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!

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.