Last week I was on my travels again, this time to Coles Sewing Centre in Nottingham to meet and teach two half day classes covering a series of essential sewing techniques.
I’ve known about the Coles Sewing Centre for many years so was excited to be there and see it for myself. And as anticipated, it didn’t disappoint. Not only is the shop big, light and airy, there is an enormous upper floor dedicated to teaching. The area can be divided into three or four classrooms, as it was on my visit, or for bigger classes, the dividers are removed to make a massive classroom. All equipment is supplied and often, the materials needed too.
Using Husqvarna Viking sewing machines (which Coles are particularly well known for), my students enjoyed trying out some new techniques, such as piping, under stitching and reinforce stitching, as well as stay and ease stitching, mastering buttonholes – including the nifty trick of an extra long buttonhole. I also demonstrated the rolled hem foot and showed how to fold the fabric ready to blind hem, which they then had a go with. It’s all in the folding!
It was a great day and all too quickly came to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the wonderful students who were so friendly and the staff, particularly Rose Coles, a wonderfully calm and attentive lady.
Next stop in the Big Vintage Sewalong is the vintage tea party at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate (on Thursday 24th November). I’m looking forward to seeing the many visitors wearing their vintage makes. If the London show is anything to go by, it will be spectacular. For details and tickets visit: http://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/harrogate and look under ‘Whats On’
Sad to say, the nights are drawing in and it is getting cooler so I am definitely on the hunt for patterns to make something a little warmer! I’ve just finished making Butterick 6388, with a few amendments!
I had a metre each of a fabulous double knit jersey in pink and royal blue (I bought from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics) so have made the dress a two-colour dress. I cut the shaped side front pieces and sleeves in the pink and the rest in the blue. I did add the pockets to the front, but then decided to remove them as they don’t sit as flat as I’d like. So I just cut them off and sewed up the seam!
It has sewn together like a dream, the fabric doesn’t curl, so doesn’t need seams neatening and of course, because it is a double knit, there are no fastenings and fitting was easy.
I did a full bust adjustment and added bust darts as I always have to. And because I left off the shawl collar, I have finished the neckline with bias binding turned to the inside.
I used a ball point needle, size 80/12 and straight stitch. I didn’t use a stretch stitch because the style is loose and doesn’t need to be able to stretch. I also prefer to use straight stitch, even on knit fabrics, for all vertical seams. It is only the horizontal ones I use a stretch stitch.
For the hems of both sleeves and dress I used a ball point twin needle with 4 mm gap – this neatly finishes the hem with a mock cover-stitch so looks like shop bought hems. It’s so easy to do, just remember to stitch wit the right side uppermost as the twin needles stitch two parallel straight rows and underneath, the bobbin thread switches between the needle threads to form a sort of zigzag.
I always stitch circular pieces, such as sleeves, sewing from the inner side of the circle – such as on sleeves. To do this meant turning the garment inside out of course. It just ensures you don’t catch the rest of the sleeve edge underneath by mistake.
I did find that the back needed taking in (I have a sway back) so took in about 2inches at waist, graduating back to the seam line above and below. I also took a bit out of the underarm and sleeves as I felt they were a bit loose on me.
Now I just have to decide what shoes to wear with it. I have pink boots and pink flat pumps!
Butterick 6388 comes in sizes XS-M (4-14) and L- XXL (16-26). It’s an easy design to make and includes the dress, a gilet with waterfall front, a top and pull on trousers.
I just can’t get enough of the Big Vintage Sewalong selection so have made a second, full skirted dress, this time from Vogue 2093. It has a choice of wide V-neckline or a fuller yoke to make the neckline less open (and for me, more suitable for day wear).
The princess seaming on the dress and skirt made this easier to fit as I could just add a little to the seamlines of the fronts and side fronts to accommodate my fuller bust – the easiest way to increase the bustline on this type of dress. Having taken my bust measurements and compared then with the finished garment measurements, I divided the difference between the four pattern edges (side front 2, centre front x 2) and added that amount just at the point I needed to. Then, I pinned the pieces together rand tissue fitted to check before cutting into my fabric.
The trickiest part of the dress is the yoke, facing and sleeves so it is worth reading the construction notes carefully in advance before tackling this. The sleeves are set in, but only partially stitched to the dress at the under arm, then to the facing/yoke. It does all come together, but needs bold clipping and lots of pinning to get the pieces together smoothly. I also took out quite a large section at the back to fit my narrow back.
