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!

Only 3 Sleeps until the Great British Sewing Bee

If you are looking forward to the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee as mGBSB4 front cover of bookuch as I am, you will know that it starts on Monday – just three more days away! I have some small insight into the show as author of the accompanying book (very proud of that) but no spoilers so for now, will just share how prepared I think we should all be. Get your gear together!

Firstly if you are going topaper pattern packs want to make some of  the garments that the contestants are challenged with on TV, then of course you must buy the book – because it includes some of the show projects as well as many, many more – shameless plug here! It’s available in good book shops, on Amazon etc and is called The Great British Sewing Bee, From Stitch to Style. Of course the book comes with pattern sheets that you can trace off but you will need pattern paper to do this. I love the Perfect Pattern Paper packs by Pati Palmer for McCalls (available from www.sewdirect.com, code M091). The pack includes two huge, 213 x 122cm (84 x 48”) sheets of gridded tissue paper making copying patterns easy. Use the grid to follow grain lines etc.

Also available from sewdirect.com is a pack of plain tissue paper (B 991) and that has five sheets of 76 x 127cm (30 x 50”).

But of course there also lots of patterns in the McCalls, Butterick, Kwik Sew and Vogue Pattern ranges that will be very similar to those featured on the shows, and indeed might be more suited to your figure or shape. So do keep an eye out on the website – again to plug it www.sewdirect.com – my lovely colleague Marilyn will be updating it after each show with pattern suggestions so you can ‘get the look’.

So to be prepared to sew, sew sew, consider these other goodies that are surely ‘must-have’ haby! Treat yourself to a French Curve (M755 for metric, M756 for Imperial) – this is so useful when you need to graduate from one pattern size smoothly to another at say bust to waist to hip (and who doesn’t!) I also find a Hem Marker so useful when taking up hems on your own. It has an adjustable height guide and puffer filled with fine chalk dust, which you puff onto your skirt as you slowly turn, getting a nice even hemline (M587). To perfect press bust darts and curves in princess seams etc, a tailor’s ham is indispensible (M157).

There are lots of other useful haby aids on the website including interfacings, threads, needles and more. For now I will leave you with your preparations. And after each show I will blog some useful techniques and tips to help sew some of the designs featured. So as a little teaser – think pattern matching…..

More in just three sleeps!

Sewalong in Wincanton, Somerset

teaching at Wincanton Sew & SewAnother great day sewing with some lovely ladies! This time I was in Wincanton at the Wincanton Sew & Sew shop with Di Winton. She has been in business for just over a year and had a lovely light and airy shop packed with haberdashery, trims and delicious fabrics in the back. At the front, space for small classes – perfect for today.

 

We covered some top techniques for dressmaking, including curved hems without lump and bumps, rolled hem (using a rolledLesson in progress hem foot), blind stitch hem, piping within seams. over-edge stitching to neaten raw edges quickly and professionally  and understitching. Very often, it’s all about the foot!

For the curved hems I showed how to ‘ease’ in the excess that you find is in the hem allowance. Just stitch just within the hem allowance, so 13mm – 20mm from the fabric edge with a gathering stitch (choose the longest stitch length available). Very slightly gather this stitch to take out the excess and fold up the hem, so the stitching is on the inside of the garment. Tuck under the raw edge and press, pulling up the stitching as you need, to create a smooth pucker free surface on the ‘right’ side. Stitch in place and press.

lovely class in the shop six students joined meBlind hemming is made simpler with the right blind hem foot and stitch – it does leave a tiny ladder stitch on the right side of fabric, but if a good thread match is made, this is virtually invisible. For this it is all about the folding of the hem allowance. Fold it up, then holding it in place, fold back on itself under the garment, leaving about 13mm of the hem allowanc protruding to the right. Butt the guide on the blind hem foot against the fold and stitch with the blind hem stitch – which has  a straight stitch to the right (sewn in the singleg layer of hem allowance) and an occasional zigzag to the left which takes a nip into the folded fabric. Voila.

A rolled hem foot has a coil on the front and is great for narrow hems on lightweight fabrics. As you feed the fabric into the front of the foot, the coil turns it under so when it passses below the needle to be stitched, the raw edge is neatly tucked inside a double folded hem. Take a look at my blog on the Walkaway dress to see it in action.

It was an enjoyable half day with lots learned.

