Should I stay or should I go?

As with regards all things cushty and uncomplicated in my life, the little crazy in me feels an uncontrollable urge to mix things up a little!

And so my friends, I am toying with the idea of going self-hosted. Why? Well I am still asking myself the same thing, really. But mostly because I like the sound of more control!

I am planning on leaving the safety net and support of WordPress.com to go it alone with WordPress.org.

I want to have more fonts at my fingertips and mix my own colour palette. Can you hear that frustrated graphic designer banging her head against a brick wall! I did a coding course a year or two ago and it seems a shame not to put my hard learned knowledge into practice too. Perhaps a little online shop further down the line. . . Really getting carried away now!

This isn’t an imminent operation but I am close to pressing that export button. My massively main concern is that I may loose some of my wonderful WordPress followers in the process. Not the Email subscribers among you, you are safely nestled in my adoring arms. But apparently there is no function that will export the WordPress followers list which is such a shame. I so don’t want to leave you behind.

It is of course the comments and support of you, my fabulous followers that keep these posts coming, that inspire new work and encourage me to take on bigger challenges, learning so much more in the process. And for that I can never be grateful enough.

So just as a heads up, if you would like to hang on to your ooobop! notifications (unless of course you want me off your back!) then please add me to your Bloglovin’ list or whatever other blog reading service you might use or indeed subscribe by Email as I believe that will transfer.

And please, please, please, you got to let me know, if you have any advice or wise words of experience to spur me on… or put me off!… please do. I’m going into this a bit blind and so worried I’ll ruin everything.

Thanks in anticipation for sticking with me, kids! I’ll keep you updated as and when I press that button (this indecision’s buggin’ me!) xxx

Shedding some light on a dark subject

Head torch
I am time-starved. Especially when I get home from the office. Even more especially when it’s dark and my energy levels have dropped through the floorboards.

It’s frustrating mostly because I function fully from morning to afternoon, busily beavering away, designing, revising and artworking books like there’s no tomorrow. At lunch, I compose lists on Post-it notes. Lists of what I fully intend to do when I get home. Sewing projects mainly. Finishing off WIPs, drafting new ones and watching YouTube tutorials but then, as I walk through the door, adorned with Sainsbo’s bags, check on the homework, prepare the dinner, feed the masses, wash up and put the children away… someone or something sneaks up behind me and blatently steals my ‘get up and go’!

I find myself making excuses to myself. My best one is: “These damned energy efficient lightbulbs are rubbish. I can’t see a thing!”

I offloaded this woe to a work colleague on Wednesday and she suggested a head torch. Genius! Bhavini always has the best ideas. (Apart from Helen who invented #TuesdayCheeseDay!)

By Thursday I had completely forgotten that my half-circle skirt had already taken 5 evenings. And I had nearly forgotten that I had to unpick the hem already because I stupidly didn’t level it before stitching. Even when I did try to level the hem, apart from the light failing and it being virtually impossible to see where I was marking on a black fabric, the dress-form was slowly sliding downwards every time I twisted it round. So by the time I got back round to the first pin, I was pinning higher and higher! I said nearly forgotten!

Because thanks to Bhavini and her brilliant suggestion, Mr Ooobop’s head torch worked a treat. I could now see what I was doing, without a care that I looked like a complete fool, and that self same evening, my perfectly levelled half-circle skirt was finished.

working with head torch

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the displeasure of a bias-stretched hem – honestly, two and a half unnecessary inches longer at the front more than the sides! – but I will never ever wing it again.

To get it right, I first measured the length I wanted with a tape measure from the waist, down the side seam to the hem and placed a pin. I then measured up from the bottom to the hemline, using a metal rule and continued pinning the new hemline all round. I rotated the whole dress-form instead of twisting it on the pole this time!

I then marked with tailors chalk, 1.5 cm all round, below the pins and once I’d double checked the markings, I cut off the offending excess.

I used black bias tape to complete the hem. Worked a treat!

I don’t have a shot of the finished skirt to show you as yet – I’m hoping to persuade my trusty photographer to take some at the weekend. But I do have a handy new device in my sewing box… hoorah!

How to make a Roman blind / shade

And here is the long awaited tutorial. Sorry I took so long. I completely underestimated how long it would take to put together! Despite the lengthy post, this really is a simple sewing project, involving jus a few lines of straight line sewing. Please do a mock up first to check I haven’t given you a bum-steer! And please do point out anything that is unclear or needs adding.

It does, however require some very careful measuring and a few calculations.

No corners must be cut. The accuracy in the measurements will ensure perfectly fitting and super smooth operating blinds.
Remember: Measure twice (at least!) and cut once!

roman shades during day

You will need:
Furnishing weight fabric for the outer
Curtain lining for the backing.
Nylon cord. As a guide I used 9m but yours may be more or less.
Small plastic rings
4 screw eyes
Cleat
Acorn / cord pull.
Strong self adhesive velcro. The width of your window frame or baton.
Wooden doweling or synthetic rods cut to size.