I also did some understitching on the facing to hold it neatly in place and preventing it rolling out. To do this, stitch the facing to the garment right sides together, trim seam allowances and press them towards the facing. Then open out facing away from the garment and stitch on the facing, close to the previous seam line, catching the seam allowances in place as you go. I tend to work with the wrong side uppermost so I can see the seam allowances although patterns tend to tell you to stitch with the facing right side uppermost.
All zipped Up
I love the way the zip in the centre back seam doesn’t go to the top – it is inserted a little way down as the neckline is wide enough to fit over the head, so it doesn’t need to zip right up. This means that you have a lovely neat top and avoid any difficulties with matching the top edges! I did choose to insert an invisible zip as is my preference, which meant sewing the zip in before completing the centre back seam (I’ll blog my super fast invisible zip insertion method another day). Also I didn’t have the right zip length to do so, so shortened it – see below!
To shorten the zip
To shorten a zip, simple mark the position you want the zip to end then bar tack stitch across, by stitching over and over again at the mark to create a new stop. Then cut off the rest of the zip, leaving about 1.5cm zip tape as you normally get on a zip. I also cut out the unwanted teeth below my new bar stop.
The skirt on this dress is very, very full, which means it has a curved hemline. Also it definitely needed to be hung for 24 hours before hemming as the side seams did droop (they are bias cut) so I then straightened the hemline before ease stitching 6mm from the edge. Next step was to turn up a narrow 13mm hem allowance, pulling up the ease stitching a little to gently ease in the fullness of the circular hem. I then tucked the raw edge and ease stitching in towards the first fold, pressed and pinned ready to top stitch from the right side. Voila, a lovely neatly turned up curved hem without ripples or gathers.
I love the whole vintage vibe and have been wearing big full skirted dresses I’ve made from Vogue, Butterick or McCalls patterns and worn with net petticoats for a few years now. They are flattering for a fuller busted figurer because when belted, they give the illusion of a nipped in waist and the full skirt hides any hip or tummy issues beautifully! And they are fun to wear.
So my choice from the fabulous selection of the Big Vintage Sewalong had to be another design that I could wear with a net petticoat! I chose Butterick 5209, sizes 6-20 (it actually comes in two size packs, AA (6-12) E (14-22)). I decided to make the view with the raglan sleeves as being more practical for our British weather. Because the bodice is fitted, the first job is always to check bust measurements – and for me that means taking high bust measurement as I am over a C cup! I then use this as my bust measurement and then because of the combination of bodice, midriff and raglan sleeve pattern pieces, I was able to cut out the tissue pieces without the usual full bust adjustment I normally make.
Fitting a fuller figure
I made full use of the multi-size cutting lines to create the right size and shape bodice pieces by cutting from one cutting line to another so at the fullest part of my bust, I was using the size 18 line, then grading down to the 16 then 14 as I cut towards the arm seam and neckline. Again for the raglan sleeve pieces, I cut from the 14 at the neck edge, down to the 18 at the under arm. For the midriff piece, I cut the side from 16 (for my less than tiny waist) to 18 along the top edge to cope with the fuller bust. I then tissue fitted by pinning the midriff sections to the bodice and raglan sleeve to the back to check for size before committing to cloth. This saved me making up a toile. Although I also always cut and stitch the lining which is in effect a kind of toile!
My chosen fabric is very cute (well I think so!). It is pale pink with dressforms, sewing machines, tape measures and other haby items all over it – so very apt I though! It is a lovely crisp cotton so very easy to work with. I made up the lining for the bodice and tried it on. All was well, although I did need to pinch a bit of the seam allowance in the side seams of the midriff – so a good thing I had cut my notches OUTWARDS! I always do actually – old habits and all that. But I find it better to cut notches out so that should you need to decrease seam allowances for a little bit more room in the garment, you can do so as you’ve not got missing bits where you’ve cut in notches!
My only deviation from the pattern construction was to insert
an invisible zip in the side seam, not a centred zip insertion. Whenever possible, I do use an invisible zip as I much prefer the look (or lack of look cos of course it is invisible!) and I think it is far easier to insert. This did mean not sewing that side seam until the zip had gone in, but that is a minor change. I did of course neaten the seam allowances before attaching the zip as it is much easier to do so prior to zip insertion. For the other seams, I neatened them after sewing.
So dress done, teamed with a bright pink net petticoat and little shrug and worn at some of the Big Vintage Sewalong classes I’ve taught in shops around the country. I’ve another one of the Vintage dresses made in a lovely digitally printed cotton (Vogue 2093) which I’ll blog about another day and I’m busy making Butterick 5880 in an animal print cotton.
