Old throw, new skirt

wool check skirtThe sun came out today. And the sky was blue. But it turned out to be a big trick and it was still bloomin’ freezing! But hey! Still managed to make good use of that light . . . in our ‘local’!

The ladies at the Thatched House were very accommodating and made us some lovely coffee. It was a genius plan.

wearing check skirt drinking coffee

The skirt is indeed made from an old throw that I got from and Oxfam shop a couple of months ago. I wasn’t sure if it would translate into a skirt because of its ‘blankety’ nature. But it turns out that it was completely the right move and I now have the warmest legs in town!

wool check skirt standing

I think originally it might have come from one of those touristy shops in Regent Street. It’s 100% wool for sure.

wool labelAnd even better still, there is just enough left to make a little vintage jacket (when I get a mo). Not bad for about £4!

check skirt sitting down

The pattern for the skirt is self-drafted and constructed pretty much the same as the black pencil skirt I made here, but I added a little to the length and hand picked the zipper. Although it was cut from the same pattern, it is noticeably larger and I think that is due to the nature of the fabric. It has a lot of give which was great for matching the checks but not so good at being the right size. Could easily have lost an inch from round the waist. Hey ho… lesson learned!

check wool skirt by the fireplace

What I did do, this time round was to document how I lined the vent. Now bear with! This might not be the clearest tute but I’m hoping it will give half a clue at least!

Prepare the back section of the skirt:
Sew the darts, iron fusible interfacing to the vent. Sew the back seam from the end point of the zipper opening to the top of the vent, pivoting at the corner and finishing about a cm before the edge (as shown). Clip into the corner. Insert the zipper by hand or machine.

back of skirt unlinedCut your lining the same as your back skirt pieces but add a bit of extra ease at the side seams. On one of the pieces, invert the vent shape by folding over the extended part along the centre back seam and then cut round it but give yourself about a centimetre extra at the top of the vent. So, for example the extended vent piece on the left will be a cm taller than the removed piece on the right. Sorry, I knew I was going to be bad at this!

lining piecesLay your pieces on top of the wrong side of your skirt as below. Hopefully it will make more sense. You might want to give them a bit of a press too! :-/

lining pieces laid out

Now take the right hand lining piece and flip it over onto the left side and pin down the centre seam. (See image below.)

lining pinned

Next, you need to sew from the bottom of the zipper opening, down to the red point as marked above.

Now, flip it back over so that the wrong sides of the lining are facing the wrong sides of your main fabric. You will begin to see how the vent lining fits now.

lining face downThe next part doesn’t translate visually well. So I will try to explain. You need to flip the lining back over again and pin the extended vent section of the lining to the corresponding piece of the main fabric, right sides together. Don’t pin through both vent sections. Just the top one.

pin vent lining to ventSew the topmost vent to the lining from the point where the vent seam ends at the top, straight down to the bottom.

sew ventWhen you flip the lining back over you will see it begin to take shape.

left vent sewn

Now, I’m not sure the following image is very useful, but basically what you need to do is attach the lining to the remaining vent piece. Again, right sides together, pin down the edges.

pin remaining vent edgeNow sew straight down from the white chalk dot as shown above. And clip all corners of lining as you will need to manipulate them to sit flat.

clip all corners of liningTwist the top part of the vent lining to sit flat and in line with the top of the vent. Make sure the matching piece on the other side is lined up too. Now pinch all layers together and pin securely:

pin top of ventStitch from the endpoints of your seams, through all layers of the vent section. When you turn it back over and give it a good old press, you should have something like this:

completed vent liningYou can see that mine is far from perfect. It really is a bit fiddly but it will undoubtedly improve with practice and patience.

So there you have it. Sorry that the photos are so confusing. It doesn’t help that the fabric is mostly black! I do hope it helps a little to demystify the process though.

Mr Ooobop is doing a fine job of schmoozing with the brides- and grooms-to-be  at Bluewater Wedding Fair this evening, to promote his band, The Redfords. I am immensely proud of him and so grateful for all the lovely photos he takes for me. It really is about time I made something else for him. It will come as no surprise to him that I am going to try a waistcoat. I say that because he has been giving me puppy dog eyes for soooo long and I can’t bear it any more!

