amount of fabric that I had so I created my own and decided on an elasticated waist, both for speed and because I didn't have a suitable zipper but did have just the right size and length of elastic.  The remnant that I had was roughly L-shaped (150 centimetres at the widest point)  and the diagram below shows how I cut it.

The body of the skirt was consisted of two equally wide rectangles to reach knee length on me.  The waistband was a rectangle 3 inches wide and cut long enough to go over my hips plus about 2 inches, I prefer to pull the skirt on over my hips but it could be made with measurements that allow it to be pulled on over the bust.  The  measurements allow for a half inch seam allowance and result in a 1 inch wide waistband. I used the whole 150 cm width of the fabric to make a 1 inch wide tie belt, cutting a scant 3 inch wide strip.  The belt could have been created by folding the strip in half, right sides together, stitching along one short and the long side and then turning the tube to the right side and hand stitching the remaining short side closed.  However, being lazy, as it is an effort to pull the fabric through a tube this long I just pressed the seam allowances in to the wrong side, folded the fabric in half and top-stitched all round on the right side.

I also made carrier loops to go on  the waist band to keep the belt in place.  I cut a strip of the fabric and, since it was a much shorter piece than the belt and so not so much of a hassle to turn, sewed it into a tube right sides together and then pulled the tube through.  I then cut the cube into 7 equal pieces, each 2 inches long.

If I can I add pockets to a garment I do and I did for this one.  I made side seam pockets and,since this type of pocket is not visible, it can be made from any suitable fabric, which was just as well because I did not have enough left to cut pockets in the same fabric.  There are many excellent blogs on creating these pockets and here is one from By Hand London using the shape of pocket that I like and here is another fromTilly and The Buttons using another pocket shape and giving a down loadable pattern for the pocket.

To give greater freedom of movement and to eke out the fabric by having a very narrow hem I made a shirt tail hem at the bottom.  I drew this with a French Curve but there is a down loadable pattern and instructions on creating this for any dress at Christine Jonson Patterns.

So, with all my pieces eked out of the fabric, I sewed together the side seams and also the short sides of the waistband prior to gathering the waist of the skirt to fit the waistband (see diagrams 1 & 2 below).

The belt carriers were placed right side to right side against the skirt waist.  I put one at the centre back and one either side of the centre front and more between centre back and the front as shown below.  Placement can be as you wish.

Then the waistband is placed right side against the right side of the skirt waist, sandwiching the carriers in between skirt and waistband, and stitched together all around the waist.  The waistband was pressed upwards and then folded in half.  The folded waistband was secured on the wrong side (I did it using the "stitch in the ditch method") leaving a gap in order to insert the elastic and the carriers were looped over the top of the waist band and I hand stitched these down to the inside of the waistband.  The only thing left to do was to turn up a narrow hem. And, thus, another garment made,  no money spent on buying a pattern and my stash reduced- win, win.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Learn From Mistakes- MINE!

I thought that I would do a series of  posts on making clothes using pdf patterns available for free on the Internet.  My aim is to try to find less well known ones- most sewists know about the Sorbetto top by Colette or the Orla dress by French Navy or  the Plantain tee by Deer and Doe  so I searched for patterns that I had not seen before with the criteria that the pattern had to be something I wanted in my wardrobe, that I could make using fabric that I had in my stash already and that I thought might appeal to other dressmakers.

I came across French blogger Sophie Blossom and was attracted by her free pattern for the Laurel Blouse.  
 I was looking for a top with sleeves in a style suitable for the currently hot weather.  I liked the small Mao collar, V neck and over sized sleeve openings fastened by a cuff that extended into ties to be knotted into a large bow.  If you stay true to the original version there are no zippers or other such fastenings and all you need is fabric and thread. It seemed to have the potential to be worn over skirt or trousers or tucked in, to be simply casual or more dressy with a statement necklace in that V neck.  My version, shown below, deviates slightly from the original as you will learn if you read on.

Here is Sophie modelling her pattern.  I wish I looked that chic.

The blog is in French and my standard of French is that of someone who learnt it a very long time ago at school and has not used it much since.  Fortunately Sophie has produced a video, showing the simple construction of this blouse, that I believe could be followed by non-French speaking sewists.

So far, so good - BUT
This pattern comes in a large size range, listed as 34 to 52.  But what did these French sizes mean?  I searched the Internet for the equivalence between French and British sizes, there was a variation in answers but the majority seemed to say that size 38 was equivalent to a size 10 (the size 10 used by the commercial dress pattern companies) and this is the size that I used.  This was my first mistake.  I should have explored Sophie's blog further and then would found the menu option "FAQ Patrons" before I printed out the pattern and cut out size 38.  The FAQ told me exactly what the size measurements were and this meant I had cut out too large a size.  It also informed me about variations, according to the printer used, in printing out and assembling the pattern.  It told me why there was a gap in the pattern at the edge of the individual sheets and knowing this would have saved me much time and head scratching trying to work out how the pattern should be pasted together.  The reason was that the printer I was using would not print without margins and to remedy that I found that I needed to connect the small gap in the pattern lines, simply by connecting with a pencil line, once I had abutted the A4 sheets up against each other.
Of course I was cross with myself for not taking greater care to make sure I had read all the instructions (who hasn't been there?) but I decided to carry on with size 38, hoping to adjust it if necessary and thinking that a loose top would be no bad thing in the present heat.