The end of the road is here – but it’s been a great trip along the way! Throughout the series the Great British Sewing Bee set tricky challenges to test the contestants skills and indeed, help them develop and grow along the way. It has been wonderful to watch as each progressed through the weeks – young Jade blossomed, Charlotte continued to quietly produce beautifully sewn garments and Joyce gave us a few laughs along the way as she occasionally went ‘off piste’ but always with flair and style.
This week the final three had to make a man’s evening shirt with pin tucks, collar, lined yoke and cuffs with plackets. No mean feat when working against the clock. It was nice to see a garment for a chap – we don’t often make for the men in our lives as most dressmaking (and doesn’t the name say it all!) is for women or children. So a shirt was a refreshing change. If you fancy giving him indoors a treat, you too can make a shirt from a selection of McCalls, Kwik Sew and Vogue Patterns. Take a look at McCalls 6613, Kwik Sew 3422, 3883 or Vogue Pattern 8889. All have lovely shirts, with or without front pockets (and of course you can leave them off and add pin tucks instead).
Pin Tuck Tips If you are going to add pin tucks, which do create a fabulous texture to a dress shirt, do so before cutting out the shirt fronts as they will alter the width slightly, depending on how many tucks you add. Trace around the pattern piece onto your fabric and stitch the tucks, then lay the pattern piece down again, check and cut out.
Twin Needle and Pin Tuck Foot
Stitching pin tucks is made so much easier if you use a twin needle and pin tuck foot. The double needle ensures two perfectly parallel rows of straight stitching, an even distance apart stitched side by side at the same time whilst the foot enables you to ensure row after row is parallel as it has grooves on the underside through which a tuck slides as you sew the next one. Just make sure you start with the needles in the centre position, in line with the gap in the foot, stitch the first tuck and then move the fabric across so the tuck is in one of the grooves of the foot before sewing the next. Whether you position it so it is in the first groove right next to the centre, or leave a gap so the tuck slides under an outer groove is up to you. I prefer a bit of space between them – try it on a scrap of fabric to see what you like best.
Attach the spare spindle for the second reel of top thread and then thread them together through the thread path until you reach the last hook above the needle. If you have a hook either side of the needle shaft, slip one thread behind the left and one behind the right. If not, just slip one of the threads behind the hook and leave the other hanging. Thread through the eyes of the needles by hand (sorry, auto needle threads do not work with twin needles). Increase the tension to highest, 8-9 and you are ready to sew. As you stitch with a twin needle, the bobbin thread moves between the two top rows on the underside creating a sort of zigzag – having increased the tension pulls this up a little to create the tiny ridge/tuck on the top. The more tucks you stitch, the more pronounced they become. Personally I like to work in odd numbers, so tuck 3,5,7 or 9 times. For some reason, it looks better (or so I think!).
More options Of course you can go the whole hog and make your man a suit such as Vogue 9097 or 8988 – both will certainly ensure you of brownie points!
Evening Elegance I loved the evening dress challenge. Nothing beats having something glamorous to wear on a special occasion. The very beautiful Vogue 9053 used is a case of a Very Easy Vogue design looking gorgeously elegance and expensive when actually it is easy to make. Because it is easy, you can use a luxurious fabric and make it look stunning. Just make sure you read the instructions through from start to finish before beginning and start with a fresh new needle so you don’t snag the fabric. Same goes with pins – it is something we often forget to replace but blunt pins can also snag delicate fabrics causing runs or holes. Reading the instructions through before starting will also help you plan the project.
Another great make for evening is of course a corset such as Butterick 5969, which is a Costume pattern in the Butterick range. It includes the costume and skirt with bustle. Of course, the challenge with a corset is definitely the fit – it has to be snug – indeed, often a corset will have a finished size slightly smaller than your own measurements – so that the lacing pulls you in! So do check sizing carefully before making one up, and compare the finished garment measurements with your own measurements.
Whatever you decide to make, enjoy the experience.
Sewing with stretch fabric can be wonderful – after all stretch fabrics stretch – which makes fitting much easier. But stretchy fabrics can be challenging to sew – particularly those that are two or four-way stretch with a high content of Spandex or Lycra. Of course, there are some useful sewing tools that make it easier and following a pattern with helpful sewing tips on sewing with stretch fabric takes a lot of the guess work out of the project.
McCalls, Kwik Sew and Butterick do have some great sporty pattern packs so you can make your own with confidence. And as wearing sportswear is one of the key fashion stories this year – now is definitely the time to sew with stretch! (See below for some of my suggestions for sporty patterns.
Stretch needle – You will need to sew two-way stretch fabric with a stretch needle (not just a ball point needle). A stretch needle is designed for these very stretchy fabrics and will prevent skipped stitches, or uneven stitching.