1. Calculate the size and cut your main fabric roman shade step 1
Measure the size that you want your finished blind to be.

Add 5cm side turnings and hem allowances on all sides, to this measurement, and cut your fabric.


roman shade tutorial step 22. Press Allowances
Press the allowances all round. You could even mitre the corners if you wanted to be really clever… er…I didn’t!
No need to stitch in place at this point. All will become clear!

 


roman shade tutorial step 33. Now to prepare your lining… and some serious sums!
Start with the measurement of the finished size of your blind. This will include allowances of 2.5cm all round.

First work out how many sections/folds you want to incorporate into your blind.
I chose to have 7.
The bottom panel must be half the depth of the others which are equidistant.
To calculate this I doubled 7 (panels) to make 14 and deducted 1 to make 13 and divided this into the finished depth of the blind (150cm in my case)
so:
7 x 2 – 1 = 13
150cm / 13 = 11.5

11.5 is the half size panel at the bottom
The remaining 6 full size panels will be double that at 23cm (see fig 3)

You will also need to accommodate the dowels so extra fabric will be needed to allow for the casings.
Measure the circumference of your dowels and allow a couple of milimeters extra, otherwise you will struggle to get the dowels in the casings.

My casings were 12mm.

12mm x 7 panels = 84mm (8.4cm to be added to the final depth of the lining fabric)

So the finished measurement of the lining fabric to be cut is 80cm (width) x 158.4 (150+8.4)

Always measure twice and cut once!
You can now cut your lining to size.


4. Mark the positions of the panels then hem all round

Mark the positions of the panels, starting with the bottom one, in my case, 11.5cm from the bottom. I chose to mark on the right side with chalk to make the lines easier to follow.

Mark up from this point, the depth of the casing, in my case 12mm. From that point, mark the next full size panel up, in my case, 23cm
Mark the depth of the casing and from that point the next full size panel. Repeat the markings for the rest of the panel.

The side turnings and hem allowance is 2.5cm all round. Fold and press in position.
Sew all round close to the edges of the lining fabric so the rods wont get caught in the seams.


roman shade tutorial step 55. Create casings for rods

With wrong sides together and guide lines matching, fold in between the casing lines and press.

Sew accurately on the marked lines from edge to edge.
Repeat this for the remaining casings.
Your lining is now complete and ready to attach to the main fabric.


roman shade tutorial step 66. Attach prepared lining to main fabric

Lay the main fabric, as prepared in step 2, wrong side up on a flat surface.

Lay the prepared lining, wrong sides down, on top of the main fabric, making sure it sits 2.5cm in from each edge.

Making sure both layers are perfectly flat, pin together along the casings, so the casings are facing down towards the bottom hem.
Use as many pins as it takes to secure your two pieces together with no bubbles or creases!

Sew neatly and carefully from one side to the other, directly above the casings, sewing both lining and main fabric together.

Hand sew the top edge of the lining to the main fabric. Or machine stitch if you prefer.


7. Attaching the velcro

Stick the loop side (the fluffy side) of the velcro to the top edge of your blind.

Stick the hook side (the spiky side) of the velcro to the top edge of your baton or window.

NB. I used the strongest adhesive velcro I could find, which worked beautifully but to ensure it didn’t separate from the fabric I also hand stitched it.
This is very difficult but worth the effort to strengthen the bond. Do not under any circumstances try to sew it on the machine. The adhesive will totally ruin the needle and get stuck!


roman shade tutorial step 88. Insert the rods and sew on the rings

Inset a rod into the hem of the main fabric and hand sew the hem of the main fabric to encase it.
This helps to give the base of the blind a bit of weight and keeps it hanging nice and straight.

Hand sew the lining hem over the main fabric hem.

Insert the other rods into the casings and hand stitch the ends closed to stop the dowels falling out.

Hand sew 3 plastic rings to the centre of each dowel casing, one at each end and one in the middle.
It is important that the rings are perfectly aligned with each other.


roman shade tutorial step 99. Attaching the cords

Screw 3 screw-eyes into the the underside of your baton or window frame.
They must be aligned with the rings you have attached to your dowel casings.

Attach the 4th screw eye to the side of the window frame, in line with the others.

Attach 3 lengths of nylon cord to the bottom 3 rings. Ensure the knots are tied securely.

Assuming your pull cord is going to be on the right hand side of the window,
run the first length of nylon cord up through the right hand set of rings. It will need to be long enough to do this and then run along the top 3 screw eyes and the side screw eye, down to the cleat, plus a little bit more!
Then run the middle cord up through the rings and allow enough to run through the centre and right hand screw eye, and the side screw eye, down to the cleat, plus a little bit more!
The final cord runs up the rings in the same way, through the top right hand screw eye, through the side screw eye and down to the cleat plus a little bit more!

