Big Vintage Sewalong – Tea Party Dress

Butterick 5209 - the first of my Big Vintage Sewalong makes
Butterick 5209 – the first of my Big Vintage Sewalong makes

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.

 

B5209
THis pack has a halterneck dress or raglan sleeve dress

B5209So 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

Step one attaching bodice to midriff
Step one attaching bodice to midriff

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!

 

Bodice done and fitted ready for the skirt to be attached
Bodice done and fitted ready for the skirt to be attached

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 t3 edges overlocked and ready to sew side seamso 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 foot makes inserting a concealed zip a breeze
An invisible zip foot makes inserting a concealed zip a breeze

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.

 

 

Wearing The dress at Beccles Sewing Centre, show here with Sue and Steve Taylor
Wearing The dress at Beccles Sewing Centre, show here with Sue and Steve Taylor

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 Final Great British Sewing Bee – a great night in for a great night out!

Vogue 8889 is a fabulous smart shirt pack
Vogue 8889 is a fabulous smart shirt pack

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.

Kwik Sew 3883 - Make a shirt with or without front pocket
Kwik Sew 3883 – Make a shirt with or without front pocket
Kwik Sew 3422 might look casual, but add pin tucks and make in a cotton or linen and it will be tres chic
Kwik Sew 3422 might look casual, but add pin tucks and make in a cotton or linen and it will be tres chic

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.

Threading
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!).

Vogue 9097 a suit that James Bond would be proud to wear!
Vogue 9097 a suit that James Bond would be proud to wear!
Vogue Pattern 8988, great for day or evening wear
Vogue Pattern 8988, great for day or evening wear

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!

 

Vogue Pattern 9053 is very easy vogue but also very elegant
Vogue Pattern 9053 is very easy vogue but also very elegant


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.

Butterick 5969 includes a corset and full length skirt with bustle and train
Butterick 5969 includes a corset and full length skirt with bustle and train

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: Sportswear

Kwik Sew 3813 is a great sports top for leisurewear or sport activity
Kwik Sew 3813 is a great sports top for leisurewear or sport activity

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.

Sewing tips

  • 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).

PATTERN CHOICES
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.

McCalls 7293 is a sporty looking top with contrast yoke and two-fabric sleeves
McCalls 7293 is a sporty looking top with contrast yoke and two-fabric sleeves

I also like McCalls 7293 which has different options mixing two colours such as this one with a contrast yoke and two colour sleeves.

 

McCalls 4261 is for serious exercise!
McCalls 4261 is for serious exercise!

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.

Butterick 6241, My favourite type of sportswear - comfortable leisure wear!
Butterick 6241, My favourite type of sportswear – comfortable leisure wear!

 

 

 

Enjoy sewing your sporty outfits.

1960s Retro Dress – You Too Can Make the Mondrian!

Make the Mondrian using limited edition Vogue Pattern 1557
Make the Mondrian using limited edition Vogue Pattern 1557

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.

Beautiful Beccles Big Vintage Sewalong

group shot inivisble zip demo sewing an invisible zip staff and me at Beccles Sue and Steve Taylor with meI 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….

Going International – Great British Sewing Bee

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.

McCalls 7047, sew in satin and the peplum will stand out beautifully
McCalls 7047, sew in satin and the peplum will stand out beautifully

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.

 

V8849
Vogue 8849, a peplum top with definite style – almost a mane! Definitely my favourite peplum top

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!

Butterick 6025, not actually a peplum, but the seam and deep pleats look like a peplum when worn with a belt
Butterick 6025, not actually a peplum, but the seam and deep pleats look like a peplum when worn with a belt

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.

Sew on for now…

Top Dressmaking Techniques class at Sew Creative

haberdashery and trims IMG_1599 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 wasewing bee challengeiting 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.

Lingerie and Luxury Robes – a first for the Great British Sewing Bee

Kwik Sew 3594 includes bras for sizes 32-40, AA-DDD
Kwik Sew 3594 includes bras for sizes 32-40, AA-DDD

Covering completely new territories, the contestants were asked to make a soft fabric bra this week. Now whilst a small garment, it is certainly one that can be challenging because of course, it has to fit perfectly. At least they didn’t have to cope with under wires as well.

If you also fancy having a go at bra making, then take a look at Kwik Sew 3594 which includes sizes 32-40 with cup sizes AA – D in 32-34, A-DD in 36-38 and cup sizes B-DD in size 40. Do remember to check your sizing, as with all patterns, it might not be the same as your ready-to-wear size – the pattern instructions will help you decide.

Bras need to be made from stretch fabric, such as lace, power net or nylon tricot which means sewing with a ball point needle and stretch stitch (which looks like a bolt of lightening) or small zigzag. Lingerie lace (which usually has a soft back and pretty picot edge) is used on the outside edges to help the bra fit snugly to the body with adjustable straps made from Nylon tricot or indeed bra straps that can be bought in packs. It is like any other garment, follow the instructions carefully step by step and you will quickly master bra making and wonder why you never did it before!