I’ll leave you with a couple more shots from today. Night all x

check skirt standing

check wool skirt

ooobop thatched house

A cape for Poison Ivy

poison ivy front

Meet my biggest little girl! Hardly a villain but seriously rocking the whole Poison Ivy thing!

It’s not often I get asked to contribute to her wardrobe. It is in fact never! So I was very honoured by the request to make a capelet for her Halloween costume. Yes I know this is a bit late in the day, soz, but I wasn’t allowed a sneak preview on the day (something to do with me being an embarrassing mum at her last party I would think!) and had to wait patiently for photographic evidence so I could share it with you.

poison ivy back

It was a very fun and quick project and even ‘biggest little’ was impressed! If you knew her like I do you would know how amazing that is!

poison ivy

Here’s a better picture of the stand-up collar. You cant see it for all the red luscious locks!

cape on manequin

The exterior is a bright green poly satin fabric with red satin lining and I used some glitzy buttons at the neck to cover the ends of the ribbon. Should have sewn them in the collar stand really!

It was a very simple project for quite an effective fancy dress accessory…

First I measured the neck (plus ease) and the measurement from the neck, over the shoulder to just below the elbow. Using Pi (22/7) I worked out the radius to draw the neck hole and from that circumference I could mark the length of the capelet and draw the circumference at the hem (plus SA)

circumference formula

Have you ever wondered what that little hole is for at the end of your tape measure? Well I sure have found a use. If you position and hold down the tape measure at the distance required, on the centre point, or corner of your paper, you can put the point of a pencil in the hole at the other end and draw the arc of the circle. Its not as accurate as a compass but I don’t have a set of compasses that large and this method was good enough!

draft circle

I folded the fabric into quarters and pinned the pattern, making sure it was butted to both adjacent sides.

folded fabric

pinned patternI did the same with the lining and cut out. This is not my favourite fabric to work with, I hasten to add!

cape liningNext up, I pinned the self to the lining, right sides together, using lots and lots of pins. I am telling you, this is soooo not my favourite fabric to work with. It slipped and slid all over the place!

pinned lining and selfThen I cut the front opening. You can see just how far out I was with the cutting/positioning of this slippery stuff!

cut opening

But I saved the situation with a genius idea to round off the corners! And note my next exclusive dressmaking tool…. a dinner plate!

round cornersI stuck in some more pins before I attempted to sew around the base hem and up the front openings. But it still took 3 or 4 attempts. It was like a couple of magnets repelling against each other!

more pinsI left the neckline open while I constructed the collar. First I made the collar stand. The measurement for which was the neck measurement (plus ease) by 5 inches (I think!)

I folded it in half, lengthwise and applied fusible interfacing to one side.

interface collar standTo make the ruffle, I cut a strip the same width only twice as long, folded, pressed and seamed the short ends, right sides facing. I gathered the raw edges to the same length as the collar stand.

ruffleI don’t have pics for the next stage but hopefully it will make sense. I sewed the short ends of the collar stand together and turned right side out. Matching raw edges, I pinned the ruffle to one side of the collar stand, right sides together, careful not to catch the underside.

collar ruffleI turned the ruffle up, hiding the raw edges inside and gave it a press to keep it in place. I then folded in the seam allowance from the remaining side and topstitched in place.

finished collarAgain I am missing a few pics, but to finish off I sewed the base of the collar stand (the folded edge), right sides facing, to the neckline of the self side of the cape. I then folded and pressed in the seam allowance on the lining and top stitched to the other side of the collar, very close to the edge.

poison ivy cape

Buttons and ribbons were then sewn in place.

Hope this gives you some insight. So sorry for the missing pics. I will be more diligent with my tutes next time!

This is indeed a very fun and quick make… but I would advise a woven fabric just for sanity’s sake!

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

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)


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


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


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


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


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


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

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!

Cheap trace and nifty templates

For those of you who painstakingly trace Burda Style patterns from the magazines or for those of you who lovingly trace their vintage or modern patterns to avoid damaging the originals I think I have found a great solution…

Rymans tissue paper roll

It goes under the name of Bleached White Acid Free Tissue Paper and comes in a roll of 25 sheets each measuring 500mm x 750mm and Rymans sell this stuff for £4.99! Though it doesn’t appear to be available online yet, unfortunately.