NB: The screw eyes will sit below the velcro in real life!


10. Attach the blind to the window

You can now attach your blind to the window by pressing the velcro edges together firmly.
Thread the cords as detailed above.
With the blind at the lowered position, carefully make sure that the cords are neatly and precisely lined up. Gently pull on them individually and secure all three cords together at the ends with an ‘acorn’ or cord-pull.
Attach your cleat, proudly raise your blind, marvel at the magical way it folds up and wrap the cord around your cleat. Or lower it and raise it a few more times just for the joyfulness of it all!

Pinstripe Spencer Jacket: the inside story

finished jacket by the fountains

finished jacket by the fountains

First I must thank you all for your lovely comments on my initial post about the finished jacket. I’m so touched and I love that warm and fuzzy feeling I get when they find their way into my mailbox!

So as promised, here is some nitty gritty detail from the project for those that might be considering this jacket for the first time.

Burda jacket #131 11/2012

Burda jacket #131 11/2012

Though I am pleased overall, with the results. I can’t help being niggled that more tailoring techniques weren’t employed. I’ve only myself to blame. I could have researched them myself but there’s always a next time!

The jacket is cut from pieces #131, Burda Style magazine 11/2010 but the construction details are from #130. The only difference being that I chose the full length sleeves with vents… and proper working buttonholes… glutton for punishment, me!

I made the toile back in February and was intending to make adjustments to the waist only. But I got worried about it’s ‘snugness’ and just went up a size in the end. A little bit chicken perhaps, but also concerned that I was more likely to be wearing a few layers underneath in the colder months!

It is essential that you make a toile. There is so much work involved in this, you don’t want to get to the end to find it doesn’t fit!!!

My first slip up, that I DIDN’T clock until I got round to dealing with it, was the back vent. I am so used to adding the statutory 15mm seam allowance to each edge that I clean forgot to add 4cm as specified, to the vent openings. Doh. I could kick myself. It doesn’t look so bad in the photos but I know that it isn’t created properly. It is intended as a ‘split’ but would have been so much neater with an interfaced proper allowance. So please remember to do this if and when you cut yours! I would even go as far as to make it a vent rather than a split. But that opens another can of worms with the lining!

back split that really wants to be a vent!

back split that really wants to be a vent!

The miniature pattern layouts indicate what pieces are to be interfaced with fusible interfacing. I did toy with the idea of sewing traditional interfacing. I liked the idea of employing some traditional skills but I agreed with myself that I was embarking on a big enough journey and that the fusible stuff would be just as good for what I was trying to achieve.

And so the interfaced pieces included: centre front; side front; outer collar stand; under collar; back facing; outer pocket flap; neck and armhole edge of centre back.

The main construction of the body came together very easily. Darts seams and pressing.

But then came my reality check. Welt pockets with flaps. Needless to say I practiced these before the real thing. You can see how I got on with this here. Well worth checking out YouTube or the Burda site for instructions. I challenge anyone to get the gist of welt pockets from the following instructions!! Or it could be just me!!

pocket instructions

I am over the moon at how they turned out in the finished fabric. I don’t intend to put anything in the pockets, for goodness sakes, don’t want to misshapen them! But I am so proud when I slip my hand inside. Feels so special! And no one gets to see that lovely welt under the flap, except moi! Though I have pointed it out to a few of my friends who smile loyally with raised eyebrows!

welt pocket

welt pocket

pocket lining

peek at the pocket lining

Next up was the notched collar. This was actually not as scary as I was anticipating. I did pin and I did baste before stitching and it all worked out just fine. The stitches sank invisibly into the wool when I machined the seam so I didn’t want to risk having to unpick at any point! Neat trimming and clipping is essential and it is also important to take care when you ‘push out your points’ Very easy to push a pointed implement through the point of the lapel, (especially if you are using soft wool) and ruin everything. It’s worth being slow and patient with this part because it is such a lovely sharp feature. You’ll be really chuffed when it comes together at this point.

pointy lapel

pointy lapel and notched collar

There was a suggestion to sew the pointed lapels to the underside of the collar to keep them in place but I didn’t really feel this was necessary for the weight of the fabric I used. I like being able to turn up the collar when its chilly!

Now shall we talk mitred corners? I’m so glad these were included. It makes so much sense and makes such neat corners. Nothing else will ever do from now on! Of course it goes without saying that you won’t survive with these instructions, especially if this is your first time…!

mitred corner instructions

… so I went with these instead!