Seams – If possible sew most seams on an overlocker, but if not available, Use a stretch stitch on horizontal seams – which looks like a bolt of lightening on your sewing machine too. This will stretch with the fabric when pulling a garment on and off.
Seam neatening – you don’t have to neaten seams as they won’t fray, and if you have used an overlocker for seaming, you definitely don’t need to. But if sewing seams with a sewing machine, you might want to neaten seam allowances because some stretchy fabrics do tend to curl at the edges. To prevent this, once the seam is sewn, stitch the seam allowances with a zigzag stitch, and then trim close to the stitching.
Zip insertion – fuse interfacing to the seam allowance where the zip is to be inserted to prevent it stretching and buckling when inserting the zip.
Hems – neaten the raw edge to prevent it curling, and then turn up once. Sew from the right side with a twin needle which results in two parallel rows of straight stitch on the right side of the garment with a zigzag stitch underneath – this is the closest you can get to mimic a ‘high street’ cover-stitched hem. (A cover stitch machine is similar to an overlocker, but just stitches this type of hem. Great if you are sewing a lot of stretchy fabric, but a twin needle is a great alternative).
For patterns take a look at Kwik Sew 3813 – it includes a gilet and top with full length zip but of course you could pattern hack it (!) and shorten the zip to finish at the end of the contrast section if you want something like the one in the first challenge of the show.
I also like McCalls 7293 which has different options mixing two colours such as this one with a contrast yoke and two colour sleeves.
Another great design is McCalls 4261 which is a pack of hoody, tops, trousers and skirts.
I love the dress below, it is sporty’ish – but certainly comfortable and has the added benefits of being sewn in a stretch fabric so it is comfortable to wear too! It is Butterick 6241.
Wow! I love vintage and retro and of course, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue Patterns have a nationwide promotion – The Big Vintage Sewalong running right now.
And now I will let you into a little secret – the original Mondrian dress was a Vogue Paris Original pattern by Yves St Laurent, which was based on artist Piet Mondrian’s bold block style. I predict it’s one we can expect to see everywhere! Retro and vintage fashions are still such big news and so very popular – will this be the 2016 ‘walkaway’ dress?
Best news is that capturing the mood of the moment, Vogue Patterns has issued a limited edition pattern so that everyone can Make the Mondrian (look for Vogue Pattern 1557). The pack includes a simple shift dress with round neck and back zip, and instructions on how to ‘hack’ the pattern. With it you will be able to recreate this iconic design with its bold vertical and horizontal stripes and strong contrast colour on the left yoke – just like the original Yves St Laurent style.
It is available from all Vogue Patterns, Butterick, McCall’s and Kwik Sew stockists or www.sewdirect.com now.
Whilst the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian used bold red, blue, yellow and white colour blocks, always divided by the black bands in his artwork, in the dress Yves St Laurent created for Vogue Patterns, he chose classic black and white with a vibrant splash of red. Of course, the beauty of making your own is that you can use any combination of colours you like. Imagine it in Mondrian colours of red, blue and yellow, or a stylish cream and navy with a splash of emerald green, or red with white stripes and yellow yoke, or different colours for each panel? The choice is yours.
I had the great pleasure of spending time in Beccles, Suffolk yesterday, meeting and teaching a bunch of lovely ladies at a Big Vintage Sewalong class. Organised by Steve and Sue Taylor of Beccles Sewing and Handicrafts shop the class had to be held in the local village church hall in order to accommodate the large group! But it was great as we had space to work, plenty of tables and a ready supply of coffee, tea and glorious homemade cakes!
The ladies came armed with patterns and queries for a lovely afternoon sewalong. We covered pattern sizing and fitting tips. Hopefully I dispelled the myth that you just make a size larger when sewing patterns! Unfortunately, it is true that you are probably a size or two larger than your ready-to-wear high street sizing as pattern sizing is not the same as high street. But what is vitally important is to take your own measurements and make the size that most closely follows those – don’t worry about what ‘size’ that is. Indeed, for most of us, it will be a different size at bust, waist and hips!
I showed how to take high bust/chest measurement for those that are over a C cup as patterns are designed for B cup with a difference of 2 ½” between high bust and bust measurement. Thus if you are a fuller cup, you will need to alter the pattern. You use the high bust measurement to choose your size and then do a Full Bust Adjustment just for the bust area – this way the garment will fit much better at shoulders, chest and back!