Up until recently I have been using Burda tracing paper which I have been getting from Jaycotts online, where I get quite a lot of my supplies. It is great stuff and good quality but each pack contains only 5 sheets, size 110 x 150cm for £2.54.

Much like the Burda trace, the Rymans tissue is coated/shiny on one side and matt on the reverse and if you iron it (on a cool setting) much like pattern tissue, it has enough static cling to keep it in position as you trace. But the quality is not as good, it has to be said and tears much more readily. No more so than regular pattern tissue so its no biggie as far as I’m concerned.

Asides from tracing patterns, and adjusting patterns, I also use it to trace templates for my quilt blocks using a trick I learned as a kid:

How to trace and create cardboard templates

If you don’t have a photocopier at the ready, this is a quick and quite satisfying alternative to making templates with readily available materials.

With the original image underneath, place the tissue paper on top, shiny side up, and trace over the lines using a ruler and a softish pencil, like a grade B. I have used an HB pencil and it works but the results are lighter.

traced templates

Turn the tracing over so it is face down on some card and being careful to hold it in place, rub over the back of the lines with the same pencil, applying even pressure, and the image will transfer onto the card.

rub on reverse

transferred image

You may need to go over the lines again – using a ruler and pencil – if they are too light, before you cut them out.

Incidentally I cut out and save the fronts and back panels of cereal boxes so I always have a stash of card for this and many of the children’s crafting projects.

cereal box card

Make sure you label the templates and store them safely so they are readily available whenever you need them in the future.

card templates

And I imagine I will be using them again and again… and again, for my quilt…. 80 times over in fact… but I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that!

Pattern grading for the first time

I had a lovely plan this weekend to run up a this gorgeous little faux fur coat for my daughter…

burda childs coat

Girls coat from Burda Style mag 11/2010

But true to form, ‘the best laid plans…’ The largest size isn’t quite big enough. I thought I could get round matters by adding 5mm all round which would give me an extra 2 cm across the chest and back. So I did just that and made a toile for the bodice and the sleeves. But not only is that still not quite enough…. that’s not really how it works, is it?!

And so I have begun researching how to grade patterns to a larger size, the proper way. I knew I would have to go down this road at some point and I know it will benefit my sewing skills. But I’m just so impatient and I want to make this coat now!

The pattern pieces are very simple and the little bodice doesn’t have any darts so I’m really hoping the task is not going to be too arduous.

furry coat layout

Furry coat pattern pieces and layout

My first port of call was the Burda Style website itself and I found this tutorial for grading a bodice with darts. Given that mine is thankfully dart-free, I think this one on the Laura Marsh site might be the best approach and it includes how to grade the sleeves too.

Ultimately I will need to be able to grade patterns up and down for all sorts of lovely ladies garments as I still have this obsession with buying vintage patterns and of course none of them are even close to my body shape!

I did have a little look on Amazon for a good book but I can’t quite believe the prices! I really don’t mind investing in one if I know its going to be helpful so this is where I would like your help, lovely readers. Can anyone please recommend a great book for pattern cutting/grading? or equally any hot tips before I start? You can tell I’m stalling on this one but equally itching to see my daughter skipping around in furry leopard print coat!

Have a lovely weekend all!

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?

Butterick 5007: Men’s vintage western shirt – progress update.

Butterick 5007: The collar is on . . .

Butterick 5007: The collar is on . . .

I did hope to get further than this, given the lovely long bank holiday weekend. But I was pleasantly distracted by 3 lovely days out instead! A birthday barbecue on Saturday, lunch with friends on Sunday and a day out at my mother-in-laws allotment today.

But I am so not going to rush this shirt. I am determined to make a good job of it. I had such a eureka moment when I found the fabric – 7 metres of a 1970s vintage Laura Ashley loveliness – and I knew it was destined for something special. Mr Ooobop decided its fate and although I was a bit unsure at first he was not wrong with his vision. I am really happy at how it is coming along.

  Butterick 5007: The button bands are on... awaiting the button holes!

Butterick 5007: The button bands are on... awaiting the button holes!

I used tailors tacks this time. I usually trace off or mark the darts and positional points with tailors chalk because its quicker but I remembered my mum teaching me how to do this when I was very young and it felt right to apply them on a 70s pattern!

Why use tailors tacks?