I mitred the sleeve vents and the back vent in the same way. Though I had created a bit of a monster on the back vent by forgetting the extra allowance. Please don’t forget this!!!

back vent mitred corners

not enough SA on the vent but check out those mitred corners baby!

When I came to set in the sleeves I realised I had clean forgot a couple of notches. You will never work out how to inset those sleeves if you forget the notches, I can tell you. Mostly because I tried… and failed… 3 times!!! Till I relented and placed the pattern pieces over the made up sleeves and marked them.

Once I’d put the shoulder pads in, I tried it on and grinned from ear to ear. I was definitely on the home straight! But one niggling factor was that I didn’t like how the sleeve just ‘hung limp’ off the shoulder. I had heard mention of sleeve headings before but obviously never had to take full notice. So I found this little tute in my book Readers Digest: New Complete Guide to Sewing. This book has been so useful and really didn’t let me down this time.

Make a sleeve heading:

Cut 2 pieces of 3 x 5 in (7.3 x 12.5 cm) pieces of lamb’s wool, flannel, or polyester fleece. I had some leftover cotton flannel from my son’s pyjamas. Probably not as weighty or as poofy as lamb’s wool but it was better than nothing!

sleeve cap pieces

sleeve cap pieces

Make a 1 in (2.5 cm) fold on long side of each piece. How lucky is this. My fabric had 1 in square pattern!

sleeve cap fold

sleeve cap fold

Centre and pin heading to wrong side of sleeve cap with fold against seamline, wider half of heading against sleeve.

sleeve cap pinned in position

sleeve cap pinned in position

Whipstitch fold of sleeve heading to sleeve seamline. Heading now supports and rounds out sleeve cap.

without sleeve cap

without sleeve cap

The difference is subtle but is hugely important for my self satisfaction!

with sleeve cap

with sleeve cap

Before I lined the jacket I neatened and pressed all the seams. I did wonder if you have to neaten the raw edges, after all they wont show but I was worried about it fraying inside with wear and if it might eventually have a knock on effect to the seams coming apart. Probably over worrying but better to be safe than sorry was my own conclusion. But here presented my next concern. As much as I pressed this gorgeous wool, the seams would not lie perfectly flat throughout and I knew that would affect the overall shape and create a lumpy lining. And who would want lumpy lining?!

So I decided to stitch the seams down, like a good tailor lady. But hey! Guess what little tailoring trick was missing. NO UNDERLINING!!! Not that I have ever had to underline anything to date. But I have heard about it. I have wondered why you would want to but now it was blindingly obvious. My fabric was sturdy enough to live without it but how much easier would it have been to sew the seams down flat onto an underlining. I will definitely underline next time I make a jacket and I wholly advise you to do this even if you think your fabric is sturdy enough. It makes sense you know!! Fortunately my fabric was quite thick with a forgiving texture!

stitching seams down sans underlining

stitching seams down sans underlining

I found it was much easier to do, over my knee, whilst watching The Paradise! And also safer to stitch onto the interfaced pieces.

stitching seams down on interfaced sections

stitching seams down on interfaced sections

Hemming was easy with this fabric but be aware that a curvy hemline is naturally created with all those shaped pieces. To take in that excess fabric I just made a couple of tucks either side of the vent, symetrically positioned so that the finished shape was uniform. You’ll notice here that there is no evidence of interfacing. After I hemmed I remembered I was supposed to interface the hems. So I dutifully unpicked all that hand stitching, cut some strips of fusible interfacing, fused it on and re-hemmed. BUT do remember to interface the hem sections of your pieces from the start and NOT at this stage. You know it makes sense 😉

wavy hemline

wavy hemline

So then came the lining. I had pondered a silk lining but the lilac poly satin I found was so lush I looked no further. So long as you remember your ‘ease pleat’ in the centre back, you can’t go far wrong. I can’t give to much advice about this stage because I kind of winged it!!! But what I did remember to do was to push the lining up to the hemline of the outer fabric and roll it down over itself to create more ease and allow for shrinkage. Not that poly lining shrinks but I think its general practice! I did the same on the sleeves. I’m not sure I lined the vents on the sleeves properly but it works… of a fashion!

The buttons were a lucky find, though I was gutted I couldn’t find smaller coconut shell buttons. The two pictured here were way to big even for the front! So sparkly resin shank buttons it was. Lucky to find them in 2 different sizes at Shepherds Bush market. 20p each… a snip!

raspberry buttons

I WILL find a perfect use for those coconut shell buttons!

I created the buttonholes on the machine. Holding my breath as I did so. You know how it is. There’s always a chance of a wayward buttonhole! But next time I would love to try bound buttonholes. Karen did such a beautiful job with hers and I bet it feels far more special to button up with bound ones!

Well here ends my waffly post of niggles. I hope to have been of some help and not too much of a waffling bore!