Big Vintage Sewalong – First workshop

Mrs P opening the shop for the special dayWhat better way to start the series of  Big Vintage Sewalong workshops  – at the Sewing and Craft Superstore in Tooting Beck as the store was celebrating their 70th year in business as the Wimbledon Sewing Centre. Still in the Rushton family, the business has continued to provide THE place to go for anything to do with sewing – from masses of fabulous fabric bolts to trims, haberdashery, sewing machines and overlockers, a big pattern bar and classroom area.

ray youngThe  day started with an official opening by the store’s oldest customer Mrs P who arrived in the original van to much applause and wearing stunning purple. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs P too and she was delightful and not that old! She explained that she had been coming to the shop for over 30 years – so was oldest in that sense!

The staff were dressed in vintage clothes they had made as were many customers and looked amazing. Many were sporting Butterick, Vogue or McCalls dresses and others were on mannequins providing inspiration.
me at the shopAs Brand Ambassador for The McCalls Pattern company I was there to help with any sewing queries and demonstrate techniques useful for sewing any of the Big Vintage sewing patterns. I had a lot of interest in creating pretty pintucks using a twin needle and pin tuck foot, plus overedge stitching to neaten raw edges. Great techniques for all sorts of dressmaking of course.
The shop was very busy all day, with lots of celebratory special offers on fabrics, haberdashery and trims plus prizes for anyone arriving in a Butterick Walkaway dress.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I am delighted to have been part of it.

shop window showing patterns made up staff and customers Staff in vintage clothes they've made

 

Pretty Vintage Pinny from Vogue Pattern

At the recent Knitting and Stitching show I was tasked with demonstrating the lovely Vogue pattern of vfinished pinnie bestintage aprons (Vogue 8643) so of course, I made it up first and then cut out further sections to demonstrate at the show daily. So I thought a tutorial on making this pattern might be useful.

The apron came together easily although it does have some unusual shaping, which adds to the vintage style. There are two side panels which are gathered to a shaped centre panel. Big patch pockets can be trimmed along the top with lace or ric rac, or have appliqué or lacy edging.

For the demonstrations, I decided to concentrate on the ties, the patch pockets with inserted lace edging along the top edges and hemming. The view I made, view A, also has the lace edging along the top edge too.

The first step was to make the patch pockets. Step one is to add the lace edging along the seam line of the pocket top. With right sides together, stitch in place so the straight edge of the trim is along the seam line and the scallop edge hanging down towards the pocket. Then add the pocket lining sandwiching the lace trim between the layers which are placed right sides together.  Sew around the pocket, leaving a turning gap in the bottom edge. At the curves, stitch slowly, stopping with needle down, raise presser foot slightly and pivot the fabric – continue like to this to get a nice smooth curved seam.
TIP: Work with the pocket front uppermost so you can see the stitching holding the lace trim in place, sew just to the left of the first row of stitching so it will be encased within the seam.

It is also important to clip and notch the curved seams of the pockets so that they will turn through smoothly – cut little wedge shapes from the seam allowance at the curves.

Edge Stitch pockets in place
Edge Stitch pockets in place

POCKETS EDGE STITCHED
The pockets are then edge-stitched to the side panels – edge stitching is just stitching close to the edge.

TIP: To achieve a straight seam, nicely on the edge, use the inner edge of the presser foot as the guide and move the needle to the far right  (using the stitch width button to move the needle when sewing with a straight stitch).

Stitch gathered side panels to front
Stitch gathered side panels to front

STITCH GATHERED SIDE PANELS TO CURVED INNER EDGE OF FRONT
The side panels are then attached to the front panel but first, it is important to stay stitch the inner curves on the front panel, to prevent them stretching out of shape as you sew Gather the top of the side panels to fit the inner curve of the front and sew together.

TIP: To stay stitch – stitch with a standard stitch length just within the seam allowance, close to the seam line.

Stitch trim to top of front panel the same way as attaching to pocketsTRIM ADDED TO TOP EDGE
Ric rac or lace trim is then stitched to the top edge of the front piece prior to the ties and facing being added following the same technique as attaching the trim to the pocket top.

Attach ties to the back panel at the open end of the tie
Attach ties to the back panel at the open end of the tie

TIES STITCHED AND ATTACHED
The ties are stitched, right sides together around the pointed ends and up to a large circle on one long edge as this is left unstitched in order to insert the apron back into the tie end neatly. This is an unusual way of attaching ties, but does produce a neat finish.