I also showed how to insert an invisible zip quickly and easily. It’s my favourite kind of zip and the type I use on almost everything (except fly front trousers!). It is so easy when you use an invisible zip foot. Once shown how, at least half the class then had a go and inserted this type of zip into their garments. Fortunately lovely Claire, daughter of Sue and Steve was on hand to nip back and forth to the shop to get the required zips, patterns and other useful haby we all needed. We used Brother sewing machines for the demos – which were a joy to use (and of course are sold by Beccles Sewing and Handicrafts shop).
Sadly the day came to an end all too quickly. I had fun, and I think the ladies did too. I certainly didn’t need to stop on the way home to eat – having been provided with lemon drizzle cake and coffee! Thanks also to Charley, another daughter of Sue and Steve who took all the shots of the day. Hopefully one day, I’ll be back….
First we saw contestants make a Chinese style top in sumptuous embroidered satin, then they had to use a sari length to create their own style in the 90 minute Alteration challenge and then an African inspired dress using a waxed printed cotton. So from shiny medium weight fabric, to soft slippery silky sari fabric and then a more robust printed cotton that needed pattern matching. Definitely challenging.
Making your own clothes is wonderful – it does mean that you can choose, not just what colour you want, but what type of fabric – which in turn can make or indeed break an outfit! So my blog for this week is all about using these lovely fabrics successfully.
Of course, the pattern envelopes have guidance in the ‘suggested fabrics’ on the back of the pattern envelope – and any of these suggested fabrics will work well. But you can also experiment. A soft slippery fabric will drape into soft folds, whilst a crisp waxed cotton is better at holding a shape and satin – well that just shouts glamour! To determine which type of fabric will work well, compare the suggested fabrics with your chosen one, is it a similar weight, will it pleat, gather and drape etc? This is easier if you are in a fabric shop and can handle the fabric – be bold, unroll a little and try draping, pleating or gather a little in your hand.
Having made your choice, arm yourself with the right needles for the job and suitable interfacing. Make sure you use a new needle which is properly sharp. A blunt needle can cause so many stitch problems, ranging from skipped stitches to snagged fabric. In fact you should change your needle every 8 hours of sewing or with every new project. For silks, satin and indeed cotton fabrics, a universal sharps is ideal, or even a lovely microtex needle which is fabulous for lightweight sari fabrics that are often made from georgette or chiffon if not polyester silks.
Choose a stitch length of 2.2-2.5 for lightweight fabrics and consider seam choice. Satins can fray easily as can georgettes and silks, so raw edges must be neatened. Quickest is overlocked edges with a three-thread overlock stitch (remove the left needle for a three thread overlock stitch, which is narrower and therefore neater). For straight seams you can of course use a French seam, again particularly good for transparent fabrics as the seam allowances can be visible from the right side of the garment. Also to hem a transparent fabric, opt for a narrow rolled hem which minimises the see through of a hem allowance. For cottons, a double turned top stitched hem is ideal and for satins, a blind hem by hand or machine.
Oh, and my favourite pattern for a peplum top has to be Vogue 8849 – shown above. That shaped peplum definitely looks African inspired – indeed almost like a mane!
I also like Butterick 6026, because although not a peplum as such, the seaming is so slimming and easy to fit and worn with a belt as shown here, it looks like a peplum.
I had a really lovely afternoon yesterday at a fabulous shop in Petersfield, Hants, were I taught seven ladies some top techniques for dressmaking. I’d been meaning to go to this shop for sometime, as it is an award winning one – and I’ve heard such good things about it! So it was a treat to finally visit. Packed with beautiful fabrics, trims and haberdashery there is also space for two ‘classrooms’ nicely furnished with Elna computerised sewing machines.
Whilst waiting for the ladies to arrive, I was bowled over by the window display, which owner Jo explained was the first makes from the Sewing Bee challenge. Entrants are provided with a box of fabrics and have to make something for three challenges. The first was to use 2 fat quarters creatively – with the theme based on the Queen’s 90th birithday. The inventiveness was awe-inspiring and all the entries very well made. The next challenge is to alter a T-shirt adding fabric, trims or whatever they like. I can’t wait to see them!
Back to the class. We covered lots of useful techniques that help with vintage dressmaking, and indeed, any dressmaking including piping, stay stitching, overedge stitching, understitching, ease stitching, clipping and notching, circular hems – both stitched and double turned and using a rolled hem foot. We then did buttonholes and I showed how to create an extra long buttonhole by deceiving the machine (!) and a French seam. it was full on and all the ladies managed to make lots of samples as guides for future projects. Oh and i mustn’t forget, Steve (husband to J0) kept us fuelled and energy levels up with delicious cake and coffee!
I shall be back in the shop later this month to help judge the finals for the Sewing bee contest – and I can’t wait.