Have a wonderful weekend all…. wrap up warm!! x

Vintage western shirt #2… the flowery kind

Flowery vintage western shirtAs promised, here is the finished shirt. It is a revisit to the same shirt I made for Mr Ooobop! almost a year ago. On first inspection I thought it must be 70s, given the flappy collars and slim fit. But one reader clocked the hairstyles on the pattern envelope and said it was probably more 1980s. Either way, its another vintage make that has been a valuable learning curve and keeps the old chap happy at the same time… double whammy!

Butterick 5007

I made some brave adjustments to the pattern this time. (Well, brave for me, that is!) Namely to the chest, shoulders and sleeve length. Of course there is a knock on effect for each change, given the many different pieces to this pattern, so I had to keep on my toes!

I have said it before, and I am very conscious of blowing Mr. Ooobop’s trumpet, but he is very good at knowing what fabric suits and especially good at choosing buttons. Check these out…

yellow buttons with black outline

They are little chunky white buttons with a yellow fill and a black outline. They are indeed a trifle camouflaged here but I can’t imagine any other button being better on this shirt. I have mastered buttonholes, which is a good thing seeing as there were 13 of the damned things to make, but I did get a bit over confident and had to unpick two of them because they weren’t perfectly centred in the placket. I really don’t want to be doing that on a regular basis. Took as much time to unpick 2 buttonholes as it did to sew 13 of them AND hand sew on all of the buttons!

I couldn’t resist adding a couple of new features to this one. I underlined the collar, the collar stand and the under flaps of the pockets in a plain red cotton…

collar cuffs and pockets with red contrast lining… and I added some bias trim to the curved shirt hem. Mostly because Mr. Ooobop! wanted to preserve the length. It was an obvious solution but I think it makes for a lovely finish too, highlighting the shirt-tails!

bound hem

I am really happy with the fit on this one.

vintage western shirt back

Mr Oobop! got a fair few comments when he turned up at his last gig.

Mr Ooobop playing double bass

The finishing on this shirt – all the topstitching and flat felled seams –  was the time consuming bit. but imagine how long it took me to match that rose on the shoulder?! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge 😉 )

matching up the pattern on the shoulderSpecial thanks to George, Tom and Cat of The Redfords for the fabulous photography.

Drafting a skirt block made clearer

self drafted skirt front view

Why on earth would I want to go to the bother of drafting a skirt block when I already posess a pattern collection of monster proportions? Good question.

Well apart from the fact that I am the world’s greatest procrastinator, it’s mostly because I plainly just don’t like not knowing about stuff! Well, that plus the fact that I wanted to create a perfectly fitted skirt! I have managed it once or twice before, by adjusting patterns, but only by the power of ‘flook’ and not by any knowledgable means.

Making a fitted skirt pattern is something I have been wanting to do for such a long time. I looked into taking a course but was really shocked by the prices. I guess I set my hopes high starting with the London College of Fashion!  Getting a course to fit in nicely with work and children is a bit tricky too. So I set out on a mission to self-teach! It has taken me a long time to get my head round it (the old grey matter aint what it used to be!)… and get round to actually doing it.

The truth is, I am quite impatient and the idea of some mountainous mathematical process leading up to the joyful part of sewing wasn’t very enticing to say the least. But if I am ever to realise some of these far fetched designs I carry round in my head then I have to start learning to draft a properly fitted skirt block at the very least!

To be honest. Now that I have sussed it, it seems remarkably easy!

The hardest part of this process was being totally honest about my own body measurements! I’m forever thinking I’m smaller than I am or believing that if I make anything at least a half a size smaller I will loose some pounds to fit into it properly! But I had to be true to myself this time if I was going to go to the effort of making something to properly fit.

The following instructions have been compiled from various sources and put together here in a fashion that is clearer to me. I can’t claim this as the best way forward for everyone. So if you are going to use these instructions and make a skirt from the pattern, please make a toile first! I needed, in any case to document the instructions as a note to self because even after my first attempt, I forgot some of the process! This method really did work for me and it would make me such a happy bunny if they work for you too, so be sure to let me know!

All measurements are in inches (sorry). I use millimetres in all that I do at work but I can’t break away from imperial measurements for sewing and cooking!

Drafting the basic skirt block

First make a note of your measurements.
It is easier if someone does it for you. Less chance of cheating!
Make sure the tape measure is comfortable and not tight.

You will need 3 measurements:

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Length

and the following materials:

  • A large piece of paper, that is just over half of your hip measurement by just over how long you want your skirt to be. (Tape pieces together if necessary)
  • A long ruler
  • A pencil
  • A right angled triangle/set square.