  • It helps to accurately mark both layers of the fabric in exact positions.
  • It eliminates the need for a tailors chalk, if you don’t have one to hand, or if it doesn’t show up on the fabric or if you simply don’t want to run the risk of permanently marking your fabric.

How to make tailors tacks

This may not be the conventional way, but this is how my mother taught me:

Thread your needle with a contrasting colour thread and match the two ends to make a double length of thread. With the pattern still pinned to the fabric after cutting, pass the needle through one of the circle marks, leaving a tail of about an inch behind. Bring it back through the other side, through the same circle mark, leaving a loop of about an inch behind. Repeat once more, remembering not to pull tightly and then cut your thread from the needle.

Continue to do this on all circle marks where necessary. Snip the loops of the tacks to leave little tufts of thread.

tailors tacks

tailors' tacks

Unpin the pattern from the fabric and gently pull over the tacks so the tacks remain on the fabric.

tailors' tacks after the paper pattern is removed

tailors' tacks after the paper pattern is removed

Then, when you are ready to use your fabric piece, carefully separate the layers and snip the tacks in the middle to leave tacks on each side.

snip the tacks between the layers of fabric

snip the tacks between the layers of fabric

Et voilà! An incredibly old fashioned but nevertheless effective method of fabric marking.

This is a first time man’s shirt for me and I am enjoying the learning curve. The instructions and little diagrams are really clear and I love how neatly it is all coming together with the topstitching and all!

I’m a bit worried about creating all the button holes but the first two have worked out fine on the pocket flaps, though I did hold my breath as I was doing them!

  Butterick 5007: The pockets are topstitched in position and the first buttonholes in place!

Butterick 5007: The pockets are topstitched in position and the first buttonholes in place!

Next stage is the sleeves and side seams, the hem and the dreaded button holes but I fear further progress on this shirt will have to be delayed just a little bit more, while I magic the bucket of golden plums into jam, the tray load of blackberries, raspberries and elderberries into bramble jelly and the giant marrow into chutney.

I am so excited by this time of year and I love the glow that my daughter and I have acquired after spending a glorious day in the outside, sampling the goodies as we picked . . .physalis, cob-nuts, fresh peas, cucumbers, baby carrots, apples and tomatoes.

Here are some of the fruits of our labours!

beetroot, apples, golden plums, marrow, cob-nuts, marrow, dahlia.. and funny carrot

beetroot, apples, golden plums, marrow, cob-nuts, marrow, dahlia.. and funny carrot

Too many distractions, too little time… story of my life!

ooobop! vintage sheet dress

ooobop vintage sheet dress front

ooobop! vintage sheet dress front

This lovely old sheet reminded me of my favourite nightdress my grandmother gave me as a child. It was one of my most treasured items of clothing and even at the age of 6, I had plans on using it for patchwork when I grew out of it. Needless to say I was as fickle then as I am now and heaven knows what happened to it! I probably wore it til it was threadbare!

The sheet has been awaiting its destiny for at least 7 years and so I got a huge amount of satisfaction from its transformation. I used a Burda pattern from issue 2/2011, for the bodice and gathered rectangles (a bit wider than suggested) for for skirt. There is an inseam pocket on the left and an invisible zip on the right . . . spot the deliberate mistake!
You can also download a copy of the pattern here for $5.40.

vintage sheet dress side

ooobop! vintage sheet dress side

I love the feel of this old cotton and the shape of the dress. Its far more flattering than I thought it might be and I wore it to my friends’ barbecue on Sunday when we had a long overdue burst of sunshine.

vintage sheet dress at barbecue

ooobop! vintage sheet dress at the barbecue . . . cheers!

The bodice is lined with polycotton, cut on the bias and sewn applying this all-in-one method. Its taken me a few goes to get to grips with this technique but I feel confident about doing it now and it gives a really neat finish. The lining is turned under and hand sewn to the zipper tape and the seam where the bodice meets the skirt. I machine-hemmed the skirt with a 2 inch hem. I normally take the time to hand finish my hems but there was quite a lot of skirt in this case and time was of essence!

I think this is a strong contender for my vintage outfit next weekend. Oh… did I tell you that I was off to the Southbank’s Vintage Festival next weekend? I am sooo excited. Is any one else coming? I will be sure to be posting on this one so brace yourself for a whole heap of photos!