TOP TIP: Use plenty of hand cream in advance of sewing with delicate lacy and silky fabrics and make sure your hands and nails are smooth – rough skin can snag these beautiful fabrics so easily.

M5400Of course, you can also have a go at making swim wear, take a look at McCalls 5400 which includes different styles of bikini, including a tankini and tunic. Just like bras, they are made in a stretch fabric this time with Lycra or Spandex.

LUXURY ROBES
The final challenge for the day was to make a luxury robe, so I’ve looked at my favourites for men and women (shown below) and included some of my tips on sewing with silky fabrics.

Vogue 9015 is a luxury robe and nightgown with lace insets
Vogue 9015 is a luxury robe and nightgown with lace insets

I love Vogue 9015 which looks soft and silky here in polyester satin. The pack includes nightgowns with lace insets which are really luxurious.

 

TIPS ON SEWING SILKY FABRICS

  • When sewing silky fabrics you need a universal sharps needle, and preferably a nice new one as blunt needles can not only cause skipped stitches, but may snag the delicate fabric too.
  • Start seams at least 1cm from the end, holding the thread tails behind the needle and go forward 2-3 stitches then back to end, before continuing forward. This will help prevent the lightweight fabrics being pulled into the feed dogs.
  • Sew all vertical seams in the same direction to prevent
    V8888
    Vogue 8888 is a lovely collection of silky full length robe and nightdresses with lacy insets. I love the decadent feel of this set!

    them twisting and hold the fabric taut in front and behind the needle as you sew to very slightly stretch it. Once pressed it will relax back into a lovely straight seam.

  • Consider French seams on the straight seams, which neatly encases raw edges so the inside looks neat too. To create a French seam, first sew with WRONG sides together, taking a 6mm seam. Trim to 3mm and turn through so RIGHT sides are together, press with seam on very edge. Sew again with a 1cm seam allowance. Press again.
Vogue 8964 is perfect for the man of the house. It's a Very Easy Vogue design of gown and PJs - as made by one lovely contestant!
Vogue 8964 is perfect for the man of the house. It’s a Very Easy Vogue design of gown and PJs – as made by one lovely contestant!

Make Him indoors his own robe from V8964, which is a Very Easy Vogue design of robe and PJs are you are both kitted out!

Enjoy making your own luxurious lingerie. Next week we turn retro!

Sew cute, sew for babies on The Great British Sewing Bee

Make your own babygro from Butterick 5585
Make your own babygro from Butterick 5585

Another exciting show with lots of ‘arrh’ factor about it. Sewing for children and babies is lovely because everything is so cute, but of course, it’s not without challenges – such as having to work with tiny bits of fabric!

The pattern challenge, to make a babygro with snap fastening caused some consternation and sadly for one poor contestant, disaster! Which drums into me – guilty as many others – that it is so important to read the instructions through fully before starting. Actually, I always recommend sitting with a cup of coffee, going through the instructions, marking the pattern pieces you will need for the view you are making and mark the layout you will be following for the size, fabric width and view you will use. There is nothing worse than getting interrupted whilst pinning out the pattern pieces and then inadvertently following an alternative layout – and thus getting it wrong!

mcCalls 7219, a cute pack of baby bits
mcCalls 7219, a cute pack of baby bits

So properly prepared, with the right pattern pieces it’s time to sew a lovely stretch knit fabric. The contestants were using overlockers, which are fabulous when sewing with stretch fabric, but if you don’t have one, you can use a regular sewing machine and ball point needle.

A ball point needle has a slightly rounded tip (you can’t really see it, but trust me, it has!). This parts the fibres rather than pierces them, which helps feed the fabric and stitch properly. If you inadvertently use a universal/sharps needle, you may well get skipped stitches or simply uneven stitching.

A walking foot may look imposing, but it is one of my 'must have' feet
A walking foot may look imposing, but it is one of my ‘must have’ feet

Also consider using a walking foot – I always recommend a walking foot when sewing hard to feed fabrics – it’s not just for quilting! This foot might look complicated, but once fitted, works in conjunction with the feed dogs on the machine to smoothly and evenly feed difficult fabrics, whether they are stretchy, silky, bulky or you need to match stripes and checks. It’s definitely one of my ‘must have’ feet

Sew seams with a stretch stitch (which looks like a bolt of lightening) or a small zigzag. This is particularly important on seams that go around the body – so need to stretch. Vertical seams can be sewn with a straight stitch, but slightly stretch fabric before and after the needle as you sew. (Having said that, for babygros, it is probably best to sew with a stretch stitch as you will be pulling the legs of the garment to slip baby in and out more easily – and remember pull on the garment, not the baby!!).