NB: this pattern allows for 1 inch of ease which can be altered to suit.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

STEP 1:

On the left hand side, draw a vertical line the length you would like your skirt to be.
Mark the top point as W. (W to L = length of skirt)

drafting a skirt block step 1

STEP 2:

Draw a line at right angles to point W, to the length of half your hip measurement + 1/2 inch ease.
Complete the rectangle.

drafting a skirt block step 2

STEP 3:

Draw a vertical line between the two outside edges, at a distance that measures 1/4 hip measurement plus 1/2 inch ease, from the centre back seam. This will separate the front from the back pieces.
Mark the left vertical line as centre back and the right vertical line as centre front. Draw arrows on centre front to remind you to position centre front on fold.

skirt block step 3

STEP 4:

Measure 8 inches down from the W point. Mark this new point with H. Draw in the horizontal Hip Line.
Measure half way between the Waist Line and the Hip Line and draw a line across. This is the Middle Hip Line. Mark it MH.

drafting a skirt pattern step 4

STEP 5:

Draw a line from point W that rises to half an inch above the Waist Line.

Measure across from point W, diagonally up to the new guide line, the distance of 1/4 waist measurement + 1/4 inch ease + 1.5 inches for 2 back darts. From that end point, draw a line down to the point where the Hip Line meets the centreline. This creates the hip curve and a shape to the waist.

Repeat the process for the front pattern piece to create the hip curve for the front side. The diagonal waist line for the front piece will be 1/4 waist measurement + 1/4 inch ease + 3/4 inch for 1 front dart.

You can use a french curve or freehand to give a smoother curve at the end.

make a skirt pattern step 5

STEP 6:

To create the front dart: find the centre point of the wast line on the front piece and draw a vertical line, from the Waist Line to just before the Middle Hip Line. This is the central fold of your 3/4 inch wide dart. Draw in the dart as shown below.

To create the back darts: draw 2 vertical lines equidistant across the Waist Line. The dart nearest the centre back line extends to an inch and a quarter down past the Middle Hip Line. The other back dart, nearest the side seam, extends just to the Middle Hip Line. Draw in the two darts, each 3/4 inch wide at the top, as shown in the diagram below.

NB: please note that although these darts appear to be standard measurements, you may very well have to alter them to suit your own body shape. Making a toile will highlight if this is necessary for you or not.

adding darts to skirt pattern step 6

Et voila! The tricksy bit is done!

All that remains is to smooth those curves, cut the front and back pieces apart and add seam allowance. You should be familiar with this process if you regularly use Burda Style patterns from the magazine! 5/8 inch is usual. A good hem allowance is between 1.5 and 2 inches.

Remember not to add seam allowance to the centre front, but do add it to the centre back.

To create the facing, I traced from the Middle Hip Line up to the Waist Line on both pieces, cut out and folded the paper on the dart lines to create the curve at the waist. But you could alternatively make a waist band, whereby a facing piece is not necessary.

I do hope this is of help and that I didn’t make it too confusing. Do shout if I’ve missed anything or if there is anything you don’t understand.

First skirt from the self-drafted pattern

self drafted skirt side view

Probably the most boring skirt I have ever made, re. choice of fabric, lack of features… not even a walking slit, standard length etc. BUT, by the same token, probably the biggest learning curve so far!

This is a very wearable toile. I’m so glad I did this. Pencil skirts are a great go-to for work. Especially in neutral colours. This is a very lightweight, cheap suiting fabric and I never thought it would be wearable but with the addition of a lining it gained a bit more structure. To create the lining pieces, I cut the same skirt pieces from below the line of the facing and added a couple of inches across the width of front and back for ease, which was incorporated as a pleat along the top seam line. Incidentally the two-tone polka dot lining is far more interesting than the self fabric! I found 3 metres of it in a Charity shop recently for £1!

polka dot lining

I inserted a lapped zipper but I still need a little practice in that department! One great tip I picked up along the way, however was to take the loose thread from the baseline stitching of the zip, thread a needle and take the thread to the inside of the garment. You can then either knot the ends together with the bobbin thread or, in the case where the bobbin thread is too short ( I have an automatic cutter and this often happens) you can just do a couple of reinforcement stitches and snip. It  all helps to create a flawless finish on the outside.

lapped zipper

I love the idea that I am on my way to making custom fitted garments. Im sure it will be a very rewarding journey.

I am going to experiment a bit more with variations on this block before I steam into the creation of a bodice block. I like the idea of changing the darts to princess seams, perhaps with piped seams, making it more of a wiggle skirt with a vent, and making a high-waisted version too. Oh hours in the day… where art thou?!

back of skirt

Horizontal or vertical buttonholes?

horizontal buttonholes

I’m in the process of making a second version of the 1940s shirt dress I made in May, and I’ve been prompted into wondering (ie arguing with Mr Ooobop!) whether it is usual to make horizontal or vertical buttonholes on a garment. I couldn’t bear the quandary any longer!