I displayed another example of not thinking ahead and did not change the printer from "Print in Black"- the different pattern sizes are indicated by differing colours of line. Luckily I had only printed out the first 2 pages before realising this and changing to "Print in Colour".  However I forgot to check the levels of the colour cartridges and had printed out all the pages before realising that some colours were not printing at all and I had lines that were completely missing or very hard to distinguish. Thus I had to print it all again!**!- after changing the cartridges.

I had noticed that, as a coda to her blog on this pattern, Sophie had indicated that the back shoulder should be extended by 1 cm and the front shoulder reduced by the same amount- at least, this is how I translated it.  I proceeded to do this on the body pattern pieces.

I failed to register that I would need to adjust the front and back facing pieces as well.  Mostly I followed the order of construction demonstrated by Sophie in her video but I deviated from this by attaching the facings before I sewed up the side seams as I think it easier to sew the facings on while the garment can be laid out flat.  This is the point at which I realised my error in not making an adjustment to the facings.  I could have cut another set of facings but I confess to bodging it so the inside to the garment is less than beautiful- but it worked.  You should be aware, if you decide to tackle this blouse, that the notch on the sleeve head to match up with the shoulder seam also may need adjusting  but I found this was not a problem.  At first I was puzzled that there were no notches on the sleeve head to indicate front and back of the sleeve head but I then perceived that there was no difference between the front and back.

Sophie uses the flat sleeve method of inserting a sleeve.  In the video she demonstrates gathering the sleeve head before inserting but I found this was not necessary and and I could ease the sleeve into the armsyce with a little manipulation over my fingers and a small quantity of pins.  After the debacle of the facings all went smoothly.
I did make changes to the design.  I loved the over sized openings to the cuff  but I was not so enamoured of the dramatic bows to tie the cuffs, chiefly because I am clumsy, and get things like that entangled in the wires of supermarket shopping baskets or caught on door handles, and also because they would be a faff to tie without someone on hand to help.  So I came up with my own version.  I made some traditional cuffs, closed with a snap fastener. 

I used fusible interfacing on the inner cuff as I was not finishing the sleeve with ties.
I then made some faux bows out of rectangles of fabric sewn into a circle, folded in half and top stitched plus a strip sewn right sides together and then pulled right side out.
Above is an example of the circle of folded and top stitched fabric, the same pressed flat and the strip. The flattened circle is gathered in the centre.
And a piece of the strip cut off and wrapped around the gather and stitched to secure.
The intention was to stitch this bow to the top cuff thus-

However, when I did this, I did not really like it and, if I make this again, I would make smaller bows to attach or revert to Sophie's design of having ties but make them smaller, just long enough to tie into a knot and not a full bow.  At the beginning of this post I have shown the blouse with the bows I made pinned on the cuffs.  As I was not keen on this I did play about with the bows and I quite like the look achieved by attachng one bow at the bottom of the neck.
Unfortunately the dark navy colour of the background and the busy floral motifs of the material make details hard to discern.

Here is the neckline without the bow.  What do you think?

was thinking that I could adjust the pattern as I went along.  In the photographs I have displayed it on a dressform adjusted to the measurements of the size that I made up.  I have narrow, misshapen shoulders  and cutting a size too large was not a good move.  I tried to reduce the width of the shoulders slightly by putting a small amount of gathering in the centre of the shoulders.  This is not noticeable due to the pattern of the material  and the minuscule amount of gathering but it did reduce the width very slightly but not enough to prevent the shoulder seam drooping down my arms.  The bust point was far too low and the depth of the V neck dangerously near to exposing my bra.  The sleeves were too long for me - this is a frequent problem for me with sewing patterns.  So, for me, this blouse gets classified as an unwearable toile  and it will end up in a charity shop unless I can find someone to whom I can give it.  This is a shame because I like the pattern and will be attempting another version  but making sure I thoroughly check out the following first by measuring the pattern- actual finished bust size, bust apex, shoulder width, sleeve length, neckline depth.

was my choice of fabric, which was left over from a make in July 2016.  This is a cotton, not as light as a lawn but finer than a standard dress weight cotton.  Sophie advises not to use a stiff fabric, her original choice of a red cotton sateen was too firm.  She also warned that you may need to put fusible interfacing on the collar if you make it from a fabric with a lot of drape.  You need to strike a balance between too stiff and too floppy.

1. Read all the instructions- and then make sure you have read them all.
2. Pick the right size.  If not making a toile and you don't have the finished garment measurements then make sure that you measure the essential parts of the pattern and compare them with your body measurements to see the sort of fit the pattern will give.
3. If a pattern needs an alteration at one point then make sure that this does not have consequences for some other section/s of the pattern, which may need altering as a result.
4.  When printing out a PDF pattern make sure that your printer will deliver what you want and you have it at the correct settings for the task.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Tilly & The Buttons Frankie Tee becomes a Frankie Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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


And now some more views of the completed dress.

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

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

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Please contribute: tips for sewing a simple skirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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