McCalls 7237, a lovely cape with fur trimmed hood and hem
McCalls 7237, a lovely cape with fur trimmed hood and hem

Also on the show were some fabulous capes for kids. Didn’t they look wonderful. Capes are easy to make and slip on too. You can make them in wool as on the show, (McCalls 7237 is a good one for that, fur trimmed it would make a lovely autumn cape for your little miss).

McCalls 6998, great for fancy dress costumes
McCalls 6998, great for fancy dress costumes

Capes are good for fancy dress too – easy to make, use fun fabrics for dressing up and a pattern such as McCalls 6998. I also particularly like McCalls 6431 which has capes and ponchos in the pack so choices for different ages or occasions.

McCalls 6431 capes and ponchos
McCalls 6431 capes and ponchos

Enjoy sewing for your little ones. Next week we go international in style!

Get Stripy – The first Great British Sewing Bee Challenge!

Butterick 6058, stripes, but easier to handle with inserted diagonal panel
Butterick 6058, stripes, but easier to handle with inserted diagonal panel

So the first show is over – the Great British Sewing Bee has done it again – drawn us in and ensured we have sympathy for the plucky contestants as they undertook the first challenge of the series – to make an easy top in silky fabric – but the twist – to match diagonal stripes down the centre front and back! Phew…. not quite so easy then!

But there are of course some ways to do this more easily. The first is to cut each piece separately, not fold fabric hoping to match up the stripes on both layers and cutting two at a time. This is especially tricky with slippery fabrics, so take a little more time, and cut each front piece and each back piece separately – just remember to flip the tissue piece over to get a right and left section.

To match the stripes, cut the first piece, making sure the notches on the centre front seam are nicely aligned with a prominent stripe. Then flip the tissue piece over and with the first cut section to hand, place the tissue on the next piece of fabric, so the centre front notch is on the same strip as before. Lay the first piece alongside to check (don’t forget to allow for seam allowances either). Once satisfied they will match perfectly, cut out.

A maxi in stripes, easy to make and stunning looking
A maxi in stripes, easy to make and stunning looking

On slippery fabrics I definitely prefer to use dressmaking shears that have a slight serrated edge as they grip the fabric as you cut. Take long cuts, running the shears along the table surface between each. (McCalls 7121, sizes 6-22,  is an easy to make maxi dress which looks stunning in stripy fabric)

I always recommend cutting OUT around notches too, this ensures that should you need to pinch a bit of the seam allowance having tried on your garment during construction, you do have a bit to play with – if you have cut wedges or snips into the seam allowance – you don’t!

McCalls 7130, wear it as a strapless dress or skirt with wide band
McCalls 7130, wear it as a strapless dress or skirt with wide band

If possible also use a walking foot to help both top and bottom layers of the fabric feed evenly and smoothly. Although people think of this ingenous foot for quilting, it is actually great for all sorts of fabric including slippery beasties!

To narrow hem the sleeves and bottom edge, do consider using a rolled hem foot. Such a dreamy foot to use – once you have mastered holding the fabric up and slightly to the left in front of the foot. (McCalls 7130, XS 4-6 – XXL 24-28 is a stretch knit skirt/dress with wide band that is a bandeau or skirt yoke. Lots of panels but fab in stripes).

To get started, fold under 3-6mm twice to turn under the narrow hem (depending on the width of the scroll on the front of your hemmer foot) and pin for about 3cm. Attach the foot, but don’t try to put the fabric through the scroll just yet. Sew the first 2cm, sew the stitching is right on the inner edge of the folded hem. Stop with needle down, raise presser foot and guide the fabric raw edge into the coil at the front – just a single layer, not already folded.

Lower the presser foot and away you go. Hold the fabric in front with your right hand, raised and slightly to the left, helping to guide the fabric as it stitches with your left hand. It takes a bit of practice, but keep at it as it is well worth it and the results are fabulous.

Oh, and if you get little bits that haven’t turned under, don’t stress too much, finish the hem and then go back and redo the little bits by turning under the hem allowance as you did before, pin and stitch.

Butterick 6100, a great simple design that can be easily 'hacked'
Butterick 6100, a great simple design that can be easily ‘hacked’

If you love the simple shape of the top on the show, you can recreate it by ‘hacking’ Butterick 6100. Just add a centre front seam, remembering to add seam allowances of 1.5cm (5/8″) and rather than cut on the fold, cut two pieces. Voila – your own ‘hack’.

McCalls 7323, a great way to start with stripes
McCalls 7323, a great way to start with stripes

If you want to work with a stripy fabric but are a bit nervous of matching the pattern down a centre front seam, take a look at McCalls 7323, sizes XS 4-6 to XXL 24-26, as it has a diagonal insert to interrupt the horizontal stripes! Or try Butterick 6287, sizes 6-22 which is for stretch jersey fabrics (slightly easier to work with perhaps!)

So enjoy – working with slippery and stripy fabrics needn’t be a chore!