So I did a little research and came up with the following…

  • Horizontal ones allow for a little more expansion. The button can slide along the opening without distorting the buttonhole as much as a vertical one.
  • It’s easier to sew buttons in position, following a column of vertical buttonholes as there is a little  more room for manoeuvre, but you have to sew them on more accurately to meet the positions of the end points of horizontal buttonholes.
  • Horizontal buttonholes generally can’t be placed on a shirt placket band as there is not enough room for them to sit comfortably and so vertical ones are used.
  • Exceptions include the collar and cuffs where there is more stress, then you will find a horizontal one. And in the case of more expensive shirts, the bottommost button too!
  • Horizontal buttonholes take a bit longer to create as the foot needs to be repositioned and position measured each time, whereas its easier to shift the position down each time for vertical ones. I’m thinking this is a reason for mass produced garments having vertical ones.
  • Horizontal buttonholes stay buttoned more securely. Any stress across the garment opening, pulls the button into the the end of the buttonhole, where the button stops.
  • It is a little less-fiddly to button up with vertical buttonholes.
  • Most vintage patterns are marked for the buttonholes to be created horizontally.

So there you have it… fascinating, hey?! It doesn’t prove much except that you can seemingly create them however you like… so long as it works for you and your choice of garment!

I’m going with horizontal ones and now feel much happier about doing so. Apart from the fact that it makes me feel a bit rebellious, (and that I won the argument) I like that it’s a little bit of authenticity for this little 40s number.

Which way round do you sew your buttonholes? Any reason different from the above?

I’m hoping to have said dress all finished and blogged by the weekend so bring on the sunshine so Mr Ooobop! can take some sunny shots!

Neatening Nets

Once family and friends cotton on to ones sewing obsession, it’s not long before the mending pile reaches ridiculous heights! Victim of my inability to say ‘no’ perhaps, but ultimately, little sewing jobs are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to those who are always there to help me out and invariably I learn a new trick or two along the way. Oh I do like the occasional slaying of two feathered friends!

And so came about the task of neatening the sides of a bag load of my neighbours net curtains. ‘No worries at all’, I said. ‘Will take me 5 minutes’, I said. ‘Just a few straight lines of sewing… piece of cake’, I said!

I’m not sure how many of you lovely readers have net curtains in your homes so forgive me if I offend. Personally I’ve inherited a phobia of the frightful things from my mum. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I was shushed as she stood, back to the wall nosing at the neighbours through her embroidered ‘balistraria’. Her constant obsession with how white she could get her ‘whites’ was actually quite tortuous too! Sorry mum!

Net curtains come on a roll, I’ve since found out. And they are only finished with a casing on the top and a hem or piped cord at the bottom. They are cut per width required and not finished on the sides. And so, after a single wash they will undoubtedly fray. Not least of all if they are cut wonky which most of these were too!

So battled commenced…

First things first, I changed the needle to a lightweight one.

schmetz needle size 70

I then unpicked the casing seams at the top – just a few centimeters – so I could finish the whole length without sewing the openings closed!

They had been cut so wonky, I had to straighten the sides so I wasn’t hemming on the bias! I pulled one of the vertical threads completely out of the weave so it left a clear ‘channel’ for me to cut along.

pulled thread

After straightening both sides I sewed a line of stitching 15mm (5/8 inch) from top to bottom of the the now straightened edges.

15mm inside raw edge

I then pressed the edges in, exactly on the line of the stitches, ensuring the iron wasn’t too hot but hot enough to hold a crease.

This made it easier to roll the edge in, so the raw edge met the guide stitching and I stitched very close to the fold to finish the edge neatly.

sewing edge nets

I pressed the hemmed edge again and then replaced the stitching on the casing, stitching over the original line to reinforce.

finished edge of nets

Some of these nets had straightforward hems and some with embroidered scalloped bottoms. These ones were easy enough to include in the hem. But there were a couple with fine piping in the tiny rolled hems, presumably to help them hang better. I just pulled the piping out a little and snipped it short before running the hem down to the bottom. Otherwise it was very difficult to fold back and stitch neatly.

I really can’t tell you how long this process took for a total of 7 very large net curtains… or how long the entire family, including cats, have been walking around adorned with little white threads… but my neighbour is overjoyed. And so am I that I’ve finally got round to finishing them!

Vintage Simplicity 3320 in plaid

simplicity 3320 in plaid

Vintage Simplicity 3320 outside the Lansdowne Place Hotel, Brighton

Well here is the long awaited vintage Simplicity 3320 in plaid! First worn today on the last day of a lovely few days spent with Mr Ooobop! in Brighton.