The apron is then finished with an interfaced facing across the apron front to give a waistband effect.

I hope you enjoy making your own vintage pinny.  I will be doing some more Big Vintage Sewalong Demos at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show daily from 28th April – 30th April. Do come along and join me.

Walkaway dress still a’walking!

B4790
Butterick 4790

Last year the Butterick Walkaway dress was featured on the Great British Sewing Bee which was the start of a promotion by The McCall Pattern Company (who distribute Butterick, Vogue, Kwik Sew and of course McCall Patterns) that exceeded all expectations and culiminated  in a massive £8000 cheque being donated by them to The Eve Appeal.  Personally the best part from my point of view was the spectacular sight of over a hundred women wearing their Walkaway Dresses at the Knitting and Stitching show where McCall’s held a Champagne Tea Party. It was so lovely seeing these ladies walk around the show all day, and we all felt as if we belonged to a special club – and indeed we did!

The diversity of the dresses was also fabulous to see – so many different variations, different fabric choices and combinations so although we’d all used the same pattern, no two were the same. That of course is the beauty of dressmaking!

Walkaway Dress Wendy full length
At the Walkaway Dress Tea Party, I was just one of many in my version of this iconic dress

Still a great dress to make and wear, I thought I’d share my tips on making it fit – because although it looks very simple, there can be areas that are not quite so straight-forward if you have a fuller bust like me!

The first thing I did, as I always do, is take measurements to check which size I shoud be making. (This is rarely, dare I say never, the same size as ready-to-wear high street fashions and indeed, can be 2 sizes bigger than high street). Also as I am over a C cup, I take my bust measurement around the chest or high bust – which is above the bust, under arms and around the back. I then cut out the tissue following the cutting lines for the size I needed, merging from one size to another for bust, waist and then hip.


Full Bust Adjustment

My next job was to lowered the bust point and thus bust dart and front darts as sadly, my bust point is no longer where it once was! I also do a full bust adjustment in order to increase the area around the bust, but keep the shoulders, chest, torso etc the right size. The method I used is the most commonly used method – so I cut through the centre of the new bust dart close to bust point, then diagonal from bust point to mid armhole, and vertically up front parallel to centre front but in line with bust point. I pivoted open the tissue and added spare before redrawing the side seam.  I then ’tissue fitted’. This gives a idea of how it will fit.

I also added an inch to the skirt section of the front from hem to waist to increase the waist size – but actually did take this out again when I’d made it in fabric and tried it on (before adding bias binding) as it wasn’t needed But better to have done that than find it wouldn’t fit!

I decreased the length on all corresponding pieces by  5cm (2″) as I wanted to make the dress shorter, more knee length suits me. If there is one asset I do have, it is good legs!

Added Insets and Godet
I also love to wear full petticoats, really 1950s style, which meant adjusting the shape of the front/under skirt which is cut straight normally and doesn’t have the swing of a circular skirt. So I  added triangular inserts to the front skirt section at the sides to give it a fuller skirt and again, after trying it on and wearing it once, decided to add a further godet into the centre front of the skirt to further expand the underskirt to accommodate my petticoat. I had found that the front of the underskirt rode up when walking etc as there still wasn’t enough room under it. I added the insets by cutting up from hem to waist seam pivoted out hem and added spare tissue.

Lowered neckline at front and raised at back
Again because of my fuller bust, I decided to lower the curved neckline at the front to a more flattering height,  but raised it at the back so that it wouldn’t slip off my shoulders all the time.

Ready to cut and sew

Having done all my adjustments, I cut out the dress and sewed it following the pattern. One of the most laborious aspects is the bias binding – but not if you have an adjustable bias binding foot for your sewing machine! This little gem wraps the binding around the fabric edge and sews it in place along the edge all in one go – so quick and easy!

I let it hang for 24 hours before hemming (although it says ‘make in a morning and wear to lunch’ the pattern does recommend hanging it for 24 hours, which is good advice when making any garment. It allows it to settle and bias cut seams to droop if they are going to so you can level them off before hemming).

Hemming could also be laborious unless you use a rolled hem foot on your machine, which again makes the task a breeze as it rolls the fabric edge under as it goes through the scroll on the front of the foot before it is stitched in place. Beautiful, and so quick!

So that is the story of my Walkaway Dress. I hope you enjoy making your own. (ps you can buy the pattern from www.sewdirect.com)