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!

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