It’s taken a good few weeks to get this one together. Not because it was complicated but moreso because of all the finishing. The pattern didn’t call for a lining and to be honest I could probably have got clean away without one. But I wanted the dress to ‘slip’ on and not be a sweaty wrestling routine every time I put it on or took it off.

lining slip stitched to zip

Lining slip stitched to zip

So I lined the bodice and the skirt but not the sleeves. I’m not sure lined sleeves are conducive to sweet smelling ‘pits’! The edges of the facings and the vestee are bound with red bias trim as are the hems of the sleeves.

finishing on sleeve

Finishing on sleeve

By the time I got to the hem, I was all bias-trimmed-out and so I just overlocked and hand sewed an invisible hem.

I don’t know what I was thinking of when I opted for plaid… apart from perhaps a huge amount of inspiration from the lovely Vivienne Westwood herself! Matching plaid calls for a lot more patience and skill than I thought. I will have to research this further. But I did manage to vaguely match the side seams at least!

Vaguely matching plaid on side seams

Vaguely matching plaid on side seams!

This dress isn’t perfect by any means but I really loved the process of making it up. One hallelujah moment for me was managing to fit the invisible zip with the seam lining up where the bodice meets the skirt. I always struggle with this on every garment I’ve made and its always been slightly misaligned but this time, once I had sewed the left side of the zip tape, I marked where the seam should line up and when I came to sew the other side of the zip tape it was pretty much spot on. This is probably old news to most of you and clearly I’m a bit slow on the uptake! But I’m so chuffed it worked!

Yellow chalk marks the seam position

Yellow chalk marks the seam position

Et voilà, totally lined up

Et voilà, totally lined up!

I mentioned before about how I was impressed by the shoulder darts on the toile and I still maintain this is a great feature for me. I don’t think I have ever had a dress that fits me so well across the back and shoulders.

Fits nicely on the back and shoulders

Fits nicely on the back and shoulders

Now the collar is an interesting one. The pattern describes it as a detachable one. Mmmm. In the loosest sense I suppose. I used navy cotton velvet and again bound along the inside edge with bias trim, (I used some green satin bias) and then hand stitched to the inside of the v-neck, sandwiched between the vestee and the bodice. I suppose I could unpick it very easily if I wanted to detach it but a bit over and above the call of duty if you ask me!

Vintage simplicity with not so detachable collar!

Vintage simplicity with not so detachable collar!

Well, all in all this was a fantastic dress to work on. It wont be the last time I use this pattern, though I might opt for a block colour next time!

The picture below was shot by Mr Ooobop! and I think its fab. You can just about make out the old burnt out Palace Pier on the horizon!

Brighton sunset shot by the talented Mr Ooobop!

Brighton sunset shot by the talented Mr Ooobop!

How do you sharpen your scissors?

Mundial scissors

Mundial scissors

I’m unashamedly jumping on Karen‘s bandwagon to continue the great scissor-sharpening debate.

When I was young, a little man in a van used to call round once a month to see if my mum needed any tools sharpening. He had a little tool shop in the back of his vehicle that serviced any garden shears and dressmaking scissors. I’m sure he fixed other things too but this was service enough for him to be my mum’s knight in shining armour!

I learned very quickly to not use my mum’s tailors shears on paper. She caught me only once and really, she doesn’t get angry at much, but I froze in my tracks and never did it again! Cutting paper really doesn’t do those blades any justice, seriously blunting them. So nowadays I have my paper-cutting scissors and my special fabric-only cutting scissors. My children have also been warned about their sole purposes in much the same scary way that I was!

I am the proud owner of a very sharp pair of Mundial scissors, gold plated handles and all, but one day they will be in need of a sharpen and I wouldn’t have a clue where to go. I would love a little man in a van to come visit me but I think those days are long gone. And so I was elated when Karen posted her article about MacCulloch & Wallis. I very much like the cut of their jib!

But just to add to this, I noted a little tip in Sew and Save, which I picked up in Oxfam recently. . .

Sew and Save

Sew and Save

Get yourself a good pair of scissors to start with. Steel cutting-out schissors with double-sided handles (so that they don’t cut into the joint of your thumb when you are using them) cost about 3/11 a pair. Larger ones for tailoring jobs on heavy materials cust from 7/- to 10/- a pair. Spending money on good scissors is a long-sighted economy, as you will then get cleanly-cut lines and your garment will be well fitting. The scissors should always be kept sharp, of course, and this can be done at home by opening the blades against the neck of a strong glass bottle, and then by closing them slowly as if trying to cut the neck off the bottle. Do this about twenty times, and you’ll get a lovely edge on your scissors.

I would be a bit nervous about trying this on my good ones, given that they cost slightly more than three shillings and eleven, but I tried it on my paper scissors and hey, guess what? It worked! Another good reason to have milk delivered in glass bottles!

How do you sharpen yours?